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August 2014
22
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Melissa Harris-Perry, Black Female Voices: Who Is Listening?

I love this talk; watched and live tweeted it when it happened. Also, Melissa Harris-Perry’s succinct definition of victim blaming is the one that I regularly use. Love how she explains how this impacts the politics of respectability.

August 2014
22
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chantellecoco:

MODEL: Naomi Campbell for Harper’s Bazaar Mexico September 2014

Naomi is SLAYING! Beautiful.

August 2014
22

The Myth That Womanism Is Only About “Empowerment”

I am not always interested in “empowerment.” Womanism is not solely about that. In fact, survival and wholeness of entire people at times is diametrically opposed to “empowerment” when “empowerment” doesn’t allow nuance in the margins as the political space that Black women occupy. What is “empowerment” to a Black woman characterized as so “strong" that I am deemed impenetrable by pain/non-human, deemed only capable of “anger" as not just my only emotion but as my “personality” and “identity?” What is “empowerment” in the context of capitalism when “powerful womanhood” is continually shaped as mimicking cishet White men with capitalistic power who can engage in violence with impunity, and then a cishet White woman gets to play out this fantasy? White womanhood does not make me feel empowered. White women, including many mainstream feminists do not even affirm my humanity as real beyond what pleasure it can provide them to attack it, what consumption Black women’s bodies, epistemology, intellectual and cultural production can offer, and how their right to harm (and then of course retreat to White Tears™, as if not accepting their violence means that I “harmed” them) outweighs my right to self-defense, where I am deemed “toxic" for not accepting White violence. 

"Empowerment" at worst is becoming invested in notions of structural power via imperialist White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy; at best it implies ascending to a more self-possessed interpretation of humanity where there is choice and agency. But what is "empowerment" to someone not considered human, when there is no self-possessed interpretation of humanity to ascend to when humanity itself is denied and Whiteness has been constructed upon that denial? When my very identity (and not as I define it in terms of social location but as oppression defines it) is perceived as the opposite of humanity, as the void of the existence of humanity, where others’ humanity rests on the notion that mine—as a Black person and as a Black woman specifically, at times—must be non-existent for theirs to exist?

Maybe instead of “empowerment,” at times I am interested in vulnerability without domination. (I don’t mean that I embrace violent conceptions of vulnerability in the cishet male gaze where “submitting” to patriarchal domination and abuse is “proof” of “femininity.”) Maybe I am interested in recognition (as a whole nuanced being, not stereotypes, archetypes and controlling images) and representation (i.e. media of Black women that are dynamic) without the illusion that I seek “White approval.” Maybe I am interested in the experience of joy and humor that doesn’t exist at the expense of the humanity that I am structurally and violently denied. Maybe I embrace contradiction where I know that my life is valuable (and this knowledge is diametrically opposed to the devaluing and dehumanization that Black women experience via oppression) even when I don’t want to live anymore at times and where my self-esteem about my intelligence, appearance and personality are high but I regularly think of suicide because of oppression and private, public and online sphere abuse. Maybe I express my personal agency by knowing when I don’t have any—knowing at any moment anyone from a street harassing man to a extrajudicial executor to the State can end my life—but choose to continue to live, where at times my every breath feels like fighting back.

I’ve been approached by all types of confused and condescending people who angrily question why Gradient Lair contains my personal (despite this being a personal, one-person blog) likes and dislikes (and this has included them being bigoted about my sexuality, telling me who I can/can’t find attractive, in addition to the usual oppression of racism, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, classism, attacks because I am not a theist etc.) if they don’t immediately reference “empowerment” (as if this is not my space and my life), why are my selfies here, and why are there images/media of Black women who are happy, peacefulbeautiful, dark, thick, smart and creative here. Why not just oppression? Don’t I care about “empowerment?” Well, assuming I don’t immediately block these people who think they have a right to a say over any of my space and life, my response is, why is proof of “empowerment” shaped by how much of Black women’s pain that they can consume? Why does “empowerment” exist juxtaposed to pleasure or joy in so many people’s minds, especially when they consider “empowerment” for Black women? Why are they unable to see how they’re using the master’s tools (the racist, misogynoiristic, ableist Strong Black Woman archetype; mammy/Sapphire controlling images) to try to dismantle the master’s house (shape what they think empowered Black women should look like)?

And what do I care about “empowerment” if expressions of my own humanity and other Black women’s humanity—living, laughing and loving despite oppression—cannot be included? I’ve done a little test the entire time I’ve blogged here, a little over 2 years now, where if I concurrently share 3 or more positive posts about Black women, I experience White subscriber decrease (nevermind that the space is for Black women, so I have zero interest in “maintaining” White subscribers though ones who aren’t abusers or plagiarists I don’t actively oppose them reading here). Conversely, the reaction to the critical discourse on oppression is that I “never" share positive posts, though to me, rejecting bigotry and deconstructing oppression while affirming Black women’s humanity is positive. Many people, especially people who aren’t Black women (but occasionally some who are) come here to consume pain and oppression only. Not to deconstruct it. Not to understand it. Not empathize with me or Black women in general. Not to stand against it. Not noticing anything else about my life or other Black women’s lives. 

While womanism (the term, scholarship and praxes originate with Alice Walker, though what it describes speaks to a long legacy of Black women’s organic and formal praxes for freedom from intersecting oppressions, embracing justice and wholeness) does include the acknowledgement of interlocking oppressions (H/T Combahee River Collective), the need for individual empowerment and complex praxes towards the liberation of all (and not solely from sexism/misogynoir/transmisogynoir and gender-related oppressions but intersecting ones [H/T Kimberlé Crenshaw]), this is not the whole picture of womanism. There’s room for healing through art, music and dance; self-care and community care. Through support. Through laughter. Through joy. Through reclamations and new definitions. Through theist, spiritual or secular approaches to wholeness. Through the many facets of cultural production attributable to Black women.

And not everything I like (though I still engage with a critical eye) or say is about clarifying it with a "is this womanist?" question that doesn’t always need to be asked. Ridiculous framing such as "can I watch The Avengers and like Tom Hiddleston and be womanist?," "are my media consumption habits alone proof of womanist praxis?" (hint: NOPE), "does a show have to be feminist before I can watch it?" (another hint: NOPE AGAIN), "are Black women who watch reality TV no longer womanist?" Bullshit questions framed like these are the type of facile interrogatories that are viewed as feminist scholarship in mainstream feminism (as they regularly frame feminism as a checklist of the “right” personal consumptive choices in a capitalistic system) where they regularly put not just the feminism but the very humanity of Black women on trial, by default. A common hobby in mainstream feminism is to review Beyoncé’s weekly actions and determine if each one is “feminist” or not (with an as ahistorical and non-intersectional if not explicitly anti-Black and misogynoiristic lens as possible) and if deemed not, subversively question or downright deny her actual humanity. These facile interrogatories eclipse the nuanced experiences of Black women and honestly insult my intelligence. They’re beneath the breadth of knowledge that Black women from different walks of life and perspectives contribute to womanist tradition. And this isn’t to engage in “no true Scotsman,” but to suggest that the hobby of people questioning my womanism through a White supremacist lens is not activism. People immediately demand critical analysis and defense every time a Black woman singer releases a song. Maybe…I wanna listen to a song on the release day in peace. Maybe that. And though I do produce womanist scholarship on music, sometimes I fucking might want to just listen to music.

An incorrect perception of womanism is perceiving it as solely about empowerment and not about the fight for and the recognition of complex Black womanhood and humanity in the face of anti-Blackness, misogynoir and other oppressions that Black women face. This perception doesn’t really describe the lives and praxes of so many Black women. I feel the most powerful when I feel the most self-acceptably complex and this means the space to thrive and be without misogynoiristic demands for performance of or desire for some rigid myth of what Black women’s “empowerment” looks like (which honestly seems to be about performing a denial of any pleasure for an audience who wants to consume Black women’s pain, and then mimicking cisheteropatriarchal norms of dominance), especially when that myth is framed the way White supremacy frames mainstream feminism. My empowerment looks like my humanity, and my humanity is my focus, with all of its history, nuance, complexity. I am empowered by the fact that in the face of everything that seeks to deny my humanity, I affirm it. 

Related Posts: The Impact Of White Privilege On WomanismThe Idea of Feminism Isn’t The Problem; The Current Manifestation Of “Mainstream Feminism” Is

August 2014
20
The fabulously talented Little League star Mo’Ne Davis graces the cover of Sports Illustrated! She’s the first ever Little League star to get this cover.

The fabulously talented Little League star Mo’Ne Davis graces the cover of Sports Illustrated! She’s the first ever Little League star to get this cover.

August 2014
20
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Look at Mo’Ne Davis’ focus. They ain’t even remotely ready for her!

August 2014
20

The Erasure Of Black Women’s Experiences As Victims Of State Violence Is Unacceptable

I recently read an unfortunate and to be honest, rather dangerous article on The Root titled Michael Brown’s Death Reopened My Eyes to My Privileges As A Black Woman, written by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele. In this article, she suggests that Black women have “privilege” over Black men because Black men experience police brutality. The article is incredibly dangerous because it engages in: epistemic violence by the blatant misuse of the word “privilege” (and “ally”) in terms of violence experienced, erasure of the actual truth of police brutality and extrajudicial execution/State violence on Black women (and then for the purposes of heterosexist sentimentality as “allyship,” which is an inaccurate, limited and rather gross interpretation of intraracial structural power), and a misapplication of her personal lack of fear of “ruffling feathers” with the belief that Black women have the “privilege” of doing so in every instance and Black men do not, because of the latter being perceived as threats due to anti-Blackness and White supremacy. 

While I respect her personal experiences shared via anecdotes and respect lived experience as knowledge in general, the way it was used to conclude Black women do not experience State violence and thereby have “privilege” over Black men is painfully ahistorical to the point of erasure, which is also violence. Again, the erasure of Black women as activists beyond the heterosexual Black male gaze and erasure of Black women as victims of police brutality, extrajudicial execution (that structurally functions in the same way lynching did) and State violence, is also violence

There is no structural circumstance where Black women are privileged over Black men solely for race and gender. And throwing out college degree numbers or labor numbers when how Black women are paid compared to Black men, Black women’s net worth among the lowest in the U.S. and globally, or ignoring intricate Black labor experiences by gender, post-Civil War, is not proof of structural advantage for Black women. Ignoring the abuse Black women endure for “succeeding” and how those examples of success are regularly used to deny Black girls and Black women in need of social support and programs is proof of the lack of privilege, not of it existing. And since her article seems to solely allude to the experiences of cishet Black people (versus complicated intersections where sexual orientation, being trans/non-binary, complexion, class, size, ability etc. create more nuanced experiences of privilege and oppression intraracially and interracially), this is definitely the case; Black women do not have privilege over Black men. 

Using “privilege” as an example in that article in relation to violence, she implies there is structural power afforded to Black women that Black men do not have and such power protects Black women from State violence. However, the history of the lynching of Black women refutes this. The police brutality on Black women from the homeless such as Marlene Pinnock to the professor with the Ph.D., Dr. Ersula Ore refutes this. The sexual violence, brutality and regular abuse of Black sex workers refutes this. The sheer terrorism, violence for solely existing in the presence of police that Black trans women experience refutes this. The street harassment that Black women not only experience intraracially (though income/domestic proximity does in fact impact who street harasses Black women) but via cops who can do so with impunity refutes this. The multi-faceted criminalization (via schools and as victims of violence, yet not viewed as “victims” in the perspective of the State) of Black girls and Black women refutes this. The police killings via negligence because of anti-Blackness (i.e. Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd) and willful extrajudicial execution (i.e. Renisha McBride, where Wafer’s conviction is honestly a fluke and not a norm for any Black people killed this way) refute this. The on the spot extrajudicial execution of Shelly Frey, for the accusation of shoplifting, refutes this. The experiences and/or lives of many Black women—names barely known or not publicly known at all—refute this.   

The experiences of police brutality on Black pregnant women at their homes (especially with the use of foster care as an arm of the State because of anti-Blackness), in the streets, and within the jails/Prison Industrial Complex, (where Black women are the fasted growing female population) refute this. I mean, the article includes Michael Brown in the title, who was in fact extrajudicially executed. A Black pregnant woman in Ferguson was among the protesters thrown to the ground on her stomach by the police. Black women (like me) regularly discuss not having children because of police brutality, an aspect of reproductive justice regularly eclipsed in mainstream feminism's discussion of “pro-choice.” Where are Black women's choices here amidst such a risk because of anti-Blackness and misogynoir? Choices in this context barely exist in the face of violence, let alone “privilege.” 

Would anyone really dare speak of this “privilege” to not experience the undocumented/underreported and documented, recorded and at times (though not always; often charges are not even filed let alone go to trial/conviction) criminally tried police/State violence and extrajudicial execution to Black trans women? Would they dare look a Black trans woman in the face and suggest that her “privilege” over Black men keeps her safe from State violence? When Black trans women are regularly verbally and sexually assaulted and actively denied the start of due process by the police when they even risk calling the police in response to other violence on them? How does the astronomical level violence on Black trans women resolve itself with a claim of “privilege” for Black women over Black men? How does the absence of State violence for Black trans women as a hypothesis reconcile its existence with what happened to Islan Nettles, (the violence of the civilian killing itself and then the State violence via the police/courts), Monica Jones and CeCe McDonald?

What privilege (as in structural power which creates protection from a particular oppression based on fixed or shifting identity facets that power aligns with) does a Black mother experience when she buries her Black child, of any gender, murdered because of anti-Blackness and State violence (where unlike intraracial crime, she has very little hope of actual justice and has to face years of racist abuse and media/capitalistic exploitation on top of grieving her child’s murder)? She’s a Black woman too, so by this hypothesis, she is “privileged” over her son, if the person is a son killed. Would any Black woman, this writer or not, suggest Lesley McSpadden has “privilege” in this context? Or how about Sybrina Fulton? Perhaps Lucia McBath? If the reference to “privilege” is burying a son for the anti-Blackness—manifested as extrajudicial execution and State violence—that he faced and so many Black girls and Black women have faced, this reference is epistemic violence. It’s purposely altering the language used to describe oppression to engage in ahistorical analysis that supports oppression (in this case of Black women) or erasure of that history itself. Black women are HURT when Black men are abused and killed. Black women are ALSO abused and killed. Anti-Blackness as a manifestation of dehumanization through socially sanctioned violence harms Black people, period. Misrepresenting Black women’s experiences and lives as a way to “support” Black men commits more violence on Black women via erasure. 

And since when do Black women get to “speak out” when Black men do not? When do we have universal luxury to “ruffle feathers” in a way Black men do not when violent repercussions from everything from being denied employment as economic violence to street harassment, physical violence/beating, rape, incarceration and even death are the price? Certainly Whites have their unreasonable fears of Black men specifically and have proven it through unspeakable violence for centuries while pretending they are the ones at risk. They have media controlling images to further sanitize their violence or normalize it as an acceptable response to Black men’s existences as “inherently non-human.” But that fear of theirs does not start and end with cishet Black men in particular. And that structural impact of anti-Blackness has never spared a Black body for respectability or for gender. I mean, even making such a supposition is just a modernized version of suggesting slavery “harmed” Black men “more” since they couldn’t be equal patriarchs with White men, versus examining the impact that slavery had on Black women specifically or examining the dehumanization it created for Black people in general. Being patriarchal is not being “pro-Black.” It’s supporting the politics of erasure via non-structurally connected and/or ahistorical views that imperialist White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy needs to thrive.

Finally, I am deeply uncomfortable with patriarchal and heterosexist framing in terms of “allyship.” She wrote: 

We Black women, too, have to be equally aware of the ways in which the privileges we enjoy might harm Black men—especially those of us who already are, or will one day become, life partners with a Black man. For me it means that I’m going to have to learn when and where I should bite my tongue, swallow that lump in my throat, and adhere to the ways in which Black men have learned to survive and thrive in this world, especially if they don’t quite jibe with my own methods.

This statement is patriarchy. It is not anti-oppression or womanism or Black feminism or anything like that. Black women are not Black men’s “allies.” We are their oppressed at worse or their partners (speaking politically, not romantically right now) at best. “Allies” implies we stand at a structurally more powerful position than them and have to facilitate the undoing of their oppression that we cause. Are Black people White people’s “allies?” Are LGBTQIA people heterosexual people’s “allies?” Using “ally” in this context in her article is also epistemic violence. It’s too gross an inaccuracy to overlook and it is dangerous as it paints Black women as oppressors who have to work to not oppress Black men. And with a heterosexual framing, this is simply not the case. (With an intersectional framing, for example, a cishet Black woman [and for the record, not all cis Black women are heterosexual or thereby “cishet”] could be homophobic to a cis gay Black man as he could simultaneously be misogynoiristic and misogynistic to her. In other words, it is not a linear supposition that Black women can never be oppressors and oppressed by Black men simultaneously, but with a heterosexual framing, the claim Black women have “privilege” over Black men is epistemically violent.) Black women are not oppressing Black men in this context. And simply because the author “ruffled feathers” in an interpersonal situation while the Black man she was with wanted her not to respond does not mean she had privilege to “ruffle feathers” while he alone had to fear violence. Black women also have to fear violence for speaking out. (I am ACUTELY experienced with this, as you know, if you’ve followed me online even for a short time.) 

I mean, just a few weeks ago I experienced extremely abusive Black men telling me to shut the fuck up about street harassment on Black women (and I included other men/cops harassing me, by the way, not just Black men) and instead focus on State violence on Black women. Now all of sudden (again) some Black men are stating that Black women’s activism against violence doesn’t exist (which connects to a long history of erasure of Black women and activism) or shouldn’t exist, and some Black men and some Black women (like the author of the referenced article) are centering Black men as the only victims of State violence? Interesting. (And I discussed this before, the nuance needed to examine why suggesting Black people “don’t care” about intraracial crime is ahistorical and violence via dehumanization, but also how “Black on Black” crime, beyond being a violent misnomer, eclipses the experiences of Black people who are not cishet Black men anyway, when used as a false equalizing silencing tactic against discussing extrajudicial execution and State violence on Black people.)

As I alluded to on Twitter this morning, my activism is NOT about turning Black men into White men’s peers via patriarchy and continue the oppression of Black people. My activism is about the liberation of Black people and that cannot occur by indulging erasure and deciding that silence can replace justice. Black women’s lives matter. Them mattering does not mean Black men’s lives no longer matter. I don’t have to erase myself to support Black men. I refuse to engage in “support” that requires me to be silent and categorizes the abuse that Black women experience as a “privilege” by erasing the history and experiences altogether. 

A honest conversation on privilege as it occurs intraracially? One that speaks to the reality of male privilege that Black men, especially cishet ones have over Black women. One that speaks to the fact that even as Black women are minimized and ignored, Black trans women face this marginalization more than cis Black women do. One that takes a look at the misogynoir that cis gay Black men engage in when they demand Black women be mules and center Black men over Black women—who are not all heterosexual—who are also abused and ignored as cis gay Black men are, yet no such demand exists from them to cishet Black men, when perhaps it actually should. One that examines how respectability politics is tied into class and fellow Black people doing better than masses of impoverished Black people regularly blame Black people for our own deaths at the hands of the State, even when blamed “benevolently" or via victim blaming. One that examines how colourism shapes the myth of the “brute” for Black men because it is not a coincidence that most of the Black men who are brutalized tend to be darker Black men. One that examines this same colourism and how Black women are deemed less worth of safety and less “feminine” the darker we are. One that looks at complexities of disability (and how anti-Blackness is inherent ableism), of citizenship, of fat shaming…of many intersections. One that examines how heterosexual Black people (whose heterosexuality still doesn’t structurally engage in the way White heterosexuality does, to be clear) fail Black LGBTQIA people, and not because of White supremacist myths of Black “inherent” bigotry as if Whites do not enforce this bigotry themselves via endless structural power, but one that takes a look at how Black social structures (also influenced by White supremacy; i.e. homophobia in the Church directly connects to binary gender roles and “appropriate” sexuality to be deemed “human” in the White Gaze via “respectability” post-Civil War to current) leave them the out. One that contextualizes the fact that many Black women suffer abuse from Black men for the very reason that Black men are brutalized and do not call the police as to protect them from police brutality. How…is…that…privilege?

The erasure of the history, the experiences, the activism and the reality of Black women in relation to police brutality, extrajudicial execution and State violence is unacceptable. Erasing Black women is NOT “supporting” Black men. It is erasure of Black history, something Whites/non-Black people of colour gleefully engage in via epistemic violence, false equalization and using Black death solely as a trope to center non-Black lives. We can’t also engage in our own erasure. Love itself, as a concept and praxis, needs to be decolonized when it’s expected to be/expressed as the erasure of Black women in the service of Black men. Harm to any Black people is not “pro-Black.” Black women’s truths and lives matter. Black lives matter. And everyone, including fellow Black people, have to start actually believing this. And then start or continue acting against any oppression that seeks to confer anything different from the value of Black life.

August 2014
15

The Violence That Black Trans Women Face

[content warning: transmisogynoir] Tiffany Edwards, 28 years old, is a Black trans woman who was shot to death in Ohio. Cemia “Ci Ci” Dove, 20 years old, is Black trans woman who was stabbed to death and her body was further brutalized in Ohio. Mia Henderson, 26 years old, is a Black trans woman who was killed and her body experienced “severe trauma” in Maryland. Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, 22 years old, is a Black trans woman who was shot to death in Ohio.

They are just a (recent) sampling of the young Black trans women who face astronomical rates (such that most homicides among LGBTQ people are of trans women of colour, particularly Black trans women) of violence and homicide because of anti-Blackness, racism, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, colourism, classism/economic violence, for some, misogynoir specific to sex work, and transmisogyny in general. There are so many intersecting oppressions and one that is regularly eclipsed when violence on Black trans women is discussed is anti-Blackness itself, which alludes to the ways in which the socially acceptable hatred and oppression of Black women in general amplifies for Black trans women. Even in death, as anti-Blackness never allows death to be the final act for Black people, these women are misgendered and immediately associated with crime, versus their gender and humanity honored and their lives respected. Blackness alone, let alone their other intersecting oppressions guarantees that the latter is unlikely.

Whenever street harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, police harassment, police brutality, extrajudicial violence/execution and State violence are discussed, Black trans women’s experiences have to be included. Whether the violence is intraracial (re: what Laverne Cox explained about this, not as arbitrary Black pathology but inherently occurring because of the impact of anti-Blackness, White supremacy and more on gender for Black people), interracial (as some violence occurs to Black trans women just for existing, as with CeCe McDonald, while some is related to transmisogynoir and sex work), extrajudicial or State violence (such as the consistent willful violence from the police as in what Monica Jones experienced, healthcare and legal systems), Black trans women’s experiences have to be included. (And there’s much to be said about the impact of oppression on Black trans women and mental health since almost 50% Black trans people, in general, have attempted suicide.)

Information on violence against Black trans women and structural factors that contribute to this (some includes other LGBTQIA populations):

Devastating to regularly encounter these stories. This is also violence on Black people. Tiffany’s, Cemia’s, Mia’s and Brittany’s lives mattered. Black trans women matter.

August 2014
14

I once tweeted that Black womanhood is inherently viewed as drag performance. A loaded statement to be sure, but also one I’m very confident in making. When the image of the perfect woman is coded from childhood as Snow White, the fairest and most sunburned in all the land, the idea becomes that all the rest of us are just donning costumes to imitate true beauty. The assumption is always that Black women are all imitating ‘true women’ with long silky hair, light eyes and a list of features not associated with Blackness. There is surely a scale of womanhood in which Black women, trans women, and those with large enough liquor cabinets to attempt both, find ourselves at the bottom. We tend to overlook this in how we view what it means to be trans and cis (presenting in a way deemed normative to the gender you were assigned at birth) and who has access to narratives of womanhood.

 

Shaadi Devereaux

Quote is from her essay Rollersets & Realness: Black Womanhood Defined as Drag Performance on Black Girl Dangerous. It is brilliant. It examines White cisnormative beauty and the oppression that Black women who do not meet this face and especially what Black trans women face. 

August 2014
14

Epistemic Violence, Erasure and The Value Of Black Life

Above I tweeted about the continued epistemic violence and erasure that happens when Black deaths are used as memes, tropes and metaphors to center non-Black lives while living breathing Black people are harmed, gaslighted, degraded, abused and executed, and told that we do not experience the very same oppression that people use to center anyone else. This comes from both Whites and non-Black people of colour, regularly. Just as settler colonialism is inherent in the foundation of this country, so is anti-Blackness. So State violence occurring here does not have to mirror any other place to be real when this violence has centuries of history in the U.S. and when Black people are dying right now. Not metaphorically. Really dying right now. 

In my first tweet I mentioned “Black criminals” because one, criminality is inferred on Black bodies regardless of validity—it was inferred on Michael Brown regardless of it being false and was instead motived by anti-Blackness and racism,—and two, thinking along the lines of Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete?, I am not supportive of dehumanization even within incarceration and I question the existing structure of the Prison Industrial Complex.

If Black life is only valuable insofar as the oppression can be separated from the people to highlight someone else’s experience while the same Black people are degraded, then this “value” is actually violence. There are ways to easily contextualize and even examine similarities and differences in the experiences of non-Black people and Black people without anti-Blackness. It is because of anti-Blackness that so few non-Black people ever try to. 

This is not about Black people “owning” oppression. It’s about specific anti-Blackness as oppression literally not mattering whatsoever to so many people unless it makes for good click bait to center something/someone else in a non-intersectional and straight up anti-Black way or to use as “symbolic” oppression and death to center non-Black lives deemed “more valuable” than Black ones. This is not okay. (And it is still not okay to derail protest against extrajudicial execution, State violence and Constitutional infringement with intraracial crime among civilians, what every race experiences [even as only Black people are pathologized with having intraracial civilian crime and then dehumanized by the suggestion that we don’t care], or with the politics of respectability.) 

"They are comparing Ferguson to war zones outside the US because this doesn’t seem like home. Certainly not the home they know. They can’t fathom it happening in their country. No my friends, this is America. This is your country. This is what it has always been. Violence committed against Black people is as American as apple pie." - atane

When people say Ferguson, MO in America “looks like a war zone” without acknowledging America IS a war against Black people because of anti-Blackness, they engage in erasure. Erasure is violence. Erasure is antithetical to solidarity.

(R.I.P. Michael Brown. Love to his mother Lesley McSpadden, his family and his community under attack by State violence. Love to all of the Black people/families who faced and will face this violence and to Black people who know the oppression we face and our lives themselves aren’t just ideas for comparison and consumption and deserve better than epistemic violence and erasure.)