the smallest minority

True story: Waiting for the bus one morning, I overheard a mama talking to her 5 year old daughter:
“There are so many different kinds of people in the world, right baby?”
Chewing a mouthful of cold smore poptarts, she nods.
“There are big people, there are little people, there are mama people, and daddy people, and baby people. There are tall people, who play basketball, and small people… There are black people, and white people, and brown people… What kind of person are you baby?”
Still chewing that mouthful of cold smore poptarts, “A cute person!”
Smiling, mama affirms that baby is indeed a cute person.

I too am a cute person (or so I think), but I am also a short person, a chubby person, a silly person, a female bodied person, a gay person, a genderqueer person, a 19-year-old person, a middle class person, and a first generation Indian American person. It might have taken me a long to realize, but I’m definitely a cute person. In fact, it took me a long time to realize who I am. The more I discovered about myself, the more I felt like I was falling further into the minority rabbit hole. I felt more alien than anything. Did anyone else’s intersectionality, intersect with mine? Or was my unique being going to be isolated, alone, and unappreciated?

Intersectionality is a funny thing. It divides us, drawing lines in the sand of humanity, erecting chasms between you and me. And it unites us. And it leaves us solitary. And it creates solidarity. This double edged sword so integral to our being makes us who we are, as individuals and as a human race. There is pride in being the one and only you, celebration and beauty. But what is a celebration without others to share with?! Isn’t there a sense of excitement in meeting someone who shares an experience with you? In seeing someone like you? In realizing you are not alone in your struggles and achievements? This interpersonal connection, this sense of community, plays a pivotal role in self-appreciation and in self-love. In turn, this creates the foundation for the appreciation and celebration of others too.

The branches of our intersectionality all lead to the same trunk, our being. Each branch affects another and cannot exist alone. My race affects the filter with which I view my sexuality or gender expression or class or age or my physical appearance, abilities/disabilities, or the culture I want to create for myself. Finding a balance between the aspects our lives, the tidbits that makes us who we are, can be difficult without affirmation of our existence. It wasn’t until I met another queer, first generation, Indian American that I was able to see how the mosaic fit together. I was opened to a whole new dimension. Realizing that I wasn’t some kind of mistake or freak or monster let me adjust my filters. Apparently the Indian culture is chock full of instances of homosexuality! Gods that are half male and half female, sex positions for lovers of the same sex, even religiously accepted marriages between women! My culture wasn’t as suffocating as I thought, exploring the intersection of my race and sexuality has given me a new appreciation for my mother culture. I’m not a mythical creature, “queer woman of color”, but I am the child of millions, if not billions, of others just like me. There is so much peace in this enlightenment.

Dedicated to gita mehrotra


Spokane MLK march attempted bombing

On Martin Luther King Jr. day in Spokane, the annual MLK unity parade had to be rerouted because of a suspicious backpack that three city workers found on a bench on the corner of Washington and Main. The three workers reported it to the police, and when the police investigated it turned out to contain a bomb that was almost certainly put there to target those participating in the march. According to the FBI, the backpack contained one of the most sophisticated bombs ever used by anyone attempting ‘domestic terrorism’ in the US, and the timing and placement of the bomb was very clearly linked to the MLK march.

The bomb was able to be remote detonated, and it was placed on a metal bench in front of a brick wall – which means that it was designed to inflict as many casualties as possible.

Spokane, and the general Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho area, has a long history of violence and white supremacist groups. Below is a segment from a Spokesman-Review article about the attempted bombing and the local history of violence:

“In 2009, someone spread hate literature throughout North Idaho and Spokane Valley, Stewart said. There was a lull in activity, until the events last week, he said. …

Stewart and others started their efforts to combat hate in 1981 after Richard Butler founded the Aryan Nations compound in 1973. Stewart said his organization tracked more than 100 felonies committed by hate groups in the area in the 1980s and ’90s, including eight murders, several bank robberies and other crimes intended to intimidate residents.

The crimes attributed to people linked to the Aryan Nations included several bombings in the mid-1980s, including those at the home of a Catholic priest, the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene and other locations, Stewart said.

Then in 1996, three bombings linked to racists caused severe damage to a Planned Parenthood building, Spokane City Hall and the Spokane Valley office of The Spokesman-Review.

Butler began holding annual marches in downtown Coeur d’Alene in the 1990s before Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, bankrupted Butler in a civil trial in 2000. Butler died in 2004 and much of the crime spree ended with him, Stewart said.”

Additionally, a bomb was discovered last March outside of the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse in downtown Spokane. The authorities still have no idea who planted that one.

Clearly, this is nothing new to the area. But as a Spokane native (the house where I grew up is about 1.5 miles from where this bomb was placed), this history of the area was not something that I was familiar with. Growing up I had heard of the white supremacists that were “somewhere over in Idaho” but I never connected any of these groups to Spokane or to anything personal/local. This wasn’t something that was talked about in schools or any of the other places I had access to as a child growing up.

But why not? And why hasn’t this bomb become a national news story? Aside from some coverage by Rachel Maddow and a couple stories on NBC there hasn’t really been much.

The reason why I’m blogging about this here is because it is a BIG FREAKING DEAL. And it should matter to all of us. The fact that this kind of violence still happens in the US should be something that everyone knows. Racism, prejudice and oppression still exist in America even though we like to pretend that we’re all post-racial and tolerant now. Just because Obama is president doesn’t mean that a long history of oppression and hatred is automatically wiped out or that people don’t face oppression (racial, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, class, or otherwise) daily.

This attempted bombing should be something that everyone who is involved in anti-oppression and social justice work knows about, particularly those of us who are active in Washington. We should be creating dialogue about it and working actively to expose all the hate that these white supremacist groups are still spewing, and educating our friends who think we’re living in a post-racial society. Because we are still living with racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, classism, and a whole slew of other oppressions, and the only way we’re going to overcome one of them is to overcome all of them through continual struggle, resistance and education.

 

In love and solidarity,

Maggie


Queering Black History Month

It is Black History Month…otherwise known as American History Month (reclaimed). For all of us white folks who ask the question, “why do [insert name of group here] get a month when we do not get a month?” I simply answer, “we have had 6228 months.” It has been my 40 years of experience that the primary historical narratives celebrated, retold, taught, enshrined, and even re-enacted are those of European-descent Americans. While revisionist historians (used here positively) work to reinterpret historical events from a range of vantage points and enliven Black historical narratives; if one concedes, as I do, that institutionalized systems of interlocking oppressions continue to operate at every level of culture, then pointedly identifying a month to highlight, celebrate, and educate about Black history appears current and relevant. Whew! That was a long sentence…you might want to read it again! Basically, I am saying institutionalized racism (among other ‘isms) still persists and given that, Black history month seems like a good idea to me.

But wait…to queer things up a bit, Black history should NOT be relegated to this one 28 day month. Right?! As, I mentioned previously, Black history is American history. Just as queer history is American history. Just as Latino history is American history. Just as immigration history is American history. Just as the history of all communities and vantage points is American history. It is a both/and kind of situation my friends. Because of racism, we need the month. But, in order to eradicate racism we need comprehensive, complex, non-essentializing historical narratives. Let’s get to it! Celebrate, decolonize, and transform!

Ok, now let’s get seriously queer (…as sung to the tune of Billy Joel’s  We Didn’t Start the Fire circa 1989…youtube it people).

An original song by jen, erica, and sasha at the Q.

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/10238547" params="show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=ff7700" width="100%" height="81" ]

Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Queen Latifah, Miss Major, Essex Hemphill, Lee Daniels, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey.

Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, RuPaul transforms views, James Baldwin, Richard Bruce Nugent, Lorraine Hansberry.

Little Richard, Wanda Sykes, Cathy Cohen (me likes), Wallace Thurman, Sherry Harris, Josephine Baker

Mabel Hampton, Bill T. Jones, Bessie Smith, Peter Gomes, Ruth Ellis oldest dyke (meant with power here), Angela Davis always fights!

We wrote the Fire!! It was always burning since the world’s been turning, but we wrote the Fire!! No we didn’t light it, but we can incite it!

Tracy Chapman, Sapphire, June Jordan, Pat Parker, Marlon Riggs, John Amaechi, Jean-Michel Basquiat

Johnny Mathis, Linda Villarosa, Sharon Farmer, Octavia Butler, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacqueline Woodson, Barbara Jordan, Pomo Afro Homos

Glenn Burke invents High Five, Whoopie Goldberg brings it Live, Mary Edmonia Lewis, Claude McKay, Alice Walker, Paris Barclay

Tevin Campbell, Me’Shell N’DeGeOCello, Nell Carter, Charles Pugh, Alvin Ailey, Luther Vandross,  Jackie Walker

We wrote the Fire!! It was always burning since the world’s been turning, but we wrote the Fire!! No we didn’t light it, but we can incite it!

Gladys Bentley, Sheryl Swoopes, Darryl Stephens, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Jewelle Gomez, Alvin Ailey, Soni Fashanu

Billy Curtis, Billie Holliday, Billy Porter on Broadway, Billy Strayhorn, Joe Beam, all the Billy’s in between

George Washington Carver, Cheryl Clark, Aviance, Sylvester, Kecia Cunningham, Maurice Jamal, Andre Leon Talley is the Vogue man, Jermaine Stewart, Miss J walk this way, we have so much more to say!

We wrote the Fire!! It was always burning since the world’s been turning, but we wrote the Fire!! No we didn’t light it, but we can incite it!

For more on Black History Month

The wiki list of LGBT African Americans, United Kingdom Black LGBT legends compiled by the Zuna Institute,

While Ms. Coretta Scott King has not labeled herself as lgbtq, she has certainly been an ally for lgbtq people across communities.

Check this out for a bit of a list and some quotes. http://gsanetwork.org/BlackedOUTHistory