Monthly Archives: December 2011
“Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group. Institutional Oppression creates a system of invisible barriers limiting people based on their membership in unfavored social identity groups. The barriers are only invisible to those “seemingly” unaffected by it.” – Tools For Diversity
“Myth: an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify asocial institution.” – Collins English Dictionary
Let’s test our knowledge of social myths, and the systems of oppression that underlie them. Match the social myth to the correct system of oppression.
Systems of Oppression:
1. White Supremacy
3. Heterosexism (homophobia)
7. Religious Fundamentalism
a. “I was so devastated when I found out my boyfriend cheated on me with a tranny. I mean, that’s not even a real woman. Ugh. A chick with a dick? That is so disgusting.”
b. “I only date people who make more than $100,00 a year. Anyone who makes less than that isn’t cultured, and probably hasn’t been many places. They probably shop at Citi Trends or something. Could you imagine dating someone who drives a Chevy Malibu? Pathetic.”
c. “I wouldn’t let a gay man watch my son.”
d. “Black people don’t never stick together. That’s why I don’t trust other Black people.”
e. “Introducing Mr. and Mrs. John Lewis Williams III.”
f. “Look at that midget!”
g. “Atheists don’t have morals. How can you have morals if you don’t believe in god?”
Answers: 1. d 2. e 3. c 4. a 5. f 6. b 7. g
I can’t hold my man’s hand in the mall without people gawking, but this Ultimate Fighting shit get an entire channel? Damn you homophobia!
“We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from their shores. These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble. It is trouble for the warmonger, the torturer, the corporate thief, the political hack, the corrupt justice system, and for a comatose public. Unpersecuted, unjailed, unharassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully, the sly racist, and the predators feeding off the world’s resources. The alarm, the disquiet, writers raise is instructive because it is open and vulnerable, because if unpoliced it is threatening. Therefore the historical suppression of writers is the earliest harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow. The history of persecuted writers is as long as the history of literature itself. And the efforts to censor, starve, regulate, and annihilate us are clear signs that something important has taken place. Cultural and political forces can sweep clean all but the “safe,” all but state-approved art.” – Toni Morrison
Anytime you mix humans, money, and supernatural claims, mayhem and foolishness are bound to follow.
This is for them homophobes,
Denying the diversity in human sexuality ain’t gone help you none
This is for them sexists,
Love male and female being without privileging one over the other
This is for them transphobes,
Cis gender privilege is not where it’s at
I don’t got a Ph.D in Gender Studies babe, but I can teach you something. Who needs patriarchy when you inventing life?
I strongly believe in the act of asking questions. Questions are one of the primary ways by which new knowledge is yielded. But, I also know that the way we frame questions, and the implications of that framing, are also important aspects of the act of asking questions. Recently, I was involved in two situations that centered around the act of asking questions, and the implications that come from these questions. In this essay, I will explore the act of questioning, the way questions are framed, and the implications, if any, of asking questions.
Thinkers, intellects, scholars, and academics all ask questions. I would be hard pressed to find a person who did not expect anyone to not ask questions. However, I will continue to assert that the questions we ask, and the way that they are framed, are just as important as the answers we seek. There absolutely exists a need to ask questions, but there is also a need, or rather, a responsibility to be aware of the way in which we frame questions, and the implications, many times negative, that come along from poorly framed questions.
As I mentioned earlier, I have recently been involved with two situations regarding questions, framing, and implications. The first situation revolved around a question asked by Dr. Steve Perry. Perry, most known for his Capital Preparatory Magnet School, asked a question that left some feeling uneasy. Perry asked, “Given the recent FAMU tragedy, do Black groups, colleges & high schools foster brutality?” On the surface, Perry’s question looked to many to be an opportunity to start dialogue on hazing in American schools, but looking deeper we can see that the question is also problematic. The way in which the question is framed, its placing of an HBCU next to a question invoking Black brutality, has certain racist implications, in my opinion. Perry has the right to ask his question, but there also exists a right to consider the framing and implications. Would a similar question ever be leveled at White America? Would the sexual assault that took place at Penn State constitute an examination of the brutality of White America? I think not. There tends to be a need to associate individual Black acts with collective Black pathology. Perry’s question could have been framed in any number of ways, and it still would have sparked the conversation that Perry had in mind.
The second incident revolved around a question asked by “Dr. Goddess,” a well known Twitter personality. After reading an article about Kobe Bryant’s alleged sexual activities, Dr. Goddess posed a question the following question to Twitter, “If you’re a heterosexual man and you just LOVE anal sex, like, it’s your preference… are you really gay? #curious #sorry.” In my mind, this question immediately ran as homophobic, but others had different opinions, particularly Dr. Goddess. In her mind, the question wasn’t problematic because, in her own words, “I really DON’T know “gay life,” “I HONESTLY do not know. Is that okay? I mean… I am so confused right now…” Like unintended bigots before her, Dr. Goddess hid behind her heterosexual privilege, as opposed to accounting for the way she framed her question, and the implications of that question. Many people came to the aid of Dr. Goddess, and they were well within their right to do so. In their mind, questions are incapable of harboring bigotry, after all, questions are the way that new knowledge is yielded. I would disagree, however. I think it was possible for Dr. Goddess to examine heterosexuality without using homosexual as “sexual other” on which heterosexuality is examined. The question need not to have invoked homosexuality at all. For example, “If you are a straight man, and you really enjoy anal, why don’t you prefer vaginal?” Or, “What are our thoughts on anal sex as practiced among heterosexuals?” These all could have sparked a conversation on anal sex, and they would have done so without using homosexuality as a sexuality stepping stone. “I think questions, particularly those poorly framed, have a long history of racist, sexist, and homophobic implications, and this was just a continuation of that history.
There exists a very real stereotype, underlying homophobia, that insists that anal sex is a thing that gay people do. This homophobic stereotype assumes that heterosexuals do not consistently engage in anal sex, and that it is one of the hallmarks of homosexuality. Both stereotypes are untrue. I don’t know all the statistics on anal sex, but anyone who has watched a heterosexual porn knows that anal sex place, and often. Also, as someone who is gay, I know that there are a variety of sexual activities engaged in by members of the gay community. The assumption that anal sex is “gay,” also, rests upon the phallocentric assumption that lesbians do not count as gay.
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we get a clear picture of the very real implications that arise from our poorly framed questions. In the novel, the protagonist Sethe recounts her experience with a White racist man named Schoolteacher, who used questions to support and explore his racist thinking. Schoolteacher, “measures the body of the enslaved and asks incessant, probing questions in order to control them through his knowledge of them.” I highlight this, to bring light to the fact that questions are quite capable of carrying bigoted associations and implications. Bigotry– in Dr. Goddess’ case homophobia–is often enshrined in the act of questioning.
I do not believe that Dr. Steve Perry or Dr. Goddess are horrible people, but I do think they are, both, individuals who had lapses in judgment. They asked poorly framed questions, and were unwilling to accept that their questions had negative implications. No one, not even respected thinkers, is above criticism. We all have a responsibility to exercise care and consideration when we ask questions.
Update: Here is a collection of the tweets that transpired that night. I don’t feel that it’s very cohesive, but it’s better than nothing. Judge for yourselves. chirpstory.com/li/3601
For some people, a gay kid being called a “faggot” isn’t enough. They need to see the kid set on fire to know that homophobia is “real.” And, even then some of these people will refuse to believe that homophobia is real, or a problem. But, still we rise.
In my mind there are many possibilities: if it were not so, I would have told you. I imagine ahead to prepare a place for you.
Vernacular: The commonly spoken language or dialect of a particular people or place.
I begin this essay with the full understanding that definitions do not tell the whole story. I chose to define vernacular because I feel it offers an entry-level understanding of what I mean when I talk about the language of Black gay people. There is much more to the languages spoken by Black gays, but I do think the definition is a useful starting point.
I believe that I have always known of Black Gay Vernacular, to some extent, but my full awareness of, and entrance into, the language came when I created an account on a site titled Black Gay Chat. This site, populated mostly by Black gay men, provided me with an entrance into Black gay culture. It was in the forums of this site that I began to dialogue with Black gay people from all over the world. Reading the profiles of members, conversing with members in chat rooms, and reading message boards, were some of the ways that I began to access a language that I would come to learn and love. I would begin to learn all about “the tea,” and “shade,” on this site, but it would take another experience to truly familiarize with Black Gay Vernacular.
Growing up in a small, predominately White, town did not provide me with much access to Black gay life. The only openly gay person that I knew of in my immediate surrounding was a drag queen named “Punk Jerry.” I always found Punk Jerry to be thrillingly entertaining, if not a little misguided and the subject of constant taunting, but he carried himself with a confidence that anyone could appreciate. As far as small town life goes, Punk Jerry was a Polar Bear in a desert, but insisting on his right to exist there, none the less.
So, in the fall of 2006 I entered college as a freshmen student at Florida A&M University. It would be in this environment that I would come to fully integrate myself into Black Gay Vernacular. In college, I came into contact with a host of words and expressions that I had never heard of. The Black gays in this college town had a language all their own, one separate from the language used by the heterosexual environment of my youth. In the settings I found myself in college, “shade” “the tea,” “miss girl,” “yes ma’am,” “stud,” “femme,” “paid it,”, “kiki,” “read,” “Alice,” “sick’ning,” “trade,” and “late” were the words commonly and affectionately used. Learning this language was like learning any other language, it took work and familiarity with those who spoke it. I would become familiar with this language by my continued embracing of the Black gay culture of Tallahassee.
I’d like to share some examples of Black Gay Vernacular in action. If you’re not familiar with Black gay culture, you likely won’t understand a word of what I am saying, but for those who are familiar it will be like talking to an old friend.
“The real T is that mama couldn’t get her coins up so she boosted that store and trade called Alice.”
“That performance last night was sick’ning. He cleared it, and the late kids couldn’t take.”
“The kids are going to gag when I tip through the bar.”
“Shade comes from reading.” – Dorian Corey (Got to know my history)
“That gave me my life.”
“The kids cleared it, last night. They did not have it!”
These are but a few examples of Black Gay Vernacular, in action, and I could honestly go on all day with colorful examples of the language. I could explain what it all means, but I think an understanding of the language should come with access to the group that uses the language. As the saying goes, to know there you have to go there.
The conditions that make a Black gay vernacular necessary are the same as those that underlie the development of all languages. There has been, and remains, a need for Black gay people to communicate with each other, removed from the gaze of heterosexual gaze. The vernacular employed by Black gays does not need to be validated by outsiders because our participation in it, and continued invention of it, is all the validation that is needed.
Like all languages, there are certain issues that pop up in Black Gay Vernacular. There are many within the Black Gay Community who rightfully contest the usage of certain words and expressions, I being one such person. I have called into question the use of popular word “fish,” and many others take issue with the use of “girl.” I do, however, feel that these words can be used among familiars, such as a group of friends, but the issue comes into play when people use the word with those they are not familiar with.
In my opinion, the future of Black Gay Vernacular is bright. New words, phrases, and expressions are being created every day. Somewhere, a creative young gay is crafting term to express themselves and their friends, and this act represents the vitality of language.
Toni Morrison once wrote, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” The language of the Black gay community remains one of the greatest measures of our lives, a reminder of our creativity, our insistence on expressing ourselves in a racist and homophobic society.
Many have contributed to the creation of a Black gay vernacular, but I would like to close by paying homage to one of the legendary queens of the Black gay community– Dorian Corey, of Paris Is Burning fame. I’ll never forget Dorian Corey sharing the etymology of the term “shade.” I celebrate you Dorian as I celebrate the Black Gay Vernacular that I so love.