Against my better judgment I'm going to say something that has been increasingly bothering me over the (fairly brief, a year I think?) time that we have been "facebook friends" and, rather than just defriend you and move on with my life, out of respect, I'm choosing to send this message to you and perhaps foster an honest dialogue about it. What galvanized me to sit down and write this (rather long) message to you was a (now deleted) "news" item you posted this afternoon which (falsely) claims to have a copy of a "hunting license"
Here goes: Thembisa, at what point in your life will you see yourself simply as a person, as opposed to a "person of color?" Because until you do so, you actively promote and reinforce the racism, racial profiling and institutionalized bigotry which so (understandably) outrages and offends you. How, you might ask? Allow me to explain.
I would not be writing this message to you had I-even once-observed you post an article or news item expressing moral indignation at the unspeakable violence, and reprehensible human rights violations experienced by a single "non-black" minority group around the world on a daily basis. If you had posted a lone, solitary statement of condemnation, regret or disgust for crimes like those against Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education or for any number of the dozens (hundreds?) of "honor killings" (that take place anywhere Islam is practiced and only where Islam is the dominant faith), or any of the countless hate crimes suffered by gays and transgender people like the one against Randy Gener, Gay NYC Journalist who had to undergo brain surgery after being beaten nearly to death near Times Square. But you are curiously unmoved by these deplorable acts. Why? Because the victim doesn't look like you and the agent of the crime doesn't share your faith.
Thembisa, I have no doubt that you have, in your lifetime, suffered from overt, latent and surreptitious racism which I, as a white person have been spared. However, you are well aware of the unrelentingly cruel treatment I suffered, personally, during much of my middle and high school years--where you may have been one of the few black girls, you were by no means as unpopular or bullied as aggressively and brutally as I was at Westridge. And although the bullying I experienced was (I suspect) the unfortunate by-product of my own unfortunate behavior (my hyperactivity, my obvious desire to be liked, my obvious intellect and aggressive need to demonstrate that intellect), the effects of it are still with me today, lingering like phantom odors of corpses long since dead and buried. However, over the years I have come to see myself as part of the universe as a whole and separate from no group or minority, I feel true empathy and compassion for the suffering of any person (and animal, actually) and won't tolerate mistreatment of any person (or animal) in my presence or community. I feel strongly that, in the future, your posts detailing the social injustices suffered by people with whom you identify with would have greater impact if they were preceded or followed by crimes against people who you identify with as victims in spite of the fact that they don't look like you. Because, Thembisa, you are not the only person who has been a victim, and once you realize that, you'll stop feeling like one.
1. You must only catch my posts some of the time. I have poosted about the Sari Gang fighting domestic abusers; about the gang rapes in India, about the beheading of the soldier in the UK by the so-called Muslim who was actually a terrorist. So know that I post primarily about things that concern people of color in the African diaspora (mainly in the US), but that's not all I care about--or post about. Your presumptiveness is unfortunate.
I missed your sari gang post, however, it is not denouncing a specific act of violence towards a specific (non-black) woman, it's more the acknowledgement of the courageous actions of some very brave Indian women.
the second item in your list obviously is an attempt to engage in Islamic apologetics, by making sure everyone knows that the person who commited this crime was not Muslim, but who had been reported as such
I also want you to know that I will never think of myself as just a person. I am human but I define my identity, and for you to suggest that I do otherwise is a strain of the entitlement that people if the dominant group typically have in their blind spot: that somehow just being "human" would make it all better for all of us. I love and embrace my Blackness, and when I see it being infringed upon or see injustices perpetrated against it, it makes me vocal, not a victim. It makes me an activist, not a passive bystander in my life's journey. You also make lots of assumptions about my Westridge experience. Yes, I was the only Af-Am in our class, but whatever "bullying" happened I got over. I learned to process it as a problem with the bullies, not with me. An intolerance for difference, and an insecurity on their part, not an issue for me to agonize over. I learned, through my studies of International Relations and Ethnic Studies at Mills, that all isms can be unlearned--and I have a responsibility to call them out when I see them--to act against them, for the generations coming behind us. If you choose not to join this effort in the way I do, I do not judge me for it. I only ask the same. Now, if my post was inaccurate, show me the Snopes link and I'm good. I can admit it's innacurate. But the lynching photo above it certainly is not--and that is what you should focus on. That's the reality of "humanity" in America, remixed for 2014 in the form of the blatant racist mistreatment of our POTUS, the killing of innocent Black boys out of unfounded white fear, enforced by laws like Stand Your Ground. Feel free to unfriend me if you so choose. I won't take it personally. I wish you well. Best always, Thembisa
While I cannot imagine ever saying to another person (or myself--especially myself!) that I "love and embrace my" whiteness. Why? Because it's an utterly arbitrary and meaningless distinction to me, and utterly unworthy of my love or misdirected pride. I had no choice in the matter and I do not feel that it is what defines me. I feel equally repulsed and dismayed when I observe the aggressive bigotry directed at our President, I find it utterly despicable. But not because he's black, but because he's our president and has earned our respect and the respect of all Americans. But, if i'm to be completely honest, I postiively LOATHED, HATED President Bush and would openly disrespect him every chance I could get while he was in office, including to his face, had i had the chance. Therefore, I should not be so shocked when people who don't share my political views do so towards Obama; it's not necessarily evidence of bigotry or racism, it's merely evidence of conservativism. Thank you for your (as always) articulate and gracious response, like I said, I wish you the best.xx
https://vimeo.com/71041911 I will read your reply another time, but I wanted to share this trailer for a show I am executive producing about LGBT men of color in NYC. As I consider myself an ally, I post often about LGBT rights and issues--guess you missed that too. But much of what I do is not in my posting, it's in the work I create. I scripted, produced, music supervised and voiced this trailer and the show, once it is released, will hopefully inspire others who identify with the cast to define themselves in all the ways they are human, despite living in a world that would much rather ignore them to enjoy their own comfort with sameness. Thank you for your well wishes. -TSM
Thembisa, also, I wanted to respond to your comment regarding your experience at Westridge. You missed my point, which was an effort to point out that, considering the fact that you were the only black person (I'm using the descriptor "black" rather than "af am." Because not all black Americans are from Africa, as you surely are aware, but I digress) but you were Inarguably more well-liked and more popular than I, despite that fact. Which suggests that although you may have experienced racism, I don't believe it was during your years at Westridge. I could be wrong of course...
Respectfully, I say this: we can never fully know the journey of others. So compassion and inquiry are the best tools. I absolutely experienced racism at Westridge--the statistical makeup of our class is one instance. I was one pebble on the path to diversity for the school, which did its best not be racist, but racism is in the *ether*, it is woven into the fabric of our country. What you witnessed, in part was my response as relatively well actualized young person, thanks to my family's upbringing and support. It was my response to the racism I experienced, which looked any number of ways beyond not having ONE Black (and I like both terms, because I am of African descent but I also identify as Black from an American cultural POV) teacher for 5 years; having to continually push against Eurocentrism is education during and after class with my peers; to having to represent an entire race of people for those who had not, until meeting me, even been in regular proximity to a Black girl (and yes, in Pasadena, that happened). So you were in the presence of a person not allowing herself to be victimized, not in the absence of racism in the Westridge environment. It's part of why I give to the school, why I have a brick in the wall with my name on it, why I come back and speak to the girls. Because in many ways,I am bigger than the constraints of racism.
I do not and cannot see how you constitute the "statistical makeup" of your graduating class as an act of racism. That is, to say the least, about the most patently absurd thing I have ever heard. Are you aware that no one else at the school (or any school I have attended) was named Esme? Does that mean that I should have a exaggerated sense of accomplishment for no longer worrying about the mistreatment I suffered there and congratulate myself for having overcome the oppressive lack of originality in the parents of my fellow students to name their girl daughters Esme (or any Salinger female character name even, Franny, Bunny, etc.) I am glad that you donate to Westrdige, how nice it must be to know that people see your name on a brick there, congratulations. I just don't see what that has to do with the fact that you were far less of an outsider than I was, and who's lone evidence of racism suffered while there is due more to the lack of diversity which can be attributed to its small size, homogeneous student base and, the apparent lack of interest in the school by sufficiently qualified black students. Does it not seem the slightest bit ridiculous to cite as your sole instance of (perceived) racism as "statistical makeup", and then congratulating yourself for being "bigger than the constraints of racism"? How interested were you in maintaining a "healthy" balance of non-blacks on your production of "Throwing Shade?" Were there any Asians? Hispanics? I certainly wouldn't want anyone to have suffered as you did at Westridge from the unspeakable torture that comes with "statistical imbalance." Congratulations on being bigger than the constraints of racism--if only you could be smaller than the constraints of your martyr complex, which is impressive. Good luck to you, I wish you the best in the future.
I really can't with you, Esme. You have missed the point entirely. I do not have the energy to place what is in your blind spot about institutional racism before you. Throwing Shade is about Black and Latino men, hence, no Asians, no white men. Take care.
I'm talking about the people who worked on the show, in the production office, not the subjects of the video. Was the balance of blacks, whites, asians and latinos appropriate to ensure no one suffered from feeling the effects of "workplace statistical racism"? Because I would hate for you to have OSHA fine you or something.
I don't mean to be sarcastic, but I just don't know how you can honestly defend your obvious racial bias and apparent bigotry while at the same time complaining bitterly anytime you come across an article in which you detect a whiff of racism against blacks. It's so intellectually dishonest and does not help to eradicate racism. you know what eradicates racism? Allowing people to focus on shit that matters, instead of race, and they won't be racist. If you insist on telling yourself (and your children, I've no doubt) that your race is the most important thing about you, and that it's something to place pride and "love" in, then you are, sadly, devaluing all other races and implying that you are separate from other races which is truly an unkind thing to do to your kids. I realize you think that because I am white, that this is why I have this argument--but you are wrong. I am not telling you to tell your kids that being black is bad, or that being white is good, or that they should not be made to feel good about who they are and where they come from. I'm just saying that you are totally lying to yourself if you think that it is healthy to instill in your kids the idea that they should have pride in their "blackness". Because what you are saying is that there is something inherently valuable and superior to people who have darker pigmented skin, which means, also that it's important to identify someone's race which is not black as being inferior. I am not saying that you should not talk to your kids about race--but that you are harming them when you plant the idea in their minds that race has value. it does not. It is meaningless. It is arbitrary.