In case you were wondering…

I was not radicalized by angry black people.

I was not radicalized by the news.

Or by social media.

I was not radicalized by politics

Or the people who play the role of politicians.

I was not radicalized by open white supremacists.

I was not radicalized by books or the TV

I was not radicalized by murder or

By police brutality

Or by the regular brutality

Faced by people I love.

I was radicalized by something simpler.

I was radicalized by the quiet white people.

I was radicalized by the “I’m not racist but” white people.

I was radicalized by the “I have black friends” white people.

I was radicalized by the “all lives matter” and the “I’m just not into politics” white people.

I was radicalized by the “there’s a time and place” white people.

I was radicalized by the “it’s not about race” white people.

I was radicalized by the “I’m with you in spirit” white people

And the “it’s just as hard for me” white people.

I was radicalized by the “hip hop is trash” white people.

And the “aren’t you scared walking around there?” white people.

By the “he should have complied” and the “we don’t really know why” white people.

I was radicalized by the “it’s how they were raised” white people

I was radicalized by the “whole story” white people.

I was radicalized by the cornrows and bamboo gold white people.

And if you are reading this as one of those

“Is she talking about me?” white people…

Yes. Yes I am.

This poem is the sole property of the author/owner of this blog.

Lessons of Activism: You will lose. A lot.

The last two years have seen me borne into a new space of my life where my activism efforts are at the forefront of everything that I do.  They are at the forefront of my professional work, they are at the forefront of every new relationship and friendship I build, and they are at the forefront of every interaction I have with existing relationships.

With Trump as president of this country, it is really hard for those of us with activist hearts not to be constantly activated.  It seems like the onslaught of work to do is never ending.  With social media in the palm of his hand, Trump has created a world where people’s hatred and bigotry is laid bare and then contorted into policy proposal.  For many of us, this has lead us down the road of having constantly hard conversations with people, both well-meaning and not, about what the fuck is happening here.

These conversations are incredibly difficult.  They are exhausting, but they are truly one of the most important components of Trump-era activism. We need to have conversations with his supporters, we need to have conversations with liberals who think they’re helping (but aren’t), and we need to have conversations with people who want to do better (but aren’t).

The problem, though, is that in these conversations, you very often will lose.  You won’t change the person’s mind.  You won’t make any real headway.  You honestly won’t make any gains at all.  BUT, when I say lose,  I am also discussing it in a much deeper and general sense.

  1. You will lose friends.  This is the hardest piece for me.  There are going to be people in your life who don’t want to have the hard conversations and won’t understand why you need to.  They won’t understand your anger, or protests, or resistance.  There are going to be people who, up until the point where action was necessary, seemed as though their values and vision of the world was aligned with yours.  However, the point of action has arrived and lines in the sand have been (necessarily) drawn.  You may find yourself on a different side of the line from people that were once your friends — or even your family. In many cases, you will find that a bridge between the two of you is impossible to build.  This is necessary.  When you begin to work actively and diligently to dismantle systems of oppression, it is really hard to be around those who either: a. don’t believe these systems exist or b. are content to, either passively or actively, continue to benefit from them.  They will make accusations.  They will tell you that you are letting politics ruin a friendship — and yes, you are, because in this case, the “politics” are tied to human and civil rights.   They will tell you that you have changed — and yes, you have, because the backdrop of our nation has.
    BYE

    (It might be personal, though…)

    Stepping into action and pushing for progress always involves change.  Embrace it because, while this loss hurts, it is inevitable.

  2. You will lose patience.  OH my lord, will you lose patience.  It is exhausting to have the same conversations with people over and over.  It is exhausting to watch people defend Trump or find spaces of acceptance for his supporters.  You will feel like shutting down (or punching “alt-right” nazis).  This has happened to me almost daily as I endeavor to talk to white people in my life about race.  I have found that, after countless attempts at explaining and hoping for change, very little change actually happens.  I have found that most white people struggle to engage in the kind of self-reflection necessary to understand their role in white supremacy.  I have found that their default response is defense.  I have found that they still think their voice and opinion matters in the face of a topic on which they have really no experiential knowledge (the old “talk less, listen more” could really help them here).  Their privilege feeds their ego in a way that allows them to think that they not only get to perpetrate the oppression, but also control the way that the victims talk about it.  It is in the muddy depths of this that my patience has worn thin and I have abandoned relationships.  And it SUCKS.  A friend of mine, who has struggled with these same conversations with her white friends, sent me this.  I had read it before and, while I respected and understood it at that time, I had decided I should still continue to the conversations.  I have often felt that as a mixed race woman living with white privilege, it is my duty to have these conversations — and so I have them, even when it’s unhealthy or hurtful for me.  However, today when I read it, I was like YEP.  In order to preserve my heart and soul — in order to continue to pour myself into the work that matters (following the lead of and supporting POC throughout this entire journey of progress) — I must stop talking to most white people about race.  I have lost the patience.  It isn’t working and it is hurtful and it is miserably fucking exhausting, which brings me to my next point.
  3. You will (occasionally) lose hope.  It may happen even more than occasionally, if I’m honest. I have, on many occasions, thrown my hands up and said “fuck it.”  However, that’s not productive.  Yes, it takes an incredible amount of emotional labor to continuously help white people (specifically white men) understand systems of oppression, how they impact people of color, and how their own privilege makes it difficult for them to see things clearly.  It’s a burden that often becomes way too heavy to carry, which is why leaning on white allies is vital.  POC are not under any obligation to educate white people.  It is spiritually difficult work, and while it is important, it is not always doable.  Instead, white allies should step up and take over.  In my case, I turn to and lean on my husband.  He is always ready to pick up the reigns when I grow weary.  This gives me time to breathe and recharge, which is desperately needed as I continue to work.

These losses are some of the hardest I have had to endure during my time working as an activist online, in person, personally, and professionally.  However, I don’t want to leave you to focus only on these losses.  We are activists because we keep going.  We are activists because we understand that change takes loud and consistent persistence.  And so, you must cut your losses, and you must keep going.  Resistance is a noun that suggests a continuous process; one does not stop until the force working against her is defeated.  So please: Keep. Going.  

keep going

Resistance is a Full-Time Job

I am ashamed of how long it has been since I have written a piece for this blog.  I could sit here at my keyboard and list a litany of excuses as to why, but the truth of the matter is, I was avoiding it.  I was avoiding writing, I was avoiding facing the news, and I was avoiding the realities of our current sociopolitical climate.

In the beginning of this journey, I vowed to work continuously to be a voice for change, and while I have still been doing this privately, my public presence in this forum has waned.  I have thrown myself into my work and self-care routines while avoiding the abyss of white supremacy and Trump-isms that I had worked so tirelessly to previously expose.  I didn’t realize the impact this would have, though.  I didn’t realize the true value of this work until very recently, during a conversation with my uncle.

Last weekend, I worked with a few other wonderful women in my family to plan a housewarming for my cousin.  It was a surprise, which I am sure you can imagine was hard to pull off because a housewarming does require being in that person’s home.  Nonetheless, we did it and I found myself surrounded by the love — and the questions — of my family.

Towards the end of the evening, my uncle sat next to me and gently asked why my blog has been so quiet lately.  I responded as honestly as I could — stating that I needed a break.  After all, you can only spend so much time staring into the abyss of hatred and ignorance without feeling sick and/or hopeless. Right?

My uncle went quiet for a bit and then said, “but we needed your voice.  I’ve been looking here and there, waiting to see if you posted something new.  And there’s nothing.  You were speaking necessary truths and we needed that.”

I suddenly felt guilty and sad.  I found myself realizing that I had allowed the voices of dissent to silence me.  And I found myself feeling shame.

My uncle continued.

“Let me ask you something, a cop can walk up to me on the street and shoot me dead on the spot for no reason.  What do you think would happen to him?”

“Nothing…” I said with a twinge of nausea.

“That’s right,” he replied.  “Absolutely nothing.  And that’s not fair.  It’s not.  My life isn’t worth shit.  And it’s not fair, but it’s my reality.  And I don’t get to take a break from that.”

It settled inside me; I had once again allowed the privilege of whiteness to allow me to to “take a break” from a reality that is a daily truth for so many people that I care about.  I had allowed the voices of people who challenged my need to speak — my need to be a voice — to silence me.  I had allowed the abyss of ignorance and hatred to win because, in the end, I ended up needing a reprieve.

The truth is, though, that much of my family doesn’t get a reprieve.  They need to face this reality of ignorance and hatred every day, regardless of how tiring or sickening it gets.  I had lost sight of that and, while the voices of some family and former friends that work relentlessly to silence me are the loudest and most painful, I cannot forget that there are people in my family who are proud of me for standing up for what’s right.  I cannot forget that with the privilege of my seeming-whiteness comes responsibility.  Otherwise, I am just as bad as the rest of the white folks in this nation who sit silently at Thanksgiving dinner knowing full well that their uncle uses the n-word when he talks about NFL players and their aunt thinks all Mexicans are in MS13.

Moving forward, I will endeavor to be more consistent here.  It may not be every day.  It may not be every other day.  After all, the hate that was once in the dark corners of the internet is now mainstream and widely shared and doesn’t necessarily require my constant probing.  However, I will be here.  I will be working relentlessly on the front lines in my daily 9-5 work.  I will be writing truths and rallying against hatred.  I will be a voice of dissent amongst others who might look like me, but are not like me and do not think like me.  I am here to challenge white supremacy, in the most personal venues (like dinner tables) and the most public ones (like social media).  Resistance is a full-time job.  No days off.

July 8, 2016 Changed My Life. Here’s Why…

A year ago yesterday, I was sitting at my computer watching Philando Castile be murdered by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her little girl.  I was horrified.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know that these things were happening.  It was just that I wasn’t ever faced with seeing them.  In living my life, for the most part, with privilege, I had never seen anyone be shot and murdered in cold blood.  I don’t even have words for what I felt.

After watching this video, I started scrolling through my news feed.  I was noticing more and more of my white friends/family calling for people of color to “get over it.”  They accused the communities of color who mourned the seemingly endless stream of losses of engaging in “race baiting,” “resisting,” and “pulling the race card.”  Again, I had seen this before.  I saw it with Trayvon Martin.  I saw it with Michael Brown.  I saw it with Eric Garner.  But something about this day, one year ago, sent me over the edge.  Something about watching a police officer open fire into the chest of an innocent man while a child sat directly behind him and then seeing white people act as if this man deserved it made me decide to confront them.  And in doing so, every single thing in my life changed.

It was a small thing that started it, really.  I posted the following message on my Facebook wall:

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Pretty straightforward.  Not offensive.  Or so I thought.  Then I saw this response:

 

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That person is my cousin.  The single like on her comment?  Another cousin.  I was trembling after I read this.  The shock and rage combination was unlike anything I had ever felt before.  I sat down in a coffee shop to carefully pen my reply, only to start over three times.  I finally posted it before dinner and edited it well into the wee hours of the next morning.

In the hours and days after this, I received multiple phone calls.  Black family? Supportive. White family? Pissed.  And while it was not the first time that I felt the true division I existed between, it was certainly the most impactful.  People told me they were ashamed of me.  People told me I was lucky to have even been taken care of so well by my white family.  People claimed that this post showed how ungrateful I am, how disrespectful I am.  According to one person, I was behaving in an egregiously “immature” manner and shouldn’t use social media to post politics “because that’s not what it’s for.”  (Tell that to the folks who planned the Women’s March, right?)

People sent me bible verses and long harangues about behaving in a way that is appropriate for a young woman.  Family chose not to talk to me for weeks.  And of course, the villain at the center of the entire feud was me.  Not the racist cousin.  Not the uncomfortable white folks who can’t deal with their mixed race family pointing out their flaws.  Nope.  It was me.

And the fact is, it got to me.  I really did spend a lot of time questioning myself.  I was trying to figure out where I went wrong.  I was trying to figure out what I should have said differently.  I was, instead of holding people accountable for their biases and the ways in which those biases contribute to their reactions, allowing myself to be gaslit in precisely the way communities of color have always been gaslit when they shine any light on racism.  The “well saying that makes you just as bad,” and the “reverse racism,” and the “all lives matter,” and the “how dare you” crew came out in full force to police my language and my truth because it made them uncomfortable.  I was the bad guy for pointing out their bad behavior.  I was “race baiting” by “making this about skin color.”  I was “wrong.” And I almost fell for it.

If not for the constant and unwavering support of my friends and family of color (+ some white allies) and my husband, I probably would have fallen for it completely.  I would have let the guilt and the tears silence me.  But instead, my support system rallied around me and held me up as I evolved into the woman I am today.  I no longer fear speaking out.  I learned that people are listening and that when they get mad, they are showing me more about them than me.  I learned that many of my white friends and family members were not who they claimed to be.  I learned that much of the safety/belonging I had found for myself was contingent on my more melanin-laced roots remaining unseen.  And I learned that I wasn’t OK with that.

So the truth is, while it was one of the hardest times of my life, the trials of last summer awakened the activist in me.  I knew that if my own family and friends could turn on me over the words “Dear White People,” then there was a whole lot of work that I needed to do.  Nothing has been the same since that day.  Nothing will be the same ever again.  And I am OK with that knowing that I am doing and saying what is necessary.  I am OK with knowing that I am doing my part in promoting racial justice, even if it means creating waves and, in turn, space between me and people I thought I knew.  Off White as she stands today exists because of July 8, 2016.  And I am grateful for the pain.

 

NRA, where you at? Asking for a friend.

The last week or so was hard for those of us who were hoping that for once, we would see communities of color receive justice for the murders of their sons and daughters.  Less than a year ago, millions of people watched a Facebook Live video where a young black man was murdered in front of his girlfriend and her little girl.  A man, legally carrying his firearm and notifying the cop of his exact movements, was shot to death while sitting in the car with a child.  And his murderer was recently acquitted. 

Philando Castile’s death was another on a long and ever growing list of black and brown lives taken at the hands of the police.  With the very graphic, very real video of his murder, we all hoped that we would finally see justice.  The American justice system had different ideas, though.  They must have a melanin threshold because it certainly doesn’t seem like they give a shit about anyone who isn’t white.

There are a couple of pieces of this story, outside of the heinous and obvious injustice of it all, that I think are important to draw attention to.

  1.  This asshole shot into a car with a CHILD in the backseat.  Not only did he have zero regard for the life of the man who pumped full of bullets, but he clearly couldn’t care less about the life of the little girl in the backseat.
  2. Yes, Yanez is Latino.  However, that doesn’t mean that race isn’t a factor here.  Yanez’s murder of Castile is a direct result of Latinx’s sentiment of anti-blackness.  We can’t look away from that piece.
  3. Castile was legally carrying his gun.  He was cooperating with authorities.  If he were white, the NRA would be all over this.  So where are they now?

Seriously, though.  Where is the NRA?  They retweeted a Congressman who stated that he now wants to carry a gun, given that he feels unsafe after last week’s mass shooting.

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They are encourage schools to ensure that their staff is armed after Sandy Hook.

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But they are notably silent about Philando Castile.  They are notably silent about the obvious need for black men and women need to arm themselves as the country continues to arm itself against them.  When the Black Panther Party encouraged people of color to arm themselves to defend themselves, the NRA was, notably, pro-gun control.  So why should a congressman “ought to be able to defend [himself] anywhere [he has] a legal right to be,” but a black citizen should not?

This question is not rhetorical.  I am very serious.  Just this week, a pregnant black woman named Charleena Lyles was murdered in her own home after calling the police for help.  Kouren Thomas was murdered for hanging out with his friends.  Black men and women are murdered at an incredibly alarming rate. Why are you not on board with encouraging them to arm themselves, NRA?  Do you have a melanin threshold too?  Asking for a friend.  Asking for my brothers. And my daddy.  And my cousins.  And my uncles.  And those of every other person of color in this nation.  Standing by for your response.  Thanks.

 

They Keep Interrupting Kamala Harris-And That Matters.

Yesterday, Jeff Sessions testified in front of the senate.  I could spend this whole post on him, the lies he told, the concerning difficulty he has with his memory, and his visible discomfort on the stand.  But the reality is, you can read all about that here, and here, and here, and preferably not here.  Honestly, I don’t think that this is the real story.  I don’t think that anything worth listening to is going to come from the mouths of anyone directly enmeshed with Trump and his administration.  Given the frequency with which they directly lie, we should all be wary of trusting any damn thing they say.

So if the real story isn’t the continuous lie, then what is it? It’s this.  Kamala Harris has been interrupted while speaking more than once, now, as she stands her ground during what have proven to be pretty tumultuous hearings.  And frankly, that matters.

kamala_harris-1280x960-1Kamala Harris is a woman with power.  Kamala Harris is a woman of color with power.  The fact that her voice has been publicly silenced by white men on two separate occasions is something worth noting.  It is an example of a devastating trend.  Women of color are ready and willing to go to bat for us, to ask the hard questions, to fight with consistency and yet, their male counterparts are regularly undermining them.

And while women of color endure this (and so much more) on a grander scale than any other group (which is why feminism is either intersectional or bullshit), ALL women have to contend with this sexist trend.  Hillary Clinton endured it during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Elizabeth Warren endured it as she tried to read Coretta Scott King’s letter.  And odds are, if you’re a woman, you’ve endured it too.

This matters because these women – Kamala, and Hillary, and Elizabeth, and Coretta – are all of us.  I can’t tell you how many times (white) men (and women – which always stings a little more) have tried to silence me.  I have received phone calls pleading with me to be less provocative. I have been sent text messages accusing me of looking for a “scapegoat” and admonishing my behavior as “unreasonable.” I have even been sent bible verses expressing all of the ways in which I am a bad Christian for my “wrathful” ways.  All of these are attempts at silencing me.  All of these are attempts at shaming me.  And I know I am among great company, as all powerful women face negativity like this.

 

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Source: Slate ( <– READ THIS!)

Women are leading this resistance.  Women are at the head of the difficult and completely terrifying work that needs to be done to dismantle the system of white, patriarchal oppression that elevated Donald Trump.  And so every time our voices are silenced, it is a devastating blow to our cause.  Kamala Harris was interrupted by John McCain, who loves talking about how horrid this administration is, but allowed Sessions to talk in circles after cutting Ms. Harris off in her attempts to redirect him.  Elizabeth Warren was interrupted by Mitch McConnell for trying to share the warning written by a powerful woman of color regarding our now Attorney General.

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So, as in Mitch McConnell’s attempted-scolding-turned-slogan, we must persist.   And we must support one another <3.  Strong women empower one another and, given that we have to do most of the heavy lifting here, we can’t waste any time playing into the hands of the men who want to see the perpetuation of the status quo. So get with it ladies.  Or get out of the way.

 

Modern Day Lynchings in Trump’s America

It has been a long time since you have heard from me.  If I’m honest, it’s because the pain of all of this consumes me in a way that takes me away from myself.  It renders me completely unable to engage in conversations about things that I love or things that I miss or want or would like to do.  It’s completely soul-altering and sometimes, I need to step back.

I hate myself for it these breaks most of the time.  I recognize that my privilege is what allows me to do take them.  Michael Brown’s sister can’t take breaks from the reality of her brother’s slaying.  Philando Castille’s girlfriend can never unsee her partner dying right in front of her and their child.  Trayvon Martin’s mother doesn’t get to pretend her son wasn’t murdered simply for being black.  These women don’t get to just pretend the world is what it was before the horror took over.  And while I recognize the need for self-care, I took a break for too long.

This past week has been a complete whirlwind of terrifying truths.  From Manchester to Trump’s most recent budget proposal, the people of this nation and of the world are left reeling yet again.  But neither of those events concern me today.  Yes, they are horrific.  Yes, they deserve attention.  But there is a deeper issue I want to discuss that people are looking away from: the modern day lynchings that American media is avoiding talking about.


I will never forget being a little kid and watching some old movie with my family that involved a lynching.  They dragged the father away from his wife and family, tied him to a tree, and burned him alive in front of his children.  The screaming, the crying, the woman running to her husbands charred body to try and comfort him, despite the fact that he was gone… it was horrific.  It was a nightmare.  And I felt a sickness and a fear as I looked around me at the men that I love.

Lynchings were social events only decades ago.  The “get over it” crew seems to forget that, but it’s true.  It’s also true that, while we are taught that lynchings are part of the same distant history where slavery and Jim Crow also live, they are very much a modern issue – especially in Trump’s America.

The first event of this nature that got my attention was the lynching of Ben Keita.  This young Muslim teen was found hanging from a tree in Seattle, Washington.  While authorities initially tried to brand it as a suicide, the medical examiner later changed the cause of death to undetermined, triggering an FBI investigation into what is now believed to be a lynching.

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Ben Keita

The next was Timothy Caughman.  I wrote a piece on his murder a few months ago.  His devastating slaying is another example of the contemporary lynchings we face with a newly emboldened White Supremacist force that backs men like James Harris Jackson.

And then, this week, we lost Richard Collins III.  This 23-year-old second lieutenant in the army and Bowie State student was murdered just days before his graduation. Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student with extensive ties to the alt-right (which forms a large portion of Trump’s support base), has been charged with his murder.  In his honor, his graduation robes were laid in his seat during the commencement ceremonies.  This photo shattered me.  This story shattered me.

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I can’t look at these young men and not see my brothers.  I can’t look at them and not see my daddy, my cousins, my uncles, or my friends.  But the reality is, it doesn’t take that kind of personal connection to this for anyone to know that it’s horrific.  And the fact that we, as a nation, have been turning away from the continuous accumulation of black bodies (this list is 98 pages long) as they have been murdered by White Nationalist/Supremacist Terrorists is disgraceful.  It is disgraceful that it took us this long to start calling the modern murders of unarmed, innocent, young black people “lynchings” again, period. Philando Castille was lynched.  Freddie Gray was lynched.  Trayvon Martin was lynched.  Eric Garner was lynched.  Michael Brown was lynched.  It doesn’t matter if a cop did it, if a lone offender did it,  or if a group of white terrorist monsters did it.  It is happening.  It is being done on what seems to be a constant basis.  And here we are praying for other nations while wearing blinders when looking at our own.

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Richard Collins III

The 2016 election cycle and the rise of DJT has inspired an incredible number of hate crimes.  A 20% uptick is not one that can be ignored.  And regardless of what his followers try to say (“Racism was here before Trump!  How is he even racist?”), the lynchings since his victory are alarming and they deserve your attention.  Even our Congresspeople of color are not immune to the blatant threats from Trump’s support base.  White Nationalist/Supremacist Terrorism is still terrorism.  I know Fox News isn’t going to cover it, but you have a responsibility to remain informed and to pay attention.  Do not let them claim that they were in fear for their lives.  Do not let them claim that it was a suicide.  Do not let them claim they thought the glue gun was a weapon.  As the body count rises, do not let them continue to make excuses and get away with this.  Every single one of us should be creating a noise so loud and so constant that it shakes the GOP and their anti-political-correctness, white supremacist bullshit to its core.  Because they enabled and empowered this.  They have elevated Trump and Trump has elevated this.