BRIANA STORY TIME:

Back in 2004, I was a 14 year old delinquent in 8th grade summer school, focusing way too much on the social aspects of the gig and trying to be hip with and impress the mall goth and nu-metal kids, but kind of failing terribly at doing so. ‪#‎AwkwardChubbyBlackAltGirls‬

Meanwhile, between waiting to watch pale greasy motherfuckers in their faded nasty-ass neon Tripp pants and ratty Marilyn Manson shirts kick around weed-plant speckled hacky sacks, even though it was the very attitude that landed me in Summer school in the first place and I knew the material because I was a brilliant little motherfucker, I couldn’t be bothered to make more than a minimal efforts in my classes, something that the English class teacher wasn’t having. 

She was a strict, unforgiving, but sharp-it wasn’t so much that she was mean, though she could be, it’s that she knew her shit and demanded we stepped it up. One of those classically trained motherfuckers, was always getting at us about reading and cursive and shit and all we wanted to do was hang at the skate park and Myspace. I kind of got her game, but I didn’t exactly care for her. Mostly, I tried to stay out of the way of her fury. We inevitably butted heads at times.

Well, at the end of Summer school, that teacher pulled me aside. I was like “Oh no here it goes gonna get yelled at. Well, I’ve got an AFI mix CD that says I don’t give a shit!”. Instead of reprimanding me, she gave me a small purple notebook and she said, with an almost scary seriousness, “Do not stop writing. Ever.” I remember the west wing science classroom at East Kentwood High school we were in and everything. I was struck by the act. I mean, for one, I fucking loved getting journals like nothing else. But also, at that age, I spent a lot of time getting berated by counselors, pastors, my parents, other people’s parents, police, etc, being told I was a fuck up, that I was delinquent, that my interests were wrong, dangerous, not normal, ungodly, that I wasn’t doing enough, that I was wrong, that I wasn’t developing any skills I could use by being so wrapped up in the things I liked. It was why I usually just defaulted to not really trying that hard to fit in and follow they laws and instead just did what the fuck I wanted to. 

So, to have someone say “This is something you’re good at, don’t stop doing it” made quite an impression. It became inspiration, and then it became a point I had to prove, a goal I needed to work rabidly at. I was going to one day look back at that moment and be able to say “this was a catalyst for the writer and person I am now. I rose up to the challenge and owned that shit.” It was motivation to not stop, to keep on working and trying harder and harder and to improve, to follow my instincts (because everyone was telling me I was fuckin’ up but I knew what I was up to) and, while being humble enough to realize I still had a lot to learn, be stubborn and strong enough to stand up to too much shit-talk and unncessary catty busybody bullshit and do my thing.

Being that I currently a contributing editor for Autostraddle, a job I was only able to get from the start and support and knowledge I got from my gig at Feminspire, and I just got Tweeted by someone at Bitch, of my favorite publications, to have a piece of mine featured on their website, I think this is a pretty safe time to say “Started from the bottom, now we here”. Best believe I am by no means anywhere near done, but I’m really proud about where the fuck I’m at so far. 

Thanks to that Summer School English teacher and others like her who saw that I was weird, intense, angst-ridden, and shy but smart and capable, just more focused on punk rock and shenaniganizing than classwork and rule-following, to my friends for always being so brilliant, beautiful, inspirational, and supportive, especially during times like lately when I was struggling to keep it together, but mostly thanks to me, because I’m awesome and capable and I did this shit. I did this. Me.

Here’s to me! :D

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, But-

So, we have to really be mindful of the inconsistencies and historically and culturally inaccurate and dismissive aspects of being like “Fuck Columbus!” yet only talking about US Native Americans while ignoring or erasing non-American folks of Diasporic African and Indigenous descent, especially in the Caribbean and Latin America, you know, the ACTUAL people to meet with Columbus, specifically my folk. DOMINICANS and HAITIANS have been resisting this erasure from both ends since 1492, and it’s time people realized and respected that. There’s a nasty trend of America-centric Westernized discourse and anti-Black erasure in American Indigenous communities, but he landed in my people’s backyard of Haiti and Quisqueya (current day Dominican Republic). I’m mixed the funny way I am with the last name that I have specifically because of Columbus-lead Spanish conquest of the Island. Those graphic stories of Native women being raped and whole villiages indiscriminately being murdered and the “Sweet” and “Good Natured” Natives, the Taino, being seen as easy to subjugate, were my folks. Then there’s the erasure of the last people to deal with Spanish fuckery, Filipin@s, and their struggle with decolonization and identity.

The same shit happens when people talk about African slaves being brought to the US by Europeans though they ignore that the vast, overwhelming majority were brought to the Caribbean and across Latin America, like well over 70%. It makes it so I constantly get asked how it possibly is that I am of African and Indigenous descent if I am neither Native **AMERICAN** or African **AMERICAN**, and I’m expected to identify with this inadequate, highly Europeanized, white-washed pan-identity of “Hispanic” or “Latino” instead with no hyphens, and it’s galling and offensive.

Decolonizing means throwing away the way Europeans decided to define and limit our homelands, our identities, and our histories after they tried to have us all killed off.

White Feminism Strikes Again

White women and a few non-Black POC are beside themselves that I dare write a criticism of Emma Watson’s UN speech and campaign, #HeForShe. They’re calling me divisive, angry, saying I have attitude and am negative, saying I’m not helping the conversation and am instead detracting from it, should be happy that ANYONE is speaking out, etc. There’s also a lot of ULTIMATE EMMA WATSON FAN GIRLS who are mad that I dare not consider this marginally well-spoken famous actress is the apex of feminism, and think my criticism of the speech and her is some personal attack on who she is and her politics.

What was also interesting to me was that many of them mention how young she is and how I have to be sympathetic to how that lends her a level of ignorance that is OK, never mind that I am the exact same age as her and have had way less opportunities to learn and travel and see the world and get involved in international politics. The idea that white women are precious creatures that have been protected and sheltered their whole lives and require patience because they haven’t been exposed to real life comes at the expense of Black women and other marginalized groups and their experiences with marginalization that happens REGARDLESS of their age, it is thrust upon them and no one goes “oh, she’s too young to experience racism!” “She’s a baby, she shouldn’t have to live through the police state!”.

Meanwhile, many Black feminists like Black Girl Dangerous, Black Feminist Killjoy, and Samoodzee get what I’m talkin’ about. They understand. They out here. So it’s very clear what’s happening here and I’m not too pressed about the opposition.

I got so many white women maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad as hell at me for my Emma Watson piece over at Feminspire, holy shit. The comments are soooo bad because they entirely miss the point and go into “privilege defensiveness” mode. You know, the whole “I’m criticizing this privilege and group on a whole” somehow devolving into “You hate EMMA WATSON YOU WANT TO KILL HER DON’T YOU” and I’m just like “Nah this is the most thought I’ve ever given the girl (and I ain’t even really thinkin’ about her so much as how irrelevant she ultimately is to me because there are much more important people who have done feminism better that I can pay attention to) and I guarantee you I will forget her again by tamarrahh”

But then so many of those comments were “Oh wow see you ARE a man hater” and “WOW HOW DARE YOU USE THE WORD WHITE LIKE THAT” and then I realize “oh wait these fucking white people really don’t have any fucking clue about feminism that’s why they were so impressed by Emma Watson’s bullshit and mad that I criticized it or didn’t think it was any shit”

Also someone was like “She’s 24 I don’t think you can expect so much from a 24 year old” and I was like “You mean a white woman who is 24, because I’m 24 and ya’ll are rolling your eyes at me saying what I am but fucking falling over yourself to give accolades to this white girl for saying ‘women deserve to be equal lol’”

the most goddamn transparent boring simple foolishness, I swear….

This piece pretty accurately sums up how freakin’ WEIRD racial identification in the Latin@ community is. It’s true that the racial lines that exist in other parts of the world, specifically North America, do not really fit so well with us because we are so racially mixed. My mom once while we were having a discussion about how we identify racially (and I mentioned Anti-Blackness), told me “While there is a lot of racism/anti-Blackness in Dominican culture and identity, I don’t feel comfortable exclusively identifying with my Blackness because I am not exclusively Black.” While I turned out looking Black and my experiences have been those of a Black/mixed girl (which is why I identify with Blackness), my sisters came out light/passing as non-Black POC, and they have thus had radically different experiences. BUT, given their sister and how many members of their family look more Black and they realize that Black ancestry is in their blood, culture, and identity, Anti-Blackness has still had an effect in their lives.

That said, there has to be a decolonizing of our identity and a realistic look at privilege, race, and colorism. The fact of it is, many “light-passing” Latin@s/Hispanic folk are just WHITE Latin@s, because they are of either exclusively or majority (like less than a quarter) European ancestry. They’d be seen as such in their countries of origin. So, it does not surprise me that politically and socially, they are more “adjusted” to the majority culture, affluent, and will identify with statist, supremacist, traditionalist values, because those benefit them the most. For the passing Latin@s it is a matter of them getting socialized into it despite them not even being white (because still a huge aspect of Latin@ culture is “purifying the race” and moving up the caste system), and for white Latin@s, well, they’re white.

Yes, even white Latin@s experience anti-Latin@/racist sentiments here, but that’s because of the othering of Spanish because it is associated with Brown an Black Latin@ folk when the language comes from a damn European country (it’s a colonialist tongue!). It’s more xenophobia at that point, and they can easily shake it if they learn English, while someone like me who’s main language is English and was born here still gets asked “Where are you from REALLY” all the time BECAUSE OF COLORISM AND ANTI-BLACKNESS AND RACISM.

White and Passing Latin@s both experience and enjoy almost all the privileges of whiteness, while their non-passing/darker/full Native and Black community members do not. So, when voraciously anti-Native, Anti-Black anti-Latin@ sentiments come to the foreground, we cannot default to some pan-Latin@ identity and not speak to the problems for what they truly are-colonialism, whiteness, supremacy, neoliberalism, anti-Blackness and anti-Nativeness. When we’re being tokenized and having only the palest, richest, most assimilated and adjusted Spanish looking, Spanish speaking of us representing us, we’ve got a huge problem. Passing Latin@s have to respect that, even if they are of color and have a right to identify as such, they are experiencing much less LESS or a different kind of racism than their not-passing/more or full Black or Native Latin@ brothers, and white Latin@s just have to stay in their lane and exit this conversation completely because they’re the colonizers. They HAVE NO place in these discussions.