Asking for racial accountability is not an attack

“I have Asian people in my family,” a white co-worker said as we were having a conversation about family and race. I winced a bit—why are you telling me you have Asian people in your family? Is it so I think you’re cool? Is it so you can try and relate what it means to be multicultural? Whatever it is—it’s very uncomfortable.

The four of you sat in front of me—gaslit and arms crossed. Confused and angry white faces—why would you go against the manager and go over her head with your anti-racist letter after the murder of another Black man?

That same coworker who made the racist response about her Asian family members was the same white woman who shared the email with her white manager partner, who then shared it with my other two white managers. All of this done to make white people feel safe, wanted, and heard. But for others…?

They thought I was trying to overthrow some part of the organization—and they’re right—the company is racist and they needed to work on being actively anti-racist. And if I had to be the “divisive” person to call them out for that—then I can be that person.

I then got a call from my other manager—asking me, why am I’m so angry? Why am I taking my anger out on this white man who refuses to accept and acknowledge anything anti-racist? I was dumbfounded and knew at that moment that their white tactics of “I’m sorry you feel that way” of turning stories on their heads or of another white coworker saying, “oh you know people are just trying to work and make money—he’s really a good guy.” This is the same person who is going behind my back to make sure white women feel safe. The gaslighting was incredible and still I somehow came across as the one who was holding the fuel can.

“It’s not good enough to not be racist anymore? You have to be anti-racist? And you know I have two Black adopted daughters.” This was the conversation I had with this white director of this organization after accepting the invitation to speak to him.

You can’t trust white people. As soon as their power and privilege is at stake, they deny anything, tell you you’re the gaslighter, and protect other white people. And a lot of these folx have Black Lives Matter signs in the front of their house, but they’re more dangerous than overt racists. They are the whites who will express support for BLM in the moment but as soon as their power and privilege are messed with—they scurry back to white supremacy and their safe, white neighborhoods.

Politics have never been a personal endeavor for white Americans. Until it directly affects them, they do not care. When it begins to affect their livelihood, white folx immediately back out—even after supporting you in private.

They get to go to their homes in their white neighborhoods and be safe from what they perceive to be people of color being divisive and angry and then advocate for folx based on their personal comfort level.

Reflecting on where I was last year and the past few years—I was around a lot of white people.

A lot of white people I thought were friends and allies.

We know that’s not the truth.

What saddens me is that there is no accountability.

What saddens me is folx have moved on.

What saddens me is the loss of a community.

Instead of people asking how they can help, the focus is on making it a safe space for whites.

Instead of asking how this can be better, the focus is on securing the privilege of white folx.

When it’s calling someone out—they are saying it’s done out of divisiveness instead of love. There is a miscommunication on the part of whites that decides that anytime you call them out, it is hateful and angry—this is white supremacy in action and a way to shift the blame to the person calling them out instead of the one who needs to be held accountable. We’ve seen this tactic a lot, and the reason we have is because it works. Folx who are accountability-holders are usually the ones in the community that are described as “difficult” or “I keep her at arm’s length.” And they are the ones in the community that we should be listening to, believing, supporting, and communing with.


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The ‘uterus collector’ is an infuriating product of our history

I’m so mad. My anger has overflowed.

Learning this week that women in the ICE detention centers have been given unauthorized and unwarranted hysterectomies has us overcome with anger, guilt, grief.

Women.

Having their wombs taken away.

Having the ability to continue their families, culture, traditions, heritage.

Mothers.

Taking away a woman’s right.

Taking away a woman’s future to choose for herself.

We know what happened in Germany during WW2. We know what Hitler did to the Jewish people. We have seen this before, many times. We are letting this happen again.

The uterus collector. They have given this person a special name because this has happened so. fucking. much. The history of gynecology in the United State is appalling and has routinely been carried out on women of color, particularly Black women. Forced sterilization was so popular in the United States from the 1900s to the 1970s against WOC that they became known as Mississippi Appendectomies. Low-income WOC were told that they need to be sterilized or lose their assistance benefits. Coercive sterilization it was called. Using the system that folx rely on against them. One-third of Puerto Rican women between the 1930s and 1970s were sterilized and it became the highest rate in the world.

The body is political.

A Black woman has alerted us, Dawn Wooten. She proclaimed that as an American and a nurse “I became a whistleblower but now I’m a target, but I’ll take a target any day to do what’s just and right.” She is doing what’s right and needed in our country at this time. She did something that people need to be doing: listening to women. Wooten has endangered her life in a time when Black folx are targeted for much less.

She has five children of her own.

This year has sobered many of you.

The curtain has been pulled away once and for all.

For some—this is the first time you’ve seen this happen.

For some—they have seen this happen and said nothing.

For some—this has happened to them.

We need to fucking stop, listen, learn, and help.

We’re so often told that we shouldn’t talk about politics at work—but when you work in a place like an ICE detention center and have women routinely tell you that they have had a procedure they know nothing about, that takes away their right to bear children. Our lives are inherently political; we have no privileges with the law Yet we shy away from using it to see the systemic issues that are present. The push and pull found with this argument creates an infinity loop: there is always another question—and nothing moves forward.

The personal is political. Women have no autonomy over our bodies as long as laws exist and practices are carried out on us under the umbrella of authority.

Anger swells.

My body isn’t made for this.

I feel helpless and guilty that I feel helpless.

These women.

Women.

Having their wombs taken away. Having the ability to continue their culture, traditions, heritage. Erasure.

Mothers.

Taking away a woman’s right.

You’re taking away a woman’s future to choose for herself.

There is a mourning of what could have been.

The life that could have been.


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Racial tensions and the Drag community

So just recently the Met Gala, also known as the Met Ball, took place. It is an annual for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. Celebrities, writers, directors, rappers and other people of interest follow the theme that was set forth when choosing outfits, and this year the theme was ‘Camp’ (everyone got a book on Susan Sontag’s ‘Notes on Camp’). Some people got it, others didn’t. Lena Waithe, screenwriter, actress and all-around fucking amazing human wore this:

The back of their suit says, “Black Drag Queens Inventend Camp” (yes the misspelling is intentional). The stripes on her suit were lyrics from “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross and Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”

Waithe’s jewelry buttons featured the faces of LGBTQ+ icons RuPaul, Dorian Corey, Freddie Pendavis, Octavia St. Laurent, Paris Dupree, Pepper LaBeija, Venus Xtravaganza, and Willi Ninja; all prominent black drag queens. Watch Paris is Burning and you’ll know: Black drag queens did in fact invent camp and it is a “crucial way of capturing and expressing the zeitgeist of any time period in culture.” (Harper’s Bazaar, Fisher, May 2019)

In the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, Drag Queen RuPaul plays a bit part; a character that goes by the name Rachel Tensions, in where she is wearing a dress resembling the confederate flag. This becomes such an iconic moment in this 1990s comedy.

Both of these instances of iconic fashion open up the conversation of race and queerness within the Drag community. I am a HUGE fan of Drag. The history, the glamor, the gossip, the audacity, the tea. Everything about drag, for me is perfect. It is a culmination of camp, the absurd, but also the honest. Drag will tell you the truth before anyone else will. Which is why season 10’s contestant of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RDPR), The Vixen, is such an iconic queen. 

Season 10 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is a good place to start talking about the racial tensions in the drag community even though they’ve existed since the time of Marsha P. Johnson. It is a good place to start because this is when the political aspects of Drag were brought into the public sphere. I am positive these conversations had been happening in other facets and pockets within the Drag community, but it was the first time that I feel a huge audience was seeing it; after all, a whopping 468,000 people watched season 10 in 2018. RPDR, in my opinion, has always been good about bringing the stories of LGBTQIA+ to a more mainstream audience. It began to foster understanding about the struggles and triumphs of that community.

The reason that season 10 was different is because the conversation of race came to the forefront of drag.

The Vixen, who is a “militant black queen” was unjustly cast as “a villain” in that season because she was always speaking up for what she believe in. She received so much hate that season for her words and actions. During that season, she got into it a number of times with another white queen who is known for her racial remarks (all lives matter and BS like that posted on her Instagram).

During her eight-episode arc on RPDR, she always firmly stood her ground and was always the one to speak up to defend herself, which people on and off the show began to refer to as “poking the bear” because she was always at a 10 and was always advocating for herself and for what she believed in. She, in her own words, choose to be “herself despite the repercussions.” but it seemed like anything she said was met with repercussions. She couldn’t get a word in edgewise without someone clapping back and tone-policing her.

At the end of RPDR, before the finale of crowning a new queen, there is always a reunion that invites all the queens back for a sit-down with RuPaul to discuss the season. It was during this segment that the multiple conflicts with other queens and The Vixen was brought up and it sent The Vixen to utter the iconic phrase “Everybody’s telling me how I should react but nobody’s telling her how to act” and promptly storm off the stage. The reason this phrase is so iconic is because it clearly shows the disparity of believing people of color and actually admitting that racism exists! All throughout season 10 and probably The Vixen’s own life, has she been met with hostility. Which is why she protects herself. She advocated and stands up for herself. Because she has too, nobody else will.

In light of all of the tensions that season 10 brought, there was amazing things to come out of it. Since 2016, The Vixen has had a successful show in Chicago called Black Girl Magic, which features other Black queens, that still runs today. It also showed the disparity and vitriol that is spewed at the Black queens from the RPDR fandom and how other Queens (white, Latina, Asian) are stepping up against it. It is bringing this Drag community together and realizing that it does have problems that need to be addressed. Even Ru herself has had to be confronted with the issue of race, because of the disparity of Black queens and Black-centric challenges on the show.

The Vixen is an all-around memorable part of RPDR, but she should be remembered for bringing this conversation of race to the forefront of everyone’s minds (and for being an all around beautiful and talented queen). Not for being a “villain” but for being a hero that championed herself and her thoughts and feelings to vulnerably open this conversation on race even further.


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Photo by pawel szvmanski from Unsplash