We Are Nothing (And That is Beautiful) 
Full Text by Alok Vaid-Menon

I’d like to begin with a poem

remember the first day of freshman year of college when we were nothing but a name and a dot on the map at the front of the hall?

remember when we did not cry when our parents left us in those rooms too cramped for all of our expectations (and, perhaps, naïveté)?

remember the first time we met and you told me that you were still open, but you were pretty sure
you’d declare a major in philosophy or english because
you wept the first time you read the perks of being a wallflower
and we shared a sacred and unquenchable lust for bad science fiction

remember how hopeful we were –
that this school would
allow us to “find ourselves,” 
“change the world,”
and other slogans we
recited from all the view books
the ones we stitched to our throats 
when they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up

so when you changed your major to econ,
so when you pledged that fraternity,
so when you replaced t-shirt with j-crew, 
so when you accepted that ‘prestigious’ position at an investment bank 
and expected me to be proud of you because you were going to ‘dismantle the system from within’
because you were different from ‘them’

i couldn’t help but wonder at what point
we become the tucked in shirt, the
wallet in pocket, the 9-5
we grew up fearing

you: whose love of learning stuck longer than the stickers your teachers adorned your homework with
you: who couldn’t fall asleep after reading marx in debate camp because things finally made sense again
you: who came to this university with a spirit unable to be disciplined 

what happened to you?

you who sacrificed dream for diploma,
revolution for resume,
in that factory that produces profit out of potential prophet
where change falls from hearts into pockets
won’t teach you how to stop it
'cuz gotta make that endowment rocket!

‘liberal arts college degree’ becomes a fancy way of saying
‘can spend 8 hours designing power point slides’  
‘can forget all promises for promotion’
'can quote classic literature at business dinners to seduce the clients'

so what if this education was really about making you so ignorant that you forgot how to think for yourself? 

so what if the best way to dominate a world is to pretend that you are saving it? 

you, the twenty something year old
idealist gone corporate in your 
first suit throwing theory at a Wall that will swallow you up and spit you back on the Street discharged like the cold hard cash
of an ATM machine your heart beat reduced
to a series of transactions
when you hugged me goodbye i almost expected you to ask me for a receipt:
proof of purchase for a friendship you
consumed when it made cents for your
career trajectory.

I’m sorry i did not make
the cut for the walking resume
you mistake as a body

I want to believe you because I want to believe in the power of a creativity undisciplined: that time we read our first book, saw our first eclipse, saw her smile. The joy and chaos of it all.

So what if it’s just chaos? 
That space and time before friendship got postponed by deadlines
future segregated into interviews and internships

So what if we are really insignificant like the dot on the map from freshman year?
Why does it matter?  What if we are nothing? What if that is beautiful? 
What if we cried when our parents left us but didn’t tell each other? 
What if I am crying because you are leaving me but will not tell you because I do not have the market value to make you listen
that I think you are worth more than any salary increase they will give you, that your mind cannot be transcribed on a spreadsheet of numbers, that I am waiting here for you, broke, but not broken,
remembering what you could have done
before you
sold out.

Thank you.

In the spirit of full disclosure I am here to recruit you. This is not a recruitment interview like the ones your career centers have prepared you for. This is not about your resume and job skills. I do not care where you went to school nor what you majored in. These things are no longer relevant in a world where we are losing some of our most creative minds to the epidemic of success.

This is not the crisis they tell you about on the news: that the economy is tanking, the world is at war. This is something different. This is a crisis of success. Too many things are working too well. The government isn’t broken; it is thriving. The universities are not broken; they are perfect. Our generation is not apathetic; it is flourishing.

This means that you are not actually a leader, an innovator, an exceptional student, and all of the other medals they have placed around your neck. These are merely accomplishments that you have been taught define your worth. Should you desire to be successful you will not actually bring human rights for all, eliminate poverty, end nuclear war, or fix Congress. If you go in with this mindset chances are you will be defeated like all the generations before us.

The key to changing the world is to fail to live up to its expectations.

My name is Alok Vaid-Menon and you could call me a fashionista, activist, or provocateur but I’d prefer to call myself a professional failure: someone who (at least my mother reminds me) was set for all the riches of the world but somehow took a detour on the way. You see, I grew up in a comfortable middle class Indian family where the expectation was that I’d always be some fancy schmancy academic. Both of my parents were PhD’s so from a young age the bar was set high: I remember getting chastised for talking on the phone rather than reading the New York Times. I had to learn how to argue for the legitimacy of everything. The key was finding a scholar who had written about something and then it became magically legitimate: this is how I discovered Critical Youtube Studies (it’s real).

It’s not that my parents pressured me to do well in school; it was more of a quiet expectation. This was part of our immigration story: to move to this country and not challenge its rules, but do better than everyone else. Which goes to say that from an early age success seemed like the only way to justify my parents’ journey across the ocean. When I got into Stanford my parents didn’t really congratulate me, it was something more, well…expected.

But when I got to school I started to see how violent success could actually be.

At my opening convocation – before we had actually done anything — I was told that I was surrounded by the future leaders of the world. Yet what I soon realized is that the way we were defining success was less about our impact and actually more about prestige

In the beginning everyone seemed to have some brilliant idea of what it was going to take to change the world. But then at some point the methods became… shall we say…less specific. We were expected to congratulate the class leader– a self proclaimed ‘public servant’ – even though he accepted a job offer at a corporation that left hundreds of thousands of people starving. We were expected to applaud for a successful keynote speaker and not mention his vocal support for racist policies. Low and behold my classmates continued to flock to all of the talks by these ‘success stories’ not because of what they’d actually done, but because of this elusive concept of who they were.

Success has never really been about fixing problems; it’s been about perpetuating them. The pomp and circumstance around success masks over the incredible violence it takes to accomplish. Think about it: What happened to the thousands of students who were denied admission to your university? What happened to the hundreds of applicants who didn’t get the job you got? Who is made to suffer so that you can thrive? Do you even care?

Success is about self-promotion, not putting change into motion.

We are part of a generation whose elders expect us to fix the problems we inherited. But the irony is that we are bound to fail just like them because we are using the same tactics.

Success just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Ask yourself this:

If all the best universities really produced the most successful leaders then why do we still have so much corruption? 

If all the success stories throughout time were really successful then why do we still find ourselves living in a violently unequal world? 

I think it’s time we broke up with success, at least as it’s currently been defined.

I know you’re skeptical. This contradicts well everything we’ve been taught about how the world works. Success feels good and I am asking you to feel bad about it.  I get in: I sound totally ridiculous. It’s like what would it have felt like in second grade to write your first love poem and have your teach respond “you failed!” Hear me out. 

I didn’t always think this way. It took me failing — and recognizing how beautiful that was — to understand.

In 2011 I had the opportunity to work with transgender movement in South Africa. I was there to study the discrepancy between progressive legislation and the tremendous experience of violence. Naturally – as a type A model minority — things went according to plan. I got the most generous research grants, obtained cutting edge interviews and I genuinely felt that I had identified what could be fixed.

I returned to the US to start writing my thesis. In the process I got an email that one of the women I worked with in the office with had passed way. I had just listened to her interview the day before. Her name was Cym.

What is the point of a thesis written in a language inaccessible by the very people it is about? What is the point of a researcher who knows the name of theorists but not the names of her own neighbors? Who is invited to present a paper on a movement and who must die for it?

I never spent the time getting to know Cym because I was so fixated on being the perfect academic. I was so concerned with success that I glossed over the places where real transformative work could have occurred: the work of building trust, solidarity, empathy. The hard and invisible parts. I shared the same office with her for two months and I couldn’t tell you her favorite color, where she lived, and what made her weep for joy. The only parts of her that mattered were the parts that fit into my own analysis. 

Success can be a violent and manipulative process. The thesis committee didn’t care about my ability to contribute to the movement, my ability to make the knowledge relevant and accessible by local organizers. The publishing of my thesis would do nothing to end violence in South Africa – if anything it would continue it so that future foreign researchers could come and study it for their own job promotion. Let’s call that a success story.

So I changed my topic. I deleted Cym’s interview. And I started thinking. Even though I failed at being an academic, I succeeded at becoming a better human being. Failure is, in its own way, another type of success.

The system isn’t broken.

Every problem in the world can actually be reconsidered as the successful implementation of an idea: the persistence of segregated schools is the accomplishment of institutionalized racism, the crisis of student debt reveals the success of the logic that we should pay for our education rather than be entitled to it, the persistence of violence against LGBT people reveals the clout of a currency of intolerance. These issues are not problems. They are victories; they are success stories.

The system isn’t broken. It’s working. It is working so well that it teaches us that it broken in order to keep us continually trying to improve it rather than building alternatives.

To be successful is actually to maintain the status quo. Few of us have thought about who determines the standards of success let alone challenged them. Because we have allowed the crisis of success to go unregulated, we find ourselves in a peculiar state of contradiction: celebrating so many success stories while by and large – the world is actually getting more unhealthy, unequal, and unbearable for the majority of people.

Those of us interested in solving these problems can no longer defer to the typical success sorry. We have to create new models of success: models that are not as superficial and selfish. Our models might be thought of as failures, and to some degree they are right. We are failing to accept a world of injustice. We are failing to buy into the myth of progress. We are failing to leave one another behind.

So I encourage you to fail more.

Consider how your passion has been stolen from you and manipulated into a career trajectory oriented toward status and not substance. Think about whose standards define success and what this success will actually and realistically accomplish for people beyond yourself.

And what I hope you will find by failing is that a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you: like the time I failed and remembered how to love strangers. There are possibilities for transformation hidden by our drive to succeed. This is actually the most important work: work like building relationships with your neighbors, crying together, making art and movements, healing, and all of the million skills that will never fit on your resume. These can become your new standards of success. Think about the parts of the day you do not tell people about, the gray areas that do not make it into your conversations and job interviews. These parts are the most exciting and transformative. Major in that feeling.

Personally I am trying my best to reconsider the parts of my life I used to think were insignificant and find beauty in them in. The most important work I do now is entering data in spreadsheets, ordering food for political organizing meetings, listening to people share their stories, and calling my mom every night to explain my politics. These things are not going directly change legislation, they will not give me an award or a degree, but I hope they are doing the slow work of tearing the fabric of our culture.

And this, I think, is what is going to change the world. It’s not going to happen tomorrow or the next day it’s going to happen when we stop aspiring to be successful and reaching to the top, but rather reaching our arms out and clinging onto one another desperately and ferociously. Remembering an interconnectivity that our schools, our careers, our own insecurities are trying to eradicate. Remembering that we are nothing and how beautiful that is because they won’t be able to anticipate what is coming.

I’d like to close with a poem to honor Cym and all of the other casualties of our success stories.

my summer in cape town: or, i’m sorry for using you

They will ask you
Whether your project can inflict ‘harm’
And you will respond: “minor discomfort” to expedite the review process 

Her name is Cym,
And the arc of her smile mirrors her painted eyebrows,

On Mondays she asks you what you did over the weekend.
You do not tell her. 

You are guilty of the conversion rate, how you can afford a club, a skin, a language that she never will.
She wants to know what it feels like to live in America
If you have a handsome boyfriend there who will buy you dinner sometimes

In your field research class they will teach you about the importance of obtaining consent.

Cym cannot sign your forms
So she communicates with the earnesty of hazel eyes
Smiles, tells you how she used to let heroine and men
Inside of her and sometimes couldn’t tell the difference,
Tells you how the cops would beat her in men’s prisons

In the international research workshop they will tell you not to get involved in your subjects’ personal life.

Your palms are sweaty, do not let them smear the ink.
Keep writing as she laughs and encourages you to ask more questions

An aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. When the size of an aneurysm increases, there is a significant risk of rupture, often resulting in death.

A researcher is an ambitious distraction at the back of the room. When the amount of information increases, there is a significant risk of an epiphany, often resulting in a published paper. 

She will die nine months after your interview. 
You can still remember the scent her smile 

Dear Cym: In America I am learning how to think that I am better than you.
In fact, I am majoring in you. Don’t worry, they don’t use your name, keep it confidential

I am turning your body into a new theory
Academics work like Johns sometimes
Don’t worry they will pay me to use you,
I will cut you some of the profit in my acknowledgements.

My thesis will be in English,
In the accent you heard on re-runs of friends, Cym I’m sorry we weren’t friends, but I wanted to keep it professional
I promise I will print it on the whitest paper I can find,
So they can see the black in your words

I will bury you in a library,
I hope you will find home there
In this haunted house of quotations
Hanging on the shelves like skeletons

Listen to the recorded transcript on repeat,
Feel her laughter crawl into you,
Watch it spark the timber wood of your bones,
And burn your paper in the flames

And cry because we refuse to let people inside of us in fear of imploding
And cry because you have the story of a woman nested in the back of your throat and you do not deserve it.

Dear Cym

What I really meant to ask is:
What theory did you use to stay warm at night? 
Is, Can you teach me?

(Source: returnthegayze, via j-chowski)

1,588 notes

How is Racial Justice Crucial to Transformation?

been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between emotional skills & organizing/ movement work, and the ways that there can/ needs to be more linkages between the two, and more nuance in the willingness to understand that holding people accountable (while having compassion & recognition of where they are coming from) is actually a critical part of healing work & allyship in general…

"Black rage is a response to racism. White guilt is a response that many white people have to racism, and the two have a dynamic interaction. White guilt doesn’t reflect a principled stance against racism, and a commitment to end it and undo its effects. White guilt is more of a childlike uh-oh, we’re in trouble, where the white person goes around feeling bad and expecting/projecting some sort of anger or punishment from people of African heritage. This can lead to fawning and accommodating behaviors in communities and relationships. Again, this is not about a principled stance against racism, this is about an anxious wish to avoid conflict with an individual person of African heritage. At other times, part of the racist gaze is to project anger onto black people regardless of their emotional reality at any given moment.

If you plan to be an ally to people of African heritage, you need to be able to handle black rage. Big, heaping truckloads of it. And by handle, I mean be able to keep thinking clearly and act decisively in the presence of rage.

… White allies need to work on whatever childhood baggage they bring to the table. Perhaps it is the terrified memories of their own parents’ rage. Or maybe they are still stifled by the frequent middle/upper class prohibitions against strong feelings that meant their own childhood rage got shut down. While I have compassion for anyone who is triggered, I hope that everyone in that room who can see clearly in hindsight that they should have said/done something decisive to intervene. I hope they can tell that because they were far too scared to act in integrity with their values, they need to go seek some kind of emotional help…

Starting with the Black Power Movement, some black men have had a narrative that black liberation is about their freedom to express rage. So-called allies have co-signed this, from former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver writing about going around raping white women as a revolutionary act (he “practiced” on black women first, to get it right) to the Brecht forum allowing a black man with a history of verbal and physical raging to be on a challenging panel about allyship. Our allies need to take a principled stand that rage is understandable, but rage needs to be healed and patterns of venting rage without consent need to be interrupted. There is no noble political principle being served by allowing people to abuse others. This doesn’t mean that all displays of anger need to be shut down. It’s important to allow emotional space outside of white, middle class cultural norms (sometimes people get angry, and that can be a good thing) but it’s different for people to have a pattern of raging as part of how they work in community. Our allies need to be able to tell the difference, offer resources, set limits, and hold lines against abusive behavior.”

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Pop-Culture Criticism/Reactive Anti-Racism


by Mauro Sifuentes

I’ve noticed a giant uptick in pop-culture criticism, especially within progressive, queer, and people of color communities. This criticism is usually aimed at news articles, current events, judicial maneuvers, police cruelty, movies, music videos, celebrities, etc. that exemplify a dominant racism. Critiques are usually leveled against forms of racism that most college Ethnic/Gender/Women’s/Queer Studies students can easily recognize after taking an Intro class and that many feel equipped to analyze based on rudimentary tools. Paring it down to the essential messaging, the arguments in these analyses follow this basic structure: point out something is racist, list how that thing is racist/appropriative, blame the white people responsible, then end the piece of writing feeling righteous and vindicated. Usually, people of color are portrayed as immune from blame and the category “white” is rendered flat and monolithic.

I am usually quick to notice and critique subtle dynamics formed through a racism that permeates every aspect of U.S. culture. Nothing here exists outside of racism. Let me repeat: nothing here exists outside the dynamics of racism. Having said this, I also feel it important to say that white people aren’t exactly the problem, though this may sound strange. It is the regulatory ideal of whiteness that strangles all people, except white people stand to benefit disproportionately for assimilating into these ideals. Having had many conversations with both white and mixed-raced people about experiences of race, I’m often baffled by how dismissive many progressive people of color can be when it comes to issues of race. White, as a category of analysis, is an ever-shifting category, with lines drawn and redrawn constantly. There are also huge differences in racial experience, mediated by class, nationality, gender, sexuality, ability, region, and religion. Our impoverished analysis of race has led us to passively absorb tropes of biological determinism that tell us that race is about genetics rather than socialization. Just as all people of color of various identities contain great depths of diversity, so do white people. We need to acknowledge the violent processes that go into teaching white people how to exploit imbalances of power. We need to make space for the rich histories of resistance to racism that have existed within white and European communities for centuries; to ignore these histories is also contributing to a disturbing trend of anti-Semitism that I’ve picked up on in communities of color. We refuse to acknowledge the different ways that Jewish communities live their whiteness – to say that all white/European people are always-only oppressor is to mask rich and complicated legacies of Jewish (and Irish and working class and…) resistance. As a mixed-raced person of Mexican and Irish/Scandinavian (white) descent, I often feel as though I have to leave a part of my family history at the door when I enter into communities of color, especially those who invest a lot of energy in imagining themselves as pure and devoid of the problematic dynamics of oppression. One of the most intense effects of a history of racism is the search for purity – an effect I see reproduced in many progressive communities of color. We cannot grant ourselves the privilege of reactivity if we ever hope for change. Our analyses of white people and culture must become more particular and robust. Reactivity can be a moment to pass through as we come into full consciousness about the devastating effects of racism, as our eyes are opening and we are seeing race for the first time through a critical perspective.

My straight, white, male father used to unknowingly absorb a lot of my frustration with regard to my immediate family’s history of assimilation. I used to blame him in my mind for a lot of the issues that came up in my family, with regard to classed and raced expectations of me, until I realized that my own analysis was so flat that I wasn’t able to acknowledge the ways that living with a family of color as the only white member shifted him in so many crucial ways – I found that I was, in fact, reproducing a denial of agency to myself and my other family members. People of color are often portrayed as passive actors, rather than agents of change. My father has become pleasantly odd through the decades, doing most of the cooking, always offering food to visitors and friends, asking questions of curiosity and humility about my queer/trans life, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the ways that imbalances of power hurt the world (and his children).

Every resistance is colored by the oppression whose conditions it seeks to alter. Black is beautiful. Queers are sexy. Trans people are powerful. These tropes, while serving as forms of resistance, still leave much unquestioned. We are united only by mistreatment and by the complex ways we have internalized mistreatment; alliance ought not be reduced to Facebook debates and comment-policing. Meaningful engagement requires depth of involvement and continued tenure in community spaces. As the phrase “social justice” becomes increasingly trendy, how people understand what constitutes “social” and “justice” becomes evermore problematic as it is stripped of meaning. We have to learn rigor and what it can look like. We must not focus only on that which affirms us. As many queer spaces are predominantly shaped by those who have been socialized female (women, female-assigned-at birth genderqueer and transgender people), we have to contend with an effect of internalized sexism that no longer requires the presence of straight men to function: we demand interpersonal affirmation because we are denied structural approval in so many moments. When we become locked into specific roles, we are unable to be allies. We need to strengthen our communities so we can be allies to one another and to those outside our immediate circles.

I do not perceive much humility within our communities, beyond self-labeling as such. One result of our oppression as queer people, people of color, and trans people is that we are given the binary option of being a know-nothing or a know-it-all; by this, I mean that in a world that recognizes intellectual posturing as a form of authority, we might not be taken seriously if we demonstrate any admission of partial knowledge. Instead, we flaunt pseudo-knowledge and personal experience as the be-all-end-all. Somewhere along the lines we conflated experience with expertise. While experience and second-hand information can be incredibly useful and powerful, what becomes of us when we try to universalize our experiences inappropriately? It is an act of strength and vulnerability to admit that we are confused, that we don’t know enough, and that we can always push ourselves to be better. If we refuse to fight against class oppression by sidelining issues faced by working class whites, we denigrate the rich history of solidarity between working class whites and people of color. Competing with one another is also a product of internalized oppression – who do we push back on most? How do we engage people across difference? Call-out culture borders on verbal abuse – how do we become strong enough to be hospitable and patient? The violence of conditioning people into different groups is a form of violence that begins when we are all small children and have no say over who influences our perspectives. We must keep this in mind and we must assume that everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have been given – our job is to pay attention to what keeps information away from groups of people and to how we can build relationships to gain the entitlement to push back on all the -isms that come up. We must do all of this while holding ourselves accountable to the -isms that largely go unquestioned in meaningful ways in our own lives.

Drawing binary oppositions (POC/white, black/white, straight/queer, etc.) and focusing energy and attention on white people and all the ways they fuck up distracts us from the work we need to do in so many moments. It is also draining. The hardest thing for us to accept is that white people as individuals do not oppress us, but that structural racism positions people across imbalances of power to enact mistreatment on others. Internalized racism makes it so that we cannot be strategic about how we respond to racism when it shows up interpersonally, so we rage against each white person as if they are the whole structure of racism, freezing both white people and ourselves (people of color) in place. We also need to understand that constructs of race in the United States are particular to this time and place and that what constitutes a white person in San Francisco is different from a white person in the North East United States or a white person in the South or in England or South Africa and so on. Gaining an international perspective will help us think more critically about how race functions here in the U.S.

If we want to study race to gain a nuanced critique of racism, we have to include white people, both as agents of change and as a historical category of study. If we study any group of people, we are bound to find out that there are always margins. Who lives in the margins of whiteness? Might we consider them friends? What has allowed for the flattening of our analyses of white people? Returning to my initial point about pop culture criticism, I would like to emphasize that we can’t allow mainstream representations to shape our politics of dissent because this further perpetuates black/white binaries, which has been a part of racial discourse in this country for at least 400 years. Perhaps now there have been some shifts in more progressive spaces to nominally expand this to a people of color/white binary, but the binary dominates the discourse of race nonetheless. If pop culture analysis is scholarship, I am hesitant to think about what this says about rigor and depth within critical academic thought. Our relationship to easily accessible material lends itself to reactivity, as we are not choosing our own subjects of inquiry outside of market demands; we know that popular culture (including most online news sources) cater to profitability. If the dominant forces are providing us with the majority of our material to critique, they are essentially formulating our resistance for us. Until we learn how to cultivate more capacities around creative interventions and alliances with regard to race, our ability to name racist problematics will never intervene on the devastating effects of structural and institutional racism on our communities.

266 notes

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Black and Native American Women


Essay by a Gradient Lair guest writer, Lauren Chief Elk:

Black and Native American women experience the highest rates of violence. It has been largely researched and reported that the number one cause of death for both Black and Native women is murder. In the current mainstream conversation it’s important to have awareness of current rates of violence but also important to acknowledge the history of violence against Black and Native women. Violence against Black and Native women is historically a form of terror perpetrated by White men against both of our communities, and the sexual and physical abuse of Black and Native women was legal (1). Violence against Black and Native women was and is a pillar of both ongoing genocide and slavery. Both Black and Native American women face difficulties with the legal system. Many scholars, activists, and victim advocates have long discussed state and colonial violence against women of color, and the legal system reflects and reinforces that. This is directly a symptom of ongoing genocide and violence against our bodies not considered illegal. 

It is difficult to be expected to report incidences of partner violence when police respond with dual arrests of victim and perpetrator as mandatory arrest laws have led to significant incarceration of brown and Black women who are victims of violence. There is also the threat of police officers assaulting us directly, even in the name of public safety (2). We live in a society that constantly tells us to just fight back or self- defend, but as cases like that of Marissa Alexander and as Project Nia points out, we have no selves to defend and are again criminalized (3). We also have to remember that in many places domestic violence is considered a crime against the State, not the person. This means the person who has been assaulted does not have the power to press charges—that decision depends on whether or not police considers your case worthy of building and whether the prosecutor considers charges worthy. In addition to domestic violence being a crime against the State, it is only a crime if the abuse fits the legal definition of violence. Law enforcement is predominantly looking for immediate signs of a physical attack, and in a lot of situations, signs of violence aren’t immediately available. With the idea that Black and Native women are “unrapeable” (courtesy of stereotypes and myths about sexualities) and are immune to violence (not considered women) complaints of domestic violence are taken even less seriously. It is very clear that Black and Native women are deemed not worthy of equal rights and protections and this is proven by lack of prosecution (and reporting) for women of color.  

This year the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized but not without huge pushback from many of our senators and representatives. A piece of legislation that has always been easily reauthorized took over 500 days for our government to pass because of the new provisions in the bill for Native American women who reside on reservations. At one point during the VAWA floor debates Representative Gwen Moore invoked Sojourner Truth’s extraordinary “Ain’t I A Woman” speech to address Native women. She asked our Congress, “Don’t women on tribal lands deserve the constitutional right of equal protection and not to be raped, and battered, and beaten…ain’t they women?!” (4) She asked this, and many of our Congresspersons responded with a resounding “No.” (5)

The mainstream anti-violence movement is still heavily invested in protecting white-womanhood. This is evident by things like “teach men not to rape” without acknowledging racism and colonialism. There is no part in this education that says “teach men not to rape Native American women, because they’re most likely to be sexually assaulted than anyone else, particularly by [white] men.” (6) It is also evident that the anti-violence movement that is pushed by mainstream feminism is not concerned with Black and Native women’s historical or current relationship with the legal system. VDay and Eve Ensler (7) who are famously lauded as the leaders of the feminist anti-violence movement have decided that February 14, 2014 will be the global day to report your assault, as if Black and Native women can just simply do that. In May, Ensler stated, “We are asking women who have been attacked to file charges” at an event in Philadelphia. First of all, Pennsylvania (the state where she made this grand announcement) is a place where domestic violence is a crime against the State, and as mentioned earlier, this means you do not have the discretion to file charges, it is up to the prosecutor. Secondly, the constant push for criminalization as the only solution to violence demonstrates the total lack of concern for Black and Native women who are victims. But when you’re still predominantly concerned with protecting white-womanhood, these issues can be easily dismissed.

Although the state and mainstream anti-violence movements are mostly invested in protecting white womanhood (this is evident by who gets laws passed based on their experiences, campaigns in their honor, funding for services, etc.) there are instances where society has enacted positive changes for victims of violence that was not based in that. In 2007, a transgender woman of color named Ruby Ordenana was raped and murdered in San Francisco. Her rape kit was not processed until two years later; it was only after that in which her attack was linked to the assaults of other trans women by a man who was serially assaulting them. After the man was convicted the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a new law that mandates rape kits must be picked up by authorities within 72 hours of being collected and processed within 14 days (8). As part of this new law San Francisco also established the Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights which says law enforcement officials have to notify victims with specific information, and victims have the right to obtain information about their rape kit and case. Based on the collective need to protect and honor the humanity of trans women of color, San Francisco’s groundbreaking law has now become a model statute for the rest of the country. This law is revolutionary because in at least one area of law enforcement, officials can’t toss the experiences and humanity of women of color aside, but because of this fact, the law and foundation of this law have seldom been acknowledged in any areas of feminism, including by those involved in the anti-violence movement. 

With our tanked economy and federal and state governments constantly cutting funding for social programs (with program funds to combat violence against women being one of the first things cut), it is increasingly important for us to create and support our own community initiatives - initiatives that address current and historical trauma. Save Wiyabi Project’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month image series focused on simple ways to support people who have been abused because we are constantly concerned with community and individual accountability in violence. We have to deconstruct our situations, hold ourselves accountable, and mend our own communities. Restorative justice doesn’t just mean restoring the individual, it means restoring everyone. Other groups like the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (9) constantly work to dismantle systems of oppression and cultivate solutions applicable to Black and Native women, including trans women. Look to who is already doing the work for support and guidance and assist in figuring out how to further expand it. 


  1. Sexual Assault and Women of Color, At The Dark End of The Street
  2. Stop-and-Frisk: Women Who Are Stopped Feel Deeper Embarrassment
  3. Project Nia: “No Selves To Defend”
  4. Gwen Moore (video)
  5. VAWA and Native women
  6. Amensty International - Maze of Injustice
  7. VDay/Eve Ensler
  8. San Francisco/rape kit law
  9. INCITE!


Lauren Chief Elk (Nakoda/Blackfeet) is the co-founder of Save Wiyabi Project (@SaveWiyabi), an advocacy group that addresses interpersonal violence in Indigenous communities. She is a long time victim advocate, community organizer, and educator on relationship and sexual violence. You can find her ranting on Twitter at @ChiefElk.


Related Posts: Black Men’s Abuse of Black Women and A Call For Radical Love (Or At Least A Truce)Black Women and Domestic Violence (Awareness Month)

307 notes

Advice to a Trauma Survivor - Tara Hardy


Let the hinges wiggle
out of their holes. Strip

wood with your twisting. Honor
maggots, but not flies. Twist

tie everything you own
to everything you own. Elbow

to bicep. Torso to sternum. Faith
to the back of your hand. Slap

someone with the back of
your hand. Hold court with

no one watching but every
single one of your selves,

especially the runt. And her
little sister. Carry packages

over the river above your head,
even if reassured

they’re water proof.
There are always leeches.

Carry salt. Salt their wicked
blind bodies. Use a match.

Careful not to burn your
fingers. But if you burn, relish.

Pain will make you pure
again. Talk into canisters

attached to strings, leading
to empty cans

of pumpkin in the ears of
your demons. Tell them

to slow down. Everyone needs
a vacation. To refresh

for life’s purpose.
Tell a story to your littlest

demon. Rock her on your
knee. Whisper mosquito

sonnets into her coiled leaf
bones. When she falls into a deep

slumber, return her to her pride.
Even demons need their beauty

sleep. Feed yourself
like a mother bird

feeds her young.
Because the second time

around you might be able
to digest what you tell yourself.

Screw wheels
to the bottoms

of everything. Even
your knees. Even your hinges: don’t tell them
                              they aren’t bolts
                              no one likes to
                              hear about that

sort of thing. Cover
your calluses. Toil.

No one should see you
work this hard to remain

vertical. Without chemical.
Repeat yourself

in list form. Drop
yourself in the grocery.

Someone will find you
and maybe rescue herself.

(Source: caprinocultura, via caprinocultura)

52 notes


“‘Dennis,’ I respond, ‘why does the survivor stay?’
‘The survivor stays because the abuser creates a story that supports her own actions and which tells the survivor, ‘this is the only way it can be, this is the only way it has ever been.’ The abuse is always rationalized and is never called by its true name, abuse, but is instead called ‘an accident,’ or ‘something you deserved,’ or simply, ‘normal life.’ By creating this narrative and holding it in place, the abuser eliminates all other options, all other ways of being, of living.
The survivor stays in the relationship, clings to it, for the same reason people participate in the wage economy: because according to the narrative of those in power, there is no other choice. It’s the story of this entire culture.’”

entropy, peregrine

(via brujacore)

72 notes

"I have noticed that whenever you have soldiers in the story it is called history. Before their arrival it is called myth, folktale, legend, fairy tale, oral poetry, ethnography. After the soldiers arrive, it is called history."

Paula Gunn Allen, American Indian Writier (via poppascrew)

Soldiers, bishops, generals, kings, and other assorted stuffy white men badly in need of a bath — that’s what white people call history, friends.

(via zuky)

(via zuky)

3,531 notes

the annoying thing about self-care

there are a lot of criticisms to be made of self-care rhetoric but one thing that really annoys me is how so often it’s phrased as “do what you need to do to take care of yourself” as if that doesn’t mean we’re going to go just get drunk or lay in bed for five hours do some other thing to bury our feelings or that will make us feel even more like shit when we’re triggered. I mean, I’m not saying this to judge those behaviors, but people throw around the term self-care as if we’re going to even know what the fuck that means. like, we’ve all been schooled under this capitalist heteropatriachal kyriarchy (yes, that’s a bit tongue in cheek), and so we’re not actually going to automatically and intuitively know healthy ways of maintaing balance, feeling our feelings, setting boundaries, or releasing heavy shit. especially when trauma histories are involved (and even when they’re not) we’ve learned really maladaptive and dysfunctional ways of coping and surviving and it takes time to actually build real tools for self-care. I always felt so perplexed when people would say things like “you can leave if you need to” or “please take care of yourself” because it always seemed so vague; like, leave and go do what? I get that people are worried that people will feel obligated to stay in a triggering space and they’re basically saying that people shouldn’t feel that obligation, but that’s not self-care, that’s like the most rudimentary of reminders that people can have boundaries. if we’re going to acknowledge that self-care is a real skill and practice that we don’t just intuitively have, then we need to support people in actually learning those practices… I think that’s part of what made self-care feel like a really privileged white people thing to me, too. I really don’t think that it inherently is (though certainly privilege is what impacts peoples’ access to the time and energy to think about things like self care) but I do think that people with more privilege and people who aren’t abuse survivors tend to have way more of an intuitive understanding of “how to take care of themselves” because they’re more likely to have been taught and encouraged to do those things, and to recognize their own needs, growing up. that’s not a bad thing at all, but there needs to be more broad support in learning and developing those tools instead of just assuming people have them.

I guess what I would really like to see in self-care work is for people to actually start collectively sharing and teaching real concrete tools of self-care. like teaching workshops on what self-care actually is and what it looks like concretely, how we practice it, different ways of doing it, instead of throwing it around without ever acknowledging that people might not know (and I don’t mean intellectually know, but I mean intuitively feel) what the hell it means.
I went to a Dori Midnight self-care workshop and it was fucking awesome because it was basically like 2 hours of guided meditation with a few herbal things and discussions thrown in. But basically it was like, “ok, let’s just do this shit.” Saying that you want people to do self-care as an organization, workplace, collective, whatever, doesn’t actually mean anything if you don’t create some space for people to do that work together. That means things like making sure that people who do crisis and trauma work have adequate spaces built into the organization to debrief and get support around their secondary trauma. Or like incorporating guided meditation, dance, art, writing, whatever forms of healing/releasing/expressing/spiritual work jives the best for your group - incorporating that shit into your meetings, or the workplace or whatever. it doesn’t mean anything if you make it a homework assignment that people can’t even comprehend half the time, and that they have to somehow motivate to do themselves while alone at home.
It’s funny, I started to really hate the term self-care because I saw it being sort of misappropriated and abused and thrown around in these really unaccountable ways, where people would just use it to justify behaviors of avoidance, or not being properly accountable to their committments or to other people. The thing is though, of course self-care is used as a justification for peoples’ unaccountable behaviors when we aren’t even showing people what self-care is; of course we’re going to fit it into the existing frameworks we have of of our emotional realities, and if we’re already operating consistently in certain dysfunctional or unhealthy patterns than inevitably our interpretation of “self-care” is going to express itself that way too. It’s taken me years of being around self-care rhetoric to even start noticing when I want to say no to something, let alone choosing to do so. I think that there is a lot there that is really valuable - I come from a background of getting some support from self-help groups like codependents anonymous and I have a lot of respect for the internal and emotional work that people do (and that I have done) in order to understand the importance of things like healthy boundaries in our lives. But I think it’s precisely because I’ve engaged with this work that the way that self-care rhetoric is carelessly thrown around annoys me. I mean, people spend years in 12-step groups or in therapy or whatever in order to figure out what the hell boundaries even are.
 I used to see lists of “self-care ideas” and it never really made sense to me, like, the last thing I’m going to do when I feel like shit is something proactive that will make me feel better. when people say “do what you need to do to take care of yourself”, they never suggest laying in bed for hours staring at your alarm clock because you’re too anxious to get out of bed or attempt to do ANYTHING when in reality, that’s the kind of stuff that happens when people don’t have tools. the last thing I’m gonna do when I hate myself or feel overwhelmed is like, get up and take a bath, or knit myself a scarf while drinking herbal tea.
I’ve seen some really good posts about self-care floating around the internet before, like: 21 tips to keep your shit together when you’re depressed and actual forms of “self care”  and this post and this and how to take care of yourself while learning about oppression, to name a few. 
anyway, here I am just talking shit, but the reason why I wrote this in the first place was because one really concrete thing that I wish I’d see more of is actual support in learning concrete self-care skills and strategies. let’s have more workshops where we do guided meditation, or learn how to use acupressure when we’re feeling overwhelmed, or practice coming up with rituals, or talk about why ritual is important. let’s read each others’ tarot cards, let’s go on runs together, let’s break up the 2-hour meeting with a high-energy game in the middle, let’s dance and sing songs, let’s have really real and honest conversations about boundaries and needs, let’s actually create structures to make sure that people have enough avenues and resources to grow in the realm of personal and self-care work. let’s introduce people to co-counseling, or support groups, or 12-step groups; let’s read literature from those groups when they are relevant to us or people around us. and especially let’s integrate it into our other kinds of work instead of compartmentalizing it as the thing that we vaguely tell people to do at home once they leave the meeting/workplace/etc.
I’ve been realizing recently that I feel really drawn to healing work, and I mean that really holistically in that it includes everything from medical practices to body work to supporting creative expression to counseling and trauma work to rehab to liberatory education models to just meeting peoples’ basic needs for food or shelter. like, it’s super broad but to me, healing work at its core is really about anything that helps to sustain, feed, and expand our resiliancy emotionally, spiritually and physically. and if we really honor self-care as a piece of healing work, I think we have to think of it as a really serious and broad set of skills, strategies, tools, rituals, practices, philosophies, and insights that we have to dedicate real time and energy towards building. collectively!
210 notes

Dear Younger Lili,


"You get proud by practicing…" - Laura Hershey

Some days you would tell them, the kids on the playground,  you were born different. Some days you would say you were just like them but needed a little help. Some of the time it felt real to say that your legs were broken and would never get better. Eight years old and you were into complexity. Not a bad start I would say. The only requirement was that you told these stories yourself because it was the only way.

That time on your first day of middle school when you visited the second grade classroom and the boy took one look at you and dived underneath a bookcase, I’m sorry about that. You did a really good job luring him out with your warm smile and kindness, but it was totally reasonable for you to wonder when it was that you entered the business of assauging discomfort and why it is that you got so good at it. You were born into a world where disabled people were and are doing battle against an image of ourselves that was unthinkably negative and devaluing. I have learned about, indeed I have felt in myself, the sense of urgency that this instills. I sometimes scathingly refer to this as “operation overcompensation.” And it is unfair and it has done harm particularly, I think, to the disabled women of our generation. None of that is to undermine the horror of what people before us have experienced. I try to think a little bit everyday about the fact that I live at home with my family most of the time. When I’m not home I’m at school. These simple facts make me (us) different from most people before us. But in our efforts to prove ourselves, let’s try, not to lose our richness. 

One time I was at a scooter demo with my mom and I met the first person ever who I consciously perceived as being a disabled activist. She told me that what her organization did was to raise hell until everything got better. I admired the sentiment, but could feel innately that that is not what I believed in. I do not eat nails for breakfast and I do not raise hell. I value nuance and complexity more that I value hard hitters. This realization evoked in me a good deal of self-loathing. I would lie in bed at night wondering if I would end up on the right side of history or have the courage to help my community. This, I’m sorry to say, is what you have to look forward to. 

What I think now is this: the movement takes all types and who you are is valuable. I think the work of that movement is not to take an extremely negative narrative and flip it positive. It’s to challenge all narratives that make disabled lives seem simple. You are not worthless and you are also not a hero (yet), live rich and live messy (a concept I took from Harriet McBride Johnson—read her!) and you are doing the work of disability rights activism. That and tell your story 

Part of what this means is that just as you question the systems that kept disabled people down, question the ones that govern the way we pull ourselves back up. Think about what it means to overcome disability, and how if we do maybe something gets lost. I promise that this way you will start to develop some pride in who you are. Also, think about how the narrative of overcoming compounds the stigma on people who can’t function within it. Think about how ideas about success are reinforced by societal forces bigger than any of us and that they leave people behind sometimes. 

You need to know that understanding complexity doesn’t have to mean lacking moral grit. It just means being generous to people until you can’t be anymore. Like that time when the accessible theater led you through a garbage dump for the privilege of riding up their freight elevator, maybe we should have left that theater. Maybe equal access concerns are not segregation, but they are not ok either. So challenge yourself to navigate that thoughtfully. 

Figuring things out is really a life-long process. Feel the urgency, don’t let it take your pride. I am writing to you from a place of hope still to come. 
-  Lili

44 notes

nothingness: is the emperor wearing no clothes or is she just wearing invisible body armor?



The following essay was initially published in Hoax #6 and was written back in 2011. I re-read it yesterday evening for the first time in over a year. I am usually opposed to publishing zine material on blogs, however this shit is way too relevant…

holy shit, andrea smith’s article “the problem with ‘privilege’” is full of truth-bombs and incredibly relevant to this discussion. Some quotes below, but read the whole thing:

In my experience working with a multitude of anti-racist organizing projects over the years, I frequently found myself participating in various workshops in which participants were asked to reflect on their gender/race/sexuality/class/etc. privilege.  These workshops had a bit of a self-help orientation to them: “I am so and so, and I have x privilege.”  It was never quite clear what the point of these confessions were.  It was not as if other participants did not know the confessor in question had her/his proclaimed privilege.   It did not appear that these individual confessions actually led to any political projects to dismantle the structures of domination that enabled their privilege.  Rather, the confessions became the political project themselves.    The benefits of these confessions seemed to be ephemeral.  For the instant the confession took place, those who do not have that privilege in daily life would have a temporary position of power as the hearer of the confession who could grant absolution and forgiveness.  The sayer of the confession could then be granted temporary forgiveness for her/his abuses of power and relief from white/male/heterosexual/etc guilt.   Because of the perceived benefits of this ritual, there was generally little critique of the fact that in the end, it primarily served to reinstantiate the structures of domination it was supposed to resist.  One of the reasons there was little critique of this practice is that it bestowed cultural capital to those who seemed to be the “most oppressed.”  Those who had little privilege did not have to confess and were in the position to be the judge of those who did have privilege.  Consequently, people aspired to be oppressed.  Inevitably, those with more privilege would develop new heretofore unknown forms of oppression from which they suffered.  “I may be white, but my best friend was a person of color, which caused me to be oppressed when we played together.”  Consequently, the goal became not to actually end oppression but to be as oppressed as possible.  These rituals often substituted confession for political movement-building.  And despite the cultural capital that was, at least temporarily, bestowed to those who seemed to be the most oppressed, these rituals ultimately reinstantiated the white majority subject as the subject capable of self-reflexivity and the colonized/racialized subject as the occasion for self-reflexivity.

These rituals around self-reflexivity in the academy and in activist circles are not without merit.   They are informed by key insights into how the logics of domination that structure the world also constitute who we are as subjects.    Political projects of transformation necessarily involve a fundamental reconstitution of ourselves as well.  However, for this process to work, individual transformation must occur concurrently with social and political transformation.   That is, the undoing of privilege occurs not by individuals confessing their privileges or trying to think themselves into a new subject position, but through the creation of collective structures that dismantle the systems that enable these privileges.  The activist genealogies that produced this response to racism and settler colonialism were not initially focused on racism as a problem of individual prejudice.  Rather, the purpose was for individuals to recognize how they were shaped by structural forms of oppression.  However, the response to structural racism became an individual one – individual confession at the expense of collective action.  Thus the question becomes, how would one collectivize individual transformation? 


Native peoples are not positioned as those who can engage in self-reflection; they can only judge the worth of the confession.  Consequently, the presenters of these narratives often present very nervously.  Did they speak to all their privileges? Did they properly confess?  Or will someone in the audience notice a mistake and question whether they have in fact become a fully-developed anti-racist subject?  In that case, the subject would have to then engage in further acts of self-reflection that require new confessions in the future.

Thus, borrowing from the work of Scott Morgensen and Hiram Perez, the confession of privilege, while claiming to be anti-racist and anti-colonial, is actually a strategy that helps constitute the settler/white subject.   In Morgensen’s analysis, the settler subject constitutes itself through incorporation.  Through this logic of settlement, settlers become the rightful inheritors of all that was indigenous – land, resources, indigenous spirituality, or culture.  Thus, indigeneity is not necessarily framed as antagonistic to the settler subject; rather the Native is supposed to disappear into the project of settlement.  The settler becomes the “new and improved” version of the Native, thus legitimizing and naturalizing the settler’s claims to this land.

Hiram Perez similarly analyzes how the white subject positions itself intellectually as a cosmopolitan subject capable of abstract theorizing through the use of the “raw material” provided by fixed, brown bodies.  The white subject is capable of being “anti-“ or “post-identity,” but understands their post-identity only in relationship to brown subjects which are hopelessly fixed within identity.   Brown peoples provide the “raw material” that enables the intellectual production of the white subject.

Thus, self-reflexivity enables the constitution of the white/settler subject.  Anti-racist/colonial struggles have created a colonial dis-ease that the settler/white subject may not in fact be self-determining.  As a result, the white/settler subject reasserts their power through self-reflection.  In particular, indigenous peoples and people of color become the occasion by which the white subject can self-reflect on her/his privilege.  If this person self-reflects effectively, s/he may be bestowed the title “ally” and build a career of her/his self-reflection.  As many on the blogosphere have been commenting recently (see for instance @prisonculture and @ChiefElk), an entire ally industrial complex has developed around the professional confession of privilege.

Of course, this essay itself does not escape the logics of self-reflexivity either.  Rhetorically, it simply sets me up as yet another judge of the inadequacies of the confessions of others.  Thus, what is important in this discussion is not so much how particular individuals confess their privileges. If Native peoples are represented problematically even by peoples who espouse anti-racist or anti-settler politics, it is not an indication that the work of those peoples is particularly flawed or that their scholarship has less value.  Similarly, those privileged “confessing” subjects in anti-racism workshops do so with a commitment to fighting settler colonialism or white supremacy and their solidarity work is critically needed.  Furthermore, as women of color scholars and activists have noted, there is no sharp divide between those who are “oppressed” and those who are “oppressors.”  Individuals may find themselves variously in the position of being the confessor or the judge of the confession depending on the context.  Rather, the point of this analysis is to illustrate the larger dynamics by which racialized and colonized peoples are even seen and understood in the first place…


By contrast, instead of thinking of safe spaces as a refuge from colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, Ruthie Gilmore suggests that safe space is not an escape from the real, but a place to practice the real we want to bring into being.  “Making power” models follow this suggestion in that they do not purport to be free of oppression, only that they are trying to create the world they would like to live in now.   To give one smaller example, when Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, organized, we questioned the assumption that “women of color” space is a safe space.  In fact, participants began to articulate that women of color space may in fact be a very dangerous space.  We realized that we could not assume alliances with each other, but we would actually have to create these alliances.  One strategy that was helpful was rather than presume that we were acting “non-oppressively,” we built a structure that would presume that we were complicit in the structures of white supremacy/settler colonialism/heteropatriarchy etc.  We then structured this presumption into our organizing by creating spaces where we would educate ourselves on issues in which our politics and praxis were particularly problematic.  The issues we have covered include: disability, anti-Black racism, settler colonialism, Zionism and anti-Arab racism, transphobia, and many others.  However, in this space, while we did not ignore our individual complicity in oppression, we developed action plans for how we would collectively try to transform our politics and praxis.   Thus, this space did not create the dynamic of the confessor and the hearer of the confession.  Instead, we presumed we are all implicated in these structures of oppression and that we would need to work together to undo them.  Consequently, in my experience, this kind of space facilitated our ability to integrate personal and social transformation because no one had to anxiously worry about whether they were going to be targeted as a bad person with undue privilege who would need to publicly confess.    The space became one that was based on principles of loving rather than punitive accountability.

(Source: ineffable-she, via ineffable-she)

82 notes

I’m so into platonic love triangles right now. overlapping close friends, shared histories, and being close with ex-couples who are still close with each other.

2 notes


one of the transformative pieces from the past 5 years is coming to understand how drugs and alcohol are at times what keeps people alive. because it is true, it was true for me until it stopped working. the thing about sobriety is that it isn’t for everyone although i do believe that more conversations about decentering alcohol and drug use from our communities is crucial if we want recovering addicts and alcoholics to survive. 

xx fabian

yea, I remember the one piece from a harm reduction workshop I went to years ago that really stuck with me was when they were saying that part of harm reduction philosophy is respecting that the person is sometimes making the best choice for themselves that they can at that time. or, as the radical/peer mental health center in my area always says, “it works until it doesn’t.” I think particularly when it comes to addiction & trauma, going through periods of self-harm/self-destructive behavior often seems like a necessary stage of the healing process, and it really doensn’t feel like there is enough acknowledgement of that while simultaneously creating space & resources & support for people who want to move towards sobriety/other strategies for healing, too, when they’re ready.

(via fabianromero2013-deactivated201)

132 notes

So one of the jurors got a book deal.


more details about the book deal here 

oh my god, this is beyond disgusting.

(Source: luckythinks91)

251 notes


Instead of saying “I am Trayvon Martin” it would do more good for white people [and non-Black people] in solidarity with the Trayvon Martin case to recognize all the ways they are Zimmerman.

As in, if you live in a “safe” suburban or gated community that is mostly white and that is considered a “good” neighborhood because it excludes people of colour [especially excluding Black people] then you benefit from the same conditions that created Zimmerman.

If you benefit from “police protection” to your property that depends on racial profiling of people of colour [especially Black people] and brutality towards them then you take part in the same systems that create Zimmerman.

If you have the racial privilege to work, move, live in mostly white spaces and have limited contact with… [Black people], particularly “low income” …[Black people], then you live with the same social and economic policies of casual segregation that create Zimmerman.

It’s good that people recognize the injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death, but if that recognition is not accompanied by the work to recognize and undo the systematic economic, social, educational and employment policies that create neighborhoods where Black people are seen as threatening trespassers - and how people benefit from this racial privilege - then no true anti-racist work can occur.

Nobody wants to say “I am Zimmerman” but until we recognize how Zimmerman reflects institutionalized racism there will continue to be more Trayvons.


El Jones (via writeswrongs)

7,297 notes


The Trayvon Martin rally in NYC marched 30 blocks to Times Square

Thousands have now shut down Time Square staging a massive sit-in. Traffic stopped; no arrests so far.

(via mermaidheartsongs)

44,198 notes