let me tell you how east asians (including filipinos but excluding those indigenous to the land) piss me off. for so many of them, pretending to be black+hoodraised is a serious ass hobby. and nobody wanna talk about it but i’m gonna say it ok. that shit pisses me off. and it pisses me off even…
(inter)community accountability: addressing anti-black racism in “poc” communities and challenging “us”/”them” conversations
i’m really tired of dark-skinned folx and light-skinned, self-identified folx of color participate in anti-black racism without any accountability. like, literally, tired. exhausted. not to say that witnessing anti-black racism is in any way shape or form comparable to experiencing anti-black racism, but i am, still, at the end of the day, after everything else going on, am recognizing the need to address the uncomfortable elephant in the room. i am speaking out against anti-black racism as someone that has been called racist. i am speaking out as someone that is in the process and will always be in the process of confronting internalized racism, colorism and other forms of violence. i am speaking out as an ally. i hear and witness and experience white folx being racist and my skin has already become thick and worn, but within spaces that are labeled as “of colour” or “queer” or “activist” or “revolutionary” or “radical” or whatever - these so-called “safe” spaces (http://feministing.com/2009/08/12/there-are-no-safe-spaces/) - it hurts. it hurts from the inside out. in any room full of unicorns, there is still elephants so few people seem to want to address.
on topics of anti-black racism, i often get things like, “i grew up in ____ with black friends,” or, “i can’t be racist towards other poc,” or, “are you calling me white? don’t invisibilize me/my hstory!” (especially common among light-skinned folx of colour or Jewish folx).
i understand the complexities of our identities, but like many others have discussed (http://blackgirldangerous.org/new-blog/2013/3/21/whats-wrong-with-the-term-person-of-color), the term “people of color” or “communities of color” is perhaps a too loosely used umbrella term that implies we all experience the same oppressions. but … we don’t. please stop using the “poc” umbrella. as folx of ethnic and cultural hstories and along the spectrum of colored skin, our struggles may stem from similar roots of imperialism and globalization of capitalism and militarism, but as a southeast asian persn, i can’t claim that my refugee and diaspora reality in the states is synonymous with the colonial hstory of black communities, with deep roots against slavery and, presently, mass incarceration. i can’t appropriate that colonial hstory. i shouldn’t, and it makes me really uncomfortable when other’s do. our struggles are different. our realities are different. my trauma is unique from your trauma. my generational trauma is unique from your generational trauma. as a 2nd-generation, vietnamese-amerikkan, i can’t deny how whiteness has shaped my imagination, access, privileges and daily life, just like how i can’t deny how my amerikkanness demands accountability and responsibility, regardless of my skin color, ethnic and cultural hstory. simply put, my oppression does not excuse me from oppressing others or perpetuating oppression against others, and my identities don’t disengage the systematic privileges i obtain.
i hope we begin confronting anti-black racism within our communities. as we participate in the fight to dismantle racism and white supremacy outside of our communities - outside of these blurry, often inadequately complex boundaries that we use, our ethnic and cultural heritage does not excuse us from participating in and facilitating anti-black racism and other forms of inter-“poc”-community violence. it’s not just an “us” (“poc”) vs. “them” (white folx) - especially considering the massive migration, displacement and diasporic consciousness of folx nowadays, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural folx, bi-racial adoptees, etc. mimicking “post-racial” “colorblindness” within our own communities is too dangerous and, to me, feels like racism manifesting itself in a sneaky, toxic form. we need to cut it, from the root, under our feet, as we address it around us. similarly to the article linked above (“there are no safe spaces”), we need to start having more accountable spaces. until then, how can we demand state and institutional accountability if we can’t be accountable to each other? it’s not just about calling the “other” out - it’s about being responsible ourselves and checking in with ourselves and others about our actions, conversations and implications. anti-back racism within “poc” communities is part of a broader issue of inaccessibility and other’ing. while we confront those that generationally, systematically and directly hurt us, we need to address the trauma that shapes us to hurt those around us. while we go on ambitious and passionate quests to “educate,” “advocate” and “resist,” we need to support and listen to those that have been/are hurt and have less/no access to these mobilities. we need to be accountable to ourselves, and to those around us. self care must be tied to community care, when able.
as bell hooks says in Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black, “It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist – the potential victim within that we must rescue – otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation.”
for example, as a persn with a hstory of medical institutionalization, hospitalizations and trauma in spaces that are centered around alcohol and drugs, as well as a bilingual English-speaking persn with masculine privileges, able-bodied privileges, access to citizenship status and other things, i understand that i am as much struggling against violences and multiple barriers to services, as i am able to and an agent of perpetuating the very violences that violate me. we must not forget that we are not only agents of change, revolution and resistance, but of hurting others and perpetuating systems of violence and oppression. to me, that is, in itself, a huge resistance: to be humble, responsible and symbiotic in our actions and imagination, we break the individualistic, glamorized idea of “social justice” that academia and activist spaces reinforce. let’s not be like the white saviors.
like many before me, i am ready to take the plunge. i am committed. i know that the Bay Area and cyberspace is a sort of “hot-spot” for transformative justice, but we can have these conversations, too. Sacramento, 510, central cali, little saigon - i’m ready. where ya’ll at. leggo.
let’s start talking about the implications of appropriating “ratchet” (http://feministing.com/2013/03/28/lets-get-ratchet-check-your-privilege-at-the-door/). let’s start talking about the consumption and trivialization of “being black” (http://locatinglysippe.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/bh-selling-hot-pussy.pdf). and while we’re at it, more broadly, let’s talk about ways to talk. let’s talk about ways to talk that are accessible to our gia dinh and familia back home and over seas. let’s talk about sober and clean spaces (http://fabianromero.tumblr.com/post/36502463875/sober-spaces-and-accessibility-in-the-queer-community), scent-free spaces, physically-accessible and light-sensitive spaces. let’s talk about justice that transforms us and shifts us away from the elitism of academia and individualism, where we can take the “knowing,” “PC,” “educated” glasses off, to learn, share and be humble. let’s have generational dialogue - and i’m not just talking about migrant generations, but queer and trans* generations. let’s talk to elders and youth.
these (inter)community micoaggressions cut too deeply and add salt to the wounds we already face on a daily basis, as queer, trans*, undocumented, different abled, neurodiverse, elder, sex-working, addicted, migrant, and/or poor, folx. we can be and should be allies in our own shape and form. we can support each other in ways that don’t hurt and violate each other. it’s not just black and white. anti-black racism is just one layer … misogyny, ableism and inaccessibility are all poisonous - especially when ingested. how do we talk about systems of privilege, power and oppression in ways that go beyond oppressor/oppressed, and recognize that we are all, in complicated layers, agents in hurting, wounding, violating others and ourselves, as much as we are agents in supporting, healing, empowering and nourishing ourselves and others? let’s talk about it. then do some things about it. collaborate on it.
in closing, to embrace, mia mingus has said: “all the best analysis is worthless if we don’t know how to treat each other well.”
for a few weeks, i was having very visceral cravings for meat - specifically salmon. i was having dreams about eating salmon and swimming in rivers. this hasn’t happened to me in years. especially this intensely. as someone who lives a diet of đồ ăn chay, i initially disregarded these feelings and dreams. as someone that is committed to daily rituals of cleansing, spirituality and checking in with my self, however, i realized that trivializing these feelings is a little irresponsible and hint at a broader hierarchizing of diets. just because i am craving meat, does not mean i am inherently having a “bad” craving or needing a “cheat” day. i trust my body more than that. i trust my spirit. so, i am thankful for my dear house mate, Andrew, for hearing me. he has a similar cultural and communal relationship to food and cooking as i do, so there were no judgements, and i felt very safe. we had a connected moment in the kitchen and he told me, “trust your self.”
i watched him eagerly offer to prepare salmon for me - “just the way my ma makes it. she showed me how.” he biked out to seek the perfect salmon. he got the herbs to season it. he prepared a delicious dinner and when the time came, served the salmon onto three dishes: one for him, one for me, and one for jo. i savored every little bite last night and am still feeling lingering feelings of nourishment.
reflecting on that meal and process of cooking and loving today, i realize that even as a vegetarian/vegan, i don’t always consciously give as much respect to the grains, greens and nuts i eat primarily, as i did to the salmon - as i saw him give to sharing that salmon. that seems contradictory. i am recognizing that the greens i have been nurturing in the garden and the nuts and grains i buy from the store are as much full of life as a fish, and deserve just as much love. they may not have blood, but real peoples lives and blood have been part of the process of producing, cultivating, packaging, shipping and selling them. blood has not touched my mouth in years, but only indirectly. i am recognizing that all food is filled with blood.
i am feeling a shift in my diet and relationship to food as i try to live a life that is most conscious of productions and consumption. wherever it goes, i know that i’m going to eat each future meal as i did that salmon meal - slowly, thankfully and hopefully, among friends and lovers. i am determined to cook each meal as andrew did that meal, and most meals i see him prepare for himself and others - intentionally, carefully, lovingly and openly.
I am a queer Chican@ Immigrant and a chronically ill person with able bodied privilege.
Being sober means that I rarely ever go out to clubs or events unless I can drag along a sober friend. I have gone out before without that support and I end up feeling overwhelmed and panicky. I need at least a friend with me that will agree to not drink or use substances while we spend time together. In the past this has saved me by knowing that I have someone to be accountable to (I will stay sober) and that I have someone that understands when I feel tempted or miss drinking and using.
Tonight I went dancing. My body missed it so much. I did my awkward shuffle, my cumbia inspired body movements and let my arms relax into the music. It was 90’s dance night at a small club. On the dance floor were awkward people trying to dance while balancing drinks on their hands, bad lip synching, or standing in the middle of the dance floor and talking loudly over the music. It was refreshing to see so many people dancing. We left right as it got crowded, our strategy for limiting time around drunk people.
I went with my sober white friend, I joke that she is the only person in the world that wears crocs but she isn’t. She is however one of the few people I really spend time with in Seattle. Seattle is very white and although the people of color community here is tight, most of us are introverts spend a lot of time alone and only hang when at events centered around alcohol or drugs.
this, so much …
i remember the overwhelming anxiety of going out. the trivializing looks of why i passed on beer, parties, socials, fundraisers, etc.
as a recovering drug addict that still struggles with alcoholism, i wish there was more loving conversations around accessibility within our communities. sober and clean spaces are not only accessible for those of us in recovery, but as fabian points out, it facilitates all-ages spaces for youth as well. it’s really a very radical thing. sober and clean spaces are part of “safer spaces” as well as a broader, much-needed conversation around ableism, accessibility, wellness and community care.
reading fabian’s post is churning some old, sad memories from a few years ago, when i was out of my first long-term rehabilitation and could not find any sober and clean spaces to go within the local queer community.
let me paint the picture: prior to this rehabilitation, i was often carried out of parties, over the shoulders of elder queers, because i was high, drunk and undeniably suicidal. i remember too vividly the many occasions younger folx around me were pressured to drink or smoke … and then have seizures, anxiety attacks, delusions and other bodily (i would go as far as to say, for me, that i have a psychological allergy) allergic reactions. too much. it works for some, but not for me. i don’t even want to get started on the consumption culture of “castro gay.” it leaks into our queer and trans* communities.
and, i do want to explain to prevent misinterpretation, that i am not criminalizing substances. i believe in autonomy. i know many that use herbs and the like for self care, decompression and healing, as well as many that use herbs for ceremonial and ancestral practices. chuc mung. celebrations, i understand. i feel safe around. but, there were so many times when others choice (and ability to choose) to drink, smoke weed, etc. triggered and endangered me. with jail, more institutionalization, relapse and trauma hanging over me and festering inside of me, there is a two-year gap in which queer and trans* folx in the davis (where i went to undergraduate studies and am often at nowadays) don’t know me. that is because i was not only being institutionalized day-in and day-out, but because on the days i was “free” to go as i please, i could not find any sober and clean qt/poc spaces. i ultimately was barricaded from the very communities i yearned for, while i was surrounded by anti-queer and racist doctors, shrinks, officers, etc.
while i longed to reconnect with queer and trans* family after being so violated in psych wards and rehabs, i absolutely needed to stay clean and sober. i needed to stay clean and sober because another strike and i would’ve been sent to jail. i needed to stay clean and sober because i was appealing to re-enter school. i needed to stay clean and sober to deal with my own internalized trans* phobia, fatphobia and pains. alcohol and other substances only set fuel to the pain that killed me inside and sent me to psych wards and rehabs. i was in that liminal space - the space between queer and trans* spaces with drinking and/or using, and the pre-dominantly white “recovery” community that has a colorblind and utopic “we are all the same thus we all must follow the same steps to recovery” view. to say the least, after two years of not finding enough homage in recovery communities, i “relapsed.”
like i told fabian, “relapse” is too simple a word to fully explain the complex circumstances that lead to my decision/leaving of the recovery community. while i was staying clean and sober, i was unrooted. i could not talk about spiritual recovery, while not talking about misogyny, oppression, racist trauma, etc. i needed holistic healing - empowering recovery - transformative justice.
it has been about two years since i turned away from the “recovery” community, and, i have stayed clean. no meth, no coke, no hallucinogenics, no opiates. as proud as i am of those “clean and sober” tags, i hold them with sad eyes. it has been about two years. it has taken me two years to re-root into the queer and trans* community, the diaspora, the communities i am from. it has also cost me sobriety. like fabian, i relate to the intense fatigue of navigating the inaccessibility of non-sober spaces. connections lost. i wonder, often, as those tags lay in a small box above my bed, how much community organizing i would have been able to do these last two years if i had stayed clean and sober. i don’t want it to be a trade off anymore.
fabian’s post comes to me like a gift. my drinking is minimal nowadays, but i don’t know how long that will last. who knows when my next manic or depressive episode will just spark the wrong, horrible formula.
i want to embrace and share my story. i wanted to write this in honor of my family and dear friends that have passed from overdosing, addiction, homelessness, suicide … maybe the few others that will read this will know that there are others of us as well - other brown bois, queer and trans* folx, unicorns, that are living in recovery and need recovery. the only option is not the bleached painting too often offered. for myself, as someone living with mental (ch)illnesses and able-bodied privilege, recovery is calling me back, and i am coming back armed with wisdom and community support.
monday morning musings: the “end” of the first project, and the continuation of a life in resistance
after about two years, a research position with the uc davis department of sociology is coming to a close. it was not only also a personal, first glance into academic processes of publishing, but the most emotionally stimulating “werk” i have had the blessing to collaborate with. as a transnational qualitative research project, my “amerikan-ness” was thrown at my face as well as so many issues of acculturation and authenticity. i’m sure other diaspora can relate to this on some level. this research position re-cemented my commitment to humility, flexibility and imagining/embracing beyond u.s. systems. it basically confirmed many personal then-only-theoretical politikal alliances into soulful realities that made absolute sense when sung alongside cultural hxstory and the intergenerational dialogues on living.
in the beginning, i was told by several older folx and mentors that as i dive into reppin’ viet (LGBTQ) diaspora in academia, i will eventually meet “everyone,” because our community is so small. this was often said with a mixture of knowing, sad and hopeful undertones. be it small numerically (and i’m not necessarily complaining, because maybe that’s a good thing. uc academia is so bureaucratic), but werking with other vietnamese (lgbtq) diaspora researchers, activists, professors, artists, performers, etc. is creating bridges and healing wounds among self understanding, community connection and cultural consciousness. and, i have also only scratched the surface of the viet (lgbtq) diaspora in cyberspace (tumblr, ahem). it doesn’t feel so small anymore. as i meet more and more people and am exposed to vietnamese literature, it actually feels so, so vast …
yesterday, i went to a vietnamese lgbt meeting in my home town. i can’t even begin to describe the joys seeing vietnamese lgbtq diaspora organizing, educating, working, living, smiling, laughing … brings me. i cried during the meeting. i don’t hide my pain, struggles. they’re beautiful. i cried as an “ally” mother told me her dream of parental support of lgbtq children - parental and community celebration and love for each other. i don’t know where i’m going to be in a few years, but that is the exact moment i want to share: a moment in which two then-strangers can look at each other, speak to each other, cry, and love each other through an indescribable common pain, vision and hope that may not be the same, and will actually probably be quite unique of each other, but nevertheless stem from the same intrinsic, shared cultural and spiritual path.
with that in mind and fists in the air, publishing seems so trivial. it all gets wrapped up in a paper with names itched in little letters, decorating the deep, deep stories from elders - told sometimes hysterically and sometimes in whispers, and otherwise unsaid - for hungry eyes to ingest, white tongues to regurgitate, systems to misinterpret… i guess “research” is really just that - it’s just looking, again, and is necessitated to “expand existing” systems of knowledge. so what is “radical” research but just re-confirming what “we” already know, because “radical” means “from the root”? it’s nothing new. there’s no discoveries. searching for discoveries seems so … eh. sometimes, it feels more like harm reduction and working towards representative advocacy and education. i guess that’s why re-claiming is so powerful. it’s so hard to do because we (diaspora in the u.s.) are chained to weights of elitism and individualism. to me, then, it’s not about the next big “discovery,” but about whether or not i accept the challenge of subversive werk that fuels the complexities of privilege, diaspora, intersectionality and embodiment. i recognize the need for humility and autonomy, as well that our struggles are not the same, although overlapping. i want all of the “re’s” to be more like “we’s,” if that makes any sense. more we-search, more we-sources. more intense moments of healing, empowerment and identity … that is intergenerational, multilingual (see, because we vietnamese have deep roots in france, china, etc.) and loving. i don’t know if i can find all of that in academia, but i’m starting to feel more prepared for the challenges now, than ever.
as i continue onto another research project and soon, the msw program at berkeley, i’m nervous, but knowing that i’m supported by ancestral wisdom, instincts not to be ignored and comrades makes it a little less shakey. reflecting on the last few days, being able to hear lgbtq gia dinh (family) speak in our native tongue, across our diverse spectrum regional dialects, mixing with english described as “broken,” but to me, made more beautiful as they were painted in vibrant accents .. this, alongside the few days i had with my gia dinh in little saigon, has refueled me to with fervor to continue onward.
now, to jog, and process, and then have lunch with my ma, before i return to davis and the bay area ….
Samhita Mukhopadhyay (via wretchedoftheearth)