"You could be forgiven for believing that the fedora just materialized on a dude’s head one day, perhaps after he successfully inserted 12 separate ‘get me a sandwich’ jokes into a single piece of My Little Pony erotic fan fiction. But the hat’s real origin…
We require just a little order to protect us from the chaos. Nothing is more distressing than a thought that escapes itself, than ideas that fly off, that disappear hardly formed, already eroded by forgetfulness or precipitated into others that we no longer master. These are infinite variabilities, the appearing and disappearing of which coincide. They are infinite speeds that blend into the immobility of the colourless and silent nothingness they traverse, without nature or thought. This is the instant of which we do not know whether it is too long or too short for time. We receive sudden jolts that beat like arteries. We constantly lose our ideas. That is why we want to hang on to fixed opinions so much. We ask only that our ideas are linked together according to a minimum of constant rules. All that the association of ideas has ever meant is providing us with these protective rules – resemblance, contiguity, causality – which enable us to put some order into ideas, preventing our “fantasy” (delirium, madness) from crossing the universe in an instant, producing winged horses and dragons breathing fire.
If you notice, all the other toys are aware that Buzz Lightyear is not in fact a Space Ranger, but nonetheless the belief still functions. All of the toys are cynically aware, for example, that Buzz Lightyear is “falling with style” and so on, but they render this from a question of the Real to a vulgar concern for Woody’s jealousy. The perversity of the situation is thus that the fictional entity of Star Command has the very real political consequence of Woody’s exile.
“…the definition of Chipster is located between an existence that vacillates between US and Mexican culture. Upon such revelation, one immediately wonders what, then, is the definition of Chican@? Chican@ isn’t the only term to describe the hybridity of US and Mexican culture– one can point to pocho and, the obvious term, Mexican-American. Nevertheless, rather than a benevolent attempt to create a trendy (?) identity, my point is to argue that Chipster rests on an assimilationist paradigm that seeks to reconstruct what is known as Chican@ identity– political struggle, intellectual consciousness, activism, social change, and movement-building – into a consumer-centric identity aspiring towards whiteness and upward class mobility.”—On the Chipster Question (via thenoobyorker)
“You deserve an eternity in hell,” Onondaga County Supreme Court judge Kevin Mulroy told me from his bench as I stood before him for sentencing on July 10, 1987. Apparently he had the idea that God was not the only one justified to make such judgment calls.
Judge Mulroy wanted to “pump six buck’s worth of electricity into [my] body,” he also said, though I suggest that it wouldn’t have taken six cent’s worth to get me good and dead. He must have wanted to reduce me and The Chair to a pile of ashes. My “friend” Governor Mario Cuomo wouldn’t allow him to do that, though, the judge went on, bemoaning New York State’s lack of a death statute due to the then-Governor’s repeated vetoes of death penalty bills that had been approved by the state legislature. Governor Cuomo’s publicly expressed dudgeon over being called a friend of mine by Judge Mulroy was understandable, given the crimes that I had just been convicted of committing. I didn’t care much for him either, truth be told. He built too many new prisons in my opinion, and cut academic and vocational programs in the prisons already standing.
I know that Judge Mulroy was not nearly alone in wanting to see me executed for the crime I committed when I shot two Onondaga County sheriff’s deputies inside the Town of Dewitt courtroom during a failed escape attempt, killing one and critically wounding the other. There were many people in the Syracuse area who shared his sentiments, to be sure. I read the hateful letters to the editor printed in the local newspapers; I could even feel the anger of the people when I’d go to court, so palpable was it. Even by the standards of my own belief system, such as it was back then, I deserved to die for what I had done. I took the life of a man without just cause, committing an act so monumentally wrong that I could not have argued that it was unfair had I been required to pay with my own life.
What nobody knew or suspected back then, not even I, on that very day I would begin suffering a punishment that I am convinced beyond all doubt is far worse than any death sentence could possibly have been. On July 10, 2012, I finished my 25th consecutive year in solitary confinement, where at the time of this writing I remain. Though it is true that I’ve never died and so don’t know exactly what the experience would entail, for the life of me I cannot fathom how dying any death could be harder or more terrible than living through all that I have been forced to endure for the last quarter-century.
Prisoners call it The Box. Prison authorities have euphemistically dubbed it the Special Housing Unit, or SHU (pronounced “shoe”) for short. In society it is known as solitary confinement. It is 23-hour a day lockdown in a cell smaller than some closets I’ve seen, with one hour allotted to “recreation” consisting of placement in a concrete enclosed yard by oneself or, in some prisons, a cage made of steel bars. There is nothing in a SHU yard but air: no TV, no balls to bounce, no games to play, no other inmates, nothing. There is very little allowed in a SHU cell, also. Three sets of plain white underwear, one pair of green pants, one green short-sleeved button-up shirt, one green sweatshirt, ten books or magazines total, twenty pictures of the people you love, writing supplies, a bar of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, one deodorant stick but no shampoo, and that’s about it. No clothes of your own, only prison-made. No food from commissary or packages, only three unappetizing meals a day handed to you through a narrow slot in your cell door. No phone calls, no TV, no luxury items at all. You get a set of cheap headphones to use, and you can pick between the two or three (depending on which prison you’re in) jacks in the cell wall to plug into. You can listen to a TV station in one jack, and use your imagination while trying to figure out what is going on when the music indicates drama but the dialogue doesn’t suffice to tell you anything. Or you can listen to some music, but you’re out of luck if you’re a rock-n-roll fan and find only rap is playing.
Your options in what to do to occupy your time in SHU are scant, but there will be boredom aplenty. You probably think that you understand boredom, know its feel, but really you don’t. What you call boredom would seem a whirlwind of activity to me, choices so many that I’d likely be befuddled in trying to pick one over all the others. You could turn on a TV and watch a movie or some other show; I haven’t seen a TV since the 1980s. You could go for a walk in the neighborhood; I can’t walk more than a few feet in any direction before I run into a concrete wall or steel bars. You could pick up your phone and call a friend; I don’t know if I’d be able to remember how to make a collect call or even if the process is still the same, so many years it’s been since I’ve used a telephone. Play with your dog or cat and experience their love, or watch your fish in their aquarium; the only creatures I see daily are the mice and cockroaches that infect the unit, and they’re not very lovable and nothing much to look at. There is a pretty good list of options available to you, if you think about it, many things that you could do even when you believe you are so bored. You take them for granted because they are there all the time, but if it were all taken away you’d find yourself missing even the things that right now seem so small and insignificant. Even the smallest stuff can become as large as life when you have had nearly nothing for far too long.
I haven’t been outside in one of the SHU yards in this prison for about four years now. I haven’t seen a tree or blade of grass in all that time, and wouldn’t see these things were I to go back to the yard. In Elmira Correctional Facility, where I am presently imprisoned, the SHU yards are about three or four times as big as my cell. There are twelve SHU yards total, each surrounded by concrete walls, one or two of the walls lined with windows. If you look in the windows you’ll see the same SHU company that you live on, and maybe you’ll get a look at a guy who was locked next to you for months that you’ve talked to every day but had never before gotten a look at. If you look up you’ll find bars and a screen covering the yard, and if you’re lucky maybe you can see a bit of blue sky through the mesh, otherwise it’ll be hard to believe that you’re even outside. If it’s a good day you can walk around the SHU yard in small circles staring ahead with your mind on nothingness, like the nothing you’ve got in that lacuna with you. If it’s a bad day, though, maybe your mind will be filled with remembrances of all you used to have that you haven’t seen now for many years, and you’ll be missing it, feeling the loss, feeling it bad.
Life in the box is about an austere sameness that makes it difficult to tell one day from a thousand others. Nothing much and nothing new ever happen to tell you if it’ a Monday or a Friday, March or September, 1987 or 2012. The world turns, technology advances, and things in the streets change and keep changing all the time. Not so in a solitary confinement unit, however. I’ve never seen a cell phone except in pictures in magazines. I’ve never touched a computer in my life, never been on the Internet and wouldn’t know how to get there if you sat me in front of a computer, turned it on for me, and gave me directions. SHU is a timeless place, and I can honestly say that there is not a single thing I’d see looking around right now that is different from what I saw in Shawangunk Correctional Facility’s box when I first arrived there from Syracuse’s county jail in 1987. Indeed, there is probably nothing different in SHU now than in SHU a hundred years ago, save the headphones. Then and now there were a few books, a few prison-made clothing articles, walls and bars and human beings locked in cages… and misery.
There is always the misery. If you manage to escape it yourself for a time, there will ever be plenty around in others for you to sense; and though you’ll be unable to look into their eyes and see it, you might hear it in the nighttime when tough guys cry not-so-tough tears that are forced out of them by the unrelenting stress and strain that life in SHU is an exercise in.
I’ve read of the studies done regarding the effects of long-term isolation in solitary confinement on inmates, seen how researchers say it can ruin a man’s mind, and I’ve watched with my own eyes the slow descent of sane men into madness—sometimes not so slow. What I’ve never seen the experts write about, though, is what year after year of abject isolation can do to that immaterial part in our middle where hopes survive or die and the spirit resides. So please allow me to speak to you of what I’ve seen and felt during some of the harder times of my twenty-five-year SHU odyssey.
I’ve experienced times so difficult and felt broken and loneliness to such a degree that it seemed to be a physical thing inside so thick it felt like it was choking me, trying to squeeze the sanity from my mind, the spirit from my soul, and the life from my body. I’ve seen and felt hope becoming like a foggy ephemeral thing, hard to get ahold of, even harder to keep ahold of as the years as the years and then decades disappeared while I stayed trapped in the emptiness of the SHU world. I’ve seen minds slipping down the slope of sanity, descending into insanity, and I’ve been terrified that I would end up like the guys around me that have cracked and become nuts. It’s a sad thing to watch a human being go insane before your eyes because he can’t handle the pressure that the box exerts on the mind, but it is sadder still to see the spirit shaken from a soul. And it is more disastrous. Sometimes the prison guards find them hanging and blue; sometimes their necks get broken when they jump from their bed, the sheet tied around the neck that’s also wrapped around the grate covering the light in the ceiling snapping taut with a pop. I’ve seen the spirit leaving men in SHU and have witnessed the results.
The box is a place like no other place on planet Earth. It’s a place where men full of rage can stand at their cell gates fulminating on their neighbor or neighbors, yelling and screaming and speaking some of the filthiest words that could ever come from a human mouth, do it for hours on end, and despite it all never suffer the loss of a single tooth, never get his head knocked clean off his shoulders. You will never hear words more despicable or see mouth wars more insane than what occurs all the time in SHU, not anywhere else in the world, because there would be serious violence before any person could peak so much foulness for so long. In the box the heavy steel bars allow mouths to run with impunity when they could not otherwise do so, while the ambient is one that is sorely conducive to an exceedingly hot sort of anger that seems to press the lips on to ridiculous extremes. Day and night I have been awakened to the sound of the rage being loosed loudly on SHU gates, and I’d be a liar if I said I haven’t at times been one of the madmen doing the yelling.
I have lived for months where the first thing I became aware of upon waking in the morning is the malodorous funk of human feces, tinged with the acrid stench of days-old urine, where I eat my breakfast, lunch, and dinner with that same stink assaulting my senses, and where the last thought I had before falling into unconscious sleep was: “Damn, it smells like shit in here.” I have felt like I was on an island surrounded by vicious sharks, flanked on both sides by mentally ill inmates who would splash their excrement all over their cells, all over the company outside their cells, and even all over themselves. I have went days into weeks that seemed like they’d never end without being able to sleep more than short snatches before I was shocked out of my dreams, and thrown back into a living nightmare, by the screams of sick men who have lost all ability to control themselves, or by the banging of cell bars and walls of these same madmen. I have been so tired when sleep inside was impossible that I went outside into a snowstorm to get some sleep.
The wind blew hard and snowflakes swirled around and around in the small SHU yard at Shawangunk, and I had but one cheap prison-produced coat on and a single set of state clothes beneath. To escape the biting cold I dug into the seven- or eight-foot high mountain of snow that was piled in the center of the yard, the accumulation from inmates shoveling a narrow path to walk along the perimeter. With bare hands gone numb, I dug out a small room in that pile of snow, making myself a sort of igloo. When it was done I crawled inside, rolled onto my back on the snow-covered concrete ground, and almost instantly fell asleep, my bare head pillowed in the snow. I didn’t even have a hat to wear.
An hour or so later I was awakened by the guards come to take me back to the stink and insanity inside: “Blake, rec’s over…” I had gotten an hour’s straight sleep, minus the few minutes it had taken me to dig my igloo. That was more than I had gotten in weeks without being shocked awake by the CA-RACK! of a sneaker being slapped into a plexiglass shield covering the cell of an inmate who had thrown things nasty; or the THUD-THUD-THUD! of an inmate pounding his cell wall, or bars being banged, gates being kicked and rattled, or men screaming like they’re dying and maybe wishing that they were; or to the tirade of an inmate letting loose his pent-up rage on a guard or fellow inmate, sounding every bit the lunatic that too long a time in the mind-breaking confines of the box had caused him to be.
I have been so exhausted physically, mental strength being tested to limits that can cause strong folks to snap, that I have begged God, tough guy I fancy myself, “Please, Lord, make them stop. Please let me get some peace.” As the prayers went ungranted and the insanity around me persisted, I felt my own rage rising above the exhaustion and misery, no longer in a begging mood: “Lord, kill those motherfuckers, why don’t you!” I yelled at the Almighty, my own sanity so close to being gone that it seemed as if I were walking along a precipice and could see down to where I’d be falling, seeing myself shot, sanity a dead thing killed by the fall. I’d be afraid later on, terrified, when I reflected back on how close I had seemed to come to losing my mind, but at that moment all I could do was feel anger of a fiery kind: anger at the maniacs creating the noise and the stink and the madness; anger at my keepers and the real creators of this hell; anger at society for turning a blind eye to the torment and torture going on here that its tax dollars are financing; and perhaps most of all, anger at myself for doing all that I did that never should have been done that put me into the clutches of this beastly prison system to begin with. I would be angry at the world; enraged, actually, so burning hot was what I would be feeling.
I had wet toilet paper stuffed hard into both ears, sock folded up and pressed into my ears, a pillow wrapped around the sides and back of my head covering my ears, and a blanket tied around all that to hold everything in place, lying in bed praying for sleep. But still the noise was incredible, a thunderous cacophony of insanity, sleep impossible. Inmates lost in the throes of lavalike rage firing philippics at one another for even reasons they didn’t know, threatening to kill one another’s mommas, daddies, even the children, too. Nothing is sacred in SHU. It is an environment that is so grossly abnormal, so antithetical to normal human interactions, that it twists the innerds of men all around who for too long dwell there. Their minds, their morals, and their mannerisms get bent badly, ending far off-center. Right becomes whatever and wrong no longer exists. Restraint becomes a burden and is unnecessary with concrete and steel separating everyone, so inmates let it go. Day after day, perhaps year after year, the anger grows, fueled by the pain caused by the conditions till rage is born and burning so hot that it too hurts.
Trying to put into words what is so unlike anything else I know or have ever experienced seems an impossible endeavor, because there is nothing even remotely like it any place else to compare it to, and nothing that will do to you on the inside what so many years in SHU has done to me. All that I am able to articulate about the world of Special Housing Unit and what it is and what it does may seem terrible to you indeed, but the reality of living in this place for a full quarter of a century is yet even more terrible, still. You would have to live it, experience it in all its aspects and the fullness of its days and struggles added up, to really appreciate and understand just how truly terrible this plight of mine has been, and how truly ugly life in the box can be at times, even for just a single day. I spent nine years in Shawangunk’s box, six years in Great Meadow’s, and I’ve been here in Elmira’s SHU for four years now, and through all of this time I have never spent a single day in a Mental Health Unit cell because I attempted or threatened suicide, or for any other reason. I have thought about suicide in times past when the days had become exceedingly difficult to handle, but I’m still here. I’ve had some of my SHU neighbors succumb to the suicidal thoughts, though, choosing death over another day of life in the box. I have never bugged out myself, but I’ve known times that I had come too close. I’ve had neighbors who came to SHU normal men, and I’ve seen them leave broken and not anything resembling normal anymore. I’ve seen guys give up on their dreams and lose all hope in the box, but my own hopes and dreams are still alive and well inside me. The insidious workings of the SHU program have yet to get me stuck on that meandering path to internal destruction that I have seen so many of my neighbors end up on, and perhaps this is a miracle; I’d rather be dead than to lose control of my mind.
Had I known in 1987 that I would spend the next quarter-century in solitary confinement, I would have certainly killed myself. If I took a month to die and spent every minute of it in severe pain, it seems to me that on a balance that fate would still be far easier to endure than the last twenty-five years have been. If I try to imagine what kind of death, even a slow one, would be worse than twenty-five years in the box—and I have tried to imagine it—I can come up with nothing. Set me afire, pummel and bludgeon me, cut me to bits, stab me, shoot me, do what you will in the worst of ways, but none of it could come close to making me feel thing as cumulatively horrifying as what I’ve experienced through my years in solitary. Dying couldn’t take but a short time if you or the State were to kill me; in SHU I have died a thousand internal deaths. The sum of my quarter-century’s worth of suffering has been that bad.
To some judges sitting on high who’ve never done a day in the box, maybe twenty-five years of this isn’t cruel and unusual. To folks who have an insatiable appetite for vengeance against prisoners who have committed terrible crimes, perhaps it doesn’t even matter how cruel or unusual my plight is or isn’t. For people who cannot let go of hate and know not how to forgive, no amount of remorse would matter, no level of contrition would be quite enough, only endless retribution would be right in their eyes. Like Judge Milroy, only an eternity in hell would satisfy them. Given even that in retribution, though, the unforgiving haters wouldn’t be satisfied that hell was hot enough; they’d want the heat turned up. Thankfully these folks are the few, that in the minds of the many, at a point, enough is enough.
No matter what the world would think about things that they cannot imagine in even their worst nightmares, I know that twenty-five years in solitary confinement is utterly and certainly cruel, moreso than death in or by an electric chair, gas chamber, lethal injection, bullet in the head, or even immolation could possibly be. The sum of the suffering caused by any of these quick deaths would be a small thing next to the sum of the suffering that this quarter-century in SHU has brought to bear on me. Solitary confinement for the length of time that I have endured it, even apart from the inhuman conditions that I have too often been made to endure it in, is torture of a terrible kind; and anyone who doesn’t think so surely knows not what to think.
I have served a sentence worse than death.
Share this:”— William Blake, who has been held in solitary confinement for nearly 26 years. Currently he is in administrative segregation at Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum security facility located in south central New York State. In 1987, Blake, then 23 and in county court on a drug charge, murdered one deputy and wounded another in a failed escape attempt. Sentenced to 77 years to life, Blake has no chance of ever leaving prison alive, and almost no chance of ever leaving solitary—-a fate he considers “a sentence worse than death.” (via martyrloserking)
Oppressed peoples and communities can and will only be secure in this country when they are organized to defend themselves against the aggressions of the government and the forces of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation. “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities for Self-Defense”, is the latest contribution of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the Every 36 Hours Campaign that seeks to strengthen organizing initiatives within Black or New Afrikan communities for self-defense, by presenting these initiatives with a comprehensive analytical framework and practical organizing tools to ground and unite them.
As the extrajudicial killing of Kimani Gray and the more than twenty other Black women and men by the police in the first two months of 2013 clearly illustrate, it is imperative that New Afrikan communities get organized and defend ourselves. As the real economy continues to contract, corporations become more vicious and exploitative, our communities are gentrified and displaced, public goods and services continue to be eliminated or privatized, and the national security state continues to grow and become ever more invasive, the attacks on New Afrikan and other oppressed and exploited people are only going to escalate. We must defend ourselves, and we have every right to do so by any means necessary.
“Let Your Motto Be Resistance” draws on the long history of New Afrikan peoples struggle to realize self-determination and defend our persons, our rights and our dignity from the assaults of the oppressive settler-colonial government and the forces of white supremacy. Building on this history “Let Your Motto Be Resistance” provides in summary form a vision of how we can (re)organize our communities from the ground up to defend ourselves and reassert our fundamental human rights to life, dignity, and self-determination.
We have some bad news to report. This morning Daniel was taken into custody by federal marshals and is now at the federal detention center in Brooklyn getting processed.
We are still waiting to hear why this has occurred. Considering his exemplary behavior at the halfway house, approved weekend passes and the full-time job he started as soon as he was released back to the city this is all pretty insane. The Bureau of Prisons has proven to be cruel and vindictive time and time again.
Anyway, what YOU can do right now is write to Daniel and send your love! We don’t know how long he will be here, but there is a good chance it will be until his sentence officially ends on June 5.
Please write to: DANIEL McGOWAN #63794-053 MDC BROOKLYN METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER P.O. BOX 329002 BROOKLYN, NY 11232
sure, his wars killed like over a million people or, idk, is 2 million a crazy possibility? whatever, as cheney said “who cares?”
but at least we felt that fake solidarity on the left, i mean, it was all a show, it was meaningless, didnt achieve anything, compared to occupy those protests were basically a theater, and in fact they were, we actually just played our part in a script that further justified preemptive intervention semi-unilaterally because: HEY! even we are conflicted about this! look at all those protesters! america isnt some crazy jingo backwater we really do want to spread democracy and human rights we are just conflicted on how to do it LOOK we are two opposing sides finding a democratic compromise which is absolutely just: fucking wrecking these two relatively (compared to us) defenseless nations cuz they’ll greet us as liberators cuz there are americans everywhere cuz that is what america was founded on.
(1. liberals can’t argue about democracy, that is why america was/is complicit - fully, tacitly, or implicitly or w/e etc. - in the war on terror. ALL AMERICANS. 2. we armed saddam and what became-the-taliban in the 70s/80s so how can congress say no when they have the receipts for the weapons that we are attacking these nations for possessing? John Kerry knew what was up, that’s why he couldn’t be president. McCain tried to hide how much he knew, which was his issue. Romney decided to tell the truth FOR ONCE IN HIS LIFE and dropped the 47% thing… if only he had lied and said like 23%! then everyone could have imagined that someone else was the “leech” on society…eh.)
butanyways, it felt good to have a taste of that solidarity that we can usually only read about in the history books. occupy offered up god dammn bucket fulls of it, but only for a brief time, yet more democratically than any other ‘institution’, although you were usually pretty sore and tired on the other end of it/when you got out, but the memory of that brief trace of existence remains and persists: a cut on the roof of your mouth that won’t go away because you continue to probe and examine it’s curves with your tongue. Stop tasting the cut and start cutting away, we all know it tastes good, lets just do it.
\ While they bicker about pragmatism and being “realistic,” i savor the memory of when all this was trees tents.
FTP, don’t fuck with the oakland commune, and good day.
The internet is ruining my life. If I am to believe what the internet tells me, as a queer man I should want to be married. Marriage will save me from myself. It will complete me. Once my love is recognized by the State, I may visit my husband in a hospital. I may guarantee the seamless inheritance of assets. Marriage, I am told, is hygienic and prevents disease. And though some states may not want me to adopt children, many lovely people would support my wish to do so, because the children are our future. If I believe what I read on the Huffington Post Gay Voices, my life will have looked something like this: I was born among a foreign people. They didn’t understand me, and so I was sent to school to be bullied. I would come home in tears and think about suicide, but after seeing an earnest video I would learn “It gets better,” and despite the confusion of that indefinite pronoun, I understand that I should find my way to a city where I will discover my LGBTQetc. ethnicity. Gay Pride, brought to you by Budweiser and Absolut Vodka will by my new favorite holiday. If I wanted to join the military and help keep the terrorists from winning, and make a touching video that will go viral in which I come out to my father while looking totally adorable, I can do that too and fear no repercussions. Welcome to progress!
If I am to believe what I see on Bravo TV, we homos are best when we are renovating, revising, making it work, or critiquing a dress made of garbage bags and birdseed or fashioning the seamless tastefulness of Martha’s farm—our Witch Queen who has got rid of all the men but us. We are told we should pity poor Anderson Cooper when his impossibly hot boyfriend is photographed making out with another dude in the park. Poor Andy! We know to lash out at Azealea Banks when she calls Perez Hilton (one of us!!) a “messy faggot,” even though he is, you know, a messy faggot. And we reserve special venom for Jodie Foster, locked for years in Hollywood’s panic room, publicly declaring herself in a speech as incoherent as Nell—TAY INA WEEN! She did it wrong! Fuck her!!
Is this who we are and want to be? If so I, for one, am no longer gay. The word has emasculated us long enough. I will not be a handmaid, will not renovate, will not help you mate with your dowdy spouse. My place is in the margin—at the edges of things—where the grass (beautiful uncut hair of graves) gets long and the shadows afford us some privacy. I do not want your army, want no one in jail for calling me a faggot (did I just commit a hate crime when I said “faggot?”) Being a homo is not an ethnicity. I will explore my gay shame. If I could I would send us back to time when we fought for liberation, not for privileges meted out to the most privileged among us. I will not marry. I will not come out. I was not born this way, but built my queerness like a soul. I am no longer gay.
It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bike commuters” and had only pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional” I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc. … ie. the black and Hispanic and Asian people… and she mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of biking” then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably have no choice” –
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor– but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something.
”—comment left on the Racialious blog post “Sustainable Food & Privilege: Why is Green always White (and Male and Upper-Class)” (via sister-bell)
1. Parks had been thrown off the bus a decade earlier by the same bus driver — for refusing to pay in the front and go around to the back to board. She had avoided that driver’s bus for twelve years because she knew well the risks of angering drivers, all of whom were white and carried guns. Her own mother had been threatened with physical violence by a bus driver, in front of Parks who was a child at the time. Parks’ neighbor had been killed for his bus stand, and teenage protester Claudette Colvin, among others, had recently been badly manhandled by the police.
2. Parks was a lifelong believer in self-defense. Malcolm X was her personal hero. Her family kept a gun in the house, including during the boycott, because of the daily terror of white violence. As a child, when pushed by a white boy, she pushed back. His mother threatened to kill her, but Parks stood her ground. Another time, she held a brick up to a white bully, daring him to follow through on his threat to hit her. He went away. When the Klu Klux Klan went on rampages through her childhood town, Pine Level, Ala., her grandfather would sit on the porch all night with his rifle. Rosa stayed awake some nights, keeping vigil with him.
3. Her husband was her political partner. Parks said Raymond was “the first real activist I ever met.” Initially she wasn’t romantically interested because Raymond was more light-skinned than she preferred, but she became impressed with his boldness and “that he refused to be intimidated by white people.” When they met he was working to free the nine Scottsboro boys and she joined these efforts after they were married. At Raymond’s urging, Parks, who had to drop out in the eleventh grade to care for her sick grandmother, returned to high school and got her diploma. Raymond’s input was crucial to Parks’ political development and their partnership sustained her political work over many decades.
4. Many of Parks’ ancestors were Indians. She noted this to a friend who was surprised when in private Parks removed her hairpins and revealed thick braids of wavy hair that fell below her waist. Her husband, she said, liked her hair long and she kept it that way for many years after his death, although she never wore it down in public. Aware of the racial politics of hair and appearance, she tucked it away in a series of braids and buns — maintaining a clear division between her public presentation and private person.
5. Parks’ arrest had grave consequences for her family’s health and economic well-being. After her arrest, Parks was continually threatened, such that her mother talked for hours on the phone to keep the line busy from constant death threats. Parks and her husband lost their jobs after her stand and didn’t find full employment for nearly ten years. Even as she made fundraising appearances across the country, Parks and her family were at times nearly destitute. She developed painful stomach ulcers and a heart condition, and suffered from chronic insomnia. Raymond, unnerved by the relentless harassment and death threats, began drinking heavily and suffered two nervous breakdowns. The black press, culminating in JET magazine’s July 1960 story on “the bus boycott’s forgotten woman,” exposed the depth of Parks’ financial need, leading civil rights groups to finally provide some assistance.
6. Parks spent more than half of her life in the North. The Parks family had to leave Montgomery eight months after the boycott ended. She lived for most of that time in Detroit in the heart of the ghetto, just a mile from the epicenter of the 1967 Detroit riot. There, she spent nearly five decades organizing and protesting racial inequality in “the promised land that wasn’t.”
7. In 1965 Parks got her first paid political position, after over two decades of political work. After volunteering for Congressman John Conyers’s long shot political campaign, Parks helped secure his primary victory by convincing Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Detroit on Conyers’s behalf. He later hired her to work with constituents as an administrative assistant in his Detroit office. For the first time since her bus stand, Parks finally had a salary, access to health insurance, and a pension — and the restoration of dignity that a formal paid position allowed.
8. Parks was far more radical than has been understood. She worked alongside the Black Power movement, particularly around issues such as reparations, black history, anti-police brutality, freedom for black political prisoners, independent black political power, and economic justice. She attended the Black Political Convention in Gary and the Black Power conference in Philadelphia. She journeyed to Lowndes County, Alabama to support the movement there, spoke at the Poor People’s Campaign, helped organize support committees on behalf of black political prisoners such as the Wilmington 10 and Imari Obadele of the Republic of New Africa, and paid a visit of support to the Black Panther school in Oakland, CA.
9. Parks was an internationalist. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s, a member of The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and a supporter of the Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit and the Jeannette Rankin Brigade protest in D.C. In the 1980s, she protested apartheid and U.S. complicity, joining a picket outside the South African embassy and opposed U.S. policy in Central America. Eight days after 9/11, she joined other activists in a letter calling on the United States to work with the international community and no retaliation or war.
10. Parks was a lifelong activist and a hero to many, including Nelson Mandela. After his release from prison, he told her, “You sustained me while I was in prison all those years.”
This is so great to know and I knew absolutely none of it before reading this post. Should be taught in schools.
This is so much more satisfying than the “official” story.
When I was 16, I had a fake I.D. and decided to go to a gay bar by myself because some friends bailed on me. While there, an older gentleman bought me a drink. He wasn’t a creeper, and he definitely wasn’t unattractive. I accepted the drink and began talking to him. No big deal. As the hour progressed, I felt myself feeling strange. I mentioned that I felt like I had a headache, and this guy helped guide me out of the bar. As we were walking down the street, the thought of, ‘Oh god, he’s drugged me, I’m going to die’ came to my head. I tried to get away, but I was so drugged up that I could barely walk, let alone speak. It also didn’t help that I had really large ‘goth’ platform shoes because I was going through a phase. Anyway, this guy brought me to his suv and began undressing me. As a final act of defiance, I hit him over the head with my platform shoe. He then punched me, and I remember thinking, ‘Why don’t they ever give workshops to gay guys about being victims of rape too?’ While I was as careful as possible, I never saw the guy slip something in the drink. I even watched the bar tender make the drink. Anyway, I lied there completely paralyzed while this pervert was lubing up. I locked eyes with his for a moment, and that’s when it happened. A very large and angry drag queen opened the door of the vehicle and beat the shit out of my attempted rapist. She and her other drag friends helped dress and care for me while the police arrived. I was saved by a group of guardian drag queens. They were basically the modern day ‘angels from heaven.’
“True gender equality is actually perceived as inequality. A group that is made up of 50% women is perceived as being mostly women. A situation that is perfectly equal between men and women is perceived as being biased in favor of women.
And if you don’t believe me, you’ve never been a married woman who kept her family name. I have had students hold that up as proof of my “sexism.”
My own brother told me that he could never marry a woman who kept her name because “everyone would know who ruled that relationship.” Perfect equality – my husband keeps his name and I keep mine – is held as a statement of superiority on my part.”—
Also the study where they had women and men talking in a discussion and when women spoke around 30% of the time, men perceived them as dominating the discussion. They didn’t consider it “equal” until something like 5-10% of women talking. (via dumbthingswhitepplsay)
Voila. A beautiful example of why fighting for equality becomes a gross exaggeration in the eyes of the oppressors. (via curiouslycool)