“We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, (…) tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
Intersectionality alone cannot bring invisible bodies into view. Mere words won’t change the way that some people — the less-visible members of political constituencies — must continue to wait for leaders, decision-makers and others to see their struggles. In the context of addressing the racial disparities that still plague our nation, activists and stakeholders must raise awareness about the intersectional dimensions of racial injustice that must be addressed to enhance the lives of all youths of color.
Over the course of the week, twitter banned Chuck C. Johnson. Some call him a troll, I would even go so far as calling him a hate monger. The instance that cost him his social media presence was a tweet he sent out in which he asked for money so he could “take out” civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson (@deray on twitter.) McKesson understood the tweet as a threat on his life, which is certainly a valid interpretation of the tweet, especially considering the atmosphere of violence against Black men in which McKesson lives and works. When a right-winger with some influence who’s known for doxxing rape victims and other despicable things uses language like that, you can see that as a direct threat. At first glance, I personally thought Johnson wanted money so he could sabotage McKesson’s work and destroy his reputation and ability to work – which I thought was already bad enough.
Today, people in my twitter timeline are criticizing a think piece Amanda Hess wrote for Slate about McKesson and Johnson in which she interviews Johnson and friends and calls the banishment of Johnson an “overreaction” and “silencing.” It’s a peculiar text from Hess, as it doesn’t even make sense considering her own writing history. Early 2014, Hess wrote a great piece for the Pacific Standard called “Why Women Aren’t Welcome On the Internet” in which she talks about the harassment women receive on the Internet, including harassment through twitter by people who are called “trolls” but who are much worse, calls online harassment “the next civil rights issue” and discusses the few methods there are to deal with online harassers. In other words, she wrote about how people like Chuck C. Johnson are a massive problem.
Hess strikes a different chord in the Slate piece: Johnson is bad, yes, but you gotta hear both sides, and what about free speech, and Twitter just gave in to the loudest complaints (McKesson actually got to go on CNN to talk about the threats.) Great Black women in my timeline, including Imani Gandy and accalmie, point out that it is unlikely that Amanda Hess had written the same piece if a white woman had been the last victim of Johnson instead of a Black man. I agree with them, and am honestly still a bit baffled.
I usually appreciate Amanda Hess’ writing, but here she’s lacking.She takes harassers either serious or just shrugs them off as troll. And her analysis is lacking intersectionality. Because that’s the thing – DeRay McKesson is a man (and has 5x the followers of Hess,) but he’s also a Black man working for social justice, so most of the structural things Hess herself lamented about apply in this case, too. I’m also baffled because so many prior victims of Johnson are women. I think her piece is a flawed judgement of the McKesson-Johnson situation (at best.) That she is this lacking when it comes to an intersectional perspective calls into question her decision to call online harassment the “next civil rights issue.” I think you can call online harassment and its effect on online civil spaces that, but only of you include harassment happening to more than one group discriminated against. (That she quoted an apparent white nationalist as just another twitter troll might just be ignorance, but it’s also not great.)
At the same time, she does have a point: The way Twitter handled the suspension of Johnson is too intransparent, and Twitter does not react enough to many instances of harassment. In some aspects, it’s like the NFL’s punishment of Ray Rice, after the Baltimore Raven running back hit his wife last year: The way Twitter (the NFL) handled the case was intransparent and inconsistent. Moving forward the rules of conduct and punishment need to be defined more clearly. Inconsistency and intransparency in judgement and punishment are big problems for all our communities. That doesn’t necessarily mean Chuck Johnson’s or Ray Rice’s punishment was an overreaction or that they should be let off the hook.
Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as woman or person of color as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling.
An estimated 63 percent of young men between the ages of 11 and 20 who are imprisoned for homicide have killed their mothers’ batterers.
A topic often discussed in recent time on progressive, feminist, anti-racist sites is how the default term “women” refers to white women, while the work, struggle, and issues of women of color are not mentioned, erased, ignored.
One example of this is the discussion in the US regarding this year’s equal pay day. The pay gap number of women earning 77 cents to a man’s dollar is basically true. However, as among others Imani Gandy pointed out in Monday’s episode of TWIB Prime, the gap for women of color is significantly wider – 64 cents for Black women, 55 cents for Latina women.
Another example is the claim that “women” voted Obama in, voted for reproductive rights, for Democrats. This conflation of the broad term erases that it was primarily the votes of women of color who came out for Obama, whereas a large part of white women voted for the GOP.
After listening to the episode, I coincidentally read a terrific essay by Diane Sainsbury, focusing on enfranchisement in Oklahoma territory (then state) at the end of the 19th century. Sainsbury takes a “multicultural” – arguably intersectional – look at the struggle of Native Americans, people of African descent, and women, and the process of suffrage. The paper is quite relevant to today’s issue of “women” vs. women of color and the vote. In Oklahoma territory, Native American and Black women were very active in the suffrage movement and could vote in school elections. Similar to the 2008 and 2012 U.S. elections, Black women’s votes played a big role, and incited fear in men benefiting from the rule of patriarchal white supremacy :
“African-American women in Oklahoma had long before formed a suffrage association. They also appeared to have voted in school elections more than white women, primarily to ensure black representation on school boards in mixed communities. African-American women’s political activism was repeatedly used by white supremacists as an argument against enfranchising all women.” (p. 173)
It’s striking how many historic structural racisms and sexisms are still perceptible to this day.
In passing, Sainsbury shows how “white” – “race” – is not a fixed category: In Oklahoma’s constitution, the term “colored” referred to “persons of African descent,” everyone else was defined as “white.” Native Americans, in this context, were considered white, which had a number of implications for the solidarity and allegiance between these two subordinated groups.
Diane Sainsbury “US women’s suffrage through a multicultural lens: intersecting struggles of recognition.” In: Hobson, Barbara M. Recognition Struggles and Social Movements : Contested Identities, Agency and Power. Cambridge University Press, 2003 (161-187)
“"If we can love transgender people that would be a revolutionary act.”
Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) speaks about being a trans woman of color; about bullying, harassment, violence directed at trans women, and about love (here meaning justice in public.) as a revolutionary act. A 7 minute must-see speech.
(Content note: Description of transphobia, (trans)misogyny, racism, and violence based upon that.)
Currently, we are witnessing a resurgence of white supremacist thinking among disenfranchised classes of white people. These extremist groups respond to misinformation circulated by privileged whites that suggests that black people are getting ahead financially because of government policies like affirmative action, and they are taught to blame black folks for their plight.
bell hooks. Where We Stand: Class Matters. New York: Routledge (2000) 115
In combination with Gramscian hegemony and other intersectional concepts, this might be the most accurate explanation of why so many ‘tea party’ rightwingers in the US are campaigning for programs that would hurt them.
We need to accept that when a person of color tells us we’ve fucked up, the answer is not to get defensive. When we get that instinct to say “geez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way at all,” it’s time to stop right now. It doesn’t matter how you meant it. It really doesn’t. Someone doesn’t have to have racism in their heart to do something racist. And doing something racist doesn’t make you an evil person who can never do good again, should never be an activist, should run off and hide in a hole somewhere. It means you did something hurtful, you made a big mistake, and you need to own that mistake. You need to say “I’m sorry.” Full stop. I’m sorry. And if the person who called you out is generous enough to take time to explain what you did wrong, you need to have a seat and listen.
Yesterday I already linked to a must-read text on feminism and intersectionality. Today I discovered this great article via Sookee’s facebook page. I think it’s mainly directed at white queer feminists, but it is also must-read material for white cis-male feminists like me (if not even more.) The kneejerk reaction of white feminists when they’re being called out for being/saying something racists also ocures a lot with white cis-heterosexual men (-feminists) when they are being called out for saying something sexist.
We need to be more aware of our privileges, dudes.
Also check out the Tiger Beatdown article mentioned in the text above: MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT! And if you think this is all primarily an US-American issue: The author of the Tiger Beatdown text lives in Europe..
Not to diminish what happened at UC Davis, but it’s worth considering what happens in poor neighborhoods and prisons, far from the cameras. I’m not saying that to diminish this video in anyway. But I’d like people to see this a part of a broad systemic attitude we’ve adopted as a country toward law enforcement. There’s a direct line from this officer invoking his privilege to brutalize these students, and an officer invoking his privilege to detain Henry Louis Gates for sassing him.
Like so many things revolving around it, the problem of police brutality is larger than the Occupy movement. I do not belong to the group of people who claim ACAB, but it is a problem.
In addition, the Occupy movement, especially in the US, is voicing legitimate concerns in appropriate manner. Yet it needs to become more inclusive and interesectional if it really wants to change something. The resistance against dissent is powerful.