Brain Gardening

The Politics of Relationships

bogolis

Storks grazing in suburbs. I want to be a stork. Or perhaps I just don’t like my life right now.

CW: not for little kids

This is going to be some weird shit. I’m fucking a white boy, and you know shit is always weird when I’m fucking a white boy.

Probably not surprisingly, lately, I have been contemplating this question. Should I be with a person whom it makes sense to be with politically, or should I date a person who agrees with my politics? Ten times out of nine (Beyonce Carter Knowles, 2016), these two things do not occur simultaneously in the same person.

I’ll explain what I mean by that. I’m a woman of color, right? I try to praxis in a way that centers marginalized folks. However, I’m also educated and upper-middle class. If I was with a person who politically makes sense for me, I’d probably choose a man of color, probably also someone educated and raised upper-middle class, if we’re going with a traditional partnership which my family would find acceptable. If I’m thinking of personal satisfaction in my romantic and sexual partnerships, I could also see myself with an educated woman, most likely of color as well, though class background may vary (in my experience, I seem to get along with women of color across various class backgrounds).

In a strictly political sense, these categories of people make sense for me to partner with. In practice, partnering with people like this is a whole. Other. Experience. I firmly believe that our first experiences with people of a certain identity sort of “stick” in our brains. They create patterns that we fall into again and again, if we are observant enough to notice. The first men of color I ever dated were very abusive people. There was much behavior-monitoring and slut-shaming in those relationships. Since then, I’m not sure I have rationally been able to trust men of color. The ones I am attracted to seem like surprisingly sub-par people, and I suspect these attractions originate from those early abusive relationships, where my brain now has connections between men of color and abuse. Because that is a familiar dynamic, one which I even romanticized, my brain is wired to be romantically attracted to abusive men of color. This is probably a pattern I need to dismantle if I ever hope to be with a man of color.

With women, while the dynamics are certainly less problematic, they seem vastly more nebulous. There were three women in my life that I ever felt attracted to romantically. For the first, I was so puzzled by my feelings that I never told her. She was a kindly mentor sort of person who I greatly admired in high school. She promptly went off to Harvard, never to be heard from again. The second was quite friendly, though she had a boyfriend and I never told her as well. The third is now a good platonic friend of mine, for whom I do not feel romantic attraction any more. I am not certain what kinds of patterns this sets me up for, or if indeed, a pattern is even in place for women I am attracted to.

This brings us to the second part of the question: instead of a person who seems like my political counterpart, what about people who agree with my politics? Let’s examine that, shall we? First off, very few people seem to truly “agree” with how I see the world. The ones who really do are usually my good platonic friends. I keep those relationships platonic because these people are few and far between, and the relationships are more important to me than some fleeting romantic or sexual experience.

Thus, the options I am left with are varying levels of political compatibility with another person. Even there, the data is somewhat ambiguous, as I have not devised an actual method for measuring how closely my politics align with my romantic partners’. For some problematic reason (and I think this says a lot about how we are conditioned to feel about race in America, as well as how men of different races are conditioned to present themselves as masculine people), the partners I choose are more closely aligned with me around gender politics than around racial politics. This, too, could be inaccurate because I measure the alignment, at least initially, based on what men say, and not always what they do. (The latter usually presents itself later in a relationship, and I find myself disappointed more often than not). Perhaps not surprisingly (again), this means a lot of white men. I speak entirely from experience when I say, the white men I have dated are less defensive around topics of gender. Frequently, they will agree with me about the circumstances of women. Men of color, at least the ones I have been with, are surprisingly resistant to talking about gender. I don’t think this means that men of color cannot be trusted to talk about gender, but it certainly says a lot about intersections of race and gender. I think men of color are usually so targeted with racism that to have to admit they actually have a kind of power in gender structures is actually threatening. After all, it must be confusing to be both targeted and have power. Theorists like Kimberle Crenshaw, bell hooks, and Patricia Hill Collins do a much better job than I do talking about why this occurs. There are a great number of social and political factors that make men of color defensive. I don’t have much to say on the subject besides, it sucks that these systems take so long to dismantle. It really does.

Anyway, after being told in a rather roundabout fashion by said white boy who I’m fucking that he cares more about the white women in his life than he does about me, I promptly find myself running out of faith in romance once again. I feel I have been swindled again, as I always am, and I become progressively cynical, deadened, hopeless. Stubbornly unwilling. I suppose this wheel grinds rather slowly. Just as I gradually discover what I will not tolerate in a professional setting, and what I am willing to suffer for, it seems that my romantic life must follow the same path. Though, uh, I think in the professional sense, I am the more willing creature. I have discovered I would much rather be in a bad job than in a bad relationship. At least a bad job still pays. A bad relationship is just a lot of bad memories clogging the sacred inner world.

Self Affirmation

In the style of Chani Nicholas horoscopes, I am writing a self-affirmation today. I know there are a great number of things I need to let go of before I leave home. It feels like it’s taking forever to move and start at my new job. I think my greatest weakness is not actually transitions, but waiting. Waiting is awful. It fills me with restlessness, knowing that something different is about to begin, but having to go a month or so with nothing to do, waiting for the damn thing to start.

Someone who I trust once told me that in order to move forward, sometimes we must let go of things that weigh us down. Frequently, I find the things I have to leave behind are actually things I hold quite dear. Without further ado, though, I give myself permission to let go of them.

I give myself permission to not ask permission. I give myself permission to do whatever I damn well please and to not feel guilty for doing so. I take the wheel in the car of my life. I direct myself to where I need to go and what I need to do because I know myself better than anyone else. If this means I spend money and indulge myself, I permit it. If this means I give myself pleasure and feel good in my own body, I permit it. If this means I eat all the sweetest, the saltiest, and the most savory things I can find, I permit it. If this means I do nothing but watch shows on Netflix, listen to music, or read novels for hours on end, I permit it. I will not feel bad giving myself the things I want and need. I will not feel bad treating myself like a whole, complete, feeling, thinking human being, and this includes giving my body a rest, giving my mind a rest, and feeling worthy of the gifts I give myself.

I give myself permission to not meet other people’s expectations. How I measure up in other people’s eyes means nothing if I do not meet the expectations I set for myself. The only expectation I give myself is to live life fully, to enjoy every minute. I promise myself that I will pursue the things that give me peace. Money is meaningless, time is meaningless, admiration from others is meaningless if I do not fulfill myself. Thus, I promise myself that I will walk in green places, that I will admire every tree and flower I come across because this reminds me that I am alive. I will wear clothes that I am comfortable in to remind myself that I have never been more beautiful, more attractive, or sexier than I am at this very second. I will cultivate relationships with people that are meaningful to me, regardless of what others may think of the people I maintain those relationships with. I will give myself fully to their brilliance, have faith in their judgment, and give them my utmost loyalty because they have done the same for me, and because society does not always deem worthy the people who deserve the most. I will go to places that feed my sense of adventure, places that intrigue me and fill me with a sense of wonder. I will go to the places that feed my soul. I will go where I can see the stars at night, where I can find the histories that are not told, where I can find artists like me, where I can hear the rain and feel the sun, and not just in 30-minute, pre-determined break periods.

I give myself permission to let some relationships lapse so that newer, healthier ones can grow. I give myself permission to let some relationships change. I will let go of the people who do not listen to me, who are not aware of my intelligence, and who are not capable of understanding how their actions impact me. I will let go of the judgment people throw at me for being so willing to let go of harmful relationships. Other people do not know me the way I do; they do not know what is good for me the way I do. It is not my responsibility to change people who are toxic. It is also not my responsibility to maintain relationships where there are obvious inequalities in feelings or investment in the relationship. Furthermore, I will learn to navigate the changes that come in relationships. I will learn to accept the things people I love do to survive, even though I think they deserve better. Just as they have no right to tell me what to do, I have no right to tell them how to live their lives. I will learn to accept that people I love might keep secrets from me. When they want to, they will tell me in due course. I will learn to accept that people I love may feel joy in different things than I do. It is not my place to judge them for what brings them joy. I will learn to accept that people I love may receive things that I myself want. It is not my place to covet them because I have so much to celebrate myself, and my time will come in due course.

I give myself permission to change my narrative. I give myself permission to ask for what I want from people. I give myself permission to change my environment to suit my needs. I give myself permission to feel the things I feel fully and without conditions because no one should feel shame for having feelings. I ground myself in the things that make me feel sure of myself, so that I may reach for things I never dreamed could be mine.

 

The Phantom, Heart-Draining Menace

bc

*This post is shaped by my ace cis femme brown woman lens

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m looking next to me at (among the rest of the detritus on my desk) a pack of birth control pills. There are two sugar pills left in this month, and then I’m supposed to start a new pack, but most likely, I will not. The new box of pills is small, green and unopened, and sits next to the current pack. My logic is that it will come in handy later if I find occasion to use it before July 2018, when it expires. Fat chance of that happening, though.

A good friend of mine recently told me about this really good sexual experience she had. It sounded to me like it was good because the two people involved actually asked each other what they like, and they did things with each other that they both enjoyed. I was happy for her because this friend hasn’t always had great experiences where sex is involved, and I was glad that this experience went well.

But sometimes, being happy for someone else doesn’t always mean you are happy yourself.

I think, to my great embarrassment, I have to admit that I’m jealous. Which, for me, is shocking because I actually don’t experience being jealous too frequently. Stupid people I know think they can tell when I’m jealous, but they are usually just misinterpreting my anger or sadness. I am jealous so infrequently that I think I can actually remember every single time I have ever been jealous and why I felt the way I did.

It’s not that I’m jealous of my friend, or of the person she had sex with. No, I’m jealous because they got to have that conversation that I have been waiting to have for what feels like eons–the one where someone asks me what I want. You know, without expecting anything in return.

God, it feels good to admit that.

Because now that I have, it’s pretty obvious that the problem is not between me and my friend, but has everything to do with patriarchy.

If I am being honest, at the age of 25, I have never had a sexual interaction in which I did not feel as though I was shortchanged. As I have only ever had sex with heterosexual, cisgender men, this may come as no surprise (at least, it doesn’t to me). Even when sex was consensual (because there are times when I did not consent, but I’m not talking about those), I found myself going through the motions more so to please my partner than out of enjoyment. And I do not think I ever felt as though my partners wanted to give me pleasure. The things my heterosexual, cisgender partners would claim they “gave” me were always conditional; I was expected to give what felt like far more than what I was given in return.

At this point, I have to admit, that sounds, uh, sad. It does, it sounds rather sad, even to me, which I don’t like to admit because I don’t like to think of my life as “sad”. I think it is hard sometimes, and certainly not perfect, but definitely not “sad”. And if this is what all of my sexual experiences amount to, well, clearly something needs to change.

Maybe the sadness comes from shame, which is not logical. This is not an uncommon narrative. I know because other women have written about this same experience again and again. What is it about a patriarchal society that forces women to have to accept really sad sexual experiences? Isn’t that pathetic? We live in a world where, if you are a cisgender, heterosexual woman, you can more or less expect to feel emotionally drained, empty, and hollow after sex.

To preface this next statement, I have nothing against women who have sex with no emotional attachment. If I was capable of doing that, I would. It would make my life so much easier, not to have to think of my past relationships feeling, at best, like I was used as a sex object, and at worst, like I would like to do some really vindictive things to get back at these men. I think it’s really problematic that I have always given both physical and emotional affection in a relationship, and I have only ever received one of the two when I have always wanted both.

This realization has suddenly forced me to contend with how much I value my own heart. How many times has RuPaul told us that if we can’t love ourselves, how in the hell are we going to love somebody else? How many times did Professor Harris say that if there are too many people draining our love, there will be none for ourselves? How could I have forgotten the first rule of being an empath? Everything I do comes with a side of emotional investment. Every person in my life gets emotional nourishment from me without asking. That is the benefit of being friends with someone like me, and also, that is the thing I have to be most careful of. All of my good friends know this about me, and they also know not to take advantage of me.

So you never know, maybe I will start that second pack of birth control pills. But I feel like the better choice would be to hold myself accountable so that I don’t need them in the first place. I’m a little sad that I live in a world where I have to be this cautious. I wish I could have had a great experience with every partner I had sex with. But the fact is, straight men aren’t expected to be like me at all, and thus are usually incapable of giving me what I need unless I explicitly tell them. I’m waiting for that person who asks, and not just because they want to get into my pants. I’m waiting for the person who is willing to take responsibility for this tender and giving heart that is drained all too easily by careless, unfeeling people.

 

The Waiting Women

20170311_134932

A photograph I took at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It had a courtyard in the center that I liked.

The Waiting Women

The movement has no name, but she has pronouns.
She walks between the living and the dead,
a spectre, hand outstretched to catch the rain.
She is waiting in the corner of a courtyard.
The bottom of her skirt is drenched with mud.

The movement has no age but she has grace,
the messenger between spirit and flesh.
Her life is spent remembering past lives:
lovers’ names forgotten long ago
and children who have died in her arms.

Ancestors, like oceans, stretch before her.
“The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair.”
The people, all of them, they want to take her,
Change her, meet her, love her, and worship her.
They assume they know, but never ask.

She wants much more than what they want for her.
Her bruises and her scars are so apparent,
people must think she will never die.
The last being on this earth was not a man,
and when he left, she found some sense of peace.

~*~

It must be your lucky month. Two poems in two weeks. To be honest, there may be more on their way. I’ve been in a very poem sort of mood lately. I’ve been thinking about ancestors a lot, their constant presence and absence, that dichotomy.

I wrote this one while I was thinking of all the women I love, all the truth I know about them, that they know about me, and how often we seem to be waiting.

Rant on “IndoWestern” Fashion

I usually don’t like categorizing things as a rant. However, today’s post is going to be exactly that: a rant.

There is this horrible disease going around, mostly among Indians, but also sometimes among hippie-bohemian people of the white variety who like to appropriate things. It is called “IndoWestern” fashion.

I don’t know which idiot thought these two things could be combined to still look beautiful. I think Indian fashion on its own has an elegance that is rarely paralleled. Western fashion can be cryptic, but it also has its perks as it is usually more utilitarian. But why, WHY would you put these two things together??

Examples of how bad Indowestern fashion sucks: fusion outfits. First off, I feel like fusion has always been the bottom of the barrel in terms of Indian dance teams, though perhaps that’s not their fault. Bhangra, garba, and raas teams showcase dances and outfits that are specific to a region and are usually narrowly defined. Fusion, on the other hand, can be everything and anything–usually confined to Hindi pop (though I’d love to see teams challenge that norm).

The first mistake they usually make is to take 8 songs and turn them into one mix like it’s cute (hint: it’s not. Stick to like 2 songs per mix, okay, y’all?). Also, instead of trying to find folks who have the potential for leadership and organization, fusion teams usually just attract people who are already friends of people on the team, leading to a clusterfuck that loosely resembles a sorority (except sororities actually have a point sometimes). I will spare these folks the embarrassment of being sourced.

fusionoutfitno

Scarves tied around butts are always so attractive.

fusionoutfitno2

This one is called the Victoria’s Secret-wannabe-sportswear look.

fusionoutfitno3

Can’t be an Indian fusion team unless you’re wearing over-the-top, fluffy pink pants, a belly dancing belt, and a top that doesn’t cover your midriff.

(The exception to this rule is Gator Adaa from the years of 2011-2013. That team had everything: leadership, organization, and class. Shoutout to you women. Y’all were fierce.)

adaa height

Source: Gator Adaa: Fusion Dance Team Facebook Page

To be self-critical, I understand that on first glance, it might seem like I’m slut-shaming. Look, maybe I am, but here’s the thing, right? I’ve seen classy hoes, okay? Remember Rani Mukherjee in Saawariya (2007)?

rani saawariya

Source: India-forums.com

I’d love to see a fusion team showcase a look that is about having fun as a woman in whatever role she is performing, not the “WE HAVE TO LOOK BROWN AND EXOTIC BECAUSE WE ARE DANCERS” look. Other examples of truly heinous Indowestern things:

truly heinous

Source: utsavfashion.com, Clockwise from top left: a green that even your visually impaired grandmother would not wear, royal blue mummu with pink trim for when you want to look like a fish??, a thing trying to be both a dress and a top, WHY WOULD YOU PUT LIME GREEN AND CORAL TOGETHER IN THE SAME OUTFIT THEY ARE SO BEAUTIFUL SEPARATELY, what is this cut, what is this print.

no2

Source: utsavfashion.com, Clockwise from top left: Dafuq is this print, actually kinda cute but I could get from Forever21 for 6 bucks, assflap?, what is THIS print?, for the 7-year-old in you, mushroom-high-psychedelic print.

Right. So what did we learn today, y’all? Indowestern “fashion” is NOT FASHION. Brown women, I suppose you are the ultimate arbiter of what you put on your body. But I do feel like the amount of grace I find (at least in ready-to-wear shit) in the mixing of these styles is little and far between.

indian1

YES! Source: utsavfashion.com. 

indian2

YES! Source: utsavfashion.com

western 1

YES! Source: Target.com

western 2

YES! Source: pinterest search “pants”

noindowesternnoindowesternnoindowestern

He Breaks Me

fatfish

Taken at Durfee Conservatory, UMass Amherst, MA, home to cute, fat, orange koi fish. These fish are much happier than I am right now. A photo worthy of the end of Pisces.

Well y’all. I know it’s been a hot second. This is a direction I never thought I’d go in, or more accurately, not a direction I ever thought I’d go in again. By that, I mean, there are some people, some incredible, wonderful people, who theorize love (shoutout to bell hooks, Cheryl E. Matias, and Durryle Brooks). As in, they spend time in the academy talking about love, like a bunch of warriors. Those people are some badass motherfuckers. I’m just a simple broad, so I wrote a poem.

Not gonna lie, I’m trying to act like I’m cool and like this poem is not about some man-human who I definitely lost my shit over. I have this brilliant friend who tells me that people have to know the difference between things that are actually good for them, and things that make them feel good. Maybe that’s why things ended so, so badly. Like, it wasn’t a clean bad, you know? I like when it’s obvious that the man is an asshole, and then turning my back is nothing. But I can’t write him off like that because I’m not convinced he’s an asshole. I feel like that’s worse than a clean bad. It’s a messy bad.

If he ever finds this, I bet he’d say something like “I didn’t say that” or “you’re totally misrepresenting me”. And I wouldn’t say it, but I’d be like, why can’t you just tell me you’re hurt? Why is that so hard for you? I write my first poem in 3 years and you still can’t be satisfied. Man-humans, I’m telling you. Learn to name your damn emotions. It’s not like I don’t know. I just pretend not to so that I don’t embarrass you and your stupid man-feelings.

Anyway. I totally did not plan to tell y’all that much. But here’s the poem.

He Breaks Me
by yours truly

I can tell he thinks he loves
me while he watches my
every move. But I do. I
tell him one secret after
another, hoping he’ll say
the words I long to hear, “I’m
wrong, you’re right. I’m sorry.”

He tells me I am pretty,
attractive, intelligent
yet also that my rape
is like his murder, that my
pills are the same as his
paternity test. My ravaged
body he likens to his.

Death would be a luxury
for women like me. Death frees
her from her body, leaving
spirit. Death removes the
thing to ravage. Death takes
away the object, reduces
fault to dust, corpse to earth.

I leave him before he is
aware. He tries so many
words. It is his silence I
crave. No reasoning consoles him;
he is closed. He tells me I
am mistaken, that the love
I know I see is not real.

He breaks me. Our bodies know
no solace, nor did those of
our ancestors. Before lips
could meet, before we could
touch, history opened a
chasm that neither of us could
cross, that neither of us could cross.

On Healing

20161107_174813

Skies over Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, Late October. For some reason, all my good photos come from work.

CW: abortion

I have read so much bullshit on healing from trauma. So. Fucking. Much.

So for those of y’all who don’t know, I got an abortion about 14 months ago. It was difficult and sad. My partner at the time pretty much left me to fend for myself. With no one else to go to, I had to go home and tell my mother, which was neither pleasant nor something I really wanted to do. My mother is an anxious, overprotective Indian immigrant, and I knew this would break her as much as it broke me. This woman learned to drive just so she could take me to this middle school with a science program that I wanted to attend. She has never held it against me when I ate beef (we’re practicing Hindus) or got my father’s car towed (has happened twice) or done a number of other stupid things when I was growing up. Even though my pregnancy was an honest mistake, something that happened because I made a bad decision, even though it wasn’t rape, I knew the way she thought of me would fundamentally change, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it but allow her to deal.

I had to allow myself to deal as well, though my mother and I did not agree on how that should be done. I wanted to take a semester off from grad school to take care of my mental health. It did not bother me so much to think I might have to spend another year in graduate school. That seemed like a small price to pay for being healthy. I was distraught and incapable of concentration. My mother, on the other hand, was probably thinking of the amount of money it cost the family to support me while I was in grad school. My parents basically took care of rent for me because my assistantship wasn’t covering it. At the time, I selfishly thought she was being harsh, but looking back, her concern made sense because my brother was still an undergraduate going through school (with his own costs). My mother harangued me to the point that I didn’t want to be at home any more.

So I did one of the hardest things I, or literally anyone (I’d like to see anyone go through this level of shit and come out the other side with a master’s degree), have ever done. I went the fuck back to grad school. I went back to that place where enough bureaucracy goes on that even mentally healthy, hardy, and/or charismatic people want to leave. The best part is, I told almost no one about the abortion. There were maybe 4 people I trusted enough with the information. I told none of my professors, none of my co-workers, my supervisor at work, my staff, or my colleagues. It just didn’t seem like something they needed to know, though I know they probably noticed how tired I was, how lacking in emotion, how little I wanted to engage with human beings. Perhaps my entitlement is showing, but I think I ought to be given a medal of honor for having given enough fucks to finish graduate school in that condition.

My therapist has told me that people who are allowed to grieve openly usually have an easier time of overcoming grief. I wasn’t open at all about what I was grieving, so you can imagine the kind of complex shitstorm I am in now.

On healing from trauma, the one thing I might respect about the literature is that it consistently claims that everyone heals differently. That might be the only part I agree with.

The other things written about healing from trauma are so sugarcoated as to be irrelevant to my life. The literature consists of either Tumblr-tier, hippie, self-love bullshit that prescribe things like bubble baths, getting your nails done, and lighting candles (don’t get me wrong, if that works for you, do you), or it’s got this underlying narrative of “treat this poor, tragic person with kindness because they need it”. (My apologies for not being able to come up with examples at the moment. I might have rooted out all the offending articles from my newsfeeds and thus have none to show you).

The fact of the matter is, healing has not been some fun process of chillaxing and spoiling myself. It has been incredibly frustrating to feel as though I have to take time off from regular activities to heal. This is difficult to admit because it’s not as though I am some workaholic who drowns her pain in work all the time. Even before trauma, I was a person who liked to have fun. I would drop everything to hang out with friends. I would skip studying to go to a party or go on a snack run in the middle of the night. I would splurge on expensive shoes. I would buy plane tickets to some far off state at the drop of a hat. I loved the freedom of being impulsive.

But I find I am not impulsive any more. I have become cautious and guarded. While I think that has been a necessary process, I also know my life looks very different now as a result. I resent having to take time off from being social. I resent having to ask for help, and how weak it makes me feel to do that. We are surrounded by incredibly ableist narratives that dictate that a person in their mid-twenties should be at their physical peak, and should also be financially independent. Thus, it pisses me off to no end that I am not either of those things.

I am not enjoying my healing process. Perhaps this is due to a number of other things that coincide with this time, like the fact that getting a job takes forever these days, I am living with my parents again, my job pays me in bread crumbs, and I have enough bills that I have forgotten what life without debt looks like. Maybe I would fucking light a candle if I felt I had any time or energy. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to go through healing at this point in my life. In an ideal world, I’d have a community and financial support and a job that gives me fucking paid leave! But the fact is, I am healing, and I wish I didn’t have to. And that’s probably why this process is taking so long.

State of the Union (Day 6, post-inauguration)

(Written on January 26, 2017)

Someone I know stated two days ago that so far, our mango-in-chief’s reign has not been bad; it has in fact been much worse than we thought it would be. There is not a day this week that I signed on to social media profiles and I didn’t see a stream of voices reaching a fever pitch indicating the myriad ways in which we are in danger. This is the news, in no particular order:

It is becoming clear that our orange buffoon was never personally invested in taking the role of president. Rather, he is serving the interests of the ruling class of this nation. He is their vehicle, and they have had ample time to organize for this purpose. It seems as though all of these people being appointed to the highest offices in the land were waiting in the wings for their cue. They are now advancing the agenda of the wealthy, as well as that of colonizers. As time progresses, I predict these changes will be reported as “progress” or “development” of this country, instead of the destruction that it truly is, because of the gubmint’s gradual control over the media.

One of the reasons it is taking so long for liberals to organize (besides the obvious: Republicans control both the house and the senate) is because they have been artificially dispersed by identity politics. Democrats seem to think they cannot serve everyone’s interests because they must cater to communities divided by race, gender, and a horde of other identities (this theory is not my own; I probably got it from a radical Black woman. Just so y’all know). They do not see the need to reframe this narrative in a historically accurate way, though I am also conflicted as to how it can be reframed. On one hand, it does seem like a class conflict. The various constituents of the left are all vying in some way or another for access to resources. On the other, it also seems like a conflict of colonized and colonizer. (Wealthy) white Americans, whatever that means any more, are looking for ways to acquire more land and resources to serve its interests, with no regard for people or the environment.

I am not sure what about all of this scares me the most. I do think that “moderates” can no longer be trusted from this point on. Many moderates receive their news from mainstream media, which is slowly being either silenced by the gubmint, or annexed to serve their purposes. Moderates may soon think that what the gubmint is doing is okay for a gubmint to do, simply from being fed the same messages every day and not being critical about them. Just today, I had a student, who did not seem to have any particular political affiliation, argue in her (2-paragraph, nonetheless) paper that a wall between the US and Mexico “has to” be built to “keep out drug dealers and freeloaders”. Where does this rhetoric come from? Why is this the topic she chose for a “current event” paper? I’m sure we do not have to look too hard for the answers.

While I am concerned at present, I am also of the belief that the worst is yet to come. I am seeing a pattern where even moderate liberals are inching right to placate the right (granted, this might just be because of my geographic location). The American middle class has been coerced so thoroughly into professionalizing and digitializing that it has forgotten it has a voice. It will now not lift a finger to stop this onslaught.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I knew the orange buffoon would become the president in 2016. These are my predictions now. For those of us who are resisting, it will not get easier. Our higher-ups and co-workers will not support us in our work. People will not be kind to us when they find out what we do. In fact, they will do their best to silence and hinder us, which can get very, very violent. There has been talk to re-instate the House Un-American Activities Committee. I am putting myself in danger by even writing these words.

If you did not know that this is how it would be, you were clearly living in some castle in the sky. But also, if you are not prepared for this reality, you are of no use. I mean that honestly (I’m talking to you, white women). This is, really and truly, one of those times when feelings must be put aside and the needs of people around us must be a priority. Please keep in mind your feelings are not important when Black and Brown people are being killed by the cops, undocumented people are being deported, and people’s humanity and dignity are being threatened. We do not have time to coddle you. In this movement, it is all hands on deck.

We need to get very, very good at supporting and communicating with one another. And I actually mean face-to-face. Much as we like our internet space, I am not sure how much longer electricity will be accessible in a time like this, let alone the internet. But also, these are material problems. Immigrants are physically being deported. Women’s bodies are being physically threatened. Muslims are being physically harassed. Native land will physically be re-appropriated. I hate to say it, because I know how much even I love internet theorizing, but until we come up with physical, real-time responses, there is very little that will come of our rage.

Resources for action that I have found useful:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17Rj40_i39gTuo4hMNNmhToL0_NnJnzjnr3Tx90nTPfE/mobilebasic

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FKXcRFOg5VS-UjCyH2jmgRTm-sQY_PB65Gxo-rwMT6A/mobilebasic

For further reading:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QYENgyc4lINlGwcJUnjl_7lDf5xSL5WL0pEJUEOZbF4/edit

Day 12, Post-election

Many thanks to Robert Zando for making this post possible.

As you all know, we have a new president.

For the sake of my own safety, I am not going to use his name on this website. There is no telling whether or not people are keeping track of who is using his name and for what purposes. I know that sounds like some Voldemort shit, but this is not a joke. Nothing is off the table any more.

I will instead be using the moniker Mr. Chapped Lips to refer to him. Among his many identifying features, his lips seem to be in particular need of some Vaseline. In spite of his billions, I don’t think the man has ever heard of chapstick.

I’ll also admit, the next few posts may not have any clear direction, other than to document what I’ve been experiencing as a woman of color in a Southern state in these times. If it helps anyone out there, even just as a fellow human who is experiencing the same emotions, that’s enough for me.

If I’m being honest, I knew this would happen. I think the Brexit vote is what tipped me, though I had felt something bad was coming long before that. It has felt as though America has been going this way for a while. I have been seeing reports of Black churches burning since 2014. Throughout this year, I told my feelings to a number of people that can attest. I accurately predicted the results of this election.

Even then, I can’t deny that the first week after the election was hard for me. It had been hard for a while. All this time, while people were paying rapt attention to television screens blasting arguments for Hillary or against Mr. Chapped Lips (because let’s be real, those actually were the only two things the media was doing for this election), I had been itching for marginalized communities to organize. I thought it would be in our best interests to be as prepared as possible if the worst were to happen. It turns out, I was right.

People find this habit of mine annoying, but I actually don’t like to be the person who says “I told you so”. If you have ever been that person, perhaps you know the feeling. I don’t like being right about the worst scenario. I wish hope and progress were as powerful as people think they are. The fact of the matter is, we balance on little more than a thin web of optimism, and that was recently destroyed.

I went to a rally last Sunday that seems to have jostled my brain back into its usual groove. I’m glad it happened quickly. It would have been foolish of me to pretend that anyone else takes things like this as seriously as I do. Anyway, I was in St. Petersburg, FL for a Not My President rally. It was the usual, cliché garbage: lots of white people running around chanting “Love Trumps Hate” in queer pride t-shirts while journalists eagerly snapped photos and took videos of the love fest. Admittedly, I was there more so to drive a friend who I went with than I was to actually partake.

What I found most notable about the whole ordeal was the rally at the end. Specifically, there were two moments when the white people, specifically, elderly white women, in the audience very audibly tried to silence two of the speakers. The first was when a very visibly Muslim woman (wearing a hijab) spoke up about how the people who were present should also stand for a free Palestine. I thought it was brave of her to say that, and brave of her to continue after the white women responded. The white women said something like, “Why are you bringing other countries into this? Stick to talking about [Mr. Chapped Lips] and the United States.” There were other things, too, of course. I didn’t catch everything.

Clearly, Zionists have no place in an anti-racist rally.

The second was when someone who looked Latina (and I think she was representing the International Socialist Organization) spoke about divesting from the two-party system. She was basically calling bullshit about how the Democrats are now saying things like “we should work with Republicans” and “allow the man to lead,” arguing that there is no negotiating with genocidal fascists. Inevitably, white women had something to say about that as well. I imagine it’s very difficult for white women to oppose a group that enfranchises them at the expense of people of color. I imagine it must be so hard for them to hear people of color calling for folks to mobilize when all they want to do is hold one another and cry.

This is the point at which I make an expansive gesture accompanied by the clause “Look at all the fucks I give [for white women’s feelings].”

It was a wake-up call. I realized, I am not part of these protests. Other people can continue to take part in symbolic protest, patting themselves on the back and feeling good about themselves, when these protests literally do nothing to protect the hijabis, Latinxs and Black folks being targeted in the streets. I will not participate in allowing white people to feel good about themselves.

I have been collecting links to resources that provide concrete steps of action for marginalized groups. I have posted them to my Facebook page, but I have received little response from people in that realm. They are eager to like and repost the knee-jerk, emotional-response Biden jokes going around, and all the quotes and cutesy shit, completely lacking in substance, that imply a symbolic commitment to advocating for marginalized communities, with no binding or explicit action. But they are rarely willing to engage with the work that is being done by strategists: the warnings, the lists of items to stockpile, the encouragement to channel their money in effective ways.

It is my urgent request to radical people to put their bleeding hearts aside for this particular moment of history. I understand that the election results were actually unexpected and upsetting for many who trusted the deceptive television coverage of this election. However, an organizer I know at UMass recently said that we do not have two years to mobilize. Trans youth are committing suicide now. Hijabis are being attacked now. Black churches are burning now. AND FUCK YOUR DAMN TRIGGER WARNINGS. The KKK is assembling. Those people are armed and strategic. AND THEY WILL NOT TRIGGER WARN YOU WHEN THEY ATTACK.

Get your shit together. This is a time to be practical. Be alert. Get everything done that you need to in the next two months. Travel in groups. And for god’s sake, don’t do anything stupid. I would excuse it during the last administration, when being stupid was a human right. But nothing is off the table. Nothing. Not civil war, not revolution, not terrorist attack. This is not a joke. Your life is not a joke. Do not treat it like one.

Scrutiny

Content Warning: abortion, trauma

Today, I read this great piece from Black Girl Dangerous on trauma. I don’t know why, but it still chokes me up to even hear about trauma. I feel like that is an indicator that clearly, I am not yet over the traumas in my life yet.

Coincidentally, I’m in a weird place right now with my hair. For those of you who don’t know, I chopped all my hair off after I got an abortion in December. In those first few weeks afterwards, I couldn’t stand having my hair any more. I couldn’t stand all the memories stored in it. I couldn’t stand all the feelings I had associated with it. So I symbolically pressed the restart button on my life and chopped off about 20 inches. I went from having around 2 feet of thick, black hair to having a really close pixie cut.

I trimmed it regularly, so it would be longer now if I had just let it grow. I decided to stop trimming in May, around the time that I graduated. It hasn’t grown too much, but the length is starting to show. The hair has grown over my ears, and I have to clip the back frequently so that I don’t have a mullet. It’s a weird, shaggy phase. My hair has not been this length since I was around 4 years old.

And this dissatisfaction with my hair is also symbolic. I literally cut it off as a marker of a trauma, as a reminder to myself of how long it takes to heal. Now I wish I had my long hair back. It’s almost as though my brain would like to convince my body of something it knows is not true. I am almost my normal self again. Almost. I am very convincing to other people, and that is so dangerous because then I start to believe the lie. I say hi to all my friends. I correspond with employers. I help out around the house without complaining. I did the therapy, I dealt with the emotions, I did all the reconnecting with my inner self stuff for four months. My brain insists, shouldn’t I be done with this by now? Haven’t I done everything I was supposed to do?

It is frustrating that it takes so long, but I know in my heart that I am not yet over it.

I know because–and that’s just it–I am still not normal for me. I still don’t like being out in public. It causes numerous, inexplicable anxieties. That is not normal for me. I feel satisfied sleeping all day. I feel satisfied staying in the house all day. I have barely done any physical activity all summer, when I’m usually so active. That is not normal for me.

I suddenly realized, my reaction to scrutiny has also gotten worse, which is probably the biggest indicator that I am not back to normal yet, even now.

First off, I should name that I have never been comfortable with scrutiny. I cannot remember how long I have felt that way, but if I had an RC community to go to where I am, that would probably be an area I need to work on. I think scrutiny can go under the general category of surveillance, something that many people with marginalized identities experience. Surveillance happens in a number of ways: policing of clothes, behavior and speech; storing information without indication for use later as blackmail (or other purposes); expecting people to behave a certain way even when no one is watching; the list goes on.

It should be noted, in my opinion, any person who puts another person under surveillance of any kind is being abusive and manipulative.

I use the word “scrutiny” very intentionally, though. The word “scrutiny” comes from the Latin word “scrutari” which literally means “to search.” Thus, my both founded and unfounded fear is that people who scrutinize me are searching for my weaknesses, searching for ways to exploit my vulnerability.

I think the founded fear comes from generally existing as a woman of color, especially in interactions with men. As soon as a creepy man starts asking me too many questions (and this has happened so many countless times), I start lying. While this is great for keeping me safe from creepy men who walk up to me in the street, it may not be so helpful when, say, my supervisor asks me why I have changed my hours. Or when my parents ask me what I’m doing next week on Tuesday. Or when people who care about me ask reasonable questions because they are concerned with my safety, and I lie to them because deep down, I am terrified that some unknown entity will hunt me down.

Then, the fear becomes unfounded.

I was thinking today, the best thing in the world is freedom. I don’t mean in that silly patriotic sense. I mean specifically, I wish I was free from scrutiny. I wish I had the money for my own living space and a car so that I could do whatever I want and go wherever I want without people wondering what I am doing. I wish I could run my house however I wanted without having to deal with other people’s rules about how clean or dirty it is. I wish I didn’t have to answer to someone else about how I am using my money, what I spend my time doing, what my body looks like, what I’m wearing, who I’m talking to, or where I’m going all the time. These are all things that different people have all kept track of at different times in my life. I think that is such a huge distinguishing factor between having dominant identiti(es) and having marginalized one(s). I doubt a white man experiences the kind of scrutiny that I do walking down the street. At the same time, I probably experience less scrutiny than say, a homeless person.

Simultaneously, I would also love to be free from the fear I have of scrutiny. I wish I could trust people and their intentions enough to not go into full fight-or-flight mode every time someone asks me a question. It is a trauma reaction, so the fear comes from an incapacity I have at the moment: an inability to trust people, and a fundamental lack of faith in the world. That’s really sad for a person who used to be an ENFP at one point. Personally, I don’t believe it is a natural state for human beings to lack trust, to lack faith in humanity. So it’s a sad thing for me to admit I have neither. It makes me even more sad that we live in a world where gaining both back may take the same amount of time as it does for 20 inches of hair to sprout from my head. Trust does not disappear without a good reason.