[White] Women’s March Was Not A Win

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a sister Women’s March in Lexington, KY.  Yesterday night, I went to bed feeling nearly as bad as I felt the night of the election.

Surrounded by thousands and thousands of people showing up to resist Trump’s agenda was exciting…at first.  That was until I started reading signs and getting a read of the crowd.

End of the march route.  Personal estimate of 5,000 to 10,000 people present.
End of the Women’s March on Washington – Lexington. Personal estimate of 5,000 to 10,000 people present.

 

There were a few problematic signs like the apocalyptic biblical “You want a Revolution, I want Revelation”, one with images of both a cow and human in shackles – daring to liken meat-eating to slavery, and the Dumbledore’s Army-esque “Wands Up!”.  But what really troubled me was the compounded message of every single sign that was spouting one-dimensional first/second wave feminist phrases.  “Girls rule, boys drool.”  “Feminism is the notion that women are humans.”  “Can’t believe I have to march for this in 2017.”  The sea of pussy hats.  Every single article of clothing that made me feel like these people just raided their breast cancer awareness closet.  And every message that wasn’t written on a sign or was dwarfed by this pink/white-washing.  It was all of this that suggested to me that these white folks were not showing up for anyone other than themselves and their privileged white friends.

I realized just how unsettled I was when we started marching.  It seemed like for the majority of the people present, this march was a pleasant little stroll through the streets of Lexington, KY.  Maybe for a lot of these folks, this was their first involvement in activism ever, which is awesome.  But were these people here because they want to engage in the work or because they want to point to a history book and say “I was there”?  I felt no sense of urgency in the crowd.  No sense of collective anger at injustice and oppression.  Chants died off quickly with meager support from those marching, while I was chanting at the top of my lungs trying to infuse energy into the crowd.  When we started chanting “Black Lives Matter”, several white folks stopped chanting….and then an “All Lives Matter” chant bubbled up soon after.  My sign read “You Can’t Stop the Intersectional Revolution” but I’m no longer convinced that we have one.

At this point, I don’t even care where these people were when black bodies were lying in the street at the hands of police violence, when indigenous water protectors were being sprayed with water and tear gassed on their own land, when bathroom bills were being passed to further oppress trans* folks, when 53% of white cis-women voted for Trump.  The only relevant question now is:  WHERE WILL YOU BE???  How many people who attended marches all over the world are actually going to go home and have critical conversations with their friends and family?  How many are going to look for ways to build community and stay involved in the resistance?  How many are going to educate themselves and realize that the revolution must be intersectional or there is no revolution at all?

I know folks like to claim the opposite, but Donald Trump is our President.  Don’t blame it on Russia.  Don’t blame it on rural white southerners.  Don’t blame it on whatever else you’ve been blaming it on to make you feel better about yourself and allow yourself to ignore the fact that Donald Trump won because of institutionalized systems of privilege and oppression.  The problem is bigger than Trump.  It always has been.  Recognize that and hold his administration and your neighbors accountable.

As much as I hoped for yesterday to be invigorating and empowering, I feel disappointed, tired, lost, engulfed in the work that needs to be done even and especially among those who showed up to resist (at least portions of) Trump’s agenda.  It doesn’t matter that these marches combined may equal the largest (by attendance) protest in history.

There is so much to do.  Educate.  Agitate.  Organize.

K

That Which Has Come Out of the Jumbled Mishmosh of Contemplating Collective Liberation and Queerness

Prologue

I kept the title as long as it is to signify that I have not come up with some definitive nugget of wisdom that can be understood and pocketed in a mere moment.  Instead, I have found connections among my jumbled thoughts and created a trajectory upon which these connections can continue developing. Essentially, I have more clarity now than I did before I wrote this, but I am still searching and learning and thinking.

Following are some thoughts that I have had as a result of different discoveries, conversations, questions, and connections in conducting my undergraduate thesis research on collective liberation, contemplating my sexuality, and discussing queer politics/culture in my Black Lesbian Lives course. So shout out to Dr. Story for cultivating a stimulating class already in the first week of the semester, to Maddie for listening to me discuss my inner turmoil and providing necessary perspectives and friendship, to all of my people with whom I regularly discuss privilege and power and identity, and to all of the authors of the radical literature I have perused recently, especially Chapter 1 of James Tyner’s The Geography of Malcolm X which is what I was reading today when I pieced all of these jumbled thoughts together.

That Which Has Come Out of It All

Respectability politics is bullshit. I’ll leave the Wikipedia definition (which was gleaned from a black feminist work) here for reference:

Respectability politics or the politics of respectability refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous, and compatible, with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference.

There is no need to conform to the mainstream; no need to assimilate.  I am speaking as a queer woman when I say these things and the following, but I do think these perspectives could be echoed by persons of other marginalized groups, whether that be a person who is of color, trans*, or dis/differently-abled, etc.  Why embrace the mainstream when I can embrace me?

Phrases (and the accompanying memories of when and where and by whom I heard them) like “it’s fine that they’re gay, but why do they have to be so loud and insistent about it” echo in my memory from a time in which I told myself that I most surely was probably not at all gay.  I had even thought the above was a partially agreeable statement as it simultaneously made me shrink further into myself – I was internalizing the heteronormative poison.  If anything, the more “insistent” that marginalized groups are and the more they either embrace aspects of their culture or create a culture that is separate from the normative, that is a result of the mainstream pushing these groups away.

I am not gay as in happy but queer as in fuck you. – ACT-UP

The goal is not about conforming.  It is not about passively and quietly appreciating your corner, your reservation, your ghetto, your closet – all spaces that privileged groups have fabricated and forced marginalized groups to occupy.  It is about remaking spaces, reclaiming identities.  We (myself and other queer folks [can’t speak for other marginalized groups]) must insert ourselves into the normative because right now the normative does not include us.  Change the system, not the person.  Change the system, not the person.

Since we’re already skilled in creating spaces for us, dismantling systems of oppression shouldn’t be too unattainable.  In countless conversations I’ve had with politically liberal-identifying folks (read: usually Democrats), people think you simply cannot allow yourself to dream of a world that isn’t founded on oppression.  They say that you cannot believe in collective liberation (essentially the active and shared struggle to dismantle systems of oppression by both mainstream and marginalized folks because the systems of oppression affect us all).  They say that your thoughts about operating in a non-capitalist society cannot possibly be grounded in reality because it is not possible for the world to operate outside of the constraints and chains of capitalism.

But honestly, why can we not think these things?  They say that capitalism isn’t even bad; it’s just been corrupted.  But as we realize the limitations and incompleteness of this political ideology, we must offer our critiques and keep building and growing, creating multi-dimensional and intersectional movements.  Still, we MUST remedy this corruption, and what better way to do that than to dream of that which is liberating and needed for all people and create something new rather than attempt to ameliorate a flawed system.  The system does not have flaws.  The system is flawed.  That is inherent.  So it is time to stop with the bullshit and to start dreaming and doing and lifting each other up.

I am a human and I demand for myself and everyone else to be free.

K

Complacency is not an option.

I see privilege. I see ignorance. I see apathy. I see power.

But when I wipe away that brittle noise, I see people. People who may be products of the system but have not been given the opportunity to think critically about their actions. And even if they have, as children of that system, complacency and self-preservation is in their nature. And how can we define people except by the institution that has raised them? In these moments, we look, we plead for their humanity.

How is it that some people can live their whole lives feeling all of the love and support that anyone could ever deserve, while others live day by day bearing on their backs all the hurt of the world?

I feel for those who have been taken advantage of by the system – the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the other. I feel their hurt in the depths of my soul. I weep, I yell, and I utilize my privilege and my voice to mobilize for justice to the best of my ability.

All humans deserve dignity.

But the fight is not simply black or white. There is no strict battle between good and evil. It’s all disconnectedness and miscommunication and – and –

When will we understand that it’s all the same? When will we stop being complacent? When will we realize that the state of the world must, can, and will change? The time is now.

K

Paint It Right: A Response to Whites’ Selective Grief Over ISIS Atrocities

November 15, 2015.

Why now? Why do we choose to mourn ISIS atrocities now? Today? I stand with the people of Paris, but I also stand with the people of Beirut who are recovering from an ISIS attack just three days ago. Why didn’t I hear about that all over the news? Why didn’t Facebook give me the option to temporarily color my profile picture red, white, and green?

There have been five ISIS attacks in the past two months. How is it that I have heard little to none about any except for Paris, which is now flooding our media? I stand with the people of Paris. I grieve for the 100+ lives that have been so mercilessly taken from the world and the many more who have been affected. My soul is tearing into hundreds of pieces for those lives, but it has been ripping into thousands more shards for the lives for whom we have chosen not to mourn. I am enraged and enraptured with grief.

Those other four attacks conducted by ISIS in the past two months have been on nations that are not white, Eurocentric, imperialist, “first world” empires. Huh. My lifeless laughter drips with tired sarcasm and disdain. Why do we continue to raise up the white life? And why do we have more empathy for people living across an ocean than we do for our own neighbors? Why hasn’t Facebook given me the option to paint my profile picture black in solidarity with every black life that has been attacked in the mighty United States of America? Why do we continue denouncing ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and promoting ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬ if we so clearly do not believe this? We selectively grieve for white lives only, and we are blind. We might as well paint our profile photos white every time we choose to mourn instead of continuing to mask our selective grief and outrage with the colors of flags soaked in privilege and the blood of other peoples.

My heart hurts, and here I am – a white person safely sitting on a couch pleading with the internet to open its eyes and give a fucking damn.

“Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.”
-Warsan Shire (from What They Did Yesterday)

K

Morning Pledge of Awesome

I am not ready for the morning, yet it comes in all its glory. Every day is beautiful. Every day is new. The challenge is preparing myself to make the most of each day. Even amidst clouds, the sun never fails to shine. I must strive to shine unfettered like the sun.

Why #BlackLivesMatter

I firmly believe that all lives matter. Nevertheless, it is imperative to recognize the specific importance of black lives in the context of our history of white imperialism invoking black suppression. By retaliating against the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement with ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬, we declare that black lives do not matter enough for their worth to be publicly proclaimed.

Sandra Bland mural in Ottawa painted by artists, Allan André and Kalkidan Assefa, is defaced with
Sandra Bland mural in Ottawa painted by artists, Allan André and Kalkidan Assefa, is defaced with “ALL LIVES MATTER” less than 48 hours after installment.

Spreading the #AllLivesMatter message buries the real suffering, anger, and injustices that have inspired this very movement to reassert black pride and the value of black lives into America, and it dilutes the real issue at hand. As much as I’d like it to be, racism is not dead, and ignoring race or “moving beyond race” does not end racism. We continue to assert white supremacy by intentionally erasing and misconstruing the African American narrative. Recognizing and celebrating race, ethnicity, and culture while actively working to dismantle our decades-old systems of racialization is the pathway to justice. Until black lives matter, all lives matter unequally.

K

*Author’s Note:  After being accused of Nazism, I have realized that choosing to utilize the pronoun “we” may make me come across as hating blacks and in support of everything that I noted as wrong about the #AllLivesMatter campaign.  This is not true at all!  Rather, I chose to utilize “we” to avoid a directly accusatory tone while aligning myself with the population of people who promote the #AllLivesMatter propoganda (namely whites) in order to promote understanding of and facilitate a change in their perspective.