Continuing Settler Colonialism into the 21st Century

 

chicago- logan square

Heather Phillips via Flickr (Logan Square, Chicago)

 

Scholar and activist Andrea Smith talks about colonialism and the disappearance of the Indigenous as one of the three pillars of White Supremacy. In this type of logic, the indigenous is constantly being removed from the land so that the settler can claim rights to it. We see it in Western myths about the Bad and Savage Indians and in current myths about the Terrorist Palestinian. We see it in the mascotry of Indian peoples, customs, costumes, and tribes for sports teams, and in the appropriation of spiritual practices of Native peoples.

To expand a bit further: Gentrification is a form of and repetition of settler colonialism. Which is to say that gentrification is a method of stealing land and disappearing native peoples from their property, institutions, history, and even cultures. It’s wealthier, typically white people actively disappearing poorer, typically people of color from their lands and their own communities. The similarities do not end there, though. When we try to argue that gentrification is actually a bad thing, white pro-gentrification forces argue that they are there to improve the neighborhoods. The implication argument, is that people of color and their cultures and institutions are intrinsically inferior. They will ask for proof of the worth of black and brown communities and receipts as if the only piece of value is how much to get from real estate. As if the only thing Black and Latino folk do is gang-bang1 and sell drugs. And as if those are more violent actions than intentional financial destabilization and wealth-denying of white institutions of power for the last five hundred and twenty years.

People of color as individuals, as communities, as institutions are not trusted to have value. Their restaurants and churches and businesses schools2 and social clubs are bulldozed, swept out, shut down, overcome because they are judged inferior by the very forces that want them removed. Settler colonialism needs to continually harvest cheap workers, and so keeps destabilizing the communities of its cheap labor force so as to keep them disorganized, to keep them from demanding more, to keep them from speaking of injustice in ways that will eventually lead to justice.

Are white people ok with these acts of displacement, whether they occur in Australia, or Bolivia, or Palestine/Israel, or Humboldt Park, Chicago3, or within the mostly White missional and emergent church experiences, because we’ve never made peace with the fact that we have and are constantly disappearing Native people from North America? In the process of stealing their lands and constantly stealing their lands, we have said that their forms of education were not adequate, so we put them in the first public schools, with the aim of enculturating them to Middle Class Euro-American values and ways of seeing and doing. When we did not actively work to physically and psychologically erase and shame their languages and customs from existence.

And this process continues, and is always continuing. In the same ways where Israeli propaganda claims that Palestine was not an actual possessed land outside of Jewish occupants and that there is no such thing as  Palestinians; in the same way that the First Nations did not have rights to the land since they did not operate by European laws and feudalities; in the same way that White missional churches enter into heavily churched Black and Brown neighborhoods to “bring the Gospel”; in the same way that children are being adopted out of Indian Country and into White families; so White hipsters, investment bankers, real estate agents, business bureaus, city halls, and developers converge to continually erase the identities and culture and institutions of Black and Brown communities to turn a profit and keep poor people in line.

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1 Remember that the KKK was the first and the biggest racialized gang. Remember also that POC gangs in the Northern urban centers grew out of reaction to the strolling and violent actions of white gangs entering into black and Latino neighborhoods looking for black and Latino youths to beat up.

2 In one year, Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel closed down fifty elementary schools – almost every last one having a population made up almost entirely of Black and Latino students. Almost all of them in poor black neighborhoods. But two of these neighborhood schools were closed in Humboldt Park, where gentrification is building steam. A neighborhood middle school in West Logan Square (also on the fast track for gentrification) that had seen huge investment from the community and was a source of pride and joy for all was turned into a military academy against the community’s wishes. Because we can’t trust non-violent forms of Latino organizing and educating.

3 Where I grew up and there was no investment from white people then. But years later, a white coffeehouse owner would ask me if the neighborhood was getting better while White Supremacist Fox News was playing overhead on his screens

Not Jesus

Here Are Your Prophets

This is what the Lord says:

    “You false prophets are leading my people astray!
You promise peace for those who give you food,
    but you declare war on those who refuse to feed you.
Now the night will close around you,
    cutting off all your visions.
Darkness will cover you,
    putting an end to your predictions.
The sun will set for you prophets,
    and your day will come to an end.
Then you seers will be put to shame,
    and you fortune-tellers will be disgraced.
And you will cover your faces
    because there is no answer from God.”

But as for me, I am filled with power—
    with the Spirit of the Lord.
I am filled with justice and strength
    to boldly declare [the colonizer's] sin and rebellion.

Micah 3 (New Living – with slight paraphrase)

The more famous passage of Micah, where your sons and daughters will prophesy, follows this passage. We find where the prophets are when we dismiss the so-called prophets of the kings and queens – the appeasers. Those who disguised their words uplifting the oppressive systems of the halls of power, of destruction, of war, of racism, of sexism, as the Word of the Lord. Who sell their images as God-speakers, yet what they have to say sounds oddly and eerily what the powerful already say.

Not Jesus

Not Jesus

One of the hallmarks of living in a kyriarchy economy is how easily and quickly the lower social stratus can be dispelled from sight and community with the elite groups. We can colonize, we can take the land and work and bodies, and then throw aside their personhood through colonialism and heteropatriarchy. This makes it easy for elites – for white, middle class, able-bodied, neurotypical males above all – to dismiss criticism and malign prophets.  For what are the dispossessed if not prophets? Do they not speak the Word of the Lord to the Kings and Queens?

Fortunately, we now live in the digital age and the voice(s) of the prophets are everywhere. So when a white male pastor asks where all the prophets have gone, he is missing the picture: they are here. Here is your family of prophetic voices. They speak with passion and knowledge and wisdom and joy and hope and anger and resentment and frustration and within community and from outside the very community they have been cast from. Meanwhile, the white heteropatriarchy asks why they can’t be nicer, why they don’t work within the very kingdom they have been cast from?

If you want the voice of God, it is not to be found in mass media (cf, pt 3), whose ultimate purpose is to support the hegemony of White Culture and consumer capitalism. You may find it in Dexter or Breaking Bad or True Detective, but these are shows of violent white males and I’m not sure how that is much different than other predominant White Male Supremacy voices of Dick Cheney, Exxon Mobil, or penal substitutionary theory (Nothing But the Blood, indeed).

Yet these same people will call Liberation Theologians “ultimately violent”* for loudly resisting the kyriarchy and will proclaim or accept the title of prophet for themselves. They will make racist, sexist, homophobic utterances about the very people they dispossess from the lands. They will talk about how inclusive they are, and how racially conscious and wow what Jesus Feminists they are, but promote White Males all day long.  They will present themselves as lgbtq allies while not just blocking LGBTQ people (but will engage with homophobes all day long), but talk about trans people as having a sexual preference, refer to “a gay lifestyle” and “sin” and say (repeatedly) that the “purpose for marriage equality is to promote lifelong monogamy, which is preferential for everybody.”

zhoag homosexual lifestyle and sin trans orientation

Did I say they block LGBTQ people? Yes. Yes they do. In fact, they block People of Color, feminists, and their accomplices – any critic who doesn’t take kindly to being tokenized and co-opted. Any prophet who will not kowtow to the White Supremacist, Heteronormative Patriarchal Structure of the White Western Church. This is because the kyriarchy is not used to being talked back to in such tones, so they will consider it an act of violence [link to Zahnd’s tweet on liberation theology being violent; other suggestions?]. You want to know where the prophets are? They are right here, but your mute button has put them on silence.

It is an act of intentional cultural genocide. In this manner, they act as Ahabs, erasing prophets from the land for the fear of being confronted with their participation in the White Supremacist, Heteronormative, Neoliberal Patriarchy.

Speak out!

Speak Out! by Chris Schluep, via Flickr You can watch UNICEF video here: http://www.theoneminutesjr.org/

And yet they have the gall to call themselves, endorse others who call them, and then call others that also look like them as “prophets” and “prophetic”, “called you in this time“. They use prophecy as a branding tool rather than a way of God speaking to the powers, to the oppressors, as Amos and Daniel did.

The Empire cannot prophecy to the Empire. White middle class heterosexual men are the Empire in this society. Rather, the sons and daughters of the dispossessed are your prophets.

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*Though Zahnd would later walk the statement back, he barely did so, in fact equating people’s revolutions (who were sometimes backed by Liberation Theology) with the violence of fascist regimes in Latin America that they were fighting against. But could we then not say that Euro-American theology is even more violent, since it has and continues to support genocide, war, and slavery? For more in-depth understanding of White Anabaptist approaches to Liberation Theology, cf Political Jesus’ “Anabaptist Theology & Black Power: A Subaltern Ethics Of Peace #AnaBlacktivism.”

Like a Wheel Within a Wheel: The Kyriarchy Economy

Kyriarchy is a way of understanding the interwoven systems of oppression and hierarchy – those of patriarchy, classism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and ableism. It is one – albeit shortened – way to understand how solidarity can happen under such varied and disparate circumstances among people who are not supposed to get each other, let alone work together to dismantle specific oppressions. If the main tool of patriarchy is misogyny, though, I’d like to suggest that a main tool of and reason for (its MacGuffin, so to say) kyriarchy may be the economy – as it largely has existed, but particularly through capitalism. And a main tool of and reason for most economies is, in turn, the kyriarchy.

To not recognize that the capitalist economy and kyriarchy need and feed each other is to not recognize how either capitalism or kyriarchy exist and operate. It is to erase the impact and wealth that slavery, Jim Crow, and underpaid/unpaid domestic labor have been producing while managers and capitalists – those who have enough money to gamble on ventures and profit from those – are praised and rewarded for the work that others produce. Kyriarchy is both funded by and is skewed towards a warped economic reality in which those who work hardest and produce the most benefits have the least amount of wealth. Consider migrant harvesters and housewives – how would modern Western society survive without them?

Vintage Bank Vault

“Vintage Bank Vault” by Brook Ward via flickr

Of course the most obvious way this works – and yet still denied by much of the US – is that the closer one identifies with the kyriarchal ideal, the more capital one has – the more the economy favors that person. While not every white person is wealthy or even middle class, the more one is part of the predominant White, Middle & Upper Class, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Able-bodied and Psychologically Normed, Educated, and Male Elite structure, the more one has access to what Amaryah Shaye recently configured as “inheritances” - the more capital one has access to. This capital comes in monetary form (inherited wealth and the things one can do with that), educational form (not just blanket “education” as something to be picked up, but as a way of knowing how to respond in a specific culture and among a specific people who can get you nice things and as a way of presenting that culture and your work within that culture as being of utter value even though its real-world equivalence is pushing around numbers and may actually have negative influence upon the world), social form (knowing who is who and knowing the who’s who through familial relations), and even ethnic and racial capital. It is easier to gain trust with the Powers That Be if you were to talk like and look like and write like them.

The system works to keep the system – and the elites – in place. And those elites look a lot like those who show up as members of Congress and the Supreme Court and in the Oval Office, as political pundits, as board members of not only huge multinational corporations but also the non-profits they help fund, as Christian conference speakers, as history writers, as managers, as megachurch pastors, as police, as – yes – those who teach our children. They are the brokers and gatekeepers of the kyriarchy. The various institutions which they populate have as their primary function the guarding of the kyriarchy of which they are members.

We can see how Western Economies (all capitalist, whether large-scale capitalist like libertarian USA or small-scale capitalist like the social democracies of Northern Europe) have benefited from and are benefiting from what Andrea Smith calls the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Slave logic (via anti-Blackness), Genocide land-grabbing (anti-indigenous), and War (anti-Asian/Middle Eastern Orientalism). In the US, we recognize it as the land of Indian Country fueled by the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement and perennial lower-class-ness of Black people, and the perpetual wars in Those Countries of Orientalism to provide the fuel to continue the system of perpetual capitalism. The capital made from the land and bodies of the enslaved and disappeared, Smith argues, in turn, funds the perpetual state of war that the US is in. It’s a cyclical machine of economic enslavement. IOW, kyriarchy economy.

The kyriarchy economy needs heteropatriarchy in order to survive and has created this myth of the Nuclear Family in order to fuel its endless consumptive consumerism. It needs the families to stay intact so it makes it harder for women to survive apart from a male partner, and uses children (as bait/anchors), the church, and even extended families to prevent this dismantling, even in the face of severe physical violence and psychological abuse. This is how much it needs the future consumers that are children and the free labor that is provided by many women in these situations.

When the number of consumerist 1 Mom 2.5 Kids 1 Dad-To-Rule-Them-All Families started dying out, the Kyriarchy Economy stretches its borders to include middle class same sex marriages, but under the same auspices (Now you can have 2 Dads or 2 Moms with options to adopt). Not that this is a bad choice. People should have the option to join in or opt out as they choose. But notice how few rally around the cause of homeless LGBTQ youth, or trans rights in the workplace or public place. But Pride parades are increasingly being heteronormatified in order to be more open for Coca Cola and Target advertisements, even as leather pants are being erased.

However, this isn’t to say that kyriarchy only works in capitalism, but that capitalism is where we best see it exemplified. Many socialists and communists here in the States erase and ignore the plight of people of color, feminists, and other oppressed peoples, telling them that once the capitalist system is overthrown, then true equity will flow. But that is striving for an equality without justice, a racial and sexual hegemony without recognizing the present social realities that exist when brocialists try to take over pro-black solidarity rallies by erasing racial injustice and grievances from POC. They are instituting their own kyriarchy in a system they haven’t even realized and wondering why so few will join their cause. Precisely for the very reason that it is their cause and others are not welcomed.

The Error of Reconciliation Theology

 So watch yourselves!

If [a kin] sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that [brother/sister] wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.
Luke 17 (New Living Translation)

A young generation ago, White Evangelicalism came in contact with a firestorm of a soft-patriarchalist movement called Promise Keepers. Football stadiums were rented out and filled with men – all and only men – who would hear speeches by other men, mostly white about the need to redeem and reconcile. Men, we were told, need to redeem our rightful places as strong-but-gentle leaders in the household and the workplace. This wouldn’t be a redemption, of course, but merely a nicer-clothed pushback against the full humanity of women that the conservative church and religious right had been waging since the 1960′s. We can and should talk about the gender-segregated and what Sarah Moon refers to as Benevolent Sexism church modus later, but I want to focus on the reconciliation aspect.

At Promise Keepers events, White men were told – and rightly – that an unaccountable sin was of being distant from their brothers of color (notice that their is no intersection here. This is about what they considered the primary relationship, men-to-men). Tearful white men were challenged to turn to their black and brown brothers and seek forgiveness for racial sins that the White men never caught owned up to, never quite understood. But now they had the added benefit of making instant friends with people of another race and having their consciences wiped clean of corporate wrong-doings. So, White Evangelical men could go around saying “I have black friends!” while voting against the interests of their black friends. They could still push for incarceration and criminalization of black men; they could punish black women and families through welfare reform and slut-shaming; they could continue to marginalize Asian Americans by using them as Model Minority pawns against Latin@ and African Americans and, ultimately, against themselves; they could continue the eternal undergrounding of Latin@ communities; they can continue mascoting and erasing Native communities.

the final Cut

the final Cut – by Robb North via Flickr

While heaping praise upon themselves for welcoming non-Whites to worship and barbecue with them, White evangelicals could talk a big game about the work they’ve done to “bridge the gap” between White and “minority” peoples, but the only gap jumped was by the non-Whites. Whites have made no effort to de-center themselves, to weep where the sufferers weep, to grieve over and when oppressed people grieve, to join. Rather, under the auspices of “community” and “unity” White people put Black, Brown, and AAPI peoples in the situation of having to conform to White normalcy.

White normalcy, by the way, isn’t restricted to Fundamentalist or Evangelical situations. White normalcy is the underlying identity in a White Supremacist structure, in which most of the world under Euro-colonialism exists. So progressives (of the political and Christo-theological variety), liberals, Marxists, libertarians, all have to resist the dominant racism gene that places white people and white narratives and themes at the center even when talking about issues important to People of Color. And, let’s be straight, that is not happening a lot.

So, basically, White Christians are demanding that Christians of Color meet White Christians on White Christian ground, worship at a White Cross, come under a White Jesus.

As Amaryah Shae points out, the very notion of Christian racial reconciliation is flawed because it is always on White terms.

But Christian reconciliation, I argue, favors the dominant because it sees reconciliation and not justice as the virtue. Reconciliation theology holds that if two are separate, the separateness must be a sin in itself and the priority needs to be in removing the separation. Much of this comes from a bad reading of the Luke 17 passage above, somehow removing the very important prerequisite of repentance.

Additionally, it rips the forgiveness from its broader context. One socially above us who continues to berate, humiliate, and strike is not kin. Kin are on similar levels. As Gustavo Gutierrez and bell hooks have said, “Where there is no justice, there is no love. For there cannot be love among unequals.” That Jesus is represented in the bodies and experiences of those on the outskirts of society, the lives of the oppressed according to Matthew 25 and Matthew 5, and that we are blessed when we “mourn with those who mourn” and likewise serve and stand with and among the oppressed. As Sarah Moon (again) makes clear, when the abuser is welcome at the table, the survivor is not. When we privilege abusers, we disinvite their victims and tell them that they are not welcome. So while forgiveness – in its proper place and time – may be a good individual spiritual practice, it is bad universal policy.

Reconciliation Theology is harmful. It is not loving. It is not of God.

We see this in more predictable White male Christian calls to accept apologies from abusers, whether that person be a physically, mentally, or sexually abusive partner or spiritually and psychologically abusive pastor. Sexually abusive youth ministers are often forgiven and moved back into previous roles due to the pressure to always “forgive and see as Jesus sees and forgives.” We see this currently in Jonathan Merritt’s recent article “Why I Accept Mark Driscoll’s Apology… And You Should Too.” Leaving aside the fact that Merritt was not targeted by Driscoll’s rabid homoantagonism and misogyny and therefore doesn’t have much in the game to forgive, what the fuck gives him the power to compel Driscoll’s targets – parishioners, interlocutors, feminists, LGBTQI people – to forgive Driscoll?

Reconciliation Theology does. Again, it is the work of the put-upon, the marginalized, the oppressed to make the leap of faith. And again, that leap of faith is rewarded with a punch in the guts.

Reconciliation Theology has as its virtue reconciliation. Reconciliation, however, is a possible after-effect of justice come to a shattered relationship. (Notice there is an assumption of a relationship to heal in the first place. The emphasis should never be on the relationship because relationships are not static; they are not made in the image of God; they are not of eternal and divine value. People, on the other hand, are. And so what is needed is justice. Making the wrong right is the virtue and should be the goal.

And sometimes that goal means to NOT reconcile or even attempt reconciliation. Sometimes that reconciliation is the sin.

Being as an Act of Political Defiance

The other day, biking home from a late night show downtown, I was able to travel most of the time outside of the downtown region on a bike path. For a few blocks, the road was completely torn up and I reluctantly traveled slowly on the sidewalk. Waiting for the light at a major intersection three miles from home, I decided to reward myself with the remnants of dinner, a coconut doughnut from DD. But the car full of doodbr0s (of which at least one was a d00d-t00tsie?) behind me wasn’t having it. In a bike path section which at this section doubles as a right turn section for motor vehicles, I was expected to get out of their way.

And go where? I do not know. It’s not that I couldn’t have squeezed somewhere else, but this was my space. I got there first and I was merely waiting for the light to change. They could not bare the thought of being blocked from their next batch of beer by a guy on a twenty pound bicycle who would not bow down immediately to the mighty car and the mighty bros who wielded such power. And so they made it abundantly clear that I did not belong on the road. They honked. They yelled and cursed at me to get out their fucking way and get off the fucking road. Repeatedly. I responded but never gave them the satisfaction of turning around. After all, the road is mine too and I shouldn’t have to suffer abuse because some drunk people think my existence is an inconvenience.

It wasn’t the first time that someone tried to run me off the road or what little space is accredited to me and other bike riders. Traveling home from work one day, I had a car of young dudes nearly run me off the road. In this case, since there is no bike path on this road, I was already as far to the right as I could get, but that still wasn’t enough. They honked fiercely and I moved further and further to into parked cars, fearing for my life. Then when they got right in front of me, they vocalized their dissent at my existence. “Get the fuck out the way.”

These two incidents in combination with daily interactions with cars and vans that come just a bit too close for comfort on roads and bridges remind me that bicycle riding is not safe because, despite what the government says, roads are not made for bicycles. Sure, Augusta Ave has a bike path while Pulaski Ave doesn’t. But neither are really for bicycles. I travel down one route all the way because finding acceptable bike paths adds an extra four miles, and much of that territory despite being labeled “bike-friendly” is anything but friendly to me or my bicycle – completely ripped up roads, a bridge without traction, stretches set apart on the map but not in reality, and really, really foul stenches. Even bike paths are just afterthoughts. The roads are made for heavy, fast-moving vehicles and bicycle use and bicyclists are merely an addendum. Our existence isn’t really welcome, and I see that and recognize that.

bicycle race

Bicycle Race – Toby Gaulke via Flickr

I’ve already noted some parallels between how I’m treated being a cyclist for commuting purposes and how a White/Cis/Hetero/Capitalist Class/Able-Bodied/Neurotypical Supremacy culture treats marginalized and oppressed people who buck the system. But what should be noted is that the roads aren’t made for us. They may make concessions, but at the frame of convenience, they will let you know who is in charge and who does not really “belong” in the routes of power and currency.

It seems that drivers will not recognize us until we speak up and loudly. Until we take their aggression back on them. Until we mobilize. For if they only see a few of us, they can run us off the road .

And yet, we are told that we are too loud, too abrasive, too much, too wonky, too naked. Whether or not we obey rules of the road that were not made for us and do not accept us, we are demonized and pushed to the margins.

So, what to do besides give up? Because existence for many is a means of political resistance to the dominant powers. We scream and make our presence known from the margins of the road that we are here, that we are not sacrificial lambs, that we are worthy of respect, safe spaces, rights, justice. Our collective anger is justified – as is our collective joy. We rally, we network, we write our lawmakers, we push, we embody and demand space on these roads. And our “complaining” (as some are wont to call it) is an act of prophecy and justice seeking.

#SorryNotSorry if you’re worried about what the “right time” is, but my body is not on your time and not yours to negotiate. And still, I ride.

Houseblogging Update

A Race

A Race – Susy Morris, via Flickr

Over the last several months, I’ve been writing very frequently at Forward Progressives, trying to balance the world between the political progressive movement there (which reads largely as: anti-Republican) and my more *ahem* extreme views. All the LOLZ, people.

It was doing this that I realized that that space, while slowly growing my crowd, isn’t exactly healthy. Whether defending the use of Trigger Warnings or dismantling the charges of fatherlessness and inherent criminality of Black people in Chicago, I got some really nasty treatment from not just conservative trolls, but progressives (or “Brogressives”) as well – most of whom happen to be white and male.  But honestly, I guess being a white(ish) educated male, I should count my lucky stars that the negativity I’ve had to field in comments hasn’t extended to emails. Or even twitter. Much less real life encounters such as happened to Suey Park for dare criticizing St. Colbert (oh yeah, that was another article I wrote on with threatening Brogressives missing the point and blaming victims).

And it’s not that I have a problem so much with criticism and pushback (well, I do need to step back and evaluate). When I’m criticized, I try to evaluate what they’re saying or how I came across. And sometimes I get it. But often the criticism is stoked in White Supremacy, misogyny, heternormativity, and trans-aggression. And, as in the case of the Trigger Warnings article (and, yes, Trigger Warnings for all of the above) just abundantly abusive. So while that doesn’t deter me from saying what I feel I need to say, I am going to consider more carefully consider, as they say in Christian contexts, the pearls before the swines and which audience is most appropriate.

But there’s only so many days I can take hunting down stories about Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, or Todd Starnes or reading articles from National Review before I want to put my head in the toilet. So I’m limiting my writing there to twice a week, tops and hopefully writing two articles here a week. I want to focus on post-evangelical praxis (which has been one of the main focuses here for the last five years), and more focusing on Chicago politics – particularly in regards to the city-wide dismantling of public good in order to privatize (which my friend Don Washington also covers gloriously and insightfully at the Mayoral Tutorial).

But I also want to encourage you if you can, if you appreciate the work here and can afford it, to consider donating to the Paypal link on the left. Although I work for pay, that work is seasonal and this is one of those seasons when I don’t work for wages. (Which also says that the work I do here I consider work. And even when I do get paid for it – well, let’s just say the hours and the pay don’t quite measure up, #ifyoucatchmydrift). But rent and internet and coffee and research time and bike repairs and you know.

In about a month, I’ll be entering grad school full-time, so we’ll see where that takes us. (Insert winky emoticon).

Evangelicals, Suburbia, and the Mark of Cain

Cain and Abel is the prototypical story of brotherly jealousy-cum-murder. Agrarian brother versus shepherd brother. Both fight over the acceptance of land use, but the Lord finds the shepherd’s sacrifices acceptable and not the vegetable ones. Herds wander, but farmers stay put. I’ve been considering this since my pastor made note of not only how this story ends for Abel, but also how it ends for Cain.

For murdering his brother, Cain cannot remain in his fields – he must wander the country as a vagabond, with his special protection mark. But after some years, he settles again and builds a city.

I am reading this as a critique from a largely shepherding community of the very civilizations that they encountered: Egypt, Babylon, Ninevah. Cities have the mark of Cain impressed on them. Cities are birthed in violence, and that is something to remember in how we approach living situations. Cities have long been the epicenter of violence – both on the creating and receiving ends.

This violence is not borne of the citizens, but of the mechanisms of which civilization bears – industry, empire, colonization, economic injustice and disparity, pollution, exploitation.

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.
Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)

The biblical and prophetic witness to the Abels of Israel was to “work for peace” while in the cities. This command I would argue would be extended to all of the people of God. We see it being repeated in Jonah and God’s concern for the inhabitants of the empirical/colonial/conquering city of Ninevah. We are also told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which I think is important considering the blood shed by the colonial and conquering Israeli government.

And yet, White Evangelicals – my own background – were among the primary White Flighters, those who not only left the cities to rot under the violence but took with them tools and resources needed to deal with that violence. As if White Evangelicals could leave the Mark of Cain behind them.

They refused to work for the peace of the city and were, en masse, culpable for the unrest, for the insatiable poverty, for the decay, for the water turn-offs.

Retired Cruiser

Retired Cruiser – Chuttlesworth, via Flickr

When White Evangelicals come into the city, it is often as another form of colonialism and conquering. Their churches act as if they’re carrying out terra nullius upon the spiritual landscape. We city folks are aboriginals to be converted and our churches like our rights to our land are void and nonexistent. It’s religious gentrification, values colonialism of white, middle class suburbia. Our values are not valid, our concerns are not valid. People who left us and took the money with them come back with money, to spend on each other as they push us out of the way of our own homes and dismantle our communities.

The missionaries of Spain and England came as emissaries of a military overtaking. The missionaries of suburbia are emissaries of real estate developers and gentrifiers.

So when Evangelicals borne of a post-Cain-ian suburbia complain about living in the city and how the suburbs were so much better, so much safer, so much cleaner, so much better for kids, I sigh. It happens often. Very often. Suburbia may be the womb of contemporary Evangelicalism, but it is also built upon the backs of those left within the city. It is us who have spent these years fighting the crippling effects that their removal have left. It is us that have invested in this city. It is our labor that have created the wealth of suburbia and it is suburbia that has refused to give it back.

“Work for the peace and prosperity of the city” means to work for justice.  Means to partner with us while we seek liberation and peace. To do otherwise isn’t prophetic, isn’t biblical in any sense that is loving.

Blockades and Race Riot Fears

According to activists in Detroit, ten people this morning were arrested for blockading water shut-off trucks this morning. In case you’re not familiar with the Detroit water shut off, here’s a quick run-down. Not all of the activists are black, as one can see looking at the news footage, but they were in solidarity with a black people’s cause and led by a coalition of black and white leaders and preachers. And the water turn-offs continue.

And then we move across the country, to a small town in Southern California, Murrieta. White people there gathered to bemoan how they should not have to receive migrant and refugee children. They blockaded. They carried signs celebrating their nativism, and turning against Obama. They yelled in the opposition’s faces and called them names. And they succeeded, insofar as the buses were turned around. According to some resident friends, these white protesters – who used their bodies to reject brown children and brown mothers with their brown infants – claim victory because they were able to turn away present and future refugee children.  Five arrests were made out of hundreds of blockers – those for obstructing police. Not enough to clear the way for the buses.

Immigrants-rights protesters, though, who blockade buses leaving detention centers are arrested and the way is made clear for buses to continue the deportation process. This happens several times a year. These are white, brown and black people in solidarity with mostly brown people.

I’m also remembering another altercation and another blockade. This one of almost all-white militia members who stop federal agents from removing a white, racist cattle rancher on federal lands. A white cattle rancher who owed much money to the government and who obviously broke laws that he said he didn’t need to observe (as he doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of the federal government). How many arrests happened there? It obviously was not enough to gain access. The blockade was effective and indeed held out for months.

The water shut offs in Detroit are continuing to hit black families and black businesses while steering clear of white-run establishments like the Red Wings hockey arena and the Ford football stadium. Places where nobody lives, where water is not needed for survival and where in total over $30 million is owed to the water reclamation district. In effect, white businesses were effectually blockaded from water shut downs.

What is the justification for this discrepancy between how these blockades are handled by police and other security agents? I’m now remembering last year, when that one-man vigilante task force who lynched Trayvon Martin was let off the hook. And all these talking heads and even the president of the United States, himself a black man, urged black people to remain calm and news stations were anticipating something big from happening. But the anticipated race riots never materialized.

I think we’re learning this year that it’s not black and brown people and their allies we need to worry about. The governments and their security forces are treating white people and particularly anti-POC white people with kid gloves.

They’ve come to find that it’s not people of color that will start a race riot. It’s entitled white people they’re afraid of. It’s whites who would start a race riot.

Gentrification Is Not a Solution to White Flight

Chicago has changed significantly over the last fifty years in some ways. In others, it’s been the same old thing – racial segregation tied to economic apartheid. But where and how this plays out has shifted. From the late 60′s through the early 80′s Chicago – like most other north urban cities still in the thralls of exercised anti-black racism in the post-Civil Rights era – experienced massive white flight.

Myopic Books - Wicker Park

Myopic Books, Wicker Park – by MA1216 via Flickr

Actually, that’s a horrible way to put it. First, white flight didn’t just happen to Chicago and second “white flight” is a problematic label that doesn’t in the least describe what was and is (still) happening. What happened to neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Ukranian Village, Lincoln Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, and South Loop is what happened to Detroit – white people decided their areas were too tainted, too impure, too scary. And rather than invest in them to make room for all, rather than welcoming, rather than giving back to the very people they’ve (we’ve) stolen wages, labor and wealth from, white people en masse thought it more convenient to relocate.

More to the point, not only did white people relocate to the suburbs and enclaves, but they took the resources, the investments, the capital, the wealth that was made for them by the bodies, the work and the below poverty-level wages and existence that black (and other POC) made for them. When they found that Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Black youth were enacting on the very violence that had been exacted through economic, political and housing segregation, the White patriarchy decided it important to sever ties with the city and retreat to the suburbs. All the better if they could continue to draw resources out of the city and back into the cul de sacs, of course.

White flight, we must understand, is not a problem primarily because White people and their White solutions left the city. White flight is a problem because White people took the dues owed to Black people with them. They stole and then ran.

After a generation of fleeing, they started coming back. In Chicago, they pushed Puerto Ricans east out of the lakefront territory of Lincoln Park and reclaimed it, all of it, for Whiteness. They also discovered that the beautiful buildings and centralized location of Wicker Park were too much to leave to poor black and Latin@ and even poor white folks, so they slowly reclaimed that too, beginning in the late 80′s. They brought in artists and young people, students. All white, all with a bit more disposable income than the current residents. All a little distant from the current community. All raising property value just enough to begin the displacement of the current population. The residents then begin to see their community erode as they lose grip on what they’ve worked so hard to stabilize – community organizations and resources that are mostly built in and through each other and relationships they’ve built over years, decades, generations.

When you are poor, you rely on each other. When you and your neighbors are being forced out, you lose that support. That is what gentrification is: forcing out of black, brown and poor bodies and destroying their supportive networks. But yet gentrification is often approached as a solution, as a counter to White Flight. As if the problem was that middle class and upper class White people and their White ingenuity and work ethic were what was missing. As if the neighborhoods were deteriorating because White People weren’t here. And as if their presence and their example (yes, that is the argument. Yes, that is what they say) would fix what their theft caused.

The main pro-gentrification argument is that the neighborhood improves and bringing in White people with their white money is the only viable solution to improving the neighborhood. What they mean by that is that the neighborhood wasn’t of value under black and brown management. That people of color and poor people don’t have any value to offer. That the crime and poverty is the fault of black and brown people – not their own theft. They are also assenting that property – that the buildings and lots they are referring to when they say “neighborhood” – is more important than humanity – what those of us being gentrified mean when we talk about the neighborhood. And particularly that property is more important than POC humanity.

See, gentrification isn’t the solution to White Flight. It’s the next step. When gentrifiers fill the neighborhoods and the barrios their parents abandoned, they begin a process of completing what their forebearers started – reclaiming their old homes and furthering the solidification of the permanent underclass.

This is what Detroit is about. Forcing out of black bodies so that the city can be reclaimed. To think it’s about anything else is to miss the big picture.

Hobby Lobby Case: Not the End of the World, But a Revelation

Now that we’ve had some time to review, reflect, and consider the Hobby Lobby case, I’m pretty damned sure that it isn’t the End of the World (TM), but yet a realization that the Song Remains the Same. A revelation, in fact. Oh, you know what another word for revelation is, right? Apocalypse!

All hail Lord Darkseid!

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Darkseid

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Darkseid

As we’re probably well aware of by now, this case and its neighbors are not about religious freedom of people – they’re about the rights of some to religiously inhabit the spaces, bodies, and options of others. There is no Third Way here, no room for nuance in this case, no dialog to be had with those who believe that their rights to practice their religion take precedence over other people’s lives and bodies. But because I’m obviously a Comp 101 student or a Baptist preacher, I’ll break it down into three fun takeaways from this case.

The Courts’ conservatives aren’t Originalists when it comes to the 14th Amendment

Since the late 1800’s, the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution has been gradually stripped of its meanings to protect Black Americans and reduce the effect that the ideology of personal property has on people. Where it was framed in the context of removing a people from having been considered mere property, from de-propertying them and placing them within full civic and civil rights, the 14th has more often been interpreted to prop up and humanize personal property – literally turning corporations into people. This is a big component behind, of course, both Jim Crow-type laws (which are still being practiced today albeit in less direct ways; c.f., with non-violent criminals) and corporation-as-people rulings (most famously Citizens United). The directly racist patterns that SCOTUS was holding up started being overturned by the Warren Court in Brown V Board, but class is still directly tied in to racism and so racism is still a factor in these recent rulings as they privilege wealthy white men and their corporations over the lives of employees, consumers, citizens, and poor people.

In its decision (pg 3), the majority rule and Justice Alito argued as such:

Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.

Again, property trumps humanity. And employees are seen as property – belonging to those who own the corporation. Our rights are extended as far as the corporation can extend its grasp on us. Our religious views are now their religious views. Our loyalties are theirs. Our bodies, theirs.

Alito’s blatant humanifying of corporations continues:

Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.

Hear that, America? Your employers can practice religion – the religion of their founders and executives. And they don’t have to respect yours.

The Wars on Women* & Employees are real

First of all, if you doubt that this was an attack on women, you probably don’t have much skin in this game. You probably, like myself, have not been harassed by the douchecanoes of #TCOT (The Country’s Ogliest Trolls) on the Twitter Machines. In fact, what too many men have said to deny this – from slut-shaming women to claims of ownership of women’s sex and bodies due to paying taxes [people are f**ked up in the head, man] to telling random women on the internet that they have to be employed and then make their own choices [whaddafok??] to mansplaining science with nonscience [“Abortificients?” Bro, do you even biology?] – conservative men have outright demonstrated that they know and will pounce on the central target of this ruling. It’s not just conservative men whose arguments demonstrate the deep palate of misogyny in the good ol’ US of A, but also cis male brogressives - either mocking women* or presuming that their needs aren’t important. And while these jabs vehemently and violently deny the truth, they also demonstrate that it is women*, not Hobby Lobby, who were on trial here and had to prove their worth. It was women who were found wanting by five heterosexual men in robes and seemingly unlimited power. Not a one of the conservative five – and only one of the six male justices – acknowledged that women have to be trusted to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies. In a broader scope, that employers feel that it is their prerogative what employees – and particularly women employees – do with or to their bodies when it doesn’t impugn upon their work is beyond the pale and speaks of a patriarchal neo-slavery. 

This is true not just in this case and with women*, but in how Hobby Lobby treats its employees, telling them, for instance, that they should be home eating dinner with their families at night and not with vendors. It’s true with the HR departments increasingly dependent on social media to screen potential employees and it’s true with bosses using the same to keep current employees in line. Women, LGBTQ people, and anybody else who, out of the hours they are under employ, don’t fit the image profile that the company wants to project of itself – regardless of the extra-curricular activities of board members – are under intense scrutiny as automatons for the will of the company. They are increasingly at risk for at-will firings even as these same companies and rulings strip protections for said workers. Workers need to remain undyingly and intensely loyal to what the company wants. Even as these same companies erase pensions, commit massive and random layoffs, coerce employees to attend to and support favored politicians, and send profits into think tanks like ALEC and SuperPACs that support big business interests and fly in the face of little person interests.

But back to the bodies and choices of women. What Justice Ginsberg in her dissent said is true:

Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.

What Hobby Lobby, their co-defendants and the conservative majority of the SCOTUS have argued for is to reduce a woman’s* options for her health, her well-being, her life choices. While there was no scientific or even faith reason to deny the contraceptives in question, that shouldn’t be reason enough to stop Hobby Lobby and any other closely-held corporation from interfering with a woman’s* rights over her own body.

This of course would include not just Green’s Hobby Lobby and the four-out-of-twenty contraceptive methods they opted out of, but companies like Eden Foods, Gilardi, and Autocam Corp. These companies, led by anti-abortion Catholics, had already filed cases with lower courts recently seeking to opt out of all contraceptive and family planning services covered under the ACA. The Supreme Court is telling the lower courts to re-review their cases under the new ruling. As the US Council of Bishops has made clear, the hierarchy of the Catholic church and most anti-abortion Catholics are firmly against contraceptives. Lower courts had already ruled in favor of the owners behind the Korte and Newland companies who also requested that they also be freed from the shackles of having to provide any sort of help for women who don’t want to be pregnant all the time. So we already know that the precedent is there:

And there’s the un-fucking-mistakable case that the five jurors who agreed with Steve Green and his Cohort of Dominionists are men. Just as those who created this phony “religious rights” argument were also all conservative men. Which isn’t to say that everybody who agrees with this decision is a man or is self-hating, but it highlights the fact that those who don’t need to worry about such decisions nor never truly needed to worry about them are the ones making the decisions for those who do.

Strengthening the case for universal healthcare

This case highlights the ridiculousness of connecting our healthcare with our employment. Healthcare should not be tied to the whims and concerns of the people we work for – nor whether or not they’re able to afford it. Whether we work for Scientologists who don’t believe in mental health meds, or Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t believe in blood transfusions, or Catholic hospitals who don’t believe in contraceptives or abortion in any circumstance, or just cheap-ass Papa John’s or a string of part-time employers, every single person should unequivocally have immediate, affordable access to full medicinal purposes.These are life-and-death and public health issues and not left to the strongly-held but incredibly ignorant religious beliefs or opinions of dumbass greedy rich people.

So, what is the connection with all three points?

Fight!

Fight!

Fight!

Tomorrow is a new day and next year is a new year.

Fight!

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*I say “women” but “those who can get pregnant and other people who can benefit from the pills” is more accurate.

Our Rights to Exist: Road Safety and Internet Safety

I bike to work. Twelve miles in each direction, sometimes in very hostile environments, but always cautiously. Because, you see, as I am one of the few people who travel by bike down this thoroughfare, often drivers and their vehicles do not know how to approach. And so I – like many other bicyclists – can get angry when it comes to my personal safety. I’ve many times considered carrying a slushie and turning it on whatever car makes a quick right from my left in front of me, or pushes me to within one inch of the curb. I used my longest fingers to salute to a truck driver this morning when he felt that going down a steep, long hill wasn’t scary enough with traffic to my back, but that he should come within a few inches of my body. I get angry. And I’m glad that I get angry. It’s a survival tactic.

Ever have a pedestrian jump out in front of you? Or a bicyclist chomping down the sidewalk where your preschool daughter was preoccupied at spring? Or a junk truck driver making a quick right while you’re walking straight with the stroller through the Walk sign that the traffic gods have given you – and then the stumped driver is miffed that you dare exercise your right-of-way? These are not acts of principal nor opinion. The very steps one takes, the very movements one makes while driving, the slightest deviations on a bicycle could be an issue of life or death. Could mean breaking a neck. These are not trivial pursuits – life can sometimes be dangerous.

It’s one thing to honk at a guy you think cut you off in traffic. It’s another to hunt them down to teach him a lesson. That’s probably going over the line, as it may get both drivers, passengers and on-lookers seriously injured. But yet commuters are constantly hounding cyclists for their reactions to speedy, reckless drivers being in their path. Look at the vehicular homicides of bikers and I can guarantee it is no overreaction. While bicyclists only account for 0.6% of commuters, they account for 2.1% of road deaths and injuries. In New York state, they account for roughly 0.5% of commuters and 4.9% of road fatalities. A twenty pound bicycle will not protect us from your two thousand pound Ford Escort, let alone a 15+ ton Mack truck. Oftentimes, the margin of error that pushy drivers will lead a bicyclist to is close to zero, which convinces me that my own existence on a road that I legally share, is not welcome - that some people would prefer me to be dead than to have to negotiate for my presence or even be aware of my presence. I do not ride for them, though. And I do not need their permission. But I do seek their compliance, even if it comes by shaming and marginalizing their behavior.

I hate to get #NotAllMotorists, but yes, the majority of drivers are kind, give plenty of leeway, wait when necessary, give room for me to navigate tricky potholes, double parked cars, and other potentially dangerous obstacles. Most wait a little extra for me to cross the intersection before they head out. Most also are cautious about opening their doors. The vast majority do not make left turns coming my way when they see me speeding up to that intersection. The vast majority do not honk at me, sending my heart racing, while they are behind me and for no better reason than to tell me I do not belong. And I thank drivers when they are kind. But I’m not going to thank everybody for doing what they’re supposed to by way of law and rights. #sorrynotsorry

Bicyclist safety is integral, and I will not apologize for thinking my life on the road matters, for getting exercise and cutting down on fossil fuel dependence, for losing weight, for saving money. I will not apologize for my body on public roads that are ostensibly made for all. And I will not apologize for using my body and self to raise awareness that cyclists share the road as well and deserve dignity and respect.

Likewise, heterosexual Religious Right Christians will consistently try to run LGBTQ Christians off the road. When they aren’t outright demonizing LGBTQ people and erasing LGBTQ Christians, they often frame the issue of LGBTQ people asserting their own rights as an issue of “opinions” and “thought policing.” One formative and integral theologian and speaker whom I have, until now, admired, made an analogy about the word “marriage” being changed in much the same way that Nazis and Communists have changed words to erase people. Seriously. So when GLBTQ Christians spoke up about this and examined his theology and rhetoric, they were ridiculed and mocked, sidelined, deliberately misinterpreted, heads compared to “empty space.” Their thoughts on their own embodied experiences were, apparently, wrong. And White, cis-hetero men know best, amirite? /sarcasm/

This is a way of curbing, of threatening with big trucks, of trying to scare marginalized people off the road. It’s an abject disregard for the safety of already marginalized people.

Relatedly, people should not apologize for making their presence known online. I’m thinking here specifically of the harassment that women of color, transgender people, and others get just in trying to speak of their existence, make their presence and worth known in a corner of the internet. When White men barge in and say “not all men!”, we tell women that their experiences aren’t valid. As well, we tell them something they already know in a patronizing way that ironically proves a point about the effects of patriarchy and misogyny upon men. Conservative and progressive men (and sometimes women) interrupt, dominate, ridicule and threaten the lives and work of women of color online who try to create their own space and have every right to the *ahem* Information Superhighway that White men have even though we often feel that we are entitled to it and that the road is ours.*

Although black people make up a fairly large (proportionately-speaking) percentage of Twitter users, they are a rare sight in media. In US culture (and elsewhere), they have been effectively silenced from the mainstream. This is doubly true for black women. And more so for GLB women. And tremendously so for transwomen, particularly transwomen of color. Look at how RuPaul – who is a male drag queen – treats trans people, by using slurs and defending his use of slurs. These slurs turn into threats. These threats turn into violence. These tactics of writing them off, calling them complainers and toxic are means of curbing Black, Asian, Latina, and Indigenous women and running them off the road.

Marginalized people pushed to the curb have every right to speak up. I believe it is our fundamental job as progressives to give them an ear, and sometimes a hornThis is how we lean forward – in solidarity.

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*And I know this is where conservative and progressives alike will say that I’m talking in conspiracy theories or whatever. No, study sociology. Racism and misogyny and patriarchy and queerphobia aren’t just about individual attitudes, they’re institutionalized and in many ways a part of who we are as a society. It is an institutional change that needs to happen and will be stunted as long as the dominant groups are insistent that we “are not like that.”

George Will Isn’t Alone in Rape Apologism, Progressives

(TW for Rape Apologism, Slut Shaming, mention of rape threats, mockery of such, etc.)

Like most, I haven’t cared about George Will for over twenty years. He belongs to the Old Guard conservatism, the Martini Republicans like George H W Bush and Sandra Day O’Connor. When the fireball cons like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and George W Bush became the face of the American conservative movement, most of us forgot about Will and his bow-ties and boring baseball analogies. So color me shocked that he wrote such an inflammatory piece defending Rape Culture. I’m not surprised, though, that he would defend Rape Culture and mock survivors or say that most claims of rape are faked in order to “elevate the status” of college women – just that he would go all out in 2014. Because whether or not we’re aware of it, Rape Culture is alive and well in not just conservatism but even the most progressive of spaces.

Rape Culture is not just a specific action or thought, it is the elements and the whole of what surrounds us that implicitly and explicitly normalizes, excuses, defends, supports, or condones acts of sexual violence and those who rape. It is what allows at least 1 out of every 6 women to have been raped sometime in their lives while only prosecuting a minuscule percentage of rapists. An aspect of Rape Culture is the teaching that bodies do not belong to the individuals – and specifically that women’s bodies do not belong to women, but to men. This attitude is also big on blaming sexual violence victim, and on talking about the assailant as if he (usually a he but not always) is a victim himself. This culture also says that “boys will be boys” and thus frees them from responsibility while holding females accountable for actions that males take upon the bodies and persons of females. This is but a brief overview of an outdated mindset, but we can see that George Will and his kind are just the tip of the iceberg.

Also to be held as an example of the prevalence of Rape Culture is the formerly-esteemed Washington Post. They published and promoted this awful piece of unscientific, anti-journalism trash. They could have made the decision to pull the article. It’s filled with rhetoric that endangers rape survivors and those who’d be willing to report. Considering that 97% of rapists do not spend a day in jail and 60% of rapes are never reported, articles like George Will’s are dangerous in their own light. The fact that this was sanctioned and published by a mainstream news publication rather than by Rush Limbaugh makes it all the worse. WaPo gave George Will and his horrible article legitimacy and helped to normalize a dastardly Rape Culture narrative.

Another indication of Rape Culture is in the normalcy of online and in-person rape threats targeting women. A few weeks back, I wrote an article about the conservative movement to derail Trigger Warnings. For my troubles, in this very space I was called some misogynistic and anti-homosexual terms and slurs. The thing about this is, this rarely happens to me as a heterosexual male. If I were a woman, let alone a black woman, I know I’d be regularly receiving not just slurs but death and rape threats. Obviously, some threats are from unhinged ultra-conservatives who write for Breitbart, etc. But what kind of noise and how progressive media talks about women who get rape threats via Twitter can be despicable. If someone calls me a “P*ssy” on the internet, yes, I can be offended and all. But that’s not a threat. And threats are meant to be lived outWomen on the internet get real live threats to their bodies, to their well-being, to their families, to their homes. Sometimes those threats are carried out and considering the history of rape as a means of warfare and dominance and population control, why wouldn’t anybody be concerned about these threats?

Sarah Kendzior is no light-weight. In addition to taking on anti-union bosses on a regular basis at Al-Jazeera, she’s also gotten death threats from dictators. She also receives rape threats regularly because, well, she’s a woman on the internet. While she rarely talks about them, they do happen. She talked about it once, in conversation with a fellow leftist/activist. And it was a left-wing/progressive website that decided to mock her for it (Kendzior’s version is here and a version with links here. Another side of the story can be seen here, though.) Kendzior made it explicit that she felt her safety and well-being were being belittled and mocked and yet several writers and editors felt it necessary to defend what they were doing rather than retract and then clarify. That is an aspect of Rape Culture.

Recently, progressive media outlets like Think Progress have taken more notice on how women’s and girl’s bodies are being policed through such things as school dress codes and how they are being shamed for not strictly adhering to male-dominated rules. Notice that school dress codes for men are usually relegated toward professionalism – tucking in shirts and the like. But the dress codes for females are based on how they distract or attract males. These codes are not necessary for preparing children and teens to the adult workforce, and they really have little to do with education. School dress codes are largely obligatory and are designed for the benefit of the school administrators. When students find these rules to be restrictive and prohibitive of their own selves and bodies, they should be allowed to protest. After all, this is the role of education according to progressive ed leaders like John Dewey and Paulo Freire – to cultivate thinking citizens.

 

But to hear some grown men tell it, Think Progress and these students were just whining. “Students are supposed to abide by the dress code and if boys were showing their bra straps, they’d be sent home too.” Sure. The point is that girls wearing clothing they felt was comfortable were reminded by the staff that their bodies do not belong to them and they are responsible for how teen boys act and think around them. The point is that girls have special rules for the clothing they wear and are given special excuses to send them home for the way they wear the clothes because they give boys that funny feeling. Because the boys can’t stop staring. Because they are led to believe that they own girls’ bodies.

Another objection I saw from progressive adult men was that the opinions of 15 year old girls shouldn’t matter on what and how 15 year old girls should be treated. But yet, a grown ass man’s opinions should be? This tells us who is important in this scenario, who is listened to, and who’s lived-in experiences are ignored for the gut reactions of adults who get to ignore teens when they were never even in their shoes.

I was never a teenaged girl, but I can tell you I would not like to be blamed for the thoughts and actions of others when I don’t directly cause them. Nor would I want to be held responsible for others’ reactions to the very presence and appearance of my body. This is the underpinning logic of Rape Culture: that men cannot control themselves and that women and their bodies need to be controlled so that men don’t just go all willy-nilly sexually assaulting.

It should not have a space in our society. Let alone in progressive circles.