The Level of Bullshit is Too Damn High!

There’s been a fair amount of bullshittery going around lately, but today seems to be a special kind of day. It’s one of those days where everything seems to pile on at once.

You have white people all across the board getting mad at Saida Grundy, a Black woman professor at Boston University, for calling out toxic white masculinity and the legacy of white supremacy. Apparently she did it in a way that wasn’t nice enough for them and it hurt a lot of feelings.

The white supremacists have come out in full force decrying her tweets as “racist,” because we all know racism is when Black people point out how toxic white masculinity and the white male ego is.

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Please white men (and women), spare me your tears. The only reason her tweets elicited such a visceral reaction from you is because of your investment in white supremacy. You have a vested interest in keeping the system of white supremacy going and protecting toxic white masculinity at all costs. Saida Grundy’s tweets go directly against your goal, so you felt the need to attack. This kind of thing happens whenever a Person of Color (specifically Black Women) directly confront white supremacy. What she wrote wasn’t anything too new or surprising. For a good number of us, it was a common sense kind of thing. But please, do stay mad white people. Continue to prove Saida Grundy’s point for her.

While that was predictably horrible, what really drove me off a cliff today was an essay by Dr Sallee McLaren, an actual clinical psychologist. The title of said essay? “The part women play in domestic violence.”

“Hold on a second,” I hear you saying to your computer screen. “This could possibly be about how women can be abusers and how that needs to be addressed.”

“Oh you poor, sweet, naive little baby.” I say, shaking my head slightly while trying not to cry. “You’re about to get a horrible surprise.”

Red flag number one (if it didn’t come from the title alone) comes from the second little headline.

Women can only command real power once we socialise girls to take themselves seriously and develop mental grit.

I know what you’re thinking and yeah. That definitely means what you’re thinking it means. Our dear doctor thinks women just need to toughen up a bit if they wanna stop domestic violence. Don’t believe me? Here, have some more quotes.

To explain what I mean, I want to tell you about a scenario I frequently see played out in various forms in my work in relation to domestic violence. Let’s say we have a male and female couple who are living together and he is becoming increasingly violent towards her. In my work, I have to retrain her exactly as much as I have to retrain him to correct this situation.

I’m sorry Dr McLaren, but you have to “retrain her”? It sounds like you’re talking about a dog and not a traumatized woman who has been, or currently is being, abused by her partner.

It happens like this. Early on in the relationship he becomes aggravated for some reason and raises his voice at her. She tolerates it, lets it go by, thinks to herself “he’s not too angry – no need to rock the boat”. At that stage he is at 4/10 in his level of anger. By not objecting she has just trained him that 4/10 is acceptable. So he continues to regularly reach that level.

Then a few weeks or months later something more aggravating happens and he yells at her and swears “you bitch”. He is now at 6/10 in his level of anger. She tolerates it, lets it go by, thinks to herself “that’s not much worse than before – no point in just aggravating him more”. By not objecting, she has just taught him that 6/10 is doable and calling her a “bitch” is OK.

Eventually he escalates further and she fails to object, teaching him at each stage that his level of anger is tolerable and has no consequences. Before you know it, he has reached 9/10 and he is smacking her head into the wall and calling her a “fucking c—“.

Did you just? She “taught” him???

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I– I don’t even know what to say. Dr McLaren is seemingly dead set on this “training” analogy. Thing. Mess. It’s a mess. She’s speaking like the abusive man is a misbehaving dog and the abused woman is an irresponsible owner giving positive reinforcement for bad behavior. She’s speaking like she views herself as an obedience trainer who has to teach the owner how to properly train her dog while also correcting the dog’s bad behavior. Unfortunately for her, abusive relationships don’t work that way.

It’s been shown in studies that attempting to leave an abuse relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim. How do you think he’d act if she attempted to show resistance to his abuse? Do you honestly believe he’s just gonna apologize for the emotional and/or physical abuse if she just gives a very firm no? Or do you think he’s gonna view her resistance as a challenge to his authority and lash out at her? Option one may be what happens in Fantasy Land, but over here in reality, option two is much more likely.

You would think someone would have clued her into this at some point while she was going for her degree. Even if they didn’t, all of this information is available for free across all of the Internets and the libraries everywhere. Hell, she probably could have just asked a colleague and they would have gently corrected her. Instead of doing the tiniest bit of research though, she simply took her amazingly toxic views to the public forum.

Her view that women simply need to be more assertive if they want domestic violence to end is extremely dangerous and part of the problem. What she is essentially saying is, the women who are in abusive relationships deserve the abuse and it’s their fault they’re in them. This truly toxic belief is why so many people incorrectly assume they will never be in an abusive relationship. This belief is why so many people think abuse victims are simply weak and didn’t try hard enough to get it to stop. This is the kind of (for lack of a better term) bullshit Dr McLaren is spreading to her patients. That terrifies me. This woman actually sees patients. People, women, are going to her for help and they are being met with “you should be more assertive.” How much damage has this woman done?

Booty Babe Art and the Fetishization of Black Women

The more time I spend on twitter, the more I realize that it’s really hard to talk about some issues with only 140 characters per post. It’s a really good platform for broad statements and over-arcing themes, but when the topic gets really nuanced and specific it’s easy to miss context. It’s also really easy for your distaste at a situation to get misconstrued. That happened to me today when I stumbled upon the kickstarter for Booty Babe Art.

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At first, I wasn’t too bothered by the dolls themselves. Bigger Black women looking like sexy pin-ups? I’m so here for that. I absolutely love the idea of more diverse body types being seen in art and media. However, when I got a look at exactly who was making these dolls I had to pause for a second.

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Everybody, meet Spencer Davis. He’s the artist behind Booty Babe Art. He’s been making these dolls since 1998 and came to kickstarter so he could get funding to make a line of five new dolls. According to the bio on his website, one of his influences is Black Tail Magazine. He uses the dolls to express “his passion for toy collecting, foreign culture, female beauty, fantasy and low brow art.” After taking in the context, I couldn’t help but feel quite a bit differently about the dolls. Suddenly images like these didn’t look so innocent or empowering anymore.

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Now, let’s get one thing straight before we continue. I don’t have an issue with sex or sexual imagery on it’s own. If you just browse my twitter timeline from last night you’d instantly know that. What I’m bothered by here is the words of the creator, the creator himself, and the image that he is producing.

In my humble opinion, this feels a lot like fetishization and objectification. From his words both on his website and in the kickstarter video, it feels like he’s doing this simply to fulfill a fetish for himself and not because he wants to see big Black women represented in art and media. That makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable.

If a Black woman had made these dolls because she wanted to see women who looked her represented and looking sexy, I wouldn’t have an issue. I’d probably pull out my wallet and donate what I could to the kickstarter and signal boost the hell out of it. Positive representation for Black women, especially fat/curvy Black women, is distinctly lacking and we do need more of it.

This campaign doesn’t feel like to me. It feels like a white man using Black women as both a fetish and a source of income. That’s not ok to me. I won’t be supporting this campaign and honestly it makes me feel really uncomfortable.

If you don’t see a problem with it, that’s fine and dandy. Feel free to give him all the money in your wallet. I’m going to stay far away from it though because it does’t feel right to me.

Humbleness, Humility, and Their Racial Connotations

I have issues with people’s obsession with humbleness and humility. Nine times out of ten people only talk about those traits when discussing PoC & even then what they really mean is something different. What people really mean is they want you to be submissive and self deprecating to the point of developing self esteem issues.

I also know damn well I’m not the only one who’s noticed that those terms only seem to come out as insults when talking about confident PoC.

When Beyoncé made Bow Down, how many people came out the woodwork to say they though she was “arrogant”?

How many people say the same thing of Nicki Minaj? Folks say she’s “full of herself” and they want to “take her down a notch” all the time.

How many discussions center around the fact that people hate rappers bragging about what they have while ignoring context for why they are?

How many people straight up hate Kanye without even taking the time to really look at his actions or look at his backstory?

People talk shit about Rihanna day in and day out about how they hate her cockiness.

On the flip side of that, how many people (some of the same people) praise white celebrities for their confidence? It’s been talked about before, but look at how obsessed people are with Robert Downey Jr. There’s a whole meme on tumblr about how people can’t tell the difference between Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark and people fucking love it. I’m being dead ass serious when I say I’ve never seen anyone, especially anyone in the media, say that Robert Downey Jr.  needs to be more “humble.”

Why is cockiness acceptable from Robert Downey Jr. but not from Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye, Rihanna, or any rapper ever? That question is largely rhetorical because I’m sure we all know the answer to that.

I’m not gonna make any friends saying this, but I really feel like it’s a subconscious form of racism. It’s so subtle that I see that type of speech/thought coming from PoC (Black people in particular) just as much as white folks.

This is one of those times where I’m kinda left questioning myself. I’ve seen it so many times though that I’ve detected a definite pattern and I’m pretty damn sure I’m right.

UPDATE: 9/28/2013

Based on the reaction I got for making this simple observation, I’m now 100% positive I’m right. I had Black men in my mentions telling me I should be more concerned about Black men choosing to date white women or claiming that I was “defending Jay-Z’s white gaze.” Along with that kind of nonsense though, I got a flood of people telling me that they’ve noticed the same thing. The very strong reactions from people on both sides of this issue tells me that there is definitely something here. If we’re gonna make any process on the anti-racist front, this is definitely a topic worth exploring in depth.

Totally Biased: Kamau Speaks with Tim Wise (Extended Interview)

One thing Tim said in this interview stuck out to me in particular:

“If you don’t like white allyship in general, that’s a problem. If you don’t like the fact that every now and then, those of us who are trying to be allies screw up, then you’re not really prepared for this work because that’s what people do. They make mistakes, they screw up, they don’t treat each other very kindly. We’ve got a lot bigger fish to fry than to sit and fight amongst each other about who has the best and most responsible Facebook page or the most responsible and respectful twitter feed. The history of white allyship is way too important for me or anyone else to sort of walk away from it because we get beef with somebody.”

What the holy shit is that?! He just insinuated that if we don’t like white allies, we shouldn’t be doing anti-racist work. He just insinuated that if we don’t like the fact that white allies constantly fuck up, we’re not “ready” for this. He just insinuated that the criticism that white allies (namely himself) gets is based around Facebook pages and twitter feeds.

This is the man that people herald as some type of “savior” to the anti-racism movement! This man just went on national television and tone policed a massive swath of the movement, dismissed his most vocal critics (who just so happen to be WoC) as “trolls,” downplayed everything he’s done up to that point, and spewed out some of the most hypocritical statements I have ever heard come out of a human mouth. While he did this, Kamau sat there and ate that mess up like it was a three course meal from a five star restaurant.

In my very humble opinion, it is way past time for people to stop being lulled into a false sense of security by Tim Wise’s words and actually listen to what this fool is telling you. He’s shown us time and time again that he is no “ally” in the true sense of the word. What he’s telling us is that he is an attention loving white man who thinks that white “allies” like him are, and should be, front and center in the anti-racism movement. He thinks that white “allies” are so damn important that if you don’t like them or you have questions/comments about them, you need to get the hell out the movement. He does go on to say that white allies shouldn’t look at this as “missionary work,” and I do believe that he does think that’s true. He doesn’t look at this as “missionary work” at all. No! He’s here to get his name in the news and make some good ass money while he’s at it.

“Black children have no value in the eyes of White America.”

That was a phrase I wrote about six months ago that garnered a lot of controversy. People rushed to tell me how wrong I was. Countless amounts of people told me I was exaggerating, I was making things up, and that I was the racist one for pointing this out. However, that statement is one that I still stand behind to this day because it still holds true.

Just this morning there was a story about a white Dallas man who shot an 8 year old black child in the face while he was playing tag outside his apartment complex. This story isn’t an outlier unfortunately. There are so many stories of white people deeming Black children a threat or nuisance and either assaulting or killing them.

However, every time something like this happens, it get dismissed as an “isolated incident.” We get told over and over that it was just one person doing something horrible and there’s no pattern involved. When we try to point out that things like this have happened before, and the continued dehumanization of Black children in the media contributes to it, we’re told that we are “imagining things.” Meanwhile, the media tries to understand and humanize the killer while demonizing the victim. The most famous example of this to date is the Trayvon Martin case.

Anyone who paid even the slightest bit of attention couldn’t help but notice the character assassination carried out by the media and society at large on Trayvon, and later Rachel Jeantel. People were quick to brand him a thug, gang member, and threat to George Zimmerman. Lies were spread about how stole from the convenience store he went to and how he was armed when he confronted Zimmerman. Pictures were spread on the internet of “Trayvon” wearing a grill and with tattoos, but it was soon proven those pictures weren’t even of him.

Rachel Jeantel, a woman who speaks three languages better than I can speak one, was called ghetto, combative, and uneducated. People, both Black and white, made fun of her weight, her hair, the way she spoke, and her skin tone. Society was ready to assume so many things about Trayvon and Rachael simply because they were Black teenagers. Even though all those assumptions were proven false they still persist to this day.

Things like this happen on a daily basis, both on the national scale and in our day to day lives. So six months after I first said it, that statement still rings true. In some ways, I feel the need to expand it. Black children, Black teenagers, and even Black adults have no value in the eyes of White America. We are, at best, an inconvenience and at worst an outright threat to their way of life.

Microagression Moment

I originally posted this on my tumblr blog but I feel like it deserves a home here too. This is something I still experience everyday and I’m sure I will for the rest of my life. So while it is an older post, it’s still very valid to my everyday life. I’m sure a lot of PoC out there can relate to this.

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The worst racial microaggression I experience everyday has to be that feeling of not being welcome anywhere I go. There isn’t a public place I can go where I truly feel like I belong there or that I’m truly welcome there.

A perfect example of this is what I experienced a few days ago. I went to the grocery store down the street and everyone, from the cashiers to the customers, was staring at me like I had five heads. The cashiers were looking at me like I was going to rob the place, the lady giving out samples of cold noodles gave me a glare like I murdered her first born child in front of her, and one of the customers had a death grip on his wife like I was going to steal her away at any moment. (Although, thinking back, I should probably find that man and thank him for being the only person on Earth to not automatically assume I’m straight. But that’s a topic for another time.)

Other people may be able to brush off the looks and stares, but I’ve gotten to the point where it’s just worn me down completely. I don’t like leaving the house now, not because I don’t want to do anything, but because I don’t want to deal with the stares and glares. I don’t want to deal with the whispers behind my back and I definitely don’t want to deal with the employees who just happen to show up on every single aisle I happen to be on. It’s exhausting and I simply don’t want to deal with it anymore. I shouldn’t have to deal with it at all, but unfortunately I do. Such is the life of a Black woman in America.