dee _ minor

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About White Men Racism Being


Mambu Bayoh

I came across Bayoh’s work in late 2010, drawn to the vibrant softness and hidden strength of the women captured by his camera. Bayoh is a Sierra Leone/Liberian photographer who came to the United States at a young age, escaping the Liberian civil war. Drawn to the art of photography, Bayoh stopped his pursuit in Law and dedicated his time to his now current passion. His work not only crosses over into high fashion and street fashion, but into social documentation as well. 

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Dedicated to the Cultural Preservation of the African Aesthetic


Posted at 7:40am.

Posted at 8:19am.

Tasbeeh Herwees, The Names They Gave Me  (via libeeya)


(Source: rabbrakha)

Posted at 8:15am.


“Your name is Tasbeeh. Don’t let them call you by anything else.”

My mother speaks to me in Arabic; the command sounds more forceful in her mother tongue, a Libyan dialect that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds. I am seven years old and it has never occurred to me to disobey my mother. Until twelve years old, I would believe God gave her the supernatural ability to tell when I’m lying.

“Don’t let them give you an English nickname,” my mother insists once again, “I didn’t raise amreekan.”

My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth. Eight years in this country and she’s still not convinced she lives here. She wears her headscarf tightly around her neck, wades across the school lawn in long, floor-skimming skirts. Eight years in this country and her tongue refuses to bend and soften for the English language. It embarrasses me, her heavy Arab tongue, wrapping itself so forcefully around the clumsy syllables of English, strangling them out of their meaning.

But she is fierce and fearless. I have never heard her apologize to anyone. She will hold up long grocery lines checking and double-checking the receipt in case they’re trying to cheat us. My humiliation is heavy enough for the both of us. My English is not. Sometimes I step away, so people don’t know we’re together but my dark hair and skin betray me as a member of her tribe.

On my first day of school, my mother presses a kiss to my cheek.

“Your name is Tasbeeh,” she says again, like I’ve forgotten. “Tasbeeh.”


Roll call is the worst part of my day. After a long list of Brittanys, Jonathans, Ashleys, and Yen-but-call-me-Jens, the teacher rests on my name in silence. She squints. She has never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is this h doing at the end? Maybe it is a typo.


“Tasbeeh,” I mutter, with my hand half up in the air. “Tasbeeh.”

A pause.

“Do you go by anything else?”

“No,” I say. “Just Tasbeeh. Tas-beeh.”

“Tazbee. All right. Alex?”

She moves on before I can correct her. She said it wrong. She said it so wrong. I have never heard my name said so ugly before, like it’s a burden. Her entire face contorts as she says it, like she is expelling a distasteful thing from her mouth. She avoids saying it for the rest of the day, but she has already baptized me with this new name. It is the name everyone knows me by, now, for the next six years I am in elementary school. “Tazbee,” a name with no grace, no meaning, no history; it belongs in no language.

“Tazbee,” says one of the students on the playground, later. “Like Tazmanian Devil?” Everyone laughs. I laugh too. It is funny, if you think about it.


I do not correct anyone for years. One day, in third grade, a plane flies above our school.

“Your dad up there, Bin Laden?” The voice comes from behind. It is dripping in derision.

“My name is Tazbee,” I say. I said it in this heavy English accent, so he may know who I am. I am American. But when I turn around they are gone.


I go to middle school far, far away. It is a 30-minute drive from our house. It’s a beautiful set of buildings located a few blocks off the beach. I have never in my life seen so many blond people, so many colored irises. This is a school full of Ashtons and Penelopes, Patricks and Sophias. Beautiful names that belong to beautiful faces. The kind of names that promise a lifetime of social triumph.

I am one of two headscarved girls at this new school. We are assigned the same gym class. We are the only ones in sweatpants and long-sleeved undershirts. We are both dreading roll call. When the gym teacher pauses at my name, I am already red with humiliation.

“How do I say your name?” she asks.

“Tazbee,” I say.

“Can I just call you Tess?”

I want to say yes. Call me Tess. But my mother will know, somehow. She will see it written in my eyes. God will whisper it in her ear. Her disappointment will overwhelm me.

“No,” I say, “Please call me Tazbee.”

I don’t hear her say it for the rest of the year.


My history teacher calls me Tashbah for the entire year. It does not matter how often I correct her, she reverts to that misshapen sneeze of a word. It is the ugliest conglomeration of sounds I have ever heard.

When my mother comes to parents’ night, she corrects her angrily, “Tasbeeh. Her name is Tasbeeh.” My history teacher grimaces. I want the world to swallow me up.


My college professors don’t even bother. I will only know them for a few months of the year. They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”

My name is a burden. My name is a burden. My name is a burden. I am a burden.


On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.


At the start of a new semester, I walk into a math class. My teacher is blond and blue-eyed. I don’t remember his name. When he comes to mine on the roll call, he takes the requisite pause. I hold my breath.

“How do I pronounce your name?” he asks.

I say, “Just call me Tess.”

“Is that how it’s pronounced?”

I say, “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”

“That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,” he said. “What is your name?”

When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tasbeeh. He repeats it back to me several times until he’s got it. It is difficult for his American tongue. His has none of the strength, none of the force of my mother’s. But he gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so deserving of a name. My name feels like a crown.


“Thank you for my name, mama.”


When the barista asks me my name, sharpie poised above the coffee cup, I tell him: “My name is Tasbeeh. It’s a tough t clinging to a soft a, which melts into a silky ssss, which loosely hugs the b, and the rest of my name is a hard whisper — eeh. Tasbeeh. My name is Tasbeeh. Hold it in your mouth until it becomes a prayer. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tasbeeeeeeeh – sand let the h heat your throat like cinnamon. Tasbeeh. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tasbeeh. It means giving glory to God. Tasbeeh. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and give God what he is due.”


A fisherman in Haiti claims to have found one of these mermaids…

Mardi gras 2015?

(Source: gymnopedia)

Posted at 7:30pm.


A fisherman in Haiti claims to have found one of these mermaids…

Mardi gras 2015?


8 (Somewhat) Offbeat Ways to Defeat Stress

Sadly, in these days, a life free of stress is a bit of a challenge to obtain. True, there are…

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Posted at 5:31am.


8 (Somewhat) Offbeat Ways to Defeat StressSadly, in these days, a life free of stress is a bit of a challenge to obtain. True, there are…View Post

Forgive me if my oak tree existence buckles the sidewalk of your pedestrian life.


It is not my intention that you should fall here, 

that you should skin your knees and 

curse my earth, but 

you must understand that I am a deeply rooted thing.


It is my natural form to not

contain myself,

to be uncommonly broad in my reach.


You whom have wandered far and close,

Understand - I do not exist to impede your way.


But if this is the way you have chosen,

if this is the way,

then this is the path -

and it will be

uneasy and uneven.


And is it not worth the pain of

a stubbed toe

or two

for you to stop and consider

your place in the world?


When last did you fall

to your knees and hands

to call Jesus using the breath

that I gave you?


When last did you consider that

although we are both dying

only I can live

for centuries?


Your life is so short, my friend.

Your body is small and soft and easily broken.


Slow down, my small friend.

Stop and rest.

Curl yourself into the curve of my roots,

where the shade is still cool.

I will protect you from the tyranny of the midday sun.


I whisper this on a breeze.

I speak it with lips of a thousand leaves.


But you do not hear me.


All you hear is the din of your wandering thoughts,

as you follow aimless legs that take you

into darkness and sickness and

 peril and pain and

then I get the blame

for your missed steps.


My small friend, you move with so little grace.


But I accept the blame

and your curses and your blood and

still I will give you rest.

since mine is a praxis of patience.


My purpose in life is to give life,

and to take life,

exactly as it comes to me.


You should learn to do the same.

Perhaps then you might see there is no need to wander or

 move with such reckless haste.


Because even you, my small friend, are a deeply rooted thing,

you too have uncommonly broad limbs.

If you would just stop moving,

you would see that



within your reach.

Posted at 6:56pm and tagged with: one column,.

In college I majored in zoology and philosophy, a seemingly odd combination for some, but for me it was entirely natural. From my earliest years I have been deeply aware of myself as more than a material being, and I am never more aware of that essential spiritual aspect of myself than when I am immersed in the natural world. 

All of my happiest memories as a child and adult are connected to being in the natural world, as are all of my memories of feeling connected to something larger than myself - something spiritual. I have a visceral memory of these things - watering and talking to my mother’s many plants as a child, or kneeling down in the midst of tall, swaying grasses on a cool, breezy December day. 

I have a distinct memory of the first time I saw a passion fruit flower. I leaned in so close to examine its strange configuration that I inhaled a noseful of pollen and had a sneezing fit. I was utterly delighted. I remember the first time I saw a sunflower. I was about six or seven, tiny for my age, and completely awed that a flower could grow to be larger than I was. I ran home breathless with excitement, tripping over my words as I described what I had seen to my mother and father. I remember pouring over books on the natural world that my parents bought for me and my older brother - books on dinosaurs  geography, geology, meteorology, and the mysteries of outer space. I remember hours spent turning over rocks, looking for the fossilized imprint of long dead plants, and the fascination I felt the first time I saw the glittering surface of an igneous rock. 

I remember being overwhelmed with emotion the first time I saw a circular rainbow around the sun. It happened on a Friday, close to Easter when I was eight or nine. It is an experience that is still so personal for me, so intense that I can only barely ever speak of it.


Even my memories of being connected to the people most important in my life are connected to the natural world. I remember my first experience with a particularly loud and angry thunderstorm. The explosive crack of thunder so terrified me that I ran screaming from the veranda to my mother in the kitchen and attached myself to her left leg. I remember sobbing with fear, and the tinkle of her bemused laughter as she petted my head and comforted me. I was perhaps two or three. I remember one of the few happy memories I have of my father, the only time he ever took my brother and I fishing. We caught the weirdest fish I had ever seen in my life - a dusky dark thing with all manner of odd appendages. In retrospect, I think it was some species of catfish or maybe a hyper-melanated clown fish.

In the last several years I have taken to going on extended camping trips to national forests and parks, and more recently I have made a habit of weekly silent meditative walks through the woods. I have learned that these are the things that I must do to regain and restore myself, to be who I really am at my core - a naturalist and a philosopher. 

I am always alone on these excursions - for hours, days, and weeks at a time. I am always alone by choice, but also not by choice - I am alone by default. I am alone by need.


I have spent most of my adult life alone. And celibate. Invariably I have had this life choice questioned, chastised, and entirely misunderstood by others. I have been called “stingy with the mustard” and a prude amongst other things. I have been asked if I ever get lonely, while being looked at like some strange alien being. “Yes,” I answer, I am sometimes lonely, sometimes intensely so. Yet it is true that most of the time I do not feel lonely at all. That feeling is the exception, not the rule. Still, I understand their confusion. I’ve felt this confusion too.


Alone, I have often wondered at my aloneness. My loneliness, and its absence. 


I have recognized for quite some time now that my intensely singular adulthood has been the result of a complex intersection of life experiences, including some very traumatic ones. And indeed, in my younger years, there truly was something a touch pathological about my intense need to be alone - it belied a profound fear of connection, the outcome of a deep rejection of self.

Now, however, this very same choice to be alone - this need to be alone - reflects an ever deepening sanity, and my embrace of myself as myself. I now recognize that choosing to remain alone is in many ways the inevitable result of my unwillingness, and frankly, inability to accept partial intimacy. This choice to remain alone is in many ways the natural inclination of someone who sees very clearly the spiritual in the material, and who is not content to be only half of herself. 

Both historic and contemporary notions of romantic heterosexual love are steeped in proprietariness as it relates to the bodies of women. Moreover, for me as a black woman, my body has been so commodified, eroticized, and vilified, that I often end up feeling like something rather than someone in my interactions with men, on both sides of the color line. 

To be clear, as a naturalist, I don’t actually take umbrage at being looked at admiringly. Indeed, most of my time in natural settings is spent gazing lovingly upon the simple beauty of natural things. But perhaps because of the philosopher in me, mine is more than mere gazing. There is also a penetrating to presence, a seeing into things, a delving into its being to cultivate an awareness of things as they actually are in all their messy complexity and overarching simplicity. That then, is my actual objection to being looked at, the laziness of their effort - I object to being the object of a gaze that never penetrates. I object to being looked at without ever actually being seen. 


“I will marry the first person who learns how to leave me the fuck alone.” 


These emphatic words were said by a friend reciting his work at a poetry slam. I was a judge that night, and I awarded that poem my highest rating. When he returned to his seat next to mine I complimented him on a job well done. He visibly recoiled, becoming shy and awkward. “Right,” I thought with a wry smile, “I will leave you the fuck alone.”

I understand well that tension - the irreconcilable desire to be acknowledged for all your depths while somehow remaining unseen. The need to reveal one’s truth while remaining hidden.

This ambiguous state of being is the unhappy compromise made by those who are unsatisfied with being half of themselves, but who lack the faith, either in themselves or others (usually both) required to be all of themselves - to be fully themselves in another’s presence. Such a fractured state of being, I have learned, is at its core incompatible with true intimacy. 

But, I understand this holding back, for I too have felt that need to keep claims on myself. I too have felt that unwillingness to simply hand myself over to those who only seem to see half of my meaning. So much of what now passes for romantic love never rises above the petty personal politics of possession. But none of what we are is a thing to be owned, we who are made of star stuff, we whose sister is the sun. And who, after all, owns the sun? 


What does it mean to become someone’s so(u)le lover? What does it mean to truly belong to someone, yet not be owned? I ask these questions as a sibling of the sun… I ask these questions as a sister of stars…


Some of us struggle for years to find satisfactory answers to these questions. Some of us struggle forever.


My walks through woods and wilderness has wizened me, and I no longer fear being looked at or seen. As of this writing I am still alone by choice, and by need, but it is no longer fear or lack of faith that drives that need. Rather, I remain alone out of patience.

Patience, which at its core, is the very same thing as love. Patience, which at its core, is the same as intimacy. Patience, which at its core is the same as presence. Patience, which at its core, is the same as being.

I sit in patience without waiting.

I sit in patience for you - for inquisitive eyes, for kind eyes, for brave eyes, whenever they arrive.

Posted at 9:37am.

Love is a discipline

I wasn’t exactly surprised when I saw the sun falling from the sky, though I was a little concerned. 


It was two am by my watch, and therefore what should have been the dead of night, but instead it was as bright and hot as a July day. I looked out across the rocky desert, strangely lush with its scrubby trees and bushes. There was no one else here, and truth be told, I was not actually sure how I had gotten here either. I tried hard to think of where and when I was prior to this moment, but I couldn’t remember. 

This is the way of travel in dreams - ever arriving without the bother of traversing time or space. 

The full moon shone over head, silver and low, closer to the earth than it should have been. It was close enough for one to discern its spherical nature, the curve and shadow of its edges promising a mystery on the other side - the dark side, the hidden side. At this distance, it was three dimensional, not at all like the plain white disc that came to mind when I tried to remember past versions of itself. 

The air hummed with the sound of the approaching sun. I looked up to note its trajectory and saw that it was on a collision course with the moon which merely stood silent and steady, waiting for what would happen. I started to panic. A cold dread filled me as I thought about what would become of me, what would become of us, should this cataclysm take place. 

I wanted to hide. I wanted to find a refuge and wait for the end, but there was no hope of this. Here in the desert, I was wide open. I could only wait as the moon did. 

I shielded my eyes as best I could and watched the slow descent of the sun. It was forming a perfectly parabolic arc across the sky. 

As the sun drew closer, its yellow glow waned to a burnt orange. The sun danced with celestial fire. My heart raced as the sun approached the moon, steady and silent, without hesitation. 

The star closed in. 

The satellite waited. 

I closed my eyes just before impact, unable to bear witness to this final dis-integration. I waited, wrought with anticipation, to feel but not see my own demise.

The darkness behind my eyes glowed red, then cooled suddenly to a flat black. I braced myself, waiting for the sound. I waited to be blown away by solar winds, to be burned to ash by nuclear fire. But, there was nothing. 

I was still here. 


I opened my eyes to sudden night. The air chill and crisp. The full moon glowing glorious, a crown amid the stars. The sun had missed its mark and was now completely eclipsed by the moon.

I looked out across the desertscape, bathed and dusted in silver. I exhaled in relief, only realizing then that I had been holding my breath. 

Breeze rustled the stunted trees, bringing with it a perfume of unknown origin. I inhaled it deeply, my lungs drinking in the scent with a rare thirst.

I was relieved - but only for the moment, for though the moon had been spared, the sun was still set on its deliberate path. Its arc a clear curve set to crash the earth to a final ruination. 


Suddenly, I knew that I had to stop the sun. Suddenly I knew how to catch this falling star.


Across the desertscape’s untroubled surface the air became still and silent in the silver light.

I waited.

After some time, the sun emerged from the moon’s skirts, much reduced in size and intensity. The air warming only slightly as it drew close. 

I was not surprised to see this shrunken sun. But even in its failing, this was still the sun, and it was set. 

I tracked the slow arc of its descent, my eyes aglow with reflected embers. 

I stood in the place where it would make its mark and tunneled deep. Turning inward, unlocking the deepest spaces of myself until I rent a chasm clear through to the very center of the earth, into the fire of its core.


I opened up and caught the sun. Then, I closed myself for safe keeping.


The sun grows, deep inside the womb of the earth, while the moon begins its reign o’er a season of night. 

Posted at 8:06pm and tagged with: one column, being,.

Dear XXX,
I apologize for the length of this letter, but I am trying to make this as clear and complete as possible.
Education in its current form and economic independence are no longer enough to undo racism because racism has become embedded in American culture inclusive of its institutions. Moreover because of internalized dominance and oppression, white and black people continue to follow thought and behavioral patterns that are oppressive to people of color regardless of their educational attainment and economic independence. This is why we need to learn and follow anti-racist philosophy and pedagogy and teach it to others. Such philosophy and pedagogy requires that we deeply engage with learning the dynamics of internalized dominance and oppression as it relates to race so that we can recognize these habitual patterns and undo them within ourselves and recognize them in others. It requires that we courageously enter into ongoing dialogue with ‘the other’ so that we can regain our full empathy and humanity. Once we do that, we can then co-create the process and knowledge for how to transform and build equitable institutions, and how to destroy inequitable ones that refuse to transform. 
Because African American educators and children are not and have never been fully valued in this country, the districts in which they work/live have always suffered from and continue to suffer from chronic under-resourcing and other types of systemic racism. Then, when life and educational outcomes are inevitably bad, we blame the victims and their “culture” for that. The victims, disempowered and suffering from internalized oppression, also blame themselves, and white oppressors are of course quick to agree with them. Of course, the effects of oppression and “culture” are two different things, but white people and people of color alike, often don’t know what the difference is, simply because they are all raised to pathologize black people and everything they stand for, including their very real and valuable cultural knowledge, traditions, and practices. My point here is that people on both sides of the color line are raised to neither understand nor recognize what oppression really is. While every person of color has experiential knowledge of what oppression feels like - this is not the same as understanding what it actually is. As a result, relatively few people of color, and an even tinier minority of white people, actually hold a truly liberated or emancipatory understanding of themselves as it relates to race. I am using liberatory, emancipatory, and anti-racist interchangeably.
One example of a classic but problematic dynamic was the one played out at the start of our discussion. You made the assumption that the intellectual black sources that you valued were the “right ones,” and that my own set of cultural values and knowledge, which are actually far more holistic and liberatory than either of those sources, must be deficient in some way. You assumed that I ‘must’ somehow lack understanding and competence in my work because I didn’t value what you saw as valuable or know what you thought was worth knowing. Even the way you pointed to other black people to back you up is problematic because you are still by default pointing to the black people whom you have deemed to be “valuable” or “correct.” This entire interaction is problematic because it seats you the white person as not just the one who knows, but the one who knows what is worth knowing. All people socialized into privilege, whatever that privilege is, are taught to see themselves this way and thus constantly fall prey to this misguided notion. The expectation that you are probably right or more likely to be right is a manifestation of a socialization into privilege. Non-privileged people do not make that assumption nearly as often.
Yes, the previous assumptions and behaviors are problematic coming from anyone, but they are actually more harmful coming from you when interacting with a person of color simply because you are white. For the person of color interacting with you, it literally feels different. Trust me - I know. Being the target of oppressive behavior like racism is not merely hurtful emotionally - it is harmful psychologically because it reaffirms messages of invalidation. That is the difference between suffering and oppression. Yes, white people suffer and have invalidating experiences, but they do not live under a structure of systemic and continuous invalidation. Every time you thoughtlessly think or act in a racist way or in accordance with racist values, you are complicit in invalidating people of color. You’re not merely hurting their feelings - you’re oppressing them. This is so because whether you like it or not, the color of your skin and the privilege connected to it carries a long, brutal and bloody history which continues to present reality. There is still a steady stream of overt and covert messages that people of color must contend with which tells them that they are not really fully and equally human. Yes, you are hurt too in that moment - but the hurt you feel is NOT equal to the harm you are causing. For the person of color you are an extra scratch added to a thousand other scratches. Someone already sensitized in this way through repeated suffering suffers more from your scratch. I am not saying all this for rhetorical flourish - you need to understand the harm that you can cause and are causing. You need to own that if you’re going to change it. As a white person, you bare extra responsibility for recognizing these problematic assumptions and behaviors and not participating in them.
This is also why anti-racist philosophy requires that we listen deeply to other people’s stories of hurt - especially the people whom we oppress - and that we fully own our problematic identities, including heavy and loaded words like sexist, racist, homophobe, etc. Our identities are just that heavy - our actions are just that heavy - the consequences are real, and because of the exercise of power, often tragically lopsided for those whom we harm. To own your identity as a racist, sexist, homophobe etc.. is to accept the disproportionate pain that you can cause because of the history and contemporary reality that we live with. It is to let those whom you might harm understand that you do not take their pain or the harm that you can cause lightly. 
Unfortunately, and as you’ve shown, white people often do not want to accept this kind of responsibility for their behavior because they are so desperate to be “good” people and “flawed” people and to just be “individuals” who transcend whiteness, but there is no escaping this. You are white in the world and you will always be white in the world, and you will always be capable of doing disproportionate harm to people of color because of that - until racism ends. That right there is the real tragedy of racism for white people. When you deeply recognize and accept this, when you recognize that this is a huge part of your suffering as a white person, when you recognize the insidious way in which racism has misused you and white people generally by socializing you and validating you for thinking and acting like an oppressor even when you don’t want to and often despite your best efforts not to, and when you realize the full extent of the harm you can and do cause by your own ignorance and thoughtlessness as it relates to racism, when you grapple with just how alienated all of that makes you feel, then and only then will you really commit to learning what anti-racism is and how to practice it.
I also feel the need to reiterate the difference between ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, and racism. Cultural knowledge and values teach people where they came from, how to live on their land, and how to raise their children to do the same. Some aspects of some cultures can include oppressive elements, and yes, there are serious and horrific outcomes of ethnic pride run amok, but there actually is benefit to be found in cultural knowledge - especially as related to knowledge of history and how to live with others and with the land. Moreover, culture is something that an ethnic group can collectively decide to change. Religions offer people an answer to the question of what makes life meaningful, and how to care for and love other people, how to be a good human being. Yes, religious dogmatism run amok can have horrific outcomes, but again, there is still benefit, and again, a group of religious observers can re-interpret and re-frame their religious values in a way that moves them away from inter-religious conflict and strife.
Race has zero benefits for anyone who isn’t white and precludes meaningful choice from everyone. It is a construct wholly designed to devalue people for attributes of their appearance that they cannot change. Black people cannot get together and stop being black. White people cannot get together and stop being white. This is why racism is evil - it is entirely harmful and completely bereft of benefit to anyone who isn’t white. Until you recognize the uniquely evil construct of racism, you will also never be as committed as you need to be to ending it.

Posted at 8:53pm.

Giovanni and I met in the sauna at the country club. Slight and white, he entered with a green beach towel draped across his bony hips. He had what I thought of as a Rihanna hair style, shaved on one side with messy dark bangs falling over his right eye, ending just short of his jaw line. It was a hair cut that several of my female students had this year, and they definitely wore it better. I noticed that he had no tattoos, the pristine state of his skin being somewhat of an anomaly given his age and the venue. 

He sat down, added some water to the rocks, and disrobed. He sat  hunched over, with his elbow on his thighs and his head in his hands. We dutifully ignored each other in the dim yellow light as forgettable pop music played in the background. As the heat rose in intensity, I sat up and breathed in deeply. I closed my eyes, hoping to clear my mind, and lose myself in a meditative state. Instead I remained firmly in place, my mind fixed by the familiarity of a song I was destined to forget the second it ended. 

"Let me know if it’s getting too hot for you," he said.

"No, no, it’s fine," I replied, slightly annoyed. "I like it really hot." 

A few more minutes passed in silence, and then he said “you live here.” A statement rather than a question.

 ”Yes,” I replied nevertheless. 

"I just moved here," he volunteered. 

As a rule, I like my sauna’s silent, and even when they are not, I generally remain steadfastly so in defiance of cultural norms, deflecting conversation with terse one word replies. Usually, the chatterer will get the point and relent. 

I was decidedly puzzled then when I heard myself ask “where from?” Even before he answered, I knew that I didn’t actually care. 

"Tulsa," he said. "Do you know where that is?" 

"I’ve driven through almost every state in the country," I replied in what I hoped was a condescending tone.

"Oklahoma." He said, seeming to miss it. "I like it here so far," he continued. 

I noticed a vague, formless antagonism beginning to arise in me as my subconscious mind processed the casual double insult of this white stranger who had assumed that not only was I too stupid to know where Tulsa was, but that I also needed his opinion of my adopted home town as some sort of validation of my life choice. 

"Why did you come here?" I said, my tone more accusatory than curious. 

"Well, I dropped out of med school, actually. I decided it wasn’t really for me." Then he added with a slightly twisted, sheepish grin, "Plus I had developed a bit of a heroin problem."

Just then, one of the six yellow bulbs in the sauna went out with a hiss. 

"Aah…" I said, nodding my head slowly, seeing him clearly now in this darker, danker light. His was a familiar though increasingly rare subtext to the New Orleans new immigrant story - the story of a haunted doll. And this city, stooped with history and riddled with ghosts, has long been a collector of broken toys.

Old new New Orleanians understood this implicitly. They came here not with the intention to fix, but to be in communion with the broken. That was the sense of the place, that nothing would ever work quite the way it was expected to, including and especially the people. 

Less enlightened outsiders were often perturbed by this attitude, mistaking this radical acceptance of things as they were as mere indifference or complacency. But what they failed to see was that this tolerance for brokenness was the source of the city’s healing - it was what made the city home for the rest of us. Those of us who never belonged anywhere until we belonged here - among the ghosts of ourselves, among the spectres of the living, and the dead. 

We were happy being haunted.

"Well," I said, "New Orleans has always attracted a certain kind of person.."


I asked him about his connection to the city, if the person he was staying with was from here, but he wasn’t. In fact, he was from Tulsa too. “We were actually roommates for a while when I was staying in one of my dad’s houses after I dropped out of medical school,” he explained. But apparently his friend had suffered a personal tragedy, and it is this that had precipitated his move to New Orleans. 

"They were never actually together," he explained, "but she was his soulmate, and she died." And so, his friend had fled Tulsa, not to escape this double haunting, but to take the ghost of her ghost with him to the only place where she would have safe keeping, and eventually he had followed his friend, and his ghosts, here.

I nodded my head as I listened to this once common story now fading fast in familiarity - the caravan of haunted dolls come to New Orleans. I considered him more closely now, unsure of how I had missed it the first time - the hollow behind his eyes. Perhaps the slow bleaching of gentrification that had begun to strip this city of all its color had made me drunk on its fumes, causing me to confuse mere whiteness with the harsh fluorescence of artificial light. 


He added a few more spoonfuls of water to the stones as we talked in the dim light, the heat rising and then bearing down upon us. We talked about gentrifications, swapping stories about the changing demographics of our respective cities. I told him about the Marigny and Bywater, and he told me about Tulsa. He told me about how the ghettos slowly gave way to hipster wine bars. How poor people of color were systematically priced out of their own neighborhoods and homes. What I described, and what he had seen in his short time in New Orleans looked familiar to him. He shook his head slowly, a fire flickering behind his eyes. “These white outsiders…” he began, and then stopped. A slight smile played on his lips as the irony of his statement found him. 

Silence fell. A rivulet of sweat ran down the length of my naked spine, and I shivered in the heat. Eventually I asked him what his plans were, if he intended to stay in New Orleans. 

"No…" he said. "I really wanna leave the country… maybe check out Vietnam or Cambodia, maybe South America." He sounded restless and bored.

Silence returned, and then remained. Eventually, he stood, re-wrapping his towel around his slender frame.

"What’s your name?" He asked. I responded.

"I’m Giovanni," he said. "It’s nice to meet you."

"It’s nice to meet you too," I said as he left.

Posted at 1:34am.

Caring about racism does not make you anti-racist.
Not wanting to be racist does not make you anti-racist.
Talking to educated black people does not make you anti-racist.
Talking to uneducated black people does not make you anti-racist.
Selectively valuing the opinions of black people does not make you anti-racist.
Wanting to f*ck a black person does not make you anti-racist.
Wanting to love a black person does not make you anti-racist.
Actually loving and f*cking a black person does not make you anti-racist.
Attending an anti-racist workshop does not make you anti-racist.
Reading anti-racist books does not make you anti-racist.
Loving black culture does not make you anti-racist.
Knowing a black anti-racist activist does not make you anti-racist.
Knowing a white anti-racist activist does not make you anti-racist.
Wanting to be anti-racist does not make you anti-racist.
Hating racism does not make you anti-racist.
Voting for Barack Obama does not make you anti-racist.
Teaching black children does not make you anti-racist.
Claiming to be color blind does not make you anti-racist.
Being LGBTQ does not make you anti-racist.
Being a white woman does not make you anti-racist.
Being liberal does not make you anti-racist.
Being a feminist does not make you anti-racist.
Being a person of color does not make you anti-racist.
Being oppressed by other forms of oppression does not make you anti-racist.
Working/living in a majority black city does not make you anti-racist.
Having black neighbors does not make you anti-racist.
Having black friends does not make you anti-racist.
Having black coworkers does not make you anti-racist.
Talking about anti-racism does not make you anti-racist.

Sorry, white people, but there is no get-out-of-unwittingly-perpetuating-your-indoctrinated-racism free card that you can magically play to avoid looking at yourself and owning your own bullshit and doing the work of learning to not say/do stupid offensive shit that angers people of color. Your country has been doing this for over 200 years. What on earth makes you think you’re so damn special that you’ve somehow magically escaped all influence?

If you don’t know the anti-racism, don’t want to know the anti-racism, can’t be bothered with the anti-racism, that’s perfectly fine. Truly, it is. I assure you, people of color have learned for generations not to expect much from white people in that regard. Sad, but true. However, don’t also pretend that I’m also obligated to spare your feelings and walk/talk on eggshells when you do inevitably blunder and say/do something thoughtlessly racist and offensive because you’ve never bothered to make the time to educate yourself on how to be anti-racist and unlearn the bullshit you’ve been taught your whole life. This is the age of Google and Wikipedia. Your choice to keep your ignorance gives me no obligation to coddle it.

Oh, and please, enough with the outrage about being called out as racist when you say/do ignorant racist shit. Okay? I’m really over hearing how hurt you are, and that you thought we were friends and blah effin’ blah. It’s not like I called you a damn child molester or a rapist or a Justin Bieber fan or a wall street banker. There are far worse things to be than racist. At the end of the day, we are all implicated in the bullshit game of privilege in some way. So just own up to your own stinking pile of the stuff and get over yourself.

Posted at 5:58pm.

Despite the fact that it is the people of color in this country who have endured a hundred plus years of oppression and brutality in the name of building the American dream, it is almost universally white people (increasingly ‘ordinary’ middle class white people) who succumb to “survivalism,” “prepping,” and general paranoid gun-nuttery. Interesting, isn’t it?

My personal view is that this behavior is symptomatic of deeply unconscious and unexamined feelings of guilt and shame. Particularly guilt and shame about continued complicity in a system built on unfairness. Our subconscious minds are powerful. They tell us truths that we do not want to hear or see. And when we fail to face such truths, that denial grows and warps us. We give in to obsessions and fears that control us.

The collective subconscious associated with “whiteness” knows that its privilege is built on a history of thievery, enslavement, and mass murder, it knows that the current system continues to disenfranchise and is inequitable, it knows that it is complicit in supporting such a system. The collective conscious also knows that anger, and yes, vengeance, is often a natural response to continued victimization and oppression. This fusion of the conscious and subconscious manifests as a profound paranoia that a sizeable portion of the white US populace displays whenever they believe that their “freedoms” (read: privileges) might be under threat.

When you realize in your heart of hearts that the house you live in is built from a deck of cards, you live in constant fear of that gust of wind that will finally blow it all down. 
Racism needs to end not just to make people of color whole, but white people as well. But so long as whiteness is viewed primarily as a privilege, particularly by white people, we are all held hostage to this powerful and dangerous delusion.

Posted at 8:44pm and tagged with: racism, white privilege,.

(Source: soirart)

Posted at 9:49pm and tagged with: hell yeah,.


Posted at 5:11am.

The only way to end our suffering is not to avoid it, or even endure it, but to embrace it.

Posted at 3:21am and tagged with: Genius, wisdom, meditation,.

It is no measure of health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society