Saturday, June 7, 2008

Meditative Thoughts on Allying and Self-Love

This will be my third update for today, which is absolutely ridiculous! But I wanted to mention a few things before I go about doing the things I actually need to do (like clean the bathroom…). Before diving into this I want to highlight the nature of my posts to Coffee and Gender. These are as much for myself as they are for anyone else. I often need to write things down in order to understand what I am thinking. The creative process of working through my thoughts gives me clarity and strength. So this post is as much about myself as it is about social movements as a whole. These are things I need to keep in mind.

The first is that I’ve had a lot of thoughts I wanted to write about recently but I was feeling incredibly low and upset. There are a couple of reasons for this, mostly revolving around my job and issues of money. Due to this, I wasn’t writing much, wasn’t sleeping much, and in general wasn’t taking care of my health. When you are fighting for social justice it can be very difficult to take a break for health. But it’s necessary. If you are really invested in social change that consciousness is with you during every aspect of every day. But sometimes individuals (and groups) need to step back and take a deep breath. We need to take a weekend, a summer, a year, to relax, heal ourselves, and refocus. We cannot fight if we don’t love our selves first and foremost. When I saw Cherrie Moraga talk last spring at Macalester College she emphasized the need to respect our bodies and minds and the importance of honoring the choices of our friends and allies. If a friend chooses to not come to a rally or to resign from a leadership position, then we need to support that choice and not stigmatize it as “giving up” or “burning out”. That choice is self-care, and that needs to be respected.

My second topic is spurred from reading comments on a blog generated by a woman of color. In a post she opened up to “allies” of all identities a fight ensued between a white blogger and a blogger of color. In reading their posts from a detached perspective I can see both sides of the debate. The post was generated so that allies could discuss amongst themselves ways of allying. The white blogger took that as an opportunity to ask the bloggers of color for affirmation of the work this blogger was doing. A blogger of color responded calling out the white privilege in walking into a poc forum and demanding affirmation. However, this blogger used sexist language to call out the white privilege. And this was on a post about working together and intersecting identities!

Reading these comments made me think about a conversation I had with my partner after we went to disTHIS!. An audience member had mentioned the film Crash, and then clarified by saying “Cronenberg’s Crash – the real Crash”. My partner said she immediately became upset, after enjoying herself for the whole evening she was suddenly, and unexpectedly, confronted with language that dismissed the racial importance of the 2004 movie Crash. On the subway on the way home she expressed her dismay that the filmgoers, most of who have a high level of understanding when it comes to discussing movies and cinematic techniques couldn’t ally themselves to a film primarily dealing with racism. I couldn’t see the commentator, and I don’t know how they identify racially or disability wise, but there are a fairly large number of people of color who come to the disTHIS! screenings, and I can admit I was surprised by the comment too. However, and I tried to articulate this, I do think that there were many people upset that the 2004 movie would use the same title and some similar imagery (like, you know, cars and bodies that cause conflict). After all, if the writers were clever enough to write that plot and obtain that incredible cast couldn’t they have gotten a better title? But at the same time…I see my partner’s point. Whatever your personal feelings, when you dismiss a film that is one of the few mainstream titles to address racism in an impactful way it can sound like you are dismissing the reality of racism for people in the same room.

So my second thought is the importance of understanding intersecting identities and supporting your fellow revolutionaries. I often don’t. I know many people often don’t consider the importance of thinking beyond a single identity, but when you attack a person engaged in racism with sexism, or when you work against an ableist culture but dismiss the anti-racist work of another you’re undermining your own cause. There’s much more to write, but I think I’m going to keep it simple and as I clean my bathroom I will be meditating on these three points:

Take care of yourself.

Support the work of others.

Think in multiples and intersections.

No comments: