racism

Baby Problem Steps: Porn Edition

CN: Discussion of masturbation and pornography.  Probably NSFW.  Links whose destinations you don’t recognize are definitely NSFW.

I wrote recently about how I recognize the importance of the media that made me the atheist I am today even as I acknowledge its glaring flaws, because it filled the particular void I had.  I meant that discussion to be a lead-in for this one, but it took on a life of its own.

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Hija de Caguas y La Habana

In observance of Mother Language Day and because its topic makes this appropriate, the rest of this post is in my native Spanish.

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He pensado mucho de mis raíces.  Soy una criatura de combinación, hecha de muchas piezas, cosida difícilmente junta.  Soy americana, boricua, cubana, y en unos meses, canadiense.  Nací en una ciudad, de padres ciudadanos y campesinas, quienes llegaron a madurez en New Jersey después de niñeces en las islas del Mar Caribe, inmigrantes sin inglés.

Viví en New Jersey, rodeada de las culturas italiana-americana, boricua-americana, e irlandés-americana.  Viví también en Miami, en el medio de la cultura cubana-americana y la mezcla de cosas raras y únicas que es el sur de la Florida.  Vivo ahora en Canadá, en donde tengo que construir cosas familiares de partes salvadoreñas, jamaicanas, y polacas.

No sé si jamás veré los lugares de mi pasado.

Años van a pasar antes que podrá volar a New Jersey para ver la calle donde viví.  Mis padres me dijeron que la casa ya no parece como acuerdo, que las rosas ya no crecen en el patio y la mata de acebo hace años se murió.  Quizás es mejor que no lo veo.  Hay carboneros por acá, y casi nadie que quiero ver por allá.

Mi familia no quiere bregar con la idea que yo soy la persona que soy.  Cada vez en cuando me llaman, pero no ha sido similar que antes.  Ahora se oye la tristeza o el coraje en sus voces cada vez que oyen la mía, como que están hablando con una fantasma de una memoria.  Lo que oigo es literalmente nostalgia: dolor en sentir que algo se perdió y no se consigue más.  Ya no me piden a llamarlos.  Mi familia en Miami es, por su cuenta, mucho más pequeña ahora, consistiendo de la minoría de mis relaciones que no me han repudiado y amigos que han quedado cerca.  Si vuelo a Miami otra vez, tendré que solicitar amigos para albergarme, porque jamás podré sentirme seguro en la casa de mis padres.  Hay recuerdos queridos por allá, y cultura familiar, y comida que me hace llorar.  Quiero regresar, eventualmente.

Nunca he visto a Cuba ni a Puerto Rico personalmente.  Quizás algún día tendremos dinero suficiente para visitar a las islas que me dieron las culturas de mis padres, para que yo pueda ver así cerca de donde vengo.

Nunca he tenido una relación especialmente cariñosa a mis raíces culturales.  La cultura hispánica todavía da apoyo a sentimientos homofóbicas, anti-transgéneras, anti-ateas, y de varias otras formas opuestas a lo que yo vivo.  El machismo hispano es famoso, severo, asqueroso, y vergonzoso, y no quiero ningún parte en preservarlo para las generaciones futuras.  Las generaciones futuras merecen mejor que eso.  Hay mucho para criticar en nuestra historia, especialmente ahora que el poder de la Iglesia Católica sobre las sociedades hispánicas se está debilitando.  Fue posible, con mi distancia y mi expulsión de la compañía hispanohablante, que yo rechazara el resto.  Fue posible, con esa ruptura, que rechazara mi raza también.

Ni quería ni pude.  Aunque podría ser blanca en un contexto específicamente latinoamericano, no soy blanca por acá.  Traigo detrás de mi cienes y cienes de años de revolución y resistencia, yuca y maíz, sol y arena.  Detrás de me tengo los atentos finales de Hatuey y Agüeybaná de conseguir un archipiélago Taino fuera de control español.  Detrás también tengo los esclavos africanos quienes nos dieron las delicias de nuestra cocina: sancocho, tostones, mofongo.  En ser rechazada de la cocina de mis padres y prevenida a quedarme conectada a mis raíces de esa manera, tuve desaire recargada a conocer de dónde vine.

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Where is Your Condemnation Now?

TW: For Racism

During the Ferguson protests, during the Baltimore uprisings, during countless demonstrations that took place because black children, black men, and black women, are being murdered, there were countless and endless condemnations by white people of the protestors as being too violent, too angry.

Last night, white people came to a Black Lives Matter demonstration for no other purpose then to commit violence. Their purpose wasn’t to raise awareness, to express anger and hurt over government sanctioned murders. No. They were there to kill people who had the nerve to protest being murdered. They were there because they don’t see PoC as being human beings, as being people. They shot five people.

When the police responded, their response included macing protestors after they had just been shot at.

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Don’t You Fear Terrorism

If you have any interest in the news, you have heard about the attack that took place by a stadium in Paris. The attacks on Paris were not the only ones that took place. In addition to Paris, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Beirut and Baghdad which took place just hours before the ones in Paris.

In light of the attacks, there has been an international backlash against Syrian refugees. The backlash has included attacks on refugee camps, attacks on Mosques in Canada, the US, attacks of Muslim people all over the world. It has also resulted in the US attempting to close its doors to desperate people fleeing from Syria. Politicians are announcing that they are barring their specific corners to refugees in flagrant violations of their own laws, and still others are suggesting measures reminiscent of the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany before the start of the war.

Why? Because they’ve decided that Syrian refugees pose a safety risk.

Some people have decided that the torrent of refugees is the perfect disguise for any terrorists looking for admittance to the US or any other place where refugees fleeing. This, of course, ignores the realities of the refugee process, and the fact that none of the terrorists have even been found to be Syrian nationals.

The racist and islamophobic rhetoric and actions of the last few days, always seem to be accompanied by apologists asking: “Don’t You Fear Terrorism?”

The question is meant to suddenly make these bigoted measures seem appropriate, because, it’s not racist you see, its self-defense.

But see, here’s the thing. I do fear terrorism.

I fear the terrorists who send threats to people who fight for social justice.

I fear the terrorists who put people’s lives in danger by doxing them.

I fear the terrorist who decides to shoot me or my friends because he’s decided that feminists are to blame for anything that has gone wrong in his life.

I fear the terrorist who walks into a school with a gun because a woman told him no.

I fear the terrorist with a badge who kills people based on the colour of their skin.

I fear the terrorists who see nothing wrong with brutalizing their children because of a disability, or because they are trans, or gay.

I fear the terrorists threatening and murdering people of colour for daring to exist: in churches, universities, in parks playing as children, walking home from the store.

I fear the terrorists who blow up clinics because they disapprove of a woman’s right to choose.

I fear the terrorists in government who use fear to slowly strip us of our rights.

What I don’t fear are children and terrified people fleeing their homes and everything they’ve known, who have watched their homes destroyed, and seen their friends and family killed.

The refugees are not terrorists. The terrorists we are so afraid of grew up right here.

Hewing the Heuristic

I know someone who regularly visits the strangest, most extreme corners of the Internet, to experience a kind of macabre bemusement.  They flit from Canadian Association for Equality to A Voice for Men to Return of Kings; they follow trails that start at Fox News and end at Stormfront or r/coontown; they learn about Gamergate by letting Vivian James lead them from TotalBiscuit deep into the places where the movement-that-wasn’t bleeds into these and other right-wing hate groups.

It’s an interesting and rather informative approach.  For people with the stomach to view and cogitate over that level of violence-fomenting hatred, there probably isn’t a better way to see the clear links between the more extreme versions and the ones that more pointedly bring themselves mainstream attention.  It’s a way to remind oneself that the quieter, front-facing versions are direct gateways into deeper wells of horror, and that the worse versions of all these things are worse as a matter of degree, not kind.

The thing is, this kind of searching also leads one into the weird, anti-scientific, decidedly baffling underbelly of many other movements as well, including movements that are utterly benign.

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The Violence of the Mental Health Excuse

It’s become a trope. A white man is involved in a shooting, and within moments people are rushing over themselves to call him mentally ill. Sometimes this happens even before there is a suspect on which to pin the label. There are several cartoons and memes out there depicting the trend, and comparing it to the coverage received by people of colour in similar circumstances.

Whenever people are called on it however, there is always someone rushing in to defend the idea claiming that no “sane” person would commit such a heinous act of violence. That that level of obsession, that level of hatred, could only be the result of there being something mentally wrong with a person.

I understand why we need to believe that. Growing up listening to tales of good and evil, the villain is always readily identifiable. Whether an underground network of evil super villains, the wicked witch, or even just the bully at school, there is always some way of telling who the bad people are. To borrow from Christian mythology: some mark of Cain identifying the evil inside. (more…)

A Canadian’s Reaction to the Terrorist Attack on AME

On June 17th, 2015, a white man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States and killed 9 people. This was a targeted terrorist attack meant to strike fear into the black community. His choice of church was highly symbolic. The AME church in general is a famous denomination, but this church in particular is also steeped in civil rights history. It was here that community organizing took place dating back to before abolition. This church had been previously burned down by white supremacists, attacked and raided.

This choice of location was a reminder that even 150 years after slavery was abolished black people are still not welcome in the USA and are still treated as less than human.

Before he murdered these 9 people, the terrorist defended his actions in the name of protecting white women from the criminal advances of black men. The murder of black people in the name of protecting white women’s purity is an excuse that has a long racist history, and as a white woman I would like to join with others in saying #notinmyname.

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ABLEISM CHALLENGE

CN: For Ableist slurs.

I have a challenge for all of my blogger friends. I want you to try and go one month without using the list of words below. For one month, in your blog posts and public opinions, I want you to not use these words. I will explain why. I will give you a reason, and regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I want you to try. For me.

Why does this matter?

The truth is that the concerns of the disabled community are often pushed to the side or seen as less important. Just a year ago there was almost a network wide outrage over being called on the use of ableist sentiments and words.  It ended with one of the more dedicated and active disability and neurodiversity activists, who has actually created a lot of the accepted vocabulary of the neurodivergent movements, accused of being a troll. The concerns were ignored, a new network was launched, and little to no progress was made in improving the use of ableist language or sentiments in our community. The verdict was in. As one person famously put it: disability activism is not a real thing.

And then the whole thing was ignored. For most people it was just not enough of a big deal.

Every few months someone writes a post asking people to not use “crazy” as a pejorative, that gets summarily ignored.

And these things do matter. In the same way that racialized words perpetuate systemic racism, and the same way that racialized words can find themselves in the most seemingly benign words, ableism too is so prevalent as to be invisible.

The sad fact is that most ableist slurs are considered the soft swears, the use-instead-ofs. Want to insult someone in relatively polite company? Chances are you may reach for one of these as a stand-by. But words matter. Language shapes our perception and when we make disability an insult, when we make ability an insult, we are implying that there is something wrong with being that way. It adds to a system that treats people with disabilities as being less than human. In some cases people go so far as to imply that people with disabilities don’t have feelings or don’t feel pain. Moreover it creates a perceptions, a link between being disabled and being otherwise incompetent.

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Quick Thoughts on the Attacks in France

I want to say something about the whole situation in France.

1.No one deserves to be killed or be the victims of violence. This is true no matter who they are, or what they say.

2. What happened in France in terms of the killing was a tragedy. Many people died needlessly.

3. This does not mean that the Charlie Hebdo magazine wasn’t racist. It is important to discuss the differences between satire and just plain bigotry, between necessary criticism of bad ideas and using it as an opportunity to perpetuated stereotypical ideas based on biases.

4. I support the push for more open satire, parody, and criticism or religion, among other things, but with the caveat that if you do so in a way that punches down, your work creates harm rather than good. You can be critical of religion without being racist. You can draw Mohammad without being racist. You can create satire that is not harmful to oppressed peoples. If you can’t think of how, then you shouldn’t be doing it. A lack of creativity is no excuse for bigotry.

5. It is important to think critically about the attacks that generate this level of public attention and how they always focus on acts of aggression by stigmatized groups against privileged groups. The attacks of the majority groups on minority groups are largely ignored. Where is the outrage over the Muslim women in France having their hijabs forcefully pulled off, and being attacked. She was pregnant and lost her baby as a result of the attack. A Synagogue in France was attacked and also graffiti with Nazi symbols and anti-semitic messages. Neither of these attacks have been publicized nearly as much. There are no hashtags standing with these victims. What about the firebombing attack on the NAACP. This is not a Dear Muslima post. These attacks should be publicized and a public discussion of harmful ideologies generated, but not at the expense of always ignoring acts of violence, terrorism, and systemic racism, against minority populations. The critic that doesn’t take time to look in the mirror objectively is at best a hypocrite.

6. It is important to discuss how attacks like these don’t exist in a vaccuum. Yes they were wrong and there is no justification. That said, the result will most likely be a greater danger to the lives and safety of anyone who is, or more specifically, looks Muslim. Just like in the US the horrible 911 attacks were used to justify incredibly racist and unconstitutional laws: including detention without access to a lawyer or notification of charges, legalized and even encouraged racial profiling at airports and borders, etc.

7. When People of Colour and other oppressed minorities are telling you that something is racist. When they are telling you that racism exists, is rampant, and is perpetuated by certain things, it is important to listen. White people don’t get to decide what is racist and what isn’t, just like abled people don’t get to decide what is ableist, men don’t get to decide what is sexist, and cis folk don’t get to decide what is transantagonistic.

Last but NOT least. In fact I think this is the most important point.

8. The only successful way to combat attacks like this is not by increasing our culture of racism and prejudice but by fighting against it. By making this world, our world, one of acceptance and aid. By eliminating the excuses that are used to justify brutal acts of violence. By empowering the people within these minority groups so that the voices of the reasonable are not silenced, but can drown out the voices of the fundamentalist. Give a greater audience to brilliant writers like Heina, who have lived experience of what it means to be Muslim, an apostate, and a woman of colour in our Western Culture. Stop letting white men be the voices of what’s wrong with Islam, of what is an isn’t racism, or sexism, or transantagonism, cis-sexism, or ableism. Stop telling people in these communities how they should act and instead listen to what they have to say. Listen, and learn! and Do Better.

So no, Je ne suis pas Charlie, but my thoughts and condolences to the families of all those lost in the senseless violence.

Apartheid Dragonslayer

The hunter or warrior specialized in fighting a particular kind of enemy is a classic fantasy trope.  The dwarven goblin-killer, the cleric with a knack for exorcising possessing demons, the well-armored knight with a notch on her shield for each dragon she slays, the hunter who knows from a pattern of broken branches the age of the werebear that stomped through this forest last week: these are well-worn archetypes found in great variety in fantasy literature and its freestyle derivative, roleplaying games.

They also provide an interesting opportunity to talk about racism. (more…)