“I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.”

Today, Guernica Magazine published a great, insightful and inciting interview with South Asian trans performance duo DarkMatter. For instance, this is how they expand upon the above statement that Alok never met a man:

Janani Balasubramanian: I think what Alok was saying with the idea of how we’ve never met a man in our lives, is that manhood is not just an ideal of gender; it also becomes a set of ideals around race, class, respectability, purchasing power, whatever. I’ve never met a single person in their lives who’s rich, has no feelings, goes to the gym every hour, drinks protein shakes all day. This person doesn’t exist.

Alok Vaid-Menon: They’re a fairy tale. What’s difficult is that gender has become only the domain of trans people and women. But we all have gender, and we all have a stake in ending gender.

In a conversation led by Guernica’s Kevin St. James, they discuss gender, performance, colonialism, capitalism, disappointing your parents and the importance of cracking jokes. It really is a must-read, whether you agree with their stances or not.

“The Gray Complexity that is the Real Dixie”

Errin Whack,in an article for NPR’s Code Switch blog, reviews Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set A Watchman and argues that it is a revelation on race, even if that is uncomfortable for many fans of To Kill A Mockingbird:

Truths can be hard, and truths about race in this country are often the hardest – especially when the revelations are about those we love. If racism is helped along not only by cross-burners in sheets, but those you have loved and emulated, it feels like too much to bear. The urge to look away is powerful.

But to do so would be to reject the gift Lee has given all of us with the release of Watchman. […]

If Mockingbird projects a South that can be read in terms of black and white, Watchman shows us the gray complexity that is the real Dixie. In this powerful sequel, Lee offers us a wider window into the white Southern heart, and tells us it is finally time for us all to shatter the false gods of the past and be free.

Black Women’s Activism and Suffrage in Oklahoma Territory

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)


Multicultural Books, Children, and the Social Construction of Identity

As Bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle points out in “True or False? Multicultural Books Don’t Sell: We Are the Problem, We Are the Solution”:

“Time and time again, at the bookstore and at children’s book festivals, I have observed white children picking up books with kids of color on the cover, and heard adults express surprise at the choice. “Are you sure you want that one?” they’ll ask. Or, “Wouldn’t you like this book instead?” It’s not the kids who are the problem. Kids really, really, really only care about a great story. In twenty years of connecting children with books they love, I have only seen one child—ONE!—balk at a book cover because the main character was a different race from her own. It’s the adults who underestimate a child’s ability or desire to see beyond race.”

(via lowoncliches)

First: actually, everyone is talking about gender and race and class, even if they do not choose to mention it explicitly. If you do not include any aspect of the latter into your work, you are making a conscious decision and chose a very specific positioning in terms of race and class, namely that of male white privilege. You are talking about race and gender: you are talking about white men. Surprise! They have a “race” and a gender too, despite being marketed as universal, and you chose to put the focus on them yet again.

Cut The Crap. « stop! talking.

Good, challenging text on (the lack of) intersectionality, especially in academics and activism. Do read it in full, it’s well worth it. 

More disturbingly, this is what happens when you treat the arrest of a black man, in his home, as something that can be fixed over beers. This is what happens when you silently ascent to the notion that racism and its victims are somehow equally wrong. The ground, itself, is rigged with a narrative of inversion that goes back centuries. When you treat the two side as equals, expect not just more of the same. Expect worse.

On Lacking All Conviction – National – The Atlantic

 Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Obama Administration, the Tea Party, Shirley Sherrod and, well, race. The whole text is worth your time.