On September 26, 2013, Marissa’s legal team won an appeal asking for a retrial because the jury’s instructions on what was to be considered “self defense” were erroneous. However, as she was denied the same immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Laws that recently paved the way to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, Marissa’s supporters are doubtful that a new trial by the same justice system will give her a fair chance to plead her case and are calling for charges against her to be dropped.
Kaba states: “My own personal sense of heartbreak has been around the notion, in this case, that Marissa couldn’t be afraid, that she couldn’t feel fear, and that the jury couldn’t believe that she was afraid. That’s deep. And that’s why having another trial feels to me like a recipe for disaster—because I don’t think her humanity is taken into account. I don’t think people think that black women can feel scared, or that we have the ability to feel pain.”
The Feminist Wire just wrapped up a ten day forum on race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism. If you haven’t already, the forum is really worth delving into. In the introductory post, Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Heather Laine Talley explained its origin:
Perhaps in this twenty-four hour news cycle culture, the horrid sexist and racist sexualization of nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis both at the Academy Awards and in Twittersphere is now old news. And maybe for her sake, it should be.
White feminists’ silence in the face of racism is old news too, but feminism’s troubled relationship with race and racism is something to keep talking about. It was the reaction to Tressie McMillan’s analysis of white feminists’ response to the attacks on Quvenzhané Wallis that ignited our interest in hosting this Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism. To be sure, The Feminist Wire has been engaged in these conversations since our founding, but what McMillan’s piece noted was the yawning vacuum of public response to misogyny directed at a Black girlchild.
Many white feminists jettisoned the opportunity to think about silence as racism. Instead, they cited examples of white women’s response to defend against the critique of white silence. While it is true that some white feminists publicly responded, the very impulse to deny a pattern of silence sidesteps critical feminist and anti-racist work. The legacy of feminism has taught us to ask: in what ways am I oppressed and marginalized? In thinking about race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism, an equally important question is: in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?
Following the forum with that critical question in mind—”in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?”—has been both challenging and enriching. Here is a (non-comprehensive) collection of some of the pieces, but the entire forum is highly recommended reading.
When have Black feminists been able to rely on their white comrades in earnest? When have we been able to rest assured that white feminists would show up fully armored, ready to challenge even the most egregious forms of racialized-sexism? Has there ever been a time in history when Black women have not had to pull themselves from real-on-the-ground battles to defend human and civil rights, including the right to bodily and personal safety, in order to step away, to educate, and to ensure our white feminist comrades engage in authentic alliances on our behalf?
And then one night, there is a dinner and discussion at your house–a class project about immigration and the media. You arrange copies of magazine covers, like place mats, on the dining room table for discussion–they show Latino people, the shadows of their eyes dark. The illustrated faces squished into hard stares and grimaces. Their creators, through ink and gloss, try to communicate to you (you young white American woman you) that these faces wish you harm. You think that this sort of media does not affect you.
My reality is that this world remains one in which my black skin and feminine attributes connote almost every move that I make as spectacular. There have been many times in which I have felt trapped by the paradox of liberalism – on the one hand, I am framed as an ‘equal stakeholder’ at the table of social (mis)givings, able to determine my own destiny and to assume access to the same possibilities and resources as anyone else. On the other hand, gasps and whispers swirl around me as I walk into many of those very places claimed to be open for those willing to work hard and persevere.
I count up the strikes I have against me. Female. Daughter of immigrant parents. Survivor of domestic violence, sexual manipulation. Queer. I think about the way all of these markers inform each other, intersect. I am told by some self-proclaiming feminists and critical race theoreticians that in more ways than others, I’m nearing the top rung in some form of oppression olympics. But instead, it feels somehow, like I’m losing.
Maintaining a rigorous racial justice praxis that is based on learning, self-reflection, action and more self-reflection; valuing the necessity of discomfort when the struggle is honest and accountable; understanding that political alignment is almost never based on identity but rather on shared values and a commitment to collective liberation.
I do think that there are moments and situations when we are obligated to act and speak out, and can understand why many people felt that Wallis’s degradation by The Onion was one of them. But I interpret reactions to the treatment of Wallis as an instance in which we cannot assume that silence equals absence and consent.
No, goddamnit, I’m pissed. I’m not a special snowflake who clutches her pearls because someone has hurt her “feelings.” This is not about personal comfort zones. I’m freaking angry because someone is a racist. And so should you be. This is not a personal wellness issue.
What does it mean for a white person living in a white supremacist society to label themselves an ‘anti-racist feminist’? Does it surrender control over the meaning of the term ‘feminist’ (unmodified) to those who tacitly support white supremacy? Does it again re-center the good intentions of white people and their need to be validated by the people of color in whose oppression they are complicit?
A few days ago while skimming my morning RSS feeds, I read a news article about a soccer player being banned for giving the Nazi salute while celebrating a goal. I know little about sports and even less about the specific sport football (US soccer), but the title of the BBC article has haunted me: “Who, What, Why: Can you accidentally do a Nazi salute?”
Giorgos Katidis. image from guardian.co.uk
My mind keeps drifting to this question of intention, meaning, and interpretation. A few years ago I had an argument about a similar, albeit more straightforward, issue of the use of the swastika by punks in 1970s England. For the umpteenth time I was reading Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: the Meaning of Style (of which there is so much to say, but I’m trying to stay focused!). In the book Hebdige argues that in being used by punks, the swastika “lost its ‘natural’ meaning-fascism,” “was worn because it was guaranteed to shock,” and “[t]he signifier (swastika) had been willfully detached from the concept (Nazism) it conventionally signified…its primary value and appeal derived precisely from its lack of meaning” (p 177).
punks in the UK wearing swastikas, 1970s. images from http://www.punk77.co.uk
I was discussing the book with a fellow student who agreed with Hebdige, that the swastika was signifying shock and not actual Nazism. I disagreed with him, namely, and reason I say this argument was more straightforward than the soccer player, because the context in which the punks were displaying the symbol was in England roughly 35 years after the Blitz. Maybe their parents and certainly their grandparents, experienced the bombing, death, and destruction.
the blitz. images from www.english.illinois.edu , www.nmaw.org
The interpretation of the symbol by others, the signified, is inarguably Nazis, Hitler, fascism. As far as the punk’s intention, the symbol is not a ‘rhetoric of crisis‘ but a rhetoric of fascism, no matter its bricolage context. Yes the symbol caused ‘shock,’ but it was a particular type of shock. Other symbols like unnaturally dyed hair and PVC clothing also caused shock. While perhaps not active in Nazi groups, there was purpose in the use of the symbol, its ‘natural’ meaning was being evoked. Wielding this signifier demonstrates there is no absence, or ignorance, of meaning. To have clear, personal ties to such a political signifier indicates a specific kind of violence and hostility.
more punks. images from www.punk77.co.uk , http://www.acc.umu.se
While I feel similarly about the recent football incident, I believe my unfamiliarity with the various factors is part of why I feel it is more complex. The player has claimed 1. that he was pointing to friends, then 2. that he did not know what it meant. His coach has said “He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the internet or somewhere else and did it, without knowing what it means.” But is that even possible? Why has he given different explanations to interpret the symbol? Where would he have seen the symbol out of its ‘natural’ context?
white celebrities embodying racist stereotypes of cultures that are not their own. images from http://www.nativenews.net, bitchmagazine.org, stream.aljazeera.com
In this case, the player has been banned from the national team, but would still be able to ‘go pro.’ I feel somewhat settled in my belief that no, this player could not have done an accidental Nazi salute. Yet, I teach young adults and find myself confounded by their simultaneous abundance and dearth of existing knowledge. When paired with the proliferation in transformation of the political to the apolitical, I am troubled the answer to such a question could possibly be ‘yes’.
symbols being used by celebrities who either do not understand or do not care as to their significance. images from www.sodahead.com, www.bet.com, www.celebuzz.com
*Note on the images I’ve used: In placing these images next to one another I do not mean to infer equivalency between them. They are merely images I believe demonstrate the use of symbols packed with politicized meaning.
By now you’ve probably already heard that our friends at the POC (People of Color) Zine Project are leaving for a 14-day tour starting today. We couldn’t be more excited.
The tour will consist of “DIY” events (like the kickoff this evening) featuring bands, music, and readers, as well as school-sponsored panels, bringing POC zines into the university. For a preview, see a video of our Meet Me at the Race Riot event produced by Barnard.
I think that being able to tour & travel has helped me deal with how white punk can be because I’ve been able to make connections with black & brown punks all over the country and even internationally.
Even though zines are largely seen as either a literary art form or as a “music thing,” imagine the transformative nature that zines could have in all aspects of our lives? The power of narratives being read straight from the pens of those living them with out fear of persecution within and outside of their own community, or, inversely, the recognition of a POC voice within their community and power lying in the ease in which a zine can be created—we don’t need anyone’s publishing money, we don’t need anyone’s approval.
I wanted to go on this tour… to connect with other punks of color about this thing we love and sometimes hate, to present something –a zine, a tour— that might make sense of that push and pull and give it a history, and then to create something new between us.
I decided to join the [POC Zine Project] tour because I thought it was an awesome opportunity to hang out with women of colour who I could hopefully talk to about things that I think about alot, but don’t necessarily get to talk about that much in the communities and cities that I live in! I’m working on the third issue of my punk zine Fix My Head, which is a collection of interviews with “Punx of Colour,” mostly women who have been playing in hardcore/punk bands for some time, and their experiences of racism/fetishisation/exclusion/etc.
A groundbreaking installation by women of African descent, Asian, White, Latina and Native American women intentionally scheduled to open on the eve of the 4th of July at the Museum of Women’s Resistance (MoWRe) at Black Women’s Blueprint.
The installation features a series of photo images capturing historical and contemporary sexist and racist constructions of female sexuality in America that perpetuate rape culture, the violation of bodily integrity, violation of rights, and reinforce messages that the denigration of the female body is permissible. The installation juxtaposes narratives from various cultures in America, highlighting complex differences as well as similarities between women’s struggles against sexualized violence, educating the public about the ways in which women have mounted personal, collective and political resistance against it.
Presented by Black Women’s Blueprint In Collaboration with: AF3IRM, Since Combahee, Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (Monsoon), National Organization of Asian Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV). Specialized tours are offered for youth 12 and over. More details here.
This week Racialicious posted a piece about a black trans woman who has been arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder after she and her friends were violently attacked by a group of white people who were yelling racist and transphobic epithets. A woman smashed a glass into CeCe’s face and, according to Racialicious,
A fight ensued between the adults and the young people after this initial attack and one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
As if it were not sufficiently tragic that a group of young people were subjected to such severe violence and that Dean Schmitz lost his life, police arriving at the scene arrested CeCe, denied her adequate medical treatment, interrogated her for hours, and placed her in solitary confinement. In the aftermath of being attacked, she was not treated with care, but launched into another nightmare. The only person arrested that night, she has since been charged with two counts of 2nd degree murder. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman has the power to drop these charges, a choice he made in multiple other clear instances of self-defense this year, but he has not yet done so.
CeCe’s story is a portrait of the United States Criminal Justice System. Her story is what is meant when we are told that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, experience disproportionate rates of police harassment, profiling, and abuse. She is living one of the stories rolled into statistics like: trans people are ten to fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than cisgender (not transgender) people, or nearly half of African American transgender people have spent time in jail or prison.
Please take a moment to read the full Racialicious article here, and visit http://supportcece.wordpress.com/ to get updates on the case. To tell Michael Freeman you support dropping the charges against CeCe, call 612-348-5561 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re so excited for our next event, co-organized with POC Zine Project & Barnard Zine Library on Wednesday, November 16th. You can RSVP on Facebook.
Wednesday, November 16 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm
307 Milbank Hall (3rd floor)
North end of campus
New York, NY 10027
The People of Color (POC) Zine Project, Barnard Zine Library and For The Birds Collective are excited to announce a zine reading/community event featuring poc zinesters with diverse backgrounds in zine culture and activism. This is an ALL AGES event, so spread widely!
We’ll be adding more details to this event listing, but here are the confirmed readers and details:
Barnard Zine Libary: http://zines.barnard.edu/
Barnard’s zines are written by women (cis- and transgender) with an emphasis on zines by women of color. We collect zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders. The zines are personal and political publications on activism, anarchism, body image, third wave feminism, gender, parenting, queer community, riot grrrl, sexual assault, trans experience, and other topics.
FOR THE BIRDS: http://forthebirdscollective.org/
FOR THE BIRDS is a New York City-based feminist collective. We work towards establishing alternative spaces that promote the creative interests of women-identified community members. For the Birds is a collaborative group of organizers with backgrounds in feminism, social justice work, and various artistic pursuits. Through DIY feminist cultural activism, For The Birds aims to empower and support radical women of action.
POC ZINE PROJECT: https://www.facebook.com/pages/POC-Zine-Project/304152466201
We want to make it easier for POC (People of Color) zine fans and their supporters to find a diverse selection of zines made by POC. Zines are a vital component in the long tradition of self-publication. They share knowledge and experiences that supplement (and often contradict) the information that other sources distribute, encouraging free thought. There are many valuable zine collections in the United States (many accessible online) but none that are devoted to curating POC zines. POC Zine Project’s mission is to makes ALL zines by POC easy to find, share, and distribute.
This documentary chronicles the past two decades of female involvement in the DIY punk community. We’ve interviewed tons of amazing women ages 17-40 from all over the United States!
You can RSVP on Facebook; showings at 7:00 and 9:30PM. $5.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?
A Panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2PM @ ST. FRANCIS VOLPE LIBRARY
Music is often the voice of a generation-a touchstone for issues both personal and political, and a way for its fans to understand themselves. Mark Yarm, (Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge), Marisa Meltzer (Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music) and Marcus Reeves (Somebody Scream: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power) – look at the impact of punk, hip hop, riot grrrl, and more on the lives of its fans. Moderated by Will Hermes (Love Goes To Buildings On Fire).
For more information on this panel, click here; for more information on the Brooklyn Book Festival, see their main site.
& THEN… LATER THAT NIGHT!
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 7:30PM @ UNION DOCS
Verso Books has declared September “the month of White Riot“ and I am not one to disagree. Stephen Duncombe (Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture) and Maxwell Tremblay (The SLEEPiES) have edited this pioneering collection on punk and race. Verso and UnionDocs have teamed up to bring us this night of films and a discussion on the subject. You can listen to Stephen and Max on WFMU discussing the book, too.
Sunday, September 18 at 7:30pm // at UnionDocs // 322 Union Ave., Brooklyn, NY // $9 suggested donation.
Movie selections and critical discussion on punk rock and race, from the Clash to Los Crudos, skinheads to afropunks, with professor Stephen Duncombe and writer/musician Maxwell Tremblay. More after the jump.
We are thrilled to announce our first collaboration and co-sponsored event with POC Zine Project: a screening of Afro-Punk. This is the first event we’ve booked since The Big She-Bang IV last August and we couldn’t be more excited. The good folks at Book Thug Nation will be hosting us and there will be snacks provided by POC Zine Project. As part of their mission, they’ll be distributing free zines by POC zinesters, too! We hope to have folks stay after the film is over for a discussion about why we chose to screen the film and any general reactions or interactions from fellow community members & audience participants. You can RSVP to the Facebook event here.
SUNDAY, MAY 30 at BOOKTHUG NATION
100 N. 3rd St., Brooklyn // 7pm // FREE
For the Birds Collective & POC Zine Project present a screening of AFRO-PUNK
From the website: Afro-Punk, a 66-minute documentary, explores race identity within the punk scene. More than your everyday, Behind the Music or typical “black history month” documentary this film tackles the hard questions, such as issues of loneliness, exile, inter-racial dating and black power. We follow the lives of four people who have dedicated themselves to the punk rock lifestyle. They find themselves in conflicting situations, living the dual life of a person of color in a mostly white community. Continue reading →