Thursday, November 26, 2015

ode to my ancestors: a thanksgiving day treat

Since Thanksgiving is about family (and also killing Native peoples with smallpox), I thought that I would include a little blog post for my homies who aren't going to eat pie with me this week. It actually makes me sad, because they seem awesome.

Great Great Great Great Grandpa Andrew:
Oh my gosh. You were born into slavery, and by the time your life ended, you were a free man. I'm still trying to find out more about you (other than the fact that you had awesome penmanship), but I'm already in awe of you. I hope the strength that you must've had, not only to escape, but to make a new life, is somewhere in my blood.

I think that you should be the one to get the turkey. You deserve it, big guy.

Grandpa Lorenzo and Grandpa Cora:
You had ten kids! And a farm! Wow. I also don't know a whole lot about you guys, but the fact that you maintained a gigantic family and a farm at the same time is something to be proud of. Also, you survived racism. Which must've sucked. 

Mashed potatoes for you guys, I think. 

Grandpa Vincent: 
I've been trying to find a picture for you for the longest time, and I won't stop looking until I do. My mom and her siblings loved you, but are still hella bitter that you never bought a DeLorean when you had the chance. You sound like you were really cool, like a character from the 80s who wore leather all the time. 

I'd totally name a kid after you.

(I mean, I'd give your name to a random cherub I see walking through the streets. But the heart is still there.) 

Frederick Douglass: 
How I wish that you were somehow related to me. I'm in love with almost everything that you've written. I feel like you were so ahead of your time, from the ideas you expressed in your writing to your fabulous hair. I wish that you were still here, just so I could meet you and start crying. 

Happy Thanksgiving, guys! I hope that you use this time to hang out with family, no matter who is part of it. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I'm not changing my Facebook icon

This post is going to be triggery, I think. Some people also might not like what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway, because I think that it's important. 

We're weird about terrorism, here in the United States. Whenever something happens outside of the country, we jump up to "stop it." However, there are conditions on this. I'm fifteen, but from what I've seen, we're the quickest to jump when the people involved in the violence are brown.

What happened in France was horrible. I'm glad that people are grieving alongside the country, because they need the extra support during this time. However, I've noticed that there are many, many people blaming Islam, even though ISIS is not a Muslim group. In fact, they've killed many Muslims, which is why there are Syrian refugees. 

The refugees are being blamed, even though this is the type of experience they experienced daily in Syria. The type of violence that did not get a hashtag or an option to change your Facebook icon to the colors of the Syrian flag.

Even though France wasn't the only place to experience violence from ISIS (Baghdad and Beirut were also targeted within the same twenty four hours), I only see people talking about France. At the Democrat Debate, there was a moment of silence for France. On Facebook, there's an option to change your picture to the colors of the French flag. 

France. France. On Facebook, it's all people talk about. People Magazine and the Huffington Post have posted countless articles about it in the last day or so. 

It's not a problem that everyone is talking about France. The problem is that we're only talking about France.

Why isn't there an option to have the flags of Baghdad or Beirut as my Facebook icon? Why is it that there are only a select few number of articles written about these other countries? Why is it that hatred of refugees and Muslims is being condoned? The fact that we, as a society, are quick to grieve along with France but not Baghdad or Beirut says something about what we think.

We think that the lives in France are more important. Why? Because it is a Western, and some would say white country.

Although many people don't want to admit it, we don't seem to care about victims when they're brown. The people who suffer in the Middle East are a bunch of nameless, faceless people to us. Many of us don't know what's going on, besides the fact that we're in a state of constant war. 

It's easy to jump on the issue when the violent ones are brown. When they're the victims, suddenly, we are jumping away. Just recently, with the protests occurring at universities such as Yale and Mizzou, there was the threat of terrorism against black students.

The reaction? Scorn. Even after the tragedy in France occurred, there were people mocking the protesters at these schools. The protesters who feared that something similar could happen to them because of the color of their skin.

Why wasn't their fear valid?

While I was on Twitter today, I saw people linking to a tragedy where 147 students were killed in Kenya  and was quick to note how no one was talking about it. However, this tragedy occurred in April. The point that the posters were making was that there hadn't been a national outrage over this tragedy.

I don't remember hearing about this, and neither did the hundreds of people who retweeted. This, and other tragedies such as the disappearances in Mexico, are tossed around for a few minutes before we forget about them. 

What about bringing back our girls? Does anyone remember that?

I asked some of these questions to my followers on Twitter, and one very smart woman said that many emphasize with the tragedy in France because it reminds them of 9/11. That makes sense - I've seen so many people compare France's support of us during 9/11 to our support of them now.

But again, the common tropes: brown people initiating the violence, white people being among those who suffer. Is that why we care so much? Are we only able to care about a tragedy when we've experienced something similar? Some might say that it's a basic human trait, to be able to connect to someone who has experienced similar issues as us.

But why can't we recognize this? Why can't we say that our vision has been clouded since 9/11, which is where the knee jerk reaction comes from, but that we will also grieve for others who have suffered from violence?

Why don't we ever discuss the fact that we don't care about brown people and their suffering?

I could give many examples of this. There's the fact that there was a huge uproar and Europe about taking in Syrian refugees. Many people didn't want to do it, despite the large amount of suffering that these refugees faced. Their response was that there wasn't enough money.

After 9/11, no one mentioned money. We went to war. Even now, when people start discussing the chance of another war, no one is talking about the trillions of dollars of debt that we're in. Obviously, this isn't amount money.

Or I could bring up the Charleston shootings earlier this year, and how there wasn't an option to change our Facebook icons for that. Dylan Roof was not treated like a terrorist. This tragedy wasn't treated like a terrorist attack, even though this man expressed ideas shared with the KKK, a terrorist organization.

They bought him lunch. They escorted him nicely.

Instead of the national grief, all of the people posting on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, there were debates. Debates over whether or not this had to do with race. I honestly don't remember people caring the way that they care about France. No other countries expressed their grief about this event that "shook our nation." 

Is it because the victims of the Charleston shootings were black? Because the terrorist was white?

Another point that was brought up on Twitter is that the attacks in France ruin the idealistic vision we have painted, as a society. In movies, commercials, books, everything Paris is the city of lights, of love. The streets sparkle, and the Eiffel Tower shines down on you. Paris was everything we hoped to be. 

Charleston, within our own borders and attempting to sweep institutional racism under the rug, was something that we were trying so desperately to ignore. 

In turn, while I urge you to continue to pray for Paris, I remind you that stories of violence and terrorism are delivered to us in a prepackaged container. We, as Americans from a Western country, see brown people as disposable and violent. That's the way the story will be framed to us. If a story doesn't fit the container, it isn't told.

So, no. I will not be changing my Facebook icon. I will grieve for France, but also for Kenya, for Baghdad, for Beirut. I will grieve for all of the people affected, including the Muslims and Syrians who will now be targeted even more so than before. 

Because, ultimately, pain doesn't care about color. We're the ones who do.

no, atheism is not guaranteed to make the world a better place

I'm tired of stupid comments about religion on Facebook. Radical Christians and radical atheists and generally people of any sort who think that killing in the name of religion is okay bother me. 

Mainly, though, this post is written in response to Tommy Wallach, a lovely author who has basically says a lot of weird things. He, being the extremely smart white dude who must always give an opinion on something (I do the same thing, but I digress), tweeted that the world would be a better place if more people weren't religious.

(I could've linked to the tweet, but Mr. Wallach deleted his account, you see..)

Okay, here's the deal: tragedy happens all of the time. Sometimes more people pay attention to it because of who is involved, and sometimes people ignore it because of where it happens. Tragedy is always going to happen. Even if we get rid of religion. 

That's basically my entire argument right there. 

I understand (sort of) the knee jerk reaction to say that, without religion, there would be less murders and horrible events happening. But there are just so many things wrong with that. 

1) It's such a lazy, general statement: Look, I'm agnostic. I know that religion doesn't do anything for me. I'm guessing that the world would be a better place without radical religion, but that's not what you said. Religion, itself, is a word that includes so many things. There are hundreds of religions (maybe thousands? I don't even know) all over the place. 

Not everyone murders in the name of religion. Full stop. 

2) You're usually talking about one type of religion: Okay, seriously getting deep here. White people usually say this when something happens with Islam, or people who claim to be Muslim, or people they assume to be Muslim. 

 (I say this because the recent events were because of ISIS, which is not a Muslim organization and has, in fact, killed many Muslims, which is why there are so many refugees. But I digress.) 

Whenever the KKK comes out and does something painful/disgusting/stupid, I hear people saying that they're horrible and stupid. But no one says that all religion needs to be abolished then. 

Or, you know, when annoying Christians in the GOP say that gay people shouldn't be able to get married. Or that women shouldn't be able to get abortions. When stuff like that happens, we all get angry and rightfully annoyed and we usually come up with better things to say than "the world would be a better place if you guys were to give up your faith." 

3) You ignore the fact that religion works for others: I'm really into learning about my ancestors, and I know that religion helped many of them get through slavery and their generally hard lives. I know that religion helps people grieving for their loved ones. 

Religion isn't always inherently bad. Just because I can't believe in it, and you don't, doesn't mean that there aren't people who totally feel connected to a deity or several. The fact that you're an atheist doesn't mean that atheism is what will keep the world going round.

4) Atheists have done horrible things: If people are horrible and disgusting, they'll commit horrible and disgusting things, regardless of religion. Stalin killed more than 20, 000, 000 and he had the same idea: he made everyone atheists! By force! And things got so much better in his country! 

(Actually, they didn't. They got worse. Spoiler alert, I guess.) 

Okay, bonus round! Three things our friend Tommy is able to get away with (and also still be a NYT Bestselling author) because he's a white dude: 

1) Saying that he's a feminist because his mom is a pilot: 
I legit quote: 

I might just be an extremely bitter young girl, because of the racism and sexism and whatnot, but I don't really care if a guy (who does not experience/might not even SEE sexism) feels that women pointing out that Andrew Smith made a sexist comment is a "witch hunt." 

I always hate when white people tell me that getting upset about little things cheapens the anti-racism movement, or when guys tell me that getting upset about little things cheapens the feminist movement. Like. Who made you the voice of reason? Just because you were raised by a hella awesome mom doesn't mean that you're automatically qualified to tell women 
a) what sexism is 
b) how to handle it

2) Throwing a hissy fit because a black woman said that his black character wasn't written well/kinda sorta racist: I can't even provide a link for this, because this was basically something that happened on Twitter. A black female author (whom I love, so I'm a bit biased) pointed out some things that were weird/potentially racist about the black character in Tommy's book. Here's my version of how things went: 
BH (Black homie): This book is racist. The character isn't well written. Here is why.
BH: Well, I'm black. But also -
BH: I have actual criticism about why the representation of this black girl is an actual issue -
Tommy and his homies: OMG WHAT AN ANGRY BLACK LADY
BH: What
Tommy: *deletes account*

3) This: This comment about religion.

I honestly get on authors' cases so much because they have such a big impact. They really do, especially those with NYT bestselling books. When you do something, people (especially teens), notice. You know what else they notice? The reaction to what you did. Whether or not you apologize afterward (how you apologize, how long it takes, etc.) If you seem to be learning at all.

I have his book under my bed and sometimes I read it and I'm like eh whatever. Your black character bothers me, but who am I to judge? But then I think about the other black girls reading this book, getting excited because there was a black character (like I did), and ultimately feeling let down.

That's why I wrote something about this tweet.