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

Respectful Spaces and Conversations

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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own comes to mind after finish reading or viewing the four assigned pieces for my “Whiteness and White Privilege in America” class. Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own discusses how English women do not have access to spaces for many, many years. Woolf specifically speaks of English female writers in the past and in her present and how past English women writers did not have the opportunity to have space to write or create novels, short stories, or poems because of how women are viewed in society.

I am sure that Woolf has her fist raised up today and looking down on all of us…seeing how past injustices continue for women in the publishing industry. This morning, I read a piece by Dana Schwartz called “Why Hasn’t the Late Show Invited Any Female Novelist?” (http://observer.com/2016/05/why-hasnt-the-late-show-invited-any-female-novelists/#.VzIuvu2iWWw.twitter). In this piece, Schwartz adds to the discourse about how women writers who are novelists or fiction writers are not invited to the Stephen Colbert show. Instead, Colbert has had several male novelists or fiction writers one after the other on his show. The female writers that have appeared on Colbert’s show are memoirists. Schwartz mentions in her piece how Jennifer Weiner discusses how female writers get treated in the publishing industry when they write about families and female characters compared to our male counterparts. Weiner and Jodi Picoult have spoken out about how sexist the publishing industry is. During an Huffington Post interview, Weiner answers, “I think it’s a very old and deep-seated double standard that holds that when a man writes about family and feelings, it’s literature with a capital L, but when a woman considers the same topics, it’s romance, or a beach book – in short, it’s something unworthy of a serious critic’s attention” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-pinter/jodi-picoult-jennifer-weiner-franzen_b_693143.html).Weiner and Picoult addressed how Franzen’s Freedom received all these accolades for writing a great American novel about how a family in peril handled temptations of contemporary American society. Weiner’s and Picoult’s arguments stem from that they and other female fiction writers are deemed as chick literature writers whereas Franzen and other male counterparts are viewed as “Great American” writers. I followed this story in 2010 very closely, and I read Franzen’s Freedom which I happened to like. I believe it is a very good novel, and it shows how individuals can get caught up in a commercialized society where they bury their deep desires, and those deep desires come back and haunt them. Now, reflecting on it, I would like to go back and read everything on this happening because it is starting to seem like the story was sensationalized by the media. There has been other news on Weiner and Franzen discussing his latest novel, Purity.

I do agree with Weiner on how sexist the publishing world is. Male writers are still looked upon as “Great American” writers and/or “The Men of Letters.” Female writers don’t get that title, and people don’t look upon us as such. When female writers are successful, the media, advertising, and some critics will craft us as the darlings by the fans who support our work. Yet, we don’t get the same title as our male counterparts. We don’t get the same respectable publicity that our male counterparts do. Male writers not only get that recognition, but they are privileged to be granted the space that they are in. More so, white males writers have greater accessibilities of these privileges than white female writers, men of color writers, and women of color writers. We exist in a white patriarchal society still. Yes, still after all of this time. Those who aren’t white males have a more difficult time being “granted” recognition for their crafts. Most of all, white males writers are able to occupy many spaces in their careers which grants them many opportunities to become successful writers. As a black female fiction writer, I am going to have to fight, just like my predecessors, harder to explain in ways why I write what I write because I will be going against the status quota.

Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Tayari Jones, Gayle Jones, and other black women writers have paved a path for me. Black women writers continue to pave a path for each other, so the next generation of black female writers will continue to contribute and aspire like the ones who have paved the way for us. Toni Morrison and Alice Walker are living legend established writers who write about the black experience from their own eyes and how they have seen American society and American culture in their world—and how they continue to see it. However, Morrison and Walker do not get talked about as much as white male writers—and they don’t get taught as much as male white writers overall. The four pieces I read for my “Whiteness and White Privilege in America” will help enrich my discussion about writing spaces. In general, Gay, Janai, Smooth, and Martínez discuss how important it is that we practice conversations when it concerns minorities in America when they are in certain spaces. This is quite important in how we facilitate conversations that empower individuals that are viewed as “Others” and are in the “Minority” and how it is important that the ones who have been oppressed find ways to liberate from oppression and have the opportunity to create, use, and utilize spaces.

The four pieces I read and viewed:

Roxane Gay’s “The Seduction of Safety, On Campus and Beyond” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/opinion/sunday/the-seduction-of-safety-on-campus-and-beyond.html?_r=4)
Janai’s “Introverts and Extroverts and Power (Oh My!) (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/introverts-and-extraverts-and-power-oh-my/)
Jay Smooth’s “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussion Race” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU)
D.E. Solís y Martínez’s “How the Trigger Warning Debate Misses the Point (http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2016/01/how-the-trigger-warning-debate-misses-the-point/)

These four pieces reiterate for me in how you and I need to continue to find ways to discuss discourse in a way that makes us feel compel to without feeling like we are going to get potentially attacked for what we say or how we express it with all matters( including how writers are treated in public spheres in the publishing industry). Jay Smooth discusses this in his New Hampshire Ted Talk how it is difficult to have constructive conversations about race and racism because when an individual confronts a person or persons about a racist comment or opinion that he/she/they said, it turns into…are you saying that I am racist? I know as a person of color it is hard for me to engage in conversations with some people about race, and this is from all types of people—even people in my own race. When I’ve had discussions with some of my white friends about race, it pretty much goes over their heads. Even if I try to break it down or explain it to them, it gets pretty frustrating because no matter what you say, they do not want to get it at all. Questions like “how can I be privileged?” when I have explained to them a scenario in how they are privileged in a certain situation when I am not, gets frustrating. There have been times where I’ve had close friends who have made racist statements and/or racially prejudiced statements about black folks or black women in particularly. I know of one instance where I heard several comments about black women from a close friend being ghetto, and I was even confronted by…”Well, you know it is true, though. You know that black women are loud and vindictive” I am paraphrasing this because it was a long time ago, but I had thought days and days about not being this person’s friend anymore. My logic is…how can you want to be friends with me when you really don’t want to talk about or know anything about my culture? I do struggle with white friends who don’t get that. Yet, there are white friends that I do have who get it. They get that they are privileged and recognize it and want to change it. I am able to have thoughtful, engaging conversations with them, and with those friends, I am able to create those spaces with. Roxane Gay talks about that in her piece. When we use free speech, we don’t use it as a threat. I would like to add we need to all know what freedom of speech means before we throw that phrase around because many people hide behind “freedom of speech” when they are throwing hate speech around. Gay mentions that just because we have freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t exempted from its consequences. She’s right. What I know about verbal words and written words is this: they hold tremendous power. People say that they don’t, but they really do. Verbal abuse? There have been abuse victims that say the verbal abuse they received was worse than the physical abuse that they received. Words do hurt, and when you say them in certain spaces, you are either uplifting people’s self-esteem, or you chipping away or destroying folks’ self-esteem.

The individuals’ consequences of what they say either violate, disrupt, or destroy any type of safe space for any individuals who need to seek them when needed. Safe spaces are supposed to be temporary spaces for emotional refuge when the majority makes others “The Other.” When the majority collectively abides by existing, binding rules/standards, individuals who don’t fit in or abide these rules are the “Others.” They are unable to be themselves or express themselves because their uniqueness does not fit in with the “standard norms.” Safe spaces are there for those who feel traumatized or triggered by events that have resulted from “constructive norms” that have hurt them. As Martínez discusses in his piece about trigger warnings, we have to create spaces and communications to talk about what triggers are trauma—and discuss why we have that trauma and what we can do about healing from that trauma so we can have more fulfilling lives.

Yet, it is quite hard to have those spaces due to how people see those spaces and not understanding how they are causing those spaces not to be created. Janai’s piece offers interesting insight to how introverts and extroverts are privileged individuals in different spaces and how we all should recognize that being introverted or extroverted has privilege along with it. If you are an extrovert in spaces while having conversations, Janai writes that your loudness can silence other individuals in the group who want to share their experiences. If you are introverted, you have the privilege to observe and listen to people without having to share anything about yourself in certain spaces. What she says is interesting, and I can see how extroverts and introverts have some privileges depending on what spaces that they occupy…it is an interesting take. I suppose I am privileged in a way concerning not sharing my fiction writing with certain people. I tell them about I am writing a novel, but I don’t share parts of it, and they don’t but in. I suppose that I drew the line in the sand earlier about my writing, and in the past, I was quite selective about telling people that I had an online blog. So, I am introverted about certain aspects of my life while I am extroverted by certain aspects of my life. In some ways, I can see one seeing that as a privilege that I practice.

However, if we examine other minorities in the past compared to what I just shared, we’ve come a little ways. Woolf gives examples in A Room of One’s Own about how Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters had to hide their passion for writing. The Bronte sisters had to come up with male pseudonyms, so they could publish their books in a white male dominated publishing industry. A female author did an experiment where she used a male pseudonym and saw in a startling way in how agents/publishers treated her. Catherine Nichols used a male pen name (http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627) and saw the results she got. In 2015, Catherine received very positive feedback and even pleasant rejections as her male pen name than when she actually submitted her work under her real name. Can we say sexism much? The Brontes published in the 19th century, and Catherine had her experience in the 21st century. That is two centuries—that is two hundred years, and in two hundred years time, individuals are still practicing sexism within publishing—and in many aspects of our culture.

In order to create spaces where individuals can freely express themselves without harm or persecution, we must have these conversations about racism, sexism, classism, elitism, ageism, and all other –isms that prevents many of us for being ourselves or talking about our experiences, so we can make changes to a system that benefits some. However, a system that eventually harms all. Yes, safe havens should still exist because those spaces need to be utilize by individuals who are looked upon and treated as the “Other.” However, you and I need to continue to create respectful spaces and have respectful conversations. The way we create spaces is tolerating and empathizing with one another and trying to learn how to have healthy, balance respectful conversations. I agree with Jay Smooth. Once we start becoming better in how to communicate with each other, then, we can start tackling the major issues that systematically oppress people from having access to certain opportunities or knowledge. We can also dismantle how ism tropes destroys spirit of self-innovation which is a part of freedom because individuals who are oppressed are worried more about obtaining freedoms and having the chance at opportunties that they limit own time in pursuing their talents that help our culture and society move along to being greater and greater.

Cheers,
Sophia

The White Privilege Course

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I decided to take a doctoral level course because my advisor coworker friend was emailed by another advisor who advertised that this instructor needed students to take her course.

The advisor friend pleaded with me to take this course with her. I decided to do it, and I applied to the graduate school as a non-degree seeking Master’s student. There was a lot I had to do in a short period of time to get into this course. I went ahead and contacted the instructor of the course. I already met the instructor of the course. She did a presentation a few months ago about the history of sexual violence and how it was tied to the university campus. It was a great presentation. Anyway, once I found out from my advisor friend who taught the course, I definitely wanted to take it with her. She and our other advisor friend told me I should apply to the TAP program to take the course.

First, I had to apply to the graduate school. I went online and completed the graduate application. I kept on it, and they admitted me as a non-degree seeking graduate student (Master’s). Next, I had to complete the TAP program application. Before I did that, I ask my supervisor for approval. The course was after work hours. She agreed and approved the application. Next, I sent off the TAP application. The TAP director could not approve it until I was admitted as a non-degree seeking graduate student. Once I was, I contacted the TAP director, and he processed my information. Next, once I was in the system, I checked the student website to make sure I was integrated as a graduate student. However, I had several holds on my account. First, hold was easy to remove. I had to complete emergency contact information. The next holds were tricky. I had went ahead and pay a three dollar fee to have my undergraduate BA transcript sent electronically to the graduate student. They received it and took the hold off. The toughest hold item was the immunizations. In order to get the immunizations, I had to go to the county health department. All my immunizations are not on the national database. My immunizations were still on the health department cards that they filled out back in the day to document babies’/children’s immunizations. In order for me to get them, I had to go to the local health department, complete a release form, and the local health department official had to fax the form to my hometown’s health department where the my hometown’s health department had to fax a copy of my immunization records. The administrator was griping about how they need to put the immunizations on the national immunization database. I told her that they were old school, and that’s how they were.

Finally, after three hours (because the administrator keyed in the wrong fax number), my immunization records were faxed in. I went ahead and had the administrator key in my immunizations, and I decided to get the outdated immunizations done. I was due for a tetanus shot. As for the chicken pox immunization, the records state that I had a titers, and I was immune to it, but I didn’t know how true that was. So, I went ahead and scheduled the chicken pox shot as well. The nurse that did the shots were great. We had a long talk about education. After she finished my shots, I drove over to the university’s health center to turn in my records. Come to find out, the titers counted, and I didn’t need a chicken pox shot.

Then, my student accounts record was cleared, and I was ready to register. The way the TAP program works with registration is that university/college employees have to wait a certain date to register. Our registration date was this past Monday. After 5 a.m. this past Monday, I registered for the course that I was granted department of permission to register for. My TAP waiver took effective twenty four hours afterwards. I get to take a course that will help me finish my Master’s thesis.

The course is White Privilege in Education. You ask…why would I take a course as such?

First, my graduate work for my master’s program is on Toni Morrison and her works. For the past several years, I’ve been writing about privilege concerning race, class, and sex. It is only natural I want to learn more about how white privilege is playing into our cultural and what new ways can I learn to help educate people in collegiate environments and in my life about it. I also believe that this will help with the significant revisions of my thesis work so I can move on to doctoral work and get a PhD next.

Today, the instructor email all of us in the course so far. She hasn’t completed the syllabus yet, but she did complete the first week. I have my texts, and there will be a lot of reading to do, but I am looking forward to it.

I will be writing about the course and what is going on in it and what I am learning. Another reason why I am taking this course is I want to further understand and share what is going on in my department. I work in a science department where we hardly have any minorities training out PhD/MS graduate students. We have four black female PhD graduate students, an African male MS student, and we have one black male graduate student. We have one Puerto Rican female graduate student, and one biracial graduate student who is Mexican. We have one Pacific Islander male PhD student, and one multiracial female student who is part Pacific Islander. Of course, the rest of our department is white graduate students—half of white female PhD students and the other half is white male PhD students. Yet, when you look at higher up administration who have PhDs in power, the majority of them are white males. If any white females with PhDs that are administration have power, they don’t have nearly as much power as their white male counterparts. Any people of color who have administrative positions, they are lumped with the minority and have to work thrice as hard to get heard. So, the question is…why are we still in a racial hierarchal caste system that is run by white males? More important, to me, what tools and actions we need to take to make spaces more diverse because folks this caste system still exists in America and is several hundred years old.

More on this development,
S