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August 2014
26

A Year Older. A Good Day.

So I turned 35 today. I had a really nice day today. Got tons of “Happy Birthday” tweets, messages, emails and calls. Got some nice presents. By “nice” I mean cash or gift cards. I’m one of those I guess terrible people who think those things are awesome. I can’t support “Elaine” on Seinfeld who thought cash was a terrible gift. I would think a random $182.00 is pretty awesome.

I saw one of my old high school buddies today; I had not seen her since her wedding about 8 years ago, and before that many years passed as I hadn’t seen her since various visits during undergrad years. She, my best friend and I talked for hours and hours today. Good laughs to the point where my face hurt and my stomach cramped a bit.

It’s so funny because we met so early in high school that it has literally been twenty years of knowing each other. And even when many years pass without speaking, we pick right back up and start laughing. We shared so many funny stories about dudes who were trifling then and even more trifling now. Dudes who were cool then and are cool now. Who got married. Who didn’t. Who became parents. Who didn’t. The never ending pursuit of education or is it a final NO. (For me, I truly think so.) Travel. Weddings. Heavy stuff…like the impact of anti-Blackness and extrajudicial execution/State violence on Black lives; family illnesses, funerals. Life.

I was visiting the old friend as one of her children was getting better though in the hospital; one of the nurses that came in turned out to know my best friend since elementary school. So like, this happens often. So when White people are being irritating and assume all Black people know each other/are interchangeable, they’re being irritating and dehumanizing. But the reality is, the way we engage in family, community, culture and fictive kinship, our experience of connection means that yeah, there may be a random Black person out in public and I know them or their family knows mine or something. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean literally anyone who walks in the door who is Black and male is then my husband (which I don’t have) or that Black people who came in after me should be seated at my table at a restaurant (these things have happened before). 

I really enjoyed laughing with my friends and being somewhat scarce on social media today. If I am in a space where I won’t be street harassed, where the likelihood of racial microaggressions are small, and where I have little internet use, then hours upon hours of a good time is so easy to have and so meaningful to me. 

I did expect to be somewhat down today. I have been for a long time, which I’ve explained over the last month in some of my writing. However, it was a good day today. I do feel…older. But…I’m kinda okay with that. I joke about being a younger age, but I don’t want to be 21 again. I rather experience 35 and see what it’s about. Hopefully a lot more good than bad, as usual/common. I’ll see.❤ 

August 2014
26

Read This Week

Though my original plan when I started this blog over two years ago was to share a Read This Week feature *every* week, some weeks I missed and others I was on break for self-care and rest. So while this should be maybe the 116th or so one, it is the 88th one.

About every week I share recently read articles, essays, journal articles and/or papers that I find important/interesting and think you may be interested in based on you reading Gradient Lair.

Great writing from other writers that I recently read…

Itemizing Atrocity by @prisonculture and @tamaranopper on Jacobin is utterly brilliant and beyond timely. I was in tears upon reading this. The subheading? "For blacks, the ‘war on terror’ hasn’t come home. It’s always been here." I have felt so much stress to my core from the anti-Blackness of extrajudicial execution and State violence themselves AND the willful erasure of the reality of Black oppression, experience, history and pain through people’s willful disconnection of Ferguson from the history of violence on Black people in the U.S., using Michael Brown’s death as a trope to recenter non-Black bodies or through false equalizations. MUST READ THIS. Was so glad for this truth.

Why Learning Not to Hate Myself was Better than Loving Myself by @Blackamazon on her personal blog is just exquisite. Beautifully expressive and really questions thinking about self-love and self-hate as linearly connected. When she spoke of them co-existing, especially in the personal and political space she occupies as a Black woman, I was just enamored by the truth of this complexity and humanity for Black women. This is one of the most important self-care (and beyond the concept of self-care as individualized consumption only) pieces I’ve read in a long time. So thankful for her words and her voice.

Of Activists, Feminism, & Mammy Issues by @Karnythia on The Angry Black Woman is several years old but still relevant like it was published last night. She addresses the fact that Black women’s labor, even in “progressive” space, is taken for granted and exploited with unreasonable demands placed on Black women. (Even in the midst of Black women’s multi-pronged activism regarding Ferguson, I noticed unreasonable demands placed on Black women while this activism is simultaneously erased as non-existent.) 

Why We Cannot Have Reproductive Justice Without Fighting Police Brutality by @ethiopiennesays on The Frisky is really critical. Police brutality IS a reproductive justice issue. She writes: "Is it not an assault on Black people’s reproductive rights to brutally and systematically deny us the opportunity to raise children who will grow to adulthood, who can experience the world with childlike wonder? Is it not an assault on Black people’s reproductive rights to tell us we give birth to future criminals and not innocent children, to murder one of us every 28 hours and leave a family in mourning?” Painful…beyond. Important.

Why You Should Read Assata Shakur In Times Of Ferguson by @MsAfropolitan on her personal blog is a good short read that creates parallels between State violence on Black people decades ago and now, both here in the U.S. Without erasure of the impact of State violence on Black women either. Assata’s experience, witnessing extrajudicial execution and State violence on Black men and experience with State violence herself that she barely escaped helps to provide perspective for current events. Good post (and definitely read Assata’s autobiography, by the way).

Stay tuned for future reading suggestions!

August 2014
26
Via   •   Source

stereoculturesociety:

CultureHISTORY: #MikeBrown Funeral - August 2014 

  1. Mike Brown casket w/ St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap
  2. Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden at her son’s service
  3. Attendees united in song
  4. Funeral attendees
  5. Memorial including long line of roses at Mike Brown’s murder site
  6. A painting & memorial from Atlanta, GA
August 2014
25

Empathy Without Violence: On Reaching Out To People Who Are Thinking About Suicide

I recently discussed my own experiences with suicide ideation throughout my lifetime and shared information/statistics on Black people and suicide under @Russian_Starr's hashtag #BlackSuicide. He has been amazingly honest and brave discussing this; a few other Black men have been as well. I note this because I’ve only been able to have this conversation online with other Black women, for years, so I was glad to witness this among Black men.

Because I had a recent experience with suicide ideation only a month ago, a lot people thought they were being “helpful” by trying to “diagnose” me (when I, not them, actually have graduate-level mental health counseling training, and whether formal or organic, this actually requires training, not guessing based on talk show episodes and such), by trying to force religious practices on me (even people who know I am an agnostic atheist; so then by doing this they were being abusive) or engaged in victim blaming (whether in general or via stereotypes about how I “should” be “strong" aka “you’re a Black woman, you don’t feel pain!”). 

These are not helpful things. These are not caring things. Remember, intent is…hmm, how can I say it politely…FUCKING IRRELEVANT. Impact matters more than intent. I recently sent the tweets below because I got tired of people not understanding how to “help” without being abusive. Not listening, victim blaming or calling people dealing with suicide ideations, suicide attempts or making comments after a suicide by calling the person “selfish" is engaging in violence. 

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Empathy without violence means not devaluing Black humanity, which is already especially unlikely. We know our lives are structurally and fundamentally devalued and responded to with violence because of anti-Blackness, misogynoir, transmisogynoir (and many other intersecting oppressions) and that many non-Black (and especially White) “allies” who become more concerned with performing allyship than being good people have a difficult time responding to us, even when being “kind,” as human beings beyond existing as metaphors to recenter their own lives or as objects of consumption. Thus, many fail at offering compassion without being abusive. 

Empathy without violence, intraracially, means first off all to stop writing off mental health issues and pain as “White.” Many issues impact Black people’s responses to suicide discussion, from shame, to blame, to legitimate fear based on history of and experience with medical racism (or racism in science, in general) including in mental health care, to lack of access to mental health services, to lack of access to culturally competent mental health providers, to internalization of racist and ableist myths about all Black people being neurotypical and able-bodied thereby automatically “strong,” to at times certain places of worship in certain theisms that some Black people practice discouraging mental health care; a lot of issues. Consistently valuing ourselves as worth the care and not less human because we may need it really matters. Without forced guilt? Without having to deal with being called “selfish?” That would be amazing.

Empathy without violence is centering the needs of the person who needs care. It means learning how to respond to a person dealing with pain (which for some is a lifetime of battling suicide ideation) without emotional abuse. It means reading up on suicide and knowing resources available. Listening. It means unlearning victim blaming as a knee-jerk response. It also means unlearning the notion that it is always “low self-esteem” or “weakness” that causes some Black people to feel suicidal. First of all, self-esteem is not arbitrary; external factors like abuse and oppression can impact it. Secondly, as I know from experience, many Black people with high self-esteem about our intelligence, appearance and/or personality still struggle with suicidal ideations because of experiencing abuse in private, public and online spaces and because of the ramifications of structural violence and oppression on our lives. 

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Empathy without violence means not telling people "have you tried ignoring abuse and oppression?" or "get over it!" or "well ____ has it worse!" It means caring or getting the fuck out of the way of people who do actually care, so that they can help those dealing with suicide ideation and planning. It also means knowing the difficult truth that some people may not want help and may need space, even if that lack of help and abundance space is a risk. This is not easy for those trying to help. Take a step back and imagine how difficult it must be for the person actually experiencing this though.

Though I am feeling better than I did last month during several days of suicide ideations and planning, and don’t feel that way at all right now, the reality, as I mentioned above, is for some people this reoccurs throughout our lifetimes. I don’t know if I will feel this way again, but since I have more than once in my lifetime, I know that it is possible. I’ve learned that the least helpful thing I’ve experienced isn’t always the directly violent wishes of death on me/death threats or even the uncaring concern trolls who respond in an ableist manner when I discuss Black women’s mental health and suicide. It’s at times the people who claim they care. The ones who really want to be there for me but don’t realize that their methods of “helping” are harmful. The ones who abandon me when I can no longer be the mammy that they claimed they didn’t want me to be, but when tested, proven false. I rather a person completely leave me alone, even if I am struggling, than to offer “compassion” that is really violence. 

August 2014
25

I will state flatly that the bulk of this country’s white population impresses me, and has so impressed me for a very long time, as being beyond any conceivable hope of moral rehabilitation. They have been white, if I may so put it, too long; they have been married to the lie of white supremacy too long; the effect in the personalities, their lives, their grasp of realty, has been as devastating as the lava which so memorably immobilized the citizens of Pompeii. They are unable to conceive that their version of reality, which they want me to accept, is an insult to my history and a parody of theirs and an intolerable violation of myself.

 

James Baldwin

Quote is from “The Price May Be To High,” originally published in 1969 and essay can be viewed in a posthumous collection of his writing, The Cross Of The Redemption.

This quote comes to mind when I think of: the anti-Blackness that is State violence; the lack of structural and social contrition that exists in response to the extrajudicial execution of Black people, including many Black men, Black teens like Michael Brown and the Black girls/Black women and especially Black trans women who are ignored; the fact that racist Whites co-opted "I am ____" to support a racist cop, Darren Wilson, who murdered Michael Brown; the fact that White supremacist message boards (who have been attacking Black women online for a long time) and groups, in conjunction with Ferguson police organized raising a quarter of a million dollars to support Wilson who has not been arrested, let alone tried for this murder and has not lost a cent of income, so basically he was paid for a lynching; the fact that GoFundMe profited off of that fundraiser; the pathological violence added as messages on the donation board that amounted to picnic talk after a lynching; the fact that Whites think State violence is acceptable and necessary if Black people, like other races of people, including Whites by far, experience intraracial crime.

This quote comes to mind when I think of: the fact that many Whites (and in this case, also non-Black people of colour) are engaging in epistemic violence via co-opting, generalizing or erasing the context specific to Ferguson and its connection to centuries of State violence on Black people; the fact that many Whites are engaged in sheer celebration of this violence while simultaneously suggesting violence has no connection to their very identities and is inherently “Black;” the fact that the media is willfully pushing regularly debunked myths about “injuries” that do not exist for Darren Wilson; the racist media framing that dehumanizes Michael Brown as standard protocol since death is never the “final act" because of anti-Blackness and post-mortem violence ultimately trying Black victims not White murderers in the press and the courts, is psychological warfare and violence on the Black people who remain, and acute unspeakable violence against the family of the executed; the endless cycle of lies, trolling and abuse towards Black activists (on the ground and online) from Whites who defend Darren Wilson or are abusive as “allies” that play “devil’s advocate,” as if this is about a single White man in theory and not a real Black death and the reification of White supremacy, State violence, and anti-Blackness that policing was built on and confers.

This quote comes to mind when I think of: the fact that the same racist liars who claim they are “waiting for facts” to decide if Black life is valuable gladly share phony images of Michael Brown, taunt Black people for sheer pleasure, and consistently repost debunked lies; the fact that they search Michael Brown’s name on Twitter solely to attack random Black people online; the fact that many White “allies” are more concerned with yelling #NotAllWhites than considering that structurally, #YesAllBlacks deal with anti-Blackness, and structurally, #YesAllWhites benefit; the fact that they demand to be “loved” as if rejection of the violence of White supremacy is about love or hate.

When I discuss sociopathy and White supremacy (which is NOT Axis II Anti-Social Personality Disorder, nor is the DSM-V infallible, so White supremacist academics who think they own disability discourse, don’t bring your epistemic violence here, nor your racist, misogynoiristic assumptions of my own neurotypical status, which is not the case) this is what I am talking about. Specific socialization, in position of power (that makes empathy for Black people virtually non-existent; that facilities dehumanization and rationalization of that violence), not a mental health issue that would impact Whites’ interaction with anyone. Thus, Whites trying to excuse this violence by suggesting it is mental health-caused is an ableist response; the notion that socialization of the oppressor also exists, is not.

And this is just a snippet of violence that anti-Blackness guarantees for Black life. I barely said anything here…barely covered the scope of the violence that Whiteness confers as a social position of powerAnd I am exhausted right now. I am tired.

Blackness itself is not considered human, despite the reality of our humanity that we know our lives embody despite oppression. Yet this, what I described above—this, Whiteness as social position of power—is considered the standard for humanity.

August 2014
25
Via   •   Source

wocinsolidarity:

mashable:

Laverne Cox dancing during Beyonce’s VMA performance is everything!

and then my heart exploded

August 2014
24

Stunning portraits by photographer Phil Knott, from The New York Times: Lens article Afropunks, Come As You Are by Whitney Richardson.

Beautiful. Remarkable.  

August 2014
24

amarie-di-caprio asked/commented:

You probably get this a lot, but I just thought you should know that you are Super Gorgeous. Inside and out. As a black woman, I'm so, so glad I found your blog a while ago and that it's a safe space for us. You've taught me so, so much about myself and our sisters. Thank you so much. And love your selfies! :D :D :D

Thank you for the kind words! ❤ 

August 2014
23

For Me, Selfies Are A Reminder Of…Happy.

Above are some iPhone selfies from while I was on vacation in California recently. It really helped getting away for a while (and had to do so in June as well; 2014 has been…difficult), because as I discussed several weeks ago, I’ve been going though some terrible times, but received a lot of support and kindness online, which I appreciate since my experience online is mostly dealing with abuse, by far, as you know. The trip was nice (photography, rest, On The Run concert, good food, wine, fun with my sister). Now I am trying to complete this move that I mentioned several weeks ago. Still under stress, but doing better than last month, and focused on that goal. 

I’ve talked about the politics of selfies before, but you know there’s something else I didn’t mention in any previous discussions. Sometimes…I need visual reminders of times when/where I was happy. I need to remember that I felt that way. My 35th birthday is coming up so this is especially important to me. So even beyond creation of our own images as Black women (since we are often either invisible and ignored or hypervisible but stereotyped/laughed at in media) and self-esteem etc., I just…like seeing and remembering times when I am happy. Dassit.  

August 2014
23
Via   •   Source

For it is not the anger of Black women which is dripping down over this globe like a diseased liquid. It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, pushes opera singers off rooftops, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth. It is not the anger of Black women which corrodes into blind, dehumanizing power, bent upon the annihilation of us all unless we meet it with what we have, our power to examine and to redefine the terms upon which we will live and work; our power to envision and to reconstruct, anger by painful anger, stone upon heavy stone, a future of pollinating difference and the earth to support our choices.

 

Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger” (via so-treu)

I think of this quote every time someone tries to categorize my righteous anger with context, into some “pathology” that is “arbitrary” and the “real” oppressor. Fuck that.

Audre be knowin…

August 2014
23
Via   •   Source

ivoryathena:

Badass women from history - part 2 (part 1)

  1. Cheering women at a Civil Rights march
  2. Black surfers at the beach
  3. Bessie Stringfield, “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami”—the first black woman to ride across the United States solo
  4. Black Lesbian group banner on the Lesbian Strength march, 1984
  5. Eartha Kitt doing yoga by the ocean

EPIC!