Under (de)Construction

A critical examination of society, doing good, and making change

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I once heard Ntozake Shange explain that one of her goals as a writer was to break down the English language, to undo, redo, replay, and rework the English language, in such a way that its power for white supremacist goals and idea transfer would be rendered useless. Now that’s all types of deep - this idea that language can teach us destruction and prejudice and by deconstructing that language those who have been oppressed can reclaim and enter into the very language that had formerly been exclusive - creating something new entirely.

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We have to be mindful about how we engage others and ourselves, especially when it comes to obligations and expectations of our time, minds, bodies, thoughts, experiences and hearts. I don’t want to give myself away. And the labor of love that is my life is not free, nor is it worth my emotional/physical/mental/spiritual health. I am disinterested in being a martyr.

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Alternative Breaks – Privilege, Pomp and Good Intentions

“Catalytic donors don’t treat individual community members as charity recipients. They instead view individuals as potent participants in the process of solving problems – for themselves” -Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer, “Do More Than Good”

This quote struck me today as I reflected on the past two days of my alternative Spring Break trip with a group of undergraduate students from the University of Maryland. For seven days we will work in food banks, community gardens, homeless shelters, and nonprofit organizations providing social services to homeless individuals who suffer from substance abuse and mental health issues. Since we’ve been here, we’ve heard numerous times how great it is that a group of students would “sacrifice” their spring break to “do good.” A feeling of falsehood and embarrassment has been gnawing at me throughout my time here because of the embedded privilege and hierarchy our service creates between us and  the people we “serve”.

To think that we should be commended for giving back when we have been privileged to have so much seems antithetical to what service means to me. For me, service is an act of humility and the fulfillment of a duty to your community. To think that acting communally and collectively is a sacrifice, especially as visitors in a predominately African American city, is laughable in light of the legacy in the black community of creating opportunities for the disadvantaged to gain access to opportunities that have historically been denied to them. My ancestors (nor the people I see in my home community who give back in their churches and other organizations) did not define what they did as service, nor did they spend time patting themselves on the back for doing what was needed. That belief that they were doing what needed to be done with no regard for pomp or circumstance eliminated any artificial divisions between volunteer and recipient.

I swallowed the bitter taste of paternalism each time we told our community partners what we were here for. It seemed almost audacious to come into a community that we did not belong to or even fully understand and believe that we could (or should) make an impact that deserved applause. It seemed to somehow undercut the agency and power within these communities to think that a group of young people from hundreds of miles away could save a community. I doubt any of my participants felt that they were saving the world and I’m sure they know that our planting, organizing and feeding will not solve the problems of hunger or homelessness in Atlanta. But I do believe many have come in with beliefs that our time, energy and good intentions mean that we can’t be a part of the problem.

Yet, who are we to come in smelling of college textbooks and ivory tower ideas, patting ourselves on the back for “helping” others? Does our unacknowledged naivete make us any less culpable for diverting attention away from community solutions and the will and ability of community members to create change? Do our good intentions hide the smugness with which we swooped in with our theoretically-based solutions to problems we assume we know how to define for communities we’ve assumed agree with and buy-in to our interventions? I had proudly clung to the fact that we purposely chose to sleep on the floor of a local church and lived on a food budget of seven dollars a day – but was this not also a flex of our privilege? What made us anything more than minstrel show performers trying on the lives of families in need, only to cast them away after we had served our term and collected our congratulations.  Who are we to play the part of people we have seldom met and reflect on lives we have never lived?

In a larger sense, this experience made me reflect on all the ways that I and others like me (college-educated, millennials) try to “do good” in communities. Unfortunately, there is an unspoken belief that the communities we “serve” are nothing more than voids to be filled. How often do we as servant leaders, change makers, and grant givers ask communities what THEY see as the solution to the social problems that plague their communities? Moreover, how often do we provide spaces for them to define the scope of the problem(s)they struggle with? How often do we dare to cross the invisible lines of race, class, and geography that separate “givers” from “recipients”? When is the last time we saw the poor, disabled, or otherwise marginalized populations  we interact with as sources of knowledge to be tapped into and engaged with as partners, rather than case studies to be analyzed and problems to be fixed? How do our mainstream definitions of and collective beliefs about philanthropy and civic engagement reinforce the traditional ways of viewing and engaging with communities? Where do we go from here?

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Black Santa & Seeing Whiteness

Oh Mittens, you just couldn’t take your defeat admirably could you? Former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney cited President Obama’s “gifts” to minorities and young people as the reasoning for his win. Romney stated that the

"president’s camping [focused] on certain members of his base coalition, g[a]ve them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote…with regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift…free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women…and then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan…likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus"

This followed on the heels of Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s claims that Obama’s win was due to “some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,”i.e. all of the Black people who voted for Obama. It is the oft-repeated claim that Black people voted for Obama because of his race not his politics. Yet, Obama won states with overwhelming white majorities such as New Hampshire and Iowa. Paul Ryan fails on two points: First he makes the assumption that minorities cannot vote on anything other than racial concerns, without taking the argument to its subsequent logical extent - meaning white people who didn’t vote for Obama did so based on their race.  Second, it cannot explain Black individuals who voted for Romney (I see you Stacey Dash) or did not support either candidate (The Cornel West situation is a perfect example and a situation that deserves a whole other post).

Ryan ascribes to a faulty belief in the racelessness of whiteness, affording white Americans the ability to think beyond their ethnicity, while denying that same consideration to African Americans and other minorities. For him their are no “white concerns” there are only “minority” or “urban” concerns. Furthermore, he ignores the diversity of American political opinions and needs across and among racial groups. SNAP benefits, extended unemployment benefits and other “welfare” programs have provided a safety net for families of all racial backgrounds and include formerly middle class individuals and families who have suffered in the economic downturn. 15% of Americans receive food assistance, which means that even if all the Black people in American got them there would still have to be recipients of other races. This misjudgment and inability to understand a country one is campaigning to represent cost the Romney-Ryan duo the election. Not some perceived racial alliance. The African American community AND the white community are more complex than this.

Mitt Romney’s disavowal of 47 percent of the electorate, his flip-flopping, “binder full of women,” and his lack of a clear vision of America moving forward hurt his election, not his lack of melanin. Americans of all races and ethnicity have voted for White presidential candidates for decades before President Barack Obama based on the issues. This hasn’t changed.

As a woman, I will not vote for a presidential candidate who denies my right to choose and access to affordable women’s health care by defunding places such as Planned Parenthood that are the primary places for many women’s gynecological health care. I’m sure many women of all races would agree. As a student, I support a candidate, black or white, who will make college more affordable for all students by instating student loan forgiveness, flexible repayment options, and more transparent policies for higher education. And I, like most Americans, love Big Bird and grew up on PBS so I don’t support a Presidential candidate who is is not down with the Bird.

Last time I checked, my concern for my gynecological health, financial future, and appreciation for public educational programming are policy concerns, not racial concerns. Nor should a President granting access to the “American Dream” be seen as a “gift”, but his duty as a public servant. Barack Obama is not Santa Claus. He is our President. Let’s start acting like it.

Filed under Mitt Romney gaffe President Obama

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Am I a Good Feminist?

I’ll start out by acknowledging that I haven’t written in forever.A part of this lack of writing is driven by the growing pull of “adult” work/life responsibilities; But I must admit, a bigger part of it feels a little more traitorous. More like the comfortably treacherous resting spot of complacency. 

I’ve tried to rack it up as the normal progression of young adults transitioning from college to the workforce. Protest isn’t as readily available (nor is time). I tell myself that when I get “settled in to things” I’ll get back into that good old activism.

But months have now turned into a year, and I am not the woman that I used to be. I toss and turn at night asking myself “am I upholding the ideals I’d set for myself when I began this journey toward social justice” (not that it’s a place, in fact it’s more of a process)? And increasingly, more timidly I find myself asking, "am I a good feminist?

This second question has crept it’s way into the forefront of my year of independent adulthood. Each month cracking away at the sturdy feminist foundation I thought I had built. I started this year, two weeks out of undergrad - degree in hand (with solo apartment, salaried job, and  new car to follow), believing I was living the dream. I was independent. Doing it all on my own, answering to no one, depending on no one (oh the joys of the Strong Black Woman trope). I was the epitome of what I’d learned Black feminism was about.

Then I met a man, to be honest a few, who slowly unraveled the blanket of security, confidence, and independence I had knit around me. Each one bleaching the bright hues I had painted in declaring my uncompromising will to achieve each and every goal I set in spite of all the reasons my race, gender, and class dictated that I shouldn’t. It wasn’t all their fault I will admit. I for one cannot claim a feminism that will exalt my victimhood without equally acknowledging my agency in the matter.

So we, I and they, created a world where I slowly became less of myself.

It happened slowly, imperceptibly at first, I would give them bits of me, bits of my feminism until I was left here, a fraction of myself asking, "am I a good feminist?"

It started with the one who had the allure that only an educated, driven, black man can have. He, like all the rest was older, making my deference so easy, so natural. He mentored and consoled me. We embarked on a spiritual journey together. In the midst of all this bliss, who was I to speak out against the things I considered small slights on the patriarchy scale? Things I’m sure my feminist self would forgive. Of course she would overlook the benevolent sexism: the opening of doors, paying for meals, guiding my footsteps by the small of my back. I mean I do (technically) live in the South. It’s how things are here. I even convinced myself that playing second to other women wasn’t so bad because he’s an EDUCATED BLACK MAN with a GOOD JOB willing to stand by and support me. I mean men like that are practically extinct right? Who was I to complain?

Then there was the stalker. The man who couldn’t take no for an answer. Who took access to my body as a given because “I was a STRONG BLACK WOMAN,  I couldn’t be taken advantage of. I HAD to have wanted it, or I wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.” He used all the power patriarchy and manhood placed at his feet to intimidate and control me. The threats, then the gifts given to a woman who, though independent, couldn’t do it all for herself.

I have to admit my part in it. For months I couldn’t bring myself to turn him in. I found comfort in believing that male sexual violence was something bigger than me. It was patriarchy’s fault, who am I to try to fight it? Besides, turning him in would be sending one more black man to jail and I for one did not want anything to do with that atrocity. Finally, after a break in and a death threat I got a restraining order. By restraining him I freed myself. Or so I thought… because there it is again, that sweet patriarchy, wrapped up in gifts, trips, and dinners, tasting like “I love you.”

I met a man. I fell in love. That “Love Jones” type of love. He was a hardworker and a poet. He gave me everything I could ever want because he wanted to support all my dreams. He filled the difference and paid for all the things I couldn’t afford as a STRONG BLACK WOMAN working two jobs, and preparing for graduate school. “How noble” I thought, “How did I end up so lucky?” With all this luck in the air, it was easier to overlook his homophobia than to argue (I blamed it on black culture’s strong ties to the church). It was easier to ignore the underlying feeling that if children came into the picture, child-rearing would fall to me, career and educational aspirations or not. He was such a wordsmith that he made giving up my feminist self sound good.

It was in the midst of this garage sale of myself that I found Joan Morgan’s “When Chicken Heads Come Home to Roost…my life as a Hip-Hop Feminist.” She gave voice to all those feelings I was too scared to acknowledge in the light. She asked the questions I had encountered head on during this year of self-shedding, like:

"Can you be a good feminist and admit out loud that there are things you kinda dig about patriarchy?"

"Suppose you don’t want to pay for your own dinner, hold the door open, fix things, move furniture, or get intimate with whatever’s under the hood of a car?"

"Is it foul to say that imagining a world where you could paint your big brown lips in the most decadent of shades, pile your phat ass into your fave micro-mini, slip your freshly manicured toes into four-inch fuck-me sandals and have not one single solitary man objectify- I mean roam his eyes longingly over all the intended places—is, like, a total drag for you?

"Am I no longer down for the cause if I admit that while total gender equality is an interesting intellectual concept, it doesn’t do a damn thing for me erotically? That, truth be told, men with too many "feminist" sensibilities have never made my panties wet, at least not like that reformed thug nigga who can make even the most chauvinistic "wassup, baby" feel like a sweet, wet tongue darting in and out of your ear"

Better yet she called for a feminism “…brave enough to fuck with the grays. And this was not my foremothers’ feminism.” Isn’t that what I was in? The gray space that we ignore in high-minded conversations about theory? Morgan discussed a more complicated feminism that didn’t hold on to “the protective mantle of victimization” without also discussing the complicity of women.

More broadly, she notes that in the midst of all the sexism women of color face, benevolent and otherwise, "the real crime isn’t the name-calling (the bitches and hos), it’s their failure to love us—to be our brothas in the way that we commit ourselves to being their sistas. But recognize: Any man who doesn’t truly love himself is incapable of loving us in the healthy way we need to be loved. It’s extremely telling that men who can only see us as “bitches” and “hos” refer to themselves only as “niggas.” She offered a critique that is unique in its willingness to not only acknowledge the traditional markers of sexism, but also the plight of the women who are trying to love these men where they are, not where we want them to be. Women who are dealing with the broader issue of loving men who do not love themselves.

And then she offers a solution that spoke to me in a way that my old textbook-wielding feminist self no longer could.

"…the focus of black feminists has got to change. We can’t afford to keep expending energy on banal discussions of sexism in rap (or the benevolent sort) when sexism is only part of a huge set of problems. Continuing on our previous path is akin to demanding that a fiending, broke crackhead not rob you blind because it’s wrong to do so. If feminism intends to have any relevance in the lives of the majority of black women…it has to rescue itself from the ivory towers of academia."

So it’s here outside the walls of academia, smack dab in the middle of the day-to-day that I ask, "am I a good feminist?" and more pointedly, how do I become a good black man loving feminist? How do I love a man that has not been taught to love himself? How do you love someone without losing yourself?

And most critically, in the midst of all the rights-gaining,self-proclaiming, patriarchy-blaming feminism I have known, where is the road map for love?

Filed under black love feminism theory vs. practice

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The 10 Most Disturbing Facts About Racial Inequality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System


1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.

2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searchedduring a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make uptwo-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percentover the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses.According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.

10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.

(Source: anticapitalist)

Filed under incarceration United States Inequality

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Anyone who knows me, knows that Malcolm X is one of my biggest intellectual influences. He was one of the first people to spark my awareness of not only racism as a social structure, but the power of community organizing, radical rhetoric, and eventually the power, possibility, and hope inherent in a human rights struggle. Below read and and listen to the “Ballot or Bullet” Speech.

Malcolm X: Full “Ballot or Bullet” Speech

If you’re only going to do one thing today, let it be listening to this speech.

“Islam is my religion but I believe my religion is my personal business. It governs my personal life, my personal morals. And my religious philosophy is personal between me and the God in whom I believe. Just as the religious philosophy of these others is between them and the God in whom they believe. And this is best this way. Were we to come out here discussing religion we’d have too many differences from the outstart and we could never get together.”

“We must understand the politics of our community and we must know what politics is supposed to produce. We must know what part politics play in our lives. And until we become politically mature, we will always be mislead, led astray, or deceived, or maneuvered in to supporting someone politically who doesn’t have the good of our community at heart.”

“We have to become involved in a program of reeducation, to educate our people about the importance of knowing that when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer, the community out of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer.”

“And once we see that all these other sources to which we turn have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self-help program. A ‘do it yourself’ philosophy. A ‘do it right now’ philosophy. A ‘it’s already to late’ philosophy; this is what you and I need to get with.”

“Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behaviour pattern -and then you go on into some action.”

“It’s not so good to refer to what you’re going to do as a ‘sit-in’. That right there castrates you. Right there it brings you down. What goes with it? Think of the image of a someone sitting. An old woman can sit. An old man can sit. A chump can sit. A coward can sit. Anything can sit. Well you and I been sitting long enough, and it’s time today for us to start doing some standing, and some fighting to back that up.”

“What do you call second class citizenship? Why, that’s colonization. Second class citizenship is nothing but 20th century slavery. How you gonna tell me you’re a second class citizen? They don’t have second class citizenship in any other government on this earth. They just have slaves and people who are free. Well this country is a hypocrite. They try and make you think they set you free by calling you a second class citizen. No, you’re nothing but a 20th century slave.”

“This is why I say it’s the ballot or the bullet. It’s liberty or it’s death. It’s freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody”

“We have injected ourselves into the civil rights struggle, and we intend to expand it from the level of civil rights to the level of human rights. As long as you’re fighting on the level of civil rights, you’re under Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction. You’re going to his court expecting him to correct the problem. He created the problem. He’s the criminal. You don’t take your case to the criminal; you take your criminal to court.”

“He keeps us divided in order to conquer us. He tells you I’m for separation and you’re for integration to keep us fighting with each other. No, I’m not for separation and you’re not for integration. What you and I are for is freedom.”

“The whole church structure in this country is White Nationalism. You go inside a white church, that’s what they preaching: White Nationalism. They got Jesus white, Mary white, God white, everybody white, that’s White Nationalism!”

“It’ll be the ballot or it’ll be the bullet. It’ll be liberty or it’ll be death. And if you’re not ready to pay that price don’t use the word freedom in your vocabulary.”

(Source: stay-human, via intrinsicintentions)

Filed under Malcolm X Ballot or Bullet radical change

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Europeans tolerated Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.” So the real crime of fascism was the application of colonial procedures to white people “which until then had been reserved for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Africa
Aimé Césaire (via thelovebelow21)

(Source: intrinsicintentions)

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Boycotting “Cake”, Fad Dieting, and The Case For Weight Watchers

I am the 1%. The 1 percent of individuals who just doesn’t feel right jumping on the Chris Brown and Rihanna controversy bandwagon *gasp*. I get this metallic taste in my mouth every time I read articles or see twitter rants about the horrors of Chris Brown.

It’s not because I don’t think his actions, or intimate partner violence at large, aren’t wrong. It’s just that something about it all feels…hypocritical.

That familiar taste worked it’s way into my mouth as I read countless articles about Chris Brown and Rihanna’s most recent collaboration(s). One in particular, "Cake Remix,” has caused controversy because the public largely perceives Rihanna as weak for “goingback to her abuser.” And with lyrics like:

"Sweeter than a rice cake, cake worth sippin

Kill it, tip it

Cake, fill it

If you sexy and you know it And you ain’t afraid to show it

Put a candle on my motherf**ng back baby blow it”


There’s definitely cause for concern. But the concern shouldn’t (just) be about Rihanna. What’s cause for concern is that we as a society are outraged by these violently sexual lyrics, but will scream out “that’s my jam!” to Trey Songz music (“Beat It Up”, anyone?) or Kelly Rowland’s “Lay It On Me” (umm, let’s talk about Big Sean’s verse: Put your skirt on, turn you to my school girl. Smack you with my ruler girl”). We are a generation that increasingly ties our sexuality to violence. As Yolo Akili says in his article for the Crunk Feminist Collective

"from "cut", "hit", "beat it up" "kill it" and "smash," pop songs about love [and intimacy] sound more like war every day. And that should be frightening to us all."

It was in reading this article that I discovered the root of that feeling of hypocrisy. We are the ultimate example of “clubbing on Saturday and going to church on Sunday.” We cry out against sinners and wrong-doers, while we secretly glorify and do those same things in our everyday lives 6 days out of the week. We are what I call the “fad diet generation”. We’ll all jump up and boycott the latest high-profile controversy that we can scrutinize, villify, and “fix”- short-sighted in both our attention span  and approach. Countless numbers of my friends and colleagues have proudly proclaimed that they “don’t support Chris Brown’s music” as a sign of solidarity in the fight against domestic violence.

They are the same people who tweeted #toomuchdoubt for Troy Davis and jumped on the 99 percent fad on Tumblr and the #OWS movement. Yet few of these people will be seen tweeting everyday cases of injustice. What about the millions of voiceless women (and men) who suffer from intimate partner violence? The millions of black men inside and outside of prison who face a system that paves a pathway from cradle to prison? Where are our discussions about poverty now that the Occupy movements have been largely ousted?

Our advocacy work as young people will be doomed to fail if we do not perform an honest re-assessment of ourselves. We are willing to jump on the latest national craze, but are largely stuck in neutral (or even reverse) when it comes to sustained organizing. We want results and we want them now. We are fad dieters and closet “cake” eaters. We’ll latch on to the latest craze, until the media (and we alongside it) find something more interesting and sensational.

We have internalized our own oppression by failing to investigate the myriad ways we prop up systems of injustice. We need a Weight Watchers plan- a sustainable road map for organizing and advocacy that focuses on the day-to-day struggles that come with weening ourselves off of things that are bad for us.  A plan that tallies our everyday intake of poison and requires that we do a daily, weekly, and monthly assessment of how closely our actions are fitting into our larger goals. 

We want the easy route. The route that circumvents the nuances that come with social justice. I believe we’re so tied to Chris Brown and Rihanna because we want so badly to believe that intimate partner violence is a simple “get hit and quit” equation. But as Akili points out:

"many women do not not always want their male partner to leave, so much as they want the abuse to stop. That is in of itself a tough pill to swallow, especially to those who purport to believe that an act of physical violence in a partnership commands departure and is irredeemable.

However in the real world, a lot of heterosexual women in this country are abused by their male partners and not leaving for a variety of nuanced and complicated reasons, perhaps most obvious among them a legal system and community that will not protect or support them.

So while it’s easy for many to say,  ’If he hits me I’ll leave’ the conditions that intimate partner violence creates are often a lot more complicated. It would seem our overly simplistic and condemning attitudes towards this phenomena may truly reflect how little we understand about the psychological and emotional nature of physical violence and the complexities of how humans conceptualize love.”

Instead of focusing merely on how horrible Chris Brown’s actions were and how important it is that Rihanna stay away from him at all costs, we as a society should be thinking of ways that we can provide a support system for her safety, even if she decides to continue to affiliate with Brown. Instead of (solely) vilifying Brown, we should be investigating the root of his anger and violence and the ways in which we can support his growth. We could even take a page out of Rihanna’s book and work on collective forgiveness, not only for Brown, but in all aspects of our lives. Most importantly, we should be thinking of the  ways we can help ALL victims of domestic violence achieve safety and a sense of security.

I hope that we all can move beyond the 90 second news cycle, the flashy, and the sensational, so the real work can be done.  Let’s move beyond the “Cake” and clear out the cupboards. 


Filed under Chris Brown and Rihanna advocacy Troy Davis

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This film discusses the criminalization of HIV status. 36 U.S. states and territories have HIV-specific statutes, which are often used to criminalize behavior like spitting and biting 25% of the time. A new law was proposed in Maryland this month.

This is a controversial topic, but these laws can also further marginalize and criminalize targeted groups such as LGBT folks, minorities and women. These groups are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, disproportionately in contact with the criminal justice system, and less likely than other groups to get needed medical care. All of these things would be exaceberated by these laws because they would hinder people’s deserve to know and disclose their status to potential partners, and therefore put more people at risk and increase the number of people who are potentially jailed and marked for their HIV status.

These laws create a second-class of citizens, with some states requiring people with HIV status to register as sex offenders (which also means they cannot be within a certain distance from children), wear tracking devices, and be denied access to social networks and other privileges that are in no way connected to the disease.

How can we not only fight HIV/AIDS transmission, but embrace those who are currently infected if we criminalize their very existence?

Filed under HIV/AIDS criminal justice system women minorities testing