race + gender + politics

race + gender + politics

On the Eve of 45

January 19, 2017

Tonight is the eve of the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. Though I’m sad to see our illustrious 44th president leave the office he’s held with dignity and humility for the last 8 years, I feel mostly frightened at the uncertainty of what comes next. {Continue Reading}

race + gender + politics

To Kill a Hoopoe

February 11, 2015

bismillah-bird

Solomon was David’s heir. He said, “O people, we have been endowed with understanding the language of the birds, and all kinds of things have been bestowed upon us. This is indeed a real blessing.” (Quran 27:16)

He inspected the birds, and noted: “Why do I not see the hoopoe? Why is he missing?
“I will punish him severely or sacrifice him, unless he gives me a good excuse.”
He did not wait for long. (The hoopoe) said, “I have news that you do not have. I brought to you from Sheba, some important information. (Quran 27:20-22)

Last night, 3 young adults were shot in the head and killed near the campus of University of North Carolina by a 46 year old white atheist male. The victims – Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), his wife, Yusor Mohammad (21), and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) – were Muslim American students. May they rest in paradise. {Continue Reading}

race + gender + politics

On Being Chastised by Older White Men in Portland

January 29, 2015

BreakingBad

Last night I pulled out of my building’s parking garage and into the frenzy of the adjacent residential streets, buzzing with cars. I left the house with plenty of time to get to the gym in a nearby suburb for Zumba. If traffic was worse than usual, I knew Zumba-friend M would have saved me a spot in the front right of the studio. No need to rush.

I approach a 4-way stop. There is a car opposite me and a car to my right who arrived at the intersection before me. I wait my turn and prepare to go straight ahead after the car to my right.1 Around this same time, I notice a car to my left approach the intersection. After a brief pause at the stop sign, proceeds to turn left after the car to my right has gone. We are both in the intersection when I honk my horn2, signaling that he is in the wrong. And that I was annoyed by this. I didn’t bother to allow my road rage to flair or to shoot death stares into the car, as I didn’t care. I motioned hurriedly with my hand for the driver to continue on. Keep it moving in your wrongness, bro. But to my continued annoyance, the car did not move. We are in the middle of the intersection, almost touching bumpers at an acute angle. If this car wasn’t going to move, I would move. {Continue Reading}

race + gender + politics

Considering Why Janay Palmer Would Stay

September 10, 2014

bags-by-the-door

Much of the commentary I’ve noticed around Ray Rice starts with condemning Ray Rice’s abuse and finishes with condemning his wife Janay Palmer for staying and marrying him. Not only has Janay been forced to relive her abuse very publicly with the release of the elevator footage (something no victim should have to suffer), but she has to relive her abuse through shame and judgment in the process. Not to mention, of course, the probable domestic abuse that she still faces in the aftermath of Ray’s subsequent suspension.

It’s not altogether shocking that people – women especially – think that abused women are weak, stupid, and/or compliant if they stay with their abusers. It’s easy to pass such judgments from the outside looking in and not having a firm grasp on the reality of domestic violence. But despite it not being surprising, it’s very very very sad. It’s sad to see people – women especially – spew disgust for Janay being knocked unconscious  by Ray in one breath and then spew disgust for her marrying  him in the next. It’s sad that the onus of not being is abused rests squarely on the victims shoulders. It’s sad that women are expected to be “strong” enough to leave an abuser while their abuser is not expected to be “strong” enough not to continue the abuse.

It seems to me, the most simple Google search on domestic violence will, at the very least, reveal some basic statistics that shed some light on why someone like Janay Palmer would stay with her abuser. To be slightly knowledgeable about domestic violence is to know things like 1 in 3 women have experienced violence by an intimate partner; intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes; the number 1 cause of death for African American women is homicide by an intimate partner; women are 70 times more likely to be killed after leaving than any other time in the relationship. Meaning, women who leave aren’t safe from further abuse.

And what, pray tell, do these numbers tell us? That (a) there are a shit ton of women who have been abused by a person they trusted and cared for and (b) many abused women do in fact try to leave, but often end up in a pinebox as a result. Having worked closely with a domestic violence agency (and housing facility), I have learned just how difficult it is for women who have left their abusers to navigate the a myriad of legal, financial, economic, and judicial obstacles, of which is even more difficult if children are involved. Many of these women also have to deal with a lack of family support – either because they aren’t around (often due to isolation as orchestrated by the abuser) or they side with the abuser. Not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma abused women tend to combat in addition to any physical abuse.

That’s just scratching the surface of the complexity in women “just leaving” their abusers. But that’s still a whole hell of a lot to overcome!!! And yet, there are people – especially women – who think that walking away from an abuser is an easy, repercussion-less task that.

I don’t know Janay Palmer, I don’t know about her relationship with Ray, I don’t know if she’s been abused before, I don’t know if she tried to leave Ray (before or after marrying him), I don’t know what circumstances are keeping her with Ray. But I do know that she has been abused by her now husband, Ray Rice. I do know she has to relive her abuse while the public replays it over and over. I also know that there are people who are sick and disgusted that she has the audacity to be alive, living as a married woman to her abuser. And most importantly, I know that Janay Palmer is one of very many women who are in similar situations. In fact, you can read about their stories from the hashtag #WhyIStayed, that are highlighted here and here.

And to those people who assume the worst of the Janay Palmers of the world, without making the tiniest effort to understand the burden of responsibility and accountability that is placed on those who experience domestic violence and not their abusers, I say chile BYE, GTFOHWTBS, STFU, and SYAD please read, think, listen and learn.

 

Thank you for your consideration,
~Gem

race + gender + politics

Le. F&ck!ng. Sigh.

July 19, 2013

simply tired

I feel… numb?  Though numbness is supposed to be the deprivation of physical sensation, it still feels uncomfortable. Numbness may prevent the feeling of pain, but you can still be aware that injury has occurred.

That’s just one way to describe how I feel. It’s like I’ve been slapped across the pain and yet I am unable to respond. I know the slap happened, I feel a range of emotions and thoughts because of it, yet I am unable to speak, act or move in response. Everything is internal. The struggle and feedback isn’t making it’s way to the outside.

I also just feel tired. Tired of being angry and disappointed in this society, in *the* system, in human kind. I’m tired of having to feel helpless and ignored. I’m tired of convincing White America they should care about my people. I’m tired of being tired. When will the relief come?

For the first time today, I made a somewhat coherent statement about the George Zimmerman verdict on Facebook. So many people have said so many articulate and heart felt comments about it, and I just listen/read and nod in agreement. Sometimes I feel sad and cry, sometimes I feel rage and shake my head with disgust. I haven’t had a conversation with anyone about how I feel or what I think because I don’t know how to process it. It’s like I feel so much without feeling much at all – almost as if it were a dream or an outer body experience. But for all the reactions that I completely understand and agree with, there are many others I don’t understand and don’t agree with. From the people in the media space to people I know in real life, I have seen so many comments that say “I feel bad for Zimmerman” or “race aside…” or “Zimmerman had the right to defend himself” – not once acknowledging that an unarmed teenager, walking in a neighborhood he did belong in, was killed because of how he looked or acknowledging that this unarmed teenager also had the right to defend himself when being stalked by a man unfamiliar and unidentified. And I felt compelled to speak out against it.

its been almost a week since the verdict was announced and i am still unable to process my feelings. im still angry, sad, disappointed, and tired simultaneously. i have so many thoughts and opinions that i dont know how to articulate. im at a loss. not over the verdict itself – the law failed Trayvon Martin and other Black boys like him long before George Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury of his “peers” – but over the response by many people in this country, many of whom i know. it truly offends and frightens me that people are so dismissive of many people’s reactions and feelings surrounding this case. Black people cant be outraged and disappointed that once again the justice system has worked to protect those who are not people of color. Black people cant be outraged because “this wasnt about race”. Black people cant be outraged because others are afraid the outraged will riot. this whole post racial/color blind/we-are-all-one-race-the-human-race kumbaya attitude is not IMPROVING our society or erasing the systematic and institutionalized racism (or sexism, heterosexism, and other isms for that matter) in this country. ignoring racism and racial injustice isnt going to make race/racism go away. telling Black people to relax and “stop playing the race card” because they are constantly being unacknowledged isnt going to make race/racism go away.

I’m tired of people saying “well are you surprised?” or “I can’t believe you’re surprised” – as if it’s unreasonable of me to have hope that justice just might prevail, and a Black person won’t go unacknowledged. No, I’m not surprised, but that doesn’t make the disappointment and hurt any less real and present. Again, the verdict is just one small sting in a long line of injustice and inequality against Trayvon and others like him. But the weight that this message holds is so great, it’s devastating that this goes on record to say “it’s OK to shoot Black teens because by nature they are suspicious, up to no good by default. They are animals to be hunted and stopped.” And for anyone who thinks that sentiment is a too strong and unfair – EAT ME.

I could go on and on, but I’m tired. I don’t want to. I can’t focus on work, I am not motivated to be “busy”. All I want to do is ponder, read about and listen to discussions about this case and try to make sense of the situation. I want to go to rallies, protests, and be part of something. Because I’m tired of living in a world that shows time and time again, that unless you are a straight White land-owning male, you don’t matter because this country wasn’t built for you. You can raise this country, build this country, make money for this country, fight for this country, but this country is not for you. And there is little going on today that would have me believe otherwise.

Wishing you the peace of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin,
~The Sick & Tired of Being Sick & Tired

race + gender + politics

The Bitch Factor

July 3, 2013

Bitch.

Yesterday Luvvie published a post entitled, “I’m Digging Nicki Minaj Lately and It’s Not For Her Music.” The post was in response to a video from a few years ago where Nicki Minaj – a female rap/pop star – talks about misogyny, sexism, and double standards in hip hop. In this clip, Nicki bluntly shares the frustrations women around the world deal with day to day.

When I am assertive I’m a bitch; when a man is assertive he’s a boss. He bossed up. No negative connotations behind bossed up but lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch… When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet, and you have to be sexy, and you have to be this and you have to be that and you have to be nice and you have to – it’s like, I can’t be all those things at once.

Say word, my sista! I can’t be all those things at once either, and I shouldn’t have to be. And like Luvvie, I am here for this.

This idea that women get negatively labeled by exhibiting the same tenacity and drive as their male counterparts who receive no such backlash is not new. It’s been addressed over and over in every space imaginable. And yet women are still having to deal with this! It’s still an issue! And don’t be a Black woman who is assertive and commanding because that would make you an angry bitch.

One thing my PhD mentor – a very successful brown (Iranian) female scientist – always emphasized to me the importance of standing my ground (no Florida) as a woman in science. She taught me not to let being labeled a “bitch” to prevent me from demanding respect and my proper due in the male-dominated field that I’m in. I’ve heard senior male administrator from another university refer to my advisor – to me! – as “difficult” and “hard to work with” (in an attempt to persuade me not to work with her) despite having never met her in person. And when I told her this, she simply responded [paraphrased], “I’m a woman who doesn’t take sh*t from men so that makes me difficult.” And from that moment forward I knew I was working with the right woman. She constantly reinforces to young female researcher their need to be assertive in our careers, because “you won’t get anything done being a wuss.” Being labeled negatively never seemed to bother her, like she wore the labels with a badge of honor. As she so eloquently posted on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, “Seriously, strong women are “called” many things but as a wise (male) mentor once told me, who cares what you are called as long as you get what you want.” BOOM. There it is. The truth from another true G. #Gladiator

I respect the hell out of any woman who isn’t afraid to be called a bitch in order to handle business. I respect women who teach younger women to not be afraid to go after what they want and need to succeed, for fear that they will be met with name calling. Many women get paid lower wages because they are afraid to ask for the wage they deserve, or that’s comparable to their male counterparts. I won’t be that woman! I can’t and won’t be super sweet, sexy (Do female scientists need to be sexy? According to one idiot professor, the answer is YES), and nice all the time to avoid being the angry bitch. I won’t dumb down my drive and desire to get ish done to make men (and even women) feel comfortable that I’m in my quiet, docile woman’s place. Back down for what? Angela Davis didn’t do it, Margaret Thatcher didn’t do it, Michelle Obama didn’t do it, Dr. Moghaddam (my advisor) didn’t do it. Why should I? Call me what you want, but bet I get what I’m entitled.

How do you feel about the double standard between men and women when it comes to assertiveness? For the ladies – does it bother you to be called a “bitch” for playing the same game as your male counterparts? For the fellas – do you stick up for women who are labeled “bitch” for being assertive?

 

Bitches Get What They Want,
~Gem, G in Training

race + gender + politics

Friday Forgiveness: Getting Over This Week In America

June 28, 2013

bridge

This week in news in America has been a tough one. From Paula Deen to the Supreme Court of the United States rulings on various cases (and the backlash that came with all of them) to the Trayvon Martin case, I is tired. My head and heart are on information overload and I just want to hit the reset button, and start the week over. But apparently America has already decided to backwards anyway, so it’s unclear where forward progress begins.

So much of what I’ve seen on social media and news outlets infuriates me. It’s abundantly clear that racism, ignorance, and hate still run rampant in this country. And yet those of us who openly recognize this are told we’re “too sensitive” or why do we make everything about race? Sigh. I’ve once again I feel like I’ve lost my happy place, since I can’t seem to detach myself from feeling anger and disgust towards people who’s privilege prevents them from being compassionate towards the injustices so many still face in this nation.

Here are a few things that have really set me off this week:

  • The SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act – “the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court.” The very racist practices my very recent ancestors fought hard to prevent, the SCOTUS basically said “eh, its not an issue in today’s post-racial America.” Leaving this issue to be addressed by a defunct Congress, who, in my opinion, is the Ultimate Welfare Queen (collects a government check to do not a damn thing). So without federal oversight of states known to have discriminatory voting practices, these states are open to passing laws that make voting difficult for disenfranchised groups (namely the poor and minorities). Exhibit A…
  • Texas immediately enacts a voter suppression law after the SCOTUS ruling on the VRA. The Texas voter ID law is considered one of the most stringent in the country, and the Texas GOP wasted no time (2 hrs) to get the law up and running, and also put into effect the redistricting maps that had been described last year by federal judges as ” evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address”. SMDH.
  • After all that Wendy Davis endured the other on behalf of women in the state of Texas (hell, for women everywhere), Rick Perry had the nerve to come out his mouth and say, “”It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.” As if Wendy is incapable of being an advocate for women’s reproductive rights because she is both the daughter of a single mother and once single mother herself. As Wendy herself has said, she had the CHOICE to be a mother, and regardless of her own experiences, she recognizes that each woman should have the right to choose motherhood. Who the fluck is Rick Perry to tell this bad-ass Gladiator what she should fight for? Just like a privileged rich white man to tell a woman what she should think and how she should feel. STFU Rick Perry and SYAD.
  • Christians on social media accusing other Christians who support marriage equality of not being Christian enough. Because somehow supporting consenting adults’ freedom to marry negates one’s personal relationship with Christ (more on this later in my Religiosity series). STFU and SYAD.
  • People – especially my Black brethren/sistren – coming for Rachel Jeantel1, the last person who spoke to Trayvon Martin before he was killed. Her manner of speech was largely criticized (some saying it made “us” Blacks look bad, some saying it made her look like a liar and a non-credible witness). I could go on and on about how her use of language is NOT on trial, and how it is not her burden to be understood (despite the fact that I and countless others understand her very clearly), I am utterly disturbed by the attention drawn to her appearance – with comparisons made to “Precious” and Madea (*side eye to Lolo Jones). Not many days after the Dark Girls documentary aired, and all the commentary centered around skin color (including my own), many of “us” Blacks have decided to shame this girl for being dark skinned and plus-sized. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! The comparisons to Precious (a character who is victimized and traumatized by her family and strangers alike) got me the most. As if some one that looked like Precious or Gabourey Sidibe who played the character isn’t worthy of our collective support during a murder trial that is putting our justice system to the test when it comes to killing Black kids being Black while in a white neighborhoods. Why focus on justice for Trayvon when we can focus on how his looks and talks? SMDH.

While I want to let all this negativity go, and be over the hatred and ignorance I see every moment through various media sources, it’s hard. It’s hard to see past people’s steadfast desire to be unreasonable and unwilling to put their privilege aside and be sympathetic to the plights of those that are less privileged.  It’s hard to get over the racial, heteronormative, classist  tension in this country. It’s hard to see people you thought you knew show their true colors that are rooted in bigotry and hypocrisy. It’s hard to get over it because getting over it feels like walking away from a confrontation of discrimination that needs to happen. And unfortunately I haven’t quite learned how to detach my feelings from issues that I am passionately an advocate for. So I guess I’ll just have to play the angry Black girl and NOT be over it. Because I don’t quite forgive these creep ass crackers and those who defend them, these new age pharisees (who Jesus condemned, by the way), these shamed bougie Blacks. I just don’t think I’m ready to let it go until this society changes for the better.

What are your thoughts about this week in the law and the media? Have you found yourself getting caught up emotionally in all that has happened? Are there other things that happened this week that you just aren’t ready to get over?

Waiting on the other side,
~Gem


1 The outpouring support of Rachel’s courage has been tremendous. Read about it here, here, and here. It’s just a damn shame this support is necessary to combat all the negativity, instead of just being support of a young Black girl who is testifying for her murdered friend.

race + gender + politics

Real G’s Do Real Things #Gladiator

June 26, 2013
Yes, that's right, I move in silence like lasagna.

Yes, that’s right, I move in silence like lasagna.

I spent most of my Tuesday doing work and reading snippets about the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Le sigh. I may revisit the VRA in another post. I don’t have the energy now… Anyway, it wasn’t until I got home from dinner with a college friend that I learned of Wendy f*cking Davis. The realest G.

Wendy Davis is a Democratic senator for the Texas Senate who held down a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort to impose stringent new abortion restrictions throughout Texas. This should come as no surprise to anyone because Texas is a [redacted] [redacted] piece of [redacted] state that should no longer be allowed in the union – we don’t need them, Arizona, or Florida really. I won’t even get into the dirty politics Texan GOP senators played trying to suspend the filibuster (fail), or how they tried to vote after midnight! (-_-) This post ain’t about [redacted] Texas! IT’S ABOUT WENDY!!

Wendy stood her ground (no Florida) for the filibuster for over ELEVEN HOURS!!! Why?? Because she had to. Texas Senate rules for a filibuster dictates that a senator must stand continually, without assistance (by person or object), while remaining on topic (you get two warnings to stay on topic – before a vote can take place to kill the filibuster). So in an attempt to run down the clock on the abortion bill, Wendy stood on the floor in her pink sneakers for over 12hrs – no sitting, no leaning, no food, no water, no bathroom. This woman just stood and talked – in a room full of men trying to control vaginas – stood and talked.. for 11 frikkin hours! Sorry Olivia Pope but Wendy is the true White Coat GLADIATOR. #StandWithWendy

And guess what NATIONAL media was covering during this time?? Not Wendy.1 *facepalm* Oy bleeping vey. SMDH.

Nonetheless, thank you Wendy Davis for quite literally standing up for women’s reproductive rights!!!! Your courage and commitment are truly inspiring. And your bad ass G ways give me hope. I just pray that people see what’s going on in local and state governments and take voting outside of the presidential elections more seriously. Pleeeease Lord. Be the change, America.

Had you heard about Wendy Davis? What do you think about her 11hr filibuster? Would you be a G and for real for real stand up for something you believed in?

Stay woke, folks!
~Gem, Gladiator-in-Training

1 Even my beloved MSNBC was focused on that damn John Snowden. Meanwhile, was said to be covering… blueberries?? Hmmmm… #priorites

beauty + fitness race + gender + politics

The Skin I’m In

June 24, 2013

Tyra

Last night OWN aired a documentary entitled “Dark Girls“. And both Facebook and Twitter were buzzing in response. Men and women alike seemed to be promoting the documentary and engaging in dialogue around color issues. Admittedly I did not get the opportunity to watch the documentary, so my comments in response to the “color/complexion” is largely drawn from discussions I glanced on social media. {Continue Reading}

race + gender + politics

The Invisible Woman Experience

June 20, 2013

I had an unexpected and disappointing encounter during my conference trip to Seattle. I was with some colleagues walking around downtown on our lunch break when some one wanted to stop in a jewelry store to look at watches. I went in with her.

As soon as we stepped in, a man came hurriedly over to ask my colleague how he could help her. She was standing in front of one of the watch display cases and I was standing only a foot or so away at the opposite counter with the jewelry. I thought it was awkward that he dis not acknowledge my presence or ask if I needed help. But I ignored it and began to look at the sapphire rings in the case.

I spent a few minutes admiring some of the beautiful pieces. There were a few other employees in the store, at the opposite end from me, one of whom came over to the center jewelry case where I was looking, but showed no signs of registering my presence, let alone bothered to ask if I needed any assistance.

I started to get irritated that no one bothered to attend to me. My colleague and I were the only people in the store, and there were more than enough staff around that appeared to not be actively busy. I made my way half way around the circular case before a woman came over to me (she looked as if she came from a back area as I hadn’t seen her when we first walked in) and asked if she could help me. I said I was looking but would let her know when I was ready to look more closely at the jewelry.

Poor customer service is a huge pet peeve of mine. But I would venture to argue this particular instance was racially motivated. We entered the store together, and both of us were dressed pretty casually (jeans). The only obvious difference was that my colleague is a white woman – allowing her to receive immediate attention and assistance, while I am a woman of color and did not so much as get a “Hello, some one will be with you shortly.”

I wanted to let some one know how unhappy I was for the treatment (or lack thereof) I received when I first arrived. But the woman who waited on me was so chatty and complimentary of me (she was gushing over my awesomely snatched eyebrows), that I actually forgot about how unpleasant my initial impression had been. And I had fallen in love with some beautiful sapphire rings that she had shown me that that I didn’t think of much else until much later in the day.

I occasionally experience microaggressions that feel racially motivated but there’s usually not enough empirical evidence to make a firm claim one way or another. It just feels wrong. But this incidence leaves little room for any other interpretation. It was just an uncomfortable and annoying experience – like, we’re still doing this “you can’t possibly be a serious potential customer so we won’t bother acknowledging you”?? Guess I’ll just take my money elsewhere so some one else can get the sale and commission…

Have you ever experienced blatantly poor customer service that you were sure was motivated based on your looks? How did you react/respond?

You gon see me today,
~Gem

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