Jonathan Franzen & Whiteness

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Hey, B!

What a treat from S! You deserve it. You’ve been working hard.

I’ve seen the Jonathan Franzen article on another author’s Facebook page I follow! I didn’t get a chance to read it, but I skimmed through his interview. Franzen is a fascinating author to me. He would say something as such about him not writing about race, but he does. His race is Whiteness and tends to be Western whiteness.

I stand corrected: it’s mid-Western Whiteness.

Could he really write about Black people or other people of color? I don’t think if he could and do it in an accurate portrayal. I mean in some ways, I can’t help that he is honest but in his ignorance as well. It is White male privilege to say that I don’t have Black friends which means that I don’t go out of my way to make or have Black friends or Black people in my life. Since I don’t go out of my way to make those connections or friends, I cannot possibly write about them. Lena Dunham, the creator of GIRLS, said something similarly, but she actually did make an attempt to write a Black male character…although though she created a Black male character, you can see that if she wants to, she can write Black characters from her perspective as a White woman.

I find it all fascinating as Black writer.

I mean I enjoy watching Sex and the City and GIRLS because I recognize what those shows mean…maybe a part of it is that they are women…

And I can relate to certain situations because I’ve been in similar situations because those characters are female characters.

But I can also relate to Franzen in a way, too, because we are both writers even though he may not be able to completely relate to me. He and I would have to have a conversation about that though.

Hey, B! I hope that your week went well, and you have gotten some time to breathe!!!

I went ahead and read the Jonathan Franzen interview before I wanted to respond to some of the points you’ve made more in depth.

My impressions of Jonathan Franzen is that he does understand his White privilege a lot more than folks think, but I get a hint that maybe he knows that he is egotistical as well. There are some moments in his responses in the interview that I am like…he knows that he is afforded a platform because he is a White male. I am sort of impressed that he actually can admit that he is privileged, and he doesn’t want to do much about it. Maybe some folks would put up a huge argument with me particularly Black folk and people of color about my opinions on this, but I think from his stance as a White male that this is as good as you are going to get it with someone who is not interested in being a social justice activist.

Basically, he knows that he lives in a White male privileged world, and I think in a lot of ways, he doesn’t t want to touch race because he knows that he would do a shitty job of writing about it and mangle it. Basically, in a nevertheless about way, he is saying that he doesn’t seek out Black friends because of the spaces he occupies which means that he is interested in other matters, and they happen to fit into his spaces that he occupies, and this is because of his Whitness.

Does this anger me or make me like…what a prick? No, not really. I think it is because he does admit it from the get go of what he is and what he is interested in. Some folks aren’t going to fight battles that they don’t want to be a part of, and I think that he is more honest than other White males that I have encountered or known. Throughout the interview, he even talks about what he isn’t interested in.

Another thing that interested me greatly is how he sees writing and his writing process which he and I have opposite philosophies on. I like a more involved story in my head which means researching a lot of information to make sure that I have it at more disposal when I write. For me and from my perspective, my fiction is only good when I know a lot of about what I want to know about at my disposal. But his philosophy is write what you know. That’s what William Faulkner did and Ernest Hemingway did. One could argue that this maybe a fundamental trend of principles of White male writers. It is to write what you know because the precedent is already set for you by writes like Hemingway and Faulkner to do that.

So, the two questions are…can Franzen write about other races? More specifically, can Franzen write about other races in a realistic portrayal from his perspective? My answer is that he can only write about them from what he knows from his (limited) perspective of what he knows about Black people. Because maybe he doesn’t like reading criticism and taking it well, and he doesn’t want to get slammed for writing something he may not know very well or can’t represent well.

The other question is…does Franzen write about race? Yes, he writes about his race, the White race. I believe I am interested in his writing and his characters because, like I am with Hemingway, there is truth to his fiction about how humans behave from his perspective. In Freedom, certainly, the characters in that novel are pathetic. There are White folks who are wounded, and they go about hurting one another because they have wound each other in their circle continuously. What I do admire about that novel and how Franzen creates and structures it is that many of us get involved in soap opera dramas in real life, and they play out because we are seeking something that we didn’t have when  we were growing up. We construct our identities, and we really find out that a lot of what we’ve constructed is really shitty about ourselves. I am thinking about myself while we were in our ECHD 8000 course…I thought about how I’ve been complicit in a system where I am getting gains. It is the same thing concerning the characters in Freedom…they are complicit in their Whiteness that results them in getting gains (financial gains, artistic gains, narcissistic gains, etc.). These gains actually drive them to become despicable people.

Anyway, I am going to post the contents of what I’ve written you (my part) on my blog. This is a noteworthy discussion to have for me because I don’t think about Franzen in these ways as Black female writer, myself.

What are your thoughts?

S

I am a Jonathan Franzen reader. You are thinking…Sophia, oh hell no, not you, Friend.

The conversation that my friend, B, and I have up above are my thoughts about Jonathan Franzen. Today, I sat in the Barnes and Noble café after I bought a huge lot of James Baldwin books, and I saw a new one published, The Fire Next Time that is edited by Jemayn Ward. As I sat down and read the entire conversation while eating a tiramisu cup and drinking dark roasted coffee, another layer of Jonathan Franzen was peeled in front of my eyes as to who he is. A huge part of that is explained in my comments above. Franzen admitted in an interview done by Issac Chotiner “A Conversation with Jonathan Franzen” (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/interrogation/2016/07/a_conversation_with_novelist_jonathan_franzen.html)  that he is a White male who has benefited from White privilege. He also admits that he doesn’t write about Black people because he doesn’t know Black people or hasn’t been in love with a Black woman. He expresses that in order to write his characters he has to love his characters. I’ve seen responses from some folks from social media that this a cop out from Franzen. That he is writing about race—his race—the White race.

He admits this in the interview to Chotiner that he writes about Whiteness when Chotiner asks him about it, and he doesn’t deny it:

You must know that a lot of the response to you is surely that you are this white guy writing about white guy things.

And yet some people like it, so you can’t please everybody. You should worry if you are pleasing everybody. I write for the people who like the kind of books I like.”

Again, Franzen admits that he writes books about Whiteness even though he doesn’t explicitly admit it in his response. I believe what I am most impressed by with Franzen is his ability as a White male to admit that he does have White privilege. That he does write for a White audience, and that he has been afforded opportunities that others haven’t been afforded such as him.

I guess I am confused about what people are asking for now since I’ve read his interview, and I’ve seen responses about what he said in his interview. What are folks asking for? Are folks asking him to be a revolutionist? Because he ain’t going to do it. He says in the interview that he is lazy and doesn’t believe in much, and he isn’t going to be prompt to action unless it affects him. Hand in hand, this interview demonstrates Franzen’s White privilege—the very same White privilege that he admits to.

I don’t know many fifty something year old White men who will admit that they have White privilege. There is an acquaintance/friend who I no longer have a relationship with who could not handle her White fragility. I didn’t even bring anything up with her, and she unfriended me from Facebook because she could not handle an article that I posted about White fragility that was written by a White female writer. We had a discussion, and she made up so many excuses and was so condescending to me that I blocked her. At least with Franzen, he admits on some levels that he is afforded the opportunities and experiences that he has because of his Whiteness.

I am not trying to make Jonathan Franzen some kind of hero. What I am saying is that folks should not expect him to be an anti-racist social justice activist. Again, he at least admitted that he is White privilege. Even for him, that says a lot to me about him.
S

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The World Through My Eyes

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Dear Tamara, Kwane, Angel, and Harmony:

It hurts me to know that you will be already judged because of your skin color. I know. It is sad, and it is unfair, but I want you to know despite of what other people think you already are, I want to part to you what I know to be true. That you will always matter. I will always see you.

Blackness Is Who We Are

Tamara, Angela and Harmony, little black girls enter into this world already knowing that Blackness is not beautiful. That your worth is measured against Whiteness. That you should be a White standard of beauty. It killed Pecola’s spirit in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It wore her down where she didn’t stand a chance to have blue eyes, white  and fair skin, and blonde hair like Shirley Temple. The world of Whiteness weighed her down and smothered her until her soul was a shell of nothing. That frightens me because I don’t want you girls to experience that. I want you to know that you are beautiful. Chocolate skin is beautiful. All colors of brown are beautiful. Whiteness is beautiful as well, but it becomes ugly when it becomes the dominant standard in everything of our lives. It strips away in what makes us special. Blackness is special, too, and there is room for us because we want the same things that all American citizens want. Love, laughter, and lucky charms. Yet, we should not have to sacrifice parts of who we are to achieve it or receive it.

Kwane, being a little black boy is just as tough in this country. You are told that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, and brave enough. Our country teaches you to be afraid of your own shadow. There are hardly any of Black men in the Sciences, Mathematics, Humanities, and other disciplines and spaces all over our country. It pains me to tell you that most of you are in the prison system. Most Black boys become Black men, and by the time you become a man, you are most likely have to visited a juvenile system over five times, and sadly, you may have graduated in visiting a jail cell or a prison cell. I want to tell you that being violent isn’t the way to go. It doesn’t solve issues because those issues are over 240 years old, and we are still counting how those issues continue to exist. I want you to know that you are smart enough to love knowledge because I know. Knowledge will help set you free. I am not talking about just acquiring information. I am talking about analyzing and synthesizing information. It is called critical thinking skills.

I believe that you and your sisters have the ability to think outside the box. I want you to grow up and occupy the spaces that we need Black folks in. We need more Black scientists, teachers, doctors, scholars, professors, lawyers, psychologists, writers, etc. Even if you don’t pick that, I want you to know that you matter because I see you. I see what you are able to do. I can see it because I am you.

 

Flemings/Flemmings Are Who We Are

Many Flemings/Flemmings don’t fair-well in our family. Your Grandma Janice Mae was hardly satisfied. She always called herself dumb and did not have the support of her school and our family to attend college. Instead, she got pregnant with me and went on welfare. For twenty years, she was on welfare, and she thought that it was her best that she could do. The folks in our family, especially the women…we keep moving, but we pay a hefty price. We become estranged from each other. We turn on each other. The only comparison I have to this is in Sula (also by the great Toni Morrison) when Hannah, Eva’s daughter, asks her did Eva ever love them (Hannah, Plum, and Pearl). Hannah says, “I didn’t mean that, Mamma. I know you fed us and all. I was talkin’ ‘bout something else. Like. Like. Playin’ with us. Did you ever, you know, play with us?” And Eva’s response is: “Play? Wasn’t nobody playin’ in 1895. Just ‘cause you got it good now you think it was always this good? 1895 was a killer, girl. Things was bad. Niggers was dying like flies. Stepping tall, ain’t you? Uncle Paul gone bring me two bushels. Yeh. And they’s a melon downstairs, ain’t they? And I bake every Saturday, and Shad brings fish on Friday, and they’s a pork barrel full of meal, and we float eggs in a rock of vinegar….”

My mom loved Ashley, your mom, and me. However, she didn’t show it with kisses and hugs. She showed it with in teaching us how to survive. There are no hugs and kisses when you are moving because a Mama has to put food on the table. She has to make those decisions that we will exist in the world because she sees us even though I didn’t think that she did. She did the best that she could, and I cannot hold it against her for not giving me hugs and kisses because I understand now. I understand because I am a Black woman now. Even though I operate in different spaces than your Grandmother Janice, I understand what it is to fight because it is in our DNA to survive. Survive first and ask questions later. However, those of us who go beyond survival, like I have, have to reconcile that survival is a coping mechanism—and I have used it to hide behind the racial trauma that I have experienced. We have to figure out that level of…how okay are we? And that it is okay to admit that we have suffered from trauma and find ways to provide self-care for ourselves. I know. It is hard because W.E.B. DuBois describes it as double consciousness. A part of double consciousness is to worry about our survival in our home (our country) where we feel like we do not belong. I have found ways to go beyond survival, and I am here to help you as well because it is important the next generation of Flemings/Flemmings survive and seek within ourselves to become better than what we are.

Black Bodies are Black Souls
My heart is filled with sorrow because our Black Bodies aren’t viewed as Black souls because Whiteness makes us appear invisible. What White supremacy continues to do is to create double consciousness for Black folks who come into this world. All four of you will feel, at times, that you are pull into two worlds. You will feel that your Blackness is pain. Your Blackness is inopportune. You will naturally fight against accepting your Blackness because it is the opposite of Whiteness, and America values Whiteness. What is Whiteness? Whiteness is a system where everything is pristine, perfect, and perky. Whiteness is positive. Speaking and writing perfect English is Whiteness. Making straight As is Whiteness. Bleaching your skin is Whiteness. Having a lot of wealth is Whiteness. Being White is a part of “The Dream” that Ta’Nehisi Coates discusses in his autoethnographic work, Between the World and Me. I believed in The Dream, too. The Dream is when you work very hard and defy all obstacles that come in your way in achieving your own wealth. What comes with that wealth is getting married, having children, and living in a house on Main Street with a white picket fence, animals of your choosing, a very nice sedan, and great neighbors like you. However, The Dream excludes any of your Blackness because Blackness isn’t included in The Dream. Black folks are told…if you work hard, you will become Oprah Winfrey. From most White folks, Oprah Winfrey represents all of what “successful Black folks” should be.

But The Dream, as a wise classmate shouted, is bullshit. It is bull because I don’t want you to spend all your life thinking that all of you have achieved a standard of living that isn’t everyone’s reality. Yes, you will see others on television, in films, in books, and even in real life living The Dream. Yet, let me lift the veil for you. A dream in this sense is a mirage. It is something that we had been conditioned to believe we all have the opportunity to achieve. It is not true. Black folks have gotten far within over 240 years, but it hasn’t been that far for many of us. Those of us who occupy spaces in academia and industry and domesticity struggle still because we still look at ourselves through a lens of Whiteness. We still use Whiteness as a measuring stick in what we are not. We are NOT WHITE. We are born under a system that gives all Black folks a disadvantage. We never got our reparations, so that set us back. When we created our Harlem Renaissance, it fell hard, and all we have is remnants of it, and thank the Universe for that. Thank Zora, Langston, Alaine, Claude, and the rest of the Harlem Renaissance crew for creating that because we wouldn’t know that we ruled a part of America for a little while at least. Even then, Zora’s Black body fluttered away without no one knowing until Mama Alice Walker erected and resurrected her by creating a monumental marker and letting us Black folks now…she DID EXIST, and she was more than just a Black body. She was a Black soul.

Who I Am

Right now, I have realized that this born Augusta County, living in Bleckley Country college graduate of Baldwin County and forging her way to a doctoral program in Clarke County Flemming is someone visible. That being Black is power, pride, and persistent. I have to work on it every day loving the parts of myself that I didn’t know exist. Being BLACK is our birthright. It chooses us, and I am grateful. I am grateful that I come from people who are innovators. Who are creators. Who are groundshakers and groundbreakers. People who have endured Slavery and Jim Crow. Most of all, I am proud that I come from a group of people who still fight beyond the good fight.

I don’t want all four of you to just keep moving because it is for survival. I want you to dance after you learn how to move. I just don’t want you to survive. I want you to exist. And then, I want you to do more than existing. I want you to fly. Then, I want you to learn how to soar. It is never easy being Black in this country. I don’t know if racism, Whiteness, White privilege, and White supremacy will disappear all one day. Yet, we have to continue to combat it. I want all four of you to know that your Blackness is GOOD. It does matter. You matter. I see YOU. I will always see you.

Love,
Your Aunt Sophia

Why Black Folks Still Talking about Cultural Appropriation

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This morning, news broke that parts of Melania Trump’s speech mirrored Michelle Obama’s speech that she gave at the 2008 convention.

This is cultural appropriation at its best—and it is also straight up plagiarism. This is nothing new because it has been going on for a long time. Several weeks ago, I discussed how Ernest Owens called out Justin Timberlake for culturally appropriating Black culture on Twitter (https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/theflemministwave.wordpress.com). Owens’s asked Timberlake when he was going to stop appropriating Black culture (this is a call to when Timberlake was inspired by Jesse Williams’s  BET speech), and then, he also asked Timberlake was he going to apologize to Janet Jackson. Owens’s discussed in a great interview on (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMgkCoADG8M) the skorpionshow why the interviewers and Owens discuss cultural appropriation. Owens breaks it down and explains he was calling attention to two issues that Williams’s spoke of in his speech when calling of Timberlake: one, the cultural appropriation of Timberlake using our style of music and culture, and two, calling out how Timberlake didn’t come to Janet Jackson’s defense when he was the one who ripped her costume where it exposed her breast. Fans, the media, and viewers slut-shamed Jackson, and Timberlake didn’t stand up for her as another artist.

Cultural appropriation is happening on the political level. Melania Trump is being praised for the speech that she did at the 2016 Republican Convention. However, again, parts of that speech is plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s speech. When Michelle Obama gave that speech, she hardly got any praise when she gave it.

And this is at the heart of cultural appropriation. The heart of cultural appropriation is when another person from another race takes or uses someone else’s intellectual property, ideas, and/or creativity, and the perpetrator benefits from the usage of the originator’s property. The race perpetrator gets credit, and they stole it while the inventor doesn’t get credit. When cultural appropriation happens to Black people, it is another repeated slap in the face.

Listen, I am all for people discussing other people’s intellectual property. However, you need to do two things: One, you need to cite where you got said property from. Two, you need to have read the entire context when you use said property. I believe Melania didn’t quote Michelle’s speech because she knew that it would look unfavorably on her because her husband, Donald Trump, is running on the Republican ticket. To quote the first lady who is a Democrat looks bad. However, since it has been reported that Melania didn’t write her speech, and she had speechwriters, she should fire her speechwriter for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech. She needs to be more proactive about who is writing her speeches and not entirely trust who does it. Or maybe even trying to write her own speech. She may not be the greatest writer, but it is better than being discovered that she read a plagiarized speech, But hey, that’s a part of White privilege, right? Your husband is the epitome of White privilege, White supremacy, and White wealth…so you don’t have to think for yourself but can hire someone to think for you.
S

J. Williams & J. Timberlake Situation

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I’ve been following comments all day concerning Jessie William’s speech and Justin Timberlake’s response to Black Twitter on his comments to a black tweet.

What has transpired between these two interrelated events is in how white folks have responded to William’s speech by calling him racist while white folks have responded to Justin Timberlake’s Twitter response.

Background: Jessie Williams made an astounding and breathtaking speech about how our lives, BLACK LIVES MATTER. Justin Timberlake viewed the speech and tweeted:

@iJesseWilliams tho… #Inspired #BET2016

 

However, Ernest Owens responded to Justin’s tweet:

So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too. #BETAwards
This is Justin’s reply to Ernest:

Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.
First, I want to respond to Justin’s response, and then, the comments that many have been making all day about both situations.

What I found problematic in what Justin said is how he responded to Ernest. Justin exercised his white privilege, pulling a “white power play” on Ernest. Ernest asked him a question, “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture?” What is appropriation? Appropriation means to take ownership of someone else’s work without giving them due credit for it. Yes, Justin has cited his musical influences: Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. However, Blacks have a right to question Whites who are very successful when they make music that is black influenced music…are you giving a right amount of credit to black musicians? Ernest is calling out to Justin Timberlake for a response. Owens also directly calls to Timberlake in apologizing to Janet as well. This is directly at the Super Bowl 2004 Halftime show where Timberlake ripped Jackson’s bra, and her breast was shown on national television. Instead of sticking up for her and standing by her side, he took the road that was expected and didn’t agree with what happened during the time it was happening, but he did not take more action to further stick up for Jackson, either. Jackson was blamed and victimized while Timberlake didn’t nearly get harassed and villainized as Jackson.

Instead of addressing Owens head on with what he’s questioned and stated, Timberlake uses his white privilege to patronize and over power what Owens says in a colorblind racist statement:

“Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

When I read this, I was infuriated. Maybe, just maybe Timberlake didn’t mean to come off as patronizing, but his statement did come off as patronizing. He avoids addressing black culture, cultural appropriation done to blacks, and not addressing how he used his white privilege card to not take the heat for what he did Janet Jackson in 2004. Instead of having a real, genuine conversation about race, Timberlake dismisses Owens by directly lumping in Owens as being the same as Timberlake…and Timberlake issuing silence because Timberlake cannot have a conversation with Owens until they realize that they are the same.

This is why we have colorblind racism. What Timberlake exposes is that I cannot talk to you if we aren’t on the same level. I will not talk to you until you, as black person, can identify with we have in common. This is a huge contradiction two-folded: The first folded contradiction is that if Timberlake was truly inspired by Jessie Williams speech, he would have taken a social justice action in having a conversation with Owens about the question he asked. The second folded contradiction is that Timberlake didn’t take anything from Williams’s speech to resonate with what Owens was asking. Owens is Black. Timberlake is White. From Owens’s perspective, Timberlake has made money off Black folks’ music. If Timberlake didn’t see it that way, he would have engaged in a conversation with Owens about why his music is heavily black influenced. Instead, Timberlake addressed Owens by being arrogant in exerting that Owens should understand where Timberlake is coming from by identifying that Owens is similar than Timberlake. This is Justin Timberlake’s biggest mistake. His biggest mistake is asking a person of color to get down to his level. In racial terms, for us, people of color, especially black folks in this country, many of us are and have gotten down on Timberlake’s level. Many of us have taken on white characteristics to get beyond the ghetto or the projects. I used Whiteness to pave a way as passing to “better myself from my Black welfare family.” However, while doing that, I silenced my blackness from emerging because I self-loathe myself thinking that Whiteness was my ticket to getting a better life.

Financially speaking, I do have it better than my mom and “stepfather,” but historically, I sacrificed my existing and emerging Blackness because I was told by my country, my community, my society, and Black and White culture that Whiteness was superior, and if you want to have anything, you must adopt White characteristics. I understand what Owens is doing, and I understand what Timberlake is doing. Owens is offended that Timberlake has made money off our music. Timberlake is offended that Owens questioned him.

For Timberlake to truly understand Jessie Williams’s speech would have been for Timberlake to open up a dialogue and ask Owens why he thinks that he is appropriating black music and culture…and to talk about his experience with what he did to Janet Jackson twelve years ago. By Timberlake using his white privilege, he also contributes to white supremacy by taking the heat off himself and placing it on…but we all are the same…and I won’t have a conversation with you until you bend will.

And this is what I see with most of the white folks’ comments on Facebook concerning Jessie Williams. All who are offended have similar responses like Timberlake expect that Timberlake wasn’t more explicit to Owens about being offended by Owens’s comments about race.

I’ve seen throughout the day some white folks responding to Jessie Williams’s speech as being racist against Whites. I’ve read some whites folks write that if white folks were in the same place as Williams and said that about black folks, they would be called racists. What these white folks in their comments don’t realize is that their comments are racistTheir comments are racist because they simply don’t get that black folks continue to experience racial oppression on so many levels in this country that it hinders them from actually being free. People of color suffer from having to be put on a watch list—all of us. If you aren’t “acting White,” you are a ghetto ass nigger, and you deserve to be abused in so many ways because you don’t follow the laws of the land. Well, those very laws are WHITE LAWS. That’s right. If you read Cheryl Harris’s Whiteness in Property, many of our existing laws are “white laws” that were made up from many white men who were wealthy and had slaves to increase their wealth. These laws have terrorize black people, and the enforcers of these laws are usually many white folks who exercise white supremacy.

To say that Williams is racist is using white privilege to not hear his message. Williams’s message was about how black people are in a racist systematic country where we are unable to truly be free in regards to how we contribute to American society. We cannot be free to be ourselves. We have always been second class citizens to Whiteness. Many of us have used Whiteness to have a better life, but many of us (including me) have silenced our Blackness and not embracing how different that we are.

Because now I understand it. We aren’t the same. We shouldn’t be the same. Being different is beyond acceptable. It is supposed to be our greatest quality in our American society. We are a melting pot, but we don’t act like it. Some white folks on Facebook said that Blacks continued to harp on race. They keep living in the past. We keep living in the past because the past has never resolved itself. We have never treated those wounds. So, we just keep ignoring them…we keep putting cream on them…thinking it is treating the infection, but the infection is only at bay, and it rages when we ignore it, thinking that it is healing, but the reality is that we are keeping it at bay.

I like Justin Timberlake, and I am a fan of his music. I believe he is quite talented, and he has done a lot for folks being a musician. However, I hope that the inspiration that he felt for Williams’s speech prompts aspiration in that it results in to action in learning more about Black history and black people. To learn more about Whiteness and how his white privilege hurts people. If he takes that action on being educated, then, I hope this inspiration from Williams’s speech takes on new meaning for him, and he actually uses his white privilege as social justice action to help educate other white people and have them realize that their white privilege and white supremacy harms people of color.

As for the racist comments on Facebook, yes, commenters are entitled to their opinions, but realize that other commenters are entitled to their opinions as well. As I told someone I love who is white, I am not trying to make you feel guilty about being White. You can’t change your skin color like I can’t change mines. You should be proud of being who you are. However, don’t exercise your race as means to hide behind what is really there. What is really there is this:

You are benefiting off the system of Whiteness that was set up for you over three hundred years ago. One way you are benefiting from it is not trying to empathize with Williams’s speech or with black folks’ stories. We aren’t complaining and whining. We are the oppressed group, and we have to deal with being mistreated due to you having your white privilege which contributes to white supremacy. The reason why you are saying that we are whining or bitching because you have never had to worry about whether your hands are on the steering wheel. You have never had to worry about running around your neighborhood while your white neighbor stares at you like you don’t belong in the same neighborhood. You never had to worry about being called a nigger. You certainly didn’t have to worry about if you were passed over a promotion because of your skin colored when you’ve worked your ass off every weekday.

Williams’s speech was inspirational because he was telling his people…we will make it through stronger and better. We always have.
S

Lewis-1 and Ryan-0

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Publicist stunt! Paul Ryan, Republican House Speaker, “laid into Democrats on Thursday for causing ‘chaos’ in the House, dismissing their sit-in over gun legislation as nothing more than a publicity student and fundraising effort” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/paul-ryan-democrats-sit-in_us_576c084ee4b0b489bb0c9b02). Led by the Civil Rights freedom fighter John Lewis, Democrats decided to sit-in Wednesday morning through Thursday to get their message across that their “No fly, no  buy” bill should pass. This bill would prevent individuals who are on a terrorist watch list to purchase a gun or guns. However, Ryan made this about Democrats pulling a political stunt to try to raise money off a tragedy (the horrible, tragic event in Orlando killing forty nine individuals and injuring fifty-three that were celebrating their lives at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse).

I find what Paul Ryan says is a continued legacy of cultural racism in our country. I would like to address Paul Ryan about his responses and how his words continue a legacy of cultural racism in our country.

Dear Paul Ryan,

This is not about Democrats pulling a stunt. This is about you practicing aspect of colorblind racism called cultural racism.

You have explained away in your outrage about “how dare Democrats sit-in to demand that their bill be passed: “‘This is Congress. [. . .]The House of Representatives! Oldest democracy in the world, and they’re descending it into chaos. I don’t think this should be a very proud moment for democracy or the people who staged these stunts’” ((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/paul-ryan-democrats-sit-in_us_576c084ee4b0b489bb0c9b02). When you talk about “for the people who staged these stunts,” you mean John Lewis, right? You mean John Lewis who was a vital member of SNCC in the 1960s, right? John Lewis is the one who led the sit-in this past Wednesday, right? The rest of the Democrats followed his lead, right? Paul Ryan, your words are reinforcing and continuing the white supremacy that George Wallace and Lester Maddox practiced during their governing administrations in 1960s by identifying as segregationists. They continued Jim Crow laws in Alabama and Georgia, and many Blacks and Whites who were anti-racists activists were murdered for standing up for Blacks to insure that Blacks were able to have their freedoms. Paul Ryan, you say that you aren’t a racist, but you stated in an interview conducted by Bill Bennett from Morning in America that you “linked poverty to ‘this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.’” (” (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/is-paul-ryan-racist-104687))

Well, how colorblind racism is that? Do you really think that you are talking about white men and men of color in that statement? You minimize your racist statement by retracting that race did not cross your mind, so who in the hell are you talking about when you use phrases like “poverty,” “inner cities,” “generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and culture of work?” You are fooling yourself if you think that came across as all American men. You did not have to say that it was men of color that did not know the value of work. Your descriptions in the same sentence point to it was men of color. Your statement evidently describes men of color, and it also signals to other white folks that you aren’t talking about white men. But to us, people of color like me? It signals that you are talking about black males. Black Americans are associated with inner city poverty. White folks are not described as such; they are discussed in the manner of “suburbia,” “the city life,” “working hard,” etc.

So, your reputation precedes you in your latest comments about “Democrats” making a disgrace to Congress and The House of Representatives for doing a sit-in as a publicity stunt to make money off the Orlando victims. For the past several decades, Democrats have a history of championing Black American causes. When you are talking about the “people who staged these stunts,” how dare you speak of setting a precedent when you continue to contribute to White supremacy by practicing cultural racism and speaking and saying that black folks pull these stunts—and the folks who aren’t black are race traitors for following them. John Lewis knows what is like for people of color to get killed by guns due to motivate racial violence. He stands on that floor knowing that the Orlando victims were killed due to an act of violence motivated by hatred. John Lewis doesn’t just sit-in for publicity stunts. John Lewis sits-in because it is his duty to continue to seek justice and to further fight for all Americans to exercise their freedoms in our country.

Paul Ryan, I call to action that you need to get schooled on Whiteness and White Privilege. I am sure that you wouldn’t because you are too deep into the system of Whiteness. Since I don’t believe you would do it, I challenge all other white people who are clouded by white privilege that contributed to White Supremacy to take a course in Whiteness and White Privilege. Or a multicultural course. Or could you all make time to read any of Tim Wise’s books? Or I double challenge you to step into the Other’s shoes? What about reading Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry, or Brother Cornel West? Don’t worry. If you check all that I mention out, I am sure that there is something I kind find you to enlighten you on your white privilege.

As for you, Paul Ryan, instead of you reading all that Ayn Rand and objectivism, you need to get real and start reading about people of color. You are obviously minimizing your racism due to the white privilege you possess that contributes to the ongoing white supremacy in this country. You have no respect for John Lewis and people of color by calling us “people who pull these stunts.” Get with it, Friend. You fall right in line with your predecessors, Wallace and Maddox. They said, too, that John, Martin, and the rest of the freedom fighters in the Civil Rights Movement…their sit-ins were publicity stunts as well.

What you fail to realize is that our publicity stunts are calls to action. And John Lewis and Co. are transforming the White House. Didn’t we do that when we elected President Barack Obama?

From a Black Cisgender Feminist,
S

A Biological Fatherless Black Girl

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Little black girls who never met their biological black fathers is a sludge puddle to always step in when you are a thirty four year old black woman who has never met her biological father.

As I see all the pictures of black women who know their fathers, it is bittersweet. I am happy for black women who know their fathers—especially the black daughters who have great relationships with their fathers. However, I am one of those black women that story goes into I never met my father. I am one of those black women whose mother despised my father and took her pain out on me because he wasn’t there to bear it. I am one of those black women who is reminded with the question: Father, why didn’t you try harder to meet me?

My backstory is that my father did come around to visit everyone else in Cochran. I found this out from a custodian working at MGC when I was in my second year. She told me that she knew who I was and knew who my dad was. She encouraged me to go and see him. Yet, I didn’t have any interest because I didn’t know what I would say to my father. All I know is that he is the imaginary father. What is ironic is that he was physically absent in my life but was presently there through the negative stories my mother told about him. When my mom would get angry, upset, or frustrated at me, she would always project her feelings of hatred on me because I look like my father. Now, you ask, “Wow, Sophia, I am surprised that you function as well as you.”

I function as well as I do because I have come to some understandings about myself. Yes, if my dad wanted it, a relationship with my father would have been phenomenal in the fact that it would have helped me with some of the life challenges that I had to face as a youngster. However, that Catch-22 is always there, right? If I had a relationship with my father, it might not have been a positive one and could have caused further damage to me. There are men out there who have made children, but they are not father material. They aren’t parent material. I am not saying that my father is incapable of being a good father. However, my mother had hostile feelings towards him. When he did return and ask her to marry him, she turned him down. To be fair to my mom, it might not have been solely the hurt he caused her (She approached his car to tell him she was pregnant with me, and he rolled up the window in her face before she spotted him with another woman in his car). She could have turn him down so he wouldn’t hurt her farther. Whatever her reasons where, her decisions transpired and had to grow up with my father being the bad guy. If he was the bad guy, then, there was a part of me that was bad, right, because he gave me 23 of his chromosomes, correct?

However, there are historical implications to this. A lot of us black women who have never met our black fathers feel a deep lost because American slavery broke a part black families. Black family members would be sold off for profit, or some American white slaver owners would sell off slave family members as punishment if that slave member went against the order of the slave owners’ rules. How can black men in the later generations be fathers—and be presently there for their daughters, when they come from black family lineages where their families were broken up during that time in history? Then, this matter is more complicated as well when white male slave owners raped black female slaves, and they birth children of color that was enslaved. Usually, your mother did not tell you who your father was because of the shame and guilt that resulted from the slave owner being able to rape you whenever he wanted, and you bore his children resulting from that trauma. Many black children did not have a chance to have relationships with their biological fathers. If their fathers were white, they were white slave owners who raped their mothers. If their fathers were black, their black fathers were sold off to another plantation. Or their black fathers died from being killed white masters when they escaped. Of course, when slaves were free, if you had a black father during Jim Crow and he died, he was lynched. If you had a black father during the Civil Rights Movement, he was slaughtered. If you had a father during the 1990s, you lost him because he murdered your mother.

Of course, there are many black fathers who abandoned their daughters or who were forced to not see their daughters for whatever reasons…and those daughter went through all kinds of hell. The hell of not knowing what does twenty-three chromosomes are like. Not knowing the other side of your family. Not knowing which characteristics you have inherited. I am a mystery, you all. I’ve discovered some pieces of the puzzles, and I have been able to fit them into the appropriate places in the puzzle. Yet, there are other pieces I am missing. The pieces that I have are good. I mean because I know how the overall puzzle looks. However, the puzzle would look much more rich…much more detailed…and most of all, I could completely analyze my entire identity and say…hey, that’s is where I get that quality from.

For little black girls like me when we were younger, it was hell because you are searching from who you look like in the mirror. Who you are starts off with your people. I’ve always been amazed by white friends and family who have taken advantage of their family lineage. They can trace back their family history and understand why they are who they are. However, many I’ve known…shrug their shoulders and don’t think it is a big deal. Why shouldn’t it? It is a privilege that they have. It is always there at their disposable when they question why they are who they are…they don’t even go to the answers that are right under their noses. Everything they possibly need to know is in that family lineage.

You know why Black folks make a HUGE FUCKING DEAL about their roots? We make a huge deal about our roots because there are pieces of us that are missing that we would like to know to have a much richer identity. Our family lines have been broken by white supremacist, white privilege, and Whiteness. Some of us are scrambling like I am. I am scrambling and scraping to find out MORE ABOUT WHO I AM. Don’t get it twisted. I am proud of who I am. What I do know about myself and the experiences I’ve been through have made me who I am today. Yet, black folks who find those pieces of their family history that makes them identify with their characteristics that drive them to make choices to strengthen who they are…they are appreciative of it because it was never a luxury for us. It is a birth right that has been STOLEN from us. Your family history is not a privilege it is a right. It is a right to know who you are and where you come from. That was taken from us. My people and I…some of us try so hard to find those pieces.

I can’t say Happy Father’s Day to my father because I don’t know him. I am one of those black girls who have never met him.

S