Editor's note: Danielle McGuire is the author of "At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance-a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power." She is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Wayne State University, and a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.
Category Archives: Race | Racism
I learned from a post on Facebook that the German company, Adidas, recently designed and manufactured a pair of tennis shoes that have shackles accompany each shoe, binding around the ankle of the wearer. Read about them here. Apparently the shoe design was leaked on the internet prior to its release and the uproar it caused has forced Adidas to rethink selling the article.
My first thought when seeing these was, “Uh, this is art, right?” Cause if was made by Hank Willis, or some other black artist who uses consumerism to depict racist assumptions, I’d love it. Sadly this was not a statement with that kind of sophistication.
I’ll write more later…have to get to the jobby job.
I am being forged in the fire of life. It burns. I am tired. It feels like I haven’t slept in years. All I can do is work. I’ve tried to love things and people outside of myself, but life keeps telling me to keep it internal. I’ve tried to relax, but this makes me restless. And so I do. I make art with fabric and thread. I take photos of parts of myself I’ve never seen because doing is all I have. And because I hope I come out of life’s kiln shiny and glossy, molded with my own imperfect hands, pounded, shaped, and spun into a unique piece from the ceaseless rotation of the earth on its axis. Colored brilliantly, as the sharp and angled pieces of my personality melt into a bold, glittering, reflective surface.
My friend Kate tells me that thinking of art and my work as all I have sounds negative, but this feels like the truth. I’m not saying this to discount the amazing friendships I have and attempt (sometimes poorly) to maintain. I am also not trying to minimize my work. Deciding to pursue art, this project in specific, has profoundly changed the way I live and love. I want my work and I need my work, more than I need food and sleep some days. I am saying that I have found myself a calling.
I woke up Saturday morning, sad, weepy, and generally lethargic after spending an evening mourning the loss of a close friend, Robert Yegee. His death was both sudden and unexpected. I hadn’t realized how close we were. It wasn’t that I took him for granted, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I considered him a brother in many ways. Our relationship contained lots of laughing and fun and joking around. We lived our separate lives side by side. Our friendship developed so naturally, I hardly noticed it at all.
Robert helped keep me sane. On good days he’d greet me with a big hug. He confirmed my suspicions about the power of vulnerability, telling me that vulnerability is a good thing. He held me when I needed it. He could always tell, and usually sat there waiting with outstretched arms. He was always willing to engage me in conversation. We watched this video after I had had a particularly bad day at work. Cheered me up immediately. There was a lot of discussion and analyzing. We shared an honesty that I have never really found in a man – especially a young, white man. I’m really proud to have been a friend of his.
I am on the best journey of my life right now. Art is magic. I am 100% positive of this. Following my creative path has lead me to some of the most beautiful and challenging places. I keep crying and then laughing when I remember Robert. My happiness in knowing him eclipses my sadness in losing him.
I am in the middle of planning/executing my next body-based art project (aside from Confederate Articles), and I was discussing the ideas and the plan with Robert several weeks back. He immediately thought of the book Justice and the Politics of Difference, a text that he’d read a few years prior.
Over the course of our friendship, he mentioned that once he tried to read a passage about having a black body in a class. He said it didn’t go well, that he came away from the experience looking like a racist. I heard this story several times, and always chuckled when he told it. One day, as I spoke about Sartije Baartman and how her story, the story of her body, directly influences the way people interact with me, he decided to get the book out. He read the passage, that had so obviously influenced him, to me. It turned out to be a Franz Fanon quote:
My body was given back to me sprawled out, distorted, recolored, clad in mourning in that white winter day. The Negro is ugly, the Negro is animal, the Negro is bad, the Negro is mean, the Negro is ugly; look, a nigger, it’s cold, the nigger is shivering with cold, that cold goes through your bones, the handsome little boy is trembling because he thinks that the nigger is quivering with rage, the little white boy throws himself into his mother’s arms; Momma, the nigger’s going to eat me up.
I sit down at the fire and I become aware of my uniform. I had not seen it. It is indeed ugly. I stop there, for who can tell me what beauty is?
The book sat on my floor, in front of my makeshift photo backdrop (a sheet from the thrift store) for a few days. I finally managed to pick it up a few Sunday’s ago, before heading to the East Bay for a photo shoot with a coworker and new friend (I will hopefully be posting about this soon).
Robert suggested that I read Chapter 5 titled, The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity. Again (as with Art and Fear), I wish I could type the whole chapter up. I lapped up the text with excited intensity. I appreciated the notes that Robert had written in the margins. It was obvious that he had engaged with the text, and was using the author’s words to challenge his own views.
I found The Scaling of Bodies and the Politics of Identity to be an accurate description of the way mundane, person-to-person interactions have influenced and shaped my experiences as a woman of color just as much, (if not more than) laws, institutions, and larger systems of oppression.
From page 123:
Much of the oppressive experience of cultural imperialism occurs in mundane contexts of interaction – in the gestures, speech, tone of voice, movement, and reactions of others. Pulses of attraction and aversion modulate all interactions, with specific consequences for experience of the body. When the dominant culture defines some groups as different, as the Other, the members of those groups are imprisoned in their bodies. Dominant discourse defines them in terms of bodily characteristics, and constructs those bodies as ugly, dirty, defiled, impure, contaminated, or sick. Those who experience such an epidermalizing of their world (Slaughter, 1982), moreover, discover their status by means of the embodied behavior of others: in their gestures, a certain nervousness that they exhibit, their avoidance of eye contact, the distance they keep.
The author, Iris Marion Young, argues that the discouragement of overt forms of racism/homophobia/agism/ableism through punishment, both legally and in the socially, have caused discrimination to go “…underground, dwelling in everyday habits and cultural meanings of which people are for the most part unaware.”
She asserts that, “Our society enacts the oppression of cultural imperialism to a large degree through feelings and reactions, and in that respect oppression is beyond the reach of law and policy to remedy.”
For the sake of me believing that all written works deserve to be easily accessible, I will painstakingly type up the last two parts of this chapter, which fall under the headings Moral Responsibility and Unintended Action and Justice and Cultural Revolution.
I have argued that oppression persists in our society partly through interactive habits, unconscious assumptions and stereotypes, and group related feelings of nervousness or aversion. Group oppressions are enacted in this society not primarily in official laws and policies but in informal, often unnoticed and unreflective speech, bodily reactions to others, conventional practices of everyday interaction and evaluation, aesthetic judgements, and the jokes, images, and stereotypes pervading the mass media.
The oppression of cultural imperialism in our society partly involves defining some groups as Other, specially marked, located in their bodies. Even when discursive reason no longer defines women or people of color as having a specific nature different from men or white people, affective and symbolic associations still tie these groups to a certain kind of body. The presumption of unconscious fears and aversions also helps to account for the violence that victimize these groups, as well as the degree to which it is accepted by others. I argued in Chapter 2 that this form of violence differs from other forms of group-related violence –for example, warfare or repressive violence–though these forms may be intertwined. Warfare and repression have rational objectives: to defeat a formally defined enemy, or to prevent a subjugated group from challenging, weakening, or overturning authority structures. The violence of rape, random beating, the harassment of threats, taunts, display of pictures and symbols, ans so on, is irrational in the sense that it is not explicitly instrumental to an end. It is performed for its own sake, for sport of out of random frustration, and has as its object only the humiliation and degradation of its victims. An account of racism, sexism, and homophobia that includes an understanding of the deep threats to identity that difference poses for many people helps account not only for such acts themselves, but for a social climate that makes them institutional possibilities.
Normative social philosophy and political theory rarely focus on such phenomena. The dichotomy between reason and affectivity which structures modern normative philosophy here appears in what normative philosophy, and political theory take as the proper subjects of inquiry [What?]. Typically, political theory is about laws, policies, the large-scale distribution of social goods, countable quantities like votes and taxes; it is not about bodily reactions, comportments, and feelings. To the extent that normative philosophy ignores these aspects of oppression enacted in practical consciousness and the unconscious, however, it contributes not only little to ending oppression, but also something to the silencing of the oppressed. If contemporary oppression is enacted through a body aesthetic, through nervousness and avoidance motivated by threats to the basic security system, and through images and stereotypes that simultaneously feed such behavior, legitimate it, and ally the fears it expresses, then normative reflection on justice should included attention to such phenomena.
Many moral philosophers would find it odd to include gestures, informal remarks, judgements of ugliness, and feelings of discomfort under the rubric of issues of justice. They might have difficulty regarding them as moral phenomena at all, that is, as phenomena appropriately subject to moral judgement. For the dominant paradigm of moral theory tends to restrict the scope of moral judgement to deliberate action. Implicitly or explicitly, many moral theorists direct their attention to intended or voluntary action, where the actor knows what he or she is doing and could have done otherwise. One of the main aims of moral theory is to discover principles and maxims that justify action of form obligations. Such and aim implicitly conceives moral life as conscious, deliberate, a rational weighing of alternatives. Much moral theorizing is devoted to discussion of dilemmas and hard cases, where alternatives are explicit, and the question is which one to choose. Within this paradigm it is often regarded as inappropriate to submit habits, feelings, or unconscious rations to normative judgment, because the subjects having them are not aware of their behavior, and thus have not intended or chosen it.
The implicit assumption that only intentional actions should be subject to moral or political judgment perhaps underlies a response members of oppressed groups often encounter when the express anger or indignation at another person’s ordinary unthinking behavior. A woman complains of a male colleague’s guiding her by the elbow out of the board room, or a wheelchair-bound person expresses indignation about not being addressed directly, while matters relevant to him are referred to his able-bodied companion. The response frequently heard to such complaints is, “Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it.” Such a response implies that the anger and moral judgment of the woman or he wheelchair-bound person are misplaced, that they do not have the right to complain or condemn another person’s behavior if that person intends to be courteous and respectful.
A conception of justice that starts from the concept of oppression must break with such a limitation of moral and political judgment to discursively conscious and intended action. In unconscious reactions, habits, and stereotypes reproduce oppression of some groups, then they should be judged unjust, and therefore should be challenged. Roberts Adams (1985) argues that everyday moral institutions include moral judgments about people’s unintended or involuntary behavior. We judge people morally wrong who are unjustly angry at others, or who are self-righteous or ungrateful. Larry May (1990) argues that it makes sense to condemn people morally for being insensitive, for being unable or unwilling to understand and sympathize with the way actions, social practices, and so on appear from a different social position.
If social philosophy assumes that intended and deliberate action is the primary focus of moral judgement, it risks ignoring or even excusing some of the most important sources of oppression. Only moral judgment that extends to habitual interaction, bodily reactions, unthinking speech, feelings and symbolic associations can capture much about such oppression.
In the essay I referred to earlier, Charles Lawrence makes a similar argument for legal theory. The dominant model of responsibility in legal judgment requires that behavior and actions which litigants claim is wrong and for which they seek legal remedy be intended – that people know what they are doing and why. Lawrence cites several cases in which litigants argued that a certain action or policy was racist, but courts found against them, on the grounds that the perpetrators did not have race in mind in their actions. Such and intentional model of fault or responsibility, Lawrence argues, is much too narrow, and should be broadened to include actions and policies whose social meanings associate them with race even when race is not what the agents or policymakers had in mind.
My claim that unintended actions and unconscious reactions should be subject to moral judgment nevertheless poses and puzzle for moral theory. Should unintended actions be judged in the same way as intended actions? Everyday intuitions tend to excuse people for unintended actions; even though someone has done something harmful, we often claim the person should not be condemned, because she didn’t mean it. Conversely, everyday moral judgment is often inclined to give people moral credit for good intentions. Imagine a white person committed to social equality, and who nevertheless sometimes has aversive reaction to people of color, makes thoughtless, insensitive remarks about and to them, and so on. Isn’t such a person less to be condemned morally than one who insists that there is nothing left for policy to do, or that all proposed policies are inappropriate?
To take account of such intuitions we can distinguish between blaming people and holding them responsible. It is inappropriate to blame people for actions they are unaware of and do not intend. People and institutions nevertheless can and should be held responsible for unconscious and unintended behavior, actions, or attitudes that contribute to oppression. To blame an agent means to make that agent liable to punishment. I mean punishment in a broad sense, including not only imprisonment and fines, but also being made to do something in restitution, exclusion from associations, removal of privileges, public censure, and social ostracism. Blame is a backward-looking concept. Calling on agents to take responsibility for their actions, habits, feelings, attitude, images, and associations, on the other hand, is forward-looking; it asks the person “from here on out” to submit such unconscious behavior to reflection, to work to change habits and attitudes.
A distinction between blame and responsibility is important for legal and institutional contexts as well. In conformity with its propensity to tie fault to intention, legal judgement too often identifies liability with blame for a damage which must be “made whole.” Social change to break the cycle of exclusion and disadvantage that women, people of color, disabled people, gay men and lesbians, old people, and others suffer will not be aided by the law unless courts are willing to require forward-looking remedies of institutions whose unconscious and unintended actions contribute to disadvantage.
And just in case that wasn’t enough for your brains, I’m also going to type up the text under the heading, Justice and Cultural Revolution.
Saying that certain habitual and unconscious actions, manners, forms of response, ways of speaking, and so on should be judged unjust means that the people who perform these actions should be asked to take responsibility, to bring to their discursive awareness the meaning and implications of these habitual actions. But why consider this and issue of social justice rather than simply of individual moral action? In Chapter 1 I argued that injustice should be defined primarily in terms of oppression and domination. The scope of justice, I argued, is not limited to distribution, but includes all social processes that support or undermine oppression, including culture. The behavior, comportments, images, and stereotypes that contribute to the oppression of bodily marked groups are pervasive, systemic, mutually generating, and mutually reinforcing. They are elements of dominant cultural practices that lie as the normal background of our liberal democratic society. Only changing the cultural habits themselves will change the oppressions they produce and reinforce, but change in cultural habits can occur only in individuals become aware of and change their individual habits. This is cultural revolution.
Culture is to a significant degree a matter of social choice; we can choose to change the elements of culture and to create new ones. Sometimes such change can be facilitated by passing laws or establishing policies. Nicaragua has a law against the use of women’s bodies for advertising commodities. A glossy magazine can establish a policy of having more articles, photographs, and advertisements that depict Blacks in ordinary life activities. Most cultural change cannot occur, however, by edict. One cannot pass a law regulating the appropriate distance people ought to stand from one another, or whether and how they should touch. Similarly, in most situations one does not wish formally to regulate the expression of fantasy, jokes and so on, because the dangers to liberty are too great. While aesthetic judgement always carries implicit rules, aesthetic judgement cannot be formally regulated. the injunctions to “be just” in phenomena of practical consciousness and unconsciousness under the discussion, that is, to politicize them. The requirements of justice, then, concern less the making of cultural rules than providing institutional means for fostering politicized cultural discussion, and making forums and media available for alternative cultural experimentation and play.
Cultural revolution that confronts and undermines the fears and aversions that structure unconscious behavior entails a revolution in the subject itself. Kristeva’s notion of the subject in process suggests that the subject is always split, heterogeneous. The monologic culture of respectable rationality, however, encourages the subject to desire a unified self, solid, coherent, integrated. Much popular psychology in our society promotes this image of the authentic, healthy subject as unified. We enjoin ourselves to get ourselves “together ; contradiction or plurality in our sense of self we find reproachable, a state to be overcome. But if, as I have suggested, oppressive fears and aversions toward others have a source in fears of identity loss, the such an urge to unity ma be part of the problem. For people to become comfortable with the heterogeneity within themselves. They varying and contradictory social contexts in which we live and interact, along with the multiplicity of our own group memberships and the multiple identities of others with whom we interact, make the heterogeneity of the subject inevitable. The question is whether to repress or to affirm it.
Cultural revolution that challenges the association of some groups with abject bodies also involves the politicization of theses groups definitions. Despised and oppressed groups challenge cultural imperialism with they question the dominant norms of virtue, beauty, and rationality, putting forward their own positive definition of themselves as a group and thereby pluralizing norms. In Chapter 6 I will discuss more extensively the meaning and implications of the politics of asserting positive group difference.
The process of politicizing habits, feelings, and expressions of fantasy and desire that can foster cultural revolution entails a kind of social therapy. Engaging in such therapy through strictly psychoanalytical methods on a mass scale would indeed be a massive undertaking hard to imagine. I think some cultural change toward these ends can be realistically undertaken, however, in the process of politicized personal discussion that social movements have come to call “consciousness raising.”
The phrase “consciousness raising” was used by the women’s movement in the late 1960′s to describe a process in which women share their experiences of frustration, unhappiness, and anxiety, and find common patterns of oppression structuring these very personal stories. They found that “the personal is political,” that what was originally experienced as a private personal problem in fact has political dimensions, as exhibiting an aspect of power relations between men and women. The Black liberation movement of the last 1960′s similarly strove through personal discussion to displace oppressed people’s depression and self-deprecation onto social sources. Aspects of social life that appear as given and natural come into question and appear as social constructions and therefore as changeable. The process by which an oppressed group comes to define and articulate the social conditions of its oppression, and to politicize culture by confronting the cultural imperialism that has denigrated or silence its specific group experience, is a necessary and crucial step in confronting and reducing oppression.
Another form of consciousness raising involves making the privileged aware of how their habitual action, reaction, images, and stereotypes contribute to oppression. Again, my own experience with this group process of politicizing culture derives from the women’s movement. By the late 1970s the soul-searching generated by angry accusations that the women’s movement was racist had engendered forms of discussion concretely addressing women’s experiences of group differences and seeking to change relations of group privilege and oppression among women. Women’s groups provided the structure for intensive, often emotion laden discussion designed to bring to the discursive consciousness of the participants the feelings, reactions, stereotypes, and assumptions they had about women of other groups, as well as the ways their behavior toward these women might participate in and reproduce relations of privilege and oppression between them. Such group processes can be generalized to any social setting. Institutionalize consciousness-raising policies can take many forms, of which I will give just two examples.
In recent years some enlightened corporations, motivated in part also by a desire to stave of conflict and lawsuits, have instituted consciousness-raising workshops for male managers and other male employees on issues of sexual harassment. The very concept of sexual harassment resulted from feminist consciousness raising among women no longer willing to accept as inevitable and individual behavior they found annoying, humiliating, or coercive. Bringing men to be able to identify behavior that women collectively judge annoying, humiliating, or coercive, however, and explaining why women find it so, has been no easy task.
Differential privilege of members of different racial groups is perpetuated in part by the process of schooling. If my account of unconscious aversion as a typical dynamic of racism is at all accurate, many if not most teacher unconsciously behave differently toward Black or Latinos than they behave toward whites. A school system committed to racial justice can distribute literature describing processes of unconscious differential treatment, and conduct workshops in which teachers reflect on and discuss their own behavior and attitudes towards students of different races.
Conscious raising about homophobia may be the most important and productive strategy for such a revolution of the subject. As I have said, homophobia may be one of the strongest experiences of abjection because sexual identity is more ambiguous than other group identities. The border between attraction to persons of the other sex and attraction to those of the same sex is fluid. At the same time, homophobia is deeply wrapped up with issues of gender identity, for in this society gender identity continues to be heterosexist: the genders are considered mutually exclusive opposites that complement and complete one another. Order thus depends on the unambiguous settling of the genders: men must be men and women must be women. Homosexuality produces a special anxiety, then, because it seems to unsettle this gender order. Because gender identity is a core of everyone’s identity, homophobia seems to go to the core of identity.
Thus confronting homophobia involves confronting the very desire to have a unified, orderly identity, and the dependence of such a unified identity on the construction of a border that excludes aspects of subjectivity one refuses to face. If through conscious raising one accepts the possibility that one might become different, be different, in sexual orientation, I suggest, this loosens the exclusion of others defined as different from one’s self-conception in other ways. Efforts to undermine the oppressions of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, and ableism mutually reinforce one another not only because these groups have some common interest and certain persons or institution tend to reproduce the oppresion of them all. There are more direct connections among theses oppressions in the structure of identity and self-protection. Just as nineteenth-century stereotyping of these groups tended to assimilate them to one another, especially through the mediation of sexual images, so contemporary discourse can help subvert one group-based fear by breaking down another.
A strategy of consciousness raising presumes that those participating already understand something about how interactive dynamics and cultural imagery perpetuate oppression, and are committed to social justice enough to want to change them. Such activity cannot take place in the abstract. People will be motivated to reflect on themselves and their relations with others only in concrete social circumstances of cooperation where they recognize problems – the political group in which gays and lesbians voice dissatisfaction, the company that never seems to promote women and therefore loses them, the school or neighborhood with racial conflict.
There is a step in politicizing culture prior to the therapeutic, namely, the affirmation of a positive identity by those experiencing cultural imperialism. Assumptions of the universality of the perspective and experience of the privileged are dislodged when the oppressed themselves expose those assumptions by expressing the positive difference of their experience. By creating their own cultural images they shake up received stereotypes about them. Having formed a positive self-identity through imperialism can then confront the dominant culture with demands for recognition of their specificity. I shall discuss some of the implications of this process in the next chapter.
In case I haven’t provided enough food for thought, I was just directed to this apology issued from Jason Alexander (George from Seinfeld), which I think exemplifies many of the theories described in Iris Marion Young’s text. Give it a read. His written apology is below.
Last week, I made an appearance on the Craig Ferguson show – a wonderfully unstructured, truly spontaneous conversation show. No matter what anecdotes I think will be discussed, I have yet to find that Craig and I ever touch those subjects. Rather we head off onto one unplanned, loony topic after another. It’s great fun trying to keep up with him and I enjoy Craig immensely.
During the last appearance, we somehow wandered onto the topic of offbeat sports and he suddenly mentioned something about soccer and cricket. Now, I am not a stand-up comic. Stand up comics have volumes of time-tested material for every and all occasions. I, unfortunately, do not. However, I’ve done a far amount of public speaking and emceeing over the years so I do have a scattered bit, here and there.
Years ago, I was hosting comics in a touring show in Australia and one of the bits I did was talking about their sports versus American sports. I joked about how their rugby football made our football pale by comparison because it is a brutal, no holds barred sport played virtually without any pads, helmets or protection. And then I followed that with a bit about how, by comparison, their other big sport of cricket seemed so delicate and I used the phrase, “ a bit gay”. Well, it was all a laugh in Australia where it was seen as a joke about how little I understood cricket, which in fact is a very, very athletic sport. The routine was received well but, seeing as their isn’t much talk of cricket here in America, it hasn’t come up in years.
Until last week. When Craig mentioned cricket I thought, “oh, goody – I have a comic bit about cricket I can do. Won’t that be entertaining?”. And so I did a chunk of this old routine and again referred to cricket as kind of “gay” – talking about the all white uniforms that never seem to get soiled; the break they take for tea time with a formal tea cart rolled onto the field, etc. I also did an exaggerated demonstration of the rather unusual way they pitch the cricket ball which is very dance-like with a rather unusual and exaggerated arm gesture. Again, the routine seemed to play very well and I thought it had been a good appearance.
Shortly after that however, a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine.
However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it. And at first, even they couldn’t quite find the offense in the bit. But as we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor. I was basing my use of the word “gay” on the silly generalization that real men don’t do gentile, refined things and that my portrayal of the cricket pitch was pointedly effeminate , thereby suggesting that effeminate and gay were synonymous.
But what we really got down to is quite serious. It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like.
For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.
And the worst part is – I should know better. My daily life is filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally. I am profoundly aware of the challenges these friends of mine face and I have openly advocated on their behalf. Plus, in my own small way, I have lived some of their experience. Growing up in the ‘70’s in a town that revered it’s school sports and athletes, I was quite the outsider listening to my musical theater albums, studying voice and dance and spending all my free time on the stage. Many of the same taunts and jeers and attitudes leveled at young gay men and women were thrown at me and on occasion I too was met with violence or the threat of violence.
So one might think that all these years later I might be able to intuit that my little cricket routine could make some person who has already been made to feel alien and outcast feel even worse or add to the conditions that create their alienation. But in this instance, I did not make the connection. I didn’t get it.
So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended.
But we are not there yet.
So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come. I hope my realization brings some comfort.
Remember to love and enjoy.
Many years ago, my brother got genetic testing done that revealed our family’s primary genetic makeup to hail from a mixture of American Indian and European peoples. I am still skeptical about this, and since to everyone else on this fucking planet I read as black, I choose to identify as African American, although tiny pieces of genetic information might point to another story.
It’s too complicated to explain this to people, and when I do they look at me like I’m cray cray, so I keep this as my little secret. Just writing this makes me feel weird/unearths the complicated nature of identity politics. I choose to identify as black because it makes things easier for everyone else. We so desperately want the outsides of a person to match or refer to something concrete on the inside. We then decide that these outsides (and insides) determine what kind of housing, healthcare, rights, employment, and roles people are allowed to play in our “civilized” society. These are all inventions of man.
When my brother told me about our heritage, I immediately named myself Walking Fox, because I like to walk and because I’m foxy. Haha.
One of my Peruvian cousins was visiting this weekend and she couldn’t stop talking about the book The Little Prince. I decided to read it this morning.
Here is my favorite chapter in it’s entirety. No surprise that its main character is a fox.
It was then that the fox appeared.
“Good morning,” said the fox.
“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.
“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” said the fox.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”
“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”
“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”
“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
“On another planet?”
“Are there hunters on this planet?”
“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”
“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.
But he came back to his idea.
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please– tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me– like that– in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:
“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarassed.
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you– the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.“
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
Into the light of the dark black night.
I tried, I tried, I really tried. I tried not to post for a week or so, but I can’t do it. I can’t not comment on the things happening in the world – in my world. I am back at it. Back at my favorite habit. Reading, writing, feeling inspired and sharing it when I find the time and frame of mind to string my experiences and findings into something coherent. I am sewing also. I have to try and do all this, because this is the practice I’ve set up for myself. Straying from any element at this moment is potentially hazardous to all parts of my creative process, so I have to continue to use this space.
On to the meat and potatoes, rather, the icing on the cake:
About three weeks ago, this image starting circulating around the interwebs. It’s a photo of Makode Linde (the head), a Sweedish, male-bodied artist, being fed a piece of black woman cake he made by some white, Sweedish, official lady. There are also lots of scary white people laughing maniacally in the background. I imagine they are thinking things like:
“Yes, yes, cut her up!”
“Black woman cake, so funny!”
“Cut her up! Eat her up!”
“‘Kill the pig! Cut her throat! Kill the pig! Bash her in!”
The last quote is adapted from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which I find an overly adequate choice. A person would have to be shipwrecked, virtually isolated from all other humans, close to death, and delirious to make such art.
My worst nightmares are better than the above image. I can only hope and pray that Linde comprehends why this piece has sent shock waves through communities of African and African American women. It’s a shame too. He is seriously cute, but is now undatable.
I caught wind of it through Facebook, and over the past few weeks have been trying to formulate some kind of response. My feelings about this piece have been mixed. In one moment I appreciate what the artist is attempting, I appreciate his struggle to express aspects of his identity. Buuuut, in the next moment I clearly recognize how uninformed, misguided, and unthoughtful this exhibition was.
Just so everyone is up to speed, let me explain what is going on in the image pictured above.
Linde’s cake was one of five artist cakes — the others were by Peter Johansson, Lisa Jonasson, Marianne Lindberg De Geer and Galleri Syster — that doubled as an art installation at an event last Sunday (not really last Sunday, several weeks ago) which marked the 75th anniversary of the Swedish Artists Federation at Stockholm’s Moderna Museeet. It was his first showing at the famed modern art museum and he decided to build on his Afromantics series, which he describes as taking “mass cultural symbols … and then I give them a new black life by giving them black face. In the process robbing them of their original identity.”
This Afro-Swede dude (Makode Linde),
has been making racist objects as a way to explore identity. He describes his work as taking “mass cultural symbols … and [giving] them a new black life by giving them black face. In the process robbing them of their original identity.”
Ok, really bad. Really, really bad. I could see how maybe…no. Just really bad. You can’t use black face to give something a “new black life.” It just doesn’t work. And why would you want to use blackness to rob anything…you’re only making it worse. The only place racist objects need to exist are in museums. Why in gods name are you creating more racist objects!?!? Black face is a symbol of the “old black life,” and making anything that references it is risky business. I need to restate that. Black face is a dirty, dirty trick. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s the easiest way for an artist, or a television program, or a movie, or the academy awards to get attention. In my mind it’s equivalent to jumping the shark.
If at any point in my artistic career I feel tempted to use black face I will know that I have run out of good ideas, and maybe it’s time to start following a new trail of inspiration. We have to get more creative about the way we express black identity. Referring to a period of time when American blacks were caricatured, satirized, and dehumanized does not and cannot give them or us a “new black life.” It traps us in the confines of the same old game. Recognize this for what it is and move on to other ideas. If you don’t have any then maybe making racial art isn’t your thing. Try watercolor instead?
More From Hyperallergic:
The artist is happy with the Modern Museet performance, which he says “went off the exact way I wanted it.” He explains that the Swedish culture minister’s presence was only announced to the artist 20 minutes before the event began but he was supportive of the idea of her cutting his cake, which featured him as the head. He thinks the images of his work can stand alone but her presence added a powerful element. He doesn’t understand the fixation that commenters have on the white figures all around and he seems legitimately surprised by the aggressiveness of commenters towards the audience. “I think it is wrong to call it racist because they are white women and I’m the only black person there,” he says.
You think wrong! I don’t even want to explain or interpret here. All I can do is inhale deeply and exhale with a long sigh. I will say one word: intersectionalizm. This exhibit is the physical fucking manifestation of living in a world where feminism maps onto the identities of white women, and racism maps onto the identities of black men. In this world, black women become oppressed, unheard, spoken for, consumable, dissectable, human objects. I did, and continue to do, research on what it means, historically, to have my soul contained in this black, female body. Did you, Makode? No? Cause you don’t have a black, female body? Well then guess what? Shut the fuck up!
Let’s talk about the Hottentot Venus now. Remember her, folks? Saartjie Baartman, a South African Woman, a Khoisan, who was toured around Europe because of her massive behind. After she died, her shady manager sold her body to the Paris’ Natural History Museum, where scientists dissected and cast every part of her. Every part. Her vagina several times. The procedure was lead by an especially monstrous fellow, Georges Cuvier, who’s goal in life was to prove a scientific difference between the races, based mostly around observations of physical features. His theories and findings have been used as evidence of black inferiority, and black women’s sexual lasciviousness. This dude Cuvier was and is considered a serious scientist. He was also seriously racist. As Rachel Holmes writes in her book, The Hottentot Venus, while describing the night of the dissection:
At the center of the proceedings, the steely hearted Cuvier with his knives and saws concentrated deeply, cutting into Saartjie, naked, on her back on his anatomy bench. Cuvier had finally got what he desired: Saartjie horizontal, unresisting, under his knife.
Sound familiar, Makode? You fucking recreated the dissection of Saartjie Baartman, and this time you let everyone watch, and you let everyone eat, and you let everyone laugh. It’s disgusting. You let everyone consume her. And as much as I relate to her experience, you let everyone consume me. We are so not friends.
You claim that this piece was made to increase awareness about female genital mutilation, but tell me, how does a person who has been making racist objects suddenly decide to focus on female genital mutilation? It’s a big fucking jump if you ask me. It actually doesn’t make any sense. Why female genital mutilation? Why now? Why the mutilation of a black woman black face cake….ugh! I’m frustrated.
As an artist I know that my work spirals off, one idea inspires the next, it’s a clear and coherent path no matter where it leads. I do not buy this claim that your initial intention was to raise awareness of anything. I think your explanation is meaningless back peddling.
Unless eating this cake immediately made everyone who consumed it vomit violently and made their genitals swell painfully to the point of almost bursting open, then this cake could not possibly have the effect that the artist hoped for. I believe that form must follow intention.
If the intention is to help people understand pain and terror experienced by girls and women who undergo the procedure, then the cake must cause pain for everyone who interacts with it. It’s called empathy, you must elicit an empathetic response. Right now the only people that are feeling pain from this piece seem to be other black women, the group that you, Makode, are trying to help. Do your savior work somewhere else, buddy. Or maybe just leave the statements about female genital mutilation to people who’ve directly experienced it.
As David Bayles and Ted Orland state in Art and Fear:
Today, indeed, you can find urban white artists – people who could not reliably tell a coyote from a german shepard at a hundred feet – casually incorportating the figure of Coyote the Trickster into their work. A premise common to all such efforts is that power can be borrowed across space and time. It cannot. There’s a difference between meaning that is embodied and meaning that is referenced. As someone once said, no one should wear a Greek fisherman’s hat except a Greek fisherman.
So if you want to raise awareness about female genital mutilation, then find a group of women that have experienced it and support them. They will understand the pain, they will know how to communicate it to others. They will know when are where to incorporate humor. Find these communities of women, become an ally to them, encourage them to tell their stories, encourage their expressive practices, and in the meantime DO YOUR OWN FUCKING WORK.
More from the artist:
“If it is something that Americans take serious is postcolonialism and slavery and ‘not going there’ and making a bad joke about it. In Sweden, we don’t have the same slave trade history. But the same image of the slave dominates the images of Africans in Sweden but it is an imposed image from outside. That’s also true for black Americans but for Afro-Swedes we look at it as one more degree removed.”
“Black American culture dominates the image of black culture in Sweden but there aren’t that many similarities between Afro-Swedish culture and black American culture. I’m making a generalization but it’s a reality that our image in our own culture is being influenced by the world outside,” he says.
Aha! I totally see what the problem is. You are removed from the black American experience, but you are for some reason still trying to make art about it. That doesn’t make sense. Maybe you think the only way to be black is to experience and to relate to the kind of blackness that you see in America? A kind of blackness that is still dealing with the effects of the transatlantic slave trade, the pitfalls of abolition and reconstruction, the lynching, The Jim Crow, The Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X and Martin Luther, Rosa Parks and Madam CJ, and even today very extreme effects of systemic racism that keeps thousands of black men in prison, black families without adequate housing and healthcare, and black women feeling trapped inside preconstructed roles, unable to move freely, unable to connect to their bodies, their desires, their pleasures. Unable to follow those inescapable human urges we all experience for fear of rejection.
You seem to be desperately trying to relate to us American blacks, but guess what? That’s not you. If there “aren’t that many similarities between Afro-Swedish culture and black American culture,” then stop trying to force the issue. Stop using black face, because black face is an American thing. You are using symbols you don’t understand. You need to do you, for all of us. Tell us what it’s like to have grown up without all of the fucked up shit that happened in America. Show us what is important to you. This will help us create a diverse and varied view of blackness, so the world knows that black does not equal slave, does not equal freak show, does not equal cut up and consumed, does not always equal American black. I am willing to accept that we’re different, but you have to show me how. Show us what you’re really made of. I promise, at the very least, that if you do it authentically, I will accept you.
From Art and Fear again:
You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn’t very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren’t good, the parts that aren’t yours. It’s called feedback, and it’s the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It’s also called doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and your the closest person around.
So now you have my feedback. It’s time to do your own work, and I will promise to do mine. We’ll both make mistakes and we’ll both get it wrong, but we have to keep trying, cause maybe one of these times, we’ll get it right.
Learn. Learn from this mistake and learn from all mistakes. Search for your own voice, find your own vision. And maybe when you do that we can go on a date.
And ad and some art to bring it home:
Hank Willis Thomas
1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively.
2. A specific capacity, faculty, or aptitude. Often used in the plural: her powers of concentration.
3. Strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted; might.
4. The ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority.
5. A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others: the western powers.
7. Forcefulness; effectiveness:
Last week was remarkably hard for me. I forced myself to look at power, my relationship to it, how I wield it, and what happens when I neglect to give it it’s proper dues.
These reflections were triggered by a reading assigned in Fem Sex and a power shuffle exercise we did in class last week. The facilitators of the exercise read statements related to power and privilege in the US, and participants moved their bodies across the room according to how much they personally agreed with the statements. I felt completely naked during the power shuffle. Raw. Like my guts had been spilled (see below). The effects have been profound.
Below I’ve listed a series of statements from Peggy McIntosh’s article, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. After doing a little probing I was surprised to find out that many of my friends had already read or been exposed to this information. This made me furious. I began to see this article and the power shuffle exercise as tools of oppression – subtly divisive instruments that contribute to white privilege and power. Why hadn’t I see this until now? This reading and this exercise seemed to be doing the same thing, informing whites of how to use and maintain all the little benefits in our society.
This seems backwards, right? I mean, the intention of this article is to alert whites of unearned privileges they take for granted, and that are easily bestowed onto them owing only to their whiteness. The point of this article is to increase awareness so others can take a step towards breaking down these barriers to life rights that white supremacy affords, right?
I think my frustration with these exercises came from a lack of connection to a community of individuals who are working for or visualizing change, a lack of connection to others on the same path as me. Knowledge is power, right? So if you know this information, have it’s power, and do nothing with it then, in my opinion, you are hoarding the power for yourself. I have accepted and worked through these feelings, but not without experiencing major discomfort.
I’ve figured that the only way to inspire people to seriously deconstruct the systems that exists is to convince them that 1. they are missing out on some great pleasures by not being involved in reform efforts, or 2. teach people that ignoring, escaping, and not being part of cultural reform is actually hurtful to them (which is true, turns out). The biggest myth of white supremacy is that ignoring and escaping (see #31) the views, needs, and concerns of other cultures has no negative affects on them personally. This is and illusion of perception, and something I feel is absolutely false.
We are intricately connected to one another. I seriously believe that. Also, if there is anything I’ve learned on the path to adulthood it’s that ignoring a problem only makes it worse. Compared to last week, when I saw this as a list of powers I was denied access to, I now see some of the items on this list as fearful behaviors that white privilege and power perpetuates in a cyclical manner.
Sometimes I feel inadequate for not having studied racism, feminism, and other power structures in college when many of my friends were doing the same. For whatever reason, my journey was not meant to be confined to the views of the academy. I am happy that I am exploring these topics now, on my own terms. The adventure has been lonely, not connected to the interests of friends, family, colleagues, professors, or society at large. I am glad for this. While others have helped light the way I have been my own compass. I know I’m headed in the right direction. I also know why I’m doing what I’m doing (see #45).
This exercise has made me want to challenge the language and words we use to describe the systems around us. Why not call it escapism and avoidance instead of power and privilege? This has also inspired me to think about the things that make me feel powerful, as an artist, as a creator, and as a woman of color. If those things were added to the list I could also feel like I share some of the power that exists on this planet. Different things make people feel powerful.
We tend to measure power in terms of how much a person can purchase, but in my world I measure power by the positive effects I have on others, by how many things I inspire others to do and try, how connected I am to myself, by how much I create - things that aren’t simply a matter of money.
I am reminded of a flight a took a few months back. After being randomly searched at the gate (see #25) I found my seat and realized that there was no one occupying the rest of the row. “A whole row to myself,” I thought. The “random” search was totally worth it. There was a white man in a suit sitting in the row across from me, he also had the benefit of having no other bodies in his area. We chatted about something inane, and the flight attendants announced that they’d be closing the doors. Before they could, a man rushed onto the airplane. We both froze as we realized that this man could mean the difference between having a whole row and being able to stretch out, and having to give up some of that space. The white dude looked me dead in the eye and said, “That guy is not going to sit next to me, I know it. You’re going to have to give up your space, it’s not going to be me.” I responded, in-kind, telling him that there was no way this guy was going to sit next to me. We watched the man closely, and as he took his seat in a row ahead of ours I exhaled, closed my eyes, and went to sleep all stretched out over three chairs.
Peggy McIntosh’s list of power/avoidance and privilege/escapism:
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
Love and enjoy!