July 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
I am supposed to be loud. When people find out that I am the daughter of immigrants from Latin America, they expect loud. They expect sass and then some. Maybe they get that from me and they are satisfied. I am supposed to be loud, but I am not supposed to be heard. I am supposed to provide the right kind of Latina loudness. The kind that is laughable, almost comforting to the people who can be assured that they are of a higher, more polite and less loud, class. They question my Latinaness, they wonder aloud why my English is so good. They exclaim: “But you don’t look Latina!” So where do I begin my lecture, my crash course on the history of Latin America and the presence of Latinas in the U.S.? How do I begin to discuss the politics of my very existence?
There are things I’m not supposed to be. Sometimes I take pride in my sass, my loud laugh and bursts of enthusiasm. Most of the time, though, I think about what these things cover up. The silence that is louder than the laughs and the Spanglish. The silence that we are forced to carry with us and use as a response to the injustices and the inequality we face everyday. Our silence is supposed to meet the overt sexualization we are subject to, the sass and volume stops when it is time to discuss the conscientious exclusion of our cultural contributions. The brazen charges of “show me your papers” are meant to go without a response.
That’s what’s been bothering me lately, this pressure to move away from the stereotypically contrived notions of what I’m supposed to be as a Latina. Not to mention the pressure to end the silence that I can feel weighing on me. This is why I particularly hate the unfortunately pervasive loud Latina label, or the similarly infuriating sassy Black woman stereotype. This isn’t to say that loudness, sass and enthusiasm aren’t wonderful, but I’m sick of ignoring the silence that we are relegated to. I am especially sick because of the atrocities we are supposed to be silent about. I will not stay silent about the murder of Oscar Grant and I will not stay silent about Embarizona. So I’m trying to learn to speak as loud as I laugh and live outside of the loud Latina paradox that social notions have created for me.
September 5, 2009 § 1 Comment
The musical theatre geek in me would like to extend warm congratulations to Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel, who had their first child this week. Walker Diggs was born on September 2nd (sidenote: Walker was the name my parents had in mind for me if I was a boy!).
I do not extend warm anything to the person who commented on the article, “Black women should be more supportive of their men so they don’t have to go to White women,” nor to whomever was responsible for the death threats sent to the couple in 2004 because their marriage is interracial.
Post-racial, my ass.
July 31, 2009 § 4 Comments
I heard a story on NPR this morning about several Latino-owned businesses in Inwood — many that my friends and I frequent — receiving hateful letters, to the tune of “vermin pigeons,” “speak English,” “stop wrecking my U.S.A.,” and “step down Sotomayor.”
Fernando Mateo, of Hispanics Across America, claims the restaurants have been receiving the letters every couple of months, and he believes owners fear the hateful words might soon turn into violence.
“That somebody may come with a machine gun and shoot-up the area, shoot-up the patrons, you know?” Mateo said. “We don’t want to wait until it escalates into gunfire.”
Jesus Hernandez also owns a restaurant in the area – Mama Sushi. He came to the US from the Dominican Republic at age 14, and worked hard to be able to open his own business seven years later.
Mama Sushi opened eight months ago, and Hernandez said he cannot understand who is targeting his store and the other businesses on the block.
“I don’t have just Latin people coming here,” Hernandez said. “I have black, I have white I have all kinds of people as customers so I can’t point out anybody who would do such a thing.”
Mateo said he will be turning some of the letters over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday for analysis. He has also been in contact with the Department of Justice for Human Rights about the threats.
Obviously I know on an intellectual level that this shit happens all the time, but it’s something completely new to think of hate-motivated violence happening on streets where I walk. Altogether terrible, especially on a community level.
July 13, 2009 § 6 Comments
I’m interested in language, as you might have noticed from my last post on pro-life/anti-choice semantics. You may remember that I have a little series called Language Matters, where I discuss the significance of language in culture, politics, and progress. (Keep in mind that the word “series” is used loosely here, since I’ve only written two posts.) Anyway, this here post can be filed under that category: I want to talk about womanism and feminism.
When I first discovered feminism and came out of the feminist closet, I was amazed and excited by what I naively thought was a perfect, completely inclusive movement. This is probably because I’m very privileged, as women go — cis, currently able, thin, middle-class, white — and my first introductions to contemporary feminism were authored by women within similar demographics. I thought, “Wow! A place where I can totally be myself, and be accepted and respected for my identity!” — and took for granted that all people would feel as comfortable as I did.
So yeah, I’m a bit older and wiser now, have read a bit (though not as much as I need to) about trans people and people with disabilities and people of color’s views on today’s feminism: that it is actually pretty darn exclusive a lot of the time.
I want your insight on how we can acknowledge the ways The Feminist Movement has and continues to fuck up, while still identifying with its goals. Specifically, I’m wondering how I, a white woman, can acknowledge the dire need for womanism without stepping on the toes of women activists of color.
What is your definition of womanism and do you feel that this applies to all across the board?
To me, womanism brings together the importance of men and family to the struggle for gender equality and the experience of women of color that cuts across class, race and gender lines. While I believe that womanism speaks particularly to the black female experience, it is important for men and women of all races to embrace the principles of womanism.
How would you say that womanism differs from feminism and why is it important to you to identify as a womanist rather than a feminist?
Womanism differs from feminism in that it takes account for the experience of women of color. Feminism has been painted as the movement of white middle class women and has excluded women of color and poor women for a long time. It is important to me to identify as a womanist because it means a greater devotion to causes that effect women of color like myself.
In my bio, I identify as a pro-womanist feminist, but I’m shaky on this. I think that it would be inappropriate, as a white woman, to call myself a womanist as one step towards acknowledging the experiences of WOC, and towards acknowledging feminism’s wrongdoings, as such identification infringes upon the right of WOC to have your own label (Melissa McEwan brings this up in the interview comment thread, followed by insight from Renee and Loryn — not sure how to link directly to the comment, but it’s about the fifth one down).
One question, for commenters of all demographics, with particular emphasis on WOC/self-identified womanists: is it fair to call myself a pro-womanist feminist, as a move towards accomplishing these goals? If not, how else can I humbly and respectfully identify myself?
(Sorry if this post is winding and seems to lack purpose. This is a tricky issue, one that’s been marinating in my mind for a while, but I really think dialogue is needed.)
June 24, 2009 § 1 Comment
“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.
— President Richard M. Nixon on January 23, 1973
June 3, 2009 § 4 Comments
This just popped up on my Facebook news feed:
Your friend —– took the What kind of ethnicity should you be dating? quiz and the result is Asian. Chicken Chow Yummy, you just can’t resist those cute little eyes and adorable personalities, can you? =)
Yikes. Chicken chow yummy, for real? Serious racial insensitivity, playing on the stereotype that all Asians have small eyes and are shy and submissive. But there’s also the larger problem of perpetuating the idea that taking a five-question multiple choice online quiz will tell you anything of substance about your sexual, romantic, and interpersonal attractions — and that all people of a certain race are essentially the same.
April 3, 2009 § Leave a comment
Is the hilarious (and heartbreakingly realistic) Derailing For Dummies website.
Just follow this step-by-step guide to Conversing with Marginalised People™ and in no time at all you will have a fool-proof method of derailing every challenging conversation you may get into, thus reaping the full benefits of every privilege that you have.
JUST what I’ve been looking for. Amen. My personal favorite piece of advice is You’re Being Overemotional, a derailing method that’s been used on me just seven trillion too many times. Angry about that rape joke I just made? You must be on your period, Miranda. Lighten up.
The author touches on a particular point that’s been dominating my thoughts recently…
The best part is, you don’t even have to be a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, cissexual, upper-class male to enjoy the full benefits of derailing conversation! Nope, you can utilise the lesser-recognised tactic of Horizontal Hostility to make sure that, despite being a member of a Marginalised Group™ yourself, you can exercise a privilege another Marginalised Group™ doesn’t have in order not to heed their experience!
We’ve been talking about this issue in my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance for a few weeks; big post on that in the works. I’m continually fascinated by the shortcomings of progressive movements – like the historical failure of the mainstream feminist movement to include anyone but elite white women and what the queer justice crowd is willing to get loud about (hint: yes to Prop 8, no to the horrifyingly commonplace murders of trans women of color). It is profoundly disappointing when marginalized groups act oppressively towards other groups. Call me idealistic – I am idealistic.