BIPOC and what it must be like for Black Americans and indigenous people

Listening to solid news coverage about the struggles of immigrants and refugees, I was struck today about how disheartening, depressing, and even traumatizing it might be for Black people (and, now that I’ve been thinking about it, for indigenous people in the US) to have excellent passionate and committed activism and news coverage about the current issues facing immigrants and refugees. Even if Black and/or indigenous people fully support the rights and causes of immigrants and refugees, I can’t help but wonder (and I suspect google would bear this out) if Black and indigenous people might feel once again as if they don’t count or are invisible to the “allies.”

What I mean is this: Black people in America (and indigenous people here) have been terrorized and brutalized for hundreds of years, but they’ve barely made the news. Or, if the issues they face make the news it’s either covered from a white supremacist perspective or it only flashes in and out of the public eye.

Later this morning I saw on twitter an acronym I didn’t recognize: “BIPOC.” Instead of asking the tweeting person what it meant (they are an indigenous rights activist in Canada, I think? and I’m sure are bombarded by white people asking them to explain things) I googled it. It means “Black, indigenous, and people of color.” From what I’ve read, it’s used to help center discussions and work related to racism on people who tend to be marginalized when the term POC is used. For example, POC can refer to anyone who has Black or brown skin (or who identifies as a person of color). But, in general, Black Americans have enormously different histories than do those people who have come here voluntarily.

These days, as I’m hearing about the important good work being done for our neighbors who don’t have documentation stating they are legally allowed to live here, every news story I hear or read I think about how many stories about Black people being arrested and jailed for jaywalking or being systematically shut out of every single institution in the country. At this point, I’m not doing much more than thinking about it, but as I was noticing it, I felt like I wanted to share it.

As always, these notes are quickly written and are by their nature not inclusive of all aspects of these complicated issues. But, I’d rather say something than nothing at all when I’m in a place where it’s appropriate for me to speak/write. (For example, writing on my own blog is an appropriate place for me to take up space.)

working for change is dangerous for people of color, they should be paid

This past weekend, Shay Stewart-Bouley (aka “Black Girl In Maine“) was co-facilitating a discussion about cross-racial communication with her colleague and friend, Debbie Irving. A white man arrived at the event with the intention of stirring things up, believing his point would not be well-received. You can read more about the event, and what happened, here, and about Shay’s response here. The fact is, every time Shay speaks out about racism, she is putting herself in harm’s way. This is not an exaggeration. It’s not just uncomfortable work, it’s dangerous. She gets death threats regularly.

When I saw some news coverage of this hostile man’s disruption at what was meant to be an honest dialogue about improving communication, I was furious. I wrote a letter to the editor (you can read that here) because the piece, as Shay said, shares all kinds of thoughts the hostile white man had and the reporter didn’t even interview Shay to get her take on it. She is the one who was put in a position where she didn’t feel safe (based on life experience she had reason to know the man might snap at any time), but the reporter did not tell the story from her point of view.

I’m writing this post to remind my white readers, my white friends and peers, that there’s a lot we can do to make our country a better place to live for people of color. One simple thing we can do is to contribute financially to the work done by people of color like Shay (and the writers she pays) who not only share their ideas, their life experiences, but they also risk their physical and mental health if they openly work against racism.

post-concussion syndrome recovery update

I’m feeling especially frustrated right now. See, I love going to New York City. One of my favorite things in the world is to walk around Manhattan without a plan, go to a museum or two, and wander.

I’ve been feeling significantly better lately. I can cook dinner even when my eight year old wants to talk to me. My 14 year old can listen to music on the radio while I’m driving. These are big deal improvements.

But as I plan a trip to the city, I realize I still need to restrict my activities because of the concussion recovery. It’s so frustrating.

Scanning with my eyes is still very tiring. Multi-tasking is still not second nature like it was before. Something that before would have been simple, like taking a bus from my uncle’s place into the city, feels daunting. I could do it, but it would be difficult and very tiring. Maybe it would be worth it? Or maybe I’d be better off waiting until I’ve gotten even farther along in my recovery.

The crash happened in June. It’s been a long time. I thought I might be done by now. As I said, I’m much better. But I still don’t have my life back. It’s tempting to focus on how powerless I am here (I can’t speed up the recovery), but the occupational/physical/speech therapists all helped me (and still help me) remember that I’m much better than I was before.

I’ve started a new activity in speech therapy that is focused on building multitasking skills. I tried it on Wednesday and it felt like I was lifting weights with my brain. I have high hopes that this tool will help a lot.

I’ll keep my trip to NY really simple. I’m grateful I feel up to traveling at all.

post script to yesterday’s post about misogyny on twitter

(Original post here.)

On Tuesday, I blocked the man on twitter who sent the ugly reply to me. Today, he found a tweet I sent to a friend where I told her I felt uncomfortable (even though I know what he did isn’t my fault). He replied to that tweet using another account I didn’t know he had (so I hadn’t blocked it).

Moments ago, I considered posting copies of today’s tweets, too. At first I wasn’t going to, but after consideration, I will. Here’s my thought process:

My first post was meant to be information for men who want to better understand what it’s like being a woman in this hostile and misogynistic world.

When I considered sharing them, I immediately thought about how many people will find fault with me — I’m trying to get attention, I’m tarnishing the name of a good man, I’m [insert bad stuff about me], whatever it is. I’m the problem.

I also realized I was a little bit afraid. What if he turned violent?

I’m not suggesting this man is likely to be violent. I don’t know him. I can’t possibly know whether or not he’s that kind of man.

But, the fact is, it’s a possibility. Maybe he’s someone who’s on the edge and my sharing his tweets will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Again, I’m not saying this is the case. But, as a woman in this world, it’s something I need to consider. This fact alone made me determined not to be quiet about it. Stay quiet because he might hurt me? That’s how it is all over the place and I want it to be different. I’m going to behave differently.

Am I kicking the beehive just because I want to make this guy angry? Abso-fucking-lutely not. I would prefer to have nothing to do with him. I’m sharing these tweets, and the link to his lengthy reply to my post, so any of you who don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman in this hostile and misogynistic world might better understand what happens when we tell people about the garbage we deal with everyday.

First, there’s my tweet to my friend. Then the man replies twice to that tweet (from an account I’ve never seen before). I tell him I think this means he doesn’t have personal boundaries. I then tweeted that I had taken images of the tweets and I was going to block him.

Then, I tweeted the screen shots. Tonight, I’m sharing the tweets here because most people I know don’t use twitter and readers of this blog might be interested in what happened next.

Unless something really dramatic happens, I won’t post about this again. I don’t want drag this on. I suspect I’ll hear from him again, but if I’m wrong I’ll be delighted.

hostile, misogynistic everyday life

I know a lot of good men who, despite their best efforts, don’t really understand what it’s like to be a woman when it comes to personal safety. And, while I generally move through life assuming the best of people, in most respects, I also know (based on life experience) I need to be on guard when it comes to men.

On twitter today I experienced a solid example of how the littlest things can turn upsetting when it comes to interacting with men. It’s also an example of an exchange that could have many other explanations that don’t include the potential for violence. Therefore, it’s a good example of the kinds of everyday interactions women face all the time, at every turn, where we need to make the calculation, if I respond this way, will they get angry (which, offline, could lead to violence) enough that it will be scary? or, if I respond this other way, will it be worse?

Here are the series of exchanges.

This man followed me on twitter a while ago. I followed him back for a while, even though it seemed from his tweets we probably didn’t have a lot in common. I enjoy interacting with people who have different points of view.

Our interactions were cordial, even kind.

Should I “heart” the tweet, indicating I saw it? Sure. I think I even replied with a thank you, or something like that.

Then, a few days ago, there was this exchange:

The “fishnetspreferred” hashtag made me uncomfortable. But, y’know, it’s twitter, the wide-open Internet and we’re all adults here. At this point I start weighing my potential responses, if I don’t “heart” the tweet, will he take it badly? (too many men would.) If I heart it will that only encourage him to move farther along in that direction? In my experience that’d be pretty likely, so, no, I decided not to heart the tweet. I also decided to stop following him, taking the chance of sending a quiet message that, no, I didn’t like the tweet.

I didn’t spend many minutes on this decision, but I did have to think about it and decide which of the possible outcomes would be least annoying (or, in the worst case scenario, least scary or unsafe).

That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? So, his joke kinda fell flat because I didn’t heart it, who really cares? (I also thought, maybe he’ll just think I never saw it and it really won’t be an issue, or maybe, if I’m really lucky, he just won’t care…)

Then, today, I got another tweet from him. I want to say in advance that I’m fully aware the change in tone could be entirely unrelated to my not hearting his “flirtatious” (?) tweet. But I also want to say that it has been this 48 year old woman’s experience that men can get hostile really quickly when their advances are rebuffed. So, take this next tweet as you will:

If he hadn’t had that hostile first line, I think it could have been an interesting discussion. But, no, the hostility and misogyny of the tweet was clear.  I tweeted two responses. One, that I never called her stupid. And, two, that I was going to block him because his anger made me feel unsafe.

I’ll say again that I recognize there are all kinds of ways of reading this series of exchanges. But, in my experience (and that counts beyond just something “anecdotal” because I know I’m not alone in my experiences), this kind of escalation into hostility is typical if I don’t smile or laugh along with jokes that make me uncomfortable. (And if I smile or laugh, they’ll continue and get worse.)

I’m sharing this in the hopes that some men I know might continue learning how tricky it is being a woman out there in the world. If we women dare not smile and “encourage,” we end up being called “an unholy, judgmental snatch” (the choice of language for his insult is another indication about his lack of respect for women).