It has been a long 10 days since I responded to @KennySWiley’s tweet asking if there were people in Denver interested in organizing a National Moment of Silence. At the time, I was on my break at work, reading about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Like many people, I felt helpless. Like many people, I felt tired. The killing of Black people in the United States by police, security and vigilante justice, as well as the incarceration of so many inside the Prison Industrial Complex is genocide. This is not new. This has been going on for centuries.
So I responded. When someone asked if I’d done this before, I said no, but there was a first time for everything. Thanks to my years of working as a secretary, as a customer service rep, and as a nurse, I have learned you can get a lot done quickly if you have the determination, the support, and the time to make things happen. Thanks to the advice of and work of complete strangers on Twitter, I was able to help navigate the process of finding a space for the NMOS. It was the work of many. We called to the community, the clergy, and Denver responded.
Last Thursday, and tonight, at the Denver March for Justice, I heard many people talk about how tired we are. And some people don’t like that language. We are full of energy. I agree, I am full of energy. Being out of college and having free time made it possible for me to take a part in co-organizing these events. For that opportunity, I am grateful. But I admit, I am also tired.
I am tired of ideology that Black people are disposable. I am tired of the killing of my Black neighbors. I am tired of the loss of these fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. I am emotionally, spiritually, mentally exhausted. Every 28 hours, another Black person is killed by police, security or vigilante justice. I am no where near as tired as the members of the Black community. I cannot fathom the level of exhaustion felt by people for whom waking up and going about their day is a revolutionary act.
I spend a lot of my time tired. I’m a nurse. I work nights. I frequently have to move my sleep schedule around. But I have found the more tired I am, the more I can accomplish. I call this “being a special kind of tired.”
I am tired. I am the kind of tired that forces you into action. The kind of tired that demands you find caffeine and push forward. I am the kind of tired that tells me I will not really rest until I work to make change happen. I am the kind of tired that fuels effort and change. I am that special kind of tired you become when you have been pushed to your limits.
The world has pushed me to my limits. As Kenny said, I have moved past the point where blog posts and twitter posts and arguing with my relatives on Facebook is sufficient. I must act.
Tonight I had the opportunity to take a member of the march home to Longmont, Colorado. This man, who marched in Selma, Alabama in the 1960’s, talked to me about his years of activism. The injuries he has received, the injuries he has cared for. Being in the Civil Rights Movement, he learned the skills of a field medic, and if he was not marching, he was caring for the injured. He shared his poetry. He told me about people I will never see in a history book.
He is tired. He has been tired for years. But he keeps going. He keeps pushing. He is that special kind of tired.
Never assume complacency from a tired person. Yes, we are tired. But it is this deep emotional, spiritual exhaustion that has pushed us to action. Many people have reached this state of exhaustion and are moving. We cannot stop moving. We must push forward. One day, there will be real rest. There will be time for enjoying the sun and the grass and the sky. A good book. But for today, our exhaustion is fuel.
We are tired, but we are not out of energy. We are exhausted, but we will not rest. We are going to change the world, and that requires a special level of tired to get the work done.
Coloradans For Justice
The National Moment of Silence in Denver on Thursday was a success. We held a peaceful vigil and members of the Denver Ministry came and spoke. We sang. We linked arms. In silence, we remembered Mike Brown and then we spoke the names of the dead. We collected signatures. At the end, the crowd dispersed quietly.
I personally was very nervous about the event. I’ve never organized anything before, and neither had any of my co-organizers. I feel that for something that started in the middle of the night on Sunday, we did really well.
But that was a moment. We need a movement.
We are working on planning a march in Denver on Tuesday. More information is forthcoming.
In solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri and in recognition that we cannot stop fighting police brutality, we have created Coloradoans For Justice.
Please like the page and follow the Twitter account for updates on a march we are planning for Tuesday.
More information to come.
The History of Breastfeeding Among Black Women – What White Nurses Need to Know
If you are a nurse, particularly a white nurse, working in postpartum or NICU and teaching new parents how to breastfeed, it is vital that you understand the history of breastfeeding among Black women. Up until late in the last century, Black women were still employed as wet nurses for White families. This robs a Black woman’s own child of nutrition. It also explains why many Black women have a negative connotation with breastfeeding. Rather than blindly push forward with lactation education, nurses need to work to further develop cultural competence and understand why Black women may choose not to breastfeed, and why their relatives may encourage them NOT to breastfeed.
Ultimately, breastfeeding should be the choice of the individual involved, not the choice of a nurse or family members surrounding the new parent.
@FeministaJones made a series of tweets regarding the history of breastfeeding and black women, as well as the history of how Black nurses were treated in homes. It is hard to read, but necessary to learn. I storified the tweets yesterday, but am also placing them here so that I can quickly point to them.
On Black Women and Breastfeeding
In her #WomensHistoryMonth discussion, @FeministaJones discusses the history of Black women and forced breastfeeding of White children in the United States, up to modern times, pinpointing reasons for low levels of support among Black men for breastfeeding among Black women today.
If were going to talk about #WomensHistoryMonth, can we tell all of the stories, please?
#WomensHistoryMonth Black Nannies after Civil War … http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-african-american-nanny-in-early.html … You’re welcome. pic.twitter.com/WRM1BP91iI
Check out the link in that last tweet. Jarring images of the history of Black women as caretakers of White children
“Recent study, 54% of black mothers breast-fed their infants from birth, compared with 74% of white mothers and 80% of Hispanic mothers”
One has to wonder where the suffrage movement would have gone without Black nannies at home raising their children while they marched…
RT @followmissbliss: @FeministaJones And for those who still don’t get it, there’s this… pic.twitter.com/qO7uSheBaW #WomensHistoryMonth
@FeministaJones breast feeding my son was a trigger 4 my grandmother. I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset but now.. that pic #tears
As well you should RT @thetrudz: @FeministaJones I feel…rage.
The only acceptable feeling when shown images like those, IMO, is rage.
Maybe I can spark enough rage to incite a revolution…
When I discussed the idea that Black women, esp in the 60s and 70s were largely anti-breastfeeding bc of being forced to nurse White babies
People suggested I was too militant and talking crazy but… I’m right.
There was, on the part of many Black women, an outright rejection of breastfeeding bc of what it meant to them historically.
Racism kept many of us from giving our children the nourishment they needed from us. Let that wash over you.
We were forced to give milk produced for our own children to the children of our owners, forced to neglect the needs of our babies
Then we were blamed when our babies got sick or died and called “bad mothers”.
The connection btwn Black American women and breastfeeding has not always been positive and BF advocates have to know this.
So when I see WW, esp, coming down on BW for not breastfeeding, I cringe… it’s clear they’re not employing culture competence
I say barely half of Black women breastfeed, after several tweets talking about why (including historical violence) and then…
When BW were working and out of the home 16+ hours a day or barely allowed to go home to their children at all, how were they to nurse?
BW had few choices but to NOT breastfeed and supplement their babies’ diets with whatever was available.
And yet… BW have been perpetually vilified as being “bad mothers” when they’ve been forced into these conditions
@FeministaJones So would their relationships with their children, esp. from having to nurse & nurture White children at expense of their own
Re: #LRT, but BW were called “bad mothers”! Without acknowledging how much mother-child connection was sacrificed for work
Only in the last 20 years or so have we seen a significant cultural shift among Black women to nurse their own children, thankfully.
Because, real talk…? Sistas in the 50s, 60s, and 70s weren’t nursing, in large part bc they worked so hard and so long away from home.
And the stigma of BFing was “thats for them White babies”, which we can see how it came from resentment of forced nursing of White babies
@FeministaJones I see that as yet another form of economic violence. Formula isn’t free but we couldnt nurse cuz we had to work so much.
Let your mind wrap around one woman demanding that another woman take the milk she is producing for HER own baby and give it to hers
Breastfeeding, in the mid-late 20th century, was somewhat of a privilege for those who could afford to be around their babies
How can we demonize economically disadvantaged women for NOT breastfeeding at a time before pumping, packaging, etc?
That was passed down through generations and only in the last one, w/advances in BF support tools, are we seeing more BW embrace BFing
My mother and all of her sisters formula fed. No one breastfed. My mom asked “What formula you plan on using?”
Cultural competence means not assuming a new Black mom is automatically taking the “Duh of course I’m breastfeeding” approach
It means understanding that our historical connection to breastfeeding is one of oppression, violence, and denial of “womanhood”
“From 2000–2008, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding went up from 47.4% to 58.9% for blacks” http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/breastfeeding-trends.htm …
Like I said, this is a relatively new cultural shift and it’s important to unpack and respect the negative connections to BFing
@FeministaJones My aunt was a “wet nurse” in the 80s in the south. When people act like this stuff is archaic…it’s not.
@FeministaJones That’s why I am always so wary of white women organizing and educating BW on BFing. They gotta do the knowledge!
Not just for Black women, for Black men as well. So yeah… we gotta unpack this stuff.
#WomensHistoryMonth The story of the Negro Nurse (an oft-overlooked figure in American history) http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/negnurse/negnurse.html …
“It’s a small indignity [..] no white person at the South ever thinks of addressing any negro man or woman as Mr., or Mrs., or Miss”
” It is a favorite practice of young white sports about town–and they are not always young, either–to stop some colored nurse +
” inquire the name of the “sweet little baby,” talk baby talk to the child, fondle it, kiss it, make love to it, etc., etc.+
“and in nine of ten cases every such white man will wind up by making love to the colored nurse and seeking an appointment with her.”
So remember when I said that not standing up to defend Black women is a behavior learned and socialized into BM?
And how, historically, when Blk men stood up to defend Blk women, they faced violence, imprisonment, or death?
If every time you tried to defend a Black women, you were on the receiving end of violence, what might you do, eventually? Stop.
“If their fathers, brothers, or husbands seek to redress their wrongs the guiltless negroes will be severely punished, if not killed” Oh
When I hear “Black women ain’t worth it…” talk, at the end, I hear the unspoken laments abt the repercussion for making us “worth it”
It gets passed on… it’s self-preservation…it has to be unlearned
If we loop Black men into the BF discussion, we have to ask how many are supportive of BFing and the economic implications for them
We have to think about how maternity leave affects Blk families where the men are struggling to find work. That’s loss of wages…
And if women feel they have to hurry and get back to work, they might not opt for BFing if formula feeding is easier.
Reading the nurse narrative, I wouldn’t be surprised if BFing was a trigger for Blk men back then too, in light of the WM “advances”
I wonder if any BM discouraged BW from BFing bc it reminded them of maybe what their own moms went thru as wet nurses for WW
Hard to think of breastfeeding as violence against women, but for Black women in America, the history shows it has been.
!! RT @Alivada: @FeministaJones keeps periods at bay too …in an era pre bc …so if partner was wet nurse, couldn’t parent themselves
If BW were forced to keep lactating for wet nurse purposes, the impact on their own fertility/reproduction would likely be great.
Dealing With White Guilt
Today, thanks to Meniere’s Disease, I am confined to my bed. My husband is here to help me and I’m going to be okay, if not miserable.
By now, most of us have already read the piece of clickbait that was Jen Caron’s: It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Class and I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It. (Clicking these links will not up their page counts). This piece was wrong in so many ways. Most likely, the unnamed black woman (because they are always unnamed, see Eve Ensler’s article on “Congo Stigmata“).
Now, I’ve been told repeatedly that white privilege does not exist. This argument pales because I see it on a daily basis. Getting served first. The extreme politeness of POC towards me when I’m at the grocery store. Often, I want to to stop and say “I’m not one of THOSE white people, please just act normally.”
But I don’t. There are reasons for this.
I use my white privilege when it is helpful to me or my friends. Indeed, when I helped @Suey_Park with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, I had several people accusing me of abuse of white privilege, even though AAA has a policy dealing with gifting accounts instantly. Many people assumed that because I was white, I was able to do things a person of color would be unable to do. In that circumstance, my knowledge of AAA’s policies was what was useful. I had learned about them while working in Customer Service.
Honestly, I wasn’t using white privilege at that moment.
Times I have used white privilege? When I’ve seen a POC being treated poorly at the hands of white customer service agents. When I see a POC being treated poorly by another nurse. When I’ve seen a Hispanic person clearly struggling with a language barrier who needed help with translation. My college education is a form of privilege. I am determined to use it where ever I can to pull people up, not to bring people down. This is how I use my white privilege.
There are other times White Privilege has benefited me without my intent, so many circumstances I will never know. Other times, I become aware of it as it is happening, and I try to stop it. When I see a white person invoking their privilege, I try to say something about it, if I am able. I do not have Male Privilege, and I am aware there are times when speaking out could cost me my job, and I really need my job.
But how did I become aware of this privilege? Slowly, very slowly. I was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, very close to the projects, and until I went to a private high school on scholarship and my mother scraping by, I went to schools where white people were a minority. Still, I had white privilege.. I wasn’t aware of it, but I was given opportunities black people were not. Classes for the gifted. Extra time with teachers.
I am smart. In some situations, such as memory and language, I have been called “scary smart.” Still, this didn’t earn me additional time with teachers. Indeed, I should have been okay if left alone. So why did I receive so much attention from white teachers in a mostly black classroom? White privilege.
Still, it was years before I learned about white privilege. I credit @judeinlondon with so many things, and through reading her tweets, I learned about white privilege . I also saw Jude say over and over that it was not her responsibility to educate. I googled. I learned some more. I was horrified. All this time, when I thought what had been achieved on my own merit was probably influenced by white privilege. Was I even equally qualified for my job? (After a great deal of thought and introspection and looking over the lives I have saved, I believe I am completely qualified and very good at my job).
Then I did an Ancestry.com search on my family. It wasn’t particularly easy, but eventually I came upon what I didn’t want to see. My distance descendants were slave owners. While I had been told, repeatedly, I was descended from Native Americans, I couldn’t find written proof of this (I have been told by Native Americans I have distinct Lakota features, but I do not know how distant the relationship is). There are several pictures of Native women owned by my family, and I have been told they were my great great great grandmothers, but there is little proof. Definitely not enough proof to claim discrimination due to my ancestry, as many white people do.
The facts, staring right at me, were sickening. I am the descendent of slave owners, which means, like many white Americans, I am unknowingly complicit in the horrible treatment of African Americans and other people of color. I closed the program. I was nauseated. I opened Twitter. I needed to talk to someone. But who? Who would be the right person to talk to? I was very close to tears. I felt sick. But I remembered the words of so many black women, that it was not their job to comfort me, and I decided to respect that. I had never harmed them, but by asking for forgiveness for crimes I personally did not commit, I could become a vehicle of harm.
I closed my computer.
Discovering white privilege and distant relationship with slave owners is painful, but it is not the duty of black people, particularly black women, to comfort us. @TheTrudz has spoken out many times on Twitter about the tendency of white people to seek out comfort and forgiveness from black people when the first pangs of white guilt hit our hearts. This morning, we had this exchange:
Trudy has made herself very accessible online, and paid a heavy price for it. Here is my point: It is not the job of black people to comfort us. For the most part, they do not want to comfort us. The desire of white people to have forgiveness from black people from things done hundreds of years ago does not require white people to “prostrate” themselves to black people. What it really indicates is a desire to have the love and attention of the “Mammy” figure.
@TheTrudz has suggested this article: 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors That Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial, or Defensiveness. She also has multiple articles at her blog, Gradient Lair that are very useful. I have never read an article by @TheTrudz and not learned something valuable. She also suggested this reading: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Tatum. It contains step by step instructions. I have started reading this book and found it powerful. Unfortunately, my tablet is dead and I’m waiting for it to completely charge.
Mammy is long gone. Yes, black women can be incredibly nurturing and kind. So can all women, should they choose to do so. But black women are no longer obliged to give us comfort. To expect comfort for your white guilt from black women or other women of culture IS AN ABUSE OF YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE. This is why I don’t just come out and say “I’m not one of those white people.” Instead, I use a different tactic. If there is someone I want to be friends with, I gently approach them and over time they will see I’m not one of “those” white people, and if they are willing, and like me back, friendship will grow on it’s own. There is no need to force it.
Still, I see people, hundreds a day, coming into the mentions of my black friends on Twitter, demanding education. They refuse to read links, valuable links, that could educate them. They will only take education from a black person, THIS black person, as a matter of fact. THIS IS AN ABUSE OF YOUR PRIVILEGE SO OBVIOUS SARAH PALIN CAN SEE IT FROM HER HOUSE. If she weren’t so blind to white privilege herself.
So here is my proposal. If you are feeling a big dose of white guilt, come talk to me. You can reach me at @grimalkinrn on Twitter, and I will be happy to talk about your feelings. These feelings are a part of growth. They are valid, and they are necessary. What is not necessary is burdening women (or men) of color with your feelings. If you need privacy, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter (though you will need to let me know you need me to follow you back ). Needless to say, trolls will be blocked.
If white people talk to one another about our white privilege and white guilt, we will be better prepared to use our white privilege to the advantage of others, and not just ourselves.
The Difference Between “Cutting Down” and “Calling Out”
I’ve been very public about my feelings regarding Ani DiFranco, her “Righteous Retreat,” its cancellation and her short apology she made earlier this week. I have been going through my own process while I try to decide if DiFranco’s apology was sincere, if she is living her words, and if I can continue to support her label.
Tonight, at the New Orleans House of Blues, DiFranco made the comment “”It’s an upside down world, when your sisters cut you down and Fox News defends you.”
It’s making the rounds and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another apology from DiFranco in another couple of days. Maybe the quote is out of context, but it’s hard to imagine what context it could be in that didn’t involve some sort of self righteous anger. It’s a sign of the times. A decade ago, a statement like this would have gone unnoticed. Thanks to social media, it is everywhere.
I am a white woman. I have a lot of interracial friends. This doesn’t mean I don’t screw up. I am very lucky to have friends who will call me out when I say something racist. It’s not always gentle, but it is always needed, and when I look beyond my initial shock, I always learn something. I try never to make that mistake again.
Ani DiFranco didn’t get “cut down.” She got called out. Fans of all backgrounds called to her and asked that she cancel the retreat and apologize. When she cancelled the retreat and offered and explanation but not an apology, we continued to tell her, Ani, it’s not enough. Finally, she issued a short apology, stating she was “digging deeper.”
Getting “cut down,” “dragged,” and other terms are when people put you down without reason. Without caring about you.
Getting called out is different. When you say or do something racist and your friends of a different race call you out on it, they are taking the time to offer you education. It’s not their job to educate you, but if someone is taking the time to do it, you should appreciate it and reciprocate by trying to learn the lesson they are trying to teach you. Getting called out can hurt, sure, it can hurt like hell, but we have to ask, do I hurt because I’ve been wronged or do I hurt because my ego is wounded?
Ani DiFranco is many things. A songwriter, an activist, a feminist. She has this image of a kind, crunchy, kick ass artist. I don’t believe she is a racist at heart but I do believe a person who is not a racist can do racist things. This is when the people who love you call you on your shit.
I’ve talked about white privilege and the fact that while white people may not be aware of its existence, they sure as hell get mad when people refuse to extend it. I think DiFranco is unaware of the amount of privilege she is currently demanding.
I don’t know Ani personally, though like many of her fans, I have always felt a connection through music. This connection is why I’m writing tonight. I know she’ll never see this, but I feel the need to write about my feelings. This entire week has been a process of learning to let go of someone I always saw as a role model. I know she’s not perfect. It’s not a lack of perfection that is making me angry. It’s the clear abuse of privilege. DiFranco has a lot of privilege, built from years of hard work, and I think she believes she deserves to be sheltered.
DiFranco may have apologized, but she appears angry. Statements like the one from tonight make it seem like she personally thinks she did nothing wrong. From her statement tonight about living in an “upside down world,” she is not taking the change in her status very well. DiFranco has always been someone who has managed to not do racist things in the public arena. That changed. She made a mistake. I feel like a lot of us wanted to forgive that mistake, but we cannot accept her apology if she is not going to live her apology. She could have said “I fucked up, I was wrong. I could tell I was wrong because Fox News was defending me but my own sisters weren’t.” There are a lot of things DiFranco could have said, but what she did say tonight shows me she is not living her words.
It’s not enough to apologize when you are called out. You have to make a conscious effort to change the behavior that got you called out in the first place. Perhaps DiFranco needs more time to change, but for now, the effort she has made is simply not enough.
Ani DiFranco Apologizes
On December 29, Ani DiFranco cancelled her “Righteous Retreat” at Nottoway Plantation, but did not apologize.
Today, she posted this to her Facebook page:
it has taken me a few days but i have been thinking and feeling very intensely and i would like to say i am sincerely sorry. it is obvious to me now that you were right; all those who said we can’t in good conscience go to that place and support it or look past for one moment what it deeply represents. i needed a wake up call and you gave it to me.
it was a great oversight on my part to not request a change of venue immediately from the promoter. you tried to tell me about that oversight and i wasn’t available to you. i’m sorry for that too.
know that i am digging deeper.
I am glad to see Ani reach this point within herself and find the strength to admit she was wrong. She additionally posted a link to this article: 5 Ways White Women Can Address Our Own Racism.
I still feel that if she wants to hold a retreat to encourage growth and music creation, that she should offer one or two scholarships to the retreat, as reparation to the black community, and as a recollection of her own roots. With camping tickets to the original retreat starting at $1100, such an experience is far out of the range of independent artists who could really use such an event.
I still feel upset on a deep level about the initial choice of a plantation for a retreat, but I believe DiFranco’s words to be sincere. You cannot live your life and be a perfect person. When you are famous, your mistakes are going to get a lot more attention. My decision on whether or not buy DiFranco’s music in the future will be based on the black community’s response to her apology, as well as future actions.
Ani DiFranco’s “Righteous Retreat”
I have been an Ani DiFranco fan for nearly 20 years. I have so much of her work. I have quoted her so many times. I have sung her songs in a circle with other women, but as of today, that is over. I’m angry. I’m hurt.
A little while ago, @CatPennies made me aware of the blog post: Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Retreat: Please Use Both Hands to Cover Your Ears
Even if I wasn’t horrified, the $1000 price tag for the event would put it far out of my means. The retreat will be at Nottoway Plantation, in White Castle, Louisiana. Nottoway currently functions in many capacities, including offering white washed tours which talk about the “kindness” of the former plantation owner toward his slaves.
Here is the link to the Facebook event page for the Righteous Retreat
There are multiple white feminists going after black feminists on the page, and there’s a lot to be offended by, so please be prepared to be angry.
I have personally emailed email@example.com:
To whom it may concern,
As a longtime fan of Ani DiFranco, and a woman who grew up in the South, I am incredibly disappointed in your choice of venue for your “Righteous Retreat.” I am sending this email to let you know if this retreat moves forward, my financial support of Ms. DiFranco and her label, as well as the vendors and participants in the retreat will cease. As a white feminist actively working in support of black feminists, I am appalled. As a woman from the South, I cannot see how paying money to a venue celebrating a system of oppression that also oppressed all women in different ways, on different levels, is a feminist action.
Right now, on the Facebook page for the retreat, white feminists are telling black feminists to take the opportunity of the venue as an opportunity to grow from the pain of slavery. White people are telling black people how to feel about slavery. Is this where Ms. DiFranco’s message now lies? Have we gone from “Subdivision” to actually dividing and shutting out people and ignoring our history while allowing a symbol of patriarchy, white oppression, and colonization to profit?
Earlier this year, when news of the depth of Paula Deen’s racism and her desire to dress black men as servants for a plantation event surfaced, we were horrified, and Paula Deen has not made a living promoting equality and feminism. If I am hurt by the choice of a Southern plantation, I cannot imagine the hurt feminist women of color must feel. I do not have that experience. Because of the this, as I said in my email, I am calling for a boycott of Ani Difranco’s label and any vendors at the event.
I am not calling for a change of venue for the event. I am calling for a cancellation of the event, reparations to the black community, and if DiFranco still wants to hold a retreat, finding a new location at a different date with some of the proceeds going to fund programs for women of color, and an acknowledgement of why the “Righteous Retreat at Nottoway Plantation” was the wrong venue for a feminist event.