Category Archives: racism

To Sum Up

I am English and white and I am guilty of following the US presidential candidate nomination thingy only vaguely (you see how precise that definition was, right?), but fuck me, this resonated:

Some days it seems as if the GOP candidates are competing to be the governor of Alabama, circa 1960, rather than running to be President of the United States in 2013.

From Racialicious.

Amber Cole

I am not in the least zeitgeisty.

I’d go so far as to say that if we take the Wiki definition of zeitgeist as being ‘the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era’ then I’m so far out of being zeitgeisty that I am, in fact the Anti-Zeitgeist.  All hail and tremble before me, trendy people!

From not understanding the point of Twitter to not knowing my Pop Idol from my X-Factor from my Britain’s Got Talent, to being unable to order a Happy Meal, I am not of the moment.  When younger, this used to cause me some discomfort (‘Why?  Why?? WHY??? can’t I be normal??!?), but not now.  Now I’ve realised that it’s the rest of the fucking world which is loop-juice fucking crazy.

Which partially explains why I’ve only just come across Amber Cole, but more importantly explains why I just don’t get how people – and I mean everybody, people! – can’t see how fucked up this whole thing is.  How people can’t hear about what has happened to Amber Cole and to a fucking person understand how fucked up it is that:

A 14 year old girl gives a blow job to make a guy like her.

That she does it whilst being watched by another guy.

That the recipient is happy to receive a blow job while being watched by another guy.

That the watcher videos the whole thing.

That the watcher and/or recipient puts the whole thing up on the internet.

That people don’t immediately recognise, when they stumble on the video, that they are watching, at best, a form of child sexual abuse.

That those people don’t immediately notify the site showing the video and the site don’t immediately pull it.

That, instead, people actually discuss at great length, the girl’s sexual technique.

That, instead, people actually discuss at great length, what a complete and utter fucking slut/whore/ho the girl is.

That, instead, people actually discuss at great length, how she’s some nasty-assed black girl who lets down her race and gives black women a bad name.

That people never talk about the nasty-assedness of the boys involved.

That people never talk about where the fuck these boys‘ morals have come from.

That people never talk about where the fuck these boys‘ parents were.

Fucked up.  And you wonder why I’m not at all concerned about being normal anymore.  Ha!

And that’s just the misogyny.

I read about Amber Cole via Womanist Musings (not Twitter, obvs – waaaay too zeitgeisty), which also accuses the white feminist community of ignoring Amber Cole.

When I wrote about this last week, a commenter brought up the issue of lack of coverage of the incident in the feminist sphere.

‘I know that as bloggers, we have limited resources and we have to make careful consideration over what we bring attention to, but the glaring silence about Amber Cole is painful. Black women have spoken up in droves to claim #teamambercole, as a method of rejecting the slut shaming and the cyber bullying involved in this incident.

‘The silence of our supposed White female activist allies speaks loudly.’

Given that the only reference in white-feminist-spaces I could find was to a frankly jaw-dropping piece on Jezebel, entitled ‘I am Amber Cole’s Father’ by somebody who isn’t (but who actually says shit like ‘where was her mother?’ – read this to get a flavour without having to actually eat any of it), I would have to agree.  Sure, some people will miss it (like, er, me), some people will just be holiday that week, some people will have spilled coffee on their computer…but, no one?  Really?

Every time something about women doesn’t get reported (like, oh, every day for, oh, the last however long since people first communicated via drawings on cave walls…have I mentioned Women\’s Views on News?), I immediately think ‘Really?  Really?  Are you frickin’ kidding me?  Sexism, much?’

I’m thinking that now, only ending with ‘Racism, much?’

I get that feminism tends to be dominated by white women and I get that white privilege still seems to get in the way of white feminists understanding that it’s not enough to simply say, ‘well, why don’t women of colour just get involved then, yada, yada?’ and that there is an active obligation on the movement to create a safe space to welcome those women, whilst said feminists simultaneously insist that the Patriarchy creates a safe space for them.  I don’t like it, but I get it.

But are white feminists really so wrapped in privilege that we really don’t see that what has happened with Amber Cole is more important to speak about because it happened to a black girl than to a white one?  Because Amber Cole is being shamed not only as a female but as a black female?  Because black women are essentially, again, being told to shut up about sexism because they’ll ‘divide’ the anti-racism movement?  Like women of all colours are being told vis-a-vis the Occupy movement?  People, this shit is all connected!

‘...if Black women don’t stand beside [Amber Cole] and declare that cyber bullying is absolutely wrong, and that slut shaming a young girl for failing to make a wise decision is indefensible, then no one will.

‘The only people we can reliably count on is each other. I have been told many times since I started Womanist Musings that my approach is divisive, and that I cause harm to the delicate fabric of female solidarity.

‘If being angry at being neglected, when we are so clearly being attacked is considered divisive, then you don’t really have a vested interest in women.’

I can only really agree.  I mean, jeez, I’m still a novice when it comes to examining my own privilege but surely white feminists everywhere have at least read a bit of bell hooks?  Surely?

Melting Pot My Arse

Being a liberal kinda gal, I did once buy into the myth that the world is all one big smushy melting pot of lurve really and it’s only those nasty, bad racist people who fuck it up for everybody else.  Even as late as having kids, my initial instincts were – and I suspect I’m not alone here – to ‘ignore’ colour with my kids.  If I didn’t bring up the issue of race and racism, my kids would somehow – miraculously – grow up to be ‘colour-blind’, treating all individuals the same regardless of skin hue.

That this ran directly contrary to how I was going to teach my kids to be ‘gender-blind’ – i.e. bombard the poor sods with examples of gender disparity followed by a long explanation of why they were wrong – passed me by for a bit.

But, oh, the benefits of education!  Just as bell hooks showed me, in about three pages, how my feminism excluded any one non-white and I hadn’t even realised it (and just because I hadn’t actively thought about it), a small chapter in Nurtureshock, showed me that my approach to anti-racist parenting was, erm, ridiculous. It was just a massive piece of privilege blindness.

Just as with gender, so with race.  Kids see fucking colour – and, equally, the lack of it – everywhere.  They get lessons in laissez faire racism every single fucking day.  Black women may clean daddy’s office, but they don’t actually work in one.  Black men…well, round our way, black men aren’t visible in any work environment my children have any interaction with despite being around in relatively large numbers.  My children learn from this in the same way they learn from everything around them: they take the basic facts they see and draw the most obvious conclusions.  Colour-blind my arse.  Nurtureshock noted studies that showed that children actually invent ‘race’ groups out of virtually nothing: put half a classroom of children in red bibs for a week, the other half in blue bibs and watch in despair as by the end of the week each group denigrates the other as not being as ‘good’ as their group.  This occurs, insanely, even when no mention of the bibs is made by teachers throughout the week and the groups aren’t pitted against each other in any way; the kids are just told they have to wear the bibs for a week and thereafter the fact is not alluded to at all.

It was just time to accept it.  I am as racist as the next person.  And by next person, I mean you.  We’re all racist.  Just as we all grew up surrounded by gender stereotypes, so we all grew up surrounded by racist stereotypes and, as we know (all hail the goddess, Cordelia Fine!), these stereotypes remain no matter how much we don’t want them to, even if, as Fugitivus points out, the precise nature of these stereotypes may differ depending on where you grew up. [Oh, and if you doubt the veracity of the statement that we’re all racist, you really should check out the Fugitivus link.]  The only thing that distinguishes our racism (I hope) from that of the next person along is our awareness of it.  Which is why I feel like such a fuckwit that it took me so long to really be aware of mine.  Oh, sure, I knew I held racist stereotypes, but knowing and knowing are two distinct steps.

So I changed my approach and colour is now on the agenda in the same way as gender.

And so to the point of this post, which wasn’t just to tell you you’re all racist (thanks for that, then), but to talk about children’s books.  An odd intro, I know, but bear with me.

Some time ago, I lamented the fact that, whilst I’d managed to find several ‘alternative’ princess books for Boogie, the protagonists in those books were still all white.  As somebody who spends more time than I should have to in book shops hunting for female protagonists in children’s books, I can only say if you’re looking for black female protagonists, you’d better take a tent and a copy of War & Peace with you.  You are going to be there some time.  Black females are rare birds indeed in children’s fiction as, indeed, are black males (did I already say colour-blind, my arse? good).  But I did get hold of one: Grace.  Of Caribbean heritage, Grace stars in a series of books written by Mary Hoffman.

The first book I got was Amazing Grace, and boy, did I love it.  The first part of the book, several pages long, is a hymn to her fantastic imagination, showing an active (in both senses) girl, throwing herself into various exciting worlds.  I had a minor gripe that in most of the fantasies she enacts, she’s still playing a male, but moving on…  Then her class is to put on the play Peter Pan and Grace wants the lead role. Whereupon one classmate tells her she can’t be Peter Pan because she’s a girl, and another tells her she can’t be Peter Pan because she’s black.  As a jumping off point into discussions about sexism and racism, it can’t really be bettered; it fits squarely into my philosophy of getting these things right out on the table.  It also struck me how unusual that approach is.  Boogie loved it, too; the discussions that followed really illustrated how thirsty she is for knowledge on these mysterious things like ‘gender’ and ‘race’, things which surround her and which she can see  are clearly very important things to ‘figure out’ but which aren’t ever really explained by the world that holds them to be so important.

In short, I loved it.

So, I bought another in the series, Princess Grace, in which Grace ‘discovers that there’s more than one way to be a princess‘ and I wanted to love that one, too.

Well, it’s my own fault, really, I suppose.  Had I thought it through, I should’ve realised that, whilst I’ve bought ‘alternative princess’ books before, I bought them as a last resort really, because Boogie was at the height of her ‘Disney Princess’ phase, and skewing her idea of what a princess could be was the first and easiest step to start countering the horrendously passive and boring DP model.  But Boogie’s DP mania is already on the wane and – in large part due to the books I bought – she’s already bought into the idea that princesses can behave in all sorts of different ways and still be princesses.

And still be princesses.  You see?  Now it’s really time for part II of my Princess Master Plan: introducing the idea that you don’t have to be a princess at all, and you can still be awesome.

Because for all the ideas about how princess’s behave, there is one fact that remains, essentially, unopposed;  princesses, whatever else they may or may not be, are pretty.  They can ride horses, tame monsters and live in pigsties but nowhere is it even hinted that princesses can be plain.

So, Grace learns about ‘alternative’ historical princesses and about how they had adventures leading armies etc etc.  And at the end, instead of being a fluffy pink princess, Grace is a Gambian princess, wearing West African Kente robes.  And what does Grace learn from this experience?  She learns that, ‘There’s more than one way of being pretty.’  Kente robes or not, a princess’s main achievment – and basic entry requirement – is to be pretty.

Oh, maybe I’m being over-sensitive.  It just spoiled it for me is all.

Mistress’s New Law No. 3

Following on from the genius stealth tax that was New Law No.2, comes related New law No.3.  This one’s for all the ‘Political correctness has gone maaahd’ crowd (aka. the ‘I’m no longer allowed to openly state arsehole opinions without rightly being made to feel like a steaming pile of crap’ crowd).  They’ll love it.

So, for all the ‘I’m not sexist, but…’ and the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ and the ‘I’m not a wanker, but I’m going to now illustrate how I spend my life masturbating into my own mouth’, here it is:

Mistress’s New Law No.3.

Anybody who utters the words ‘You can’t say it anymore’ followed by ‘but…followed-by-a-precise-statement-of-exactly-what-you’ve-just-alleged-you’re-not-allowed-to-say-anymore’ will be subject to the same financial penalties levied for offences against Mistress’s New Law No.2.  As an additional bonus, they will also be required to attend classes along with other offenders until they finally get why you can’t say it anymore.

Jesus, this is going to be the best financed post-revolutionary period since the glory days of the CIA  and its fondness for puppet regimes.  We will have  milk and honey flowing through the streets, my friends!