SYF is important.
I don’t know who I would be if it wasn’t for SYF*.
SYF was the first place I saw kids who didn’t seem to care how they looked, and didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of them. SYF was the first place I saw girls who didn’t shave their legs; I was shocked and curious and intrigued. SYF was the first place I felt like I fit in, no matter how I dressed, no matter what I looked like. At SYF I felt safe, and that allowed me to become the person I am today.
Every Sunday, high school students from around Westchester come to a church** in Scarsdale, talk about how their weeks have been, introduce themselves, and go over the SYF rules. One rule is no drugs. One rule is not to be late. One rule is to “speak from the eye” and not to generalize or stereotype. One rule is that you can’t go to SYF and tell your parents you’re elsewhere (or tell your parents you’re elsewhere and be at SYF). Then, the group breaks into smaller groups, where everything is kept confidential, and discuss the weekly topic: anything from communication, to dreams, to gender roles, to change, to religion. Then the “big group” gets back together, plays a game, and breaks until the following week. There are two weekend retreats every year, and one lock-in, as well as other special nights and events. There are also parents nights, where SYF parents can come participate and see what SYF is all about. There are always adult advisors present, and everything is supervised.
Every high school kid needs a place like SYF. It’s a place where high school kids can be who they have been trying to be, without fear of rejection. Without fear of judgment. SYF is a place where kids can safely experiment with their identities. It’s a place where kids can meet teens from other high schools in the area, and learn from other perspectives about issues that are important to them.
Everyone who went to SYF agrees with me: SYF changes lives. I feel like most SYF alumni can’t quite imagine what high school would’ve been like without SYF. And, being an SYF alumna means you’re part of a network. If I meet an SYFer, I know they are a friend; I know they get it.
Basically, we are low on kids! If you know any high schoolers who could use a support group, think about sending them to SYF. Or, rather, if you know any high schoolers at all (they all need a support group like SYF), think about it.
Senior Youth Fellowship
7pm-9pm every Sunday
1 Heathcote Road, Scarsdale NY
*Senior Youth Fellowship (SYF) is a nondenominational peer support and enrichment group for high school students in Westchester. This year, I am an advisor! If you’d like more info or you know someone that should come to SYF, tweet me @sammylif, message me on facebook, email me at email@example.com, or comment on this blog post.
**SYF meets in a church, but is not religiously-affiliated at all. SYF started over 50 years ago as a fraternal church group, but has evolved drastically. Most SYFers today are “alternative” kids — but the whole point is that everyone is welcome.
Twitter 102: Quoting a Tweet
Note: This post is specifically designed for those using the twitter app (although it could be useful for anyone). The screenshots are meant as a guide for text; they are web screenshots, but this post is for mobile users.
Another note: This post is for tweets that are not directed at you and don’t @mention your handle. We’ll tackle those options in another post. And, the first two options are for tweets much shorter than 140 characters. Scroll down for tips on longer tweets.
You already know about “retweets” – click the buttons and having an original tweet show up as-written, on your timeline. But sometimes you want to add your own opinion, or you want to see peoples’ reactions to you posting a tweet. A retweet simply won’t do – here’s a quick guide of how to properly “quote a tweet”.
So you see a tweet, and you like it! You want to editorialize and share it with your followers.
You have some options!
OPTION #1: QUOTING A TWEET USING QUOTATION MARKS
When you click on “Quote tweet,” in your twitter app, here’s what shows up:
Looks pretty good. You are free to add whatever you want. It’s customary to add to the beginning of the tweet, but some folks add to the end when using quotation marks. Here are two examples of folks who quoted this tweet correctly:
You already know why you want to quote a tweet – you have something to add to it. But it’s also useful because it’s more personal than a regular retweet. When you quote a tweet, the original tweeter is more likely to see what you said.
Why is important to quote a tweet in the correct format? First of all, it ensures that your followers know where the original tweet started and ended, and where your editorializing began. Second of all, it maintains the integrity of the original tweet – you shouldn’t be fiddling around inside of those quotation marks. And, it makes you look like you know what you’re doing!
OPTION #2: QUOTING A TWEET USING “RT”
There is another option for quoting a tweet, and it’s useful for other reasons. Since the Android app default is to quote tweets in the way described above, that will be your best and easiest bet. But what if the tweet is too long? What if there’s a part of it that you don’t need? That’s where a “RT” or “MT” version of quoting a tweet can be useful.
If you had chosen to quote the above tweet using the “RT” method, you would’ve gotten rid of the quotation marks, and added “RT” and a colon after the name. The text would’ve come out looking like this:
You’ve seen this before – that’s because some apps quote tweets in this method as the default. Sometimes, folks are copying and pasting tweets and editing them to fit this mold, but I think you mostly see this because some apps or clients quote tweets in this format as the default. If you were using this method, you could still editorialize, as long as you don’t change what comes after the tweet (Or you make it very clear that the original tweet is ending and the editorializing is beginning, which is difficult and I don’t recommend):
So check it out – the above example does the same thing as our tweets using “Option 1″ above. It maintains the integrity of the tweet (he didn’t add anything after the tweet), and it allows you to add your own two cents. Good job.
Those are your only two options for quoting an unmodified tweet: QUOTES or RT. Option #1 or Option #2. You can’t mince them. You have to pick one.
If you’re using the Android app, you have no good reason to quote a tweet in the “RT” method, since the default for the app uses quotation marks. UNLESS you are changing or shortening the tweet…!
BONUS OPTION: MODIFYING A TWEET
Sometimes, when you go ahead and try to quote a tweet, you are already over 140 characters (That’s because the twitter handle and other punctuation is added to the character count). You’ve seen this happen. It’s sad. Let’s use another New Yorker tweet for this example (a longer one):
When I tried to quote this tweet, it was already too long
What can you do? You’re going to have to change the tweet, AND get rid of those quotation marks. Using the quotation marks method only works if you aren’t modifying the tweet. If you’re changing the original tweet, you got to change to the second method — with a caveat. If you’re changing the tweet, you have to use “MT” and not “RT” (Modified Tweet vs ReTweet).
Here’s how I would do it:
See what I did there? I editorialized at the beginning of the tweet, I took out the introducing clause, and changed “The Syrian conflict” to just “Syria”. I didn’t change the meaning of the tweet, I didn’t take out anything integral to the tweet, but I fiddled with it to make it fit. And since I fiddled with it, I used “MT” instead of “RT”. Here’s a guy who did this correctly:
And that’s all you need to know about quoting tweets! You can use quotation marks and editorialize before or after them (without changing anything side of them), you could take out the quotes, add in “RT”, and editorialize before the tweet begins (without changing the original tweet), or you could modify the tweet, and use “MT” instead of “RT”.
Now you’re an expert! You did it! Go forth and tweet!
Addendum: My Brothers
Shortly after I sent my letter to higher-ups about the rape apology abounding in Eta Phi, I received this response from Justin Mertz, CC’d to other Setnor faculty:
First, I wish I was hearing from you under different circumstances. Thank you very much for bringing this unfortunate and terrible situation to my attention.
The tweets you saw are disgraceful and abhorrent to say the least. The ideas expressed by the @skullguy1992 account have no place in the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, or SU. In fact, several years ago I added comprehensive language to the SUMB’s handbook and syllabus outlining our unequivocal and vehement opposition to this kind of conduct in any form.
I received your email shortly it was sent tonight at about 8:00pm. I immediately logged onto twitter and looked up the @skullguy1992 account (I didn’t know it existed until your message), read the tweets, and found myself as shocked as you were. At 8:15pm I contacted the president of the chapter to find out more about this twitter account. I learned that this twitter account is not an official twitter account of the chapter, but rather, a few brothers took it upon themselves to create and use it for purposes unknown. Nothing about this twitter account is sanctioned by the band program, the chapter, or the University, and the president (who has only been in office for a week) was just as shocked and angry as I was when he learned of what was said. I immediately requested that at the account be deleted. At 8:33pm I was notified that it no longer exists, and searches for it reflect this. While it cannot unsay what was said, the original source of the tweets is gone.
None of this is to excuse or condone the behavior at the Senior Celebration event, but to let you know that you can be assured that I will be addressing this juvenile and unacceptable behavior with the chapter and discipline the individuals involved as is necessary and appropriate. This will not be whitewashed or dismissed as “boys being boys”.
I am so, so sorry about this, and I apologize on behalf of the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, and SU for what you rightly describe as disgusting. While I cannot undo this, you have my word that I have been and will always remain vigilant to ensure that such sentiments are not seen as acceptable by anyone associated with the SUMB. These are drunken antics of a few immature individuals and do not reflect my values, the values of the SUMB, Kappa Kappa Psi, and SU, and they have no place in any program for which I am responsible or with which I am associated.
Please, feel free to call me if you would like to discuss this further. Aside from this I hope you are well and, again, I wish we were speaking under different circumstances.
At this point, I did not feel elated. It’s a great email and I’m glad that Mertz recognizes the severity of this (I especially appreciated the “boys will be boys” part), but it didn’t make me feel like this was over or that I won. I felt pretty awful, actually. I responded to Mertz:
Thanks for your response; it means a lot to me. I have a lot of feelings about all this and more to say. I hope some real change comes from all this so I can stop fulfilling my role as Most Hated Sister of TBS.
I wish I felt better about your response, but I can’t help feeling like these boys don’t get it and won’t get it. Their twitter account was shut down, maybe there will be some repercussions, but I’m sure they see it as a road block on the route to more misogyny. An annoyance. They never seemed to listen or understand that what they say and do HURTS people and is real. They always laughed it off and continued.
I know full well that those tweets are the product of a specific few idiots, and I always knew it wasn’t an official account – they made sure to be careful about that. But the problem doesn’t end with a few select brothers. The atmosphere (is it Kappa? Is it college? Masculinity?) breeds and glorifies this vile behavior – that’s why nothing I ever said or did in college stopped this from taking place two years after I left. All it did was make them hate me (and people like me) more.
I feel exhausted. It is actually my life’s work to address this kind of behavior, and I want to live in a world where I don’t have to. I don’t want it to sound like there’s no hope for these guys – but I’m not convinced that they will ever see that their behavior is reprehensible and damaging. They’re too invested in it; they live and breathe it. I hate that it’s my job to call it out – I wish I could let it go, but I can’t. I wish I could trust that someone else would do this for me (another brother, perhaps? I can dream), but I can’t. So I’ve become the person who causes a stink, and I accept that I will never be cool with these people. They don’t respect me, not as a person and certainly not as a Sister.
I’m sorry that I have to be the one to bring all this up – believe me, I truly am. I hope that this is addressed in a way that understands that these are systemic problems and part of a larger culture – not just one pissed off former-sister who keeps ruining the fun. Because that’s what I feel like. I know that’s how they are thinking about it. What can we do to interrupt this behavior in a big way?
Again, thank you for your response. I hope this doesn’t ruin your weekend too much – I’m looking forward to taking a break from all this and taking care of myself. And I hope you take what I’m saying to heart – I think you have the power to begin to do something about this, in whatever way you can. Best of luck; I’m sure it won’t be easy.
And you’re right – I wish I was contacting you under better circumstances. Fingers crossed: one day.
The Chancellor also responded and said that the Dean of Student Affairs was working on it, and that it was very distressing.
I also got a facebook message from a current brother, asking for more info and what to do. It said that no brother “wants to contribute in any way, shape or form, to rape. Rape is bad, that’s a sentiment on which we can all agree.” I responded and challenged him to see that many brothers are, in fact, rape apologists:
…And I know that nobody wants to see themselves as “rape apologists” but I want to challenge you to see yourself that way. Fraternity brothers in privileged bodies contributing to a culture that is not willing to take rape seriously. That’s exactly what you are. If you want to make real change within your chapter, you should start with not defending yourself – you are a part of this culture, because you are not standing up to fight it. Yet. Ask yourselves if you actually don’t want to contribute to this culture – and then learn how to do that. Start by listening to and working with people who have been doing this forever.
I tried to explain that it is not my job to educate every misogynist about their problematic tweets. I encouraged him to look online for resources and do the homework himself. Other than that, I’ve gotten very little support. I even got another anonymous comment on that old blog post, asking if I was “still mad?” – proving my point that these people are hateful and horrible and have no interest in being good people or looking critically at their behavior. Then, an email from the current president of TBS:
I wholeheartedly understand that you have the right to your own opinion, but I would like to ask you to not speak on behalf of the Eta Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Sigma. In your letter, you stated that you are a sister of Eta Phi’s sister chapter, and as of right now, legally, you are an alumni, not an active sister.
With all due respect, you have not been a member of the joint chapter in two years and do not know most of the people that are currently active in both Eta Alpha and Eta Phi. The people in the two chapters are very different from the way they were when you were an active sister two years ago.
As stated before, I am not saying that you cannot have your own opinion on the matter, because you have every right to, but I am politely asking that you do not associate your opinions with connections to our chapter. If you feel it is necessary, please label yourself as an alumni of the Eta Alpha chapter.
Tau Beta Sigma- Eta Alpha
So just in case anyone wanted this to be made clear – I’m not a sister of TBS, and TBS is in no way affiliated with me: the girl speaking out against rape culture and the degradation of women on the Syracuse campus. The president wanted to make that really clear.
Overall, I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by rape culture and how pervasive it is. Disappointed by internalized sexism. I’m afraid that these problems are bigger than we thought. I know I did the right thing – I stand by everything I said. I hope that someone, somewhere, at some time, learns one lesson from all of this. I hope these boys (and girls!) grow up and understand that our culture is sick, and they that once contributed to that sickness.
Time to go watch Friday Night Lights and politely excuse myself from all this.
When I was at Syracuse, I put up with a lot of garbage from the brothers of the Eta Phi Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi. A lot of disrespect. The person I am now would never stand for that; now I have the tools to respond, react, and understand why they have the audacity to act that way. Part of it is because they never face any consequences.
Today, I sent this letter to the National President of Kappa Kappa Psi fraternity, the Director of Bands at Syracuse University, and the Chancellor of Syracuse University. If you want to report their triggering and misogynistic twitter account for spam, please do. I’m not linking to it due to triggering content.
Assemblymember Dov Hikind should resign.
Wednesday February 27th 2013, 5:25 am
Filed under: Commentary
To Speaker of the NYS Assembly, Sheldon Silver:
People make mistakes – we all make mistakes. We can’t expect to know everything; we can’t expect our elected officials to know everything about every issue.
But when someone gets called out for being racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or anti-Semitic!) it is that person’s job, as a decent human being, to take a step back and think. Dressing in blackface has a long complicated history that I don’t need to enlighten you about. Assemblymember Hikind did something with “pure intention” that had a racist result. The effect didn’t match the cause – this sometimes happens. Yes, an assemblyman dressing in blackface is despicable and racist and probably warrants some action on your part. But what me more was Hikind’s refusal to accept any wrongdoing.
When someone gets called out, it’s important to step back and think about the effects of your actions. The intention can sometimes be important too – but pure intention doesn’t always equate to pure consequence. Someone got hurt, someone got offended – that is Hikind’s fault, and that’s the part that he doesn’t grasp. It’s not about black people learning about Jewish culture; black people know about the racist history that blackface has. It’s not about Hikind not having “a prejudiced bone in his body;” clearly some people feel that he did something prejudiced, and it’s his job to own up to that – not tell them they must be mistaken and they just don’t understand what he meant. And it doesn’t matter that his intentions are pure. It Doesn’t Matter. He did something racist and is refusing to respect the people that were kind enough to let him know.
We need politicians that can own up to their mistakes, and can be willing to learn. It worries me that the assemblymember refuses to take responsibility and admit that what he did had racist consequences. It’s good that he feels he isn’t racist, and therefore could never accidentally do something racist – but he’s wrong. Good people do bad and stupid things sometimes. And that has to be OK; what matters is how you learn and grow after someone alerts you to your folly. And that’s where Assemblyman Hikind has failed.
New York State Resident
Write to Speaker Silver here.
2012 Year in Music
Thursday January 03rd 2013, 3:48 am
Filed under: Commentary
1. Old Table – War is Garbage in the Human Heart
2. Neko Case – Set Out Running
3. Old Table – Each is Good in his own House (Robert Pollard cover)
4. Steve Yankou – Parasite (NOATS cover)
5. Steater-Kinney – I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone
6. Sleater-Kinney – Good Things
7. Fun. – We Are Young
8. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
9. Defiance, Ohio – You Are Loved
10. Evil Sword – Digging a Hole
11. Kimya Dawson – Game Shows Touch our Lives (The Mountain Goats cover)
12. Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
13. The Drinkers Themselves – I Will Go Anywhere
The last song segues nicely into the new Drinkers album, which is clearly the album of the year.
I’ve been doing this for 6 years, which is a long time.
2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011.
Come lobby with me in albany
Wednesday December 19th 2012, 2:42 am
Filed under: Commentary
This will be my 4th year in a row accompanying Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic to Family Planning Advocates’ Annual Day of Action. Every year, it’s incredibly moving and gratifying. And every year I am full of #feelings about it afterward.
My first year lobbying in Albany, I got huge blisters on both my feet from my hip new heels. I was angry at myself for not wearing more comfortable shoes, but I was also angry at the patriarchy! Why should I have to dress fancy in order to be heard on capital hill? Why did I feel the need to femme-it-up for a day of feminist activism? I felt sour about the efficacy of non-profits and confused what radical change might really look like. But I also felt good about meeting legislators and talking to them about the importance of the Reproductive Health Act – because in reality, those folks make the decisions that impact us. Sometimes theory intersects with practice and it doesn’t always line up.
A lot of my activism is grassroots. You all know by now that I helped organize SlutWalkNYC. I’m involved with a relatively militant activist coalition called Feminist Resistance. We are invested in antiracist work, and we are trying to work closely with sex workers and trans groups to enact real radical change in our world. My friends and I sometimes scoff at the “non-profit industrial complex” and the compromises that it seems to breed. “N.O.W.” tends to be the butt of a joke – a caricature of what feminism should be, an old-fashioned second-wave organization that isn’t seeing what the reality actually is for marginalized folks.
But at the same time, the Annual Day of Action reminds me that laws matter. That, in fact, the most marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to these laws, and in need of better laws. Encouraging lawmakers to maintain family planning funding isn’t kowtowing to the corporate feminist world – it will drastically make the lives of poor people better, and make healthcare more accessible to everyone. It’s worth a shot.
I don’t know. If you’ve never lobbied before, you should consider coming with me this year on January 14th. Maybe it will change your mind about politicians. Maybe it won’t. But I always leave feeling like I’ve made a difference, on some level. It feels a lot like direct action – you get to talk to people, face to face, and convince them to support the things that you support. It’s an experience. And anyway, it can’t hurt.
(full disclosure: I’ve attended the Day of Action for 3 years as a volunteer, and this year I’m staff!)
Fatphobia, Fatshaming, and Me.
Thursday October 25th 2012, 2:16 am
Filed under: Commentary
OK team, time to write a blog post about ME.
As a non-fat person in a privileged body, I’m going through something and I want to talk about ME. You can talk about YOU on your own blog. Or on your twitter feed!
I’ve talked about my own privilege a bit before. I’ve come a long way since this post. I know that I’m in no position to talk about…anything. I know that other people live different lives and have different oppressions and live in different worlds, in many ways. That’s why I’m talking about my own world. Because I live in it.
My world is full of fatphobia and body-policing. My world tells me that I’m not good enough – I’m not tall enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not smooth enough. I deal with it every day – magazines, tv shows, movies, pretty much every mainstream image includes someone who looks “better” than I do, aesthetically. The thin ideal is unavoidable. I have a hunch that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I also want to talk about health. Because in my heart of hearts, I know that biological and bodily health is pretty distinct from beauty and those aesthetic ideals. We’re taught that it’s not, right? We’re taught that fat=unhealthy. And maybe sometimes the two things are related, like when your mental health manifests itself in your physical well-being. But I know that fat people can be healthy, and thin people can have serious health problems. Thin people get sick and die, just like fat people. Biology is real and health problems are real, and often separate from the aesthetic of the thin ideal.
The thing is, I think for women, or at least for me, there is often no line between those “health” reasons for losing weight and those “aesthetic” reasons. That’s why I’m so hesitant to go to the gym; because I’m afraid that in the back of my mind, I’ll want to lose weight to LOOK different (read: better). That I’ll feel healthy for being active, but secretly look in the mirror and hope to be skinnier, too. This is why I didn’t fast on Yom Kippur – because I feel like fasting is too similar to something else; I fear that I’d subconsciously feel good about starving myself. I know myself, and I know that I’m at risk for that dangerous behavior. Yes, even though I’m not overweight. Yes, even though I’ve never had a diagnosed eating disorder.
I want to live my life far from those thoughts and risks. That’s why when I hear people at work counting calories, or talking about their “lean cuisine” lunches or how those cookies are sooooo bad, I just don’t. I either tune it out, which is hard, or I say something innocuous and vaguely resistive, like “oh, those cookies are delicious.” That’s one of my favorites. Cookies are so delicious.
I’m having a hard time. Because I live here, in this thin ideal. I am here in this obsessively fatphobic culture that tells me I’m never good enough. I feel it even though I’m not fat. I know that I don’t feel it like other people do. I also know that I feel it, loud and clear. It’s self-care for me to reject all body-policing, to resist all fat-shaming and fatphobia.
I’m learning. I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t step back when I get called out. I got called out today. Maybe sometimes what I categorize as resistance doesn’t look like resistance to other people. I easily conflate everything about weight loss – the aesthetics and the health aspects. I can’t sort them out. And I think I didn’t realize that other people have sorted it out better than me. The body acceptance movement, as a facet of my feminism, has helped me so much and allowed me to love my body more than I ever thought I could (and don’t worry, I don’t love it all yet). I think today I made a mistake – I forgot that these theories don’t work the same for everyone. Especially people who live in different worlds than me. I want everyone to love their bodies and not want to lose weight for the “wrong reasons” but I forgot that I don’t know anyone’s reasons or anyone’s bodies or anyone’s problems.
My feminism hinges on one thing: Trust Women. That also means deciding for myself what’s right for me. For me, it means rejecting weight-loss, almost without exception, as my own route to body acceptance and self-love. For me, it means eating cookies without fear and without shame. But I forgot that my feminism isn’t everyone’s feminism – and that’s the whole point. Some people make decisions that I don’t make or wouldn’t make or can’t understand. And also, that almost all my decisions come from a place of privilege. I have a privileged body, and I’m sorry that I forgot myself today.
The Radicalization of my Car.
Monday May 14th 2012, 2:44 am
Filed under: Commentary
Almost 5 years ago, I received a sticker in the mail that read “Pro-Choice, Pro-Obama” from NARAL pro-choice New York. I was 17 or 18, ready to vote Democrat in my very first presidential election, and proud to display this for the world on my vehicle.
It made so much sense to me. It was that simple, that straightforward – If you are pro-choice, YOU ARE pro-Obama. Some of my friends were voting Nader, and I wouldn’t have it. Obama was our man – we believed in Obama! Hope! Change we can believe in! Soaring rhetoric! And at the time, he was the most liberal guy around, and I was feeling it. I thought that window decal was pretty radical, and if someone honked at me or gave me a dirty look on the road it sometimes occurred to me that they were anti-feminist pro-lifers or Republicans.
I voted (via absentee from college), I celebrated on the Syracuse quad when he won (a moment that I will never forget, and one of my most moving experiences of my life), and I even went to the inauguration (slightly more stressful).
These days, the connection isn’t that simple for me. I’m afraid I don’t believe in our government like I did at 18. Obama did a lot of awesome things, but he also didn’t. A lot has changed, and so much hasn’t. I’m not an expert, I can’t really quote statistics; I admit that. But four years later, I’m much more critical of the two-party system, and I’m reluctant to put all my eggs in one Democratic basket.
I’ve grown a lot more radical the past few months. A lot more anti-capitalist, a lot more anti-racist and sex-positive. And a lot more unapologetic about it. I’ve also become sort of connected to a socialist feminist presidential campaign. I live in New York and I have the opportunity (privilege?) to write-in a protest vote without really being worried about where my state is headed in November. And the Durham-López platform includes a lot of things I agree with, and very few that I don’t. I feel pretty cool about voting for candidates who are unabashedly Feminist. It’s not as simple for me as “pro-choice, pro-obama” was 4 years ago. It’s not as simple as the Unite Against the War on Women march (or any other mainstream pro-choice rally) where the takeaway was “Now go home and VOTE! For Democrats!” As Betty Maloney put it at our panel last week, “The Democrats are half the problem.” As far as the wars, the deportations, gay marriage (ahem), abstinence-only education funding, the war on drugs, corporate backing and funding, etc etc. “The lesser of two evils” is the option we’re given. The only option. And if you’re under 18, you get no options at all. It’s defeatist to think that This is the only say we’ve got. I want radical change, I want revolution. I want something more than the lesser of two evils.
The other day, in a moment of strength, I peeled off that window decal.
The problem now is that I’ve got nothing to replace it with. If my grandpa (who bought me this car 6 years ago) saw that I was proudly supporting socialists, I’d have a problem. I’m sure that old leftist sticker was about as radical as he figured I could be.
The Roots of Racial Prejudice
Friday April 20th 2012, 5:26 am
Filed under: Commentary
I participated in a teach-in last week at the City-wide GA in Central Park about the Roots of Racial Oppression – based on this awesome class that I’m taking. Here are my notes – I wrote them and I like them.
Questions that I was focusing on:
• How can we work to end racism?
• Intersection of race, sex, gender, sexuality and class
• How feminists and queers of color are the living connections between struggles and movements and “put it all together.”
• How the leadership of feminists and queers of color is crucial to all the social justice movements.
• Power of working across racial divides – in the workplace and in the movements, like Occupy.
• The importance of white activists in actively fighting racism.
So now we know a little bit more about racism, how it started, and why it’s been so cyclical and pervasive. And I think we can see that there is a pretty strong correlation (or is it causation?!) between racism and classism – they support each other, and work hand in hand to further oppress already-marginalized people. The white working class relies on racism to give them an edge, consciously or not – and institutionally they are encouraged to. And then classism couples with racism to cause more struggles to already marginalized communities.
And it doesn’t end there. All these identities are wrapped up and intersectional – they feed off one another, they bounce off one another, they are messy and inextricable – some people call it the matrix of oppression. Intersectionality is the idea that these oppressions can’t be separated – we all inhabit many identities at once. Some of us can be privileged in one way, and oppressed in another. Some of us have more compound privileges or oppressions. Very few people inhabit every single oppressed class or every single privileged class. Intersectionalism recognizes difference and encourages activists to deal with it – not put it aside and assume that we are all in it together, fighting the same fight against all oppression – it’s not that simple. Even by saying we are all the 99% erases some vast differences between the different struggles we all live with and live under.
But we have to become more aware of these differences, talk about them, learn about each other, recognize privilege and respect oppression, on all fronts. And it’s not about “the oppression olympics” either – we can all learn to be better activists, of LGBT allies, or antiracist allies, or trans allies. And we all have to live under the same racism, classist, sexist system. It oppresses all of us together – but often in very different ways. Recognizing and respecting that enables us to organize more fruitfully, more understanding, more broadly.
It means that the most marginalized people don’t get left behind – we don’t want to take the revolution step by step, we don’t want anyone to be left waiting for their turn. We are tired of putting some fights on the back burner to make room for the more palatable, more broad-based fights. Because when the most marginalized get left behind, it cheapens all of our activism. If we aren’t sticking up for the “bottom rung” as some say, we’re not doing enough. The master’s tools, man. If we are going to be progressive activists, we have to go all the way.
That’s why queers and feminists of color need to be leading the revolution. Their voices need to be heard the loudest, because they are the ones who most often get left behind and told to wait their turn in the revolution. And the most marginalized are the people that understand oppression more than I can – I had to work hard to learn about racism – I still am. I had to take an antiracist class to learn more about this stuff, for christ’s sake. The most oppressed people live with their oppression every minute of every day, so clearly, they know how best to fight it.
And I recognize the irony of me and Dan standing up here and talking about all this – we are pretty privileged people. We’re white, we’re straight, we’re cisgendered, we’re from fucking westchester, for crying out loud. But that’s important too – It’s just as important for white allies to stand up for race issues and speak out against injustice. It’s important to use your privilege to incite change in your own communities, and call out bullshit when you see it. And then, better yet, bring those more oppressed groups to the front, and let them explain it, because they’re better at it. And you’ve already had your turn. Your whole life. And with that, let me turn it back to Emily, my queer woman of color friend, to wrap it up.