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Letter to my Patrons

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Tampa Skyline

Dear Patrons,

Yes, patrons, as in the ones who pay me for my labor. I am thankful to my followers as well, especially those of you who read regularly. I hope that if this is a financially stable period of your life, you will be so kind as to subscribe to my Patreon page. Any amount is greatly appreciated.

But I’m thanking my patrons specifically because this marks a significant development in my career as a writer. This month, for the first time, I am being paid for my writing, which is a big deal considering I have been writing for time immemorial (okay, perhaps not that long, but it feels like most of my life), and I have received almost no compensation all this time for the work.

It is scary how easy it is for women of color to internalize a feeling of unworthiness. I discovered I was a good writer when I was very young. At the age of five, I could already write sentences in English. Throughout elementary school, I was told by one teacher after another that I was an incredibly talented writer. Somewhere along the way, I arrived at the conclusion that writing must be easy. After all, I was good at it. I, a simple little brown girl to whom teachers could hardly be bothered to give attention, had mastered that skill even without their help. (This is the honest truth. My immigrant parents from India taught me more than my school teachers in the Southern public school system.) How hard could it be?

Only after I entered graduate school, and now as a writing tutor, I realized this act that I think is so simple is actually really, really complicated. I’ve been asked time and again by close friends–brilliant, talented people who I admire–to look over their papers before they are submitted. Marginalization in the academy has a lot to do with how you are perceived. Many of the writers of color I know have not been told a fraction of the amount I have that they are brilliant, talented people. In fact, most have been told the exact opposite. A lot of them fear that they will be perceived as incompetent when they write.

Writing is a delicate art. The messages we internalize show up throughout the writing process. For me, it is just a way to put our ideas on paper, but for people who are never told that their ideas matter, writing is painful and tedious.

I have a complicated relationship with humility. When I talk about how I became a good writer, it sounds to me as though I’m bragging. In truth, writing has been my saving grace in many ways. As a child, I was terribly shy. I deeply internalized the idea that most people don’t want to hear women speak. Only in recent years did I become capable of breaking down my communication barriers and making an effort to actually tell people the depths of my thoughts. In place of the spoken word, I leaned on the written word to express myself. In that context, I became a versatile writer. Writing had to do everything for me that speaking does for everyone else.

The feeling of knowing that people around the world read this blog is hard to describe. I think the response my brain usually comes up with is “why?”, a response that probably came from years of harmful messages about my “place” in the world. I can name this much: I am thrilled to have your readership. I thank you for allowing me to be my authentic self in this context, and I look forward to sharing more with you.

Irreverently yours,

Leonie

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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.