Dreams Can Still Occur

Apart from blood and bones, what makes most of us similar are the daily struggles we face, not just to stay alive, but to live in peace and with purpose by fulfilling dreams. Under the persistent scarring by struggles, many of us collapse by inner defeated thoughts, some rise to walk again, some are still paralyzed, others have gone too soon. And there are those who continue to wonder—should I still linger here? What’s the purpose of life, and of my life? Those who read these words and bear witness, and consequently feel a tingle of hope, know they must continue to survive with smiles because dreams can still occur.

Dreams can still occur! Dreams can still occur! Doesn’t it sound clichéd? What is so new about this statement that has been circulated in life and above the graves of millions? The answer I have is that dreams can still occur, and we must receive this thought daily: Creatively receive it in the same way we creatively produce art, talk, and business strategies.

It is the consistent production and re-production, the persistency of circulation and re-circulation, the presentation and re-presentation to ourselves of this old thought—Dreams can still occur–that will continue to give us the fuel to smile throughout our life as we tackle purposefulness and dreams.

Now we know or acknowledge that we have been the greatest artist, daily, creatively, molding our thoughts to live in peace with joyfulness. That we now know or remember, we will consciously tap into our creativity as we shape and liberate that old thought: dreams can still occur!

Posted in Life Talk

Beware of Those Friends and Colleagues Who Evaluate Your Work

When you ask someone to evaluate your artistic production (say a book) and you know they skimmed it and didn’t finish but yet they are evaluating it with universal rhetorical feedback that could apply to any text, how do you say to them that you know they didn’t spend quality time with the work and that their feedback is merely a sudden rush to complete what feel they had promised to read a while back?

I have experienced this situation with several colleagues and friends over the years, and it shocks me that they know I am a careful reader yet they read my own work and provide positive and negative universal criticism that isn’t supported with any textual evidence.

It also surprises me that people know I try to think outside the box and write outside narrative frameworks, yet they expect to speed-read my work as if my work follows a predictable template. Not seeing the template they image the work should have, their bury their feedback into universal language that points to no textual specifics. Indeed, many of the well-known writers of our time talked about encountering this very experience from loved ones and colleagues who they held in high regards.

That it has happened to me repeatedly, I think it important to share it here to encourage emerging artists like myself to stand your ground against careless evaluations of your work. Seriously, real friends should not do this to others! Too many artists have been destroyed by the feedback of colleagues and friends who they thought cared about their future.

Artists, know your work. And be opened to criticism, and encourage your evaluators to be frank, rough, and honest with you, but beware of criticism that only points out negatives but do not point to the positives! That is not a skilled and effective critic. And if critics cannot substantiate their critiques—both good and back—with textual evidence, don’t accept their feedback. Obviously, they are insulting your intelligence. Also, be very confident about your production especially if you have put very hard work into it, and others have already pointed out its strengths and value.

I know–I know–I still haven’t answered my own question: what do I say to these sorts of critics who evaluate the work without reading it? I usually say thank you to everyone who evaluates my work. I never ever challenge anyone on any points offered because nobody had signed up for an argument; they had merely volunteered to read a work. Furthermore, I, too, don’t like people fighting me when I am providing feedback to their work. So my answer is that, I don’t have an answer, I am still thinking about it.

But, friends and colleagues, do not hurt your friends by treating their work carelessly. If you can’t spend quality time with the work of an artist who you know has a reputation of producing thoughtful work, don’t spend anytime with it at all. Don’t rush the work and kill the author! Usually, such an author knows you didn’t read the work, but she won’t tell you, because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings though you unintentionally hurt hers.

Posted in Life Talk, Reviews

Black Lives Matter NOT All Lives Matter

If any of the presidential candidates wants to be taken seriously, I need to hear them commit to instituting federal reforms that abolish the relationship between the prison system and private companies. If the more people getting arrested means that powerful private corporations make more profits, then powerful corporate lobbyists are going to remain committed to ensuring that more blacks continue to be imprisoned. They will continue to resist any presidential candidate, politician, prosecutor, or institution that goes after the prison system.

And on this issue, I am not going to say people of color, because it is black people who comprise the largest percentage of the prison population. Additionally, as Obama said recently, blacks get longer sentences than whites for the same crime. It’s wise to consider that there is a time and place to lump marginalized and racialized bodies as people of color. But the effectiveness of such a categorical lumping must be seriously evaluated before utilized and prioritized as the most inclusive and effective activist strategy.

More than any group on the American continent and across the world, darker-skinned bodies are the most racially oppressed. My experience here in Panama and recently in Brazil has made it clearer that there exists a nurtured global assault on bodies based upon hierarchical structures of pigmentation. This reason grounds my support for emerging viewpoints in the Black Lives Matter movement that resist calls to frame their slogan as “All Lives Matter.”

If any other group—Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and Poor White people—wants to start its own anti-racist movement, I will support it. But each needs to tap into its own creativity and produce a slogan that differentiates existing specifics of its struggles while it still amplifies the reality that shared racism hurts multiple groups. That shouldn’t be so hard to creatively accomplish; should it?

Neither should it be impossible to understand that blacks deserve the right to cultivate and occupy singular activist names and spaces that speak as black people because they are marginalized as black people across continents that continue to globalize diverse modes of anti-blackness.

Certainly, I often (and still do) valorize a united, inclusive, front, especially since I know that “blackness” as a social construct is very problematic and is often hijacked by civil rights and academic careerists. In those careerist situations, the utility of “blackness” bothers me when persons really consider it as a wholesome representation of their ontological selves.

As I see it, identities are hybrid–ethnically and geographically intersectional–rather than singular. But when “blackness” is understood and utilized as a political constituency needed to shift governmental paradigms, my argument changes to positions such as here–where my main point is that racial singularity also has its usefulness in varied activists contexts such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

I Am An Atheist – Let Me Remind You

To those who don’t know, I am an atheist, and an activist one. Yes, I don’t post stuff about atheism every day because that is not my strategy. Atheists are diverse in how they live their lives and represent their beliefs. I can speak for myself, but not for all atheists, when I say that every facet of my thinking and inner peacefulness is shaped by my life as an atheist. Atheism saved me after years of being hunted, haunted, and crippled by Christianity’s illogism, proselytization, and violences.

While I don’t post with the word “atheism” every day, I still consider it my duty to resist, using my writing, the inscriptions of diverse forms of religion, especially religious subtleties. What I will however never do is confront anyone with my views. And I don’t debate close friends or colleagues about religion. I don’t even engage other atheists anymore. Because, who wants war? And why should I do to religious supporters what their genealogies did to people like me as a kindness for not assassinating us with their machines and legislations?

I however share my views in my writing. I have been doing this for years, and large numbers of persons who follow my work and voice and my blog understand that to be the case. In the same way that religion preaches that the church needs to be a space to celebrate God’s ministry, and that in church, testimonies should freely resist a sinful culture, I occasionally use my writing as a space of ministry–a testimony of the empowering professions of atheism.

My facebook page is a representation of who I am, that includes my need to resist religion. I do what Evangelicals do by knocking doors and issuing pamphlets. My knocking is done with my writing, however. I share by resisting what seems to be normal professions of living–living as religious converts–things like Christian singing, I therefore resist sometimes.

Often many Christian persons use language, while expecting that others will automatically accept the validity of their religious logic. “God Bless You,” is how they often show their love. And even when an atheist is grieving for a dead one, Christians don’t hesitate to say, “I am praying for you and your family.”

How insulting they speak that way! (People need to understand that Christianity (not christians) to some atheists is what the Ku Klux Klan doctrine is to many black people. And anyone who thinks this analogy is ridiculous, you might benefit from wondering about the extent of your knowledge on the Medievalist religious histories, as a starting point) Because that itself is Christian proselytization at a time when their atheist friend or atheist family member is most vulnerable, and at a time when a response as “Don’t fucking pray for me!” would sound impolite, though it would be a meaningful activist response.

To be blunt, I respect people’s right to their varied views about religion, but I don’t respect their religious views: the issue being, respect for rights to views versus respect for content of views. You can’t ask me to respect the very doctrine that has hunted, haunted, and crippled me. (I’m now healed however. Atheism healed me.) I will however be cordial when persons share their religious views as long as they don’t preach to me.

However, my writing is a space of activism. I will never call out a friend about their religious views in my writing. Neither do I discuss religion with my friends unless they violate my space with their religious ministry. But I will address public media issues and figures with language of resistance.

There is nothing called gods, I will now say. If anyone thinks there is a God, they might benefit from proving it to themselves first, not with moods or emotions, but with evidence that can be tested and replicated. Atheists need not prove anything about gods. Because atheists never made claims that Gods, Aphrodite, or cows have supernatural power. Have your religious beliefs make you feel connected to life and peacefulness? Of course it has. But it doesn’t mean its knowledge is true. What is true are your feelings: religion makes you happy!

Atheists were born human. They learn everything they know. They even learned to vet knowledge. But with one exception, religious doctrinaires and institutions told them, Vet us (religion) differently! Thus, for many atheists, until knowledge holders prove that gods exist, atheist cannot accept that logic. In the absence of this logic, atheists hold that god/s do not exist.

This fundamental principle–that of rejecting what parades as wisdom, which remains unproven–cannot always occupy a space of silence. Why the need to speak then with the word “atheist” occasionally? Not a need, I say, but activism to speak occasionally in that way! The answer is that more people need to know that atheists are here and we have a voice, and we are many. Such people, often, can only identify atheists, not by the diversities of atheists lives, but by the names we use to codify our life, a name like “atheist.”

We are a persecuted group. We are one of the most discriminated marginal groups in the world. That is fact! To survive therefore, we have our gatherings and non-gatherings that resist knowledges that seem illogical in the same way Christians and Muslims resist knowledges and actions of sinfulness. Many atheists survive too by surrender to the daily ministry, the consistent abusiveness by their religious friends, who lack the conscious to discern their own proselytizing fashions.

Civil rights, anarchists, and revolutionary movements have cultivated liberated spaces by resisting what had been traditionally and contemporarily oppressive. Hence the strategy of passiveness while Christian proselytization parades as subtlety yet devours sober minds aggressively, cannot hold all the time as a framework of atheist living, representation, and validation. In other words, I’m saying atheists have to go on offense sometimes.

Posted in Atheist, Life Talk, Politics Education, Uncategorized

Off Coffee and No more Emotional Eating

I have been off coffee for a week. The withdrawal consequences are over, except I can’t read as much academic material as I used to. Still I can manage to read lighter articles such as those most circulated on the Internet. I have had a back and forth relationship with coffee. I usually do one cup per day, or two cups at most. Nonetheless, I considered myself an addict because without that morning cup of coffee, I could never function throughout the day. I am hoping this time, there will be no return. I’m excited to see how my body will take time to heal from the years of coffee’s addictive violence.

People suggest green tea as a replacement. A ton of research supports the benefits of green tea as it does coffee. Still, I am not so sure green tea is for me. Perhaps it does miracles for others, yes. But my goal is to get rid of caffeine from my system. Green tea has caffeine, though in less amounts than coffee. It was useful as a substitute in getting me off coffee. I will drink a cup occasional, but not every day. This morning I began my day with a cup of hot water. I squeezed a whole lemon in it. I’m feeling fine.

Aside from the victory over coffee, today begins a new chapter in my life. No more emotional eating. Last night, through an article, I discovered that I have been an emotional eater all my life. It shocked me, because I thought I had my emotional life in order: usually stress free; constantly courting inner peace; not shot down my challenges; great at motivating myself; desiring intimate love but not thirsty for it; often desiring sex but will not stoop to the whorish or desperate level; and I constantly make jokes with myself and laugh with myself.

Yet last night I began to recall that when I am studying, I constantly go to the refrigerator and eat. Or if in a coffee house, I eat every hour. Yes, I usually snack on things like bananas, papayas, nuts, mangoes, chicken sandwiches, etc. Healthy stuff, but isn’t eating unnecessarily unhealthy? My goal is to now eat whenever I am hungry, but to still have at least three meals per day. I believe I can accomplish this. This will make my body more energetic, lighter, calmer, and more attractive. Isn’t that a goal worth striving for?

Posted in Life Talk

Talking Race in Panama, Bocas Del Toro

I was just on the street chatting with a few Panamanians about race and identity in Panama. I’ve been chatting with locals ever since I arrived here. Initially, I wanted to know why every black person I encountered sounded exactly like a Jamaican. Surprisingly, they weren’t Jamaican. And their linguistic register has to do with more than the story of the many Caribbean persons who visited Panama during the Panama Canal’s building process.

Growing more intrigued about race in Panama, on a daily basis, I entered restaurants, bought food, smiled, and started conversations about race and sexuality with sellers. I didn’t always have to go to people. Sometimes, hustlers came up to me on the street, telling me they have “the powder” and “the weed.“

When I told them I don’t do drugs, they seemed disappointed.

“Anything you want, I can get it for you,” is their favorite comeback.

“Ok,” I usually replied. You can help me out if you tell me about race in Panama.

Regarding race, I wanted to know why some Panamanians in Bocas Del Toro found it difficult (not uncomfortable) to identify with a specific race; and some even laughed when I asked what was their race. One woman told me that I am very bold with my questions. Indeed, the conversations were uncomfortable at points. But I never failed to assure the people I was talking with that I only wanted to match faces with history and geography because I found the differences in the physical features fascinating. That explanation always made everyone relax; and they usually smiled.

Btw folks, I am not here doing research. And I am not here on any scholarship that has anything to do with school. I am just fascinated by how people identify themselves, why, and how I can map history by looking at people’s faces, how they walk, dress, pose, and sigh.

Visiting Brazil recently, and now coming to Panama, has been really eye opening for me. Yes, I had always known about the Afro-diaspora in Latina America, but to witness it puts me in a position where I can no longer talk about “black people” and just imagine mostly peoples from the Caribbean, America, and Africa.

I also worry about the label “Black” because many of these dark-skinned people of African descent cannot understand why “Black” as a term applies to them. They see it as a very domineering American label. Henry Louis Gates did a documentary series about blackness in Latin America years ago. It remains a very useful documentary, but I think Gates misses the point that these people do not want American intellectuals to name them.

Years ago, I would have thought Afro-Latin Americans were trying to erase their blackness; but I now know that many of them aren’t trying to erase anything other than a set of assumptions embedded in the word “black.” They see it as America and Europe forcing them to place white knowledges at the center of their identities.

I seriously value their point—and I am wondering why do we identify them as even Afro-Latinos instead of Latinos/as-Afro. Why should “blackness” and its genealogy be imagined as their genesis, (prefix), of their identities?

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

Shift to Gun Rights Over Racism. Charleston Terrorism

To address the Charleston terrorism, Obama and Clinton shifted the talk to gun rights instead of concentrating on terrorism and racism. At least Clinton performed the politics expected and mentioned racism. Yet Obama, though in the later part of his presidency, remains too timid to address race. Rather than mention racism, Obama’s passion lies in addressing gun rights. Blame it on the guns! Forget about racism!

That Clinton spoke about racism, I wonder–who will be a better president when it comes to fighting for racial equality? He who accepts that he cannot speak, or She who knows she must speak? Yet though Clinton mentioned race, she joined Obama and shifted the talk to gun rights. The media and politicians feel comfortable discussing gun rights because that chitchat will go nowhere. No one will have any mental or physical work to do. Additionally, supporters and opposers of gun rights can still assert having access to moral integrity. Thus, Obama and Clinton’s strategy of shifting the talk to gun rights fails to engage an analysis of white male terrorism and racism in the U.S.

Of course, I know they would never acknowledge white male terrorism, but I expected them to seize the moment and emphasize white male racism. Instead of fulfilling a morally reasonable expectation, Obama and Clinton performed the sadness that was politically expected in front of the cameras. But when we strip away their performance clothing and examine their words, we notice that these performers show no vision.

And they make no promise, which black and brown peoples need if they are to secure their bodies from increasing white male terrorism, white misogyny, white-male hypermasculinity, white privilege, and the nurtured white Southern conservative traditions of violence, and the activist media and corporate sponsored movements determined to haunt people of color.

American is an unsafe place for people of color! we are educated every day. White male terrorist crusades against people or color have become more daring. In their wake, so many bleeding bodies! So many snatched breaths by the claws of white terrorists! Who will be the victims tomorrow? remains the concern of victim populations. What more freedoms do they want from us? is the question of the victimizer population, a question that has been emerging boldly from the shadows under Obama’s leadership.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

What is Blackness? Freedom From Patrolled Blackness!

I have an issue with any group that thinks it owns me. A large part of what I notice has been passing for black identity is merely a coalition of black-and-brown skin people asserting roots to Africa, ones who think that by virtue of my pigmentation, they ultimately speak for me, and that my body, voice, and silence automatically represent them. I want to own my freedom to escape this sort of patrolled blackness.

I do not want to be the property of any group. I’d like to recognize my skin color and identify with diverse histories that made me, battled for me, gave me possibilities, and permitted the longer stay of my breath. Up to months ago, I had long loved the idea of calling myself black because it felt like community. I saw it as fulfilling a needed political gathering that gave my body and my productions visibility. Home—it was—a space that alleviated my fears, nurtured my confidence, fed the bones of my power, and took me from the status of childhood.

Now that home has made me an adult, I wonder if the law of diminishing returns has set in when considering the role of black identity. Is home more dangerous to me now than beneficial—as my own physical home of childhood raised me but couldn’t cope with my queer body? Increasingly, I have grown uncomfortable sharing my thoughts with family members of the black diaspora. It’s less labor to keep my thoughts private in my head or on my computer. To not do too much talking, seems tempting a course of action, because speech will certainly come back to haunt as it did Tiger Woods with his Cablinaisian talk.

Many of us recognized Tiger’s struggle to situate his identity as diverse—his attempt to reject the strict boundaries of identity placement zones. But many blacks considered Tiger’s body as their property. His announcement violated the ownership rules of racial categorizations. Where I am concerned, knowledge not only offers the pleasures of awareness, knowledge administers a heavy burden when not shared. Or, if one should say there is no knowledge-burden, it’s just that I am weak and unable to keep my thoughts to myself, I will believe they are correct.

The black spaces that are positioned as marginal in the global sphere seem too eager to marginalize voices of their members. We see evidence of this on the issue of sexuality. Increasingly, popular viewpoints circulate that blacks in America are not more transphobic and homophobic than other groups. I agree with that statement and the need for its presentation. Black bodies must be recovered from deceitful white frameworks that situate them as being in perpetual antagonism with other groups seeking freedoms. But I cannot support the view that black transphobic and homophobic articulations equally mirror those of other groups in America.

Look around! It explains why queer peoples, for instance, dress and speak a certain way when in Manhattan, New York. But on the way back to Brooklyn—after passing certain stops, they put away their diverse vocal registers in the same way they rub away their make-up and change their clothing, right there in the train. The ramifications of the unequal articulations of transphobia and homophobia in black communities destroy the confidence, growth, and expressions of queer members of the black community. That fact should not be dressed up.

Another example of the marginalization of members’ voices can be noted in popular black responses to Republican leaderships and the shifts in theoretical approaches of certain black figures. Many of these famous persons are automatically not considered black enough. Remember that Obama was “not black enough” until after Oprah Winfrey endorsed him. The view is that these black leaders are a sellout or that they do not seriously grasp the history of race. Clarence Thomas, therefore, is not evaluated in terms of his adherence to a conservative judicial philosophy. He is personally attacked because many black people think they have a right to decide in what political body (conservative or democratic?) Clarence’s views should permanently reside.

Another figure, Henry Louis Gates, opened much territory for black studies. But we notice that as his research approaches changed over the years, blacks have demonized him rather than his research methods. Raven Simone, too, has graced our television as a child star in an era when black child stars were rare. Blacks vilified her because she expressed a desire to be identified as “human” rather than “black” or “gay.” People forgot the gay part. They went after her for failing to follow the ownership rules of the black part. And recently when Raven dared to share her views that Harriet Tubman should not be permitted on the $20 bill, the black community ate her alive with nasty creative metaphors.

Condoleezza Rice, as well, was heavily demonized as a disgrace to the black community while serving in the Bush administration. Many questioned her integrity and pointed out that her blackness served in a counterproductive capacity. It shared violence responsibility as it endorsed the murders Bush waged upon non-white geographies. Thus, Condoleezza’s blackness symbolically refuted contentions that Bush waged a racist war.

Whether I agree with the approaches of any of these figures is irrelevant. I am merely troubled by how blacks vilified them for sharing their views or adopting unconventional approaches. Even Al Sharpton who has clearly shown a different activist approach in the last five years is now portrayed as an ineffective figure tangled up in corporate coffers. Increasingly, many are ignoring his years as a consistent activist figure as they question his integrity. Of course, the black community should criticize black figures. Yet what irks me is the popular failure to distinguish criticism from demonization.

This failure brings to attention the workings of the black plantation paradigm that issues its vengeance when discourse, strategies, and convictions counter black conventions. In these moments, it becomes difficult to distinguish deployments of blackness from dangerous evangelical cultism. Voices that stray from the cultivated, politicized, rehearsed, blackness are ignored. Family members seem interested only in the body that echoed the voice. They show a determination to demonize the body, ridicule it as “ignorant” and filled with “self-hate.” Once upon a time, there seemed to be a need to coalesce diverse forms of black representations to cultivate counteracting power structures to white intellectual and economic violence. That need remains, but equally necessary is the importance of eradicating plantation blackness, where black Massas of the intelligentsia, activism, media, and diaspora of black politics treat black bodies and voices like chattle.

Marginal voices and bodies need liberated spaces, safe from the gathered, powerful, violence of dissenting black social media consensus. Yet I wonder—will there ever be a space for blackness that is not easily definable, because its identification embraces the notion of black boundarylessness. That is, blackness that has no geographical, conceptual, and genealogical boundaries. Blackness that is apolitical yet politically (un)predictable because it expresses no allegiance to dominant ideologies. Blackness that is theoretically (in)consistent and flip-flops rather than pridefully asserts ontological permanence and irrefutable epistemology, given that knowledges are in flux—and so it is willing to permit its fragmentation, mutation, and even deny its existence sometimes.

How can I escape the globalizing responsibility to “blackness”? At the same time, how can I embrace (a)-(my)-(no) blackness, and at times reject it/them, and at other times return to them/it? How—really yes—can I allow my identity to work for me without worrying about the Massas and the cultisms of black plantations? How can I release myself from trans-geographical biddings and auctions for my pigmentation, my silent body articulations, and my voices?

Posted in Gay Voices, Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

Rachel Dolezal is a Black Woman

Like the NAACP, I support Rachel Dolezal. If she says she is a black woman, Rachel is a black woman. She didn’t use her identity to destroy black lives. She constructed her identity and labelled herself in defiance of marginalizing sociological constructs. Yes, her cultivation is another sociological construct, but it is affirming than marginalizing. With this affirmative construct, Rachel identified with, affirmed, and advocated for black lives. So, I am not going to throw a good human being under the bus, because her biological parents want the world to hop on their self-serving bandwagon.

A recent interview reveals that Rachel didn’t get the parental love every child deserves. She thus had to redefine the notion of family (parents and sibling), just so she could create her own space of nurturing—a needed space if she were to maintain her strength and passion to save black lives. What is so wrong about unmarking yourself and painting yourself anew to preserve your mental health and save the physical bodies of others? Why should I join the chorus to mock a woman with a legacy of good deeds that saved black lives?

Now Rachel is weeping upon being force to clarify her actions to a chastising world, sobbing as media cameras dig tunnels into her life, weeping as our condemnations criminalize her. Weeping indeed; because only few of us have risen to her defense and say—but wait a minute! Didn’t she use her life and identity to highlight the concern that black lives matter? Where is our compassion in the moment Rachel needs us most to save her own mental life? Could we be physically killing her with our humiliations and giggles?

A liar, many call Rachel; but is Rachel Dolezal a hero—one forcing us to examine our own comfortableness with disabling, racial identity markers? Her own exposure forces us to realize that we cling desperately to the racialization of skin-coloration politics. And those who disrupt the traditions of that political architecture face our wrath.

Of course, Rachel is facing our wrath through our twittering and facebooking mockeries and belly laughs that do not deeply engage a productive discourse on race. Because, why are so few of us asking whether it is at all possible that her family tree might in fact fail to bear witness to the purity of a genealogical whiteness—that very white purity we think she possess and dare deny? In the absence of a proof of that white purity, (or even if such proof exists), why should she not have the option to inscribe her own identity, not to destroy black lives, but to save black lives and her own life.

Our failure to raise these questions exposes our disability–a need to critically question the colonialist, colorist, paradigms that entangle our freedoms to name, erase namings, rename, and even to later blot out the very names we gave ourselves on various parts of our life’s journey. Our disability robs the motivation required if we are to rise with energy and seek the essential knowledges to decode our racialized world, the modes of race identities, racial fluidity and diversities, and ethnic hybridities.

Indeed–who are we, if not a composition of many bodies? We ignore this reality through the power of our legislations that cement the notion of racial purity. Even legislations that are designed to combat racism themelves cement the notion of pure racial separateness. That there is a need to combat something, itself suggests that the something exists. Thus, we believe, whiteness exists in its purest form; blackness exists in its purest form.

Further solidifying the notion of racial purity are the history books we engage in childhood–those ones that were awarded canonical importance due to the privilege extended to certain groups in diverse eras and their militarist and economic victories. Reading, for instance, the history of Shakespeare forces many of us to see him as fully white without raising any question about the racial purity of his own genealogy. We also cannot ignore how our racial identities are politically and culturally marked and remarked (not biologically) based upon geographical districtings of First, Second, and Third World theories, and ethnic and colorist segregations across the world. All these markers ignore the genetics and biology that define human beings as they consolidate the notion of race.

Is there a pure race? Why is Rachel Dolezal white? What is whiteness? Why is Rachel Dolezal black? Why is she neither black nor white? When we laugh at or condemn Rachel, what is our specific contribution to the body of knowledge needed to eradicate racism? In what ways are our contributions of condemnation highlighting our disability, ignorance, and arrogance?

No doubt, I support movements that destabilize the comfort spaces that identities use to declare their utility, power, and marginality. And certainly, I believe identities and groupings do matter for political purposes such the NAACP advocacy Rachel dedicated her life to. I, however, align with voices and actions that understand the need for human beings to fluidly occupy identity spaces based upon mental, emotional, and physical needs, and to redefine those spaces after obtaining the healing needed. Identity markers should not be shackles group members use to reign over other people’s lives.

So comfortable many of us are with just saying, “I am black because I have black skin!” And isn’t it just so easy to say, “I am white because my parents are white!”? We fail to realize that those unquestioned declarations continue to serve as identity colonies that provide plantation space for narrow-minded concepts that deny freedom to the varied imaginaries of our multiple racial selves.

Could Rachel be challenging us to redefine blackness and whiteness and other colonies of racial identifications? Sadly, though, most of us won’t take on this essential task. It requires too much knowledge seeking and research–and oh–we are so busy, because we need to get on to the next sweet news story of the day! And whites love the privilege packaged in their whiteness. And blacks survive as powerful beings by affirming and rejecting communities based upon blackness-tests. With passions, mouths, giggles, and finger bones in labor, both whites, blacks, and other people of color are vigorously defending a racialized heritage of colonialism; and they will not allow black woman Rachel Dolezal to get in the racialized pathway.

 

 

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

Cornel West — Public Intellectual Labor versus Academic Labor

I laugh to myself when I hear some academics agree with Michael Eric Dyson’s assertion that Cornel West has not produced any significant scholarship in years and that somehow makes Cornel academically unproductive. What have many of these critics produced? Perhaps a dissertation followed by a book at most. Who really reads their book? Perhaps an auntie, two friends, and fifty persons on the publisher’s subscription list.

These academics understand well that it is difficult or impossible to balance academic scholarship production, mentor young academics, mentor fans, serve on college committees, regularly accept local and international speaking engagements from which the college benefits, take care of family, take care of physical body, attend to mental health, and consistently serve the community as a grassroots activist. Cornel West balanced all these things and excelled. Yet these academics continue to point out that he has abandoned academic principles.

What do they mean? I don’t know. For what is the purpose of academic utility if it devalues the relationship of scholarship productions and accessibility to everyday people. If regular people do not understand how to enact fancy theories in academic productions in order to mobilize change, what does that say about the goals of academic labor?

Parts of the culture of higher education so annoys me—the snobbery, the laziness when it comes to engaging everyday people, the cowardice as it concerns the need to boldly articulate political positions without dodging behind other people’s quotations, and the tunnel-vision mindset that only values the production of consistent scholarship.

Some of these academics will tell you that it is not their passion to engage with everyday people. They argue that scholarship production by itself is intellectual activism. By expanding the notion of activism to include themselves, these scholars benefit by adding it to their CVs, resumes, and interview revelations. All in all, it makes their academic portfolio looks diverse: they have been eating bread and butter with the common folk, thus remedying their elitist-privilege guilt.

Observing this widespread 21st Century intellectual hustle, I can’t be mad, because academia, like many other corporatized spaces, is a hustling ground, purporting to be a venue of moralizing knowledge access, and a philanthropic service space. But that won’t stop me from wondering—how can they truly investigate the people they attempt to theorize without a commitment to engage those people frequently?

I, for instance, notice some academics claim they are studying people of color. Hearing their conversations, you realize they have an interest in issues of color that are written in books but not necessarily people of color. Indeed they can tell you everything about Rigoberta Menchú, Indira Gandhi, Junot Diaz, and James Baldwin. Yet they have no friends or close associate who are people of color. They have never visited or slept over in a community of color. And they make no commitment to understand the everyday, unwritten, sociologies of people of color. They suffer no guilt; because, in their heads, they are occupying spaces of color in archives and books. What more do you want them to do?!, they are perhaps saying now.

Nevertheless, the system of tenureship and professorial awards, in many cases, rewards academics who skillfully deploy all these annoying characteristics I highlighted. Many college professors are the finest when it comes to digging through archives and synthesizing theories to formulate published research-paper sociologies that affect lives. But many of these same ones are horrible at teaching, they have no intention to address their pedagogical disabilities, they consistently score low on teachers evaluations, and they do not have the skills and just don’t care about mingling with everyday people with grassroots access.

The problem is that as early as my community-college-education years, I realized such professors often are the department bulldogs, the gatekeepers of tenureship for other scholars who are not only doing research but are also bringing their message to the public in the way Cornel does. This is one of the many reasons I decided to do doctoral studies. I wanted to learn about what these professors know and be able to translate new knowledge to people with grassroots access. Do I regret my decision to do doctoral studies? Absolutely not. I am having the fun of my life, but things need to be said.

Cornel’s methods might not be always polite to or respectful of those who value political strategies different from his, but shouldn’t public-intellectual labor be respected as academic labor? Yes, Cornel has said some nasty things about Michael Eric Dyson, who has the right to return the literary nastiness. Dyson’s The Ghost of Cornel West and his supporters’ views, however, have made us aware of their lack of appreciation for academic labor whenever it shares a physical space with peoples who have grassroots access.

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters, Uncategorized

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