On Being Safe Space Post-Truth

Since the Orange Menace, my posts are really revolving around social issues and how I am navigating through it. Being a vocal advocate to marginalized people isn’t charity, it is me actively working to make the world better for all of us. I’m not saving anyone but myself. Therefore, I’m standing with those groups, not for them. I’m an accomplice, a co-conspirator and an ally. I am willing to incur risk in order to support and amplify more vulnerable people than me.

Most of the smarties reading this understands the art of collaboration. I wont get into the differences between ally and accomplice. Rose Hackman explains the concept brilliantly in her piece for the Guardian.

Today I want to talk about how I work to be an effective accomplice and how important it is for me to turn myself (and any space I’m in) into safe space for marginalized people. It is especially important that my friends facing extreme amounts of oppression in their daily lives, to have someone who will love and listen to them. They deserve many someones which is why I am here talking about how I work at this. Daily.

These things are coming from my unique perspective, I’m not a monolith, beyond this and with all things, dig deeper.

Here we go:

Believe the lived experiences of marginalized people

When women say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When black people say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When gay and transgender people say they don’t feel safe, believe them, When people with disabilities say they don’t feel safe, believe them. When children say they don’t feel safe, believe them.

Support them, give them the room to react. Without responding or judging and especially without policing the reaction. Hold space for them to be themselves entirely. Whether or not it aligns with your own ways of being is irrelevant.

Open your heart to the fact that the experience is still valid and real even tho you can’t relate to or understand it yourself. In this way, you make yourself instantly safer and more trustworthy.

Identify and address your implicit biases.

Occurring outside of conscious awareness, implicit bias manifests itself in the form of nonverbal thoughts, behaviors and actions that influence an individual and that are suggestive of unequal treatment. – An Analysis of Implicit Bias in Medical Education

The ways in which we view the world are unavoidably influenced by cis-hetero, white supremacist, patriarchal power structures. The way to combat this is to recognize it is there, find it, and kill it. Burn it with fire.

This is a rough step because it means being brutally honest with oneself in order to “unlearn” the things you’ve been taught. It means admitting all the ways in which you may have oppressed others. It means admitting there is safety in your privilege and casting it aside.

It means admitting your isms and phobias and then actively working to destroy those biases, instead of becoming complicit in them.

Learn to listen

Understanding comes from paying close attention. Listening is a special skill and not everyone is endowed with the patience it takes to be good at it. I am not a natural born listener. I am a loud-mouth. I love the sound of my voice and I love giving my opinion (you are welcome to disagree in the comments). So listening was a learned skill for me.

I got good at it (you can disagree with me in the comments) with practice by going into spaces where I knew nothing and therefore had nothing to say. I listened and followed and listened some more. Now, I love shutting the fuck up. The people in my circle, the love I have cultivated, it’s all very brilliant and humbling.

Do your own homework

I opened books I’d never considered reading before, by authors never introduced to me in schools or by the NY Times bestseller’s list. I diversified my media and sought out resources not written by the same power structures negatively influencing us.

Google is my best friend. With it I can search both scholarly and non-scholarly articles on any topic imaginable. I’m only limited by the information available. Public libraries have long since gotten with the times and I can take out books online and read.

Lastly, I started to follow people not part of mainstream media that were reliable resources, not post-truth talking heads working over-time to perpetuate useless dogma.

I am still in this phase of re-education. The only thing I’ve fully learned so far is how much I really don’t know.

Pay reparations 

The best way to really create lasting change is to help redistribute wealth. Money is power and marginalized groups have been, thus far, barred from enjoying upward mobility. Those who can, absolutely should find ways to support black and non-black people of color. You can do that by supporting businesses owned by people of color. You can buy a subscription to safety pin box. You can donate to organizations working to bring about change.

You should tune into media that centers marginalized voices, written by marginalized people, telling diverse stories. Go see movies created by non-white filmmakers. In this way can make a statement about your priorities as a consumer.

Please understand, how you spend your money is how advertisers (and then the brands they represent) know what we want as a collective. Your searches, social media usage, web subscriptions are all collected for brands to serve you with better ads.

If you are buying from and tuning into these types of sources as a consumer, they will notice!

Be Generous with your Love

Love is a verb. It is not a prayer, it is not an idea, it is not a concept or an imprint. Love is ACTIVE, fluid, alive, and limitless. Love will not save us, nor is it the answer to societal ills. Instead, it’s the energy from which we draw our strength. Tap into and share it often and generously.

Be an earnest cheerleader. Not everyone can do everything. There are some people with the stuff to organize and lead…there are some who support and follow. I am the latter. I work to protect and support the organizers and leaders in every way I can. I brag about them to my friends and coworkers. I write about them and hang out with them and love them to pieces!

Show love to the people speaking to your spirit on this journey. Do that by amplifying and centering their voices and cheering them on, loudly and publicly!

Uplift the vulnerable among us

My privileges keep me safe. They make it so I can get away with a lot of things, under the radar, or with little to no effort. My able-bodied, cis-hetero, light-skinned self, walks through the world with much less fear than my dark-skinned, disabled, lgbtqia+, counterparts.

In matters of oppression, my perspective is limited. That means, under no circumstance should I be speaking for a vulnerable group I am not a part of. That means in order to be an effective accomplice to these people, I must amplify them.

We must center their voices, their lived experiences, their perspective.

Walk the walk

Practice makes perfect. An effective accomplice knows there is no rest for the wicked and therefore there is no rest for the weary and therefore no break for the rest of us.

The most vulnerable among us are being oppressed, maligned, endangered, and preyed upon daily. Everyday is an opportunity to collaborate with these groups in order to make the world a better place. Reach out. Your voice is needed.

If you are calling yourself an ally, you are committing yourself to all of the above in both idea and practice. SHOW YOUR WORK! By this I mean, people should know where you stand. Stop playing the fence and being vague about your opinion.

Get up. Stand up. In your own circles

Work your groups. Know where you have influence and use it to stand up for marginalized people. This is scary as fuck. It means being a squeaky wheel. One must be willing to be ostracized and isolated and even blocked from certain circles.

Silence is violence, don’t be quiet about racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination. If you have yet to speak out against the Orange Menace, for example, you have probably already been marked as unsafe to those people in your circle who are also part of the groups being targeted.

Uncover/rediscover – the business of unlearning

For me, all of the above was a process. I’m still on the journey, I’m still learning/unlearning. I’m still realizing my implicit biases.

I have dedicated myself to the business of collaboration. I am determined to make myself into safe space for my friends and family. I truly want to become and effective accomplice in the fight for equality.

There are a ton of articles, books, essays, poems, movies, etc…

On Safe Spaces for White People

Life after the Orange Menace (OM) has been…interesting. The response from white women have been especially revealing. It’s almost like they only just realized how very fucked up this nation is and are desperately trying to figure out what to do.

Hence, the rise of, “Safe spaces for white people,” to work through racism in the shadow of the OM. I know what y’all are thinking…I bitch when privileged folks don’t do anything, then I bitch because I don’t like the efforts privileged folks are making.

That is true, this is America and my right to bitch is my right! Deal with it.

I’ve received two invitation to “heal whiteness” in as many weeks. These “workshops” challenge participants to examine the meaning of whiteness and white privilege while resolving the guilt and shame of white supremacy.

Sounds good right? White people need to do this type of work, post-haste.

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However, in the case of this particular workshop, it is neither run by or even using content created by people of color. At least not directly. However, for $200 you can get to the business of working through personal biases in “safe” (ie white only) spaces. Without any help (or interruption) from actual marginalized people.

This is like asking the fox to guard the hen-house.

Like, asking police to investigate their own brutality.

Where are the checks and balances?

Why do white people need safe space to work through the trauma they are inflicting (consciously or not) onto black people?

When a friend of mine reached out to the organizers they refused to engage. Her questions were not aggressive, they simply asked about the need for “safe space” while doing this work and how they planned to assess progress if there were no people of color to defer to:

Is your assertion that white people are strong enough to be racist, but not strong enough to talk about the racism that they do?

You have acknowledged that the ethics of doing this work might be challenged on the basis of your whiteness and the fact that you are charging money, my question is more essential. What are you healing? What part of white people has been traumatized and by whom?

Is your assertion that if white people receive healing, they will become nonviolent? What evidence/criteria are you using to measure this?

Does this healing work translate to patriarchy/sexism? Can men become nonviolent by these methods?

These are valid, legitimate questions that were left unanswered. Which makes me questions the validity of this entire endeavor.

I’d argue that the world is overflowing with safe white spaces and there is no need for these retreats either way. Every time one turns on the TV, sits down to watch a movie, or read, whiteness is centered in almost all of it constantly. The world has been made a safe space for white people.

 

The truth is, this well-intentioned effort looks like nothing more than a self-centered, self-congratulatory cash grab. I see you.

For the record, oppressed groups don’t have the privilege of “safe space” to learn about their oppression.

1,094 Bias-Related Incidents in the Month Following the Election – Southern Poverty Law Center

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Working to dismantle white supremacist systems is grueling and uncomfortable. It requires drifting further and further from our comfort zones into truly diverse spaces. Mistakes will be made and we will be checked for those mistakes. Sometimes, without any care for our personal feelings because, the truth is, my personal feelings are not more critical than actual people, facing actual dangers.

It took me rejecting a lifetime of dogma and replacing it with new, more accurate information to get this. I am still unpacking a lot of internalized misogynoir, sexism, and yes, white supremacist attitudes. I learned to shut the fuck up long enough to listen and learn from groups of people more oppressed than me.

Anything, I know about anti-racism work, any awareness I’ve gathered, any understanding I have found, has come to me by the grace of black voices, almost always women, willing to document, write about, and explain their oppression.

As a woman of color, who has experienced my fair share of racism, I still benefit from a hell of a lot of privilege. Acknowledging my privileges keep me safe and then using them to center marginalized people is how I redistribute my power. AMPLIFYING BLACK WOMEN means I am centering them, not myself in this movement. A movement they birthed.

My pantsuit nation post is filled to the brim with indignant people asking why Safety Pin Box owners think they should profit from their advocacy. Meanwhile, white women, a demographic which already enjoys an abundance of safe spaces and opportunities, to choose from, are lining their pockets with profits from these “white healing spaces.” Without being asked where the profits are going or why they deem themselves worthy of profiting from their advocacy in the first place.

So basically, fuck your double standard.

White women should be supporting safe spaces for oppressed groups, instead of self-segregating for profit. White women should be working, daily, to turn themselves into safe spaces by first and foremost, centering vulnerable groups in their social justice efforts. White women should be paying black women for the educational content necessary to make these workshops effective.

Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, white women need to learn how to play the best supporting role, not the lead, in this fight for liberation. Anything less is uncivilized and narcissistic as fuck.

Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation

Dear Pantsuit Nation,

You definitely don’t know me. I have been a silent observer of your closed and mostly “private” Facebook group for a few weeks now. Watching you grow into an influential collective. Over 3 million members strong! Your brand is storytelling, especially post-apocalypse. It seems now that the Orange Menace is inevitable…you want to amplify voices affected in the aftermath. Continue reading “Open Letter to Pantsuit Nation”

The Gap and Black Girl Magic

Fuck you Gap. Black girls are magic. Black Girls Matter. Black. Girls. Are. Magic.

I was minding my own business this weekend. Getting my home into some semblance of shape after having a new baby a few weeks ago. I was working pretty hard and felt I deserved a break. So I took one and as per usual logged into Facebook to see what was going on. To my shock and horror this is the fuckery that greeted me:

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Your ad campaign aimed at making young girls see themselves as whatever they can dream of set little black girls up to be arm rests for adventurous white girls.

You suck and everyone who isn’t a racist asshole knows it.

I want to thank Fatima LaJuan Muse for bringing this troubling content to my attention. She breaks it down on her Facebook page so succinctly here. The Root has also done a piece on this here. They have said much of what needs to be said regarding this controversy in better ways than I ever could.

Instead, I want to talk about it in the way I talk about a lot of things around here. This is what lazy content looks like and we deserve better. Our girls deserve better.

This is what content looks like when there is no diversity behind the scenes. Without a black person and other non-black persons of color working in collaboration, with mostly white people, there is no one who can say, “this is inappropriate, people are going to feel a way about what is depicted here and I’ll tell you why”

Without that input we get this unedited, white person version of what (white) girls are capable of being – a dancer, gymnast, adventurer and what (black) girls are capable of being – A prop? Arm rest? Inanimate object? I’m not sure who this was supposed to inspire but in me it evokes something wholly maternal and viscous.

I want to snatch this baby girl out of this photo and tell her, she’s better than an armrest, she’s MAGIC!

 

As I’ve said so many times, representation matters. It matters how we see ourselves reflected in the pages of magazines, on TV and the big screen and (white) America has done a shit job of showing the depth and breadth of who we are as a wholly colorful civilization (see #oscarssowhite).

To flip through a magazine, channels on a television, or any movie trailer in the last 80+ years would lead any alien society to believe this earth is full of mostly dominant white people with a smattering of subservient brown people.

I’m not even exaggerating. According to a 2014 Women in Media Report, white people are cast in lead roles more than twice as often as people of color, and white film writers outnumber minority writers 3 to 1. In 17% of films, no black people had speaking parts.

So, ads like this just reinforce and validate this disparity with a giant exclamation mark thrown in for good measure. I can’t even begin to tell you what an image like this does to the mind of a young black girl, who will spend most of her life questioning her worth and her place in a world that consistently tries to deny her humanity. It is wholly degrading and wholly despicable.

If you are a smarty, and if you are reading my blog I know you are, you know what I am going to ask next – please boycott The Gap – please reach out to them through any means necessary and voice your outrage.

Shout out their shame on Twitter or Instagram

Contact them via Facebook or email

You can even write them a strongly worded letter the old fashioned way:

Gap Inc./Synchrony Bank
PO Box 965004
Orlando, FL 32896-5004

Put your power as a consumer to work and let The Gap know they fucked up and we aren’t having it!

 

The Transgender Community Deserves Unconditional Love 

Love is not a privilege, it is a basic, fundamental, and critical right. Every single one of us is deserving. Love requires only that you let it be. That you ask nothing more of it, that you expect nothing in return. Love by virtue of it’s grace is without condition. It just is, you either do or do not, you either will or will not. When you make it conditional you minimize it and turn it into something else, something selfish. That’s not to say that if you love someone or something harmful you should accept it. You can love unconditionally and you can put conditions on how you expect and deserve to be treated.

Our only requirement on this planet, in my humble opinion is that we treat others the way we ourselves expect to be treated. That’s it, all the other stuff we do to each other, making comparisons and judgments, setting impossible expectations for each other, that comes from our own ideas about how love “should work.”

I understand life requires certain conditions in order to set appropriate boundaries. It is my firm belief, however, that love is boundless and liberating when we do it “right”. Unconditional love is a super power that every person can tap into but there are some rules…

  1. Save judgments for God, the Fashion Police, and actual judges.
  2. Never withhold compassion or empathy.
  3. Be generous with your love.
  4. Be honest and kind.
  5. Learn to see, then accept, then celebrate differences.
  6. Love yourself and others the way you wish to be loved in return.
  7. Seek to uplift, never tear down.
  8. Have faith in yourself and humanity.
  9. Never expect others to think, react, behave, or live like you.
  10. Learn to live and let live, no matter what, no matter who, no matter how (if this confuses you, see commandment #1)

I suppose you could apply this to any single relationship in your life, whether professional, platonic, or romantic. However, I want us to apply these commandments to complete strangers, people we don’t know and may never know. In fact, send that kind of love to people in the Transgender community especially Trans People of Color. A community in danger because they are being seen as unworthy of love, safety, protection under the law.

  • 19% of people have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a family member because of their transgender identity or gender non‐conformity. Of those cases:
    • 65% had attempted suicide, compared to 32% of those who had not been abused
    • 48% experienced homelessness, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (9%)
    • 47% reported drinking or using drugs to cope with mistreatment, compared to 19% of those who had not been abused
    • 29% had engaged in sex work, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (7%)
  • 29% of transgender and gender non‐conforming people reported being harassed or treated disrespectfully by police officers
    • Transgender people of color reported much higher rates. Source.

I wish that I could put my heart inside everyone else, so they could see the divine light in themselves. At the end of the day, I only have my words. I can’t really teach you how to love but until then #6 is going to have to do, I promise to keep loving you the way I want you to love me in return and maybe, eventually, everyone I love will love like me.

If you want to do more than love and accept the transgender community unconditionally, you can step up and advocate for them too. To learn more visit The National Center for Transgender Equality.

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