the philosophactivist

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Genderqueer Job Applicants or Cross Dressing for a Career

Folks, today I am 2 steps closer to a respectable career doing something that will pay some bills, somewhere. I, Toi, after months of looking for jobs across the nation- ok, in three or four states... have now advanced my job applicant status and possibly furthered myself to a third interview by...

get this...

purchasing a suit. And not just any suit my friends. This suit was purchased...
in the women's department of JCPenney by a beneficent benefactor who told me in not so many words that it would lead to actual success during my interviews. And I don't doubt it. Recruiters (in the South,especially) want to see you match your clothes to your proposed gender. Psshh...I'm not into "matchy matchy."

My mother and two aunts have asked me in the last month...what do you wear to your interviews? Well, a nice pair of (men's) pants, a (men's) dress shirt...(and sometimes a tie). Oh! And my natural hair, suitably tamed for their viewing pleasure. (Wouldn't want to be too "ethnic"). this is all wrong if I want to actually support myself this lifetime. I've got to fool them my mother implied. She said...just wear this to the interview and who cares what I wear after I get hired. Hmm...Granted, this has definitely worked for me before- though I didn't exactly plan it that way. In corporate america I just got so tired of wearing these femme clothes because that's what was designated in the "girl's dress code". I started to feel really weird wearing these feminine clothes for 8-10 hours and then coming home only to rip them off and throw on basketball shorts and a muscle tee. (flexes, grin) Yea. That's what I said.

So ...there I was in the ladies section of JC Penney...not "doing it right". (Is that even still there slogan? anyway...) . I felt mad weird. My mother says..."What size are you?" I give her a "No you didn't" look...and she assumed somewhere between a 6 and 8. Actually she said my butt was probably an 8...(blank stare). Soooo I grab the first andro-looking 6 that I saw after wading through some truly horrifying women-ly outfits designed for some stuffed-shirt dinner party and made a dash for the dressing room praying that this thing would a)not make me look too feminine and b) fit, so we could get the heck out of dodge.

So, there I am standing in the dressing room with my corn rows and nicely flattened chest under my undershirt and some men's boxer briefs...slinking into this women's business suit and delicately zipping with this ridiculously small zipper on the side of the pants. And my mind drifts off to that Office episode where the manager is wearing a lady's business suit. Yes, that's one of my favorite episodes. And then there I fit. I was elated. My flat chest was accentuated by the ridiculous women's cut they put on the chest of these suits to ...lift the breasts? Show 'em off? I have no idea. It did a bad job.

So I saunter out to my mother who is waiting to assess...and she says it looks good...and says it's not too "girly". I look straight at my flattened chest and say "yea...well I don't like that women's suits have this cut right here to accentuate the boobs I don't have." My mom shrugs...I go back in the dressing room to strip out of this clown suit that is going to be my ticket to some career somewhere...and juuuuuuuuuust as I'm snapping a picture in this outfit to send to my boo thang...*trying to look as masculine as possible *ahem*... my mother comes with another friggin women's suit that I have to try on for some person  I'll be sitting down with at some point who can't accept my gender expression. Great. So, I try it on...pants are too baggy...blahblah we buy the other pin striped andro-ish suit which makes me look like a negative AAA cup. Yea. That's not going to draw attention at all...

So, fellow andro and genderqueer folks...I'm going to say that it's imperative for us to start making some andro suits with neither a male or female cut.  I got close today but I'm afraid the chest area is a fail. Sigh. In my head I'm picturing the perfect vest and slacks and I'm looking so dapper accepting my next job.
Don't get me wrong though, I'm super appreciative of my mother's support. She's only telling me like it is. Basically, that these southerners don't want anyone who looks odd or queer gracing their halls if they can help it. Yeah, I know that it's not just the south...

And now I'm sitting here thinking that even if some of the LGB constituents of the employment discrimination policy (ENDA) hadn't thrown us gender non-conformists under the bus not too long ago, that recruiters would have still been able to discriminate by not letting us through to the next interview. Who can prove that you weren't hired because of what you're wearing (and even if you could, would they agree that it should be legal to discriminate based on an outfit?) Who can prove that it was your gender expression that kept you from being hired or promoted? It's all "conjecture". But even my mom knows that it's a factor in me not finding employment and a facilitator to me going to some job some place and being hired by someone.

Sigh. I know that some of you are thinking... well of course you've got to dress differently to get a job, we all do. But, I want to stress that I am having to cross dress. It's not that I want to wear sweats or booty shorts (see *Awkward Black Girl). I want to express my gender in the way that I feel comfortable and I'm not able to. Me wearing a woman's suit is certainly going to make me feel a tad uncomfortable during my interview. Shake it off, you say. But you men out would you feel doing an interview in panty hose and lipstick and maybe a nice little skirt suit? Yea, awkward. I know that there are so many trans and gender non-conforming folks out there at their jobs feeling really,really awkward because they are not able to express their true gender. It can really make someone feel helpless and defeated. A lot of us accept jobs where we can feel comfortable but don't get paid nearly what we're worth and others of us can't get a job at all because they can't "pass" as their true gender or fall somewhere in between. I just want people to realize that this happens frequently and urge people not to be so harsh in their judgment against trans folks who want to get surgery and "pass". We just want to be who we are...this policing of our gender has to stop in all arenas.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(UN)Queer for the Holidays

Well, if you're anything like me, going back to your old neighborhood or even merely hanging out with your family could be like going back in time. Sometimes I feel like just crossing the border into my hometown melts away a decade of identity processing. I have to admit that I feel severely repressed every time I come home. And it isn't just the feeling of being 16 all over again. It's years of finally expressing myself in the ways that I am comfortable with and then coming back to a place that hasn't been a witness to any of that. It's also coming back to legal names and pronouns that I finally got comfortable with discarding. It's being called “ma'am” and being asked if I'm a “tomboy”. It's rigid gender roles and a bible belt that upholds the patriarchy. For all of these reasons, I'm never in a hurry to make it home for the holidays.

You see, I'm the “free spirit”of the family I'm told. I'm the only queer...the only buddhist...the only vegetarian...the only traveler. I'm kind of like a sideshow to some of my family members. It's great to be the entertainment and all- but it leaves me feeling pretty lonely. While everyone can share about their family and whatever heteronormative ideals they fit right into...I find that people always refer to my partners as “friend.” Yep, even the girl I was with for 4 years. I've never felt comfortable sitting around when everyone is laughing about their weddings and engagements and babies- when I don't really fit into any of that. I've felt a lot of the time that people just didn't want to know anyway. It's better left unsaid at the dinner table. I also have such a huge family that I'd probably have to be constantly coming out at every function, which is really tiring. And I've decided that only a handful of my family can handle actual labels for my gender expression.

So where does that leave me?

Silent. Repressed. Awkward. Every single holiday. Sure we can dwell in the past, but the present minus queerness leaves me with about 10 minutes worth of material. My school (minus my activities), My hobbies (minus my organizing), my writing (minus a major project). Sometimes this bothers me and other times it doesn't. I realize that I'm really different in many ways than the rest of my family. I realize that people in my family uses homophobic slurs and I've seen transphobic comments on facebook...I realize that my causes are not theirs. But I hope, that despite all this that some day my partner can sit down at the table and not be called my “friend”. I hope that more people will accept that my gender expression is what it is. I hope that some day soon, we will have dialogue about queerness and how it has shaped me and why I do the organizing that I do. I hope that my queerness will not have to take a back seat while my straight cousins and their family get the front row. I want my relationships to garner the same respect even though they don't come in the same package. I probably won't get married- that doesn't mean I'm any less committed. I probably won't have kids, that doesn't mean my relationship is any less complete.

As I think about the difficulties I'm having I try to take into account the intersections of my identity. So many conflicts surface with the intersection of being black and queer. Especially since I'm from the south. Down south, many black folks are religious and being queer is not all. Being queer is a sign of weakness (and most times a sin) and is a hardship that you place upon yourself in addition to you being marginalized as a person of color. Black folks want to know why you would choose this. Some black folks think this is a “white people” thing. Gay black men are forced to be on the “down low” because they fear for their safety. Many lesbians are disowned or their gender expression or sexuality is not taken seriously. And trans folks? Forget about it! This is the most vehemently opposed (and oppressed) group. African-American trans folks receive the most violence from their families, within their communities, and from law enforcement. So this is what I'm working with as I grapple with opening up dialog with my family. Most of them identify as christian and I've heard the majority of them use the phrase “fag” at some point in the last 10 years. I feel like this is an east coast thing. (My family is mostly from the east coast and some settled here in the South). I can't help but be apprehensive in speaking to them about all of this. All I really to not be (un)queer for the holidays. In addition to people “accepting me for who I am” I'd like to be able to talk about who I am and what I'm about. And I'm sure that my family will welcome my partner and be as nice as can be...but I hope that in the future they will be accepted as a family member and not just as my "friend".  I hope this isn't too much to ask... I know it isn't.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prednisone (a corticosteroid) and Dating

Prednisone and Dating

It took me a month or two to start the corticosteroid prescribed to me by my hard-of-hearing rheumatologist. I was terrified of the physiological changes that would happen but even more terrified at the sound of urgency in everyone's voice when I told them that I had not started the drug yet. Though everyone acted like it was no big was a huge deal. My “condition” was worsening. I could barely walk. Sometimes I couldn't put on my shirt or tie my shoes. I ached all over and seriously wanted it all to end. Wished it would end. The pain was so unbearable and indescribable. It defied all language. So...I began the medication at what I was told was not a high dosage. It changed my behavior almost immediately. Some nights I'd feel like I was on speed and I'd dance at midnight for an hour or so non-stop. Sometimes I'd have splitting headaches or my throat would hurt. Sometimes my stomach hurt. I got these raw spots on my tongue. I cried for no apparent reason.

And then I met someone.

Ahhhh! I thought...maybe I shouldn't date anyone right now. I don't know what other side effects there will be. But she was awesome and there we were. I tried to be as honest as possible about the new medication and the way it made me a little weepy. My pain was still around and she ended up steping into the role of caregiver quickly- soaking my feet when I couldn't walk (about 3 weeks into our relationship). Immediately I felt ashamed. She took care of someone else all week long and now here she was caring for me. I have always been so independent. I really, really tried not to get help from anyone after I became sick and to my own detriment a lot of the time. My mentor once told me to stop being so butch. Ha! If she only knew that I was just being a boi. But women do it, too. I feel as if all genders go around not divulging how much pain their in, emotionally, physically, etc.  Especially if they are people of color.

So we continued dating. I was finishing up grad school and was super stressed and still hurting. I couldn't be all that I wished I could for her. I was pulled in so many directions. Sometimes I was irritated. Sad. My parents were in complete denial, only a few family members knew and I felt alone. There were so many ups and downs. I had spent a whole winter with this pain...and was now trying to figure out how to manage it and how to heal and- how not to let it affect love with all of this going on in the background. But with her I felt euphoria. We went to performances, walked around town, watched documentaries and spent whatever time we could with each other. Usually weekends. I can't even explain to you how awesome this woman is. A family-oriented, organizer of so many different causes. When I went into these schpiels about race in academia and in my community, she totally got me and I was in awe.

I thought I was doing a great job juggling my illness, school, and romance through the Spring. The meds made me feel ok and I'd gotten a great homeopath whose remedies were helping me work through all this emotional stuff. I also got a wonderful herbalist whose herbs also helped me physiologically. But- she also told me that my diet was horrible. I was eating good foods- just not for me. Ugh. So I tried to switch my diet, I was stressing out with school...these new meds...but our attraction and interest was still going strong.

Then came the summer. I had a huge transition from east coast to west coast and the meds had started to make me feel irritable and like....stone. It took me weeks to notice this. My emotions...what had happened to them? I was so emotionless. I did not feel like myself at all.  On top of all this I went down on the dosage with a new doctor and began a new anti-malarial drug. I'm fairly certain these drugs brought back my blood disorder and really messed with my level of iron. So I was fatigued a pain if I biked too much or walked too much. I felt like such a sucky boifriend. I don't think she'd ever dated anyone with limited this was all new for both of us. I felt it really hard to keep up with her, and at first, she rarely tried to slow down. I began just declining going out with her. Especially if it was an event in the night time where we'd stay out all night. If I don't sleep I can barely move in the morning...Also she never knew that smoke exacerbated the achiness in my joints and I think that my disorder caused me to be overly sensitive to it. It took me a while to figure that out, too.

She became frustrated. I became frustrated. Stupid drug that took away my emotions or made me overly emotional. After a month or 2 I felt like I was inhabiting my body again. More like myself. Less distant. I'm going to say it was the decrease in dosage. Around the fall I started to notice which foods would make my joints hurt more...but I must have also become low in some other mineral or metal because I would crave powdered donuts or kettle corn...what a summer. I suspect that if I'd learned to control my diet more and if I'd kept a better eye out for my emotional shifts that the summer would have gone slightly easier. As I've thought of my diet more and more I've thought about how eating the foods that I wanted to eat was the only control I really had over the summer and fall. Everything felt so up in the air but if I just had a snack or meal that I liked, at least I had that. I guess that might be the main mechanism for eating disorders if you think about it. Not that I think I had one-- I just know that with my life swirling all around me, food choice was something I could most of the time control. Well, until I started running out of money.

But she stuck around through my aches and mood swings. I can't wait until I'm off of this altogether. It's really changed my mind about taking testosterone. I'd known that irritability was a side effect but actually experiencing it- whoa. I miss my raspy, baritone voice though  since I've decreased in dosage :(. But, I suppose that's neither here nor there.

The reason I'm telling this tale is because I want folks to be more aware of what prescription drugs can do to you. I know physician's always say “Possible” side effects but keep an eye out for emotional changes. Listen to your loved ones. I know that there were support groups that probably could have forewarned me and told me of techniques they used. But- I thought I was fine and never called them up.  As an independent person, I pride myself on not requiring much assistance. This autoimmune disorder changed everything. I had this wonderful partner who was trying to understand and trying to help me once she understood more- but every time she helped me I felt more and more ashamed. Sometimes I'd relax but then I'd be reminded of what she'd done- and I'd be depressed again. Because I'm the masculine one...right? What am I doing not being able to support myself? Manage my pain? Manage my emotions? And I felt so bad that I was a burden. I felt like at some point she resented my illness; being with this ill person. I felt like she saw my illness as a weakness...that it lended to her believing that I was weak. I became more indecisive because I was indebted and also because I'm fairly easy - when it comes to restaurants and outings.  She'd dealt so much with my irritableness, I tried extra hard to dial it back. But- then she started blowing up at me. And I started reacting to her reacting to me...and emotional meltdown after meltdown. Was there some queer counselor, yoga or meditation instructor that could have helped us from triggering each other?

I'm usually a level-headed person. I've practiced buddhism for years and years. But it felt like meditation was no match for this damn drug. Sometimes I was so complacent. I became less into my practice as I spiraled into this out-of-body experience with prednisone as the driver. Granted, it's important that I mention other factors were involved.  But the prednisone set the dynamic. And I am going to do everything within my power to heal myslf and get it out of my system. The anti-malarial drug as well. Because I care about my partners and loved ones and I would have never been so incompassionate if I'd never taken this stupid anti-inflammatory that suppresses my immune system (and emotions as well). Sigh.

One of the best things I heard while trying to cope with this drug: Remember, these emotions are manufactured.

I know partner knew this...but what then? How do you deal with the aftermath or the continuation of being on such a disrupting drug?

Here are my thoughts: 1.keep open communication with your partner, ask for honesty and listen. 2.Try to eat as healthy as possible and figure out the allergens that might cause inflammation as well as depression or irritability. 3. Find coping strategies for when you have spells of irritability or rage whether it is going out, meditating or chanting, or doing breathing exercises and remembering that these emotions are not really coming from you. It helped me a lot when I would get angry to ask I really angry? Why am I angry? Is this really coming from me? Is there a reason for me to feel this way? Did what just happened warrant this much of a response? And when I'd get upset at myself for being angry I'd remember how important it was to be compassionate to myself. At first it was really hard to keep from being depressed or angry at my reactions, but once I learned to manage my emotions a little more it was easier to step back and be compassionate to myself. Honestly, if you can't be compassionate to yourself, you can't be compassionate to your partner. No matter how loving you think you are- if you are hard on yourself, odds are that you are the same way to your partner.

It's also extremely important to remember that autoimmune disorders didn't happen overnight. Depending on your understanding of the etiology or cause of could believe it started as a child with exposure to toxins or maybe that it's something you inherited or you could believe that it is karma over a milennia. Whatever your understanding, it's important that you know that these disorders are deeply rooted and that the odds are that there is going to be a long road to recovery full of ups and downs as you learn to manage your lifestyle. It is imperative that you be with someone who understands this. I can't stress this enough. If you are with someone who does not understand the extent of this disease and what you are going through, it is going to make your recovery that much harder. I also recommend that your partner finds a support group for loved ones of people with autoimmune disorders and reads some literature and maybe even blogs on similar experiences and that you really sit down and check in with each other on how you are feeling and how you can support each other. It can be difficult, you definitely shouldn't minimize that - but it's not impossible. Those of you suffering with chronic pain and illness remember that if your partner gets upset or stressed out or feels like they can't deal with it, that it doesn't mean they love you any less. Think about it. If it's difficult for you to manage, how must it be for them? Even when we don't think that we ask a lot of our partners, it still can be overwhelming for them. Understanding is key. I can't stress enough how we need to be compassionate to one another in order to get through this together. And if your relationship must end because it is too difficult, don't beat yourself up or stress out about it. I know that it is more easier said than done but we really need to use that time to focus on what we need to do for us to feel better and manage our health and hopefully we can keep that loved one as a friend if not a romantic partner. If they stuck with us that long through all of the ups and downs, they really do care.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Silencing and Voicelessness- a QPOC, limited ability/chronically ill perspective

It can be hard to understand the life of a gender non-conforming person. Some are lucky enough to be called by the pronouns they wish to be called by in their home life and at work- others are closeted and must deal with the daily contradictions of presenting in a way that is "acceptable" in the work environment and to family, etc. Some of us spend so much time working on who we are and discovering our identity only to be ushered back into the closet on numerous occasions- daily.

I'm going to speak from the experience of being a gender non-conforming person of color with Systemic Lupus. Voicelessness is something that I've struggled with throughout my life. Mostly because I was born brown and female-bodied  in the South. In my generation...African- American kids did not question authority. Not your parents...not your aunties and uncles...and all this was training for dealing with white policemen,white teachers, principals and doctors and a predominantly white upper management in the workforce. Some of this was taught unconsciously. We needed to "understand our place". Once in Jacksonville, Florida when some male cousins and I were discriminated against and accused of shoplifting in a Walgreens the elders in my family chastised us for going to the "white" walgreens and said we should have gone to the "black" one. So, race/ethnicity has definitely made me feel crippled at times. Especially in the ivory tower where your views and perspectives are made to feel less valid and many times you feel like an outsider in your cohort--because of race and sometimes, gender.

Being female-bodied, we internalize all kinds of sexism and misogyny. Women have their roles, and one of them is not to speak up- unless a man has been affected. Maybe a son or a husband - or even some stranger.Women have spent centuries being told to keep quiet and stay in their place. Women have fought for liberation for decades, but the vestiges of the patriarchy are everywhere. Being read female and being partially socialized as such for decades, I have not gone unscathed. The various institutions I trusted (why? I have no idea) many times told me exactly where I was "allowed" to go. I defied this of course with the best of my ability, I took note as I watched my black mother navigate the systems.

Queer people of color are oftened silenced.Silenced and voiceless imply two different things for me. When you are silenced- people are unintentionally or intentionally invalidating you and your ideas. When you are voiceless- you are silenced but there may be other factors contributing to being unheard. Silencing can be overt while the variables lending themselves to a person feeling voiceless can be very subtle. Being a QPOC or being genderqueer makes a person marginalized within a marginalized group. Who listens to the queer black or brown man's hardships or those of the gender non-conforming? We're always being told to be quiet because we're being too divisive by expressing how our social and economic concerns are different. All discrimination is not equal. Many of us face double or triple the discrimination because of intersecting identities such as race,class,gender, and sexuality.

I have been pondering on something recently as far as what others might mistake as me being voiceless. As a genderqueer, masculine of center person I am constantly monitoring my interactions with women. Especially my partner. And sometimes this is misread. I am not being unassertive, I am trying to respect her. When I say that I'm trying not to take up a lot of space when I'm in mostly women's spaces with has nothing to do with my confidence and everything to do with the fact that I want to honor those women who are continuously marginalized and not allowed to speak, including her. I realize what my interactions with men and my occasionally being read as male does to my interactions with women. I try to check them. But also as a masculine of center person who may more frequently be read as female because of my features, at times I am still silenced and voiceless. All I know is...that I don't want to contribute to the voicelessness and silencing of women who I truly respect. I don't think that makes me soft or weak...and it hurts when things said about my hypersensitivity to taking up too much space are read as such. How does that make me any less masculine? How does that make me less strong? I'm not going to throw around my weight because I'm in a room of women or even a room of men. That's not what I'm about. It is important for transmen to recognize our privilege and also to learn to balance it with decades of past and continuing marginalization. It's definitely an on-going process.

As a gender non-conforming person with a chronic (and sometimes fatal) disease I get no respect from most of my doctors and am always searching for the one doctor who is not racist, or sexist, or homophobic. It's so hard to find a doctor lacking at least two or more of these wonderful means of discrimination. I have a disease that doctors and the world are just now learning more about- one where at times you're fine and other times you feel like a 16 wheeler hit you and backed up over you...for months. Sometimes you appear healthy when your kidneys or brain is failing. No one understands your pain- not parents, partners or doctors. So your experience is often invalidated and goes unheard by those you expected to support you the most. I must say that unfortunately I have had this experience at one of my lowest and most trying points with SLE. My parents were in denial, most of my friends were too busy to even check in with me...but I am very appreciative of the handful that were there for me. Though I was voiceless in the physician's offices and silenced by rheumatologists and hematologists/oncologists alike, it felt good to be able to have at least three or four people to talk to. Even if some days I just sat immobile, curled up in a ball crying from the pain and not wanting to talk with anyone.

So, I'm marginalized as a brown, female-bodied, genderqueer/gender nonconformist with a disease that no one quite understands. In a lot of my interactions I can't be how I feel and who I am. I can't express myself. People don't acknowledge my identity. Many of these people are close to me. Some have access to my medical records and are expected to treat me (without actually caring who I actually am). I am constantly silenced in this body, with this disease. It's a lot to deal with. Sometimes too much. And at times I have wondered how I could possibly regain my voice. I've yelled, screamed at the top of my lungs but I've been really tired lately. I haven't cared about power struggles in the workplace or academia as much. I've been sick and trying to deal with a diagnosis I got just this past January.But the struggle continues and I'm done with not being heard or people's selective hearing. (Nothing new). I am gathering all my strength as I work on healing myself. I will never be silenced. I am a writer and the pen is a conduit for my voice. So even if I'm not physically able to battle it'll be hearing from me....oh you will.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Queer bout 'em?

I'm kind of frustrated with the lack of literature with an actual sociological or psychological analysis of romantic relationships within the "queer" or LGBTTSGNC world. It's already so hard to find good models of what a healthy queer relationship should look like while there are oodles and oodles of self-help books about straight/heterosexual relationships. I'd really love to be able to understand the dynamics that are created (romantically) between a trans person and another transperson, lesbians, gay men, and people who are same-gender loving or of any other variety besides straight/heterosexual. I keep saying that queer relationships are a lot harder because of internal and external struggles. Your job, your family, internalized homophobia and transphobia in both partners, self-loathing, being closeted, reactions from strangers, etc. This is a lot of added stress. Then add in how this world caters to straight relationships...and not having many lasting queer relationships to learn from and well, I'm sure many of us queers have felt it. And then...when our queer relationships fail, having religious folks or family members tell us it is because of our it's some karmic debt that we have to pay. Like we don't deserve happiness because of our "choice" to be queer.

So many of us are walking around like ticking time bombs because we aren't allowed or encouraged to process, acknowledge, and accept our identity. We are made to feel ugly, awkward, and sometimes, even like sinners. It takes a lot to finally get through self-loathing and to feel good about where we're at....maybe even to feel a little bit of pride and then...we meet someone maybe doesn't feel that great about themselves or has similar or worse experiences that inform how they interact with us because of their gender or sexuality.

Things would sure be a lot easier if we queers could get more free counseling and have more discussions about co-dependence, self-hatred, gender roles, this hetero and patriarchal system, internalized homophobia and transphobia,etc. Queer theory is great and all...but is it addressing all of this in a substantial way? A tangible and accessible way? Maybe if we could understand more fundamentally what we're up against and how it affects us individually and how this, in turn, informs our interactions with our partners...we could have more healthy, quality relationships (and for some...more lasting).

That is all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Oakland

So a lot of people seemed to be a little confused as to the point of Occupying cities. Some have even gone on to say that we are just complaining about life being too hard or too tough and that we need to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Be silent. The most disappointing part about these comments is that people really don't get why so many people are organizing, collaborating and raising their voices. People really buy the notion that we all have equal opportunities in this country. Smart people. People with a lot of influence. Even people who have been discriminated against in the past. It is so important that we continue to educate ourselves on privilege and the decolonization of our minds. Assimilation and colonization is what fuels POCs against POCs. For instance, Herman Cain. Here is a prime example of the perfect, assimilated black man who is blind to the plight of many people of color. Sorry if 50 or so years wasn't enough time for those of us who couldn't even drink out of the same water fountain or attend the same schools to become equals. Jeez, we brown folks are really messing up. Now that racism isn't overt, we should be able to deal with its vestiges. Out of sight, out of mind- right?

I keep seeing these folks who write these letters, take photos, and post them on facebook talking about how they don't complain..that they've earned where they're at through hard work as if immigrants and people of color never worked two and three jobs to provide for their families or put themselves through college. Most of these folks posting these letters are white. White people have historically decimated and appropriated. The systems in place in this country were created by, for and to uplift white folks. The boot straps they want us to pull ourselves up by...are provided by white folks. That's just how it is. White folks are the colonizers, though we are all affected by colonization. We have to know this in order to change it.

This movement is about the People finding their voice and challenging a system that says that our rights aren't as important as that of corporations and the wealthy. It's also about the People rising up and taking back our communities. Having more influence- more say- in the decisions made in education, housing, restorative justice, etc. We've let the plutocracy make the calls for far too long.  This our land. (Actually- it's native land and we need to respect and acknowledge that first and foremost).  Collectively we have the power to stop these wars, keep schools open, receive fair wages, put an end to racism,sexism and homophobia...the sky is the limit.

I'm sure there were plenty of people who thought that the civil rights movement was annoying and that people of color should just accept their "lot in life". That things couldn't get any better.  We can DO something about this broken system. Let's not sit idly by and swallow propaganda and falsities when we know the truth. Oakland has a very radical past. The antagonism between law enforcement and communities of color has been a major factor in the organizing efforts that have shown that the people of Oakland can and must provide for themselves. I will always respect Oakland for always finding a way with its free school lunches, community gardens, and focus on its youth and respect for the wisdom of the elders.'s completely understandable if some of you don't want to get on board. But, if you won't get behind least don't stand in front of us. The revolution is already happening. Please help ...not hinder. We need everyone involved if we are going to rebuild this society in a way that respects and values everyone regardless of race/ethnicity,class,gender, sexuality or ability.