Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This is (a cold) War.



I’m not really sure where to begin or how this will end. It’s been a banner week in terms of the racist/misogynist/sexist discourse (not talking about the Presidential debate) masquerading as humor this week. It’s Wednesday. And I guess things started, what Sunday? Sunday, that’s when I saw the now infamous meme protesting the most recent display of (racist) fashion, The Gap’s Manifest Destiny t-shirt, shown in this ad and designed by Mark McNairy (I learned about this through the awesome meme protest by artist Aaron Paquette. And although Gap apologized, pulled the ad, and said they would stop selling the t-shirt, they continue to.

The next day, Monday, I saw this:



with the title, Top 10 Ways to Get Away with Rape Flier Found in Miami University Men's Bathroom

I have more to say about each of these instances, but there was also this, which I found out about the same day:
A Romney/Ryan supporter at a rally sporting a t-shirt of the already popular twitter hashtag/meme. And then, finally, this:



This one is harder to make out, yes, but it comes with the title, "Idiot Students in Blackface Reenact Chris Brown Beating Rihanna at Worst Pep Rally Ever"

...

See what I'm saying? That's a lot in one week. Um, three days. It's Wednesday, not yet noon as I sit here and type.  And I have to say, I'm speechless. And furious. And exhausted. And furious. I wish I had a hatchet on the ready to combat the violence that each of these instances exude. And it's particularly violent because the creators, supporters, proponents of these instances contend that the collective readings of these things are incorrect. That they are not racist, misogynist, but rather, just jokes.

Funny, ha ha jokes.
Or, Freedom of Speech jokes.
Kids are kids, they'll grow out of it jokes.
Fear of a Black (um, Brown) Planet--cause we think of the U.S. as a planet--jokes.
Bitches be trippin' jokes
and
Colonization and Genocide are things of the past jokes. (Btw, read this post, from my colleague Joanne Barker over at Tequila Sunrise, whose words forced me to put these thoughts down on paper).

Let's just be clear, these are not jokes.  It's possible you don't know what it's like as an African American to see and hear stories of white people in blackface, which occur more and more in the 21st century. Maybe you don't know the history of the ways that blackface was (is) used to justify racism and the dehumanization of Black people in this country. That that history runs through our veins, that every time we see it it reminds of they ways that we were not considered human. How close that is to the surface of our identities. And maybe you don't understand how genocide and colonization on the part of "pioneers" annihilated--with that specific intention--Indigenous peoples on this continent and how the historical (and present day) trauma of that annihilation manifests itself in the remaining Indigenous or Native communities throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. How it's imprinted in our relationships, our understandings of our self worth, well being, and living (remembering that it is good that we're alive). And, somehow, maybe you are unaware of the ways that (speaking from a cisgender experience) women fear rape on a regular basis: how we beat ourselves up for wearing the "wrong clothes," leaving the windows of our house open on a hot night, meeting a stranger at a club without letting others know what we're doing, trusting our "friends" to not harm us, walking to our cars after dark. Maybe you don't know these things, this introduction to the lives of the people that you feel you have the freedom or justification to parody, dismiss, and violate. 

Maybe. But, now you do. So, stop with the jokes (unless you're Tig Notaro, who, I have to say brings humanity, humility and love to heartbreak, which, though she's talking about cancer, is what this sh*t is, heartbreaking). 

Not only are these moments not funny, ironic, or harmless, but by being categorized as jokes, it undermines the importance of practices or representations particularly in this media age with the fast pace transferal of information and images, a la binders. And, as Stuart Hall reminds us, "practices of representation always implicate the positions from which we speak or write - the positions of enunciation." So, you are implicated, always. Your excuses, "that's not me," and "it was a joke" don't hide that you are guilty. And it's not just the "bigots" or racist commenters who spend hours trolling media stories who feel like it's not a "big deal." Some of my students, some of my friends, my family, myself we collectively roll our eyes, a defense mechanism we have learned to buffer against the exhaustion of living in a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic society...And, frankly, the sheer frequency of these images, this discourse is overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, because we know how to navigate, many of us are meeting the challenges of the digital area. If you're reading this, I hope you know about writers and bloggers like the women and men of Crunk Feminist Collective (CFC), Mark Anthony Neal, David Leonard and Darnell Moore...whose work will keep you going. And the media literacy work of Malkia Cyril and the Center for Media Justice and Moya Bailey of CFC. There are others, many.

And this is not just a time for me to shout out folks whose work I enjoy and admire. But, to let folks know that there is an army of folks and it's growing. Hatchets. Building on what has always been built. And, just a reminder, you can't defeat us. You haven't yet. And you won't, ever. Even when we are exhausted. And, to my peoples who often feel, like me, exhausted, unsafe, furious, and sometimes, beat down: here are reminders from two other thinkers that I love and hold dear. As cheesy as it feels, Le Tigre who remind me:

Don't let them bring you down/And don't let them fuck you around cuz/Those your arms/That is your heart/And no no/They can't tear you apart/They can't take it away/This your time/This is your life and/You gotta keep on livin'

and, at the same time, in the words of Janelle Monae 

Bring wings to the weak/And bring grace to the strong/May all evil stubmle/As it flies in the world/All the tribes come/And the mighty will crumble/We must brave this night/And have faith in love. 

Sorry if that sounds a bit dramatic but again, in the words of Monae, when you are made to believe there's something wrong with you (ain't nothing wrong with me), it hurts your heart--like, really--and makes it plain to see that this is a cold. war....you better know what you're fighting for.

With love, respect, and hatchets...

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Thank you!!! was feeling overwhelmed by all of these events and your connections and reactions are helpful for processing these and responding.