— Amoja Three Rivers
I’ve been reading several popular YA novels lately and there has been one thing in common with them that I can’t help but notice.
The characters regardless of how adorable, triumphant, sweet, heroic, funny or personable they may be, regardless of how beautiful their names & personalities may seem always somehow end up being shadowed by the authors own issues; including racism.
A series I read recently was so wonderful and enthralling except for some very poorly written secondary characters who where simply there as comic relief. The issue though was that this comic relief wasn’t due to their personality, their jokes or even some sort of fumbling physical humor like being clumsy or having a bucket of paint fall on them at an unfortunate time; it was based on their race.
In Chanda Hahn’s UnEnchanted series, the main characters are white and the only characters who are prominent (though not main characters) are the main character’s landlord’s who happen to be Chinese and own a Chinese restaurant.
There is such a horrific difference in the care that is taken to develop the the main characters and the complete disregard and disrespect for the secondary characters that I couldn’t help but have to put down the book down a few times.
Their specific dialogue is written phonetically with a racist flare in how I suppose the author believes Chinese people sound like. There are scenes where the main character is having a sort of date in their restaurant and they are used as a comical backdrop doing “weird” things.
Somehow they are supposed to be nurturing and loving to this family who consists of a single mother and her two children yet, are strange and funny because they aren’t white.
I don’t plan on buying any of her other books in this series.
It gets more than annoying when white characters in books are described in a million words and non-white characters are immediately written with their race (eg: “Chinese woman who we lived above”)
It’s always interesting to see the almost subconscious thought process of an author who writes as if her entire audience thinks in the same mindset as her. White characters are never described as “white” or even “european” but any non-white characters are immediately othered.
Such a huge problem in fiction, even YA fiction.
Don’t get me started on how the covers must grace a thin young white woman regardless of the characters inside the cover.
Sing Your Song: A Documentary
A documentary about the life, art and work of Harry Belafonte an important artist and civil rights activist.
It is told from his perspective and begins with his life as a young boy in New York and his being raised in Jamaica and his return and life in Harlem in his teens.
Intense, raw and poignant. From his world travels, art, acting and civil rights work.
Currently playing on HBO.
Click here for an interview at Democracy Now
Transcript of the interview available here.
I was walking out of Walmart and there was a black gentleman asking for donations for a local homeless & battered women/children shelter.
I don’t have much but I usually donate if I have some change. I donated a dollar. A few other people stopped to donate as well (all white, I say this because it’s pretty vital to what happened next) and went along their way.
We talked a little bit and I was walking across the parking lot with my mom to our car and a car to our left stopped and a man inside waved us to go across with a little smile.
How nice I thought, said thanks and smiled back and walked across and as our back is turned I heard the car stop.
I didn’t turn around until I heard:
MA’AM! in an increasingly louder tone.
I cautiously turned and thought, maybe they want directions?
Inside the vehicle were two white men. Shaved heads and hipster dressed the one driving was visibly mad.
I mean real mad looking.
It scared me. He had a sort of I want to bash someone’s brains in look in his eyes and his nostrils were flaring.
I kind of froze and he yelled at me
Next time before you donate you better do your damn research! Finger pointing and a part of me just couldn’t process for a minute and I said
What the hell does that mean?
And he repeated it again louder and way scarier and floored it way too close to us
Once again (like a previous incident) people were watching but did nothing.
I was freaked out and left standing there thinking what the hell just happened?
I’m honestly wondering how little thought some white folks can put in to what they do.
Why? Why, why, why, why would you ever think it is a good idea to isolate two visibly brown women in a predominantly white area and harass them but not the other people who were donating?
On top of it, be seriously condescending in your preconceived notions?
I feel so icky right now.
And I hate hate hate that this is the nearest Walmart to our house and that this is still considered the bay and this is the second incident that has made me feel so upset and unsettled.
If you’ve been following me for a while you all know of the first where Walmart employees followed my mother and I while we shopped the clearance rack and then made a spectacle as if we were stealing at the cash register.
I’m thoroughly disgusted and I wish I hadn’t froze this time.
I wish my brain didn’t have cruddy immune issues fog and I could have processed what was happening better.
I feel so gross and embarrassed by what happened.
tw: anti-black racism, abuse against children, missing children
Sh______ was my best friend when I was young and in American elementary school.
She was much taller than me, had the most amazing laugh, big teeth with a gap in the front like mine, she wore clothes I adored but couldn’t fill out with my tiny body and most of all, she made me laugh and feel at home.
I loved her so much and at the time, I really needed a best friend. She felt like a miracle who magically appeared at the perfect time.
How she became my best friend is this:
One day a whole group of light skinned latinas made fun of me and called me burnt, ugly and an india as I attempted to play with them. She saw me crying because I felt so betrayed and I just wanted to play on the big metal dome and have friends.
It felt like she came out of nowhere. She grabbed my hand and kicked the most popular latina girl in the shin and walked away with me; leaving all the other girls screaming angrily behind us.
And that was it. Afterwards, we were inseparable for the years before she went missing.
I didn’t truly understand why the latin@s around me would stare and glare with mean mugging expressions when they saw us walking in to the playground or how their mothers would click their tongues and say words like m***** (a racist term in Spanish for black I’d rather not type out) when referring to her and how could MY mother ever let me have such friends. *tsk tsk tsk*
Inside, I didn’t fully get it then but I was surrounded by that hate. I had heard so many anti-black comments filled with stereotypes: thieves, hoodlums, gangsters, uneducated, don’t talk to them, don’t be friends with them
my best friend was one of “them” and I pushed those thoughts out over and over again.
Whenever she heard anyone say something she’d roll her eyes and say “stupid”. I thought she didn’t let anything get in, none of the shitty racist comments or stares but now, in perspective, I’m sure that was not the case.
In the years that we were friends, we shared a lot. I shared with her more than I had ever shared about my home life with anyone. She told me about hers and her horrible stepfather who hurt her in more ways than she could put in to words and her mom who was always working to make sure they were okay.
Our hurts were not the exact same but there were a lot of criss crossings where they were very similar and we got it. Didn’t really need to explain and we’d run around playing tag and sometimes being mean and leaving the person who was playing hide and go seek with us to keep seeking until the end of the bell because we were eating sour gummy worms behind the baseball diamond where you weren’t allowed to play anyway.
We’d link our pinkies and make up stupid stories about being celebrities, who our future husbands would be, how we’d say whatever to marriage and make tons of money and wear glitter in our hair and purple lipstick and drive off in a giant pink car with as many bags of sour worms as we wanted.
One thing about being best best friend was: we never ever ever told on each other. Especially, about the home life.
When things got worse for her, she started to cry almost every time we talked. I hugged her as hard as I could over and over. My reaction was never to tell an adult because we both knew that many times, that always made things worse.
One day, she told me she was going to run away. She had said it before but this time I knew it was different. She was serious. Her voice was low and she looked me straight in the eyes. She said she wanted to kill her stepdad and she needed to get away.
I hugged her the hardest I had ever hugged a person and we both cried behind the baseball diamond where no teachers ever came and I felt like a part of me was being ripped out. She gave me a letter with pretty doodles all over it.
It didn’t have any details but it said she needed to go and she didn’t know where but she had packed up and that night was it and to never ever ever give this letter to cops because they’d only put her in a group home before she could leave.
When I came home my stomach was fluttering, a cop car was coming down the street and I went straight to the bathroom before anyone could suspect anything. I folded the letter until it was a tiny square and stuck it in to my sock.
My father was home. It only made things worse, my stomach cramping and the cops asking if I knew where she went: no. If she told me who was helping her: no. So many questions and I was honest until they asked if she had given me anything before she left: no.
When her mom talked to me at school and I saw her face and her eyes that looked so much like Sh_______’s I fell apart. I handed her the letter and she crumpled in front of me and said thank you baby, this isn’t much but I didn’t know about what he’d done to her until that night. She left me a letter too. Don’t worry you’re not in trouble.
I didn’t care anymore if I was in trouble or not it was that she was.
I didn’t know where she was.
I still don’t know where she went. Around this time, I think about her and my eyes still water and I wish so hard that one day I see her and when I yell out her name she’ll turn around.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to speak English in this country. What it means for people to DEMAND you speak English, what it means to be profiled as a non-english speaker and the lack of human respect racists assume you deserve because of it.
More specifically, I’ve been thinking about our responsibility as a community to talk about instances like this and to actually DO something.
Let me tell you a story:
One day, my mother and I were heading in to a bank. Bank of America to be exact and inside, I darkly laugh a little at the name now.
It was a pretty day, we had just had sandwiches, we were drinking water and laughing. We were talking about something funny that had happened at her school during break between ESL classes and typing class. We were speaking in Spanish as we always do.
Directly in front of us on this very narrow sidewalk, there was a very elderly woman walking toward our direction. She was being helped by someone that I soon found out was her son. He was very tall, in his late 50’s or 60’s and they were both white.
I moved to the left side of the side walk to give them room and my mother had already moved to the side of a small shrubbery.
"SOME people have no FUCKING respect! Can’t move when you see someone can you?!"
He said that in an angry and condescending voice to my mother whose face immediately turned red in shock.
"What can’t speak English you stupid bitch?!"
It took me a minute to comprehend what was happening but the almost palpable hate was very hard to even process.
I turned around immediately as he walked by with his mom who seemed to not really process what was happening, sort of singing a little song to herself and smiling at the floor.
"YES, we do speak English you racist piece of shit! You should be ashamed of yourself! Did your mother teach you to speak that way?"
I couldn’t hold in the rage and at the moment I had looked around to assess the situation and there were a lot of people present in front of that bank. Almost all were staring but doing not a single thing.
A few white folks looked ashamed and some were blushing with gaping faces and shaking heads.
"She is my mother! And if she was all right in her head I’m sure she’d tell you fucking wetbacks to go back to Mexico! Dumb broad!"
"Wow, FUCK YOU! What a big man you are to be yelling at two women half your size! REAL FUCKING PROUD American! Racist shit!"
With those exchanges, my blood was boiling. My mom was shaking and breathing hard.
In that moment, I didn’t think hard about what other people think, if the cops would be called, I just thought about my mother.
My mother who spends hours with her head bent over English grammar books, who makes hundreds of flash cards that get used so much that the edges become soft like cloth; the woman who is studying hard to pass the citizenship test in English all at the same time.
I thought about how painful it is for her to have someone make fun of her accent, to mock her choppy grammar, to hurl misogynist, racist insults all wrapped up in the belief that she is not worthy of this country because she doesn’t speak English how she should.
At this moment I think about how my Mother made the extremely (at the time) stigmatized decision that her kids would be allowed to speak Spanish REGARDLESS of the educational system wanting them to be English speakers only first and foremost. She strongly believed they could hold on to their native language and learn a new one; that it wasn’t Un-American, that they were intelligent, that they deserved to have that right.
I think about how this morning right after breakfast she sat at the computer for two hours straight doing grammar exercises and writing down the questions she got wrong on a piece of paper to study later.
How I sat there with her going through the paper and patiently speaking them outloud with her while she laughed awkwardly when she chopped up the pronounciation of a word; still feeling ashamed when I asked her if she’s been practicing having English conversations outside of the house.
When I watch my mother take a deep breath and nervously have a conversation with my little brothers friends’ mom or scream an obscenity back at a racist; I see it as a positive step. I know her voice is just as important as those who don’t struggle with the language and it literally being out there matters.
Regardless, of the place people’s opinions and demands that you be a true American by speaking perfect English came from, in the end it is never a good place.
I refuse to stand silent when someone attempts to demean a person, mock their grammar, pronounciation or anything of the sort because in doing so you are giving them more power.
Some days, when racist things take place and my insides just feel out of sorts I can’t help but think, where are the allies?
Where are you community? And why are we so afraid to stand next to each other and say, hell no!
darrylayo said: That’s a terribly limiting view. It puts people of color and women of color into provincial boxes and proclaims that they do not experience complex fears. Not true.
When Audre Lorde stated this quote; it was to actually bring intersectionality in to what was a limited view of parenting in feminist theory which gave no regards to race, hence the “greatest” fear of being that your kids will grow up to join patriarchy.
It is the opposite of a limited view. In it she is not proclaiming that parents of color don’t have complex fears or experiences; she is actually bringing forth real fears which were in the forefront for parents of color/ women of color with children which were and in many ways continue to be disregarded/ignored by mainstream feminism.
Meaning, POC parents’ greatest fear is not that their kids would grow up to be misogynists but that they will be murdered, beaten or assaulted for not being white.
Her quote in particular is about racist hate based murders of black men and boys which still continue on to this day.
It is one sentence out of a much larger essay.
It was taken out of a foreword written by Nancy K. Bereano (a white feminist) who quoted her in context to her own experiences about being ignorant to the complexities of being a parent of color and how Audre Lorde’s writing’s in particular should be essential readings for any feminist; especially white feminists to get a grasp of what it means to work with feminists of color and achieve cross cultural understandings which are sorely needed in feminism.
I could go on but to be honest, you should read the foreword to get a better sense of context and understanding for everything I’ve just stated. Without reading Audre Lorde’s writings or even this small foreword, it is extremely hard to understand the importance of this quote.
I’m not sure if you are a person of color or a parent of color, but I can tell you that these continue to be real fears for parents of color, even more so for black parents in particular. I can say that looking at that quote and reading it hits somewhere deeply true.
It’s on the foreword on page 277 of the PDF HERE.
— Audre Lorde, commenting on the racial differences in parenting as feminist/womanist parent of color in our society.
I had been teeter tottering about deleting my facebook a couple of years back.
I was getting fed up with the lack of privacy, the feeling that people used Facebook primarily for slight-stalker tendencies, comparing themselves and loads of other not so healthy activities.
After getting really sick, it quickly became too much. Some fake sympathy from people I hadn’t talked to in forever followed by invasive questions asking for details I didn’t feel comfortable giving. Resentments following my lack of being an open book.
I kept teeter tottering. I kept thinking, if the people who love me & are my friends are really there, I don’t NEED facebook right?
I kept hanging on until one day a young white woman I knew from high school who had already said several casually racist things in her status’ posted:
Yay! Las Vegas time!! So glad I got that financial aid check! Can’t wait to spend it this weekend!
I looked at that status and re-read it because it was so messed up. I couldn’t help but think how many times I had heard racist shit like “brown/black people go to college for free!” And all the myths about how much FREE money was just you know, piling up and drowning all sorts of people of color in our country.
I thought about folks who were undocumented and couldn’t get financial aid.
Looking at that status pissed me off. I wasn’t the only one, several people called her out and told her how wrong it was and how would she pay for school.
Her response: her family was paying for school so she didn’t need ALL that money! She payed taxes so whatever, get over it.
At that moment, I was certain I was absolutely over Facebook.
Facebook was like having Yahoo! article comments & Youtube commentary in my face daily.
I closed my account and never looked back.
I have all of the photographs I need to remind me of good times, I have a phone, e-mail and I don’t need validation from far away acquaintances.
Closing my Facebook was one of the best decisions I ever made.
“When you were talking about the caste system, I was thinking about how Mexicans still have to come to terms with this in our own culture. We spoke earlier about the castas paintings that were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Mexico. The Spanish, establishing a form of racial apartheid, delineate the fifty-three categories of racial mixtures between Africans, Indians, and the Spanish. And they have names, like tiente en el aire, which means stain in the air; and salta otras, which means jump back; or mulatto, a word that comes from mula, the unnatural mating between the horse and the donkey. “Sambo” is now a racial epithet in the US, but it was first used as one of the fifty-three racial categories in the castas paintings.”
-Amalia Mesa-Bains, Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism
This is the first in a new segment of articles addressing the WWE’s prejudice, racism and preference for all things Caucasoid. That’s right this is where I loose followers for talking about how much the WWE loves to make things as close to white as possible, while trying to make sure that…
For all the wrestling fans out there! A series on critically viewing & watching popular wrestling on TV. Racism, sexism and more. Check it out.
I’m turning off submissions and anonymous messages again.
There has been an influx of not so cute racist messages AND submissions.
I <3 you all but some of you share my posts on Facebook and I suppose, I don’t even need to say it but you shouldn’t be surprised that people will come from there and send me things like pictures of… I just realized I am not even going to describe it.
Anyway, for my own health and sanity. They are off. And those IPs are blocked.
I know where they are coming from but I ask that in the future if I turn on submissions and anon; please be careful that when you share on facebook it isn’t necessarily shared to everyone.
Also, I just found the source of some of the problematic messages I’ve been getting. Someone on pinterest thought it would somehow rid them of any accountability to add one of my articles to a pin of Dia De Los Muertos makeup. Something about them being called out before and feeling they should include it even though they’ll do it anyway? Then something about dressing as a pinata for Halloween.
It’s interesting the people that will go out of their way to send me messages.
You are not covert.
tw: racism, child physical abuse
I was watching a case on We The People, one of those TV court room shows that play randomly throughout the day.
This case in particular was one of two plaintiffs (Mr. & Mrs. Anderson, a newlywed white couple) suing Ms. Cunningham (A black mother) for “emotional distress” and both of their flight tickets. The reason?
They were bothered by Ms. Cunningham’s three children and more specifically, her 5 year old daughter who was “staring at them”.
We’ve all seen the disgusting pictures of people “Trayvoning” on tumblr, the people who say it’s just a joke and the countless others who think it isn’t funny at all.
Sadly, there is also Facebook where there are a few groups who call themselves “sports teams” “professional sport leagues” and…
THANK YOU to everyone who signal boosted this and reported. 2 out of the 3 pages have been shut down. As we all saw, some of those conversations were so blatantly racist and anti-black that I can’t even say how glad I am to see them & their makers shut down and cut off.
Nothing breaks my heart more than when Mexicans use “Indio” as an insult. It’s white washing at its worst y mi jente debe de saber mejor.
Decolonize your mind folks. It isn’t just a Mexican thing, believe me. You can find it all over Latin@ communities. I was called that as an insult because of my brown skin, face, hair and general appearance.
It took me years to untangle and begin to love myself. I still constantly have to call family members out if they ever use it as an insult. I still am working on fully loving myself.
It is fucking revolutionary to love your identity, your culture. Especially when it is seen as a legit insult.