Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mississippi Goddamn...

There are some occurences in our country that are so outrageous you almost can't believe that they could actually have happened. For example, what does one make of the fact that two Black men (admittedly, uber-conservatives) were behind several different attempts to delegitimize the presidential victory of President-elect Barack Obama by arguing that he is not actually a citizen.

I wish I were making this up.

Alan Keyes, the former House Negro of the GOP and now just another disaffected Black conservative, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas both were scheming to advance this dastardly scheme. Keyes filed a lawsuit against Obama, a thinly veiled vinidictive attack since Obama whupped him in the 2004 Illinois Senate race; and Thomas, who simply seems to finds his purpose in life by fucking over Black people whenever he can (slapping down affirmative action, deriding mythical, Cadillac-driving, steak-eating welfare queens -- including his own sister -- and sexually harassing his Black female colleagues) and cheesing up to white folks passed along this case, brought by retired attorney Leo C. Donofrio, for consideration to the Supreme Court. The justices collectively refused to hear the case bringing an end to at least part of the conspiracy theory around Obama's birth and citizenship.

But it seems like folks all over America are pissed about Barack being president. Just check out what's happening in Mississippi.

Two Black male students were thrown off a bus in Mississippi after stating that "Obama is our president." The bus driver told them not to make this statement. When the boys pointed out that this was not whimsy or even disrespectful, but merely a historical fact she threw them off the bus.

I couldn't make this shit up if tried.

At the same middle school that the boys attended a gym teacher warned students that if they mentioned Obama's name they would be suspended from school.

You would think that after 300 years of white privilege allowing white people to always be the winner, they wouldn't be begrudge people of color this one president without a fuss. But it turns out that white people are, in fact, sore losers.

During the Civil Rights Movement, of all the places that young activists, Black and White, traveled to down South to help Black folks living under Jim Crow, Mississippi was by far the state that was the most feared for its brtual repression and the commitment of white folks there to maintain white supremacy in the face of social change. More than 40 year after this movement and those that followed it made it possible for Barack Obama to be president of this country, these events make you wonder how much has changed. For some people, not much. And if they have they way it never will.

I leave you now with the words of that great Black performer and visionary, Miss Nina Simone.

Alabama's got me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
But everybody knows about Mississippi

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Wonderful (Art) World of Renee Cox

(Yo Mama's Last Supper)

Who is Renee Cox, you ask? Simply put, Renee Cox is one of the fiercest, smartest, engaging, and disruptive photographers/visual artists doing her thing in the art world today. And I won't deny that it tickles me that she is a Black woman who has consistently defied boundaries and unapolegetically done her thing as an artist. She is perhaps best well known for using her own naked body in her work as a way of tackling questions around race, gender, sexuality, desire, and power and not being afraid to use humor to make her point visually. Personally, I have been deeply moved by her attempt to reclaim and celebrate the black female body in a cultural landscape that only ever sees black women's bodies as sites of exploitation, degradation, or base sexuality. Cox puts her naked body out there and restores Black women's full humanity -- our bodies are given full expression. Her images range from the sacred to the perverse and that is truly the beauty of her work -- there is no sugarcoating or flattening Black women's experiences in these images. Black women are madonnas holding on to their dying sons; they are Caribbean national heroes defending their communities and resisting slavery; and they're freaks who pour their bodies into latex and masturbate in front of the camera.

In short Black women don't need to be put on pedestals, we just want to be treated like human beings who experience the feel range of emotions and desires as anyone else on this planet. And that is why I love Renee Cox. She's creating space and challenging convention and wants everybody else to do the same. She's putting her body on display but not to fulfill someone else's desires, but to articulate her own. In the wonderful (art) world of Renee Cox, it is a fucking party and everyone is invited. But you gotta play by Renee's rules.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Tim'm presents The Front Porch at Dallas Southern Pride, Oct. 3rd

Come hang out with family on the front porch, ya'll! My homegirl, Samiya Bashir, a phenomenal poet and gorgeous human being will be reading.

open flesh

they're bleaching in india.
jamaica, too.
in ghana, nigeria, and just about everywhere on
the continent.
transform warm, mud bodies
into jaundiced,
paper flesh.
the strands so thin and worn
the skin will not hold.
this is flesh
made transparent
these bodies keep no secrets.
the veins loudly tell
all that they know.
i'll keep my secrets.
these arms, breasts, legs, torso, ears, and buttocks
no one will extract my stories from my skin
this trauma of race.
i will not underwrite my own death
i will not erase myself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For those I've lost

I feel as if I've been saying goodbye to people I admire for a long time. There the father of one of my dearest friends, who died only days after celebrating his daughter's marriage. He was a great admirer of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, a lawyer who never forgot who the law was supposed to protect.
I miss him.
An uncle with a nasty mouth and sweet ways who taught me to take everything and everybody with a grain of salt and if they don't like it, well, fuck 'em, cause I don't have to nothing I don't want to do just because a whole heap of fools are doing it.
The son who followed him to the other side a year later after pulling dozens of men, women, and children out of the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina. His heart stopped in the middle of the night and I like to think it was because his big old heart just couldn't stand the horror of what he'd seen in a drowning city.
A young poet who drowns before the world has the opportunity to really experience and understand her power. Her words inspire me to say everything that I want to say while I am alive.
And then there are the celebrities. People that you never met but that influence you all the same. The make you laugh, you sing along to songs that they made famous and somehow they become a part of you as though you had known them all of their lives.
And then they're gone.
For all the people I've lost:
Luis Moreno
Aubrey Brinsley Brandon
Elbert Brandon, Jr.
Raul Salinas
Michael Patrick
Shannon Leigh
Heath Ledger
Bernie Mac
Isaac Hayes
And if my mourning them makes sense to no one but me, all I can say is that somehow they touched something deep inside of me that affirmed for me what it means to be human. And for that they deserve my respect and my tears.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's true...a Black woman's booty makes everything more interesting

As you may have noticed, I generally tend to blog whenever I come across something so crazy, so completely flabbergasting that I have no choice but to complain about it in cyberspace. After 7 years of living in Austin, I think it is safe to consider myself a naturalized Austinite; as a Black woman this is not always an easy existence but generally speaking I am more happy with Austin than I am dissatisfied. Like other Austinites, a week rarely goes by when I don't read The Austin Chronicle, the capitol city's version of The Village Voice. With artwork and articles that cover local news, art, and events with a satirical, tongue-in-cheek manner, The Austin Chronicle provides a smart, welcome contrast to our city's less interesting, more stodgy daily The Austin-American Statesman.

Well, usually.

Sometimes, edgy and tongue-in-cheek can go too far. Or, hell, I'll just say it -- when it comes to racial, gendered, and sexual politics, there's a fine line between edgy and problematic. And this Thursday The Chronicle totally crossed it.

When I first saw the cover I paused and then grimaced. Why, one might wonder, would The Chronicle have a photo of a Black woman holding an avocado placed suggestively just below her ass on the cover of the paper as the art for a story that has nothing to do with Black women, nudity, or art? Follow that up with the fact that the teaser for the article stated "The Avocado: A Backstory," with extra emphasis on the "back". Now I know racism and sexism when I see it and given the American fascination with Black women's booties (just look at the pop culture empire Beyoncé has built on hers) it's hard not to read racism into things. First of all, I would be offended if the model had not been black -- why are women's bodies always being appropriated to advertise or sell things that have nothing to do with the item (or in this case, article) that is being hawked. Having said that, I don't think it is a coincidence that the photo focuses on her ass and the avocado placed teasingly beneath it.

Images of Black women's asses have been a part of American popular culture since the 19th century; during slavery it was argued that Black women's exaggerated womanly endowments actually proved scientifically that we had a greater proclivity for sexual intercourse than white woman and were biologically insatiable (a convenient explanation for all the white slave masters who couldn't resist tipping out to the slave quarters). The Black woman's behind taps into an entire repository of collective cultural memory and meaning that we may not consciously think about in our daily lives but that shapes our perceptions of the Other on a daily basis. From Sarah Baartman to Josephine Baker to JLo, White America still just can't get enough of dat ass.

Still, not wanting to believe the worst (my homegirl Juli teases me constantly about my relentess optimism and willingness to give folks the benefit of the doubt), I didn't pick up the paper, but walked away and said to myself, "Damn, I really hope this story justifies the cover."

Well, it doesn't.

It's a story about avocados -- that's it. The article is about the avocado, the whole avocado, and nothing but the avocado. It explores the untold story of the avocado from its history as a wonderous fruit that fascinated the Spanish conquistadores to its contemporary prodution and widespread popularity all the way down to how much of it is consumed around the world (not surprisingly, Mexico wins handsdown -- 20 lbs. of avocado per person each year -- !Que Viva!) So why this Black woman's ass? What in the hell was The Chronicle thinking?

Well, apparently someone else must have been thinking the same thing, because by the time I got home to blog my grievance, the picture was not on the site. Gone was the visually arresting, but deeply problematic image of a Black woman's derriere, and in its place was a much more suitable, if less interesting image of workers in a Dole factory, presumably stocking avocados.

Does this mean that a reader pulled The Chronicle's coattails before I could or did someone in the newsroom have the sense to call this photo out for what it was: a cheap play on tired ass stereotypes to push an uninteresting story on readers who would not have given it the time of day had they not hoped to see more of this woman's booty (and it is a pretty pleasing ass...but I digress).

My advice to The Chronicle: stick to smart news coverage and politically edgy and intelligent art. Don't stoop. There's really no need to reproduce racism and sexism in your pages when the work you usually do sells it self. Don't use me or my sisters to reach out to or enhance your readership, just do good work. There's no need to exploit our bodies, leave that to wack music videos and King Magazine, don't bring it into the news. I don't want to feel assaulted reading the local weekly when all I came to do was get my news fix.

R. Kelly Acquitted...An Update on the Criminal (In)Justice System

I was in Mexico on a work trip that also doubled as my honeymoon when R. Kelly was totally acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography and pedophilia. The victim and her family denied that she was the young woman in the sex tape that showed Kelley having sex with and urinating on a young Black woman that prosecutors said looked as young as 13 years old. Since I was out of the country and basically completely incommunicado I had not heard about the acquittal. The truth is I don't really know what to think or to do. If you can't get the majority of Black people in this country to care about the violence that is enacted against Black women or girls why should anybody else? I was deeply disturbed to see the number of Black women who jumped to his defense and attacked the victim; apparently they too have bought into the logic that all Black women are fundamentally "unrape-able" and in sexual terms are fair game for anyone after the age of 13.

For those who are confused let me spell it out for you
: When a grown man has sex with a minor it is rape. Even if she said yes it was rape. If it was midnight and her mother is trifling and didn't know where her daughter was or escorted her to the hotel at it was rape. If she asked for it, it was rape. I am not trying to say that there is no place for personal accountability, we all need that in our lives and I belive it is a vital part of social justice and transformation. But let's not confuse apples and oranges. Even if the girl made a poor decision, that does NOT excuse R. Kelly for sexually assaulting her -- and yes it was sexual assault. If you leave your house unlocked and I walk in and steal all of your belongings, would your neighbors say you deserved to be robbed? Absolutely not. But when it comes to Black women and other women of color, society treats our bodies as if they are public property that can be defaced and devalued at will.

Let me assure you, we and our bodies are not public property.

The day is coming, and soon, where Amerika is going to have to answer for its dehumanizing violence against Black women. Wake up, the chickens are coming home to roost real soon.

Here is a link to an article from
The Chicago Tribune covering the acquittal. All I can say is that for the Black women who defended R. Kelly, who sold out the victim, and who celebrated his acquittal, think long and hard about who you will call when you find out that a 35 year old man has just sexually assaulted your son or daughter. I believe with all of my heart that the metaphysical structure of this universe is a circle and the consequences of all the choices that we make individually and collectively find their way back to each of us in the end. But don't worry, the kindness of this universe is infinite, and when you come looking for justice, those of us who still believe in it will be here to help you fight for it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two or Three or Four or Several Hundred Heads Are Better than One

So I was riding the bus this morning. I love being on the bus despite the amount of time it takes to get where I want to go because of the interaction I am able to have with people I would otherwise never come into contact with. Of course, sometimes you meet people you would have been totally happy to never meet or speak to but often there are small, wonderous little moments that affirm your faith in people and reveal our quirkiness as a species.

So I'm sitting on the bus and two gentlemen board and take their seats. One asks the bus driver "Do you know where the Social Security Office is? It's downtown, right?" The bus driver tells him that she has no idea where the Social Security Office is located. Then two of the passengers, both Black women, tell him at almost the exact same time that the Office is located on Cameron Road, not downtown. Then the conversation turns to how they can get to the office riding the bus. As the passengers begin to talk about it, I think to myself, "I've never even needed to go the Social Security Office in my car, let alone the bus, guess I can't help these guys, oh well."

Then I hear one woman say, "Well you can take the 320."

The other woman responds, "Yeah, but then they'll have to walk a little ways before they get to the office. The 339 will drop them off right in front of it."

She then turns to one of the men and says, "You can take the 339, but you got to get to the mall, the Highland Mall."

Suddenly, before I can think about it I hear myself say, "Well, the 15 stops downtown and that'll take you right to the transfer station at the Highland Mall." I had forgotten I even knew that and suddenly I was a part of the conversation, the building of this new knowledge that all of us, a woman in nursing scrubs, three black women, and two scruffy looking white guys had created by pooling our collective wisdom. Silly as it sounds, I actually felt really good having been a part of the process.

Interestingly enough, this ragtag group of bus riders had just demonstrated the scientific/social phenomenon of "emergence." According to one of my favorite podcasts, Radio Lab and Wikipedia, emergence refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. An example would be looking at how ants or bees, relatively simple creatures with unsophisticated forms of communication, are able to build architecturally complex structures like their colonies (see the termite "cathedral" produced by a termite colony pictured above for a perfect example of emergence in the natural world). In a recent book, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, author James Surowiecki discusses the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. According to Radio Lab, what separates us from the ants is that as human beings we are aware of our ability to do this and often do this for advantage as a species.

I was totally bowled over by this theory of emergence, not just because it demonstrates that the practice of cooperation is a central part of the structure of the natural world, but because the science of emergence demonstrates how the world "organizes itself into being without a plan...or a leader." The logic of capitalism and dictatorships or even the need for leadership or the state is actually sort of antithetical to how much of the natural world and human beings as a part of the natural world operate. Much of what we do from giving bus directions to building cities and communities is done without the need for a master plan or a leader telling us what to do. We cooperate on our own because it helps to survive and because as social beings we need each other in both a practical and emotional sense.

So it turns out that when it comes to the best form of governance for human beings, Mother Nature seems to support anarchism.


Friday, July 25, 2008

For Shannon (Sept. 15, 1987 - June 30, 2008)

If we had run into each other on the street, we might not have remembered that we had met briefly, several times at poetry readings, slam competitions, local gatherings for emerging poets and young performers in Austin, TX.
If you had known her, you might be surprised that such a small woman, such a young woman could write with the intensity, beauty, and wisdom of someone who had known this planet many times. You might flinch when you heard her curse, spitting venom and sugar with equal parts grace and fearlessness. You'd be surprised to run into her again, randomly, on the street; later on you'd think to yourself, "Somehow, I remembered her being taller."
I did not know Shannon Leigh well. I just loved her work and admired her strength and her willingness as an artist to push up against the limits of what the world would have allowed her. A white girl spitting hip hop lyrics simply for the love of it; a tiny woman with a throaty, voice who refused to mutter in a world that rewards women for muttering in inarticulate, Minnie Mouse tones.
Her words moved me and now after hearing about her death, and the work that she has left behind, I am deeply grieved. How to end this post, when it feels there are not enough of the right words to honor this woman who built her life on words. When I heard Shannon read, when she shouted with no shame "Fuck me like my skin" in a crowded theater of slam fans, I thought to myself, "Now that's a woman who will say and write whatever the fuck she wants to, feelings and consequences be damned." I know that I have not always done this for myself; many of us don't. We long to write, feel it in our blood, and yet, when it comes time to put pen to page, whether it's a blank computer screen or our journals, we balk. I can't write that! I shouldn't even have thought it. Maybe I can soften it up. My mom's feelings would be so hurt...and so it goes.
I want to live my life, write, and move in this world however I want to, feelings and consequences be damned. There is no time to wait, for a better time, to avoid hurting feelings, for the sake of being nice. The world deserves all that we have to give, our most true and honest selves, while we are on this planet. I believe with all of my heart that Shannon Leigh walked this earth as her truest self, perhaps not perfect, but honest in all of her flaws and beauty. For that I thank her and wish her love and blessings as she crosses over to the other side. She's eternal now and making the heavens shake with her fierceness. Peace, Shannon. Thank you for everything.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Too sweet for words...

So follow the link because I can't type about it without getting a little bit verklept...my homegirl, Juli wrote about our wedding/relationship on her blog, Sentimos/We feels it, and it's really just very moving in its simplicity. Click on the image to check it out and see her awesome blog (w/ amazing graphic design, all done by her) for more of her pithy reflections on the nature of life, love, and the pursuit of liberation. If you love it, give her a shout, artists need to know their work is valued.
Love and blessings to all,

Friday, May 30, 2008

Growing Up Army

I am an Army brat.

I have lived in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, California, and Germany, courtesy of Uncle Sam. By the time I was nine I had lived in and visited more places and flown in more airplanes than some of the members of my family. Watching soldiers pack up to travel to different places far away from their families with no indication of when they might return never struck me as particularly odd. People came down with "PCS" (Permanent Change of Station) orders on a regular basis. We moved often.

I lived in Killeen, TX located next to Fort Hood, one of the largest standing military bases in the world, when the Gulf War began in 1990. I knew very little about the conflict, only that Sadaam Hussein (my Generation's version of Hitler -- a homicidal, anti-democratic megalomaniac that we could hate with fierce American pride) was a bad guy that had to be punished by the U.S. I watched Killeen, empty, as embattled wives left the city, returning to their parents to await the return of their husbands. We lived in a ghost town and prayed for a quick ending. We wrapped yellow ribbons around our arms at school, tiny chests swelling with pride. We would win this battle, we were tiny child soldiers with no clue as to what all the fighting was about, only that we should be proud. We were Americans.

My chest no longer swells with pride at being American. I could feel the hateful eyes on me when I attended my baby brother's high school graduation and refused to stand and sing the National Anthem. I could only imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the other audience members. No doubt they guessed (rightfully) that I am anti-war and assumed (wrongly) that I hate soldiers and this country. I am the daughter of infantry division soldiers -- the people who often see the most action, are the most exposed and vulnerable, and most likely to die in combat. I don't hate this country and I don't hate the men and women in uniform who serve it. But I am working to change this country and helping to create a world in which the sons and daughters of poor and working-class folks, especially Black and Brown folks, won't be sacrificed for Christmas bonuses, nepotism, and the Good Ol' Boys Club that passes for our government these days. I can't be proud until I live in a world that is not dominated by the U.S.

These days going home, I am ambivalent. I am deeply opposed to this war, but mourn the loss of so many young men and women, 4,083 to be exact. You sat next to me at graduation, it wasn't supposed to be this way. You sigh with relief, as the high school sweetheart you left behind, writes you to say that he is okay, is doing well, and is finally ready to let you go. She has been holding her breath, praying a small prayer of thanks. You have come home. You were lucky.

They are all special and we cannot lose another one.

When we talk about the cost of war we do not talk about what it means for families to be separated for months at a time. The constant worry that a missed phone call date means that your partner is lying dead in the desert on the other side of the planet. Heartbreak is a part of war's collateral damage. All over Killeen, you see cars with bumper stickers stating "Half my heart is in Iraq." I walk into the grocery store wearing a black t-shirt with George Bush sitting in between Hitler and Mussolini. At a glance I am worlds apart from wives mourning the absence of their husbands. But I know that this assessment is only skin-deep. The bumper sticker reveals as little about them as my t-shirt does. My t-shirt doesn't reveal that my first love was a West Pointer, that both my parents served in the military, think it was one of the best choices either of them made, but explicitly forbid my brother and I to join the military urging us to choose college instead. Nothing wrong with serving your country but some of these rich white kids should have a chance to do it at least once instead of sending their servants' sons and daughters to do this country's dirty work. And the bumper sticker doesn't reveal all of the wives who curse George Bush's name every morning and are hoping that the next president will put his or her exit strategy into action as soon as they enter the Oval Office. The bumper sticker doesn't tell how much some of these folks long for peace.

I am opposed to this war and that will never change. But I recognize that for any kind of peace to be meaningful we must all begin to look at each other with new eyes that affirm our collective humanity and our need for sanity on this deeply troubled planet. We can begin this work when we can look at each other, across our differences and realize that anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, pro-woman Army brat can see the humanity of a soldier and an Army wife waiting for his return and they can recognize hers. Can we do this work? Absolutely. Will we do it? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I continue to pray for an end to this war and welcome the day when the Armed Forces will no longer need to exist. A utopian goal to be sure, but they are the only ones worth having.

Chasing Miss Scarlett...

It is by now no secret to anyone, lest of all you, dear reader, that race is always directly in the center of all my analysis, all twisted up and intersecting with sexuality, class, gender, and nation as I struggle to make sense of the world. There was a time in my life, specifically when I became truly politicized, that it seemed incomprehensible to me that other people could go through life not being obsessed about these things. As I grew, however, and began to think more deeply about these things I recognized that ultimately we are all different people with different paths on this planet -- mine is paved in critical social theory and justice work.

However, I never ceased to be amazed by how ignorant people can be about the reality of social inequality and the ongo
ing effects of white supremacy in the 21st century.

And by "people" I mean white folks.

I recently had to travel to Houston, TX for the final fitting of my wedding gown. My mother had agreed to come with me to learn how to fasten the dress and arrange the bustle for me (it sounds simple enough but trust me it takes an army of two to get this thing on and looking right). We, of course, were not the only customers being served. As we awaited instructions from the seamstress I observed a young Latina preparing for her
quinceñera and a young white woman in an enormous white dress surrounded by three of her friends and her mother. We were all talking excitedly as the seamstress began to give my mom and the young white woman's mother instructions on how to fasten the backs of our dresses. Although our dresses were quite different, they both had corset backs that had to be tied in a particular way in order to look right and to secure the enclosures. And so the lesson began.

It was all very fun and innocent until one of the young woman's friends made one of the most off-the-wall statements I'd heard in a while. As she tied her friend's corset and watched the
silhouette of the dress take shape she stated, "Oh my God! You look just like Scarlett O'Hara!"



As in Gone With the Wind (1939) Scarlett O'Hara? As in "I don't know
nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies Miz Scarlett!" As in "With God as my witness I will never go hungry again!" The problems with this great heroine of the South are too numerous to lay out but I'll try. The character of Scarlett O'Hara reveals the extent to which race and gender interacted and created the social, cultural, and political landscape of the antebellum U.S. South. She is the quintessential southern belle, pampered and spoiled, a beautiful young woman who uses her charm and beauty to entrap young men and get what she wants out of life. In this sense some have looked to her as a pre-feminist model who recognizes the gendered power dynamics of her environment and attempts to flip the script on stupid men to have her own way. On the other hand, she also fully relies on men to protect her, provide for her and take care of her throughout the film. From her father to Rhett Butler to the enslaved Black men who serve her family (before and after Emancipation), men are central to her life and survival.

Second, the figure of Scarlett O'Hara as the essential Southern belle is rooted in a history of plantation violence that is erased in the romantic and nostalgic representations of the antebellum South. Some (white) women might like to look to Scarlett as a feminist
foremother because of her fortitude and strength in the face of adversity, the fall of the South, and the Yankee invasion, but there are some of us who are the daughters of the women who nursed her, raised her, served her. And although Scarlett might not have known it, we are the daughters of those dark women who were sexually abused and raped by the white men that she looked to for protection. Those same white men who felt her white beauty and pure femininity were so valuable that she must be protected from Black men, our fathers, who posed a threat to her virtue. We are the daughters of Black men, swinging from Southern trees, that strange fruit Billie Holiday sang about, sacrificed on the altar of the Great Southern Dream. We remember the plantation, too, and our memories are quite different. In order to embrace Scarlett O'Hara, we must forget all that we know about the antebellum and postbellum South. White people may have the luxury of amnesia but for Black folks and other people of color that sort of memory loss is suicide.

Is this what young white women in the 21st century aspire to become? Do they still want to be Miss Scarlett? What does it mean that the ultimate standard of white beauty and femininity continues to be that of the Southern belle, living in the lap of plantation luxury, oblivious to the violence that makes her pampered existence possible while simultaneously entrapping her in a world of white patriarchal control? It seems to me that white women if they are to become truly a part of the struggle for justice (be it gender, racial, economic, or environmental justice) must begin to find and embrace new models.

A short detour, however, back to our original story. When I heard the young woman's friend tell her that she looked like Scarlett O'Hara, I nearly stopped breathing. In my mind, if this conversation followed its logical conclusion there was only one place it could go. And it did.

Laughing, another friend responded "Yeah, but she had servants," followed by more laughter. Finally, the mother states, "Yeah, except they were slaves, but, well, you know..." she began to trail off uncomfortably, as the three friend twittered and giggled nervously. Perhaps they looked over to the right and noticed the two dark-skinned Black women, my mother and myself, standing there, the descendants of enslaved Africans and suddenly became aware of their own whiteness. That's my optimistic reading, it's more likely that they saw our black bodies and just didn't want to make a scene. The paradox of the post-Civil Rights Era, since outright bigotry is beyond the pale now, white folks don't stop being racist, they just become more polite about it. Another fine example of good ol' fashioned Southern Hospitality.

This incident reminded me how exhausting patriarchy and white supremacy are for me. I don't wake up in the morning looking for this stuff, mostly I'd just like to live and enjoy my life like every other human being on this planet wants to. As I stood there in my wedding gown, I should have been thinking about how excited I was to be jumping the broom with my partner, a radical man that I adore. Instead I was churning critical analysis as the seamstress showed my mom how to handle the bustle. Feeling like Black folks and women of color are the only people who ever have to work about race or gender is exhausting. The burden of memory is heavy and if we are ever to set this world right, it is time for others to take up their own cross and understand the memory of racial terror, sexual violence, slavery, and white supremacy that provides the foundation for the cultural fantasies that they hold dear. For white folks who don't understand why Black people are still so pissed about race or Black women can never seem to shake the effects of patriarchal white supremacy, ask Scarlett. I suspect she knows quite a bit more about it than she ever really let on.

Postscript: And since my wedding dress was the source for this blog, I have to wonder why is it that so many tired and messed up cultural scripts get reproduced in the wedding/bridal industry. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that I would look and feel like a queen or princess on my wedding day, I'd be suffocated by all the newly acquired cash. Why do these wedding businesses capitalize on the most racist and patriarchal fantasies -- I can assure every little girl does not want to be a princess, a Southern belle or anything else on their wedding day. I had not spent my whole life dreaming about getting married or getting to dress up like a princess...but that reflection is for another blog...maybe.