9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy), Charlottesville

Remove the Statue: The Struggle to Regain Lost Humanity

Dear Mayor Signer;

I hope you feel shame. I hope you could not sleep last night. I hope you stayed awake wondering why you shut down citizens who were telling you to your face that you are failing them. I hope you are struggling to regain the humanity that you have lost. Because by dehumanizing other people, you dehumanize yourself. I was dehumanized by just sitting in the City Council meeting, too. Now I am struggling to regain my humanity. Now I can’t sleep.

I lost my humanity in the name of decorum. I wanted to shout across the room to you – “ending racism will require ending business as usual.” Because it will. And you, last night, were all about business. The business of the City Council. The business of maintaining decorum. The business of hiring consultants to design a bigger, bolder monument, as if to compete with the structural racism perpetrated by the statue of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee.

Structural racism: racism perpetrated by the very structure of the city. Listen. Listen to how upset people are. Listen to how much it matters. Every day Black people in Charlottesville live their lives in a city that is complicit with their dehumanization. You know it, and I know it, and it’s on us to do something to change it.

I am a White person. When I moved here, the pattern was clear: Other White people told me how much they loved Charlottesville and how much they wanted everyone else to love it, too. People of Color I talked to, Black friends and colleagues, told a different story.

That park matters. The psychological toxicity of racism – minority stress and trauma – impacts everything from academic engagement to physical health to simply feeling okay as a person.

That statue is dehumanizing. Just as slavery is dehumanizing. Just as a registry and a wall would be dehumanizing. (I could go on.)

When you are complicit in dehumanizing Black people, your own humanity is compromised. That’s why I hope you can’t sleep. I hope you are mourning the loss of your own humanity and struggling to get it back. You can get it back! But you’ve got to try really hard, in ways you’ve never tried before. And it’s got to mean an end to business as usual.

Black lives matter.

Remove the statue.

Or step down and have Wes Bellamy lead instead, if you’d rather grasp at rhetorical unity than take real risks in pursuit of justice.

Here to help if I can.
Sincerely,
Mimi Arbeit

I sent this letter to the Charlottesville Mayor, Mike Signer, after attending the January 17th City Council meeting. From about 9-11:30pm, the meeting focused on The Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces. The room was filled with people asking for the removal of the Confederate Robert E. Lee statue and the renaming of Lee Park; the demands were denied.

5. Connection/ Community

Cravings, 2017

I crave love letters.
I crave touch.
I crave community dinners where we stay up for hours
holding our hopes and dreams together.
 
I crave the moment of being held.
However that comes.
With talking, dreaming, dancing.
With hands, arms, legs, waist.
 
I crave the chance to hold.
Yesterday I held a sleeping baby,
while friends spoke with me of political resistance.
That felt good.
 
I crave courage and kindness and maturity and presence.
In myself, for sure.
And also in other people.
I crave other people who have and share these things, and who crave me, too.
 
I crave mutuality. I desire to be desired.
I’m nervous and eager, and I’m sure I’m messing it up for myself
by not being responsive enough.
Or maybe I’m too responsive. Too needy. Too eager.
I’m never quite sure.
 
I crave confidence.
Scratch that – I’m basically quite confident in myself.
I crave confidence in others.
That sounds like a terrible thing to say.
I crave the time and space that all of this takes.
Building trust, building confidence, building togetherness.
I crave this with the sharp pain of my own body.

5. Connection/ Community, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

This #GivingTuesday, Give to the Resistance

Give a lot. Give more than you have in the past. Give to more radical places than you have in the past. Give in significant amounts right now, this week, because it is needed immediately. And set up recurring monthly donations, too, because this work needs to be sustainable. See more guidelines for giving here, and let me know if you want to talk through what giving plan might be right for you right now.

 

  1. Give to multiracial intersectional movement building, led by Black activists and other People of Color.

 

  1. Give to youth.

 

  1. Give to Queer and Trans People of Color.

 

  1. Give to the fight for sexual and reproductive rights.

 

  1. Give to independent media by Black folks and other People of Color.

 

  1. Give to individual movement builders with bills to pay.

 

  1. And give some more.

 

I welcome additions to this list, if you’d like to add a comment or contact me. I am thinking of organizations founded and led by People of Color – especially queer, trans, female, and feminine People of Color – doing intersectional movement building and resistance work.

Please let me know if you have any questions about people or organizations you might support, or if there specific goals you have for your giving/donations that you think I can help you achieve.

And I invite you to leave a comment when you do give, because I’d love to hear.

5. Connection/ Community, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

Why and How and When to Give your Dollars

I’ve seen a lot of fellow White folks ready to donate money since the election. This is important. The redistribution of resources is urgent. See here for suggestions about where to donate money.

See below for thoughts about why and how and when.

I will not address the “how much” question in this post, aside from encouraging you to give a lot. More than you gave last year. And to more radical places. I acknowledge that financial traumas and related anxieties are real for many of us, no matter the numbers that define your current financial context. Check out these awesome resources from Hadassah Damien on financial fearlessness and healing while doing this work.

And then, give.

 

Give in significant amounts ASAP.

Now. Giving Tuesday. This holiday season. Before the end of 2016. Organizations and activists are recovering and regrouping and strategizing for how to approach the coming year. The money raised in the next month will shape what they can plan and how ambitious they can be. And we all need to be very ambitious.

 

Become a monthly sustainer.

Organizations and activists need to know what money they have now – and also what they can count on coming in down the line. Becoming a monthly donor shows them that you are in the process with them, and is helpful as they plan ahead. It helps them figure out how to make their work sustainable.

 

Give tax-deductible donations as well as not-deductible contributions.

This information should be clear on the organization’s website or on the automated thank-you note you receive. Although getting a tax deduction is certainly a perk, please consider also contributing to places that are not tax deductible – perhaps because they are new and not yet sponsored (read: institutionalized), because they want or need to remain political/partisan, or perhaps because they are individuals trying to get by in the world who sorely need your support. If you are tithing or using another system to set a goal of how much you want to give each year, consider setting separate goals for tax-deductible donations and non-deductible contributions.

 

Give because you mean it.

Get in touch with your most visceral reasons for giving. What are you yearning to accomplish, or to be a part of accomplishing? Are you motivated right now by plans for emergency management, doing damage control? Are you motivated to build a deeper and more radical grassroots movement? Do you want to make sure we are better networked and better organized before the next election? Do you feel an imperative to redistribute the wealth accumulated by your or your family’s participation in American capitalism/ colonialism/ imperialism? Are you ready to start the process of giving reparations to indigenous communities and to Black people whose families were enslaved and who are persistently targeted by multidimensional structural oppressions?

 

Give here.

 

For those of you who have the opportunity to move large amounts of money, or want to further get involved in mobilizing people with wealth, check out the book Classified and the work of Resource Generation.

5. Connection/ Community, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

For White people asking me, What do we do?

Taking it step by step. Here’s where I was the first day.

I’ve had many White people – friends, colleagues, Facebook friends – ask me what we do. So here’s what I’m doing now, at least this first week.

Note: I am a queer femme survivor of sexual assault with an advanced degree and enough money. I write and love and work from all of those places. I write with the hope of engaging other White people. I also welcome feedback, pushback, and connection with folks of color who may be reading this, and I want to repeat over and over that I value you and I am with you.

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1. Self and community care reminders

  • Water, sleep, food, movement, human company.
  • Offer support – particularly to people who have been the primary targets of this campaign and of American White Nationalism. Pay attention.
  • Reach out – to the extent that you are able – share your own emotional response with people who may be or feel more secure than you do right now – I specifically ask upset White people to reach out to other White people in your life. Maybe you’ll get some real, useful emotional support. And maybe also showing them why you’re agitated will get them agitated. And we need them, too. We need them with us.

***trauma triggers trauma***

We’re all going through different kinds of shock and grief and fear and betrayal and trauma right now… triggering different kinds of shock and grief and fear and betrayal and trauma that we’ve experienced previously… especially all that systemic stuff that is so interconnected. Hold that, give space for that, for yourself and for the people around you.

2. Action planning

  • Our 100 — An open letter to Our Nation from 100 women of color leaders — read and sign
  • Showing up for Racial Justice — engaging White people in racial justice work across the US — sign up, get connected
  • I am also planning a Skype series for anyone who wants to talk, to move from reflection to action. We will talk about Whiteness and the Vision for Black Lives and all that is happening around us and whatever else you/we need to talk about.

***White people need to listen to People of Color leadership and be ready to respond***

And by ready to respond, I mean ready to risk more and to contribute more than we ever have before. Professionally, emotionally, financially. To do that, we will need teams of people we love and trust who will hear us when this gets hard and push us and guide us through it. Let me know if you want me on your team.

3. Moving money

***pay folks of color for their labor and leadership***

Many people who can lead us out of this are right now unable to pay their bills. Medical bills. Student debt. Big bills. They are educators and activists and organizers and writers and designers and more. Hire them. Give them jobs, speaking gigs, consulting gigs. Give them money. And do not ask them to do anything for free.

That’s not to say there won’t be a lot of unpaid labor by folks of color in this process. There will be. It’s just that White folks shouldn’t be asking for their unpaid labor. At the same time, White folks who can should be investing more and more of our own unpaid labor – and we should be reorganizing budgets so we can pay folks of color for theirs.

***

More soon. Let me know if you want in on the Skype series, of course.

Thank you for reading. Be in touch. And please, please… stay alive.

5. Connection/ Community

First response.

 

Originally posted on Facebook, 10:00am Wednesday November 9th.

I’m here and I care about you and I’m worried about you. I’m fighting to dismantle White supremacist patriarchy and I’m in it with you and deeply grateful to those who are in it with me.

And I’m here for the work of taking care of each other. My heart goes out to the counselors and therapists and educators and activists and organizers and writers who are spending today holding space for others and making a plan. I’m here to offer care for you, too.

I’m paying attention and I’m ready and I don’t quite have plans yet but I’ll be in touch. I’m ready to act. I invite you to text or message or call if you have feelings or questions or plans or requests or just want to connect.

Black lives matter. I stand with Muslim folks and indigenous folks and refugees. Trans and queer and nonbinary and gender non conforming humans, I value you. I trust survivors. And there’s so much more and I will do better by you because you deserve better.

Lastly, trauma triggers trauma. I’ve heard from a lot of people already who are dissociated and I encourage you to try not to be alone today, and to check on your loved ones too.

7. Research & Academia, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

Make-your-own Keynote: A Tool for Interactive Academic Conferences

This piece was originally posted on November 3, 2016 on the Society for Research on Adolescence Emerging Scholars blog.

Elise Harris, Lisette DeSouza, and I were three Emerging Scholars collaborating to run a one-day SRA preconference addressing anti-Black structural racism: #BlackLivesMatter: Can Adolescent Researchers Contribute to Racial Justice? (Emerging Scholars are encouraged to contribute to conference planning and related events!) Following conventional wisdom, we invited a senior scholar to provide the opening keynote. But with a few weeks to go, this person became unable to attend, and it was time to get creative…

Enter the Make-your-own Keynote activity.

What’s the purpose of a keynote? Or at least what were we, as event co-chairs, hoping would be accomplished by a morning keynote address? First, we wanted to ground the group in the urgency of the event’s topic. Next, we wanted to show the explicit connections between the topic at hand and the field of adolescent research. Finally, we wanted the keynote to provide a call to action that we could build on throughout the preconference session and beyond.

The day was organized such that the morning was for researchers to reflect with each other on our roles in addressing racism, in preparation for the afternoon panel of community organizers from Baltimore followed by a collaborative critique of four specific research projects. We started the morning by anchoring the discussion in its historical context and presenting the critical frameworks that informed our design of the day. That allowed us to set the tone, provide transparency for our intentions, and let people settle in. Then we started the activity.

  • Small groups: At the conference tables, in groups of about 4-8 people.
  • Plenty of time: We had planned 15 minutes in small groups, 15 minutes to share, and 15 minutes of discussion. In actuality, people wanted more time in small groups, and it was fine to only have 5 minutes for discussion because we still had the rest of the day together.

The full version of the Black Lives Matter keynote activity is here. Below, I offer an outline that can be adapted to address urgencies within racial justice and within social justice more broadly.

Part 1. Urgency

  1. What, for you, most signals the urgency to address [topic]?
  2. What theories or frameworks, if any, do you use to understand this urgency?

Part 2. Research and Application

  1. What do we already know, as adolescent researchers, that can be applied in response to this urgency?
  2. What further research, if any, is needed?

Part 3. Call to Action

  1. What are our options for responding to this urgency, in general, including in our personal lives?
  2. Can we contribute to these efforts as adolescent researchers?
  3. If so, how? And what are the potential unintended or negative effects of our “contributions”?

We had our own positions on the urgency of addressing anti-Black structural racism, the many layers of relevance within developmental science, and needed responses. Transitioning from our introductions to an interactive group activity benefited us as facilitators as we gathered participants’ needs, intentions, and pressing questions. In the room, we had around 50 people who were emerging scholars, senior scholars, and a few folks from local schools. There were many Black scholars, other scholars of Color, and several White scholars present. But how were we to know each person’s understanding of race and racism in adolescent research? The activity connected participants to each other and to the group, which expanded where we were able to take each other throughout the rest of the day.

Note: Although this activity can be adapted to a variety of topics, anybody using it is requested to promote a commitment to racial justice. As I prepared the “adaptable” activity outline for this post, I struggled to rewrite the last question on the worksheet:

  • In what ways do adolescent researchers perpetuate “business as usual,” and how can we reimagine our roles in striving for racial justice?

I can’t rewrite this question to erase the centrality of racial justice in our need to examine “business as usual” within academia. As I share this activity with you, I want to hold space for the content of this question. I hope you enjoy Make-your-own Keynote (and please let me know if you try it!) and I hope you consider, whatever topic you are using it to address, how that topic connects to the urgency of identifying and eradicating anti-Black racism from academia and from adolescent research.

6. Youth Development & Education, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

Time to Mobilize: Youth Development Scholars and the Movement for Black Lives

This piece was originally posted on September 6, 2016 on the YN Blog of Youth-Nex, the University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development.

The Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of more than 50 organizations fighting for Black liberation and for the end of state-sanctioned violence against Black people and communities.

The platform is divided into six sets of demands.

To examine how these demands relate to our work as scholars of youth development, we needn’t look any further than the first demand of the first set:

  1. An immediate end to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black youth across all areas of society including, but not limited to; our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture. This includes an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students, the removal of police from schools, and the reallocation of funds from police and punitive school discipline practices to restorative services.

This is not hypothetical. This is not up for empirical debate. This is happening, across all areas of society, as in, all the areas of youth lives that we study. And this is urgent.

“The urgency around Black Lives is not only relevant to scholars who list “race” among their research interests. It is relevant to ALL of us whose work touches our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture.”

And we’re not just talking about research, either. This past spring, Elise Harris, Lisette DeSouza, and I organized a one-day #BlackLivesMatter pre-conference for the Society for Research on Adolescence in Baltimore. (Huge thanks to the many Youth-Nex faculty and alumni who contributed. And work with us to get ready for Minneapolis next spring!) The central focus of the day was a panel of Black community activists, and one of the core messages we heard was, “Let us ask you for what we need.” In other words, don’t charge into the Movement with your own research agenda. Participate as a person first.

Our primary professional identities as academics are built around what research we have done, are doing, and plan to do in the future. But our behavior as professionals involves much more than the planning of research.

The first demand quoted above was drawn from the set titled, “End the War on Black People.” There is a second set titled “Reparations.” This set begins:

  1. Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education including: free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.

This isn’t just about our research anymore, see? This is about the institutions that employ us and support our research. And this is about our students.

Here’s another one from the list of demands for reparations:

  1. Reparations for the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure, and extraction of our communities in the form of mandated public school curriculums that critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs.

This is about our classes. This is about what we teach and how we teach it. This demand is not specifically about higher education classrooms, but the message is clear.

There is also a message here about funding. Another section of the demands is called “Invest-Divest”:

  • We demand investments in the education, health and safety of Black people, instead of investments in the criminalizing, caging, and harming of Black people. We want investments in Black communities, determined by Black communities, and divestment from exploitative forces including prisons, fossil fuels, police, surveillance and exploitative corporations.

Investing requires divesting. Mobilizing the resources of youth development scholars to support the Movement for Black Lives and to invest in the education, health and safety of Black people will require redistributing financial, intellectual, and emotional resources that are now spent elsewhere.

The platform includes detailed policy briefs for each demand, with actions steps at local, state, and federal levels. So we have this map. Now, we need to figure out how to use our energy, and our positions within the system, to implement these urgently needed changes.

1. Sex, Dating, & Relationships, 7. Research & Academia, 9. Racial Justice (Smash White Supremacy)

Joint Reflections on Whiteness in Research: Missy Bird’s work on Contraceptive Access

Missy Bird, doctoral student in Social Work, reached out to me last week to share her crowd-funding campaign for her dissertation research – and a book she plans to write! – examining access to pregnancy prevention in rural Southern California, in a community that includes White people and People of Color, specifically many Latinxfamilies facing language and documentation barriers. In order to start a conversation with Missy about her work, I drew upon the researcher reflection questions from the SRA #BlackLivesMatter syllabus developed by Elise Harris, Lisette DeSouza, and myself.
 
Mimi: Why this community?
Missy: I chose this community because of high rates of unintended pregnancy, its status as a rural community, high rates of poverty, proximity to my house (it is only a three hour drive), proximity to the border of Mexico, lack of research in that county, and the fact that a reproductive health clinic was built there recently to HUGE uproar.
Mimi: What’s motivating you?
Missy: I want policymakers to understand the steps to get contraception, from deciding whether or not to tell partner/s, figuring out child care, transportation, what type, what provider, safety, cost, I could go on and on. I want women to discuss their use of contraception, their experiences living in rural America, and how poverty and religion impact their ability to talk about sexuality (and thus reproduction).
Mimi: I want to name that you are talking about cisgender women.
Not all women have the same needs regarding reproduction. And there are people who are transgender or genderqueer who can and do use contraception, seek pregnancy prevention, and get pregnant. It sounds like your interviews will be specific to people assigned female at birth who currently identify as women. Have you thought about whether you will include queer women?
Missy: The inclusion criteria for the research is women 18-44 who are accessing one of two specific clinics for reproductive health care.
Mimi: So, you are not seeking out people of queer or trans experience. But. When we talk about reproductive justice, that must include trans justice and queer justice. And racial justice.
What am I ready to risk? Through several phone conversations and email exchanges, Missy let me ask her some hard but necessary questions about our role as White researchers in addressing health, justice, and structural racism within White systems of power.
Mimi: In March, at the SRA #BlackLivesMatter preconference conducted in collaboration with Black activists in Baltimore, activists warned us of the harm that can be done when (particularly white) researchers create our own research projects without directly collaborating with community organizers. How are you grappling with this message, as you move forward with your research plans?
Missy: I’ve interviewed 17 community leaders — high level decision makers, health center administrators and staff, and thought leaders shaping moral, ethical, and legal arguments about women’s reproductive healthcare in the targeted area.
Mimi: Did you ask them what they want or need, or action steps they want other people to take?
Missy: I did not ask for action steps, but I did ask what the community needed. Their answers varied but the bottom line was: they want their population to be healthy and strong so that they can have healthy families that contribute to the larger society as a whole.
Mimi: Beautiful words, right? One of the core tenets of the reproductive justice movement is that reproductive justice will require racial justice. What does it mean for us as White people to be repeating high hopes for “healthy families” when there are Latinx families getting separated by deportation, Black children and parents being killed by the police. Frameworks such as “health” and “contribution” are so often coded terms that perpetuate racist narratives such as “individual responsibility.” And then we locate “unhealthy” as if it is within marginalized communities — but really the root cause is in the White systems, in structural racism. What does this mean for my role as a White person in the field of sexual and reproductive “health”? What was that like for you, to connect with community leaders and stakeholders as a White researcher? What questions did it raise?
Missy: One of the things I have really been reflecting on is whether or not I am clear on the difference between reproductive access and reproductive justice. Every step of the way in developing my project I have been questioning myself about whether what I am talking about addresses the complexity and entirety of women’s reproductive lives. I am really aware of my Whiteness. My original assumption of course was, well if there were more resources (e.g., clinics/physicians) then more people would be able to access health care. But to consider racism, hostile immigration policies, and extreme poverty, issues of justice are about more than sexuality. For myself and other White women, even poor White women, access becomes much less of an issue. I have had to expand how I look at access, making sure that I am talking about justice, not just access.
Mimi: I’m trying to get at a personal, emotional process here too. Something we can’t just be alone checking our own thoughts. I definitely can’t. That’s why I seek out conversations – to trouble the assumptions that I’ve internalized deeply. For example, you said in an email, “my purpose on earth is to tell people’s stories.” I want to trouble that with you a little. What are your intentions? What are the risks? How might your impact be different from your intentions?
Missy: I will interview 50-60 women and then write a book. I have been telling peoples stories for years. I genuinely and authentically want to tell these stories because I believe there is a story to tell. Maybe I am wrong and I will find out I am wrong. I appreciate where you are coming from with this, but I don’t know what more to say. I have really thought about this a lot over the last two years. Maybe the risk is that this isn’t important enough, that no one really cares about women because they are just vessels to be used for a purpose and if they don’t serve the purpose then whatever they have to say doesn’t matter. But that isn’t right. Women’s experiences are important, and I want to talk about them because it brings me joy to do so.
Melissa Bird speaking at the 2010 Utah Pride FestivalMimi: You name a number of goals – personal joy, policy change… and also this will be your dissertation work to earn a Ph.D.
Missy: I am pursuing my PhD. I do want to write a book about women’s lived experiences. And I want my research to mean something.
Mimi: What your research will mean is dependent on who you are and how you go about it. In qualitative research we talk about reflexivity – considering how your “findings” will be constructed through you – who you are, what your participants will tell you, what you are attending to as you speak to them and write about them.
Missy: Yep, this is qualitative research, and I don’t know yet how the interviews will be constructed through me. I don’t have any idea what this is going to look like because I haven’t collected the data. I can’t say how I will write the book. It will be a very typical research book, much like the kinds we read in our coursework. With quotes and analysis and such but not direct transcripts. It will focus on themes, but I can’t decide the themes before I get into the data. What is their agenda? What do they want? Maybe all of the 17 stakeholders I talked to are wrong. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe none of us have ANY earthly idea what women really want or need. Until I have completed this next phase of my project neither I nor my committee nor the stakeholders that I interviewed can tell me for sure.
Mimi: There is so much more I want to ask you about how your relationship with your own Whiteness will shape what you do and how you do it. So let’s keep talking about that as you move forward. But now, tell me: What scholars of color have influenced your thinking about reproductive justice, and what pieces will you be sure to credit and cite?
Missy: Dorothy Roberts, Zakiya Luna, and Kristin Lukerare three scholars I credit and cite in any of my work that references reproductive justice. These are the two articles I cite in my proposal:
Mimi: You ask for $28,000 to fund this research project. At the same time, there are many scholars and activists of color seeking funding for their reproductive justice work. Tell me about some individuals and organizations who are also in need of financial support.
Missy: I don’t even know how to answer this, but would love some suggestions.
Mimi: I’ll start with these three organizations – there are so many more.
Strong Families – by Forward Together, in Oakland– check out their Mama’s Day work, too!
Sister Song: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective– debuted the term “reproductive justice” in 2003 – see writing by Loretta Ross
Mimi: Now I’ll come back to what I said at the beginning about framing and language that is queer and trans inclusive. Try to tell me about your work without equating the category of “women” with the category of “people who can get pregnant.”
Missy: My interviews are with women who are specifically seeking contraception and abortion services with the express purpose of not wanting children. I am not sure how to elaborate on this as a queer and trans issue. It is not my area of expertise nor is it the focus of my research.
Mimi: I’m not trying to say that your project needs to include queer and trans people if you’re not prepared to do that or if that’s not part of your research question. But whenever we talk about women we need to make clear, within ourselves and through our language, that not all women have bodies that can become pregnant, and not all people seeking contraception and abortion services are women. And trans justice and reproductive justice are inherently linked. Here are some people who say it way better than I do: Verónica, Jack Qu’emi, KaeLyn, and Jos Truitt. Read what they write!

See Missy’s crowdfunding campaign to learn more about her research. Also, I’m looking for more researchers who want to continue having these conversations – either confidentially or for another blog post. Volunteer yourself or nominate a friend! I am specifically seeking to engage with other White researchers, and I would also be thrilled to personally connect with and/or publicly feature any People of Color who have feedback, push-back, or other thoughts and feelings to share.

1. Sex, Dating, & Relationships

Enough

 

CW: sexual assault, silence

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I spent this morning working on a paper about training undergrads in bystander intervention to stop sexual assault. One thing about bystander intervention is though, it absolutely wouldn’t have helped me.

 

There were no warning signs – definitely not in public, anyway. And there was no one else around when it happened. I willingly went to his house. Eagerly, even. He was a dear friend, and I was so touched when he asked me to come over. Sure we had a history, and I’d loved him in some way, and we made out once, years before.

 

I went over as friends. Not that I wouldn’t have considered it in general but… there was just too much else going on. And I told him as much that night, too. He kissed me and I pulled back: “I can’t. There’s just too much else going on.”

 

Please don’t tell me what I should have said next. That was a no. And I figured no was enough. I thought no was enough. I thought no was enough.

 

 

He kissed me again, moving in, and I froze. I dissociated. As I said previously, I had so much else going on. I was so traumatized in so many ways already and had spent much of the previous six months pretty dissociated already so, I dissociated. So, that’s what happened.

 

When I told my closest guy friend a week later, he asked why I didn’t call him to pick me up. How do you figure out, at 19 years old, amidst so many other crises, that this particular crisis is worth calling a friend in the middle of the night to drive an hour to come pick you up? And if he does wake up and answer your call, and if he does come pick you up, then would he also return with you the next morning to get your parents’ car back? Because I drove myself to that place to begin with. Willingly. Eagerly. Having planned to sleep over, I was in no state to change those plans and drive myself home. I hate driving on a good day, but also like, being even a little intoxicated, and being in a lot of shock, no way.

I slept over, woke him up in the morning to get directions to the highway, and never spoke to him again.

He didn’t go to my college. He went to a college, and I went to a college, but it wasn’t the same college, and we weren’t on campus when it happened, and honestly I don’t even know if I would have thought to report it. I told my two best friends from my dorm because we talked about consent and sexual assault all the time anyway. I told that one guy friend who then asked me why I hadn’t called him for help. And there were a few other people I tried to tell but I couldn’t, or didn’t, or something. I didn’t tell my parents for many, many years.

Today I was working on a paper about bystander intervention programs and I was struggling, because it’s hot and I was working late last night and I’m tired. I was really struggling, and then I took a break and realized, I need to write this first. When I tell myself this story I tend to think of it as relatively mild, but I would never call sexual assault mild if anyone else were talking about it. I guess for me it’s as I said, there was so much going on in my life right then, so even at the time, it felt mild compared to the other things. But it had a serious impact on me, then and, in some predictable and some surprising ways, continuing to now.

About a year and a half after it happened, I was lying on the table in one of many physical therapy appointments, as the physical therapist was trying to decipher the odd patterns of tension, inflammation, and pain in my body. He asked me, carefully, if I’d ever been sexually assaulted. I said no. I had spend so much effort keeping this secret that I just said no instinctually. I went numb; I knew I was lying. To this day I wonder what I might have learned about my body, and what health care I might have received, if I were able to answer truthfully sooner, or if he were able to stay with the question long enough to hear the real answer.

I do believe he saw something real. The place he was looking, the injury he was examining, that was a real injury. That was a real thing that happened. And it hurt.

I am sacred and more than enough.

So are you.

There’s no particular institution I can ask to #JustSaySorry. But Wagatwe Wanjuki and Kamilah Willingham are doing exactly that, addressing Tuftsand Harvard, respectively. Follow what they’re doing over the next few weeks and send some cash to their org, Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture, to support them in this exhausting work of action and healing, healing and action.

 

Update: I am now involved in fundraising for Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture — please contribute!