ForHarriet: We Done Told Y’all What’s Up: Black Folks are Not Here for the White Gaze

There may be nothing more intimidating – and therefore offensive – to White folks than Black Americans who set boundaries for their personal space and public privacy.

Increasing numbers of Black celebrities, entertainers, and athletes have forcefully established themselves as people rather than objects for commodification and public consumption. From Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, to Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, to Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Blacks in the public eye have demanded respect for their personal space in ways that disrupt White Supremacy and challenge the control of the White Gaze.

Within the past week, Lynch—a fellow alumnus of Oakland Technical High School—has gained national attention for his continuous assertions that he has no intention of giving mainstream media outlets more than what he owes: To perform well with his teammates on the field. At the NFL’s Super Bowl Media Day, his repeated statement of, “I’m only here so I won’t get fined,” let us all know that he is not checking for the (predominantly White) news media.

Read more For Harriet.

The Root: How ‘Selling a Home While Black’ Nearly Broke Me

Everyone tells you it’s hard to sell a home nowadays. No one tells you how hard it is to sell a home while black.

Last March we did all the things you are supposed to do when selling a half-million-dollar Orange County, Calif., home. We packed items we were no longer using. We downsized our furniture. We painted baseboards and repaired walls. We even bought new wall art to neutralize the feel. After seeing several comparable homes sell within weeks of listing, we were certain we would only be on the market for a month at most. We were wrong.

Our agents held open house after open house. One Saturday, a white couple was returning to the home for a second visit. They had come before without their children and wanted to show their oldest son. But he wouldn’t walk upstairs. According to our agents, he seemed anxious. He just wanted to leave. Sadly, the couple never returned.

Following that experience, we removed a few more of our personal items, thinking maybe the home wasn’t race-neutral enough. We put away books, removed every photo of our children—no matter how small they were—and even packed away Christmas cards from family and friends.

Soon, we saw an uptick in interest and traffic. Interested buyers were coming by every day. We had already lost thousands in potential proceeds and were a few weeks from our targeted move date. This process was not only becoming economically untenable; it was emotionally overwhelming.

One afternoon, while I was sitting at my dining table with my children, a man walked up and retrieved a flier while admiring the exterior of the home. Immediately, a neighbor approached. He was a renter in the process of moving because the homeowners were selling the property. We didn’t know him well but had always been cordial when we saw him in the neighborhood.

Read the full article at The Root.

Ebony: Hate in the Pulpit

“If folks would get themselves in line with God’s word, then Black lives would matter…we wouldn’t have all of these out-of-wedlock babies and we wouldn’t be talking about same sex marriage.”

That was the warning a Black male pastor issued his congregants and us new visitors at a service late last year. His logic subsumes that reading the Bible will make police stop killing unarmed Black Americans, men stop raping and degrading women, and anti-gay and anti-trans organizations stop erasing LGBTSTGNC folks. Except we’ve tried prayer already. And, I’m certain oppression doesn’t only happen to people who don’t have their lives “in line with God’s word.”

This Black male pastor, speaking specifically about the killing of Michael Brown, turned the narrative of oppression into one to chastise Black youth and perpetuate respectability politics. He later called a sex worker in the Bible, the “President of the Kitty Kat Club.” As expected, his use of the Bible to demean women’s sexuality was met with laughter from his congregants. His words confirmed two things for me: first, I wouldn’t be joining, and second, the Black Church still can’t productively address social justice issues which matter to many Black women.

Looking for a Black church – since we recently moved to the area – has resulted in Sunday after Sunday of oppressive, hateful, anti-queer, anti-gay, and misogynistic language from Black Pastors. What used to exist in public has become the “new normal” within God’s holy sanctuary.

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/hate-in-the-pulpit-503#ixzz3P2VCyZDw

For Harriet: How the Media Exacerbates and Erases Black Women’s Suffering

“If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.” —Janay Rice

This was Janay Rice’s response to news media outlets following the viral video of her then fiancé, Ray Rice, brutally punching her, knocking her unconscious, and dragging her out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator. Her focus on the role the media played in her re-victimization preceded but is eerily similar to Camille Cosby’s response after the recent surge in mass media coverage of her husband, Bill Cosby, and his litany of sexual assault allegations. Her response that “there appears to be no vetting” of her husband’s accusers indicts the media rather than placing blame on Bill Cosby himself.

The similarities between the two women’s responses make it difficult for mass media to advocate for Black women who are abused by prominent Black men while respecting their rights to privacy. More importantly, though, these women’s statements show that the news media has work to do to gain trust from Black women.

Camille Cosby questioned the verifiability of her husband’s accusers rather than his propensity to abuse others. The tenor of her response – and her comparison of his accusers to Jackie, the woman at the center of the UVA story in Rolling Stone – set a tone which urges the public to believe Bill Cosby (the man we “thought we knew”) and disbelieve the women who have come forward (women we don’t know). Her focus on the media’s need for viral content led her to even ask, “Who is the victim?”

Read the full article at For Harriet.

BYP: I’m Not Here For #CrimingWhileWhite and You Shouldn’t Be Either

Last Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict 29-year-old Daniel Pantaleo, the White New York City cop who applied an illegal “chokehold maneuver” to Eric Garner’s chest and neck causing his death on July 17th. Immediately following the grand jury’s decision, well-meaning Whites took to Twitter to show an “act of solidarity” using the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite. A simple Google search of the term yields stories from New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and USA Today. But, doing the same for#BlackLivesMatter – a hashtag started by Black activists – yields strikingly different results. So, what does it say about solidarity when the rallying cry of this generation’s Selma gets less traction on social media and in the mainstream than White privilege confessions?

The #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag can best be understood as Whites noting and “confessing” their privilege, drawing on differences between themselves and murdered Black men like Eric Garner and Michael Brown, but not actually doing anything about it. It isn’t an understanding of the issues facing the Black community and police violence so much as it is a platform for concerned Whites to air their own grievances with White Privilege – the very privilege which many willingly benefit from rather than seek to dismantle. Sadly, the hysteria and self-aggrandizement of White people’s understanding of racism in the United States resulted in the hashtag being the highest trending topic in the United States outpacing those used and promoted by Black Americans seeking justice for the unanswered brutality against their communities. Media outlets equated the hashtag’s importance with those created within Black communities, once again undermining Black folks’ efforts to empower and amplify one another. It seems even within this “act of solidarity” White Privilege squelches the advancement of Black voices.

Read the full article at Black Youth Project.

For Harriet: Black Communities Must Strive for Solidarity not Respectability

I recently read a post from a friend on social media which read “Michael Brown isn’t a horse I want to hitch my wagon to.” Phrases like this are predictable given the increased racial tension following Darren Wilson’s non-indictment in early December. However, when they come from Blacks themselves, they underscore an insidious commitment to respectability politics which leaves no room for the humanity of Black victims of police brutality. Further, they signal the need for dialogue on systemic oppression not just with White Americans but within Black communities.

Many Whites maintain that the election of President Obama signaled a collective movement beyond the issues of race and racism in this country. According to them, America being post-racial means any remaining disparities are attributable to individual and community failures rather than institutional racism. However, the lived experiences of Blacks in the US proves otherwise.

Black male teens are twenty-one times more likely to be killed by police than White male teens. Black women, too, are frequently killed by law enforcement, but we just rarely hear about it. The false pretense of the saintly redeeming power of the Black First Family hasn’t signaled forward movement for Black Americans. Instead, it has acted as a cloaking device for racial hatred while perpetuating the mounting tensions between Black citizens and the authorities meant to “serve and protect” them.

Read the full article at For Harriet.

On Only “Feeling” White When It’s Uncomfortable

I have heard white people say that race bothers them. I have noticed the involuntary spasms of discomfort when black and brown people discuss “sensitive” topics regarding racism and patriarchy in the US. But, I have never had a white person tell me, “I don’t like being called white,” until just recently. Though perplexing, this conundrum points to deeper issues with understanding the boundaries of race in the US.

Anyone who knows me knows that race is something I am unapologetic about. I discuss my blackness freely as I do every other characteristic I hold. I am never ashamed of my upbringing or background. I never contort myself to fit within a stereotypical image projected by mainstream society. And, while I used to do all those things, I am a wholesale believer that authenticity is the only way to bridge racial, sexual, and gender divides in the US.

But, I’m not white.

I am a black woman. My experience with race is my own. The lenses through which I view the racialized world are fitted specifically to my perspectives and colored with my lived experiences. I don’t expect everyone to see race in the way that I do. I especially don’t expect white folks in the US to understand what it means to be black and woman in this day and time. What I do expect, however, is an understanding that race is not a feeling. One doesn’t have to “feel” black to be black. Social inequities in the US clearly articulate the palpable differences for whites and nonwhites. This isn’t really a conversation about how white people “feel” about race. Or is it?

Those intangible feelings folks ascribe to race are actually not the random phenomenon of skin color variation at all. Those sensitivities, discomforts, privileges, and internal rumblings are what happens when a social construct takes on a life of its own.

Let me unpack that a bit. In a sense, our boundaries of citizenship and identity are directly linked to what amounts of our private selves we get to take with us in public. Our hair types and styles, our food preparation and consumption practices, our dialects, our colloqialisms, so on and so forth, are pieces of our private selves that we carry along into interactions with other human beings. And, in that public space, we make race the social construct it is by assigning certain intangibles, mentalities, and propensities to entire social groups based on limited experiences with several members from that group. We create race when we ignore it. We create race when we are adverse to it. In our interracial interactions, we are always, inevitably, reinventing and reconstituting race.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

Blogher: I Was the “Black Working Mom” Example

When it came time to tell my manager about my pregnancy, I worried. I knew my explanations that I wasn’t pregnant during interviews or I had found out after accepting their offer wouldn’t matter. She’d just think of me as a risk.

I knew it meant I would have to work harder in a “man’s profession.” I just didn’t understand how my status as a new mother would affect their expectations of me as a professional. I also didn’t realize how my race would play into other people’s perceptions of me on the job..

My department had been looking for an industrial engineer for some time. In me, they found a combination of technical expertise and talent with group work.

When they learned I’d be out for a while on maternity leave, they were understandably disappointed.They asked daily questions like, “How long do you think you’ll be out?” and “You don’t have a lot of time accrued, do you?”

The questions became so frequent that I made up canned responses. I’d say, “Oh, not long at all,” or “I’m not sure yet,” just to avoid these incredibly personal conversations.

As folks scrambled to cover me in my absence, I found my work being hijacked and disregarded as others deemed this a great opportunity to increase their status.

Read the full article at Blogher.

For Harriet: Why We Must Find Space for the Activism of Black Women Academics

“You think your piece of paper makes you better than me?” 
This is the question I can’t seem to escape, no matter the circumstance, interaction, or context. For others, my “piece of paper” often stands between me and activism. It labels me as an outsider and makes me an “other.” But why?
I am a Black woman academic. I am working toward a doctoral degree in Political Science while writing and building my community with other activists. I give talks, volunteer, and offer myself as a resource in my circles of influence, especially where it concerns uplifting young Black women and girls. 

Read the full article at For Harriet.

Blogher: Why Charlo Greene’s “F*ck it. I Quit.” Is a Revolutionary Act

I have never had the courage to just walk off of a job. I have wanted to, many times. But, I never had the economic ability (or guts) to do so. Beyond the monetary constraints, there was this lingering concern about being blackballed, blacklisted, and otherwise blackified for not conforming to the respectability politics of the workplace. I behaved as completely politically correct as possible to keep food on my table and a roof over my family’s head. I just didn’t end up having much to show for it.

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