Tomi Lahren is Becky… And Other Reasons Why Trevor Noah’s “Confrontation” Wasn’t Helpful

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It’d be an understatement to say the last few weeks have been emotional. Since Donald Trump was elected president, it seems the world has begun to crumble. The way sand cliffs slide into the sea, we’ve known it would happen at some point, but to watch it before our eyes evokes a spellbinding horror.

First there was the initial shock and panic. Then there was the rather abrupt validation and normalization of the means and mentality Trump used to get where he now is. This, for millions of people, resulted in another wave of shock and panic. We’ve clung even tighter to each other and we’re reaching out to anyone with a microphone to ease our terror and relieve our fears… and what better way than with a laugh? If we can laugh – just for a second – won’t everything be okay?

I found myself either on Twitter or watching Colbert and Trevor Noah constantly for the first week or so after the election. Out of the three, twitter has been the most therapeutic. Sadly, as I get older, I see that the Colbert I once idolized is… nothing more than a rich white man with an impressive amount of liberal enthusiasm.

And then there’s Trevor.

“Trevor Noah faces off with Tomi Lahren on The Daily Show” read the headline on my feed four days ago. I was just waking up and the words caught my attention.

Yesssss. I thought.

When Trevor Noah took over the Daily Show, I felt a flurry of emotions. I was deeply disappointed that the position wasn’t given to Jessica Williams, a young Black Californian with bold humor,  brilliant comedic timing, and a bubbly smile. She started off as the Daily Show’s youngest correspondent, and remained their brightest.
But while I was let down that Comedy Central didn’t go for the obvious pick,  I was happy that they picked Trevor Noah. Not only is he someone other than another white guy, but he’s a mixed-Black South African. I thought his position in the African Diaspora would bring a fresh perspective to a lot of the issues surrounding us right now. Jon Stewart did a decent job in recognizing his privilege and using his platform to shine light and shame onto different social issues. Clearly, a Black man would only drive these sentiments further. For Trevor Noah to take Jon Stewart’s place excited me because he gives the show the potential to get even sharper and more confrontational.

Or so I thought.

As I clicked the link hovering under the headline, I was excited to see this “face off”. I wasn’t just hopeful that Trevor would confront Tomi Lahren — the young racist whose hate goes viral time and time again — I was expecting it.

But that’s not what happened. And that’s why we need to talk about the politics of beauty in a white supremacy.

Let’s talk about Tomi Lahren.

Tomi Lahren, I’m sorry to tell you, is someone I actually had to take time to google. The first time I saw her was a few months ago on facebook. She was in a video spewing anti-feminist garbage into my ears. I could smell her breath through the screen.. It smelled like internalized-sexism. I looked at her and felt sad. Blonde hair, blue eyes, a great smile, a thin body… The all-American girl. A waste. Little did I know those videos would result in her own show on television.

And that’s where we go from beauty to politics.

Tomi Lahren has the face that Americans, regardless of race, have been conditioned to humanize in ways unimaginable for anyone not white, thin, and “pretty”. She’s the one we’ve watched our whole lives play the protagonist or the protagonist’s reward. Our society has always given her the space and the platform to express herself.

You imagine she was on the cheerleading team. You can see her out horseback riding. Even when she calls for the deportation of millions of people, the justification of Black murder, and enthusiasm for the patrolling and registering of Muslim people.

It is vital the we recognize her vast reach didn’t happen spontaneously and it isn’t surprising. Despite what you may think of her personally, her face is one we’ve attached to the epitome of beauty. And the power of that beauty in a white supremacy is a platform on national television and an appearance on one of the most popular liberal shows on television… The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Tomi Lahren can’t help what she looks like, but when she uses her power to reach millions of people with messages of xenophobia and racism, this becomes our problem. Because right now, from Donald Trump to Brexit, we are watching these beliefs turn to policy, and we need to confront the oppression with a swift and sharp “Cut the bullshit”.

That was Trevor Noah’s job.

Instead, he brought her onto his show and spent almost 30 minutes “confronting” her in a way that left an alarming taste in my mouth. I wanted to love it. I wanted to cheer for it. Initially, I did. But the next day, the taste was still there… I watched the video again.

First I noticed his body language. He seemed sheepish. He didn’t make strong eye contact and looked off toward the ground while “confronting her”. But his confrontations had no provocation and demanded no real accountability, on the contrary, they were soft attempts to mentor her. It reminded me of one of Obama’s weak speeches in his failed attempts to “reason” with Republicans. Noah never actually pressed her on how dangerous her beliefs are, or what the real implications those beliefs will have on millions of Americans. Instead he asks her to clarify them. Yes. Trevor Noah, the man I’ve been watching to wrap my mind around the chaos, gave Lahren free airtime to belch more racist propaganda. And he never seemed to really pin her.

In fact, when she falsely (but confidently) proclaimed that “Black men are 18.5x more likely to shoot a cop than a cop to shoot a black man! Those are statistics no one wants to talk about!”, Noah responded not by calling her bluff or demanding a source, but a fussy “Let’s move on to, like, the mainstream media.” A complete pass topped with “Because this is interesting. You’ve won.”

I was flabbergasted. Hurt. Overwhelmed. And my disenchantment only grew.

Both parties made statements on twitter thanking each other. Tomi said she had a “great time” while Noah tweeted she is “always welcome” on his show.

Then they went out for drinks. Thanks TMZ.

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Uhh.. no thank you.

This is where we see the depth of this issue. The network put a pretty white girl in a tight black dress in front of a Black guy and they both fell right into character. He softened his approach to the point of barely being able to look at her and she ate it up and then went out for drinks afterwards. This was spun as “destroying bubbles” and “respecting common goals”, but really this was two people who fell into a very typical narrative because they will never actually feel the blunt effects of the things they were discussing. They both would probably agree that they simply had drinks the same way they both agreed that they simply had opposing views.

As Tomi said, and Noah RTd:

not-a-bitchExcept you’re not “people with opposing views”. One person has an opinion that has the potential to ruin millions of lives. The other is defending their humanity. Or at least that’s what he was supposed to do?

Unless it’s not at all.

The opposite of someone trying to kill you (or justify your death) is not to convince them not to. It’s fight or flight. Considering most marginalized people in America do not have the privilege to pack up and leave the borders soon to be governed by a Trump administration, that leaves one option.

Fight.

Our job is not to use a bigot’s argument against our humanity to convince them to have drinks with us. Our job is to fight for our humanity’s tangible recognition in this society.

I’m ashamed to have ever been proud that Trevor Noah was given a microphone to speak for me. He never has. He never will. This is just a show for Noah. These are just topics to spit a couple jokes at and make a million bucks. At the end of the day, his identity as a South African doesn’t make him more connected to our struggle, but even less attached. He can sit for 30 minutes and listen to flaming racism without the slightest visceral reaction. Rather, he opted to freely spend more time across from that same person, privately.

So fine… I’ve just spent 1200 words railing. What would a successful confrontation have looked like then?

Let me introduce you to Darletta Scruggs.

Darletta Scruggs is an active member of the Socialist Alternative movement. She was invited onto Fox a few months ago to “discuss the success of the second #MillionStudentMarch day of action against Trump, racism and student debt.”

But when watching the discussion unfold between two people from polar opposites of the political spectrum, one notices how differently Scruggs navigates the conversation with a white man than Lahren did with a Noah.

This is what a face off looks like. This is confrontation. This is preparation and execution. This is Darletta Scruggs.

CLICK THIS BEFORE CONTINUING.

As a young Black Woman, Darletta is not protected by the privilege of white womanhood. The network didn’t put her in a little black anything. While Tomi Lahren regurgitated the same old poisonous rhetoric she’s gotten famous with, Scruggs was well-prepared to defend her views with nuanced contexts. Scruggs is not perceived as a dainty hometown girl with a little bite. She is not perceived as powerlessly naive needing only a strong man to guide her back to safety. Darletta is seen through the lens of whiteness that ties her words — that express a desire for the basic opportunities offered by other countries around the West — to being angry, loud, aggressive, unrealistic.

And she knows it.

That is precisely why she does not let the white man across from her use those tactics to derail the discussion that he is unprepared for. She does not let him gaslight her. She does not let him throw false facts or erase connections between issues. She holds him to a level of accountability that leads him to one conclusion: Agreeing with her.

He is forced to recognize the limits of his arguments. He is forced to recognize that hers go beyond, and the society waiting at the end of her views will be better for everyone.

In 7 minutes, Darletta Scruggs got a white man to acknowledge the necessity of change on his part.

After 30 minutes, can we say the same happened with Trevor Noah?

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To add insult to injury, since I’ve begun writing this piece cishet Black men have only gone further in their quest to save Missie Anne. Tomi Lahren was scheduled to appear on the Breakfast Club, which she cancelled, then went out with Charlemagne privately. Afterwards, he took to social media to lambast Women of Color for our lack of media presence, as though it isn’t directly connected to our marginalization in this white supremacist society.. he ended by comparing our could-be success to a platform that looks like Tomi’s.

Holy motherfucking yuck.

We will be free when everyone is free. Despite our differences, that’s the common goal our lives depend on… If Black men want to be a part of creating that world, their job is to amplify Black Women and Queer Black people, not elevate Becky. Come on, man. This struggle is loud. It’s intersectional. It’s unapologetic. To use this conversation to sleep with the enemy is not only offensive, it’s dangerous.

When cishet Black men are strong enough to sit across from Becky and deliver like Darletta Scruggs, then we can have a conversation. When they take ice cubes to their dicks before throwing Black Women under the bus for Becky is the day we can maybe work together for freedom and equity. Until then, stop stepping on us to get closer to a white girl from South Dakota.

This whole thing is gross.

Beyond Blackface

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Hey Everyone,

I recently wrote an article about an ordeal that took place here in Germany last month. Essentially, SWR aired an episode of “Verstehen Sie Spass” (Do You Get Funny) where one of the Aryan characters dressed up in Blackface in order to perpetuate ideas of Black inferiority for the Aryan audience in the studio, as well as the millions watching the skit at home.

There was huge backlash from Black People across Germany, and the SWR was forced to make a statement that only added insult to injury, especially when you look at this in the context of everything happening in the West right now.hello

As an American, it has been very interesting to be confronted by Blackface in Europe. This is such a clear taboo in my country — although white people also do it there — but I’ve never seen any*one* condone it as socially acceptable, let alone whole countries (Germany and The Netherlands, I’m looking at you).

In America, we are facing a myriad of challenges. We have our own history, our own culture, our own context… which is why it’s so important to put that in perspective with our siblings across the globe. Black liberation is when we all get free, right?

In order to stand in solidarity with one another, we have to understand the nuances of our existences.

I’ve lived in Germany for more than 5 years now. I left America right after the first decade of the millennium ended. For context, iPods were still a thing. Obama was still in his first term as president. Look at where we are now.

I am an American. My humor, my mannerisms, my accent beam U.S.A. But so much of my worldview has been molded by my experiences here in Europe. I don’t want to speak over anyone… just amplify what’s been shared with me, what I’ve experienced, and some ways we can work together to overcome oppression, which is different depending on who you are and where you are. Racism has another face here than what we recognize in the States. It subtely drains in a hopeless way. Our Afrogerman siblings describe it best with the word “lonely”.

I wrote this piece from my perspective, based on my experiences and relationship to this issue. It was reviewed by our siblings in the UK, Netherlands, and Germany, collaborating under the European Network of People of African Descent. It can currently be viewed on stopblackface.com and bethechangenetwork.tumblr.com, as well as below.

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts or start a conversation of your own.

Peace

Beyond Blackface

Blackface is not a new phenomenon, but the attitudes around it have evolved with the changing times. Today it may be seen as shocking or taboo, but its racist roots can be traced back almost two hundred years. While in the 1800s this “humor” was accepted as open racism that justified slavery and Jim Crow laws in the United States and other oppressive policies against People of Color by the West, today white society tries to avoid the guilt of its roots while gripping the giggles.

A brief review…  Blackface has been a staple in Western Society since the mid 19th century, when white men first began to perform “minstrel shows”. These performances date back to the Transatlantic Slave era when European colonizers kidnapped and enslaved African Peoples. Blackface was a form of entertainment amongst white mass society that perpetuated stereotypes of inferiority about Africans held in bondage. These stereotypes were imposed on Africans by white society in order to justify and normalize the brutality of enslavement and exploitation. White men would paint their skin black with grease, cork, or even shoe polish, and dance and sing on stage for white audiences as if a “happy” “silly” “loyal” and most importantly – “stupid” — slave. The humor was simple: See how these savages are? Slavery… They love it! And if that could make the white audience roar with laughter, how bad could it really be then?
And that’s the point. Racist humor functions as a license issued by and for the Oppressor to dehumanize those they oppress with a joke, normalizing their violence and downplaying its effects with a chuckle. It’s cognitive dissonance.

Western societies that have built their empires on the colonization and enslavement of People of Color across the world normalize their oppression so that it can continue on today, morphing, coding, and evolving from language to policy in order to perpetuate the system.

We saw this play out last month when Guido Cantz gave a disturbing Blackface performance on the television show “Verstehen Sie Spass?” (Do You Get ‘Funny’? Yes, ironic). The skit included all Aryan characters, from the host and woman seeking his help to the audience members eager to witness something scandalous.
The woman claimed her father went missing in South Africa (of all places) and she hadn’t seen him since. The host then “revealed” to have found her father, calling him out to the stage. To everyone’s “surprise” however, they are joined by Guido Cantz in Blackface. (Spoiler Alert: That’s funny because he’s not white like them… see: othering, or Africans! Ew! Ha ha!).

Blackface Guido then goes on to try and reconnect with “his daughter” while she and the host awkwardly scramble to get out of the situation. Their faces look tense and disgusted when they interact with Guido, asking him questions in an attempt to lead him to the conclusion they’ve already come to: He can’t be her father — he’s Black and she’s white! How can he not see? Oh, because he’s a stupid African! Funny!

And if that’s not already hilarious enough, the skit continues with this “funny” (see: racist) dialogue between the three of them where Blackface Guido speaks in broken English frosted with what my American-ears can only perceive as a bad attempt at a pseudo Indian accent. The punchline of Verstehen Sie Spaß is simple: Look how stupid this “African” is! Hilarious!

It’s gut-punching. Literally.

Around 1 million Black People are estimated to live in Germany out of a population of 80 million. But the small numbers are no reflection of our strength or depth here. Black People have a long and complex relationship in Germany. Our roots go back to the early 1700s when the Ghanaian Anton Wilhelm Amo studied at the University of Helmstedt and went on to lecture across the country. The strength of those roots could be seen in the response to the Verstehen Sie Spass episode aired last month. Black people all across the country were calling out the Blackface broadcasted on our tv screens, our message clear: Not then, not now, not ever.

Our societies are as they are because of the intricate relationship between power, culture, and history, not an unlucky strike of cosmic dice. To talk about the oppressive nature of Blackface in 2016 could be compared to continuing a conversation that has been going in circles for almost 200 years. For Western Society to play up old racist tropes in 2016 is not edgy or new, nor is it part of any artistic or satirical freedom of expression. It’s lazy and oppressive. We will loudly resist the normalization of racist stereotypes in media. This is a matter of dignity, not debate.

That means the appropriate response from SWR (the channel that aired Blackface Guido) would have been in the form of an apology.

We recognize the roots of Blackface and in that context this episode was inappropriate and highly offensive. We extend a deep apology to the community we’ve offended and will work to produce better content in the future.

Maybe they’d even hire some Black people on the network to avoid blunders like this in the future. Sadly, SWR instead reminded the world why we must continue to fight for basic human recognition. They responded by saying that the skit was neither defaming, discriminatory, or injurious but “obviously believable”; and they feel bad if anyone was offended.

Or in other words, white people have once again appointed themselves as the definers of all that is defaming, discriminatory, and injurious after inflicting pain on another community to avoid responsibility and reform. Then to add insult to injury, they’ve twisted the debacle to position themselves in a place of victimhood because of their guilty “feelings”. Here’s my response:

Dear SWR, don’t cry me a river of the same Aryan tears that were dripping down your face while you watched that Verstehen Sie Spass episode. Are you kidding me? This is white fragility on an institutional level. Deal with it.

And in the meantime we will continue to speak out and protest Blackface in society, at full volume. Unapologetically. As long as it remains a staple across Western Society. From Verstehen Sie Spass in Germany to Sinterklaas in the Netherlands to Halloween costumes across the West, white people continue to paint their skin to perpetuate ideas of inferiority about Black people and normalize their own cognitive dissonance about their relationship to oppression… In order to escape the acknowledgement that they are a problem. But it’s only in admitting that that they can begin to change.

Blackface has existed in our societies for centuries, and to have a conversation with white people about it 200 years in (at the state of this world right now) is, as SWR demonstrated in their response, moot. We know white supremacy exists. We see it parade in politics, talk on tv, sneer at us in stations, follow us in the store. We understand its roots.

So if this is actually a white people problem for white people to solve, where do we go once we’ve yelled our lungs dry? And where do we go between call-outs?

We go to us: The millions of Black people all over the world expressing ourselves and telling our own narratives. We find and support our own voices. Amplify them. Echo them.

Ultimately, this is what empowers us and ignites change.  I believe that everyone wants that, even white people. But as long as they choose to cling to the same racist skits and oppressive tropes they’ve clung to for centuries, we’re leaving them behind. Because even in our dust, one white person has a bad idea and it ends up on television. Millions of Black people have good ideas all the time; where are they?

All around us. Turn off SWR and find them. Your community, your healing, your strength. The time is now.
This sentiment of superiority – racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, classism, and homophobia – which built up Western nations through colonization is currently erupting from beneath the surface like wildfire. Alt-right groups have sprouted up around the West and their hatred and phobia are manifesting in policy from Brexit to the election of Donald Drumpf for U.S. president.

And so, while Blackface Guido stings to see, we must continue to look at the situation in its entirety, acknowledging the intersections of social and political issues and discussing their relationships to racism, history, and justice. Most importantly, we must continue to be loud about our existences, which means amplifying only our true voices, faces, and identities, whether it’s in protest against Blackface or celebrating at Afropunk. From Ava DuVarney to Cecile Emeke; from vine (RIP) to the twittersphere and beyond, Black people are creating curative content that’s just waiting for to be absorbed, responded to, and acted on.

Donald Trump is President: Black, American, Abroad.

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I haven’t slept in 2 days. I called out of work today. My lymph nodes are swollen. My eyes feel heavy from holding so many tears. I tried to let them go. I called my best friend in America. We cried together. We wore Black in mourning. I walked out into Germany, she only miles from Washington, D.C… where Donald Trump will soon be moving in. As president.

It’s really happened. The day really came and took a piece of humanity with it. The first domino was Brexit, and everyone knows that what happens in America spreads like wildfire across the globe. The far right is gaining foothold across Europe, and has been given a seat in the Oval Office in America. Yesterday we entered another era. An era where Donald Trump is president of the United States and the West follows suit. (Please read here).

My heart.

We wear Black when we are mourning, but we cannot take off Black skin. So we embrace the mourning and transform it. As our ancestors have done for hundreds of years, we will mourn, and

We will resist.

I made this video of my thoughts. I want my siblings across the Diaspora to know that I love you all. We matter. And we’re only going to get louder.

x newbz

Coon or Revolutionary: Mixed Girl with the Microphone, Whose Voice are you Amplifying?

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First, a story.

She had dark brown hair and her eyes were the same, but shining. I remember that she smiled at me when she said hello, and cast her eyes downward as if somewhat embarrassed.

She looked nice, and I was glad to have a new colleague.

We didn’t speak much her first day. Hey, I was still relatively new to the kindergarten… learning the ropes, planning and executing the English lessons. She was absorbed with finishing her education. Down to the last 6 weeks, this internship was her ticket to becoming a German preschool teacher… a 3 to 4 year endeavor.

However, we did get a moment between lessons and lunch, when we took the kids out to the playground and as they ran around, I stood beside her and asked her about herself. 24, finished secondary school at the highest level, Italian blood. I told her about me, 22, studying ESL, American. Her eyes still held that embarrassment from when we’d met in the morning, but now they also showed exhaustion.

I asked her how her first day was going.

“I don’t know if this is for me,” She admitted.
“Really?” I was surprised, “I mean, yeah it’s a lot of work, but the kids are rewarding, don’t you think?” She said to me, “You know, maybe I’m just tired because it’s my first day.” I laughed, “Well, this job is definitely good birth control!”

Her embarrassed eyes grew cold and confused. There was a deeply awkward silence where I had expected to hear laughter, and she looked at me curiously, “Birth control?”

That threw me off completely. I thought perhaps we were having some lost-in-translation moment. “Antibabypille.” I said (which is, actually, the German word for birth control lol).

She said to me, “Yeah…. what is that?”

I looked at her blankly. “Antibabypille?!” She nodded…

I began to explain: “You know.. it’s the hormonal pill you can take every month so you don’t have to worry about getting one of these” — I pointed to the children — “when you have sex”.

The word sex caused her to cringe. “Oh!” She exclaimed, “No. I don’t know that. I’m not having sex.” She said the word like it was dirty. I thought to myself, Oh god what have I gotten myself into. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.  And she did, but not before adding, “God wants me to wait until I’m married” while flashing her purity ring.

Now for some people reading this story, they will know exactly what kind of person I had just encountered. But for those like my colleagues, this must sound baffling. My colleagues were absolutely unprepared for the fundamentalist tornado this chick was going to try and twist the kindergarten into during her 6 week stay.

During her time there, she quietly invited my American colleague (who also happened to be the only other Black person in the preschool) and I to her “birthday party” which just so happened to be at her church. She talked to us in private about her dreams of going to Uganda and saving those “poor people” with White Jesus. She went to her church almost everyday after work and talked frequently about visiting the church in America that her German church collaborates with. She brought in business cards with bible verses printed on them and handed them only to my American colleague and I — and our colleague Jessica*, who had graduated from the lowest school in Germany, the least educated out of all of us. These things were never done in front of my other Aryan colleagues, and I believe Jessica only saw snippets because her education status has classist implications. The Italian Intern was there for the Blacks, the Uneducated, and the Children. A true angel.

So why didn’t we say anything?

Well, we did.. kind of. First, the three of us talked amongst ourselves, exchanging stories and figuring out what she was up to. My American colleague wanted to see it as a joke, Jessica chose to ignore it, and I did too, although perhaps for other reasons than Jessie.

But on the Italian Intern’s final day at the kindergarten, shit went down.

My American colleague was teasing. He said, “Hey, let’s go to the club tonight to celebrate your last day!” The Italian Intern smiled with that embarrassment I had come to know very well. “You know I cannot go there.” She said.

“Why not? We’ll celebrate!”
“There’s bad energy in those places.”
“No there’s not.. I go there all the time and have a great time!”
“Okay, but… it’s not a place for… me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know… Christians.
My American colleague laughed, “I’m Christian. And girl, my mom’s as Christian as they get. She goes to the club every Saturday… and church every Sunday! Never misses!”

Jessie and I laughed but for the first time the embarrassment in the Italian Intern’s smile dissipated and what I saw next was something dark underneath. It was a sneer. My colleagues caught it too. The room grew hot.

“What?” He said, “What’s wrong?”
She was smug and rapid in response, “Nothing.”
“Christians can go to the club.” He said defensively.
“No…” She said, her voice softer now, attempting to guide him. “True Christians don’t go to the club.”
“Are you saying my mom’s not a true Christian?”

And this sparked an intense debate.

Now I have just given this entire conversation in English, but now imagine, this is a bilingual kindergarten taking an immersion approach, so actually the way it really went down was that she spoke in German, he spoke in English, Jessica sat silently, and I translated between them.

Up until this point, I was annoyed but cooperative, but the territory was turning uncomfortably close to a place I never wanted to return to.

My American colleague attempted to mend relations by making it a matter of “different denominations”.

“You see,” He said, “I’m Baptist. What are you?”
“Evangelisch.” She replied.
Now this is why you don’t have these conversations through a translator. Especially one from an “Evangelisch” background like the Italian Intern’s… because when my American colleague looked at me for the translation, I said, “She’s fundamentalist.”

She understood me completely.

“Why would you say something like that?” She asked me. I could hear the pain in her voice. But it was time.

I was plain: “Because that’s what you are. You’re a fundamentalist.”

She repeated her question. I kept steady, and calmly asked her the following:

“Do you believe the earth is 6,000 years old?”

She laughed. “Well do you really believe it’s millions of years old?!”

“Billions. Do you believe in evolution?”

She laughed. “Do you really believe we come from monkeys?!”

I smiled at her, “It’s a little more complex than that.”

I had one more.

“Do you believe that we are all going to hell?” I motioned at me, Jessie, and my American colleague.

“I….I….” She couldn’t say anything. And all I could say next was, “That’s fundamentalism. And I get it… I really do. But you spent these last 6 weeks so absorbed in ‘saving us’ that you didn’t even get to know us. Do you really think you could go to Uganda and save those people there with your God when you can’t even relate to the people here? Trust me when I say, I know that you are doing this out of love. Because when you look at us, you see us suffering in fiery eternities… and you know we are nice, good people. And that just doesn’t make sense. So now I’ll ask you… Could it be that maybe you’re the one that needs to re-evaluate your beliefs?”

That basically ended the conversation. Our Aryan colleague came in, and of course, this was one of those secret conversations, and it was time for her to go. She’d failed her internship, not because she was a fundamentalist, but because she genuinely was pretty bad with kids. After she left, we told the other colleagues about the conversation and they were truly disturbed and dumbfounded. No one could imagine her to be that way, and if Jessie and the American hadn’t heard her with their own ears, they wouldn’t either.

As they laughed and mocked her though, I sat silently. Solemnly. I wanted to go to the bathroom. I wanted to cry. Because what I had just said wasn’t really to her. What I had said was to the girl I used to be. The girl with the purity ring.

And if you can understand my pain with this story, then maybe you can understand how I feel talking about race sometimes with other mixed-Black people. Being mixed is like being in this in-between, where you deal with anti-Blackness on the regular but are often raised with the conditioning to block it out. You regurgitate white-supremacist rhetoric with conviction and can’t see how it’s actually you that’s missing the big picture. You think you have it all figured out, when really there are endless dimensions of reality you’ve had the privilege to dismiss. And then society hands you the microphone to speak for an entire diverse community.

That’s what I wish I could have said to the mixed-Black woman who wrote the shitty pro-Trump article I came across this afternoon before she sent it to the editor. Instead I was baited into clicking her disturbing work because she left out her biracial identifier and wrote as a Black Woman voting for Donald Trump… going on to tell readers her twisted reasoning and how if you’re a good nigger like her, you’ll do the same. It was as if she’d ripped the page right out of the Book of Coondom. The book I know so well.

What hurt me most about the article was the way she tried to disguise herself in order for her views to “resonate” as valid beliefs from the community. While we are not a monolith, her views were very much consistent with the views of a mixed-Black person, not a Black person (although, disclaimer, obviously coons come in all shapes and colors).

But I know what I’m talking about when I speak of this writer who I’ve never met before because I read her piece, and a few others, and I  recognize her the same way I could recognize the fundamentalist in front of me as soon as she flashed her purity ring. Because in another dimension I am that person. That was my reality. And therefore I can intimately understand those points of views… as fucked up as they are.

Being out of it, of course I sometimes want to dismiss them too. Take back their Black Cards. Call them coons. But our community is one of the most diverse on the planet, and while some people can respond to this nonsense that way, that’s simply not my identity. Like it or not, coons are in this too and as long as this society is rooted in white supremacy they will be given the microphone. They will be given platforms on Vice and CNN and The View to regurgitate white supremacist views in Blackface.

And so those of us with those same coon aesthetics have to be louder. When you’re given the microphone, whose voices will you amplify? If it’s not your more marginalized siblings, those more violently silenced, the only work you’re really doing is as an agent for The Establishment that’s inflicted oppression on People of Color for hundreds of years.

Sorry sis, but the answers to the economic crises of Black America is not to strike our immigrant siblings also oppressed by white supremacy. Similar to the Audre Lorde quote, it’s white supremacy that wants us to fight each other for the crumbs the system flicks down at us so that we never unite for the pie! But sis, you clearly didn’t get that. Have the privilege not to have to get that. Instead, you used your micro existence to perpetuate macro ideas of violent immigration reform so “our people” have better access to low-end jobs. Does that idea of “liberation” actually make sense to you?

Donald Trump is her idea of liberation in America the same way White Jesus was the Italian Intern’s idea of salvation in Uganda. Wrong.

Another of my sisters caught wind of my disturbance (see: twitter rant) and asked me a pretty simple question:

I linked it, with my commentary, and now with this post, because that’s my role as a mixed-Black person. I want to connect with all my siblings of the Diaspora for the purposes of creating and healing together, but that also means I have to listen to my siblings further on the fringes, and stay on my ballpark people. My very nuanced group in our very diverse community. Those of us in the in-between, who are far too often, down in Coonville.

That’s why I talk about colorism in my feminism. That’s why I have to call out my mixed-Black sister who tried to erase our sisters’ work in order to generate clickbait for Vice.

That’s why I’m on the side that believes mixed-Black people should identify as such. Not to lose or distance our Blackness, but to recognize our privilege. So shit like the article I read today can’t get that Black Stamp, too.

There are enough of us mixed-Black folk awake and speaking out that there’s no excuses for this. I am thankful for Amandla Stenberg, Colin Kaepernick, Jesse Williams, and Zendaya… but every now and then we have to load up the truck and head into Coonville to choke up or drown out the Zoe Saldanas, Don Lemons, and Stacey Dashes. I linked it because that’s my role.

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Hashtag know when to be quiet 2k16

An Unknown Untitled Love

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k

Can I put on your glasses?
I wanna blur your face
The way you blurred my heart
Thanks again

Vision obscured,
I can still make out your smile
Those lips full and charged
fully charged
with
the potential to carve back in
the details
I’ve sanded beneath the surface

I watch your eyes on me
dark and honest
Closing
Slowly
Who are you?

Bodies moving together
Souls spinning fast
And then the blur turns to Black
A kiss
An eruption in the darkness
My whole body is tingling
from the sensation of your touch

Inside of me you find
My love
My anger
My truth
and
I find your hands at my neck
Only for a second
But it’s enough
You’ve touched the unknown

My legs tangle around yours
As you branch out inside me
Find me
And I find you

Pounding
Pumping
Racing
Thumping
Pinching
Biting
Scratching

Is this real?
Is this right?

Does the answer really matter?

Just a preview, you say
Just a preview, I give
Just a preview,
playing in my head
Over and over again

We found each other
when — We — what
who — Found — how
where — Each — why
Other Other Other
is this magic or witchcraft. . .

What’s the difference . . .
k

 

Why do White Mothers Need to Caricature their Black Daughters in order to Bond?

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Yesterday this popped up on the TL. I checked around the post to see if my friend had any additional commentary, but it was just your typical re-post from some wannabe-funny page. With thousands upon thousands of likes. I clicked out.

My head wanted to feel the mob emotion: Cute. But something about this photo made my belly feel so weird. Knotted. Nahh, I thought.

So I posted it to twitter to see what my siblings thought, and this is what we got:

 

85%  of voters said nah, belly weird.

I felt emotionally validated. Some of my siblings even RTd with their own commentary which helped give me language to navigate my emotions.

 

I was feeling so many ways, but mostly I kept thinking of my own white mother and the way she used her kids to appropriate Black Culture, proudly standing with her Black Children’s Posse behind her… FROWNING. Just like this little girl in the picture.

It’s overkill. It’s ugly regardless of intent. It’s ruining her own culture for her. Just no.

So when someone asked me why it made me uneasy, I thought I had my answer. But as I began to respond, I found myself again in reflection. And I figured it out.

There are so many things coming together in this photo, but I think for me this is what it triggered.

Why I, Black daughter of a White Woman, vote this photo NAH MY BELLY WEIRD NO:

On the first day of kindergarten my mom dropped me off at the white school across town, like BYE FELICIA. I walked into an all white classroom and the kids let me feel it. I remember the girls didn’t want to play with me and when I got home and my mother asked me why not, I just asked her why I wasn’t white too? And I remember crying… trying to understand why I wasn’t white like her, wasn’t white like the other kids. Why couldn’t I be? Then wouldn’t they play with me?

When I look at this picture, I see this little girl with a sad face on her first day of kindergarten and I think about that. And I think about the way my white mother couldn’t help me when I cried to her that first day. She couldn’t help me because she didn’t understand what I was internalizing about the world and myself. It’s a struggle she’s never had to face, so, like a white woman, she dismissed the issue entirely.

The first day of kindergarten was one of the biggest moments in my life to realize I was not like my white mother and had to be quiet about it.

So for me, this picture is about how white women think they’re finally “in” because they have Black Children but do not empathize with the experiences of their Black children. This picture is about how white women, in their apathy and emotional laziness, often inflict the pain back on Black People as a witty mother’s punchline. This is about how white women erase, dismiss, and caricature their Black Daughters pain as a way to “bond”.

I wonder when this picture was taken. I wonder what this white mother is doing for her Black daughter besides using her as an all access pass to Black Culture for a cheeky photo-op. Teaching her daughter to find white women appropriating Black rhetoric as cute. Something she’s a part of. Even if she frowns. Especially if she frowns.

Thumbs down.

Part 2: The Sacredness of the Safe Space

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5 Days Ago, I wrote about a racial profiling incident I witnessed while doing a photoshoot in the park. It’s a story that resonated among People of Color and white people although for many different reasons. I hope this post will answer some questions and give both sides a little bit of direction.

Here we go.

So what happened after I walked away? Did I ever see The Gambian again? And how do you cope after an experience like that?

There were so many levels to the police encounter in the park that I needed to process, from the interaction itself to all of the structural issues the confrontation exposed before my eyes. I was triggered. And for days, I had flashbacks. I worried every time I saw a police officer. That they would recognize me. Get me. “Now you’re getting a kontrolle!”

I thought about The Gambian.

The poise of his surrender. His words: “It isn’t the first time.”
If you think about all of the things implied that were not his first time, but a regular occurrence, a part of his life:

Public
Violation.
Humiliation.
A reminder that his skin is a
social stamp of disapproval.
Suspicion.
Hostility.
Violence.

How did these thoughts about skin get here? And more importantly, how could they manifest to these frontiers?

When the police finally let me go, The Gambian was waiting for me ahead on the path. I went to him.

“They let me go. Then I saw them come for you and all I could think is ‘I hope I didn’t get her in trouble!'”

I thanked him for waiting.

I gave him his phone back. We hugged and exchanged names and numbers. And then after a moment something peculiar happened: we both suddenly and awkwardly remembered that we didn’t actually know each other, and that we were now only connected by this violent experience.

This is why Safe Spaces are vital for People of Color. Day-in and day-out we are dealing with the aggressions inflicted on us by a white supremacist society. From being invasively stared at in public spaces, to followed in stores, to run up on by different branches of “authority” under the guise of “objectivity” and “normalcy”, it’s a lot to cope with.

Often here in Germany (although from those I’ve spoken with I think this is reflective of much of Western Europe) we are alone in these situations, and more often than not, no one around us stands up to protect us let alone even acknowledges what they are truly witnessing us go through.

In the United States, we can find each other. There are many majority-Black environments in the US, so despite our internal issues, these are visually communal spaces. By that I mean that here, in contrast, I am often the only Black person on the train, in the store, on the street. My external word is very isolating, and when you throw alienating experiences on top of that, by the end of the day I’m exhausted and alone. Drained.

And that’s me in my identity intersecting on loads of privilege.

I saw a glimpse into the life of The Gambian’s. What does a day in his shoes look like?

The thought overwhelms me.

This is why Safe Spaces are vital for People of Color. Places where we can find each other, come together, focus on our mental health, nurse our wounds, and heal together. This isn’t a new idea. It’s the common conclusion many of us come to when living in such a hostile environment.

So some friends and I began organizing a Safe Space in our city for People of the African Diaspora. The city’s first event by and for People of the African Diaspora.

An open mic. For only us. Only our voices.
A night where the silence is silenced and Black stands in the spotlight.

I told The Gambian to come and spend time there. Meet some new faces that don’t look like the ones who’d just kontrolled us. “I will be there.”

We shook hands and I went to my next appointment. I say that so eloquently, but really it was a dinner date with another American I’ve met here. She’s a super cute New Yorker with an obsession for crispy duck summer rolls.

I walked into the restaurant. Everyone was white, suited, and drinking good alcohol. I’ve been to this place a million times, but on this day the juxtaposition of the environment was jolting.

“Just a second!” The waiter said from the bar, “I know who you’re here for!”  And he led me to the only other Black person in the restaurant.

“Why are you late?” She asked me. I sat down and told her everything.


My privilege and oppression do not live separated from each other. I can’t separate what happened in the park that day to the nice evening afterwards in a fancy restaurant surrounded by the same people, who, in another costume, would be the same ones down my throat. And so, as someone who tries more and more to understand the relationship between the contradictions of my identity, I am working to create these Safe Spaces that I speak of.


Two weeks later, I threw my ukulele in my backpack and headed to a local cafe.

The night had come.

My friends and I had managed to organize this event through a conversation with the cafe-manager, the chef, and local Black People we’d met through either different organizations or meet-ups, on the street, in the train, in the park, or… for example…

When my friend was accused by store-workers of trying to return a used shirt (we all can see the micro-aggression here), he left with his money back in pocket and The Cameroonian who was re-stocking the shelves and had overheard everything.

Turns out, The Cameroonian is a poet.

And that’s how things went. By showtime, we had a collective of creatives from Haiti to Eritrea, Cameroon to Germany. The United States. The Gambia.

The cafe had no idea what we had planned. And we wanted it that way. Working with white people who often want to co-opt, we kept them in the dark as much as possible. They offered us promotion. We turned it down. We worked from a strictly grassroots approach and in their [white-savior] eyes, they saw a flop.

When I walked into the cafe on Event-Night, the tables were still spread out, white patrons sat drinking fair-trade coffee, no chairs were set for the performances, and there was no concern on the workers’ part.

I began to grow nervous.

But as time continued, slowly our community of communities began to file in. And I was amazed at what I saw next: The immediate segregation.

The main door splits the cafe down the middle, and Black People instantly went to the right, white people to the left. So any bullshit about “I don’t see color” can kiss my Black ass.

But something even more amazing happened on the Black Side. You see, unlike the white side who were mainly Germans and definitely all Western, us on the Black Side were of the Diaspora. We are not a monolith. We are a group of people from vastly different cultures, languages, geography. And it can feel pretty weird coming from a world that alienates us while we’re already alone to suddenly a space of unity. We were physically united, but psychologically still very much triggered, fragmented, and confused. While we waited for others, we slowly began exchange, excited but shy to get acquainted with the people around us who were, on one hand strangers, and on the other intimately linked to our own identities, histories, freedoms, and limitations.

As more and more Black people came in, the energy of the space began to transform, and many white patrons left. A white woman walked in and asked me, “Is there some sort of event going on here tonight?” I smiled, “Yes, We are having an Open Mic for the African Diaspora.” I kid you not, this woman yelped. Yelped. And hurried back out the door.

A half hour in, my friend made the first announcement: “Ok! We are ready! Let’s move these tables, get these chairs, and begin!” Together, The Diaspora got up, re-organized the room, and sat down. In the front. The white people who remained quietly sat in the back.

My friend broke the silence, opened up the night, his words vibrating into the air:

Those of us who brainstormed and organized this event all agreed that togetherness – and more specifically Black Unity – should be at the heart of this event. Understand that tonight you have the privilege to witness Black Communion amongst African Peoples from across the Diaspora through song, dance, poetry, food, and so much more. We expect you all to be respectful of participants in the safe space and platform we have provided not only for our performers, but for all of the brothers and sisters here tonight.

Bam.

I was the cute girl enthusiastically clapping at everything, getting everyone else to join me. We started with a game: My friend went through the different places of the Diaspora, we shouted when represented, and laughed when he said “Afro-Asians, give it up!”.
We sang children songs in Swahili (me), learned about Cameroon through pictures and poems, listened to Caribbean Spoken Word.

We also had four Signers present: A Deaf Afrogerman-Ghanian, 2 German SL Signers, and one American SL Signer. We did an exercise engaging the audience by interpreting words from Spoken English and German, to American SL and German SL, again into Adamorobe SL. Adamorobe Sign Language is an endangered Indigenous Sign Language used in the Adamorobe village in Ghana. Our Deaf brother had learned about the community in the land of his roots, and intrigued, shared its charm with us.

It was beautiful.

During intermission, we had dinner. The fresh food was prepared by a local Congolese woman, the chef who I had spoken with. I told her of what we dreamed to create at our event, “so make the food as though we are coming to your house.” She had nodded, hugged me. As the cafe workers brought out the food, buffet-style, we pushed all of the fragmented tables together, and created one giant table in the middle of the room. The Table for the Siblings of the Diaspora. The white people were respectful and sat at remaining tables on the outskirts. We got our food, sat down beside one another, and enjoyed the feast together. Having great conversations, making connections, expelling hearty laughter.

There was a moment while eating where I looked at The Gambian and thought of our day at the park. I was so happy to see him again, enjoying himself unapologetically. It seemed like life had come full circle.

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

As we ate, I saw 4 Black People through the window, outside stopped and looking at the Chalkboard at the entrance:

TONIGHT
OPEN MIC FOR THE AFRICAN DIASPORA

Come celebrate Black Love with us!

They caught my eyes. I waved them in. When they came in and saw what was going on, they said, “We saw this online and thought we’d check it out. So cool! We’ll be back with our guitar in 17 minutes!”

Then they came and after dinner they turned the stage into a full-on reggae concert.

The night had everything. A Full House. Poetry. Music. Games. Food. Connection.

At the end of the night, so many people were coming up to me and my friends, thanking us, asking us when the next event would be. One person told me they’ve been in this city 17 years, and had never experienced anything like what we had created by coming together. To feel safety. To breathe. To laugh. Together. Can you imagine? 17 years?

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

I’ve since met three more Gambians.

We may not have the same daily experiences because of the prismatic intersections of our identities, but our freedom is dependent on our desire to understand each other and cooperate with one another. From that, I believe liberation will manifest, but that takes strong mental health, which takes self-care, which takes safe spaces.

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

Our stories don’t end with police brutality, housing discrimination, or public microaggressions. That’s all simply the world we navigate in at this time.

Our stories lie in the moments we make together.
The way we absorb violence and emit peace.

As long as we breathe, justice is inevitable.
#BlackLivesMatter

open mic