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Lean The Fuck Back: Jessica Williams’ Doesn’t Need White Saviorism

Story time!

A few months ago, I was approached about a position someone thought I’d be a great fit for because of the content on this blog. It was a promising one for a promising project for an established company. I was honored that I was even considered in the running but in the end, I didn’t accept the job. Until now, very few people actually knew about it. I kept it that way because I didn’t want to hear anything close to what The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams read on The Billfold. In the incredibly condescending article, Williams was chastised by writer Ester Bloom for tweeting that she was unqualified to ake over The Daily Show after Jon Stewart’s departure. According to Bloom, the comedienne exhibiting what the author calls Imposter System which she defined as “a well-documented phenomenon in which men look at their abilities vs the requirements of a job posting and round up, whereas women do the same and round down, calling themselves “unqualified.””

And then Bloom suggested a lean-in with a laundry list of prominent Black content creators to give Williams a pep talk. She also infers Williams’ decision is a win for white supremacy.

Bloom says:

How modest! How self-effacing! You can almost hear all the old white people who benefit from the status quo nodding their approval. We did it, they whisper. We have succeeded in instilling in yet another competent, confident young woman a total lack of understanding of her own self-worth! We didn’t even need to undermine her; we gave her the tools and she undermined herself. Well done all. Good show. Let’s play eighteen holes and then hit up Hooters for lunch.

Jessica Williams, respectfully, I reject your humility. What on earth does “under-qualified” mean when it comes to being a comedian? You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re self-possessed. Is there something I’m missing?

Ironically, Bloom, a white woman, doesn’t see the contradiction in her speaking over Williams and not respecting her agency. White feminists have this nasty habit of speaking for and over women of color and they get away with it because they supposedly have good intentions. They have good intentions but they aren’t using them to give women of color jobs or opportunities.

Women of color are only useful when they need a token negro keynote at a conference or some page views. They’re so quick to tell us how we should feel and what we should do but when we need something substantial or they piss us off, they get defensive, disappear or in Bloom’s case, offer a half-assed apology. The following apology came after Williams told Bloom to “lean the fuck back” after she read the article.

ETA: I apologize for being insensitive here. I should have underlined that of course the choice belongs only to Williams. If she had said, “I don’t want the job,” I would have left it there. Her saying “I’m not qualified” is what intrigued me, especially since I’ve read so much about Impostor Syndrome lately and that’s so often the language women use.

Again, I want to emphasize that I have enormous respect for Williams. I think she’s talented and funny and great. That said, Williams is not accountable to either old white tastemakers or, as the also talented and funny Wyatt Cenac pointed out, to young opinionated ones like me. The decision is entirely hers.

How many times are white feminists going to have to apologize before they realize that sometimes, it’s alright to sit down and shut the hell up?

Welp.

Women of color don’t need you to speak for us. Dealing with those old white people Bloom mentioned is enough of an issue without some young white liberal using our backs as a soapbox. Either way, it isn’t us doing the talking.

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The Prancing Elites and Straight Black Male Insecurity

It’s barely been a week since I wrote about racism in the LGBTQ community and here I am writing an article because the Prancing Elites are getting a reality show and negroes are PISSED.

The Prancing Elites are an all-male majorette squad based in Mobile, Alabama and they sparked controversy in December 2013 when they marched in a Christmas parade in their hometown. Videos of the Elites doing their thang have been bouncing across the internet with a variety of reactions accompanying them. While they give some people, myself included, life, others see them as a source of shame for the Black community, namely Black men. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: the worry of the supposed emasculation of Black men is a crock and a manifestation of respectability politics.

I’ve talked respectability politics on this blog several times but it’s usually about the slut-shaming of Black women. Respectability politics surrounding Black men rarely gets discussed unless we’re talking sagging pants. Femme presenting Black men get a lot of shit because while they may not sag and act like a “thug,” they’re equally reviled. The only thing worse than a Black man being a thug is a Black man being feminine. Many brothers treat it as a betrayal at best and a piece of white supremacist weaponry.

And still, they slay.

And still, they slay.

The latter is almost understandable because Black men just earned the right to be able to decide how to perform masculinity. In slavery, they were treated as chattel and post-slavery until the Civil Right Era, they were expected to bow to white men as if they were children. My own grandfather told me stories of having to call white children sir and ma’am and move off sidewalks to allow white men to walk uninterrupted. Still, my sympathy ends there because I’m sick of femme men being the scapegoat of a bunch insecure immature men. Brothers, if you are offended by the mere sight of femme Black men, I implore you to question why. Why do the Prancing Elites offend you? If Black masculinity is supposed to be strong, how is it so easily punctured by femme presenting men?

Uncomfortable? Good.

Uncomfortable? Good.

While I agree white supremacy is actively conspiring against us, it isn’t in the form of femme men or any other non-normative Black person. If anything, pushing people to conform is colonized and oppressive thinking. Society sees femininity as weak and undesirable. That view is what fuels sexism, misogyny and homophobia. The Black community is a microcosm of American society and hypermasculinity, misogynoir and sexism regularly go unchecked in the Black community. And frankly, I’m sick of it and as a community organizer, it frustrates me to the point where I’m unwilling to do work for Black folks that aren’t queer or trans. No one is trying to force a lifestyle on anyone or change opinions because at the end of the day, your opinion is irrelevant. Queer and trans Black people just want to live and be liberated like everyone else in the Black community. We want to belong and be received and that’s difficult when you’re too queer for Black folks and too Black for queer folks. If the Prancing Elites offend you brothers, they aren’t the ones with the problem.

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Mary Cheney and The LGBTQ Community’s Race Problem

Being a Black queer person puts you in a precarious spot at times. In Black spaces, you’re the spokesperson for LGBTQ everything and in queer/trans spaces, it’s the opposite. LGBTQ spaces have the tendency to be overwhelmingly white from Pride parades to powwows in someone’s house. Despite this, white queer and trans people love to place themselves as the epitome of progressiveness and wrath falls upon anyone that says otherwise. To them, not being heterosexual (or cisgender) means they know what all oppression feels like as if white privilege isn’t a thing or at least, they think their glitter and rainbows cancels out some of that privilege.

It doesn’t and this causes them to show their entire, or lack of, ass and when they show it, they don’t expect anyone to say anything especially colored folks. There have been many examples of white LGBTQ folks showing their asses that I could point to but this post is dedicated to Mary Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney. Last week, Cheney likened drag to blackface saying:

“Why is it socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for men to put on dresses, make up and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.) — but it is not socially acceptable — as a form of entertainment — for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans?”

Cheney is a lesbian but that apple clearly didn’t fall too far from the GOP tree. That comment isn’t just racist, it’s idiotic. As a member of the LGBTQ community, she should know better. A lot of white queer and trans people should know better because equality, right? The LGBTQ community practically foams at the mouth when it’s time to call the Black community out on its homophobia but when white LGBTQ folk behave badly, there’s silence which is ironic considering silence is deadly in queer/trans spaces. That double standard is so prevalent and even though Cheney’s comments have sparked some outrage, I haven’t seen very many people truly call this for what it is: one example of white queer racism out of thousands. Sure, we’re mad at Cheney this week but it’ll blow over like it always does and white queers will go back to their shenanigans. But, while white queer and trans folk are definitely responsible for their actions, queer and trans folks of color let them get away with A LOT of shit.

I know y’all love Jinkx but this is racist too….

We’ll complain about them behind closed doors in POC (ugh, need another term) spaces but we’ll grin in their faces and even make excuses for their behavior or worse, emulate it. Those that do call them on their mess risk being ostracized. RuPaul is arguably the most famous Black queer person out but he regularly allows his drag race contestants wear racist costumes and some of the challenges themselves have been racially insensitive. I’ve been on online dating sites and the amount of color struck lesbians out here freak me out and it isn’t much better for the gays especially if the dude they’re eying has “no fats, fems or Blacks/Asians/insert race” on their Grindr page.

The examples I’ve listed seem trivial but they’re indicative of a bigger problem. Not talking about race in the LGBTQ community allows the community’s narrative to be created by certain groups of people. Marriage equality is an overwhelmingly white and middle class issue and although jumping the broom is cute, it should have never been prioritized by a movement that was started by women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The interests of white gays and people of color’s unwillingness is dangerous. How can we celebrate marriage when Black trans women are being exterminated and that extermination is excused in 49 states because of “trans panic?” Queer people of color are more likely to be poor, homeless and sick but at least states are slowly but surely letting twinks march to the courthouse. The Brittney Griner episode of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ is saved to my DVR but I remain ambivalent about the mainstream gay rights movement because these white queer and trans folk don’t give a shit about anyone but each other.

Ty Underwood, one of the four transwomen that have been killed this year.

Think I’m tripping? Look at how many people reacted to Leelah Alcorn’s suicide verses the murders of 12 trans women in 2014 and the four that have already been killed barely two months into 2015. It’s disgraceful and until the LGBTQ community can get its shit together, I need them to hush about the Black community. Collect your other white siblings, white queers. Colored queers, call your white friends and baes on their shit. Get it together.

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Empire, Sorority Sisters and Black Humanity Under the White Gaze

 

Black representation is a precarious thing. As a people, we’ve had to fight for the right to be recognized as human beings since we set foot on American soil and our humanity still isn’t fully recognized. In addition to physically torturing us, white supremacy has been on a 400 year old image smearing campaign. It isn’t enough to beat, kill, rape and jail us. We’ve been taught to hate Blackness and so has the rest of society. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to tell which group hates Blackness the most, us or non-Black people. As a result of this treatment, we’ve tried our best to assimilate and prove to white supremacy that we’re worth a damn. If we fight the kinks in our hair, put on our best outfit and use “articulate” language, we can get a seat at the table. For many Black folks that will keep you off Dwight Folks’ bad side even though it hasn’t worked since we were supposedly emancipated. Stereotypical images like the coon, Mandingo, sapphire and Jezebel have contemporaries in the welfare queen, independent woman and criminal. White supremacy created and promoted these images to justify our marginalization and we use these same images to police other Black folks that don’t care what white supremacy thinks of them.

I see this in people who make the “Black people vs. niggas” distinction even though white people don’t see a difference. I’ve seen it when people look disapprovingly when someone speaks too loudly or uses too much AAVE (ebonics). I see the policing when it comes to Black television shows and movies. Anything that doesn’t pass the Bougie Negro litmus test is attacked and slandered in a barrage of think pieces. We’re not taught to truly look at media with a critical and nuanced eye. We’re trained to shoot anything that isn’t Huxtable-lized because it might make us look bad to white people. Two of the most recent examples of this behavior has been the controversy surrounding Sorority Sisters and Empire. For those that don’t know, Sorority Sisters was a short-lived reality show that followed a group of Black women who were members of the predominately Black sororities in the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho. Months before the show’s existence was confirmed, the Bougie Negro Drop Squad assembled to make sure the show didn’t see the light of day and the controversy reached a fever pitch when the show actually premiered. The show was cancelled before the last four episodes aired and several cast members have been suspended or expelled from their respective sororities.

The ladies of Sorority Sisters

Empire is a scripted series that follows a fictional record company of the same name that was started by Lucious Lyons  and his ex-wife, Cookie. The hood to Hollywood couple is portrayed by Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson aka D-jay and Shug from Hustle and Flow. That alone is enough to send Bougie negroes into a fit. On top of the casting, Cookie and Lucious have a pretty dysfunctional relationship that includes the former’s rivalry with Boo Boo Kitty Anika, Lucious’ current squeeze. Cookie is a hood rich convict that did a bid for Lucious and Terrance is playing the same raggedy light skinned negro he always plays. They’re no Cliff and Clair Huxtable so they definitely don’t pass the test.

D-jay and Shug done came up.

D-jay and Shug done came up.

I acknowledge the shows have their problematic aspects but still, I liked them. For the sake of transparency, I also like Love and Hip-Hop and Real Housewives of Atlanta. I like a lot of ratchet and problematic shit but I own it and unless something glaringly wrong happens, I feel no shame in liking this type of media. I believe in the fullness of Black humanity and that means while we can be great and exude excellence, we can be dysfunctional too. To deny of this is to demand we give up what makes us human beings. White people are allowed to succeed and make mistakes without the burden of their race being on their shoulders. White people are allowed to just be people. Watching these shows used to be empty entertainment for me but now, there have been times watching feels like a form of resistance against respectability and caring about the white gaze. You won’t see me having a fit about a new reality show and call for it to be taken off the air. Rather, I’d rather fight for more diverse imagery and Black content creators to be put on. If we dedicated half as much energy to advocating for underdog shows and movies, I think we’d be better off. What if we mobilized around other Black projects like we have done with Selma? We can change the landscape of media but it takes an effort.

In addition, we have to stop being motivated by the white gaze. If your only reason for not liking something is because you’re scared of what white people will think of you, you’ve already lost. We’re losing by pandering to the white gaze. As Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) said in Mr. Nigga, They say they want you successful, but then they make it stressful/You start keepin’ pace, they start changin’ up the tempo. They’ve been changing the tempo for ages yet y’all still try to dance to their song. No matter what you do, they’re going to find a way to trip you.

Trying to set yourself apart from the “bad” Black people doesn’t make you look good to them because, to quote another rapper, “even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coop.”

If we really want diverse imagery, let’s put more “good” on television so we can have more to choose from. Let’s raise our kids to be critical consumers of media so they can watch shows like Real Housewives and be able to point out problematic aspects of that show as well as any other piece of media, Black or otherwise.

I ain’t worried about appeasing whitey and you shouldn’t be either.

Help A Sista Out! My Laptop Died.

So, my dear readers, my computer has tapped out on me.

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Yea, it’s bad. It had been struggling for months. One of the screen hinges broke so the monitor was floppy. Then, one of the cooling fans went out. Next, the computer wouldn’t stay on unless it was connected to the charger. But, I figured I could press on. But it seems like the universe had other plans in the form of my screen throwing in the towel over the weekend.

This happened at the most inopportune time because I had just finished my new media resume so I could apply for writing and media jobs. All of that said, I need help.

I set up a YouCaring page to collect donations for a new computer and I hope to buy a new one next week. If you are able to do so, please donate. If not, please share this blog post or the fundraiser link. I hate asking for things but this is extremely important and any help is appreciated.

Thanks.

leelahalcorn

For Leelah: Bigotry Isn’t Just an Opinion

I don’t know why but I keep waking up to terrible news.

This morning, I saw Leelah Alcorn’s name going up and down my timeline. Being the nosy negro I am, I went searching and got my heart broken. For those that don’t know, Leelah committed suicide a few days ago and hours after her death, a scheduled Tumblr post containing her suicide letter surfaced.

She was only 16-years-old.

In her letter, Leelah described feeling like “a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since she was a preschooler and didn’t know what that feeling was until she learned what transgender meant a decade later. She came out to her religious parents and sadly, they reacted the way no parent should react to their child coming out.

From Leelah’s Tumblr:

 I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

Judging from the rest of the letter, it didn’t get any better and Leelah didn’t think it would even if she got a chance to transition. Her mother made matters worse by posting the following Facebook message that not only misgendered her daughter but made her death seem like some freak accident.

Compared to many, I’ve been understanding when it comes to religious people and their beliefs about queerness and transness. I rolled with the idea that they’re entitled to their opinion so I’ll leave them alone. Until this year, I left it at that but now? No. I refuse to let people to continue to use religion as a cop-out for bigotry. Leelah isn’t the first to die and certainly won’t be the last unless we do something about it. Entitlement to bigotry is how conversion therapy and programs like the one Leelah was subjected to have been able to allow queer and trans people to suffer for decades. One of the biggest conversion therapy organizations, Exodus International, was instrumental in the creation of Uganda’s anti-gay laws that makes queerness and transness offenses worthy of the death penalty. I’m sure the Duggars thought they were entitled to their opinion when matriarch Michelle lent her voice to robocalls intended to build opposition against a law that would make it safer to be trans in Arkansas.

Point is, this is more serious than an opinion. People are dying and suffering behind these opinions. These opinions are evolving into laws that could affect my life and the lives of my friends, family and countless LGBTQ* people across the planet. So, if someone spouts bigotry in my presence and tries to use the opinion cop-out, I’m lighting into their ass and you should too. Bigots, keep your foolishness to yourself.

Leelah, you haven’t died in vain and I will try my hardest to make sure you rest.

“My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

–Leelah Alcorn

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

–Mark 12:31

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

–Romans 12:9

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For Simone Battle and Colored Girls Who Can’t See The Rainbow

Ashleigh L.A.:

This article is relatively recent but I wanted to reblog in it light of what happened to Titi Branch. May she rest in peace.

Originally posted on Ashleigh, Not Ashley:

Simone Battle

I woke up to news that singer Simone Battle died at the tender age of 25. I didn’t know much about her outside of what various headlines told me but when I saw her face, a sense of dread came over me. She was beautiful, had a great career and to the public’s knowledge, no physical illnesses. A woman that young with those qualities doesn’t typically drop dead and my instincts knew that so they gave me a conclusion that I didn’t want. That aforementioned dread turned into despair as I started to see headlines with the words “of an apparent suicide” at the end that confirmed what my heart seemed to already know.

Simone Battle took her life.

Another young and successful Black woman died at her own hands.
Just like blogger Karyn Washington and countless others that tried to play the strong Black woman until they…

View original 514 more words

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Which Black Lives Truly Matter? History Repeats Itself

Another day, another movement inspired post but there is so much to say. Since Michael Brown died over 100 days ago, people have compared and contrasting this latest wave of resistance to the work of our elder back in the 60s and 70s. While I defer to my elders and appreciate their sacrifices, I hate the idea of this movement following the model of what we know as the Civil Rights movement. We can and should learn from the triumphs from that movement but we should also learn from its mistakes and there were plenty despite what some oldheads would like for us to believe. Let them tell it and the movement was perfect. Martin had a dream, Rosa sat down and freedom was one. Oh and they would be remiss to remind us that they didn’t sag their pants, listen to hippity hop and wear Jordans while they did their movement work so we’re doing it wrong, y’all.

Romanticizing history is just as bad as not knowing it because either way, you’re working with fraudulent information. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements were not perfect and neither was the people leading them. They were fraught with sexism, misogyny and respectability politics. Several first-hand accounts from women in the movement mention male leaders trying to silence their voices and relegate them to menial tasks that were supposedly appropriate for women. Women were expected to fight for the liberation of the race, wait their turn and MAYBE the community would address the gender stuff. Women that refused to wait and decided to enter and create feminist spaces were deemed traitors. Liberating the men meant liberating the race and that believe is still rampant in 21st century organizing. The face of Black victimhood is still Black cisgender men and everyone else is still expected to wait for trickle down liberation. Black women have been on the frontlines of protests, penning thinkpieces to mourn brothers and working in other capacities to ensure everyone survives. Whenever someone brings this up, they’re ignored or insulted for being divisive or my favorite, bitter. Black women are attacked viciously by this white supremacist system but no one is marching for and mourning us and they never have.

Neither can I, Logan.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King has become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement but few people know of Bayard Rustin, his mentor and instrumental organizer of the March on Washington and that isn’t an accident. Rustin was a gay man and like gender issues, LGBTQ* concerns weren’t on the Black liberation agenda. Black queer and trans people doing movement work isn’t a recent development. Marcia P. Johnson, Miss Major and other Black and colored transwomen popped off the Stonewall Riots. The Harlem Renaissance was full of Black queer and trans magic. Audre Lorde was infiltrating white feminist and lesbian spaces to tell them about themselves. Black queer and trans folk have always been there but have been relegated to the margins of history because their narratives weren’t appropriate. They’re still trying to get out of those margins because last thing we need in our movement is “that gay shit.” Transwomen are being abused and murdered at alarming rates but let someone bring them up and people want to raise ten types of hell.

Marsha P. Johnson and her homeslice Sylvia Rivera

It ain’t right, y’all. I’m tired of having to wait for someone to get around to me, my sisters, brothers and siblings. Movement work isn’t supposed to replace one hierarchy with another. If one Black person is marginalized, none of us are safe. People shouldn’t have to keep branching off into subgroups because Black movement work refuses to become intersectional. The current movement’s cry is BLACK LIVES MATTER but honestly, it holds little weight. It sounds cute but it isn’t practiced.

When we say Black lives matter, it should mean male lives, female lives, queer lives, trans lives, poor lives and disabled lives. It should mean every life. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our elders. There is so much more to unpack here but I can do that in another blog post. I haven’t ended a blog post like this in ages but I want to hear your thoughts so please, leave a comment.

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On Ferguson: ‘Allies’ Need to Sit Down Somewhere

I try not to throw salt on anyone’s game especially when they’re doing movement work but in light of recent events, I have to say something.


White folks and non-Black people of color, I know you mean well but y’all need to back the hell up. Seriously, stop your shit.
When it comes to organizing with Black folks on Black issues, you HAVE to take our lead. You have every right to be outraged but you shouldn’t be setting yourself as a leader in this movement because at the end of the day, you are a potential ally. Yes, potential because allyship is something to be earned. In her video about allyship, Chescaleigh dubbed allies the Michelle to marginalized folks’ Beyonce and Kelly but “allies,” you’re more like Letoya, Latavia or one of those randoms from Girls Tyme. You can’t sit with us until you say you can and we reserve the right to not let you sit with us or revoke your right to your seat.

 

 

When a Black person (or any other person you stand in solidarity with) asks you questions or expresses concerns about your organizing, take a step back and consider our position. One aspect of earning your title is establishing trust. When I ask you who is putting an action together, I’m not trying to be divisive or combative, I’m trying to make sure I can trust you. Honestly, if that’s your first thought, that’s problematic but that’s another point for another blog post.
I am trying to ensure my safety and that of my people because we have more to lose. Our chains are the heaviest. When shit gets real, we will be the first to catch the baton and have a V.I.P. section in the paddy wagon. We don’t have the option to retreat from our Blackness and the stigma that has been placed on our backs. When y’all want to throw your V from Vendetta Party City masks on and act a fool, we catch the slack. Also, as a student of Africana Studies, when I ask simple questions and get a runaround, COINTELPRO comes to mind. This might sound dramatic to you and if it does, you should know better and are no ally to me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading and click here. Hopefully, you will have gone past Wiki and keep reading. Either way, you have to be initiated into this Black movement shit. You don’t just waltz in and get the big piece of chicken.
Tuck your manifest destiny and take your place.