So, racial theory, queer theory and whiteness theory
are all rather meaningless if we can’t use them to help liberate us,
or even just better understand how the ‘isms function
in our day to day lives.
Last week, I was in Whole Foods, in Oakland, with my momma
and she says to me, “Hmmp, that girl doesn’t know
if she wants to be a man or a woman.” The woman was
a mid twenties, and had what could be read as a
masculine woman’s self presentation.
Now, having done both disability theory, and queer theory
as well, and also being a Black woman, and this being
my momma I knew I had to tread lightly and firmly.
So I said, “Momma, come on now, let her be.”
Then I looked her dead and her face and said,
“Everyone has a right to be who they are.”
She kept going.
I responded, “Momma, you know I Love coming to this
place with you, but I will walk out of here. Serious
as a heart attack.”
I told her that I felt that way that I did, because
as Black folks, who have been mistreated by Whites
for three centuries, we of all people should know
what it feels like to be oppressed by a dominant group.
Her response was, “Well, White folks ain’t never bothered
me.” “Well there was the one time on that one job….”? and
she starts trailing off.
So then I KNEW I had to change my unit of analysis,
and “take it to the body” as the Black women feminists
I was like, “Momma, she has a right to be who she is.
Saying stuff about who she is is like treating her the way
White folks treated grandmomma.”
My momma got it then.
My grandmomma was a dark skinned, “shoot you if you run
cut ‘chu if you still” kind Black woman.
At a time when Black women were seen is silent pillars of
the community or wenches or doormats, my grandmum
always asserted her humanity, whether or not
other folks understood it was none of her business.
She took nothing from NO one, White police included.
And because of this they messed with her from Richmond
to Dallas and back.
She is my namesake.
It was awesome to take relational thinking about
queer and racial theory and be able to get my momma to
see where I was coming from.
Then peep game. She turned around and stood up for me.
I have an Uncle who is type homophobic. I Love him, but
the combo of rage and homophobia, I ain’t built for that.
So, he was insistent on seeing me last week.
And she told him, listen, “Your really homophobic,
and Renina don’t like being around that, really none
of us do, you gon’ alienate people.”
I was like, wow. She spoke my truth, but dang, it seemed
kinda harsh when she told me what she said.
The other side of the coin is that he now knows where
Fast forward last night, I am on a date of sorts.
The guy, a Black man, Mr. Fresh and Clean, I met at a dance
party recently, and the subject of me being touched
without consent came up.
On the dance floor, at one point he reached for me.
The material issue was that I concluded that his intentions
weren’t malicious, he came across as shy and it was a benign
touch, but still I am big on consent.
So, I bring it up to him last night and said that I don’t care
I want to be able to walk the street the way Black men do,
He responded, “So you want to be treated like a man.”
I said no, “I want to be treated like a human.”
“You want me to give you a pound.”
“No, if you are a stranger, then don’t touch me,
or ask if you can hug me.”
Then came my relational one two punch analysis.
“Listen, I understand that they police have job to do,
police are human too. BUT, I have huge problem with the
ways in which Black men are surveilled and treated in
the streets. Furthermore, I don’t want you all to turn
around and treat us the same way. Its not cool.”
He sat there silent. Stared at the nachos on his plate.
Then turned and looked at me and said, “Wow, I never
thought of it like that, us treating you the way the police
I was like yeah man.
That’s the truth.
Have to deal with homophobia, or racism or sexism
recently in a relationship?
How do you decide when to say something or when to