i write a lot because i feel a lot

November 4th, 2015
other cities
other countries
other incidents
 
I’m tired, y’all. I write a lot because I feel a lot. I write a lot to connect a lot; to remember that this shitty shitty shitty world of ours occurs on beautiful land, inhabited by some beautiful people, doing beautiful things to combat all that is shittiness.
Please go out and do beautiful things. Celebrate each other while we’re living. Spread love.
I‘m tired of living in a world where I have to second guess
  1. not using my turning signal
  2. going to my college campus
  3. going to movie theatres
  4. wearing a hoodie
  5. carrying skittles and an iced tea
  6. riding BART
  7. any interaction with the cops
  8. walking anywhere while Black
  9. doing anything while Black and queer
  10.  fill in the motherfucking blank.

If you see that a friend’s mental health is deteriorating, reach out to them. If you have a hateful friend, call them on their -isms and -phobias. If you see something fucked up happening, assess the situation and figure out what you can do to help. If you see the cops getting rowdy with someone, pull out your phone and record them (it is perfectly legal to do this). We really don’t even have to like each, I’m just sick of crying. I’m sick of being angry. I’m sick of people not standing up for other people. And I’m not exempt from any of this. Let’s all do better, y’all.

Please.

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!

“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.

rest in power, Bryson Young.

Life is so precious, y’all. I was just ranting to my play brother about how life is a hamster wheel. What are we doing and why are we doing it?

But then tonight I saw that same play brother in a one minute play festival. Two years ago after that year’s one minute play festival, a fellow company member emailed me to get feedback on her play “Black Man Walking.” We exhanged emails and discussed the complexity of her writing this, as a white womxn. And of reaching out to me, a Black man. I recently thought about that conversation after a white womxn gasped at the sight of me around a blind corner. I also remembered that this womxn, the playwright, who I had only talked to less than four times had been moved by my acting and my comments on her script. And I remember being touched by her tenacity.

And then I come home to find three of my housemates in various states of exhaustion. A friend of my housemates passed tonight. I had seen him on campus many times but hadn’t spoken to him until earlier this week when he stopped by. I was busy doing my bibliography and didn’t spend much time with him. But I still observed that he laughed at everything, his spirit was infectious, he was a polyglot, and he planned on becoming a doctor.

I don’t even know how to feel except hurt. Hurt for him, hurt for the fact that another human is gone and that he was so long. Hurt for my housemates who are hurting.

And not that everything is connected to the movement, but it is. We’re out here dying of natural causes already. We’re out here hurting and mourning. And yet we have five Black church arsons in six days? And some of you are too afraid to call out white supremacy for fear of losing a racist cousin?

I get it, precisely because life is precious. But I’m just so tired.

Go hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Give a friend a compliment. Call your mom. Think about how you can give love, receive love, and appreciate those people who are still alive. This includes men, too. Don’t let the fragile construction of masculinity stop you from expressing your feelings, thoughts, or emotions with those who are important in your life.

Rest in power, fam.

(reposted from my FB so that it doesn’t get lost in the feed. Bryson’s spirit is too live to let die).

#MoreThanMarriage – Why same-sex marriage legalization represents privilege

Fact #1: The supreme court ruled same-sex marriage legal in all 50 U.S. states.

Fact #2: Less than 50% of our 50 states have employer non-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fact #3: At least 80% of Black gay men have experiences with racism in the gay community.

The Human Rights Campaign and other advocates fighting for marriage equality needs to realize that “equal rights” are about #MoreThanMarriage. We should celebrate the wins when and where we can, but, as a 25-year-old cisgender* Black gay man living in the Bay Area, marriage “equality” is not my top priority. My queerness comes second in both my eyes and the eyes of society. Sure, who I sleep with can get me into trouble, but this beautiful, Black skin of mine presents a higher and more visible risk, and therefore a higher priority.

Marriage benefits include as tax breaks, hospital visitation, and child custody laws, but let’s not forget that people can still be fired for their non-hetero sexuality(ies). There are currently 28 states without laws to protect LGBT folks from employment discrimination based on their gender and/or sexual identity. These states give employers the authority to legally fire a person on the basis of their sexual orientation alone. This does not automatically affect some men because we have the privilege of “passing.” We can pass as heterosexual because we present in traditionally “masculine” ways through our speech patterns, mannerisms, and overall appearance. This a privilege that many–like men with “effeminate” traits–do not have. Passing is also a choice, the alternative is to disclose their sexual orientation despite the fact that it is nobody’s business.

The conversation shifts when the circle of human concern is expanded to consider the lived experiences of trans folks. More so than discrimination on sexual orientation, trans folks are even more heavily discriminated against at work, home, and even within the supposedly inclusive gay community. Keep in mind that a person can be both trans and non-heterosexual, and therefore the marginalization intersects and the risk multiplies.

Take, for example,  the recent “White House heckler” whose comments didn’t make it to many mainstream media narratives. This transgender activist, Jennicet Gutiérrez, spoke up at an LGBTQ event at the White House and received criticism about her methods. Her message was obscured, but let’s be clear: immigrants who identify as trans are misgendered in detention centers and face physical and sexual abuse as a result. As a man marginalized for my Blackness and my queerness, I personally stand with Jennicet in saying #Not1More.

The case of trans detainees highlight the fact that same-sex marriage does not destroy homophobia, transphobia, racism, or racism within the gay community. The notion of marriage itself resides in a very privileged space. While there are many queer people of color who are patiently waiting to marry, this Supreme Court ruling benefits middle-class white gay men in ways that it may never benefit someone like me. I dislike comparing struggles, but I have never heard of anyone dying from not having the right to marry who they wish.

On the other hand we, as Black people, are being systematically targeted and killed daily for merely being Black. This racial targeting is nothing new, because Black people have never been seen as human to the institution of whiteness (read: by many / most white people). But since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, mobilization took a new form through the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The movement–started by three womxn, two of them queer–is maintained by those same womxn and a Black queer man.

Don’t let silence hide the queer people who led movements for Black freedom. Don’t forget that the fight is not about Black liberation before LGBTQ liberation, but instead liberation for all people of African descent, including those who do not identify in the same ways as ourselves. Think about much further would we be in these intersectional struggles if we abandoned our collective tunnel vision earlier in the battle for liberation?

When the police are killing more of us–primarily Black folks–in a few days than other countries kill in an entire year, it is hard for me to focus on the potential bragging rights of marriage. In fact, this wave of state-sanctioned police brutality keeps me up at night and has many Black people too angry, scared and questioning to even consider marriage. So while I am happy to see colorful Facebook flags, my most pressing question boils down to:

What are you doing to get them to stop fucking killing us?
*meaning that my gender identity matches my biological sex and the gender I was assigned at birth. In practice this means I was assigned male based on my male genitalia and I identify as a man.

note: this article was written by me for the Afrikan Black Coalition and is crossposted here on my personal blog. Photo source: https://twitter.com/ykhong/status/614959735654232064