I’ve been sitting on this post for the past few weeks I haven’t blogged because I needed some time to make sense of things that have been going on. You see, I’ve been in a period of unlearning things and it hasn’t necessarily been an easy process. It has been worth it to find out that some things that were embedded in my mainframe were toxic and there’s a much better way to not only live life but there’s also a better way to interact with others. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be inclusive and I came across this t-shirt on Nasty Gal‘s site that I wanted to have. I have my “Females of the Future” t-shirt from TopShop still but this shirt seems more fitting at this stage in my life. Let’s start with a hard truth shall we?
I haven’t always been inclusive and that was a hard pill to swallow when the thought first crossed my mind. Although I haven’t always verbally said, “you can’t sit with us,” I’ve thought it and my actions definitely have showed it. Luckily I was able to unlearn homophobia at a younger age but I’ve found myself making unsavory comments about people based on their race, weight, skin color, hairstyle, personal style and choice of religion (or the choice to be an atheist). When you’re younger you tend to regurgitate things you hear and see from not only people around you but from society. I’ve had to dig deep and confront myself on the mindset I carried about anyone who differed from me. While I know people only do the best they can, I had to learn to be accountable for the ways I haven’t always made room for others. Other people’s best shouldn’t be a cap for what I can do. When you know better you have the option of doing better and I’ve been choosing that.
Now let me insert a tidbit here because I don’t want there to be any misconceptions. I’m all for learning to make space for myself and others when they make mistakes but patterns of racist, prejudiced, abusive or misogynistic behavior (they are interchangeable) without the willingness to change are not mistakes. They are blatant choices that create a stream of destruction and when one isn’t willing to see where they are wrong, it leaves room for these things to become a part of their psyche.
I have been trying to find the right words to describe how it feels to live in a country where fear mongering and prejudice are a result of the fears that people have about anyone they deem to be different.
Sometimes we, in general, exclude people or things because we don’t understand them and when we don’t understand something we tend to let fear take over. It’s no secret that America has a long history of treating other human beings like animals (mistreatment of Native Americans, slavery, concentration camps, etc.). What I’ll never understand is how some people who hate immigrants with a passion and don’t want them in “their country” forget that their ancestors were immigrants. That America was never theirs to begin with. When America was “discovered,” it already had inhabitants living here. America is truly the land of Native Americans and it was stolen from them by the immigrants seeking a change from Britain. Immigrants who were dissatisfied with what was going on in Britain (Stamp Act and taxation without representation – I mean the Sons of Liberty threw boxes of tea into the Boston Harbor) who wanted a new start and fought for it. Does The American Revolutionary War ring a bell? Thirteen colonies fighting for their independence in the United States of America. The immigrants who are coming here may be facing issues at home that are dangerous and are fleeing to what’s supposed to be a better country in their eyes. Even if they aren’t fleeing from their home, the idea is that America will give them better opportunities and a better life. If we want to talk about criminal activity, let’s be honest here. Anyone is capable of being a criminal. While no one is saying that laws should be broken, where is the justification in detention camps, treating immigrants cruelly and calling them rapists, vermin, murderers and accusing them of stealing our jobs? Don’t some of us gleefully fill up our passport books with trips to other countries for vacations? And don’t some Americans who may have been born right here in this country commit crimes? Someone’s race or origin of birth doesn’t mean they are predestined to be a criminal.
The thing that’s a wake up call is that the immigration “laws” are in fact nothing new. I’d be lying if I said I’ve paid attention to all of the horrors of the world. Division has sank its teeth into many of our hearts. America itself has always done a poor job of treating so called “outsiders” with decency and respect. And sadly the bible has been used to perpetuate this. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Sunday school teacher, used Romans 13 from the bible to justify his “zero tolerance” policy on immigration. The first three verses say, “Let every soul be subject unto higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinace of God: and they that resist shall receive themselves unto damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power…” This country has a long history of “Christians” using the bible to justify their inhumane acts. The bible is set as a standard in Christianity and at times it is used to show that someone has power over others. In Sessions case, he is now being faced with the fact that 640 members of the Methodist church he attends have filed a formal complaint against him. It accuses him of violating church rules on child abuse, treatment of immigrants and more. While this may not move any further, it is imperative that the leaders of this country stop trying to act like the very God they claim ordained them to be in a position of power. Although I could particularly do without some of the things Donald Trump and his Administration have done, they are not the first people to hold positions of power to create room for injustice and inequality.
Sadly it doesn’t just stop there. There are some inclusion issues within the black community too. Now I’m no stranger to the fact black men have been lynched, beaten and shot throughout the history of America. I know that black men make up a large number of the prison system and are often treated like criminals regardless of if they actually aren’t. That black boys are dying in the streets by police in the same country that has a huge Immigration policy issue on it’s hands. That it’s hard for black men in this world. However, I know that black women and black people who identify with the LGBTQIA community suffer too. That sometimes it feels like our pain gets pushed to the side or left out of the conversation all together. As much as black men suffer from racism, black women suffer from both racism and sexism. A double edged sword. And black queer people suffer from racism, sexism and homophobia.
I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I learned that one of The Black Panther Movement leaders, Elridge Cleaver, found himself raping white women and black girls. He started off by “practicing on black girls in the ghetto — in the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day — and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically — though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild and completely abandoned frame of mind.” Those were his EXACT words. When Elaine Brown led The Black Panther Movement in Huey P. Newton’s absence, she made it a point to give black women more roles and found herself facing resistance from some of the men. Of this era, Brown says, “A woman in the Black Panther Movement was considered, at best, irrelevant. A woman asserting herself was a pariah. If a black woman assumed a role of leadership, she was said to be eroding black manhood, to be hindering the progress of the black race. She was an enemy of the black people…” In fact when Huey P. Newton returned from his exile in Cuba, he arranged the beating of member Regina Davis which left her hospitalized with a broken jaw. Don’t we still hear that black women are the reason the black family is broken? That we stifle black men’s growth? That we effeminate our sons?
That’s only scraping the top of the barrel. Regardless of what your personal or religious beliefs are, there is no excuse for the verbal, emotional and physical abuse queer black people experience at the hands of other black people. In August 2016, Rae’Lynn Thomas, who was a black transgender woman, was killed by her mother’s ex-boyfriend. Giovanni Melton, who was only 14 years old, was shot and killed by his father because he was upset about his son’s sexuality. Lives that are discarded by people who are uncomfortable with their sexuality. I could talk about how people tend to make someone’s sexuality about them but that’s another story. We will quickly rally together to point out and take down racists but it seems we’re not always ready to confront the abuse within our own community. Black women and queer black people are told in so many words/actions that we are the mules. That our lives come LAST and are not equally valued as much as a straight black man’s life. That black men have it harder and therefore their pain is more important. It was actually a black woman who told me last year that I should be more concerned with issues that plague the black community more so than feminism. That it’s something created by and for white women. As if I, a black woman, am supposed to choose being black while excluding that I am a woman. It’s not enough to say we need to rally together and rebuild the black community if we are excluding black women and black queer people from the conversation, our unity and compassion.
This is an observation of just some of the inclusion issues I’ve noticed and how reluctant we are to embrace and respect those who differ from us whether based on race, gender, sexuality, religious beliefs (or none at all) and more. I’ve led with fear a good chunk of my life and nothing good ever comes out of it. Being afraid of people because of a few negative experiences can cause you to develop irrational thoughts about people as a whole. While I understand how easy it is for this to happen, at some point accountability has to step into the picture or we allow ourselves to be swallowed by fear that can turn into hate. Both are rampant right here in America. The same mouths who kiss family members and tell them they love them are also the same mouths that curse anyone who differs from what they deem acceptable. Do I believe it’s possible for change to happen? Yes and I’ve never given up on that possibility. It will take time but I don’t think it’s impossible.
I know I can’t save the world by myself nor can I change how other people think. I also know that I’m not always right and I still have things to unlearn myself. But I can keep working on being more inclusive and remembering to be compassionate. If I can maybe spark hope in at least one person who then goes on to do the same in someone else, it’s a start. I don’t care about one race or gender being superior to the other because I don’t believe in human beings ruling over each other. We’re all trying to figure out how to navigate life and the last thing any of us needs is another person running around trying to lead or rule over others based on closed minded thoughts or internal battles.
List of Organizations To Donate To
This is the longest post I’ve ever written but it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. I cannot stand that we view each other as disposable things who can’t be included in each other’s worlds. And if we are included then we have to “know our place.” If you want to help and become more involved in making a change, I will list organizations below that you can research and choose to donate to or get involved with:
- Texas Civil Rights Project
- Refugee and Immigrant Center For Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Young Center For Immigrant Children’s Rights
- Women’s Refugee Commission
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence + The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Partnership Against Domestic Violence
- Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
- NO MORE
- National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
- Human Rights Campaign
- The Ali Forney Center
- Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders
- The Trevor Project
- Native American Rights Fund
- National Congress of American Indians
- American Indian Higher Education Consortium