Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Other" Girls

Sloane Cornelius, one of my beautiful WOC friends, shared this today and it sparked a good conversation. We both viewed it and got very different messages. I think that both of them are really worthy of discussion.

She pointed out how it was useful because it addressed the reality that many women often feel the need to put down other women in order to make themselves feel special. Ain't that the truth! It drives me nuts when I hear women say things like "All of my friends are men, because women are too _____ for me to be close to them" or make claims asserting that they are better than the "average" woman. That's so unnecessary and Sloane was right when she pointed out how it's patriarchy in action. Enforcing patriarchal notions don't benefit women like me and the ones in my life. I don't know where I'd be if I excluded women from my support system. However, there have been many times in my life when the women around me were the only folks who stood by my side, let me cry on their shoulders, and had first-hand experience with my particular struggles. I suppose I could live without them, but why would I want to? The women I love enrich my life.

At the same time, I found a few things problematic about this particular picture and, to be honest, I'm not really feeling it. See, I'm not like other girls, but it isn't because I have notions about what girls are supposedly like. It's just the truth. Not all girls are like me. Why shouldn't I set myself apart? Why should any girl want to be seen as basically interchangeable? This seems some real hegemonic crap.

I definitely support the destruction of patriarchy, but I don't want us to substitute it with cheer-leading Western hegemony. The picture claims that "Patriarchy has created this culture" and that's just not true. Patriarchy is incapable of creating anything. All it does is degrade cultures. That statement also assumes that we're all living in the same culture. We're not.

Furthermore, cultures are created by embracing differences. If we listen to the command "Do not set yourself apart", then who gets to decide what's the norm and what's apart from that norm? Considering the way that this picture completely ignores race and colonialism, even as it proceeds to make comments about what's legitimate culture, it's a pretty safe bet that it's being written from a White, Western, middle class woman's perspective. White Western middle class women dictating what's legitimate culture are never acting in the interests of WOC, especially not our young girls who are so vulnerable already.

I don't think this picture really benefits young White girls either. They deserve to know that they don't need to  "be like the other girls". It's completely okay to have their own ideas about what's right and wrong even if most girls have different beliefs. They shouldn't have to believe that they need to be like other girls in order for them to be true revolutionaries.

Swaddling Children: Is it criminal abuse or simply a violation of White Western sensibilities?

Today I read two articles about parenting issues. The first was about the practice of swaddling babies and the second goes into detail about how two daycare owners who swaddled children are being charged with child abuse.

Swaddling: A Common Parenting Practice Under Fire

Daycare owners arraigned in California swaddling case

This is an extremely problematic prosecution. They may have violated some people's ideas about what constitutes proper swaddling, but is that enough to make swaddling something that can't or shouldn't go on at that age? From the studies, the idea that swaddling is bad stems from the idea that there should be more skin to skin contact between babies and mothers. The idea that babies who are swaddled would get less skin-to-skin contact than those who aren't swaddled really depends on the culture and family practices. The studies don't seem to be applicable outside of a very White, Western framework, because critics haven't taken the time to study it outside of that framework.

In this story, there are multiple issues. I think it's ridiculous to charge them for abuse for several reasons. Babies allowed to sleep on their side could also come to harm that might have been preventable. If the government prosecutes people who haven't harmed their babies based on the idea that something COULD happen, then it would be justifiable to charge every mom who has ever fallen asleep in bed with their baby after breastfeeding, every parent that used formula instead of breast milk, every grandparent who positioned a baby on their stomach for nap time, every caregiver that introduced solid foods before the recommended age, et cetera. All of these people are violating "best practices" according to the most popular view in one particular culture (i.e. White Western America). But it's a whole other matter to call it abuse when no harm was done.

I mean, what's a "heavy duty knot"? It wasn't heavy duty enough to injure any of the children. "Heavy duty" is so vague that ANY parent that swaddles a baby could be charged with that. The articles mention that the women sometimes put blankets over the heads of the babies. I know I certainly put blankets over my child many times. It was certainly better than leaving her exposed to the elements and environment (e.g. other people's kids coughing over her and trying to touch her, smoke blowing in her face, rain falling directly on her, people getting too close as she was trying to nap). At what age does that become a criminal act?

My baby seemed to fall asleep better when I played loud songs for her. Perhaps it's because she was used to hearing lots of music since we had a saxophonist practicing in the house every day. If I played Bird Parker or Coltrane a few feet from her crib, she'd fall fast asleep. Other babies might be inconsolably agitated with the same treatment. What's comforting/comfortable depends on what the child is used to. It's not particularly scientific to judge what a baby finds comforting by basing it on what certain other babies prefer. I don't think there's a single parent in this country who hasn't violated "best practices" or done something with their baby that would terrify some other baby. I just don't think that means they/we should all be charged with child abuse.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Relationship Patterns are Troubling me

I am looking forward to the day when I no longer remember what it felt like to be a part of a couple. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had an uncomfortable realization that led to lots of questions that I don't know how to answer. Most of the people I've ever been in relationships have been mixed-race/mixed-ethnic/multiracial people. In my entire life, I have only had relationships with 3 monoracial-identifying people. What does THAT mean? I want to believe that I have no preference for one over the other, but...I wonder if there's something about me that makes monoracial folks disinclined to express any attraction toward me. Even though I am multiracial, almost no one who just saw me (without my family around) would likely perceive me as anything other than Black. So it would have to be related to something that I do or maybe the way I talk about certain things. I don't even know how to figure out what I'm doing wrong. Honestly, with all of the race-related crap that I've been going through, I'm really wishing that I could meet a person who doesn't have the same kind of identity issues that I already face in my own family. I'm not even looking for a partner. I'd just like to be able to find people that could potentially be more than a friend, if that was something I felt ready to consider. So, I don't want to be doing something that's going to drive away the kind of people that I want to attract. I'm feeling like a lost puppy right about now.

Monday, April 01, 2013

White Terrorists are still Terrorists

So, this guy decides to participate in a couple of arsons because he thinks this is going to benefit the earth and he wants to prove a point to those who work there, own the businesses, or live nearby. That makes him as much of a terrorist as many of the other folks that the USA has given that label. He pled guilty and went to jail. Then he starts trying to break even more laws and gets caught plotting to violate the policies that make it possible for other incarcerated people to have access to justice.

It is estimated, according to CCR, that 72% of the population at the Marion CMU is Muslim, 1,200% “higher than the national average of Muslim prisoners in federal prison facilities.” The Terre Haute CMU population is “approximately two-thirds Muslim,” an overrepresentation of 1,000%.” These statistics include African Americans who have converted to Islam and prisoners who are of Middle Eastern descent. They show the war on Muslims is not limited to racial profiling, warrantless surveillance and preemptive prosecutions but also include a sinister form of punishment, where they are isolated for indefinite periods for engaging in freedom of speech that condemns the prison or other US government agencies and policies.

This is why I could really care less about McGowan. The guy is STILL trying to break more laws while he's in prison and we're supposed to have sympathy for him? I think I'll reserve that for the folks who are being treated this way DESPITE the fact that they haven't done the stuff that McGowan is trying to get away with. Now that it happened to a white guy we're supposed to care? If you haven't been complaining about this when it was happening to other people, then you really shouldn't expect them to care when it happens to you or the folks you prefer to advocate for.