Right after the announcement of Donald Trump as our next U.S. president, I got on a plane and came to Canada for the National Women’s Studies Association. I enjoy this conference for one reason: I see more women of color/gender-queer folk here than any other professional conference I attend. There are problems like with every other professional organization but at least I like who sits and fights at the table.
This year, I was grateful for the Black and Indigenous women in Canada who let us know at every turn that freedom ain’t up here. You can follow the drinking gourd, Underground Railroad, North Star, Black Moses and then wade in the water all you want: Black folk still ain’t free in Canada. Kim TallBear’s plenary talk was the highlight for me.
One of the things I love about blogging is that it gives you a chance to use this experience/practice/process of writing to get closer to what you think and what is important to you. Granted, I am a writing teacher, so I may be biased, but sometimes you just gotta write it out to ride it out. That said, I get inundated with the academic school year and all I am writing are project guidelines and comments to student writing, rather than tracing the path of my thinking. Despite the avalanche of things I need to do, I just gotta stop and pause to reflect on one of the many things I have been following lately: Jennifer Cramblett’s lawsuit.
By now, everyone has heard of Cramblett’s lawsuit. As a recap, here is the basic gist. Cramblett and her partner are suing a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man she had picked. I can’t help but be curious to see how this case will go. Race, reproduction, and the law have always been intimately linked. As early feminists have always told us, the family (the nuclear family) is always a kind of surrogate for the nation-state and all of its attending politics and values about which race, gender, class is most worthy and most human— and therefore, legitimately replicable. I have so many questions because the outcome of this lawsuit will mean so many things. Here are just a few of these questions: Continue reading
Gentrification takes on new meanings when you live in Brooklyn/New York. The all-encompassing, rapid, commercial take-over is astounding. I moved into my Brooklyn home in 1998 after living in an apartment for five years. I was a public high school teacher with a savings account from the Municipal Bank, got a home loan through FHA, and moved into what we called back then, an “FHA neighborhood.” My down payment on my house cost less than the broker’s fee+lease agreement for most Brooklyn apartments back then. “FHA” meant that I got a fixer-upper in a neighborhood where I was once robbed by a crackhead— or rather, accosted, since the crackhead didn’t get anything off of me (as quiet as it’s kept in this world that treats crackheads like scary monsters, they are actually physically weak so, in other words, it doesn’t take too much to whup one’s ass which is exactly what I did). The crackheads that weren’t jacking wallets and purses were hookin on the street corner. Those days are long, long gone now though. A new 14-story high-rise dots every five blocks on the avenues. A typical 2-bedroom apartment (maybe 800 square feet) will run you $3500.00 right now. Needless to say, ain’t no crackheads in these parts today!
There are many places that give wonderful social, economic analyses of the calculated displacement of brown and black peoples in 21st century Brooklyn/New York (older, white residents still desperately try to hold on to rent-controlled apartments and get treated so much more sympathetically by NY media venues). That’s not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about the thing that no one mentions in terms of gentrification in Brooklyn and all of these so-called improvements: the everyday aesthetic demise. Continue reading
Both Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin would have turned 19 years old this month. That these two births are how I will always remember February is very telling for what Black Histories and Black Todays mean.
The verdict against Michael Dunn, the white man who murdered Jordan Davis for playing music too loud, does not ring with justice for me. My heart was lifted when I saw and heard Jordan Davis’s parents respond to the verdict and the sense of closure they now feel; I want to make sure that I don’t dismiss or disrespect what these parents are feeling right now. At the end of the day, however, no matter how long Michael Dunn stays in jail, the right of a while male to kill black boys was upheld in the courts all over again.
Let’s be clear here: the jury found Dunn guilty of four charges, including three of attempted second-degree murder (the shots he fired and missed). But they couldn’t reach a verdict on the actual first-degree murder of Jordan. I don’t know how to understand such confusion. This verdict, along with Zimmerman’s acquittal, makes me read American justice like this: if you try to shoot black boys and miss, you will be incarcerated; but if you aim at a black boy and kill him good, you go free because you will have defended yourself successfully.
I can’t help but think back to how confused so many people were by the 2012 creation of one of my favorite cartoonists, Lalo Alcaraz, after Trayvon’s murder. In the cartoon, a black mother fears for the life of her son even though he is simply going out for snacks. If anyone thought that was extreme, I encourage them to simply remember that Trayvon and Jordan should have been celebrating their 19th birthdays this month. American white supremacy has ensured that never happened.