on FTP and interracial dating

The image in the tweet contains two Black folks; the hoodie on the left lists names of Black people that have been killed by police and the shirt on the right reads “Fuck the Police: #FergusonSpring.”

So I saw this tweet and…the more I thought about my previous relationships with white men the angrier I got at myself. As in:

“I let my exes get away with thinking unintentional racism was acceptable, so when I finally called them on it, they thought I was the bad guy.” 

Now before we begin, let me state that it is a waste of your time to try to guess which white man inspired this post, as I’ve dated multiple and I was in two long-term relationships with white men before I realized it wasn’t worth the risk for me. Well meaning white people often don’t see their white fragility, whitesplaining, or white logic–a symptom of being raised in a white supremacist society–and in turn don’t see how these thoughts uphold white supremacy. In other words, if white people don’t check themselves, they wreck themselves AND others.

So let me be clear on a few things:
1. “FTP,” also known as “fuck the police” is a valid statement in a police state. If a cop is truly a “good cop,” even he would recognize that FTP is a normal response to the 928 people killed by the police to date. It is a particularly valid statement for a Black queer man to make, regardless of class standing. In other words, going to UC Berkeley or being raised working-class as opposed to poor does not make me or Martese Johnson any less immune to the violence of the police or other authority figures. The difference is that our neighborhoods may be policed less heavily and so we benefit from less frequent and less violent exposure, most of the time. But in a white world, respectability politics and accompaniments do not serve as an invisibility cloak.

2. We all live within a matrix of domination, meaning we’re all oppressed in some way; oppression is relative (thank you, Patricia Hill Collins). But oppression is multiplied by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness, literacy, educational status, socioeconomic status and so on and so forth. But if you’re a white man, regardless of class, you’re one of the most privileged people in the world, even if you travel outside of Western countries.
3. If white people want to date Black people–not me, thank you very much–they need to understand that generational trauma is a very real thing. They need to understand that long before Black folk even arrived in this country, white people’s [figurative and literal] relatives: Did. Not. Want. To. Live. With. Us. White people need to understand that TODAY many of their [figurative and literal] relatives still do not want to live with us. And if that’s the case, I don’t want to live with them either. The white devil has and will hunt Black people down; the brutal murder of Emmett Till was not an isolated case and we all know the more recent Trayvon Martin case. So if I’m going to live with or near white folks, bring me the ones who understand not just American history, but international history. These white folks at least understand why I don’t trust them in this normatively racist world.

4. White people built the U.S. by brutally killing Native folk and subjugating Black folk before continuing to feed on the labor of others. Black people were one of the first currencies of the United States of America. This created a very specific racial antagonism and racially gendered relations between Black folk and whites. Whites have, for centuries, been obsessed with and repulsed by our Blackness. They have sought to contain our Blackness and yield power over it, even going so far as to display us in human zoos. White men often raped female slaves, men in general serve less time for raping Black women, and the case of Dajerria Becton in #McKinney shows us that even–especially?–14-year old Black women in 2015 aren’t safe. So needless to say, American chattel slavery was just one point on a timeline of anti-Blackness by those of European origin. Many Black people know this, but for those who don’t: white people would watch lynchings and send postcards to friends. And guess who the white people lynched when they caught wind of an interracial relationships? The Black people, of course. 

5. I don’t have any problems with who other people sleep with or choose to love, truly. But here’s a tip from one Black person to another: if your white partner doesn’t recognize that the police are pigs, watch out. If this last year hasn’t taught you anything, hopefully Rodney King or the Stanford Prison Experiment did. So to my folks who are in the swirl now, I hope that your white partner is willing to create a human shield for you when necessary.

#FeesMustFall – on the importance of diasporic solidarity

When #MikeBrown was murdered in Ferguson by a white pig by the name of Darren Wilson, I was studying abroad at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The news broke and I didn’t what to do with myself. I considered organizing with fellow students because I felt so alone, so hopeless. But even though the students around me weren’t discussing it, if I had gone to twitter I would have seen over a million tweets from all over the world, including South Africa. But there was little to no international footage on the few channels I got in my apartment.

I was a Black American living in a country with some of the worst white people you will meet, attending a prestigious, historically white university, and I just wanted to march in the streets with my friends and family. What was going on in Ferguson was disgusting. And then seeing the photos of how the police brutalized folks in Berkeley and Oakland broke my heart in a very personal way. I knew that being out there meant potential arrest, teargas, and fractured bones in this Black body of mine. I knew that even if I was home in Oakland, I might not have marched for fear that my mom might get a call in the middle of the night saying that something had happened to her son. But even if I didn’t march, I just wanted to be home. So I was there. In Cape Town. Isolated. I had a twitter account but I wasn’t active during that time and even my Black American friends at the university weren’t talking much about Ferguson. I had this burning desire to be back in the country where my blackness was so reviled just so I could be with my people. All the while living in a country where my blackness was equally reviled, but at least I was surrounded by people who looked like me.

Needless to say, I needed to talk. But I also knew that talking wouldn’t bring Mike Brown or anyone else back. Even the notion of organizing a march or protest in South Africa felt useless.

Looking back, I don’t know if I would have done anything different now, except for go onto Twitter. It took days for Ferguson to truly reach the news and even Facebook, but twitter covered it as it happened.

What I do know, though, is that I’m happy to stand with the #NationalShutdown, to stand with #FeesMustFall, to stand with #EndOutsourcing. Not just because I felt so alone during Ferguson—felt is key here, as I definitely wasn’t alone, I just didn’t know the proper channels at the time—, but because white South Africa has deprived Black South Africans of food, shelter, and education for too long. The ANC devolved from a revolutionary organization to a money-hungry political party that has aided in the deprivation of Black South Africa. All Black lives matter, not just those who have been murdered, not just those in Western countries, and definitely not just those with the rand or dollars who can afford a formal education.

Education is a right, not a privilege.

Educational opportunities should not be decided by the color line.

Educational opportunities should be be decided by class.

Educational opportunities and white surpemacy should be go hand in hand.

If white South Africa truly wants transformation (spoiler alert: they don’t), then they need to listen to the voices of those who have been historically marginalized: Poor. Black. People. Poor. Colored. People. Poor Indian people. Poor immigrants. Does the white devil and the Black ruling party think xenophobia sprung up out of nowhere? No, it’s the result of capitalistic white supremacy that the ANC once fought against.

Europeans created artificial borders, competition for low-paying jobs, and conditions that drive people out of their homes into a new unwelcoming country due to globalization and capitalism. Why do Black folks themselves now uphold and extend these systems?

I write all this to say that the women leading #FeesMustFall are right: we must strive for free education for all. A 6% cap in fees is not enough of a “compromise.” To create a more equitable South Africa, a South Africa that adheres more closely to the Freedom Charter, access to quality educational opportunities is one of the best ways paths.

Moving from personal to political–although these are intertwined–I’d like to speak to those on the ground. To those who are at home for fear of deportation, out in the streets fending off rubber bullets and tear gas, and to the mothers who worry about their children: thank you for everything you are doing. Even if these are just words I type that only one person sees, I’ve helped somebody. I’ve made somebody feel less alone. During Ferguson I clung to the articles I read, the Facebook posts that brought tears to my eyes, the firsthand accounts of my friends. If their words helped me–and I say this with the utmost spirit of service and humbleness–I hope my words can help you. Thank you, South Africa, for your support of Black America. I hope we can help you further.

Amandla!

#MasculinitySoFragile

Can I ask a favor from my men friends/readers?

Please search #MasculinitySoFragile on twitter or just click here.


Backstory (about abuse of women by men):

So I’m clearly a feminist
/womanist
/ I care about women.
Earlier today I read about some horrible shit that has happened to different women in the last month in intimate relationships. FeministaJones had posted it on her website’s Facebook. It messed me up, I shared it and then I went about my day. But it came back around to me and it pissed me off so much. All I could think about was how at its core, my silence as a man is complicity in the abuse of women. Yeah I talk about my love for women, but not enough. Yeah I do #SayHerName but that’s not enough.
Men literally kill women for nothing, because of to assert dominance, patriarchy, and embody male entitlement. Men feel like they own women. Period. Even when they don’t realize it. Our male privilege blind us to the ways that we dehumanize woman, reducing them to mere body parts.
But this isn’t just physical and these behaviors are not limited to straight men. As queer men we often rely on women for emotional labor but do not compensate them for that time. Whether it be our mothers, our girlfriends, or our friends, we rely on women every damn day, often without reciprocation. We rely on women, and often women of color to give us support without actually offering that support back. So I went on a long series of tweets about domestic violence, abuse, rape, and other forms of violence under the hashtag #MasculinitySoFragile. I’m not the first to use the hashtag, but I continued a conversation tonight that women–and Black women in particular–have been having for centuries. This ain’t new, but people love to listen to men talk about it while ignoring the women who taught men about it (like my mom, Feminista Jones,  Trudy at Gradient Lair, or the countless friends I have had).
I wanted to expose the ways in which we, as men, protect other men by not speaking up about the abuse. I’ve written a lot about white entitlement, but male entitlement is a disgusting thing as well because of the particularly toxic form of masculinity it breeds. We protect hegemonic (or dominant and mainstream) masculinities that are rooted in misogyny. There are multiple forms of masculinity, and we cannot subscribe to any notions that lead to the death of women because they didn’t say “hi” back to a man or because they called the name of the wrong lover in bed. We need to put our egos to the side to build with women without them having to be our relative or spouse. Our silence is figurative blood on our hands, and I won’t have it. I want us to work toward a world where hashtags like #YouOkSis–where women discuss daily harassment from men–are no longer necessary.

“This is why I don’t talk to white people about race”

A few days ago I posted on my Facebook that I don’t plan on engaging with white people on the topics of race, police brutality, or even class. There are exceptions, but for the most part, I’m good. A friend messaged me today and asked why. If I am a self-proclaimed scholar-activist intent on dismantling white supremacy, isn’t direct engagement with white folk a great way to conscientize them?  This blog post is inspired by that question.

After 26 years of being all-consumed by whiteness and spending my years conscientizing white folk, I’m just not going to actively do it. I grew up in historically and primarily white neighborhoods, work/ed in white spaces, and attend a top research institution that contains a lot of white logic. Combine this with the historical legacy of Black dehumanization in the United States and you should understand why I’m tired.

So if a debate that naturally occurs in person? Maybe.

Online debate? Nah. Almost never worth it.

Questions from white folk? Especially respectful clarifying questions?Definitely; although I, like anyone, reserve the right to not answer them.

Devil’s advocate or “why did #BlackLivesMatter do this?” when I’m not a formal part of BLM? Nah. Not here for it.

I have literally had knots in my stomach and elevated blood pressure from debating this life-or-death shit, so I’m not here for semantic arguments or for you to practice your debate skills on me. I’m not here to be hyperconsumed like I’m google when my knowledge comes from 26 years of Black queer life, lots of self-reading, conversations with friends/elders/mentors/& more and of course the formal education I’ve received over the years. And here’s the thing: I’ve thought about some of these debates for days afterwards, feeling like it was my job to do this mess. Feeling like if I wasn’t doing this I was failing my goal of working with “allies” to help the mission of Black Liberation.

But if you notice, I have over 1,200 contacts on FB and around 2,000 followers on twitter. Many of them are white. So when it comes to white consumption from white people at a certain level of consciousness already: y’all are hopefully hearing it, listening quietly, and processing solutions. What I post is a form of conscientization, but what I’m saying is that I won’t take it a step further and discuss it in detail with white folk. I mean, y’all see how much content I produce on social media. Y’all see how much I read, and you wanna bank on my knowledge, my familiarity, and my perspective. I ain’t mad at it, but hopefully you’re also going home to your white families to check them on their potentially racist, classist, misogynistic and transphobic rhetoric. If you’re so inclined, you can talk to your friends about it, online or offline. But it’s too much intellectual and emotional labor for me to talk to white folk about this all the time. It’s not my job. I’m not being paid and in fact it takes time away from me and I’m suffering negative health effects as a result of your requests and my choice to engage with them. So then I hope that white people, half-white people, white passing people, and PoC with more patience are doing the work that I’ve done for most of my [short] life.

In other words: it’s on those who benefit from the interlocking systems (white people, men, straight people, able-bodied people, etc.) to help dismantle them. This means self-education and that sometimes means asking for help. But too often y’all aren’t asking for help or creating solutions, but demanding unpaid labor from me. And…nah.

If you’re white and this post makes you uncomfortable, read this piece by Joel Leon to give you a sense of the things I do, have done, and may have to continue to do for white people in my life, including this blog post.

5 Tips to Get More Than Clicks: Consciousness Raising on Facebook

If you know me personally, follow this blog and/or my twitter, you know that I post a lot of potentially divisive, contentious and depressing topics (politics, death, war). The goal for me in postings these is twofold: (1) sharing content I have read in the hopes that someone in my social network finds them interesting and (2) consciousness raising. Consciousness raising, popularized by feminist scholars, basically means making other more aware of a certain issue or conditions, I.E. #BlackLivesMatter.

Using my Facebook as a template, I’ve created this guide to share some tips on how to get people to actually pay attention to those things that matter to you, the reader. I based these tips on anecdotal evidence and articles I have read along the way. Obviously this won’t work for everyone–you have to tailor it to your personal networks–and I don’t always follow these rules myself, but I think this may help more than it will hurt. Additionally, people have to some opinion on your opinion. Whether they agree or disagree, they need to feel like your content is worth engaging with.

When posting an article/content on Facebook

1. Busy, bored, and disengaged; “I didn’t logon to get an education”

Simply put: a lot of people won’t like or notice a lot of what you post, so make it interesting. Keep in mind that outside of your personal relationships with those in your networks, social media is also affected by how much you interact with other people and how much they interact with you. Practically that looks like liking their photos, commenting on statuses, etc. So if you’re not very active, even with these tips you won’t be popping up in people’s feeds as often.

2. Choose a reliable source; ain’t nobody got time for false information.

Can the content be found on another [verifiable] source? If it’s a not a news source, like a blog, does it have a history of great content (like Black Girl Dangerous) ? Does it contain references for the information it cites? This may seem obvious, but it’s important because if you are known for posting from unreliable sources, people are less likely to engage with your content. Examples of sources I often cite include Al Jazeera News and The New York Times, but keep in mind they all have bias.

3. Framing is important; context is key.

Think about your own use on Facebook. What would make you as likely to click on a Buzzfeed article as an NPR article? Outside of the thumbnail used, interest level in the content is a huge factor for many people. Considering #1–people often avoid talking about socially conscious issues–expect that people will only read the headlines of what you post, at best.In order to properly frame an article, see below.

4. Include a comment or quote; make the reader’s job easier.

People will scroll past links, even when you do caption the articles but these people know you through familial, business, or school connections, giving you an in. But chances are, they may not click the link but may skim your comment. For this reason I usually will usually include 2-4 sentences (if it’s too long, people will often scroll past) of a mix of:

  • My thoughts/reaction (taking into account my bias or the bias of the author)
  • Thesis statement from the article
  • A short quote that spoke to me

5. Monitor posting frequency; be strategic

There are better resources than I to tell you when to post (to maximize peak times for traffic), but I can tell you that Facebook has algorithms and people have limits. Posting too often will mean that your posts won’t show up. Additionally, think of how you “reserve” your likes for a post on instagram. If a friend posts six amazing photos within one minute, many people will not “like” all six. But if she spread them out throughout the day or the course of a few days, she gets the most exposure and higher number of “likes.” The best bet–particularly to make sure people don’t tune you out–is to post less frequently but of a higher quality.

#BlackLivesMatter: on malicious hate

By using social spaces to assert that Black Lives Matter, I have noticed a certain pattern in responses. But let’s be clear, #BLM merely means that we need to pay attention to Black lives because our lives have never been valued in the U.S. That is, outside of seeing us as property, free labor, cheap labor, experiments, and vehicles for capitalism via slavery, discriminatory housing policies, HeLa cells/the Tuskegee Syphilis study and the prison industrial complex.

Let’s not forget that we, as a people, have never been silent about our mistreatment. But as a result of recent events, we now vehemently assert that our lives matter. We do not claim that they matter more than anyone else’s, but merely that they matter. But by speaking out about our precious Black lives, people get…offended, upset, and hostile. People get downright nasty. We assert our lives and many fellow North Americans assert their hate. And I choose the word malicious specifically, because the hate we receive has no grounding. The hate we receive targets us simply because we are Black. Whereas most Black people I know only talk about white people as a response to said hate, many white people are mad that we are asserting our right to live. The anger we receive is not because we personally did anything to white people. The anger we receive is not because we are actively harming people. The forms of anger we receive, the names we receive, the death threats we receive result from the assertion that our lives matter.

You’ll understand my confusion when I, as a pro-Black Black man, merely assert my right to life and receive hateful responses.  And for the record, pro-Black and anti-white are two very different things. My pro-Blackness is not an attack on your whiteness. I only problematize white people in response to something heinous done against my people by white people, or in the spirit of maintaining white supremacy. Don’t forget that there is a large contingency of white people who are maliciously hateful, spiteful, and violent towards Black people.

Even so, my frustration and pain stems not from a general dislike of white people, but utter hate for white supremacy and the everyday agents who uphold it, often without realizing it.  So when we talk about dismantling white supremacy through non-violent means like police reform, why do we receive physical, verbal, and symbolic violent threats? I already know the answer. But I ask that you consider all the wrongs done against Black people in this country [after all the wrong done against Native people] and how we, as Black people, still take the high road more times than not. I ask that you consider who committed those wrongs, the system that encouraged it, and how that system still exists. I ask that you don’t just look at and for everyday acts of racism, but at the ways in which the system we live in runs on racism.

photo taken by author in Berkeley, CA. 

RE: How friendly are your white friends?

Disclaimer: This is a response to How friendly are your white friends?, an article by J.L. Saxon from Blavity.com. I posted it on my Facebook and tagged a lot of my white friends, asking them to share it because I felt it spoke to my experiences in a very succinct way. This sparked a lot of sharing, but also some critiques of the article. So, if you’re reading this J.L. Saxon, I tried to fill in the gaps that some people pointed out and here is the digestible version of what I ended up posting in response:

For those who believe America is now post-racial or that colorblind society is possible in the near future, consider this fact: as a Black man I am always perceived as Black, whether I “choose” to see my/your color or not. Race is a social construct, but it still has a profound effect my daily life and it is a symptom of white privilege for someone to be able to say that they don’t see color. And according to the way color works in the U.S., white is the default. Some of my friends are white and therefore are always white, but can choose to appropriate other cultures for laughs. They can wear another culture because the palette is white (see: Cinco de Mayo). See, the difference is that white people can choose to not talk about or see race–unless it is convenient for them– because they are the majority. We, the 13% of the U.S. known as African-Americans, do not have that option. We aren’t the default, we are one of many ethnic minorities. And when we, as Black people, are finally included in circles of white people, it’s because we “aren’t ghetto” or “aren’t like the other Black people.”I’ve heard those exact words in my life. (You can look up respectability politics to find out more about that). If you saw my poem, over-empathy, you know that I literally had a noose thrown at me as a “joke” and carried so much shame in freezing instead of responding that I rarely shared the story. So to say you are colorblind is insulting. To say that I’m not like most Black people, as if there is one monolithic and hegemonic Blackness? That’s not a compliment. It’s fucked up to me and people who look like me.

So, yes, many articles I post won’t solve everything. You may have critiques. But if you find something in them compelling and you learn something, consider sharing. Many people have told me that they love what I post and I that I teach them a lot. Maybe share it and say something like:

“I think the author could have gone into more depth here and here but I’m sharing it because my Black friend feels like it speaks to his experiences and I’d love to begin a dialogue on how we can do better to ensure that he doesn’t lose his sanity in a world where the color of his skin can be a death sentence.”

All that being said, don’t be alarmed, I’m doing well for the most part. I’m 25, I’m employed, I’m in college and I have somewhere to lay my head and food/water to put in my stomach. But sometimes I deal with depression and that’s a direct result of systemic racism, white supremacy, microagressions, the killing & suffering of so many people (not just Black people but also trans people, Nepalese people, South Africans, etc, etc, etc.) in addition to any my own school/work/life stress. So help me out here and dismantle white supremacy in your own home and social network. Just remember that your Black friends are not your personal tutors and it is draining to ask us to take on that responsibility. So ask us questions. But do your own research, too.

note: the header is a photo of the legendary June Jordan, courtesy of Google image search.