Petty Is As Petty Does

H/t to Clarkisha Kent (@IWriteAllDay_) for creating this meme.

H/t to Clarkisha Kent (@IWriteAllDay_) for creating this meme.

Scene 1: Six of the eight members of the CFC gather in Atlanta, GA, birthplace of the collective. We are celebrating the launch of our book! We read selections from our book (available online and in fine independent bookstores everywhere) and chop it up with our local fam at Charis Books & More, North America’s oldest feminist bookstore. The conversation feels anointed like church, or, rather, like the non-denominational, secular Feminist Temple of Justice that we create in its place #shando

Scene 2: After this dope experience, a few of us amble around the corner for some grub. Our server is a brother who insists calling us “queens” in a way that is Notep-adjacent but obviously heartfelt, and so we continue to love on each other as we order lemon pepper wings and French fries. Another server, a white woman, bum rushes the table and questions whether the server can “handle us.” I look around to see if a table of bucking broncos has replaced the table of smiling, laughing Black women. Nope, just us. Brother server says, “I got this. I’m taking care of my queens.” Becky server says, “Are you sure? Cause this is a table of strong bitches.” There is a distinct pause between “strong” and “bitches,” in which the word “Black” hovers silent and lethal as a drone. Our server waves the woman away in anger. We turn to one another laughing in disbelief and weariness. “Did she just call us bitches?” we ask each other. Yes, yes she did.

Welcome to Trump’s/Obama’s/Bush’s/Clinton’s/Bush’s/George Washington’s America.

These days I have to laugh to keep from crying. Every time I turn on the news or scroll through my social media, I’m either filled with rage or despair. (Except when I go to Instagram which, for me, is thankfully mostly filled with pictures of babies and friends taking sexy selfies that they don’t want their coworkers to see on Facebook. ). Otherwise, it’s a nonstop deluge of Trump’s bad decisions and even worse hair, the weak, trembling chins of all his children of the corn, and a barrage of phone numbers I need to call and messages I need to give to my senators every day of my natural born life.

How do I respond to this?

I teach, I organize, I rabble rouse. I read, I write, I help raise consciousness—others and my own. I also spend hours laughing at and sharing petty memes.

petty freddy

Just call me Petty Douglass.

Reading the following in Vice the other day made a petty light bulb go off above my petty head:

“[Right now], petty is the word that’s out there,” says Anne H. Charity Hudley, associate professor of linguistics and Africana studies at the College of William and Mary. “[Now], it’s kind of a noun—it’s something you do. In [the way that it’s being used currently in] Black culture, it’s a state of being. You’re not being petty, you are petty.” Charity Hudley describes the state of “being petty” as a form of Black resistance, likening it to “throwing shade,” “reading someone,” even singing the blues. “[Petty comes] from a long history of Black verbal arts and culture in which things have a double meaning. It’s a way of doing or saying something that, because it isn’t an outward response, is less likely to [elicit a reaction that is] dangerous or deadly.”

Word. This is a longstanding Diasporic tradition. What Mother Zora called our “adornment of language.”

I already follow, read, and share Awesomely Luvvie, Very Smart Brothas, and any other smart, petty analysis I can get my hot little hands on. (Though you should know they are not as tiny as the president’s hands, for the record). And, I don’t know, they all bring me such great, great joy. I don’t want to quit them. And I won’t.

Case in point. So, last night, I, along with the rest of Atlanta, and all other decent folk, was up rooting for the Dirty Birds in the Superbowl. Generally, I’m not very interested in sports (except at the Olympics when I am rocking my black, green, and gold and rooting for Jamaica because we likkle but we tallawa), but I had to do it for the culture and support the Falcons. This was basically me all night.

fuck tom brady

Why did one of my friends say that every sack felt like reparations? #crine

Why did one of my friends say that every sack felt like reparations? #crine

I started getting cocky when we had that 25 point lead. My bad.

I started getting cocky when we had that 25 point lead. My bad.

But we lost and Drumpf’s BFF Tom Brady won because there is no justice. Then I remembered that Beyonce is having twins and I got happy again.

The petty force is strong with this one.

The petty force is strong with this one.

Don’t judge me. I need what I can to get by.

So, the next time you’re feeling petty in the face of white supremacy, don’t censor yourself. Just do it.

petty cardi b

Always and forever,

Petty Sue (aka Crunkadelic)

Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now: The Place of Vaginas in Black Feminist Theory & Organizing

 

 

 

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Marchers in pink pussy hats — courtesy of Yahoo

 

#1 – I was on a plane heading to give a talk about the Movement for Black Lives when I felt menstrual blood beginning to leak through the seat of my jeans. Everyone who menstruates knows the dread and fear that happens when they can’t control this bodily function that by our age has been happening for the better part of two or three decades. I hurried to the tiny plane bathroom hoping it wouldn’t be too much of a shit show to squeeze my fat body inside and change a tampon with ease. Luckily I made it through the moment without too much embarrassment. But it would take many more months, a fibroid diagnosis, and a minor surgery to reduce my chances of bleeding on airplane seats all over the U.S. of A.

 

#2 – A couple of years ago, a collective of Black feminist women that I write and panel with about the politics of sex and pleasure were accused by a senior scholar who attended one of our panels of “writing from our pussies.” This was offered derisively as a critique of the seriousness of the work we do together.

 

#3 – After this weekend’s historic and inspiring Women’s Marches all over the country, I happened to see a few trans folks naming and calling out the pussy-centered culture of the marches, and reminding those of us who are cis, that vaginas aren’t a prerequisite for womanhood. The march was filled with white (cisgender) women reveling in the opportunity to wear their very pink pussy hats and shirts, and talk freely about their vaginas in public. I was not able to attend a march, but the nostalgia for both the movements of the 1970s and the Riot Grrl Days was palpable, even in the pictures. Many transwomen, however, pointed out the ways in which a focus on vaginas can marginalize womenfolk that don’t have those parts.

 

 

*******

 

It looks like we are at the dawn of a new era in feminist organizing. (Although it bears noting that this new era actually dawned when queer Black feminist women began organizing under the moniker of #BlackLivesMatter. But I digress.) As both a scholar and an activist, it feels really important to me in this moment to say that we owe our movements for social justice our best thinking, our best terms and concepts, and our honesty.

 

So let me begin with a question: What place does pussy have in feminist organizing and thought? That is the more general question. But y’all already know that when I say feminist thought organizing, I’m talking about Black feminism, and the ways this conversation matters to Black women and girls, cis and trans.

 

I am convening this particular space today, because I want to work through this question, not because I have all the answers. This blog is and has always been a space where we work things out. And in this moment of organizing, we need more spaces for that. I am working through my questions here as a cisgender Black woman, who grew up working class and graduated from college first generation. I am now solidly middle class. I desire to be in community with, an ally to, and co-conspirator with my trans siblings. But I never declare myself an ally because ally is a process and a set of actions, not an identity. I am also a scholar of gender studies, who is interested in some of the intricacies of questions of gender identity as it gets taken up in feminist theory.

 

Y’all know I don’t usually do all this prefacing. But I’m doing it today because we have arrived at a moment in our activist work, where the level of policing, calling out, and declaring of things to be violent, sometimes prevents us from doing some of the conceptual work we need to do. I’m a firm believer that good ideas drive good politics. I also know that in movement spaces where we have different levels of privilege and power, other people’s “questions” can become violent and oppressive. They can act as a form of “epistemic exploitation,” (listen to great podcast on this here) in which endless questions are used as a way to disaffirm other people’s account of their own experience, by asking them to prove that the world is what they say it is. So I’m heading into murky waters today, and I hope that this space is one where you all will build with me, question me (but dont step sideways cuz we still CRUNK. Be clear.), hold me accountable, but also work through these issues with me.

 

That said.

 

Y’all I’m really struggling with this attempt to displace vaginas from feminist conversations. Honestly, I don’t think this is the move.

 

Here’s the thing: feminism taught me to love my vagina. (Hip Hop) Feminism gave me the courage to use the word “pussy,” when I need to make requests in the bedroom. (Cues Missy E.) But feminism a la bell hooks also taught me about the historical politics of “selling hot pussy.” Feminism taught me years ago not to feel embarrassed about telling y’all a period story and gave me the structural analysis to think about why we ask women and girls and all people who have periods to hide them or feel shame about them. Even in 2017, I still have to walk into women’s and gender studies classrooms and tell my intro students about the historical reasons for period shame. Their faces still turn beet red – all of them.

 

But also: we live in a world that doesn’t love vaginas. Vaginas are structurally maligned, and considered the property of men. Just ask your new president. Let us not forget the transvaginal ultrasound fiasco of a 5 years ago, when several states tried to make it legal to put a phallic like ultrasound probe into a woman’s vagina against her will. In a hierarchy of genitalia, penises are chief. Vaginas are near the bottom. And then the genitalia that intersex people have labor and languish in epistemic obscurity, by which I mean, that up until only the last few decades or so, science chose not even to acknowledge that penises and vaginas aren’t the only configurations of genitals that exist.

 

When I think about what it would mean to build a Black feminist framework which decenters the pussy, it gives me pause. The call is of course to decenter cisgender Black women from Black feminist frameworks. Again, this move, and the ways in which, in far left social justice spaces, such moves are assumed to be a clear mandate, a clearly desirable end of our politics, gives me pause.

 

Here’s what we know: transgender Black women have a life expectancy of 35 years. That number is staggering. It is urgent, and it is a clarion call that some shit needs to change. And quickly. I believe that working alongside trans Black women to make the world safe, a world where they can flourish, should be among the most central priorities of our organizing.

 

I also believe that as cisgender Black women one of the reasons that we cannot continue these inane beefs about what a “real woman” is with our trans sistren, is because cis Black women know frfr that we have never inhabited categories of womanhood uncritically. Though it is an apocryphal story at this point, Sojourner Truth’s question “Ain’t I a Woman?” in the vaunted speech (that she prolly never actually gave) has been central to U.S. Black women’s experience of womanhood. It has always been a question. Never a foregone conclusion. In the 19th century, white women shaded us by refusing to call us ladies. Thus, cisgender Black women don’t inhabit these categories uncritically. We don’t inhabit them without having to fight for access to them.

 

This should be grounds for solidarity with transwomen. What we look like fighting other people for access to some shit we have barely procured for ourselves? That’s called punching down, and if we fighting, surely we know that we need to punch up.

 

This is a long way of saying, too, though, that gender categories have histories. Fraught histories. But those histories cannot be upended merely through discursive reinvention. Even though I have learned and continue to learn a great deal from my trans and GNC sibs who are divesting in traditional gender categories and decolonizing those categories in the process, I also know there are a set of structural realities that attend to the lives of those of us who still inhabit the existing categories and those who are trying to find other modes of habitability.

 

What am I saying?

 

I know cis privilege is real. I don’t fear being attacked just for walking down the street on most days (although that might change in Trump’s America.)

 

But.

 

For cisgender Black women and girls, our vaginas constitute the material locus of our cisness. We are cis because we have vaginas and identify as femmes. Historically, our vaginas were the property of plantation owners upon our arrival. They were used as a vehicle through which to reproduce plantation slavery. Having autonomy of our vaginas and wombs has been central to how Black women articulate freedom.

 

If in slavery, our vaginas were a primary site of violation for cisgender Black women and girls, today, our vaginas still remain a primary cite of violation. Black Women’s Blueprint estimates that as many as 60% of Black women and girls are victims of sexual assault. Other studies have more conservative estimates, but still say 1 in 5 Black women will be raped in her lifetime. Whatever way you slice it, those numbers are absolutely staggering. If transwomen’s experiences with sexual assault were part of the official record, I think we would be picking our faces up off the floor at the numbers.

 

Having a vagina has always made us more rather than less susceptible to violence. Feminism taught me this. As long as that remains true, vaginas have to remain central to our organizing and our thinking.

 

Once every 21 hours, a cisgender Black woman is killed by a Black male perpetrator, usually with a gun. Again, if we added transwomen’s experiences to those numbers, the statistics would leap astronomically. Earlier this month, Mesha Caldwell, a trans Black woman from Mississippi was found shot to death.

 

But given these high rates of violence that even cisgender Black women experience, is it fair to call this privilege? Just because cisgender Black women are not brutalized at the extreme levels that our trans sisters are, does not mean we are safe, protected, and flourishing. Diminished brutality can be called neither safety nor privilege.

 

We need new terms.

 

Of late I’ve been thinking about whether cis identity for Black women constitutes mitigated risk, such that if both a cis and a trans Black woman were walking down the street together, the cis woman has a mitigated risk that she will be attacked, though she may very likely be harassed and even assaulted through unwanted touch. Sometimes, even cisgender Black women like Tiarah Poyau are killed for refusing the touch of a stranger in public. Still, a trans Black woman has a far greater risk that this inevitable harassment and assault would become deadly. Neither woman is safe in this scenario, but one woman is at far greater danger. When Black women, be they cis or trans, are perpetually structurally unsafe, we can’t call it privilege.

 

I’ve also been revisiting some older Black feminist language, returning to Deborah King’s 30 year old concept of jeopardy in her now classic Multiple Jeopardies essay. My good friend, Dr. Kristie Dotson, encouraged me to re-read it a while back, and asked me whether intersectionality and jeopardy really are the same things, even though we tend to conflate the two in our teaching. She told me (and I’m paraphrasing) that intersectionality has to do with structural visibility or invisibility within systems. Jeopardy speaks to the material terms and conditions that shape people’s lives. To wit, I’m a college professor. I still labor under intersectional invisibility in institutions and broader systems. But I don’t have the same level of jeopardy as a sister who’s still living in the hood, making minimum wage, and taking public transit out of necessity.

 

So maybe we need to begin thinking again in terms of jeopardy. Maybe an analysis of comparative jeopardy/ies or something like this would be more helpful.

 

Jeopardy is going to matter greatly when we think about the status of reproductive justice and access in the age of Trump. It is true that we could strip down the language of reproductive justice, and simply speak in the gender non-specific language of people who need pap smears or people who need abortions. I think this language should be part of any reproductive justice campaigns. But the disdain for those procedures cannot be understood outside of a structural disdain for and hatred of womanhood. The world hate vaginas, and thinks that uteruses are property of men and the state, because it hates women. Hatred of body parts traditionally associated with feminine bodies cannot be understood outside of hatred for the historical category that has been called woman.

 

Making the discursive shift (as white feminist scholars have been doing since de Beauvoir for the last 50 years or more) around what it means to be a woman, does not upened the structural realities – global structural realities – that place women on the bottom of most measures of social and economic stability around the world.

 

Speaking of reproductive politics:

 

I can throw a rock and hit a sister with a fibroid. Yet there are paltry levels of research about something that is a legit health crisis among Black women. Why is this so? We get fibroids earlier, more often, and far more severely than white women do. And for those of us who may want to carry children, even though we have more options than ever before in terms of treatments, that moment you find yourself post-35 learning that your uterus is growing shit that it shouldn’t be growing, sometimes a little more hope floats out the window. And again, the failure of fibroids to be a mainstream medical priority has everything to do with general structural disdain for cisgender Black women, whose bodies have historically (post-slavery, after we were no longer reproducing property for white people) been seen as too reproductive, and as a drain on the state.

 

And given the lack of information about so many issues of concern to cisgender Black women, we still labor under the same shit that women like Fannier Barrier Williams said in 1905 and Toni Cade Bambara said in 1970, and scholars like Dotson and I are saying for the 99 and the 2000s: Black women still labor under the problem of unknowability. Read Dotson here for more on this. There is still so much that is not known about our experience, be we cis or trans.

 

So I’m not actually interested in departing the center of the very systems of thought that told me that my experience – our experiences of Black womanhood – were worthy of being known in the first place. The center is going to have to be expansive enough for all of us to spend some time there.

 

Y’all, I’m almost done. Thanks for bearing with me this long.

 

Let me end with a couple caveats. I know there are people who will read this, and who will have many feelings about my challenges to the use of the word privilege when talking about cis Black women’s identities and structural realities.

 

Let me be clear that I think cis privilege is real. Cis Black women experience cis privilege daily, and we often engage in transphobic, queerphobic, and homophobic acts against trans, queer, and gender non-conforming Black folks. Kim Burrell here’s looking at you. That is unacceptable.

 

To be clear, I’m not fucking with TERF’s (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) here. These white girls need a different analysis about womanhood than the one they have. The shit I’m talking about here has little to nothing to do with cis white women and the ways the femmes among them experience white femininity as a vaunted and protected social category. So don’t even come over here and try it.

 

I also know that in current organizing, the person that has privilege should not dare ever be the person who questions how much privilege they actually have. But I haz questions. And we can’t keep using the politics of discursive violence as an excuse to bury questions that matter in the refining of both our theory and our praxis. Let’s stop the bullshit.

 

If the Rachel Dolezal moment, laughable and ridiculous as it was, should have taught us anything – it’s that we actually do need to refine our categories and thinking about the ways race and gender identity function. Why is it that our gender identity is what we say it is, is what we feel it to be, while our race is structurally determined, and not simply a matter of our own choices? We don’t have to fuck with raggedy Rachel to recognize that this question needs answering.

 

And because we won’t dig in and do this work and think through categories, and histories, and identities out loud in public, for fear of being called transphobic, then when we see white girls reveling in their pink pussy hats, we don’t know how to say that actually – centering white girl’s pussies might not be the move, but Black pussies matter, and the many women and GNC folks who have them still matters structurally and politically to a great degree.

 

I’ll end with this quote from Michele Wallace, who responded to the claim that me and my girls write from our pussies.

 

“What’s wrong with writing [or organizing]from your pussy? It’s a real place.”

 

Oh yeah, y’all: if this wasn’t enough CRUNKness for you, we just published a book. The Crunk Feminist Collection! You can get it here and here or at your local independent bookstore. Thanks for your support! Keep it CRUNK!

 

 

Saving Ourselves

The following piece is guided by the unbothered and eternally shady spirit of Rep. Maxine Waters.

The following piece is guided by the unbothered and eternally shady spirit of Rep. Maxine Waters.

My feminist ministry has never really been focused on white people. Interrogating whiteness and eradicating white supremacy, sure. But addressing the needs, goals, or desires of individual white people? No. Not really. Not my work.

In the wake of last November’s election, where white folk by and large adjudicated President Obama’s two terms by electing an inarticulate, uninformed, inexperienced tyrant who peddles in sexism, racism, and xenophobia as president, I wrote a piece directly addressing white people, and white women in particular. I invited them to “get their people” and hold them accountable to the decisions they made in the voting booth, decisions that will likely make collateral damage of the most vulnerable among us.

This was a mistake.

I was correct in believing that whites should be accountable to their communities, but I wasted my own precious breath in making the call.

It’s not that people didn’t listen—the post was clicked, read, and shared thousands of times. I’m just not sure that folks, the ones who really need the message, heard me.

Now, to be clear, I certainly had white folk—friends, colleagues, and people I don’t know—across my social media reading, commenting, and sharing the post, and others like it, in thoughtful and sincere ways. Many of these are the white folk who get it, who do the hard, thankless work, and who aren’t looking for constant validation and cookies. These folks are more than allies—they are co-conspirators and accomplices. White supremacy won’t end without them.

But I also saw many more incredulous and defensive responses. Folks saying things like:

“You have no idea how hard it is to talk to those people!”

“But what can I do? I have no power.”

And my personal favorite, “Those are not my people. All the white people I know are progressive (radical, Socialist, Communist), they would never vote for Trump!”

White people asserting 1) how hard it is to talk to other white people, 2) their lack of power, 3) and their disavowal of their peers is both laughable and infuriating.

It is the height of white privilege.

Also, a hit dog will holler.

Quiet as it’s kept, people of color totally get how hard it is to talk to white people. We spend our whole lives trying to not become the collateral damage in the social Chernobyl that is American society. While the mileage may vary on that Sisyphean project, we try all the same. Some of us even spend time trying to convince whites of our harmlessness, our grace, our niceness, even our very humanity.

But fuck all that. I’m focusing my message to my fellow people of color who are struggling, not because life was so easy before 11/9 and not because electing Hillary Clinton would’ve solved all of our problems, but because there are levels to white supremacy and Donald Trump’s presidency will undoubtedly help to usher in a reign of terror that we haven’t seen in decades.

I’m inviting you to put the kibosh on white tears you encounter at work. To hold up your hand and say “no!” or even “hell no!” when a white person wants you to do some emotional heavy lifting with them about their feelings about the election, the inauguration, or the way that the Cheeto Führer plans on governing. Unless they are your bestie or your bae, let that go. And, chile, even then. Even then.

And you know I’m saying fuck no to any sympathetic engagement of Trump supporters. No, not today, Satan. That is not my cross to bear.

In a discussion with Oprah Winfrey and Van Jones, our sister Ava Duvernay spoke out against wasting our time constantly engaging individual racists. Her words speak right to my heart:

Jones said he wants to connect with Trump voters who find the president-elect distasteful but supported him because they felt overlooked by other candidates.

DuVernay said she has no time for that. Racism and sexism are distractions, she said, “to my humanity and what I’m doing.”

“Distraction is if I stop and try to talk to folks who have clearly demonstrated that they’re not open to hearing that,” she said. “What they will hear is what I do: How I move forward, the art that I make, the energy that I put out into the world.”

Today, on the Beast’s coronation-inauguration, focus on yourself, your strength, your wellbeing, your art, your organizing, and your community. And let’s continue to do our work. We all we got.

How to Survive the Next Four Years

Crunkista’s working survival guide…for the next four years

StatueOfLibertyApocalypse-1

I have never prayed so much in my life. After the election results came in, I walked around in black disbelief. I mean that literally, I now wear black anytime I am outside the house. At first it was because I was mourning the loss of a country that was (slowly) moving in the right direction, but now its because I am trying to tap into some type of old school Black Panther and Black Power mojo. I am desperately seeking ways to survive this.

The day after the election (because I have bills to pay) I was forced to go to work. At least three of my co-workers are middle-aged white women. They didn’t tell me they voted for Trump, but they didn’t really have to. Their collective silence every time they stepped into my office (loudly decorated with Wonder Woman/feminist symbols, a bold sign that says “Black Lives Matter”, and “Hillary For President” magnets and bumper stickers) spoke volumes. Their stupid smirks the day after the election also gave them away. One of these women is my boss. I am a hard worker and a dedicated employee. Consequently, since she became my boss, she has done nothing but praise me and regularly tells me that she loves me. On November 9th I came to the sad realization that this woman uses the same voice she used to vote for Trump to tell me that she loves me. I am working on addressing this irreconcilable behavior but am struggling with how to do it without 1) breaking her spirit 2) punching her in the face 3) losing my job. There are enough resources in this country for all of us and yet this white woman (along with almost half of the country) decided that she would vote for the white man that promised to revoke the rights of others only to ensure that she maintained her white power and continued to feed the historic legacy of white supremacy she, her family and her children benefit from on the daily.

Two days after the election she asked me, “How are you doing?” Against my better judgment, I tried to explain that I was honestly afraid for the safety of my black wife (who is actively serving in the military), my family, my friends and myself. She responded by callously laughing and saying, “Don’t be so dramatic.” I didn’t hit her (though I fantasized about it) and against my better judgment tried to explain the reality to her: many people I know and love are no longer safe in this country. The majority of the people that I love are black, brown, immigrant, queer, and /or female. They are now all unsafe. I shared with her multiple accounts of white people across the country and of all ages now unapologetically parading their racism. The day after the election there are reports of: middle school kids chanting “build the wall” in the cafeteria; women and young girls’ vagina’s being grabbed by grown white men and boys alike; black people being called the n-word for the first time in their lives because they dared to be outside; various hate crimes against members of the LBGTQ community; American Sign Language users being told that their “retarded self” could go somewhere else; black children being taunted and told to go back to Africa; ‘whites only’ and ‘colored only’ signs being placed on top of water fountains and women’s sacred hijabs being pulled off of their heads. I told her that these stories are not only happening around the country but that they keep pouring in. This is not a drill. This shit is real. I repeated – ‘people who are black, brown, LBGTQ, immigrants, disabled, Muslim and/or women are no longer safe in this country.’ She had no response. She said nothing. She just looked at me blankly.

At that very moment, I decided I am tired of explaining racism to white folks. I am actually done. I will no longer continue to educate them on the ways they oppress everyone who is not white. It is not helpful. It is no longer healthy for me nor is it a good use of my time. I understand that I am not saying anything revolutionary here. Our Black Feminist foremothers have said this for decades. So many of us are grappling with the reality of that quiet, lurking, sneaky-ass Trump supporter in our lives. Like so many others, I am struggling with the plan of action to move forward. Although, plausible, I probably should not move back to my country. Furthermore, I can’t hide in my house forever. So, now what do I do? How do I continue to live in this country? How do I continue to LIVE my life BOLDLY and DEFIANTLY as a Latina, as a lesbian, as a woman and as a feminist? I don’t have all of the answers. I can only share a working list of some of the things I propose do in the meantime. Feel free to use any of the following as a part of your own working survival guide:

  • Wear black. I honestly believe that the white people I work with do not deserve to see any fucking color but black. I want them to ask me, “why do you always wear black?” So, that I can always respond, “because, black lives matter.”
  • Find a way to hold white people accountable for their shit – without losing your sanity in the process. DO NOT let them tell you that Trump in office is not a big deal or that he’s really not going to do all of those things he said he would, just to get elected. I’m not saying that you need to educate them on their oppression (like I said, I am done) but do remind them of the racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic shit their people are now doing under the name of Trump.
  • I don’t know that deleting all of the friends you think voted for Trump (side-eye to the black and brown ones) off of your social media groups is the right thing to do or not, but I would strongly consider it. The way I see it, if you voted for Trump, you voted against not only my safety, but also the safety of all the people I love. If you voted for Trump in 2016, there really isn’t anything you can positively contribute to my life. Bye.
  • Show love to ALL black, brown, disabled, LBGTQ, Muslim and immigrant people. Even the ones that voted for Trump (still with a healthy dose of side-eye).
  • For the next four years, love the people in your circle fiercely. Tell them you love them with your words and your actions regularly. Hold them close. Hug them tight. Feed them. Support them. LOVE. THEM. FIERCELY.
  • I read somewhere that the white majority will only be gone by 2043. If this election taught us anything, it’s that that year is way too far away. We need to build an army, time now. I propose that black, brown, LBGTQ, and immigrants have or adopt as many black and brown children as they can possibly afford to. Raise them in the undeniable belief that they are beautiful, intelligent and worthy of nothing but the best this country can offer. Love these children fiercely. Protect them savagely.
  • If you do not want children please consider helping those that do in any way you can. Help with baby-sitting, serve as mentors, or help out with the costs of food, diapers, school supplies, clothes etc.
  • Then read some more. Start dusting off, re-reading, collecting, and sharing the radical revolutionary writings of leaders and activists such as Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldua, Arundhati Roy, Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Grace Lee Boggs, and Malcolm X. Use these as bedtime stories.
  • Only support television shows and movies that portray the complexity of people of color and better yet those that do so in a positive light. Do not support any depictions of our people that only refuel harmful stereotypes.
  • Exercise your right to vote. Every single time there is an election, even if it is for the PTA. Go out and V.O.T.E.
  • Run for office, any office. Encourage your friends to run for office too.
  • Find other credible sources to get your information. As far as I am concerned CNN and all news sources alike are dead to me. Unless one of the CFC women is on, I will not be giving you any more ratings.
  • Blast DMX and the Dixie Chicks in your office. Make your white co-workers wonder what state of mind you are in before they walk into your space.
  • Resist. Protest. Rest. Repeat.
  • Pray like you have never prayed before.

 

Black Girl Running

Russell Lee - "Little Negro girls playing," Lafayette, Louisiana, 1938

Russell Lee – “Little Negro girls playing,” Lafayette, Louisiana, 1938

When I was a little Black girl with barrettes in my hair, I loved running, skipping, and jumping. I loved waking up and being able to move. I wasn’t very fast, a shame for a girl in a Jamaican family for sure, but I loved running around all the same. There was so much joy in moving my body. Skipping down the block to my own private song, I felt like a dancer. Swinging on the swings in my neighborhood park, I’d pump my legs to go higher and higher so that I could kiss the sky. Riding to the corner store and back on my bike with the training wheels, pedaling faster and faster, I’d let go so I could zoom down the hills, the wind whipping my braids behind me. When the weather was too hot or too cold, I was content with running around our small apartment, getting on my mother’s one last good nerve, until I fell into a giggling, gasping heap. All those things were so much fun. And all those things made me feel free.

Carefree Black girls have always been a thing, although the hashtag might be more recent. I know I’m not the only one who has those memories. And I know I’m not the only one who had their Black girl body watched, mocked, and surveilled damn near to death.

The thing is, despite all this running around, I was a chubby kid. I was almost 5 feet tall and damn near 100 pounds in the third grade. I remember being weighed by the school nurse, who clucked over my measurements. I remember, the constant comments by my family and family friends who told me to eat less.

For the record, that made me eat more.

Year after year, I got bigger and bigger. My fatness became an albatross that I wore around my neck, the way the older girls in my neighborhood wore gold nameplates.

Over time, my body became a thing separate from me. I think I learned to hate it because I viewed myself through contemptuous eyes of others. I didn’t know then that they were hating the little Black girl and boy inside of them that I had the nerve to be. They wanted to hurt that vulnerable young thing, so they hurt me. I was an easy target. I was slow, fat, and bad at sports, at least the ones I tried. I learned to accept being the last chosen for the team, being ridiculed for the clothes I wore, and being scorned when I tried to do new things. I stuck to the things that didn’t get me bullied (as much) by adults and children alike. That pretty much left me with reading and watching cartoons.

Eventually, it became impossible to reconcile appreciating my body for all the amazing things it could with the fact that it was too big and too brown and definitely too poor.

By the time I got to the sixth grade, I was so glad for recess to be over, although I missed double Dutch immensely. I was ready to be a big girl and sit with my friends at lunch and talk about classes and boys. I didn’t want my body to be a spectacle anymore. But, if anything, puberty brought a whole new set of problems.

I rediscovered that black girl running when I got to college and started going to parties. I went to a women’s college for undergrad, but men showed up when we had parties at the Betty Shabazz cultural center. I always wanted to dance with dudes at the Betty, but, they weren’t really checking for me back then. Still, that didn’t stop me from getting in the middle of the dance floor and breaking it down every chance I got. I would forget to check to see if I was the biggest girl in the room, a thing I did constantly back then. For some reason dancing was the link to the Black girl I was once was. I never felt self-conscious or stupid or that people were watching, judging me. And people were watching and probably judging too. But when I put my hands in the air and waved them like I just didn’t care, I really didn’t care. I was in my body, gloriously present, sweating, grooving, gyrating, and at one with the rhythm of Lauryn Hill, DMX, Jay-Z, Outkast, Juvenile, and whatever else was popping in the 99 and the 2000.

These days, I’m a 30-something year old Black woman trying to get back some of the freedom that that little Black girl had. I’m not sure I can get back to being that carefree but I’m going to keep trying.