Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Malakim, back in action!

**NOTE: I wrote an entire freaking post and then my crazy computer shut down! As a result, this will be shorter and less eloquent. But I guess you wouldn't even have known that unless I pointed it out. Sigh. Anyways-HP, I WILL be coming after you, soon, you can count on it!! *angry face* **

I'll start this by saying that normally I'm really glad when a person chooses to engage with a difficult issue (in this case race) that most other people shy away from. Good job! However, I really hope that they didn't think they could just blast my/our methods without getting a reply. :)
So, here are a few excerpts from Mal's (I like that nickname, don't you? It's so splendidly gender-neutral) latest reply to my reply to the reply to Kaya:
"Look, I’m angry too. I’m angry that as a white person you can’t see this from my perspective. I’m angry because I don’t think you have the slightest clue of what 95% of white people think when they read your blog post...
Did you stop and think that maybe whites and so-called “model minorities” will look upon your words and go, “Oh god, another angry black person"? Did you stop and think that the vast majority of whites will look upon the content of your blog and use it to reinforce all the damaging and subjugating stereotypes that they have internalized about black people—that many of them are angry, loud, prone to violence and have a stick up their ass?
...I’m angry that every time I try to convince my woefully ignorant white friends that they’re being irrational, insensitive, and just plain dumb, they allude to blogs like this one to affirm why they are right and I am wrong.
It’s time for you two to get over yourselves and really confront this topic, instead of merely continuing to validate your own feelings. I am on your side here, dammit, and this is NOT the way to make headway on this issue."
Okay, so I would normally probably try to make a really long response to this, one that's incredibly well thought out and full of references to different theorists or authors/artists/intellectuals whose words I find particularly stirring, but I think I'll err on the brief side of writing for several reasons: 1) I just got off of work and am tired, 2) I have a final to study for, 3) The Simpsons is on, which I will gladly watch as a means of procrastinating from studying for said final. As a result, I will simply be writing how I felt as I read this most recent comment, as well as the kinds of people it reminded me of. Alrighty, so let's get into it..
The first thing I want to say is that I find it somewhat disturbing that those "damaging and subjugating stereotypes" to which you allude that we (our blog and subsequent way of thinking) promote, fly off of your fingertips with such ease. I will admit that this blog definitely has a theme of anger, but being Prone to violence? Loud? Having a stick up [our] asses? I find it very interesting that you were able to pick these particular stereotypes. Any reference to violence is clearly not serious (and often unrealistic, I don't think you'll see any actual advocation of real, hurtful violence), we cannot be loud because you are reading our text (though I suppose if the entire blog was TYPED LIKE THIS YOU COULD GET SOME SORT OF FEELING OF LOUD, even though that's a bit silly), and having a stick up our asses? Well, I'm sorry if voicing my opinions makes me have a stick up my ass. Wait, no I'm not- what does having a stick up my ass do in terms of validating or invalidating my feelings or my points? Whether or not I present my feelings in a sugary song or in a five-page paper complete with bullet points and bibliography, the facts and experiences that have created those feelings all remain constant.
You are angry that I do not understand how you, as a white person, view my blog and my feelings? Well, I'm sorry, but quite frankly I do not care how you view my feelings, nor do I find any pressing reason to care if I rustle your feathers. As Gaya said in a comment, it is often through disturbance and unsettling methods or messages that change is inspired or, at the very least, can find its roots.
What seems most ridiculous to me is that you claim that I have neither an idea about nor concern for your perspective as a white person in America. I hate to present you with this newflash- but all I have ever done and ever do is consider, reconsider and consider again the perspective of white people. I was educated in public schools based around Western thought, I learned little in the way of Black History (MLK, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman were sentences in chapters or footnotes under pictures in my history and Social Studies books) before I arrived at Harvard, as a child I grew up thinking that America was the best place to be and that capitalism was the only possible form of social structure under which humanity could flourish- in short, my entire way of thinking has been molded by a "white perspective," a particularly troublesome mode of existence for a black girl living in these United States.
It has taken most everything in me to try and break away from this. Even so, I still factor the way white people see me, think about me and speak about me into my everyday life. The way I dress, the way I do (or do not do) my hair, the way I speak, the way I carry myself, the food that I eat (as a teenager- and up until this year- I shyed away from the delicious, crisp sweetness of a ripe red watermelon, because I was too afraid to eat it in front of white people and re-create some grotesque mulatto minstrel image for the world to see).. everything that I do is influenced by how I think white people think, so do not dare to tell me that I simply do not try to consider your perspective.
You say that it pains you to have to make attempts to re-educate your "ignorant" white friends, to help them shed the stereotypes which you so readily listed from their way of thinking- to see black people as docile, friendly, non-threatening figures who they should listen to. Perhaps it is more pertinent for you to instead re-consider your friends. Or better yet, perhaps it is even more important for you, yourself, to attempt to see where this anger, this loudness, this unwillingness to compromise or to simply smile and cooperate comes from. As startling as it might seem, I have been upset for most of my conscious life. When I was very young I learned that my skin, that my existence as a brown person (let us not forget that yes, I am biracial and therefore cannot completely understand the struggle of my darker sisters and brothers) was a signifier of my alleged incapacity to be a productive member of society. I held this knowledge deep in my mind, in my heart, and it burdened me. With every step, every breath, every word I uttered my blackness seeped from my pores and consumed my very being. I was suffocating in it. My understanding blanketed me in a deep shame, and this shame made me depressed- I was sad that I was black. As a result, I would often shy away from social issues pertaining to race. Before knowing what it was I denounced affirmative action and I created some irrational aversion to activists (which I am still trying to shed today).
It wasn't until I finally learned something, until I learned that there was nothing wrong with being black, that my people have a rich, beautiful history here in America as well as in all areas where the African diaspora resides.. that I finally began to allow myself to understand that I had just cause for being angry. In embracing this anger, I was able to free myself from the shame, from the sadness that had so strongly embraced me before. In speaking out I unlock my voice and hear the richness of its tones. In raising my fist I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and I am not ashamed. In opening my eyes I see that my thick, curly hair is a labyrinth of wonder and just as visually stunning as a straight blond coif could ever be. In short my anger is what has helped me to become who I am, and to understand where I lie in regard to my people, and where my people stand in regard to this society.
Who are you to tell me that this anger, that this feeling, is wrong?
I understand and appreciate the fact that you want to help us out. It's wonderful that you, as a white person, see the need to understand our situation, to try and help by educating yourself and your white peers. However, it is also important to understand that a white liberal, when under the impression that their philosophy is best or that they know what is best for black people, can be just as dangerous and damaging as a white conservative.

So while I appreciate where you are coming from, I cannot in good conscience silence myself once more. I will never again be complicit in my own oppression in this way. I hope you can understand. And if you cannot, I do not blame you. After all, I have no idea what it's like to be white in America nor could I ever, for I am not white, just as you are not black.
Though, if I'm honest with myself, I don't mind this all too much.

P.S. I think it's a little aggravating that a person could come to this blog (which is just that, a blog) and try to tell us how to express ourselves. Isn't it a bit problematic that one would assume that Kaya & I must bear the burden of representing every single black person in America when we are just trying to show how we feel as black people?
P.P.S. I guess this was long, after all. Sorry. :\


kkrahel said...

"I am on your side here, dammit."

How in the hell do people like that know that they are right? "I agree with your goals, just not your tactics," right? Well, why are you so sure that my tactics are wrong and you know better?

Why is being angry (or appearing "violent" to white people) a bad tactic.

I'm just saying that it's not until you get angry that they start listening to you.

kelly lee said...

OH MY GOD I AM SO ANGRY< CAPS LOCKS MAKES ME LOUD!!!!! hahaha. I love you. And I also love kyle, right on. Black people are often not angry, but do people notice? no, not unless they are on harvard property, in which case, the cops are called.... whatever, i just have a lot of feelings about this so i'm not going to write anymore, except that i love your blog. yay. Also, I want to be naked at primal scream.

Malakim said...

Brittany, I really really appreciate the fact you typed all that just for me. I know it took way too much time, plus, it came straight from the gut, which is usually more than I can say. You're right that this blog has been Mal vs. Brittany/Kaya for too long, but I want to make a quick list of points where I think there are misconceptions between us. I'll get to that later. I promise that if you don't respond, due to a lack of time or whatever, I will not hold it against you nor consider it a sign that you feel you are being forced silent.

Just briefly to kkrahel, you should also ask Brittany and Kaya how they know they are right. They are the ones against ethical relativism, right?


Brittany said...

You see, that's just it, we do not know that we are right, but that is not to say that we know that we are wrong, either. We simply see a problem with the way things are and are attempting to explore alternative approaches and methods for dealing with/discussing/handling the things that have caused us continual stress (and distress) in our lives.

Making a blanket "this is right" and "this is wrong" statement is really bad. Ironic (and cliché) as this is to say: not everything is as simple as black and white (touché). It is only in the subtle shades of gray that we can really begin to search for truth.

Malakim said...

Well hey, no disagreements from me there. Maybe you should change your blog description to reflect what you said in your last post about "using alternative approaches and methods" and what Kaya brilliantly said earlier about "creating a space for anger in the discourse." I feel like I understand better what you two are trying to accomplish with this blog, but that mission statement is not at all explicit anywhere on this site.

Okay, so I just want to clarify a few things and see where we've come so far with this dialogue.

“What seems most ridiculous to me is that you claim that I have neither an idea about nor concern for your perspective as a white person in America."

You’re right, and this was an error on my part. Of course almost all people of color in the United States are bicultural and are infused from birth with the “white perspective.” I made that statement because based on the information presented in your blog entries, you appeared in my judgment to demonstrate a poor understanding of white thought processes. But that was dumb of me to assume.

“I will admit that this blog definitely has a theme of anger, but being Prone to violence? Loud? Having a stick up [our] asses?"

You make excellent points, and you’re completely right. Why should CAPS be considered a sign of anger, etc. etc.? You’re preaching to the choir here, Brittany. What I am trying to convey to you is what the vast majority of white people, not necessarily myself, say (or more accurately, think but do not say in public) about blacks and unrepresented minorities semi-regularly. You have to trust me here, that I have been in intimate conversations with countless white people like those in Cabot house—whether they’re my best friends, family, colleagues, former classmates, or anonymous internet goers—and these are the things they are saying behind your back when you’re not in the room (and of course, sometimes to your face). It’s fucking predictable. And you know what? They’re wrong and they’re stupid and they're racist without knowing it, but a blog like this is EXACTLY, EXACTLY what they want to see because it lets them continue to live in their fantasy world.

One more...

Malakim said...

Last misconception/point of clarification:

“Who are you to tell me that this anger, that this feeling, is wrong?”

I already told you in my first post that it’s NOT wrong. It’s as right as the sky is blue and the grass is green, and I try everyday to the best of my ability to comprehend this anger that you and so many others live with daily.

All I am doing is asking you to reconsider the consequences of your actions. Just because anger exists does not mean it needs to be expressed to the world. You may feel oppressed if you don't speak out. You may even feel like an Uncle Tom. But when you go up to your boss and fight for a raise, being angry at him and raising your voice usually doesn’t win you any brownie points. Every human deals with anger, and we all have to decide when and under what circumstances vocally expressing that anger moves us forward or holds us back. Whites in this country are lucky (duh); because of white privilege, they can speak out about whatever the fuck is angering them and not have to worry about the consequences of their actions. You do, Brittany and Kaya, and it's the shittiest Catch-22 I can think of.

So, where we mainly disagree, as far as I can discern, is that you two have decided that making your anger loud and clear can be a worthwhile tactic, whereas I think it (unfortuantely) alienates a huge, huge chunk of people whose support you are gonna need when the "revolution" happens.

Here’s to hoping that I’m the only white person who happens to stumble upon your site anytime soon,


kkrahel said...

I think Brittany answered Mal's question to me very well.

Sorry, Mal, you are not the only white person who has happened to stumble upon this site. However, I am not alienated like you are. Furthermore, I think that the anger (and other emotions) that Kaya/Brittany express here are effective in getting people's attention to important things and relaying the seriousness/important-ness of those things. If they were talking about these things but weren't angry, it only would seem like simple complaining and betray the enormity and urgency of them.

(Plus, I find it more than a little disturbing that you presume that the "huge, huge chunk of [white] people" is needed for anything and that Kaya/Brittany have to address and cater to them.)

Malakim said...

Right Kyle, clearly you just stumbled upon this site and it has nothing to do with the fact that you know half of the posters on this blog. :)

"I think that the anger (and other emotions) that Kaya/Brittany express here are effective in getting people's attention to important things and relaying the seriousness/important-ness of those things."

Yep, well, that's what this blog is going to test, I suppose. Hopefully it will be a successful experiment.

And I agree Kyle, it is "disturbing" that no matter who you are and no matter what your agenda is, you need the support of a huge chunk of white people to get anything done in this country. But that's kind of the sorry state we're in right now, you know? No sense romanticizing the issue; sometimes you have to stoop to conquer.

kaya said...

i do agree that maybe our mission statement could use a little tweaking to fully express all of our complex and nuanced purposes. ;-) we'll get on that.

two things:

1. "Just because anger exists does not mean it needs to be expressed to the world."
- that's precisely what we disagree with. its not about feeling like an "uncle tom" if you don't speak out and speak loudly. i'm not particularly concerned with what people think of me, and this is not about me wanting to feel strong or feel independent. this is about the fact that anger DOES need to be expressed to the world, and currently isn't. and not everyone, as evidenced by this entire conversation with Mal, is willing to take that step and put themselves in this vulnerable position by expressing anger. we're well aware that lots of people will disagree, and that lots of people will read what we have to say and judge us for it. but we're willing to take that risk because we think it's important. hence our clever little tagline. we rage, so you don't have to. although also, we hope that by raging, we'll help you to feel like you can too.

2. "sometimes you have to stoop to conquer."
- dear lord, that is just not true, and that is EXACTLY what makes me so enraged about so many things right now. this whole "sometimes you need to sacrifice for the greater good," whether its pushing women and gay people to the back of the bus during the civil rights movement, or sucking up to a racist, sexist, or homophobic boss so that you can "get ahead" and eventually rule the company and change the world is not only bullshit, it's dangerous. that kind of rhetoric is what makes people complacent in oppression, and newsflash: it's not working. so you can go make your compromises and work your way through this oh-so-wonderful democracy we have going on here and change the world one tiny step at a time, but it's already being done. we're trying something new because your tactic has yet to deliver.

Brittany said...

P.S.- Kyle maybe knows Kaya (through S4S stuff?) but I definitely haven't met him, or at least have only seen him in passing. We're linked to one of the blogs Kyle writes for (I think, S4S, or at least Cambridge common) because of somebody totally different.
Don't assume because- well, y'all know the rest.

Malakim said...

I don't know why "stoop to conquer" gets you so riled up. Maybe you can explain? I see it as a viable tactic for accomplishing change in all sorts of issues; I never even linked the term with issues of race until my last post. And I definitely never regarded it as "dangerous." Can you elaborate? I would argue that someone like Barack Obama stoops to conquer on a daily basis, as well as the vast majority of women, people of color, immigrants, and other marginalized individuals in this nation.

Also, to trivialize the affects of "baby steps" flies in the face of all the progress that has been made in the civil rights arena since, oh, the beginning of time. Do you really expect sweeping changes in your lifetime? I'm content in influencing one individual at a time--and I'm going to start with my misinformed white friends.

Brittany said...

If you see major, blaring ridiculous flaws in the ideology upon which your society (and therefore most of your social interactions) is built, then I think that it's fundamentally problematic for you to "stoop" to working within that system. Working only within the system*** is problematic because it represents a complacency with your subordinate position in that system. In arguing in a specific way I am accepting (and projecting) that particular means of argument and am, in my use of it, legitimizing it.
I think when it comes down to it, it's really a philosophical issue that we have. Our (or really my, I can't speak for Kaya) philosophy lies in being true to ourselves. Additionally, it recognizes that we are at odds with our society and the ideologies that are embedded in it.

***or at least choosing to communicate/express yourself or otherwise deal with issues in a specific set of ways in order to elicit a specific response from a group of people that is purported to be the most important group.

kaya said...

also, i think you made a very odd assumption in using barack obama as an example - the assumption being that i like him. what in what you've read so far on our blog would make you think that i would read your post and think, "oh true, my hero barack obama is always compromising!"

yeah. i don't like him at all. and one of the reasons is the amount of times he has "stooped to conquer." he's going to develop a hunchback if he's not careful.

Malakim said...

I wouldn't want anyone not to be true to themselves. I do think you can still be true to yourself and work the system. That requires a certain level of self-discipline, though. I'm no historian, but some of the most rapid social changes in the modern world have come through people who have worked their way to the top and then enacted radical reforms (legally). I'm thinking Russia's Gorbachev and South Africa's de Klerk, both of whom won the noble peace prize. Then again, you can probably find examples to support your side as well.

Hey, careful there ;) I did not assume you would like Barack Obama. If you want an assumption, I would think somebody like Gravel or Kucinich fit either of your tastes. I just used Obama because I do think he is a good example of somebody who has bought into the system and will soon (hopefully) be in a wonderful position to change it. I think the fact that he "stoops to conquer" is indicative of his cleverness, his elasticity of thought, his ability to understand others' perspectives, or some combination.

Anyway now we're just getting into the nitty-gritty.

Brittany said...

Alright, this "debate" is over. Thank you everybody involved. The moral of the story? We think what we want, and so do you. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we do not, and that is alright. But fundamentally our ideology is probably going to stay the same.

So while we might put up some bit about discourse and theory and whatever in our "description" in this blog (which shouldn't be necessary, if you ask me) all in all our thoughts and how we express them is probably going to stay the same.

Thanks for reading, y'all!

P.S. This will be the last allowed comment on this particular post (sorry, I am a dictator) because I feel like attention can be put elsewhere. Any new comments (yes Kaya, that means YOU) will be taken care of accordingly.