back in attack

15.November.08

Hey y’all! I know. It has been more than a week. I’m a terrible blogger….I’m sorry. I’ve been busy and my craptastical laptop has been at circuit city (who happened to go bankrupt the day after I dropped my computer off there…nice) getting a diagnostic test. I just picked it up last night; thanks to some god it still starts up and works, (enough to deal with), but the Firedog guy said there was a “hard drive failure”. I love how the people there talk to me like I don’t know anything about computers…anyhoo, long story short I am currently on Laura’s computer (she had a great dinner party last night and I ended up passing out here) and I have some ish to post.

So first, one of my facebook friends posted on of her friend’s pictures that he received from election night of the Obama crew. here are some of my faves:

Barack and Michelles mother

Barack and Michelle's mother

Barack and Malia

Barack and Malia

creepy grandpa joe? haha. just kidding. precious.

creepy grandpa joe? haha. just kidding. precious.

Mother and Daughters

Mother and Daughters

yes, that light is god

yes, that light is god

Ok. Now onto the mess that is Proposition 8. If you haven’t heard about THIS, then you have been living under a rock and don’t know that we have a black president; because the two have been HUGE in the news.

I found a group on facebook that pretty much sums up my views on this whole situation, regarding the reports on who voted for Prop 8 and why. These two guys created a blog about it…here is the group description:

Facebook Group: I Still Think Marriage is the Wrong Goal

A lot of stories are circulating right now claiming that Black and Latino voters are to blame for Prop 8 passing. Beneath this claim is an uninterrogated idea that people of color are “more homophobic” than white people. Such an idea equates gayness with whiteness and erases the lives of LGBT people of color. It also erases and marginalizes the enduring radical work of LGBT people of color organizing that has prioritized the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Current conversations about Prop 8 hide how the same-sex marriage battle has been part of a conservative gay politics that de-prioritizes people of color, poor people, trans people, women, immigrants, prisoners and people with disabilities. Why isn’t Prop 8’s passage framed as evidence of the mainstream gay agenda’s failure to ally with people of color on issues that are central to racial and economic justice in the US?

Let’s remember the politics of marriage itself. The simplistic formula that claims “you’re either pro-marriage or against equality” makes us forget that all forms of marriage perpetuate gender, racial and economic inequality. It mistakenly assumes that support for marriage is the only good measure of support for LGBT communities. This political moment calls for anti-homophobic politics that centralize anti-racism and anti-poverty. Marriage is a coercive state structure that perpetuates racism and sexism through forced gender and family norms. Right wing pro-marriage rhetoric has targeted families of color and poor families, supported a violent welfare and child protection system, vilified single parents and women, and marginalized queer families of all kinds. Expanding marriage to include a narrow band of same-sex couples only strengthens that system of marginalization and supports the idea that the state should pick which types of families to reward and recognize and which to punish and endanger.

We still demand a queer political agenda that centralizes the experiences of prisoners, poor people, immigrants, trans people, and people with disabilities. We reject a gay agenda that pours millions of dollars into campaigns for access to oppressive institutions for a few that stand to benefit.

We’re being told marriage is the way to solve gay people’s problems with health care access, immigration, child custody, and symbolic equality. It doesn’t solve these problems, and there are real campaigns and struggles that would and could approach these problems for everyone, not just for a privileged few. Let’s take the energy and money being put into gay marriage and put it toward real change: opposing the War on Terror and all forms of endless war; supporting queer prisoners and building a movement to end imprisonment; organizing against police profiling and brutality in our communities; fighting attacks on welfare, public housing and Medicaid; fighting for universal health care that is trans and reproductive healthcare inclusive; fighting to tax wealth not workers; fighting for a world in which no one is “illegal.”

One of the group members also posted an interesting blog post from Frank Leon Roberts and his view on “marriage“:

Clarifying my position on “marriage.”

If We Have To Take Tomorrow
(Edited by Frank Leon Roberts and Marvin K. White,
Institute for Gay Men’s Health, 2006)

Several years ago, while I was still a young-little lad, Bay Area poet Marvin K. White (a former member of the 1980s performance troupe PoMo Afro Homos) and I co-edited a small collection of essays entitled “If We Have To Take Tomorrow (HIV, Black Men, and Same Sex Desire).” The book was published by AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the Black AIDS Institute. It featured original essays by E. Patrick Johnson, Tim’m West, David Malebranche, Kenyon Farrow, Thomas Glave, Rev. Osagyfeo Uhuru Sekou and many others.

The book has since fallen out of print, but hopefully it will finally be available through amazon.com later this year. You can download a free copy in PDF format by visiting the following websites: AIDS Project Los Angeles or the Black AIDS Institute. Even though if I could do it again I would do a lot of things differently, I think the collection is still worth taking a look at.

In the book I contributed a brief essay entitled “Why I Hate Gay Marriage, or, Notes on Queering Black Gay and Lesbian Politics.” In light of some of the mail that I’ve been receiving in response my recent post on Duanna Johnson, I’m encouraging folks to read If We Have To Take Tomorrow, where you can get a fuller sense of my position on the same-sex marriage debate . Though my essay in that book is tinged in somewhat of a youthful naivety, most of my positions remain fundamentally unchanged.

Some folks have accused me of being insensitive to those queer people who actually want to get married. That was and is not my fundamental intention. Let me be clear about something. I have long said that I am not necessarily opposed to gay people getting married as much as I am opposed to the gay marriage movement. I should explain that distinction.

Though it may wreak of a liberal humanism, I do believe that people should be allowed to marry whomever they want. Nonetheless, I believe in an obliteration of “marriage” as a legal institution. I believe that marriage should remain a religious or symbolic exercise for those that wish to engage in it (sort of like a Bar Mitzvah), but should never form the basis by which critical legal rights are distributed.

I continue to find myself longing for a more sophisticated and democratic queer agenda that would advocate for more widespread redistributions of the legal rights associated with marriage, rather than simply a reinscription of the legitimacy of this troubled institution. The problem with “gay marriage” is that it never critiques or challenges the assumption that “marriage” must be a state-sponsored legal institution rather than simply a religious or symbolic exercise.

Too often marriage allows for an unfair legal path to healthcare, insurance, or citizenship rights that single people (or couples that choose to remain unmarried) do not have equal access to. Unfortunately “Gay Marriage” discourses in no way challenge these fundamental legal inequities. It simply asks to “make more room at the table” rather than attempt to burn the table down.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Time does not allow me to get into a more substantive debate about the gay marriage movement. Luckily there are plenty of other, far more knowledgeable, queer scholars who have critically addressed this issue in recent years. I would encourage folks to review the important work of historian Lisa Duggan, among others.

Good stuff. Now onto some more sad but still very relevant news. Another facebook friend of mine posted this post from AngryBrownButch about Duanna Johnson, a trans woman from Memphis, TN, who was brutally beaten by a Memphis cop in February 2008 and who was recently murdered:

A Google News search for “Duanna Johnson” yields 50 results, many syndicated and therefore redundant. Much of the coverage is tainted by the transphobia and victim-blaming that tends to inflect media coverage of violence against trans women of color (like this Associated Press article). A search for “Proposition 8″? 18,085 results – 354.6 times more than for Duanna Johnson.

The skew in the blogosphere is less severe but still pronounced. A Google BlogSearch for Duanna Johnson: 2,300 results. For Prop 8? 240,839, or 100 times more.

Don’t think I’m being deliberately unrealistic or dismissive here. I don’t deny that the passage of Proposition 8 is harmful to the LGBT community and bears much anger, attention, and agitation. I understand the difference in magnitude of the number lives directly affected by the passage of Proposition 8 versus the number of lives directly affected by Duanna Johnson’s murder. I get that.

Yet still, the disparity in attention is damn stark. And that skew isn’t limited to this particular incident; it is a skew that is present in the collective coverage of and attention paid to all violence against trans women of color. And it is a skew that reflects what the GLb(t) mainstream chosen to prioritize with time, energy, and resources, and what it has chosen to address primarily with lip service and leftovers. An apt example of this: the Prop 8 op-ed written by Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese communicates more anger, more commitment to an enduring fight for justice, more of a sense of giving a damn than his brief, comparatively tepid statement in HRC press release on Duanna Johnson’s death.

There is a call out for people to donate money to help Johnson’s mother pay her funeral expenses, which are right now expected to total $1195. Unfortunately, there is some confusion about how to make donations and concern about whether the funeral home is doing right by Mrs. Skinner. I advise folks who wish to donate to use caution; I hope that a clearer, more secure way of donating is established soon. UPDATE: It’s been established.

But when it is possible to make donations safely, I hope that many people donate whatever they can. $1195 is a relatively small amount to raise. Given that the No On Prop 8 campaign was able to raise $37.6 million – or 31,464 times the cost of Duanna Johnson’s funeral – raising this far smaller amount should be no problem for our community. Right?

So sad how this news is not brought up by the media, but Prop 8 is. And another very sad story about a Mexican immigrant who was beat to death in Suffolk County, NY, by some drunk high school kids just for the hell of it:

Friends of Jeffrey Conroy, a star athlete at the school, say he was known to do it, too. And last Saturday night, after drinking in a park in the Long Island hamlet of Medford, Mr. Conroy, 17, and six other teenagers declared that they were going to attack “a Mexican” and headed to the more ethnically diverse village of Patchogue to hunt, according to friends and the authorities.

They found their target in Marcelo Lucero, a serious-minded, 37-year-old immigrant from a poor village in Ecuador who had lived in the United States for 16 years, mostly in Patchogue, and worked in a dry cleaning store, sending savings home to support his mother, a cancer survivor.

After the boys surrounded, taunted and punched Mr. Lucero, the authorities say, Mr. Conroy plunged a knife into his victim’s chest, fatally wounding him.

The attack has horrified and puzzled many in this comfortable Suffolk County village of 11,700. Prosecutors have labeled it a hate crime and County Executive Steve Levy called the defendants, who have pleaded not guilty, “white supremacists.” And some immigrant advocates on Long Island have described the attack as a reflection of widespread anti-Latino sentiment and racial intolerance in Suffolk County.

What gets me is that this attack “puzzled’ he residents on this town. I am not proud to say that something like this does not surprise me. I would also like to point out that just because we voted for a biracial president, does NOT mean that we all of a sudden live in a post-racial world.

Ok, back to sleep. I may upload some more uplifting stuff later…

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