On Bitch: Hyper-Sensitivity or Resisting Oppression?

I hate the word bitch.  While I am at it, I hate the word cunt.

It sound sort of silly, hating a word.  I guess that it’s just that those words make my skin crawl.

I guess I should clarify further.  I hate when men use those words.

I used to say the word a lot.  I remember once when I was a first year in college, a female student was being kind of rude to me, so I said, “You don’t have to be a bitch!”  She turned to me, her expression exasperated, and said, “No matter how rude I have been to you, you have no right to make me less than yourself.  I am not your dog.”

That hit me.  From that moment forward, I decided I had no right to use the word.

During an rousing game of Dungeons and Dragons (yes . . . I play . . . on a weekly basis) on Monday in which all of our players are males, our characters (also all male) were fighting a female creature.  Multiple times during the game, frustration was expressed with, “That BITCH!” or victory was savored with, “Take That, Bitch!”

The first few times, I didn’t say anything.  After allowing my frustration to boil over, I yelled, “PLEASE Don’t Say That Word.”  Folks sort of laughed, and we went on with the game.  A little later it was said again, and I just shook my head.  Another player said, “Just don’t say it, if for nothing else, to avoid THAT.”  I responded, “It’s just disrespectful.  If I don’t like the word, it’s disrespectful to use it.”  The game proceeded with an air of tension.

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Ashamed of the System of Injustice

September 21, 2011.  11:08 pm.

There are moments when I find myself incredibly ashamed to call myself part of the American experiment.

September 21, 2011.  11:08 pm is one of those times.

Despite overwhelming evidence that cast doubt on his guilt, Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia tonight.

September 21, 2011.  11:08 pm was his time of death.

After a delay of execution by the Supreme Court, a state-sanctioned murder was committed.

September 21, 2011.  11:08 pm.

There are not words.  Just shame and tears of anger, sadness, and frustration.

Abolish the death penalty.

“An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Injustice Anywhere: Stop the Murder of Troy Davis

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In 1991, Troy Davis was convicted of and sentenced to death for the killing of a White police officer named Mark McPhail.  McPhail was shot while coming to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol whipped in a parking lot.  The day after the murder, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, a man who was present at the event, came forward and accused Troy Davis of the crime.  Despite a complete lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime, Davis was convicted because of the testimony of 9 key prosecution witnesses.

In the time since his prosecution, a tremendous amount of evidence has come to light that casts doubt on Davis’ guilt.  7 of the 9 witnesses recanted their testimony, some saying they were bullied and pressured by police to say that Troy Davis was the killer.  An acquaintance of Sylvester “Redd” Coles has come forward, claiming that Coles had admitted to the murder and to setting up Davis.

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Should White folks profit from Diversity work?

When I attended and presented at the White Privilege Conference in April, I took part in and heard some amazing workshops and keynotes, and I learned a lot.  Some of them made me feel good, reinforcing some of my current views.  I mean, let’s be honest.  A lot of us attend conferences to hear our world view reflected back at us.  What I had not quite expected, though, was to be challenged to my core.

One of my mentors once told me that any time I find myself comfortable, it’s time to look around and unsettle myself because no true growth and change comes from a space of comfort.  Thus, knowing that it would make me quite uncomfortable, I decided to attend a workshop entitled, “Profiting from Privilege: An Open Dialogue about the Ethics Involved with White Consultants and Keynote Speakers on White Privilege” led by a professor at Metropolitan State University named Paul Spies.  It promised to grapple with the question, “Should white speakers and consultants profit from their ‘expertise’ in helping other white people understand and grapple with white privilege?”

Going into the room, I knew that I was going to be challenged a lot, and I kept repeating to myself, “Don’t allow feeling defensive to cloud your ability to listen to the legitimate feelings and concerns of others.”  My hands were shaking, and my heart was beating fast.  After all, the very nature of this workshop was challenging the foundation and ethics of the business that I have been working so hard to establish, that I care so much about, and in which I have invested a tremendous amount of money.

The dialogue was exactly what I expected it to be: challenging to my foundations.  The room was probably 35-40% white folks (most of whom likely worked in diversity/anti-oppression consulting for profit), and we all looked profoundly uncomfortable, like our secret had been exposed, a secret that many of didn’t even realize we were keeping.  The truth is that White consultants and presenters regularly make more than People of Color who are doing the same work. The truth is that knowledge of racism is a knowledge of People of Color.  It’s a Black knowledge, a Brown knowledge, a Red knowledge, a Yellow knowledge.  In the words of Ewuare Osayande, “it is an analysis born of the blood struggle for Black liberation and racial justice throughout American history.”  The truth is that it is not a White knowledge.  Those of us who profit from the work to end racism are profiting from the words of People of Color we have heard and read.  We are profiting from our relationships with People of Color.  We are profiting from someone else’s “blood struggle.”

The conversation was candid.  I appreciated that those in the room did not pull any punches.
“There’s no other way to say it: It is racist for a White person to profit from anti-racist work.”
“White people have no right to profit from Diversity work.”
“While White people have an obligation to act as activists to end White supremacy and racism, they need to do it as a responsibility and do it without pay.”

While I think most if not all of the White folks in the room were defensive, only a few spoke out defensively.  I sat and listened, reflecting, remembering when a mentor once told me, “If you’re defensive, it’s probably for a good reason.  Reflect on that defensiveness and figure out what you have done wrong.  Then apologize.”

I left the workshop feeling defeated.  I was thinking to myself (and even said to another participant), “I need to dismantle my business.  My business is racist.  No matter how much work I am doing to dismantle racism, the very structure of my business is racist.”

In what ways am I benefiting from racism in my work?

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9/11: Beyond Hate

On this, the 10-year anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, let us move beyond feelings and acts of hate, hurt, and revenge, and let us move to a place of love, healing, and forgiveness.

“A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.” – Francis Bacon

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, . . . if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  – Jesus Christ, from the Sermon on the Mount

“Repel evil with good. Then will he who hates you become as it were thy friend and intimate. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint.” The Holy Qur’an 41:34-35

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.” – Unknown

“Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.” – Buddy Wakefield

Let us release the hope for a better past so that we may build a better future.

On White Anti-Racist Activists by Ewuare Xola Osayande

I’ve been working all day on a blog post on the role of White anti-racist activists in the struggle to end racism.  It’s been a tough piece for me to come to terms with, and I’ve been working up the courage to write it since April when I attended the White Privilege Conference.  However, in writing, I found that I was quoting an article by Ewuare Xola Osayande over and over and over.  Considering that I’ve been quoting Osayande so much and considering that without this perspective, it can be hard to understand where I’m coming from in the piece I have been working on, I’ve decided that this week, I will just post Osayande’s article.  That way, when I post my own reflections on the role of White anti-racists, my readers and I can be more on the same page.  Please consider taking the time to read the entire article to inform a vital conversation that must be had by any who work to end racism.

Ewuare Xola Osayande is an author, poet, and political activist from Philadelphia, PA.

A Word to the Wise

By Ewuare Xola Osayande

“My friends, I have come to tell you something about slavery – what I know of it, as I have felt it. When I came North, I was astonished to find that the abolitionists knew so much about it, that they were acquainted with its effects as well as if they had lived in its midst. But though they can give you its history – though they can depict its horrors, they cannot speak as I can from experience …”
Frederick Douglass, 1841

In the past decade or so, we have witnessed the rise of critical race studies, even something called Whiteness Studies. With the rise of Whiteness Studies on college campuses across the country has come the resurgence of whites as so-called experts on all matters pertaining to race. Among the most popular of them is the anti-racist speaker Tim Wise, who has become a regular presence on the college lecture circuit as well as in the media in the past few years. He has even been deemed the leader of the anti-racist movement by some of these very media outlets.

As Black liberationist, abolitionist, anti-racist and social justice activists, we would be wise to use this moment to ask some critical questions of ourselves and the state of the movement for racial justice in the U.S. We are thus compelled to critically engage Tim Wise and what his apparent popularity represents both in symbol and substance. In so doing, we confront the two fundamental issues in this work of eradicating racism: internalized oppression and white privilege.

Read the rest of the essay at Ewuare Xola Osayande’s website.

No Ads (For Now), So Consider Donating!

A few weeks ago, I asked my readers whether they thought I should advertise to make my work more sustainable on Change From Within.  While people generally were in support of the idea of advertising so that I could more easily sustain my work,  a few suggested that I start by adding a PayPal “Donate” button.

Well, I hate advertising as much as the next person, so I’ve added a donation button to the right!  If you are a regular (or even one time) reader and appreciate the content, please consider helping make my work sustainable with a donation.  For those who are regular readers, I would encourage you to donate in smaller amounts regularly (like a subscription) rather than in a larger amount once, even if that means that you donate $1 every other month rather than $5 now.

Whether or not you are able to support Change From Within monetarily, thank you for your support through readership.  Please keep reading, and please re-link the blog on facebook or twitter whenever you particularly enjoy a piece.

Peace be the Journey,

Jamie