In the midst of all this rise of fascism and overt racism in the world, I have been waging my own personal battle of love with my mom, who is the last blood family member that I keep in touch with–before this summer the last time I had seen my half brother was at least 5 years previous.
 
Both of my parents struggled with mental illness throughout my childhood, and I have inherited that legacy from my mom as well as intergenerational trauma. Recently she stopped responding to my text messages and suggested it might be better if SHE were the parent I was estranged from, rather than my father, whose danger to my life and limb was cause for my departure over 13 years ago. I feel so scared of losing my mom as well, but I feel like in order for our love and respect for one another to thrive I also need to assert some boundaries, and especially limit her ability to use my father as a reminder of how deeply she can wound me.
 
On Tuesday I started attending a 10-week Generative Somatics group oriented towards QTPOC survivorship. I am feeling really good and also really challenged by it. I feel like in being estranged from my blood family I am also cut off from parts of myself, including my body and allowing myself to own my feelings about being a mixed race kid whose family is divided by racism and trauma.
Each day my homework is to spend time centering myself, feeling my connection to the ground, the connections between each part of my body and the others, to feel myself in the world, eyes wide open, a part of the past, present, and future. I do not know what this holds for me, but I am willing to find out.
-RD

Trigger warning for: response to events in Orlando/Pulse, trauma within queer communities. Hold yourself (and eachother) tenderly in the coming months, my loves.

(written directly following Orlando/Pulse shooting):

Alone in the basement my ma and I are staying at in Portland and watching NBC coverage on Orlando, feeling chest deep in grief like a granite mudslide, pressure on my heart and lungs like heart failure, the loss of my first queer chosen family member to meth-self hatred-family estrangement, the loss of a nearly a whole generation and a whole way of life to the AIDS epidemic, loss of so many incredibly vibrant trans women (most black and brown) to bashings-murders-imprisonment-deportations-suicide, the loss of those forced into the closet by the forced vulnerability of interdependence (very young-very old-living with illness or disability—why it is so important that those who do care work support the autonomy of those they care for).

And I am crushed by silence. I have had ONE straight friend touch base with me to ask if I am ok, how they can support me/other latinx queers/queers of color right now. You waved your rainbow flags for marriage because you thought it the best thing, that we finally win the right to be just like you. But we’re not! I’m not, anyway. I am devoutly and proudly culturally queer: a culture that grew in direct opposition to compulsory heterosexuality. How could I be the same as that rigidity? I am the same as you most in my difference, in the diversity of experience and belief in my communities.

But please, move up for me! I need you now. We need you. We need you to speak and vote against transphobic laws like HB2 and 1515, to talk to your family and friends about hatred (and moving beyond acceptance or tolerance to embrace, to RESPECT), to lift up our voices beyond the walls of our communities, to escort us into the bathroom so we can pee safely, to fight against the criminalization of homelessness, poverty, black and brown bodies.

Please don’t just wave a rainbow flag for a single victory, light one lavender candle in silent lip service to grief, and call it good. You have not served change if decoration is your only demonstration. There is so much more change to be won. And I’ve seen you—you have a lot of light in you, are capable of so much.

Move with me, take this grief as an invitation to dance!

06/05/2012

Dear reader, like most folks these days, I’m pretty dubious of online petitions, but just in case I hope you’ll sign this, read this, and read the following. -RD

ps. oh, do you have money? neat! you could donate it here. being in prison is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E.

 

PRESS RELEASE Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald & Leslie Feinberg 6-5-12

by FreeCece Mcdonald on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:49am ·

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 5, 2012

Leslie Feinberg Arrested in Solidarity with Chrishaun McDonald

Hundreds Take to Street in Protest

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network, transyouthsupportnetwork@gmail.com, (612) 363-7574; and Billy Navarro, Jr., MN Transgender Health Coalition, mntranspr@gmail.com, (612) 823-1152

Leslie Feinberg was arrested last night amidst hundreds of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald supporters protesting outside of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility. Feinberg is being held at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis and is facing charges of property damage. The protest was held on the eve of McDonald’s transfer to the state prison system, where she will serve out a sentence of 41 months for defending herself against racist and transphobic attackers. Although McDonald initially faced two charges of second degree murder, earlier this month she accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of second degree manslaughter due to negligence.  Outraged supporters took to the streets, blocking traffic for over an hour in protest of the violent abuses McDonald has faced at the hands of our legal system.  Feinberg joined demonstrators in making noise loud enough to be heard within the facility McDonald is currently being held at, and marching through the streets in a show of love and solidarity with CeCe McDonald and with all incarcerated individuals.  Feinberg was the only person arrested, and is excited to draw more attention to McDonald’s story and to the prevalent racism and transphobia within the criminal system.

Feinberg has given the following statement:

Many people across the United States and around the world are watching, and history will record what happens on June 4, 2012.  CeCe McDonald survived a fascist hate crime; now she’s sentenced as she struggles to survive an ongoing state hate crime. As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded: “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

As a white, working-class, Jewish, transgender lesbian revolutionary I will not be silent as this injustice continues! I know from the lessons of histories what is means when the state—in a period of capitalist economic crisis—enacts apartheid passbook laws, bounds up and deports immigrant works, and gives a green light to e white supremacists, fascist attacks on Black peoples—from Sanford, Florida, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The prosecutor and the judge are upholding the intent of the infamous white supremacist Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

The same year Fredrick Douglass concluded: “Without struggle, there is no progress!”

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison during the month of Juneteeth:  celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation—the formal Abolitionist of “legal” enslavement of peoples of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation specifically spelled out the right of Black people to self-defense against racist violence.

Yet, the judge, the prosecutor, and the jailers are continuing the violent and bigoted hate crimes begun by the group of white supremacists who carried out a fascist attack on CeCe McDonald and her friends.

CeCe McDonald is being sent to prison in June—the month when the Stonewall Rebellion ignited in the streets of Greenwich Village in 1969. From the Compton’s Uprising to the Stonewall Rebellion, defense against oppression is a law of survival.

This is Pride month, and will be bringing the demand: “Free CeCe—now!” to the regional Pride march where I live. I believe many other individuals, groups, and contingents will thunder that demand in Pride marches and rallies all over the world—informing millions who take part, and millions more who support.

The prosecution hopes this struggle is over. But it is not over: Free CeCe—now! An injury to one is an injury to all! Come out against racist, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and sexist wars at home and abroad!

Feinberg’s arrest is symptomatic of growing anger and frustration at the disproportionate targeting and abuse of young transgender women of color in our society.  The actions Feinberg took last night were in solidarity with McDonald and all prisoners to let them know they are not alone.  Feinberg is excited to garner attention to how McDonald is treated today as McDonald is transferred to the prison intake facility in St. Cloud, MN.

McDonald’s case does not reflect an isolated aberration in the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but rather business as usual within a society that has, for hundreds of years, profited from the incarceration and exploitation of people of color and trans/gender non-conforming people.  McDonald’s sentencing sends a very clear message to all those following her case across the country: transphobia and racism are alive and well, both in the violent verbal and physical attacks on trans youth of color in the night as well as in the legal system which makes surviving this violence a crime punishable by years of incarceration.  Nevertheless, we look forward to joining all of McDonald’s supporters in continuing to fight against these systems of power, for CeCe and for all transgender women of color targeted by the prison-industrial complex.

With love and rage,

The CeCe McDonald Support Committee

For more information on McDonald’s case, visit http://www.supportcece.wordpress.com.

###

None shall pass

05/29/2012

a thing i have begun doing fairly recently (within the last year or so) is explaining my background in a way that both acknowledges my mixed race heritage and (more importantly, i feel) acknowledges that i experience “hella white privilege.” a conversation with W. recently made me want to better explore my motivations for revealing* my identity in this matter.

so let’s go back in time for a bit. as a child i tried to come up with words for what i am so that it would make better sense to the uninitiated. chicano came closest, but i find most non-Californians don’t know the word–or have negative associations with it. colloquialisms about race become loaded quickly. finally in my teens i settled on using “humorous”** adaptations like whitezican and mexi-fry. i hoped the implicit sarcasm of these words would both acknowledge the complexity of race (just because it’s a social construct doesn’t mean it doesn’t deeply affect peoples lives, y’all) and ward off racist bullshit. if i served as a visible representation of the “other” so feared and hated by white folks, maybe they would let go of the racism they harbored, not tell that beaner joke, or look at someone with browner skin than both of ours more closely, as a human being rather than a grievance. i know you’re wondering, “well, did it work?” yes and no, but mostly: no. the effect was so low as to be mostly imperceptible, and if anything at times my attempt at humor appeared to open up the floodgates for other peoples’ racist jokes: anti-racist fail, anyone?

what did work, what does work, is to hold people accountable: name the behavior, state the narrative, explain how it makes you feel. sometimes my background comes into play in those explanations, as in, “…it particularly makes me feel that way because racism is not just abstract to me–it is something that affects my family deeply, and that has repercussions in my own life/personal politic,” but i find that’s not always necessary. accountability feels like the most effective tool i have in working against individual acts that perpetuate white supremacy, but i will be the first to confess it’s all a work in progress. there are times when i swallow my tongue out of fear or anxiety. and i am still theorizing on how to fight against the broader ways in which oppression plays out, tho i feel like prison abolition is an important part (and oh god, how to do that?)

what are my other motivations for identifying myself as mixed race when i could otherwise “pass”? i feel like when people make assumptions about my race , they are whitewashing the complex legacy of colonialism, even tho it still affects my life and the lives of my family members on the daily. we are divided by the border, U.S. policy, institutional violence, white imperialism, and other legacies of violence. it is not as simple narratives about skin, although brownness is still treated as unequal to whiteness in the world. i want people (white and otherwise) to understand that i am both an “us” and a “them”, and that the fact that i feel the need to say anything like that is part of why the social construct of race is so shitty.

is it effective to essentially other myself in order to make this experience more visible? well dude, i dunno. how shall we gauge for efficacy, a scale of 1 to 10? the range of frequency with which i have to choose between holding someone accountable or weathering their racist shit? i don’t know. all i know is, fighting white supremacy culture is important–and i am deeply invested in doing so, despite or because of the ways in which it terrifies and challenges me. i will remain vigilant. i will remain critical. i will remain accountable. i will remain engaged, with a constant eye for new tools and sharpening existing ones.

More reading:

 

*vs. “passing,” a term i find super loaded and assumptive, but also pretty well explains my experience if i don’t speak up.

**oh, how my sense of humor has changed over time. geez. i am still embarrassed about this! don’t ever call me those names. evarrr.

trigger warning for transphobia and racism, both external/internalized, as well as some mention of sexual assault/rape/shitty community responses to harm.
let me tell you this: i fucking hate talking with cis people about gender some times. i hate having to bring it up. i hate having to say ‘actually, i’m going by this name now,’ or explain what i mean when i correct someone about pronouns. when i correct a cisgendered friend/acquaintance about pronoun useage, it’s often not even in relation to myself, but in relation to other trans/genderqueer folx. i hate having to go ‘it’s okay’ when someone fucks up. i hate having to swallow it when someone excuses their actions and uses a transperson’s previous name to excuse it (like: “well, i’ve known them since they were ___, it’s hard for me.” REALLY?).
i love and hate getting tokenized, getting called out for certain discussions about gender and pronouns on…yes, Facebook. i feel like the token mixed race trans/genderqueer person for some of my old friends, and sometimes it’s okay but sometimes it gets tiring. Y’ALL I CAN ONLY SPEAK FOR MYSELF. most people get that, i think?
i hate that R, a person i used to regard like a brother still refuses to use my preferred pronouns and regularly calls me by the wrong name, and that i only feel brave enough to call him out when i’ve had a beer or two. last time i called him out i just left after he said “i’ve just been waiting for you to decide.” what?! preferences are allowed to change, yo, but also–i decided years ago about pronouns, dude. fucking get with it or get out of my life.
i hate that that doesn’t even feel possible, because i’d have to not attend things (like brunch at W/S’s, the neighborhood bar we both frequent, etc) in order to avoid him. and he’s friends with many of my friends now, in part because i introduced him to those people, including my former partner. i suppose he is an easier friend to have and to keep–i expect accountability from my friendships and other relationships, which seems to be a continual breaking point of late.
i hate postulating if my cisgendered sweetheart of 6+ months has not introduced me to his family (who he is incredibly close to) because of my gender presentation or because it is painful/hard/stressful/etc enough that his father is approaching the end of his life. i hate imagining in my head how to talk to him about it, how to ask–is it selfish to want to meet the people who raised the person you adore? i want to offer to fly under the radar in that situation, but i also know how i look–i may pass for cis sometimes, but i sure don’t pass for “not queer,” have never been able to.
i hate that the only people i’ve seen/heard talking about Cece Mcdonald are other trans/genderqueer/queer people. i hate feeling like i should be talking more about her plight and the plight of other transwomen of color in the PIC, in the streets, and not feeling like i have the words, and feeling like i should, should, should. i feel like living in the position of privilege that i do, it is my responsibility to speak out and talk about how this stuff happens every day (because it does, and it is so fucking messed up), but i am still formulating how to talk about it. can this picture (I DARE YOU NOT TO CRY) be the start**?
i hate the way that i get itchy when a fellow rad feminist/fellow latin@ who i respect/admire is talking about how “we need solidarity with other women” and includes me in her broad gesture, calls me by the wrong pronouns. it feels as if me being honest and open about my gender identity is being forced as one that somehow undermines my feminism. it doesn’t, no matter how many times i worry (hey internalized shit!) that it does.i hate that i didn’t speak up. i hate that i didn’t speak up.
i hate the way that i feel beholden to lovers who have been able to “see” and understand (sometimes) my gender. i hate the compromises i have made at times in order to be with people with whom i did not feel invisible or washed over. i hate the parts of my identity that i let them make invisible or made invisible in order to be with them.
i hate having to use a different name at work, it feels schizophrenic and i am constantly terrified i will use the wrong name for myself, or that my co-worker who is friends with another (trans) friend of mine will ask me about name/gender stuff, either when we are alone or in front of someone. i hate worrying about trying to get a job using my preferred name.
i hate worrying about being policed by cis/trans people for “not being trans enough” in some way–clothes, behaviors, transition choices, “outness”, “passing”, etc.
i hate binding. i hate the awkwardness of struggling in and out of my binder. i hate that it is the most comfortable i have felt with my body since i…i can not remember when.
i hate being terrified that if i choose some type of medical transition (if i can even find a way to access that…?) that my lover will be too alienated to continue dating me.
i hate being scared that if i continue my transition i will lose more friends. i am so scared i will lose my mother, who is my only parent, and the only bio-family member i really keep in touch with, or know at all, these days.
i hate being scared i will turn out to be like my father, or that i already am.
i hate that if i decide to become a parent, my child(ren) could be taken away from me by the state because of my gender/sexuality.
i hate that some of my white friends make light of my chosen name (it’s spanish) because they think anything mexican/other-than-white is hilarious, for some inexplicable reason. i hate not being comfortable enough to speak up about this.
i hate that (most of) my white friends can not pronounce my name correctly and that i have to shorten it or anglicize it. i hate that i anglicize it even when i’m talking to other spanish speakers, because being mixed race with passing privilege makes me feel like i will get accused of “not being Mexican enough” to use my own fucking name. i hate that even ___ feels too assimilated, “not brown enough.” i hate my longing for other latin@s, as if there were some sameness about us all (das racist!) or something. i hate not feeling like i can touch that stuff because my family is so far away and because my experience is as a pretty assimilated latin@. i hate that even if i did find my bio-family they might not accept me because of my gender/queerness.
i hate feeling like i have so much internalized misogyny that it’s may be a long time before i can date women again.
i hate feeling erased when i date cis-dudes. i hate the way they are so unaware of their fucking privilege. i hate being slutshamed. i hate having to rebuild my life/sexuality/ideas of consent after being assaulted–again. i hate that i have survived more than one sexual assault, and that no one can ever guarantee me i will not be raped/assaulted again, and that the odds are in favor that it will happen again. i hate that i had some of the best sex i have ever had with the person who assaulted me. i hate that asking for what i want makes me feel so vulnerable that i rarely (esp. these days) feel comfortable asking for what i need to get me off fully, if ever. or can even get to that place, mentally/physically/emotionally, so that it’s even possible.
i hate that i question my own identity, that i am trans as a result of my trauma history, that i have internalized femaleness = unsafeness so hard that i have decided i am not. smells like bullshit to me.
i hate that ~e has not called me back or given any indication that he received my message–it feels like he is choosing to side with the person who assaulted me, and it is fucking unbelievable…but i guess i should get used to it? i feel like my friendships have fractured to “before the assault” and “after the assault”. i used to think i had so much support, but actually starting to ask for support after that giving that devastating survivor support workshop earlier this year (which made me realize how much i had needed and not asked for/received/etc) has also forced me to come to terms with how false that is. people care, but they don’t know how to support or they can’t because they receive so little support for their shit. dammit.
i hate the way that these things make my stomach hurt and my back/shoulders ache. i hate the way that i feel like crying or pounding my fists, but i’m at work and can’t do any of those things.

i hate not feeling like there is anyone i can talk to* because i know everyone else is dealing with stuff like this or other stuff.
i hate being silent, but i feel like words are not enough.

*there are people i can talk to, i guess? but all our plates=SO FULL right now, and not necessarily in groovy ways.

**OH, DO YOU NOT KNOW WHO CECE IS? do your reading, class: http://supportcece.wordpress.com/

fumbling over talking about race and urbanism with L, i explain how uncomfortable the homogeneity of my friendships and acquaintances in [other city] made me, how i felt like in almost any given situation i was the closest person to a PoC in the room, and i’m fairly translucent (by which i mean: i pass, whether unintentionally or not, and experience white privilege in my daily life). it felt telling. i feel like that occurrence given as a recurring situation is evidence of underlying problems, the way that race and racism are but aren’t a part of the dialogue in those rooms, the way that homogeneity in [other city] felt palpable.

how did you learn to talk about race?

i feel like my parents each had a distinct way of conveying discourse about race and racism. my father’s tack was to ignore racism by pretending to be colorblind (“we’re all just people!”), and essentialising our own heritage down to food and language without exploring colonialism beyond military history, primarily that written by (what i would consider to be) the oppressor. my mother’s strategy was in policing identities and behaviours, making broad stroke generalisations and racist jokes in poor taste.

i feel like for a long time it was easier for me to see racism in individual circumstances, and glossed over in the way it creates and strengthens structural and institutional inequalities.

i’m still working on all of it, the language in which i understand concepts, the concepts themselves.

i feel like the most brain-opening thing that happened to me was at some point i started hearing people calling out racism as white supremacy culture. something clicked there, “aha!” and i began to do a lot more concerned reading. i would say that this is where my anarchism comes from, but it’s not. my anarchism comes from a whole host of observations and experiences, based on what some anarchists would dismiss as identity politics. (guess i’ll never be a member of the (A) team now?)

it seems like a lot of the time when people talk about white supremacy outside of activist/radical contexts, people are thinking of racist skinhead punks or neo-nazis. but when i talk about white supremacy culture i am talking about white supremacy as a

historically-based, institutionally-perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

definition from here.

i am talking about white supremacy culture as the culture the perpetuates those systems, either overtly (through imprisonment, economic/educational discrimination, etc) or with the assumption that whiteness is “normal,” the assumptions that other, well…everyone who has not been assimilated. and so on.

whiteness as the Borg, anyone?

anyhow. there are a lot of shitty narratives that contribute to white supremacy culture, and i’m trying to work on calling them out, both internally and externally. accountability is (of course) uncomfortable–but it also gives me a lot of hope.

this piece, Challenging White Supremacy Culture in Organizations by Tema Okun, is a worthwhile stop along the way.

more reading, more thinking, more work to do.

trigger warning for racist jokes and the craptitude of white supremacy culture.

de nada

I have very mixed feelings about this meme.

dear A:

let me proffer you my more immediate reaction when you posted the above.

it was Thanksgiving and we were all a little bit drunk. one of my best friends in the entire world (one i claim as brother, not blood but chosen) is laid back on the couch, tossing their head back emphatically as they speak.

do i even remember what they said? i don’t. not the whole thing, but the part that still triggers me a little.

“‘chu,” i can’t even remember the sentence it was strung in, and oh, that put-on accent, the el campesino mock-up, the one no white person should ever put on because it grazes so close to the n-word or lynching jokes.

how could they ever really get it?

i don’t even know if i could even explain, because in my privilege and my place of hiding i laughed uneasily and said, “ugh, stop it! you sound like one of my uncles!”

what i didn’t explain was, you sound like one of my uncles as he dismisses those other Mexicans, the ones we are supposed to be better than, the ones who replaced the Japanese as strawberry-pickers when they were interned into camps, the ones whose backs (and those of other undocumented laborers) carry the weight of this agrarian soon-to-be wasteland, tilling the earth to waste with forced abundance that doesn’t even get distributed but rots in silos like so many dollars in a Swiss bank account (so much waste, waste, waste). the ones whose lives are not even legitimized by the state to live in the US, despite USians’ dependency on their bodies for sustenance (blood, sweat, and toil, toil, toil).

every once in a while i replay this failure of mine to speak up, think of it as the mark of my privilege, passing as white most of the time except when i deem it the right time to call it.

race always comes to the table at Thanksgiving, it’s never forgotten. i keep my family’s many-hued faces in my pocket, rub them like a stone that pricks me with so much hidden.

sometimes i think that the real plague that wiped out so many lives was not smallpox but whitewashing, passing quietly shame that bleeds forgetfulness, pretend we’re better than them because we pass, achieved some measure of economic privilege beyond that of our peers born to other lives with different choices, or because our subset of the family tree has married into legitimacy in the eyes of the state. shame that kills me softly. it’s not true, but it feels sometimes, it feels.

i must do better next time, that’s all. no more blankets of convenience, no more letting  us to ignorance or carelessness.

-RD

This this this

10/15/2011

Marita Isabel on white privilege:

When I think of privilege, I think of choice. White folks have so many choices. Systems have been built in the U.S.A. around the dominant and normative white culture. Everything from public and private education to hiring procedures at corporate and even non-profit offices are built around customs of white communities. Success in the U.S.A. is most often based on individual wealth, climbing the corporate ladder, becoming good at what you do as an individual. And because the systems favor white folks and the culture and practices they are accustomed to, white folks have the advantage in becoming “successful”. Some may argue that there is Affirmative Action, specific scholarships and grants for people of color and that those policies actually benefit POCs. But why were those measures even necessary? Because there was a disparity in the numbers of white folks and POCs who were able to naturally access academic institutions and jobs.

[…]

So if you’re white and reading this, you might ask: What do I do about this? My response is simple. Be aware of it. Educate yourself. Talk to other white folks about how they are responsible with their white privilege. Read articles. Books. Write your own experiences down. Be accountable and take ownership of unearned privilege. Try your hardest not to take for granted all the ways in which society reflects you, all the choices you have laid out in front of you because of your skin color. Try to remember that the way you know how to achieve success is not the only way. And that the path to “success” is not so clear and obstacle-free for your POC coworkers and classmates.

Hello reader, this writing is triggering for me to write, let alone read, so I can only imagine what it would be like for someone else. But I need some place to put this stuff, and this bottle is the only place I got. So read with care, and click away as needed. Trigger warning for: childhood abuse, rape, childhood neglect, I don’t even know what all.

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking so much about the tiered tracks of colonialism and patriarchy in our lives. You spent so much of the years I lived with you reading military histories deep into the night, your bedside lamp burning until dawn. Often I would find you in the morning before I left for work, light still on, book collapsed and glasses still astride your face. You and I did not talk about the ethos of those narratives, only the events, the ways that wars are won–we talked about them like they were games of chess, not wages of terror visited upon brown bodies. Bodies not entirely unlike ours, in shade or feature. How funny that you kept your dark hair long and shining, defiantly, even while claiming not to see color. Perhaps you were just too tired of being seen for yours. I remember you in a rare snappish moment with a stranger (usually you reserved your brute force for those closest you). We were near your office and an elderly native man spare changed you, tried to call you cousin. You sucked your teeth haughtily (or I imagine you did) and snapped back, “I am not your cousin.” I remember being shocked a little that my father, usually so over-generous, could be so cold to someone so obviously in need. But then I remember, too, the summer when you got too dark watching us kids poolside at the apartment and you were stopped 3 times in 2 days for the same busted taillight. Was it a speed trap, or were they out to get you? There were other times, I don’t remember them all. You were always being asked if you were Indian, and you were always saying no. And to be fair, we’re the sum of our parts, not just that fraction, and so I don’t call myself native in any sense but that I grew up in this state. People didn’t start to ask me what I was until my hair came in as dark as it is now–each year successively darker, like my body is shirking off colonization.

You believed that my body was a colony unto itself and that you were the sovereign power. You taxed me with forced affection, even after I ceased to welcome your touch. “You act like I abuse you!” you exclaimed after I cowered under your embrace, which at a moment’s notice could have turned to a slap across the face. When you found out that I had been raped, you never asked me if I was okay–instead you yelled for hours about how wrong it was to engage in pre-marital sex while I cried myself thick and swollen shut with mucous, trying to tell you about my rapes. Later, when you found out it wasn’t consensual you apologized offhandedly with no feeling: “Sorry. I didn’t know.” How could you not know, how could it not occur to you? I was fourteen years old. Maybe in some distant place and time sex with a fourteen year old girl who has been abandoned by both parents can be consensual, but not where we lived, not how we lived. And you never thought to ask if I was okay! This broke my heart, and like a bad shoulder mended but never healed it still hurts when the weather turns stormy. The nightmares that used to wake me up screaming were not about my rapist–they were about you, in his place.

The last time I saw you it was as I broke free from your grip, bruises in the shape of your hands already rising on the back of my neck, welts that later bloomed black swelling the cartilage of my ears. I went to job interviews like that, covered my bruises with thrift store finds and a thin veil of hair. Did I leave off my earrings, so as not to draw too much attention to any discolored flesh still exposed? I remember thinking of it, but I can’t remember what I did. No one asked. No one said, you should leave him, girl, for which I was grateful because being forced to the awkward response that I already had and that it was my father who was responsible, not just any man, but that man, would have been almost too much to bear. In between job interviews and panic attacks and struggling to finish school we photographed my injuries and I moved my things into a tent in a friend’s backyard. The cops didn’t call me back for two weeks, and by then I had too much on my plate to even think about pressing charges (which probably would not have stuck, anyways). I wish I had wheatpasted your office, but what would the posters have said? “This man beats children” might have been sufficient. After all, I wasn’t the only one you raised a fist to, and I probably won’t be the last. I was 18 and I was legally an adult but I was still a child, tho I had already dealt with the vagaries of bills, rent, budgets. I was probably more responsible then at 18 than I am now at 26, second adolescence or something. Remember how you used to forget the bills, and the water would get shut off? I started to remind you, and you resented it. But you were the adult, you were the parent, these things were your responsibilities, and if you couldn’t claim that responsibility then you should never have laid claim to it at all.

I am learning Spanish again, this time in a classroom and not the backseat of your dirty beat-up car. I can hardly say it: I am learning Spanish so that I can speak to my father’s family in Mexico. But not to you. I do not want to speak to you, and don’t imagine that will change in this lifetime, tho life is long enough to allow for it. What I come up against more than anything is not what you did (tho I miss rock’n’roll jeopardy and browsing bookshops, I do), it is what you didn’t do, the places you should have stepped in, been present, where you instead stepped off, disappeared altogether. You let them, your wives. Threaten me, starve me, demean me. It’s not the physical starving that gets to me–I went hungry but not emaciated, not eating-out-the-garbage, just dizzy and achy. No, it was the starving for support, for love, for recognition of my individuation. They saw me as part of my mother, the woman you still loved and hated, and they were jealous of me in turn. You let your wife threaten me, “if you don’t come home now you can never come home again!” mere minutes after you assaulted me, as if it were simply a matter of differing opinions and not escaping the brutality of your violence. She would have watched while you killed me, I know this. She would have burned my body for you. I don’t know why she held you in such high regard and me in so little, but she would have allowed you to take my life before her very eyes. How could anyone? She could. You let these women into my life. You put your hands on my throat and tried to wring the life from me. I can not hate them, I can not even hate you–but I can close the door. No more. I will not allow you and your inability to set boundaries or respect boundaries invade my life anymore. I am no longer your child, I am an adult.

With love and respect for myself,

RD

Recently, Facebook changed its layout to some sort of logistical clusterfuck that I could hardly recognize or navigate. I’ve been thinking about deleting my Facebook profile for a quite a while now. Mostly it seems to serve as a time waster, source of impotent rage about somebody else’s unchecked privilege, and/or an event planner/invite inbox. I am pretty sure that I can find other sources for all of those things.

When I popped into Facebook yesterday afternoon I was practically whacked over the head with two very different cultural phenomenons:

1) A bunch of people were trying to raise awareness about the forthcoming execution of Troy Anthony Davis (update: Troy Anthony Davis was pronounced dead at 11:08 pm EDT. Condolences to all). Debate the efficacy of activism on the internet if you will, but at least people weren’t letting go without a fight, altho I feel like in the future time might be better spent critiquing and acting against the criminal injustice system.

2) What I shall term the 1/2 a step from Blackface meme:

Exzhibit

Uggghh. where do I even start with why I hate this so much?

Have you noticed this phenomenon? I am aware that all sorts of celebrities have had their pictures appropriated as various shades of this meme, but the only ones that have been showing up in the circles of my internet acquaintances are…pictures of men of color with what I can only call hood-lolcat-style English slapped over the front as some kind of joke.

The first time I saw this, I smirked lightly without thinking about it much. The second time, I cringed. The third, the fourth, and the fifth…I started to get annoyed. And then I was angry, the more I thought about it. And maybe more than a little bit nauseous.

The crappy white privilege-laced cultural narrative that I am interpreting from the recent popularity of this meme: ho ho ho black people are so different from “us”, so funny and all the same with their funny wordzzzzz.

Or better said:

In the blackface myth, there is a white fantasy which posits whiteness as the norm. What is absent in the blackface stereotype is as important as what is present: every black face is a statement of social imperfection, inferiority, and mimicry that is placed in isolation with an absent whiteness as its ideal opposite.

Additional reading about blackface, and links to additional pages about similar phenonems in other USian racist portrayals of various groups of people.

But back to Facebook: I think that we need to break up.  Or at the very least, set better boundaries. I am tired of memes and status updates, and a lot more interested in maintaining real world friendships. And of those friendships that are forced to be relegated to the internet by distance, disability, or illness, I think I would prefer more direct communication.

fin