Tag Archives: Black

February: the Pinnacle of Intersectionality

For being the shortest month of the year February certainly packs a lot into its 28 days. I apologize in advance if some of this is discombobulated. Of course February is Black History Month, and it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and a time for LBGTQAI+ visibility. So how do all of these factors interact? I’m glad you asked! Unfortunately the data on dating abuse amongst black queer youth is practically non-existent, so that’s something to get on before next February rolls around. Here’s a quick primer on why feminists need to talk about race (as if Black Feminists haven’t been), and a good list of books covering race, gender, sexuality, class and culture. Don’t tell me you’re colorblind either.

health relationshipsFebruary started off with 68 survivors of human trafficking being rescued before the Super Bowl, including sixteen teens between ages 13-17, with epic timing the nation’s first home for sex trafficked boys also broke ground this month. Of young Queer people who have sex for survival a startling 89% identify as people of color, with homelessness amongst Queer youth being a leading cause of needing to trade sex for food or shelter. Transwomen are especially likely to be targeted in prostitution stings, even if they are not actually sex workers. Even though transgender folks can safely use long-term hormones and can no longer be discriminated against in receiving help from federally funded shelters, the Ali Forney Center in NYC for homeless LGBT youth remains a rare safe haven.

Additionally rates of abuse and domestic violence in Queer relationships have increased, but help for Queer folks seeking shelter hasn’t. Here you can check out some things that make abuse and domestic violence invisible in the Queer community. And while reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence is low in most communities the fear of reporting is confounded by systems of racial and class bias, making Asian-Americans are very unlikely to report either. Luckily the newest (and second in history) Asian-American TV comedy Fresh Off the Boat has already tackled how to teach consent, and it was funny! In other domestic violence news NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch indefinitely for violence he allegedly committed against his girlfriend in September. Abusers who strangle their partners are twice as likely to kill them, so to see NASCAR react in such a responsible way is refreshing.

#BlackLivesMatter, a movement that started more than three years ago with the murder of Trayvon Martin and was fueled by Ferguson, churns forward with San Francisco’s Queer #BlackLivesMatter Action today in the Castro, and Americans across the nation waking up to realize the Prison-Industrial Complex is a terrible idea. While the police in this country are killing more people than ever–unidentified womenveterans, Queer Latina girls, black boys, Native Americans, black women–Trayvon Martin’s murderer (like so many other killers who start with violence against the women in their lives) seems invincible.

Zimmerman Always Arrested AliveWhile trans visibility is becoming more of a reality and some women’s colleges are adjusting their admitting policies, the sickening rate of murder of trans women this year has been overwhelming. You can donate here to Sumaya Dalmar’s legacy. And while young people are more likely to see gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, trans kids are apparently ruining the bathroom situation for everyone else *massive eye roll* and high schoolsuniversities, and Indiana are still discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Kids throughout the Queer community are also committing suicide at alarming rates, which is one reason visibility matters. Hopefully something from the 2015 Rainbow List of books for Queer young people will help, and efforts like Transforming Gender and these photo essays on transgender elders can show young people that life after 25 is possible, for some.

leelah-alcorn-suicide noteNative American children have also been committing suicide at terrifying rates, and were showered in racial slurs and beer at a hockey game this month too. But Native American Queers are reclaiming history in pushing for marriage equality, and Native American women are reclaiming history in A Thousand VoicesDiane Humetewa made history this month as the first Native American woman appointed as a federal judge and other Native Americans are fighting back against assimilation in their own ways, quietly, everyday.

Black women in both the anti-racism movement and the unfortunately often separate white feminist movement are doing amazing things this year, like creating #WeAreBlackHistory, running companies in corporate America, sharing thoughts on being black women writers, launching the “Because of Them We Can” photo essay, examining the state of black girls in education and juvenile justice systems, spearheading the Manhood Development Program for black boys, defending their hair and their culture with nothing but class, dropping the mic on rape culture, and superimposing bell hooks quotes over 90s pictures. Check out a discussion on wage equality, glass ceilings and interracial dating here.

Here are some of the black feminist authors and Queer Black Women you should know, and here is an A-Z children’s book of Radical American Women, and a short history of four Queer African BAMFs. Here is an amazing Black woman scientist. Black girls are making history too, in sports, and in education. And an African-American military history museum in Mississippi is honoring women veterans through March in honor of both Black History and Women’s History months. Here you can take a look at what has and hasn’t changed for African Americans since segregation was law.

Catwoman-bi.0

Catwoman, like these badasses, is a bisexual woman of color now! And everyone is talking about her. High school girls are also talking about the subject of slut-shaming, and even though ridiculous violations of girls’ privacy are apparently legal and politicians don’t seem to understand sexual assault girls understand #TheresNoPerfectVictim. Twitter admits that they “suck at dealing with abuse” but the social media giant can do good, with #50ShadesOfAbuse spurring a movement to give to local domestic violence agencies.

President Obama’s immigration reform actions, expansion of FMLA, and creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights have been good, but not enough. Freeing transwomen–hell, all women–from immigration detention centers, and granting amnesty to the women and girls fleeing violence, child marriage and abuse around the world is the right thing to do. New York is also finally doing the right thing by putting a stop to asking about students’ immigration status in admittance paperwork.

Although science has made massive leaps in reproductive technologies which benefit everyone, including the Queer community, Latinas are still dying from breast cancer at an alarming rate. Some thoughts on being Afro-latin@ address intersectionality in race and class that can compound discrimination in healthcare. Here are a few Latinas making history today.

10616064_812322468823418_3635888886299626207_nOne hand washes the other as some politicians are pushing for college campuses to take action against sexual violence while students are lobbying for a bill which would educate young people about sexual violence. Indiana is also in the news this month for punishing a(nother!) Asian-American woman for having a miscarriage. Want to hear black voices in the Reproductive Justice Movement? They’ve always been here, it’s time we stop silencing them.

Reproductive Justice is the term created by black women in 1994 to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements. Reproductive Justice, the human right to not have children, to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and the human right to bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely, insists that we see abortion and reproductive health in the larger context of the overall health and wellness of women, our families and our communities. – Monica Raye Simpson, SisterSong

Female Genital Mutilation, a clear violation of human rights and good medicine, is a problem that’s not usually discussed in an American context, unfortunately that’s probably because it’s more likely to happen to immigrant women of color. This new law book on reproductive justice is the first of its kind and shockingly a Texan politician is pushing for medically accurate sexual health education in the Lone Star State, because as we learned in Colorado, it works. And we’ve talked about them before, but we really don’t need a reason to push the Native Youth Sexual Health Network‘s awesomeness on you, but Teen DV Awareness Month is a good excuse. Here’s a coming of age film centered on black girls for you and a short film history on Arab feminism, because after reading through all that’s happened this month, you deserve it.

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Day 6- Mixed Women’s Activism in the US

All Children.  One Love.

Image by Keo 101 via Flickr

“Identity, loyalty and belonging are issues which reside at the very heart of our existence and it is up to us to define who we are and identify our needs.”[1]

Most Americans who are not recent immigrants have some Native American ancestry, whether they know it or not. If this heritage is not visible it is often overlooked or even concealed.

Self-definition can be problematic and difficult for women who identify as mixed-race in the United States because the dichotomous and superficial nature of American society assumes that whatever a person looks like is all she is.

All minorities are marginalized in the media and mainstream U.S. pop culture but mixed-race people may be the most invisible of all. Even when a mixed-race person does achieve notoriety they are usually referred to as the most visibly apparent aspect of themselves–like Barack Obama is the first black President: Obama is half Kenyan and half white (English and German).

Because light skin, hair, and eyes tend to be recessive and darker features tend to be dominant, this most likely accounts for the assumption that someone who “looks black” is only black in American culture. Many mixed-race celebrities have risen to fame in the U.S. but often their mixed racial or ethnic heritage is unknown.

A victory for mixed-race Americans came in 2000, when, for the first time, people were allowed to “check more than one box” to describe their race on the national census. Chairman of the Census Advisory Committee of Professional Associations, David Swanson states, “There is no set definition as to what race and ethnicity is. There’s social categories, social constructs, self-identification, maybe some voting-rights acts, but there’s no hard and set definition as to race and ethnicity.”[2] This is clearest for people of mixed heritage.

Often if a woman is mixed white and “colored,” the non-white ethnicities in her background are seen to taint the “purity” of her white blood, and commonly her white heritage is denied her. Denying women their white European heritage harkens back to the racism of the “one drop rule,” but because of their appearance many women with mixed white and “colored” heritage are not afforded the privileges of whiteness. “Though there exist stereotypes of people of all races and cultures, negative stereotypes are often attributed to people of colour.”[3] For this reason, and others, passing is a difficult and emotionally charged idea for many mixed-race people, especially if others in one’s family, such as siblings, are not able to “pass” for white.

Mixed-race women’s identities occur “in the context of a racist, classist, sexist society which places greater value on people who are fully able-bodied and young. Our personal experiences often parallel the experiences of women with whom we identify. Yet, because of the way in which skin colour and physical characteristics are socially graded, despite these parallel experiences, the mixed race experience is seen as different. However, this perceived difference does not place it outside the experience of racism. When we foster discussion as to who is the most racially oppressed, we encourage the colonialist tactic of divide and conquer.”[4]

Because of their similar experiences with racism, many mixed-race women who participate in social movements and strategic nonviolence do so within the context of groups aimed at women of color in general. Few organizations exist to specifically address mixed-race women, which may be another explanation for their likely participation in women of color groups.

Some of the organizations for mixed-race people were started by interracial couples who have mixed-race children, and later organizations were founded by mixed-race adults. Few movements are so forward thinking and proactive, and because they also address transracial adoption, there seems to be little homophobia in the burgeoning mixed-race movement.

Many organizations for mixed people that exist cross national in addition to racial boundaries. Since 2004, June 12 has marked Loving Day around the world, the celebration of multiracial people and couples, commemorating the end to anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.

The first organization to address the needs of mixed-race people in America began in 1978, iPride, or Interracial Intercultural Pride. In 1988 the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA) was established and remains the most visible and active mixed-race advocacy organization in the U.S. today. Project Race was founded in 1991, Mavin began in 1998, Blended People America (BPA) was founded in 2007 and My Gene Mix (MGmix)[5] and Swirl, Inc. started in 2008. MixedChildMixed Folksthe Mixed Heritage Center, and the Mixed Network are all collaborative sites of resources for mixed-race people.

One group specifically for mixed women is Mixed Chicks Chat, a live weekly radio show that addresses what it is like to be a woman with mixed racial and ethnic heritage in the U.S. This group hosts the annual Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, “an inclusive event targeting the growing population of multiracial and multicultural individuals and families.”[6]

The Topaz Club, established in 2004, is another organization specifically dedicated to mixed women, more specifically women with African heritage.

Despite the relative lack of organizations dedicated to mixed-race women, there is no shortage of heroines for mixed women to identify with. Unfortunately many mixed-race celebrities, politicians, and athletes are only identified as mixed within the blogosphere and not in mainstream media.

In addition to the mixed Native American and white women named yesterday, some notable mixed-race women include Linda Chavez, a mixed Hispanic/white politician and labor organizer; Marie Laveau and her daughter Marie Laveau II, both black and white creole Voodoo priestesses; anarchist and socialist activist Lucy Parsons of African, Native American, and Mexican heritage who married a white former Confederate soldier; Frida Kahlo, renowned Mexican and Hungarian artist; Japanese and white television journalist Ann Curry; painter Pashyanti Carole Hand, of African-American, Native American and white heritage; Miss America 2003, Erika Harold of Greek, German, Welsh, Russian, Native American and African-American ancestry; model, actress and AIDS awareness supporter Karin Taylor of Brazilian, Jamaican and Chinese heritage; black and Japanese model and businesswoman Kimora Lee Simmons; Dr. Maria P.P. Root, a clinical psychologist who specializes in mixed-race issues and created the Bill of Rights for People of Mixed HeritageMildred Loving, the black and Native American plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed interracial marriages; Queen Noor of Jordan who is Arab and white; Alice Walker’s daughter, bisexual black and Jewish feminist author Rebecca Walker, founder of the Third Wave Foundation; and María de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien, a television journalist of Afro-Cuban and white heritage who uses her position to showcase stories that would otherwise go untold in the mainstream media due to bigotry.

In 2010 California elected the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American Attorney General in it’s history, and the first Indian-American Attorney General in the United States, when marriage equality supporter Kamala Harris won by more than 55,000 votes.

There are also many famous mixed-race actresses, singers, and athletes in the U.S. including Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry, Jennifer Tilly, Jessica Alba, Raquel Welch, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Hudgens, Alicia Keys, Foxy Brown, Mariah Carey, Martha Redbone, Norah Jones, Alexandra Stevenson, Jamila Wideman and Tasha Schwikert.

These women, in embracing and naming their own racial and ethnic heritages, are making a political statement and becoming activists for equality. As non-famous mixed-race women stand up too, they will pave the way for more acceptance in America, and less racism. Women and men are always more than one portion of their identity, and race is no different.

“Rather than criticize barriers imposed externally, women must be vigilant about ones over which we have control and include our surmount of them as integral to our political work.”[7] This politicizing of the personal is important–as one woman explains, “I am tired of being afraid to speak who I am: American and Palestinian, not merely half of one thing and half of another, but both at once–and in that inexplicable melding which occurs when two cultures come together, not quite either, so that neither American nor Arab find themselves fully reflected in me, nor I in them.”

For women who have mixed heritage each of their racial and ethnic identities is as different and as integrated into their whole being as their sexual orientation, religion, age, class, and ability.


[1] Camper, 1994.

[2] Cordova, Randy. 23 March 2010. “Some Hispanics puzzle over race question on census form.” The Arizona Republic. 6 July 2001. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/03/23/20100323census-form-hispanic-question.html

[3] Camper, 1994.

[4] Camper, 1994.

[7] Camper, 1994.


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