Important Words from Important People

Right now I am listening to the audiobook of The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Within the collection of essays and speeches is a piece she wrote when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1993. There is accompanying audio of her reading this speech on the night she accepted the award, but the version I heard was the one read by Turpin. I plan to listen to Morrison speak tomorrow for right now I want to write. The piece is an extended metaphor about the power of language and of humanizing language. In a way I feel like this piece came back to me at just the right time and the right place. I have listened to some of the audiobook a few years before, but I’m not quite sure if 1. I had heard this piece and, 2. Whether it would have resonated with me then as it does now.

Language is on my mind. It’s always on my mind. Part of the reason why I don’t write as much as I used to is because I care about the language I use. It takes a lot of time and effort to carefully write out my thoughts because a lot of my thoughts are a lot more complicated than they used to be. Because I use what I consider to be elevated language, a higher diction, and I’m now consciously aware of how my speech patterns differ from others. This is why I find it important to engage in political education — to create the shared vocabulary that is essential to understanding societal problems.

Within Morrison’s speech, she says, “The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation.” Nuanced. Complex. Delivering life, birth, happiness, love. Political education is giving name to the nuance of language that is so necessary for delivering life, birth, happiness, and love. It’s complex, so discussion and dialog is a must. Within the same paragraph, she says, “Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.”

Encouraging the mutual exchange of ideas when framed with mid-wifery properties – i.e. political education – burgeons the desire to create life-giving institutions that abolitionists are striving for.

TONI MORRISON LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE UNLOCKED IN ME. Thank you.

Trying to engage in dialog where there is a lack of understanding of the nuance of language drives home the need for slowing down a conversation long enough to explain words for common meaning. We must have a shared vocabulary. A lot of abolitionist and anti-racist education requires a lot of unlearning of concepts. These concepts are taught to us through culture (family, media, music, socializing), and you can’t know a thing unless it’s pointed out to you.

James Baldwin said, “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” Moving through the world with a love ethic means pointing out the dehumanization of another that we learn through the subtle nuance of language as taught via culture. The unlearning of harmful language is wrought with discomfort because we have to wrestle with our moral selves as we try to understand how we came to absorb such lessons. There has never not been a time when problematic language or imagery is being pointed out by someone — often and most likely by the people who are being hurt the most — but we are not conscious of what we cannot see.

Silencing the opposition is the only way to avoid accountability. James Baldwin said, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” Accountability never feels good, because those of us with a good moral conscious feel guilt and shame. We have demonized guilt and shame so much that we avoid it at all costs. Or, that’s what the rich and powerful have done and have taught us.

But I digress…

Today I also took the time to listen to a podcast interview of Mariame Kaba. Both Morrison and Kaba galvanize me to take action. During the interview, Kaba shared the importance of accepting and taking lessons from failure. More words given at the right time at the right place.

My tiredness has set in, and so I will hopefully continue these thoughts tomorrow.

Anti-racism & Stages of Grief

I wrote this for facebook but I’m posting it here for posterity.

I share a lot of posts about race and racism to bring awareness. I’m pretty sure it has caused a lot of my friends to mute all my posts since I get very little engagement on them. Let me know if you don’t have me muted.

This particular post is to share my journey to becoming antiracist. It’s not my intention to distance myself, to elevate myself in self promotion, or to be performative. I don’t consider myself better than anyone else, I just have knowledge and have spent time doing deep reflective work. I’m not done nor will I ever be done with that self-reflection, as antiracism requires, but I have moved through all the stages of grief to acceptance. 

stagesofgrief

I have heard through the grapevine that people I know are in those early stages of grief as they become more aware of how racist and oppressive our country and society really is. This post is for them. What I hope those people will see is that wherever you’re at is fine, but for things to change for all people for the better, you gotta work through all the stages, feel all the feelings, and then commit yourself to DOING something. By putting all my vulnerabilities out there, admitting the ways in which I was wrong, I hope you can find the strength to keep going. 

Becoming antiracist is a journey, a hard one, full of guilt and discomfort and depression and wondering how to find joy in a world that is so oppressive of people. I have felt lost having all this new old knowledge and not knowing what to do with it. Feeling hopeless. Fucking up! And fucking up again, and again. And learning from those mistakes. Then doing.

Here’s how it began: Continue reading “Anti-racism & Stages of Grief”

A Life Update

For the last few years, I’ve been wanting to offer some sort of analysis or commentary regarding the information I’ve learned about race and racism and linguistics. As I’ve learned more and more, I find that the need for my analyze isn’t necessary. Until such time that I get into grad school, my position is that of amplifier: I find work done by other people (POC, particularly Black and/or Indigenous) and post it on social media.

Here are things that have been going on with me lately: over the last year or so, I’ve been going to local meetings of anti-racist nonprofits to try to find what it is I can do within my limited capacity. I find that my capacity is pretty damn limited due to a variety of reasons: Family life, one car, and depression are among the top. Regardless, I show up when I can, and I offer my services with the caveat that I have limitations.

Things are moving slowly, but they are moving in a direction that I’ve been hoping. One particular nonprofit has been putting investment into me, and I have done a few events for them in return (it’s actually more that I told them I’m interested in doing more, so they are creating a way for me to do more). I helped facilitate one event, which was a lot smaller in scope than we were expecting but it is what it is. As recently as last week, I’ve been tasked to help maintain their website and social media pages. We’re still working out the kinks, and it’s moving a little slower than I hoped, but I am learning to be patient. Not my strong suit though.

I continue to read what I can when I can, which sadly isn’t as often as I would like. A large part of that is my bad time management skills, another is kids are exhausting, and another is the only time I have to read is late at night, and the books I want to read require brain power I don’t have late at night. I need to find a way to manage my time better while also carving out time to read those academic-language-heavy books.

One of the great things about Twitter is the generosity of people’s willingness to educate in 280 character threads. Citing them is difficult if you don’t grab the link right away. I’m not quite sure how to best manage twitter citations, but I have a plan that’s in the limbo works. I’ve learned so much through twitter because of how accessible it is. I feel forever in debt to it.

I have a lot of good ideas on projects and tasks to do with the nonprofit I’m working with the most. The slowness of it drives me a bit crazy but that’s also because I just don’t have the time to put more energy into it, and the other people in the group have their own things they need to take care of. The projects will get off the ground at some point, and when they do I think the community will really thrive. I partly don’t know what I’m doing and am at the mercy of other people. I think that’s the nature of this work. Maybe. I don’t know. I know nothing.

I don’t talk much on social media about the things I’m doing because the results don’t seem very tangible or significant. I worry about coming off as being ‘performative’.  But I am doing stuff. And once I get a few projects from ‘brainstorm’ to ‘completion’, I’ll be posting a lot more.

One thing that I’m involved in at the moment is aiding a local school district into decolonizing their math curriculum. The math director is pretty amazing to be doing this, because it is an effort at the high school level that involves all the math teachers as well as community members. About five people from the nonprofit are showing up to these monthly meetings that are finding ways to refine the math curriculum to be more equitable. This is in the beginning stage, but already I feel like what I have offered is valued.

Another task on the horizon is applying to a graduate program at a local satellite university. Luckily it does not require the GRE. I need to start putting time into crafting the essays and asking for recommendations. I don’t know how I will pay for it, but I’ll worry about that if/when I’m accepted into the program.

Values, part 2.

Prior to the previous post, I just started drafting up a blog post to really spell out the values of anti-racist work. While the previous post gives the root of what my value is, this post will share the fruit of that root. Harm none is a good starting point, but there must also be action. That would be my second value.

It is not enough to harm none, not in a society that gains profit on the backs of marginalized communities. One must also be actively involved in community to help shape policy that will help the marginalized get the equity needed to live a quality life.

Those are some fancy ass words. Policy, marginalized, equity, quality. In context you can get a sense of what those all mean, but what does it mean in terms of action? I think it would be best to define those words individually so you can see how they fit together.

Policy are laws that create guidance on how a society should run. Nearly every aspect of our life has policy created around it, and if you’re part of the dominant culture, you probably benefit from those policies.

Dominant culture means white people. White people are dominant because they make up most of the bodies that create policy in government, schools, hospitals, housing authority, etc. etc.

If you’re within the marginalized community, you fit within one or more of the following identities:

woman, BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), trans, disabled, queer, immigrant (i.e. non-US born citizen)

Equity means that resources are redistributed so that those within the marginalized communities get what they need to be on equal footing with the dominant culture.

To spell it out differently, people of color are given the opportunity to get resources that would give them the same quality of life as white people. That means they receive resources for well-funded schools, hospitals, mental health services, housing and food security, safety, etc.

Quality means the lack of struggle. No one should have to struggle to live. No. One.

Now that those are somewhat better defined, what would action look like? To be honest, I’m still learning. But here is what I have learned so far:

Action = involvement. Showing up. Being active. Helping to formulate ideas. LISTENING. Being available for the follow-through. Talking to other people and bouncing ideas around. LISTENING. Keeping in mind those who will benefit the most as you create new policy ideas. Possibly running for office yourself. LISTENING to the marginalized. Uplifting the marginalized. Allowing the marginalized to SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES and SUPPORTING THEIR IDEAS.

These are great things to speak of in the general, but what do the specifics look like? That I am still learning as well, and I haven’t yet seen it in practice. Luckily I’m on the edge, waiting for that crest to fall. I will report back once I see the results of action in action.

I see you

There has been an uptick in traffic to my blog. The reason isn’t a mystery. You read something I wrote on twitter, didn’t understand the context or misread the statement, and decided to find out more of what kind of person I am. I’m sure you’re not unsatisfied in your perceptions.

Here’s the thing: I could write a post clarifying my statements, defending myself, adding further context. But would you read it in good faith? With an open mind for learning? Are you actually trying to get to the bottom of what exactly it is I was trying to say? The answer isn’t a mystery.

I won’t waste my time with that. But I do want to take the time to notice you. I see you. Your boredom, you’re hatred. You’re reason for feeling righteous. Your reality and my reality don’t align. We have different perceptions. We have different values. We’re different.

Here’s another difference: I don’t go out of my way to be hateful and harmful to other people. You can think what you want about my viral tweet, I’ve already heard it from multiple people who think like you. The truth is I don’t spend my time hating people. Except nazis. And there have been plenty of those letting me know their opinions of me. Y’all can go fuck yourselves.

So go ahead, look around. Absorb some random tidbits about person you don’t know but feel righteous fury for in this moment. You’ll forget it in a couple weeks when you’ve moved on to another target. Same as it ever was.

Beyond the Basics

Today I attended a one-day conference for teachers called Teaching Equity conference. I wanted to see how the facilitators would frame the discussion, and I somehow got the expectation that I might learn something new.

The day was broken into six parts – breakfast/opening, a quick discussion about bringing ethnic studies into schools, session one, lunch, session two, closing. The workshop I attended filled both sessions, called “Culturally responsive classroom interactions.” I thought to myself, hey, this is exactly the kind of class I would want to teach once I’m done with my masters degree. Both hubs and I attended.

The opening was pretty amazing. A Native man sang a song of thanks in his native language while beating on a drum. The school’s Step Team did a performance, a black teenage girl read an essay she had written, and three black teenage girls who are officers of the school’s Black Alliance club read a speech they had written about being Black women. They all spoke their truth so well, and as I glanced around the room, I could see some white women getting in their feelings.

The morning session started off talking about implicit biases, different kinds of racism, different kinds of microaggressions. The one thing I did learn is about the subcategories of microaggressions – I added some new vocabulary to be able to explain it more deeply. The afternoon session talked a little bit more about student to student and teacher to student interactions. The teachers were asked to think about their relationship with their students and to their students’ families. I wasn’t able to participate much in this session since I am not a teacher, but it was interesting to see how others talked about it. These are things that hubs and I talk about fairly regularly, so we were already thinking about this sort of stuff before attending this conference.

The place where I’m at personally in my studies is beyond this point. These sessions were a surface-level gloss over of concepts I already knew. I was hoping they would dig deeper, but there’s only so much you can do in three hours. It is then I realized that these free workshops are not going to be offering me anything new I don’t already know. I’m ready for advance courses. The hard courses. The ones that will dig so deep that you can’t help but squirm with discomfort.

While I’m happy about this – that I, all by myself, have positioned myself to learn all these things on my own thanks to (library) books and Twitter and articles written by race scholars – I also find myself mildly frustrated that these things aren’t talked about beyond the surface. Monday of this week I went to an event called “Confronting Antisemitism and Intolerance.” It gave me some new information to think about as far as the history of antisemitism, but there wasn’t much I learned there beyond that.

I know I’m no expert, and I’m almost afraid to call myself intermediate. But I’m definitely beyond these beginning surface level workshops that are being offered around the sound. I want deeper conversations. I want the harder stuff. I want to be challenged and talk to other people about the complexity of these systems and how to go about dismantling them. I want the activism to pull in people who want to do more. And I’m trying. I need to reach out to a woman again who agreed to let me do some volunteer work. I really want to get this ball rolling.

I think the session I attended today was useful to people just starting to think about racial justice in schools, and it was well facilitated. I enjoyed the teachers who taught it, what they said and how they talked about their own dealings with biases. But I’m ready for more. Give it to me.

A Meandering Review of “Reclaiming Our Space” by Feminista Jones

Feminista Jone‘s Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets is the first book I have read that delves into modern Black Feminism. It gives definitive histories of several high profile Black feminists who have made their way in the world through social media and the internet. The first few chapters talks of origin stories, both of the feminists/womanists themselves as well as the hashtags that helped launch modern movements that center support around Black lives and Black women.

I am a white woman who has recently started her journey toward becoming involved in social justice. Since around June or July 2017, when I ‘formerly’ rejoined Twitter in pursuit of a new academic goal on obtaining a PhD in Linguistics, I began to follow Black women. At first I started with linguists, who then RT’d Black feminists, who utilitized Follow Friday to show me the way to other Black women. My following count shot from about 160 to 400 in a matter of a few months, and currently it sits around 870; many of those people are Black women who educate the Twitterverse about social justice issues.

Reading the origin stories included in Jones’s book gave me a whole new appreciation to the women I have been following for nearly two years. It has given me background to who they are, where they pour their energies, and how they have created national and/or international movements in the name of Black liberation from an intersectional way of living.

Jones’s love of hip-hop permeates this book, adding a unique voice that will resonate with its music fans and give additional perspective to those of us who are not familiar with the genre.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Reclaiming Our Space is that Feminista Jones was just as much as an online person as I have been. In Chapter 3, “Thread!”, she shares stories of the internet as it used to be: the days of AOL chatrooms and instant messanger, stories of the desire to connect with other people who would understand you way better than anyone IRL, the resulting internet meetups and how the internet has evolved since those days really mirrored a lot of my own experience. We obviously lived in different online circles, but a lot of what we sought from internet friends and acquaintances was much the same.

Jones gives details about how the internet has evolved with the invention of social media, and how Black women have really made it what it is today. There are many accounts within the book that shows how the current use of Twitter hashtags is indebted to the ingenuity of Black woman: from marketing campaigns to live-tweeting, from organizing conferences to galvenizing the public for movements in the streets. These ladies know what they’re doing.

I have been on Twitter on and off since June 2008. I had started to lose interest in Twitter just as many of these large campaigns for social justice took root. But at that point – between years 2010 and 2015 – I know I wouldn’t have been following the right people to hear wind of any of these movements, and if I did it would have been the wrong information. That’s how insular into my white privilege culture I was.

Since rejoining Twitter, and following many who have written anti-racism books, I am trying to get my hands on the books that I think will be the most useful in empowering the way I will think about the world for the better. Feminista Jones’s book is useful to white women in that she tells us exactly what we need to hear: Black women aren’t here to save us. She tells those hard-to-swallow truths that get white women in their feelings. Luckily for me I have already heard some of this before and can avoid getting butt hurt about it – or at least recognize that I need to sit with my feelings and reflect on them. One of the things Jones writes that really stuck with me is the following:

“[Liberal white women] seek comfort. They seek salvation. They seek alleviation from the burden of truth and the challenge of real action. They want to ensure that Black women keep showing up in the ways that serve their best interests, so this new onslaught of admiration has felt less celebratory and more like pressure to add more work to our already full plates so that they, too, might benefit from our labor. They’ve begun to see us as Mammy 2.0, the perpetual supplier of digital comfort and salvation. They regarded us as wise (we are), they acknowledged us as strong (we can be), and they tried to position us as wells from which they could drink and be filled with refreshingly new points of view that made them feel better about being White (you cannot). They did not want us to be who we are; accepting the complex fullness of our humanity would mean having to respect our right to say no, which may have eventually denied them access to whatever comfort they were seeking in these trying times. They believed they were complimenting us by saying ‘Black women will save us,’ ‘Black women have been right all along,’ and ‘We need to follow the lead of Black women,’ but they were not. They began to demand more work without our consent, masking it as praise, admiration, and support, all while projecting their fears onto us.” (pp. 149-150)

Jones’s no bullshit approach is the exact thing we white women need to hear. There are a few chapters full of information that white woman need to read to realize what kind of work we must acknowledge and do if we are truly going to help Black women and other marginalized women become liberated. What the above paragraph and other parts of this book has taught me, personally, is that while it is worthwhile and necessary to educate ourselves (as white women) with Black feminist thought, we must also remember that this is our work to be done. We need to stop relying so heavily on the labor Black women already do. We need to pick up our slack without trying to put more work onto Black women.

Feminista Jones has written a valuable book for our time. I was already beginning to explore Black Feminism in its origins (such as the Combahee River Collective statement, which Jones includes portions of in her book alongside her analysis), but this book has made me look to finding other recently published titles that center Black Feminism within the pages. Jones drives home what will truly lead us all to be free – free from racism, sexism, classism, and other isms – Black feminist thought and praxis.

The Racism Continuum (& other stuff)

I am so tired right now but I feel the need to write so here I am.

After reading White Fragility, I see a lot of ways that I still fail at being anti-racist. Robin DiAngelo mentions that she likes to think of herself on a continuum, where sometimes she is more or less racist, but it is always there and never ending. It’s a weird thing to realize that we can’t escape our own racism, even if we really try and really want to. That’s how deeply embedded it is in our society and our personalities.

Beyond the racism I know I have some other problematic behaviors rooted in entitlement and self superiority. I don’t like these parts of me. These are both things each of my parents continually showed through actions, and they became embedded in me as well. I think this is probably something I’ll need therapy for in order to help myself out of it. The anti-racism studying helps, I think. It brings with it a humility you must adopt in order to effective at being anti-racist. Yeah, I’m a racist too. I can’t deny it and there’s no way around it. But I can try to minimize it with conscious effort and constant reflection through critical thinking.

That is humbling but not undoable.

Tonight I have been completely listless. My self-enforced ban from social media has left me having to find other ways to spend my time, and while there are things I can do, I don’t really feel like doing any of it. I tried playing Stardew Valley but after one day I didn’t want to continue. I tried some games on the Nintendo but those are skills that need rebuilding but I just don’t have the patience for it right now.

I’ve been knitting a scarf that a friend requested. It’s looking really good but it’s slow work. I just hope I have enough yarn to make a complete scarf.

I’m downloading a new game called Tera. I have low expectations. I just want a good game to play that is RPG and fun.

I had more to say but I’m too tired to continue.

I will always be racist

I just finished reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. I have so many thoughts about it, so this will be a stream of consciousness post as I process my thoughts/feelings. I’m putting it out there so maybe someone else can benefit from it.

The book is well written. It does well to define white supremacy as a system and continually reinforces this idea. One of the major benefits of the book is the vocabulary given to define different aspects of whiteness and white fragility that prevents the discussion of racism from moving forward.

I think this is the most important aspect of the book is the reminder that all white people are racist, will be racist, cannot escape from being racist. No matter what, because of how we are socialized into white supremacy, there is no way to escape it.

I have been guilty of distancing myself from racism. I needed the reminder,

“We must continue to ask how our racism manifests, not if.”

I’m guilty of feeling superior because of this conquest I am undertaking. I feel that “I’m one of good white people” and positioned myself as better than other white people, which only serves to distance myself from the ways I have and will be racist. DiAngelo writes, “I offer that we must never consider ourselves finished with our learning. Even if challenging all the racism and superiority we have internalized was quick and easy to do, our racism would be reinforced all over again just by the virtue of living in the [white supremacist] culture.”

The reality of being white in a white supremacist society is that there is no escape from the privilege of being white. I will inevitably take advantage of being white – whether intentional or not – because of this reality.

I will write another post to discuss the book more deeply, but for now I need to wrangle with my feelings.

A few days ago, Ijeoma Oluo posted this on her social media pages:

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If your anti-racism work prioritizes the “growth” and “enlightenment” of white America over the safety, dignity, and humanity of people of color – it’s not anti-racism work. It’s white supremacy.

As a white woman who is working toward becoming an anti-racism advocate, this is a good reminder for me. Of course the goal of anti-racism work should be to uplift people of color from the weight of white supremacy – to give value to their humanity. Admittedly, my career goal is that of educating other white people, but that shouldn’t be the only goal. And it isn’t. I want to create classroom environments that create space for children of color to be able to have dignity, to feel their humanity, and to not be minimalized into racist tropes and stereotypes. Education of white people will help, but there is more that can be done. And that’s what I’m hoping graduate school can teach me.

 

This work is hard, and it’s uncomfortable. That’s the design of white supremacy – the need to keep white people comfortable so when they aren’t, they’ll retreat back into comfort so the status quo stays unchallenged and unchanged.

My husband has asked me to take a break from my anti-racist learning. He knows it’s valuable work, but he can also see this sort of spiralling path I’m on. Everything he shares I see through the critical eye of anti-racism, and I know I’m not a very fun person to talk to much anymore. I want to pick all the battles, even when I have only limited amounts of information.

I know it is my white privilege that allows me to take a break. It’s actually going to be hard for me to take a break because I’m really invested in this. My social media accounts are full of anti-racist education, so I will have to take a break from those as well.

I don’t think it’s wrong to recharge. I’m in this for the long fight. I know that the amount of stress that this work creates can cause stress-induced illness. So now that I finished White Fragility, I’m now on break for the next week. Then I’ll dive back in.

I recommend all white people to read DiAngelo’s book. I think it’s a nice starting point for joining the anti-racism cause. After finishing White Fragility, I would move onto Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race, followed by Crystal Fleming’s How to be Less Stupid about Race.

Approaching Anti-Racism Education

Many of my upcoming posts will explore what it means to be anti-racist. I have a couple of projects I want to do for 2019 that include an Instagram comic dealing with grammar and anti-racism as well as cited work to complement content from the comic. I’m hoping the information will be easy enough for hub’s 8th grade students to read, since for some reason I have a lot of his students following my linguistcoelho Instagram account already.

I know there is a lot of anti-racism information already out there, spread all over the internet. I want to create a compilation of scholarship, books, websites, articles — anything useful that will help people start their journey to become an anti-racist. I’m not sure yet (I still need to research) if there already exists a website that does this. If there is, I will definitely link it here. But I also plan to create my own content.

Part of the major problem with anti-racism is that white people get their feelings hurt too easily. It’s called White Fragility, coined by white sociologist Robin DiAngelo in 2011. Many white people are isolated from the discussion of racism, automatically become defensive and shut down, walk away, or attack the people who discuss racism. My first post will discuss why this happens and what you should do to truly advance your anti-racism values.

The approach I will take to educate about anti-racism is from a Black feminist point of view: to be anti-racist means to fight all forms of oppression (i.e. intersectionality). I also plan to take a linguistic point of view as informed by raciolinguistics. Mixing these two ideologies should bring forth an understanding as to why White Supremacy is embedded in all our institutions and way of thinking and being (especially if you’re white).