Using your Voice Makes You a Target

Returning a book back to the library Monday, I decided to look at the magazine section. I came across the most recent issue of The Nation and decided to pick it up. I know that Professor Harris Perry had discourse with Cornel West and Chris Hedges in May around President Obama’s positions and policies around race, racial alliances, identity and class. So I decided to read this article because it seemed to be a follow up to the conversation. It also helped that the title was “Breaking News: Not All Black Intellectuals Think Alike.” #Heheheh.

A particular part of the article spoke to me, the section where she connects voice to citizenship. She writes:

Citizenship in a democratic system rests on the ability to freely and openly choose, criticize and depose one’s leaders. This must obtain whether those leaders are elected or self-appointed. It cannot be contingent on whether the critiques are accurate or false, empirical or ideological, well or poorly made. Citizenship is voice. West exercised his voice, and I mine. But the history and persistence of racial inequality and white privilege in America means that the exercise of voice for black citizens is fraught with the dangers of surveillance. It’s yet another challenge of being black and exercising citizenship in the United States. Even as we articulate our grievances, black citizens are haunted by that “peculiar sensation” that W.E.B. Du Bois described as “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

I thought of voice and the fact that two White men have been impersonating queer women of color on the internet.

I thought of how my colleagues, other Black women who are teachers and graduate students from across the country who write anonymously on the internet for fear of retribution from their departments and future potential employers. Whereas on the other hand, here are these two heterosexual White men assuming the identity of women of color, to further their own career ends.

I thought of how I routinely have to tell Negro men to sit down when they try and debate me about gender theory, racial theory or political economy on the internet. It’s not that I don’t mind being challenged, that is a part of the game. The issue is their willingness to challenge me while being woefully under read. When I am dialoging with people who know more than me in an academic setting or on the street, I shut the hell up and listen and learn. These men, and some women on the internet learn real quickly that they can learn from me  or ask me questions, but unless they know my arguments, and the arguments of the people I have read, I will sit them down with the quickness. My work will be respected. This ain’t JV, this is elite. I have the bills and bifocals to prove it.

As a Black woman that writes about race, gender, pop culture and sexuality on the internet, I was excited when I saw Harris Perry write,

I vigorously object to the oft-repeated sentiment that African-Americans should avoid public disagreements and settle matters internally to present a united front. It’s clear from the history of black organizing that this strategy is particularly disempowering for black women, black youth, black gay men and lesbians, and others who have fewer internal community resources to ensure that their concerns are represented in a broader racial agenda. Failing to air the dirty laundry has historically meant that these groups are left washing it with their own hands.

To say it another way, failing to air our dirty laundry leaves the deviants, the single mothers, the queers, the lesbians, the gays, the felons, the hustlers, the sex workers-basically anyone who is lewd and lascivious shit out of luck.

Using your voice makes you a target, but as Audre Lorde has famously said, your silence won’t protect you.

You use your voice lately?

How did that turn out?

You choose NOT to speak up lately?

How did that turn out?

Starting a Women of Color Policy and News Blog

I am in the process of laying out the foundation for starting a women of color policy and news blog.

I get sick and tired of the janky way that rape, sexual harassment, the debate around food stamps
and “domestic” violence are framed, discussed, archived and shaped.

I personally think we can do better.

Ann and I are down to do it. One post a day, five days a week. @Latoyapeterson you in? I know you are busy, and you
know I mentioned this to a couple of months ago. It’s time. I have the content and layout in my head. BUT no name.

@arieswym also said she was down.

Please share, rt and reblog if you know of folks who may be interested in contributing.

#blackgirlsarefromthefuture. We own stories.

A (Black) Feminist Note to Young White Feminists

The idea for this post came to me while I was reflecting on my work as a teaching assistant and teacher over the past year.

It is interesting how much I have changed as a person, having taught such hairy issues such as race, class, gender, sexuality, double jeopardy, the matrix of oppression etc.

My ability to read the energy in a room is sharpened, I feel empowered to intervene and de-escalate when it is clear that a situation may become out of control and harmful.

I saw a lot of promise in my students. They were interested in creating a better world. Some were very conscious of the privileges that they held in terms of class, race or gender. They were pariticulary floored when they learned that only 27% of the country has a bachelors degree.

The young white women students seemed to be most moved by the fact that their male peers could possibly earn more than them, even if they have the same training. They looked down right sad. When I saw this I told them that they looked down right sad. I also told them that we are arming them with this information so that they can go out in the world, and that they would be a apart of a long line of people who have seen issues with the world and decided to do something about it.

What I want them to be mindful of is the distinction between structural issues and individual issues and how they are both connected and distinct. It was challenging for them to think about how social systems, schools, church’s and families teach them what being “man” or being a “woman” is as most of them have been trained to think about the individual and choice. For the most part, they eventually got it.  In fact, they were really clear on the connection between the individual and the institution when it came to issues of reproductive justice. They understood that a woman can only make a “choice” based on the conditions in which she finds herself.

What was the most interesting thing about them is their ability to spot contridictions. It freaked me out at times. It kept me on my toes after I realized that they could spot contradictions the way that they could. In creating my lesson plans I anticipated their ability to spot contradictions.

For instance:

They were able to see the contridiction between the idea of the “melting pot” and the “all american beauty.”

They were able to ask why, when women out number men, are women not more frequently placed in positions of decision making authoritity?

They were able to see the contradiction between women “having it all” and women being expected to do all of the house hold social reproductive labor.

Lastly, they were able to see the contradiction between a society that claimed to treat everyone equally yet perpetually paid women less for the same work that their male counter parts did, because in our social system, paying half of the workforce less means more money for profits.

I wanted my students to understand that it is up to them to take their lives seriously.

I want them to know that women are both similar and different, and that these differences should not stop them from engaging in social justice work. That we are ALL human beings. This does not mean that I am not Black and they- at least most of them, are not White, because we have our respective packaging and that  our “packaging” has histories.

One of my most impressive students was a young woman who wants to be a federal agent. And if she sustains her passion for reading and writing and work, she will be one. One day she asked me, Ms. Jarmon, “What do I do if I go on a job interview, and I get the job, but the employer is racist.” I was floored. Because this is a profound question.

I said to her, “Wow, well, there are a few things that you can do. Let’s talk about your options. Thank you for sharing this with me, because as your teacher, working through these kinds of issues are important.”

We then proceeded to discuss what her options would be in this kind of situation.

It was in this moment that I was reminded of my passion for teaching and how fulfilling it is to connect with students.


What would you tell a young white woman who is interested in social justice work?

As a teacher, what are your favorite moments?

Have you noticed how my writing has changed over the last year? I guess that is a question for long time readers.

A Tale of Two Lauryns: Why We Feel Entitled to Lauryn Hill.

Note: I wrote this post last week, before she announced her pregnancy. #allcity.

One of the reason’s why I think we are incapable of letting Lauryn go, or understanding why she has chosen her family work over her artistic work is that we do not see parenting as work.

I have friends whose parents provided for their material means, they had food clothes and shelter, gadgets and toys, but moms and pops were always at work.

And they hate their parents for always being away.

I am not doing that, and I can see Lauryn Hill’s desire to give her children some sense of stability and protection.

People always say to me, girl, when you gonna have a baby- blahzey, blah? I look them dead in they face and say, listen, a child requires you to reorganize your entire life, and I believe that that child should be your priority, because as parents we bring them into the world. I also believe that women are hyper criticized for parenting choices, AND also given little support to be parents. So until those conditions change, I am cool. This is not to say that I don’t struggle with it. Because I do. AND, I am still cool.

How we think about Lauryn and what we feel that we expect from her is interesting.

I began thinking about this as I watched two videos of her. Once when she was twenty-five, the other from last year when she first started really touring again.

@:34 she says “I wanted them to have normalcy and privacy…I wanted a real life as well.”

@1:24 They are really not my accomplishments to be proud of.

@2:58 On missing her high school graduation.

@5:54 The music industry is a microcosm of the world.

@10:49 Lauryn Hill makes me look up the word ethereal.

I noticed in watching these two videos that she says twice “I didn’t have any new experiences to write about.”

A lot of my blog posts are based on a mixture of experiences and things that I have read, so I can see her point.

I read a biography of Billie Holiday last fall, “If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery” and the author Farah Griffin explores why we know what we know about Billie Holiday. She also forces us to think why Black men Jazz artists can suffer from drug addictions  and still be seen as a genius, but Billie Holiday’s addictions seem to always overshadow her genius, her knowledge production.

I am thinking about how we know what we know about Lauryn Hill.

How the demands for her to come back don’t take into consideration that parenting is work. That making music is work.

And that it was particularly challenging for her to be a petite Black girl with natural hair in a music industry premised on approximating blond, white beauty ideals.

The ability to accept Lauryn for who she is may be a barometer of freedom for Black women in this country.

Why the investment in Lauryn Hill?

If we acknowledged that parenting and being an artist was work, would we view Lauryn differently?

Can Black women breathe?

NMM Premium

I am considering creating a space on the blog and charging a small amount per post during the month of July.

There are three reasons I am thinking of this.

1. I want to do some buttons, bags,  featuring tweets and #Blackgirlsarefromthefuture. Selling the posts would give me the start-up capital.

2. A commenter stated that my blog is a public service and the public servants DO get paid for their work and that I should as well.

3. Last fall, I was speaking to LaToya about charging for Racialicious posts, and she said that she didn’t want to do that because it would put her content out of reach of the people that she wanted to reach in the first place.

4. There is a young woman of color author who has earned a handsome sum selling her fiction online charging nominal amounts between $1-5.

5. I like and need my intellectual autonomy. Charging for premium posts would allow me to maintain that.

What is holding me back?

It seems tacky to charge. However, writing IS work. And while I do know that some work is paid, all work is not paid work and that doesn’t make it any less valuable.

Which leads me to one question, would you pay?

How much?

How often?