Glendora, California is where I became a Mexican. It was 1999, the summer before my freshman year in high school, and I was standing at the check-stand in Albertsons still sweaty from the walk over and totally, completely, freakishly alone.
I don’t know how many times before this day I was in a building with only white people in it. It would have never occurred to me that we were different from each other, so it probably happened a lot. My grandmother and her second husband were both white, and they raised me from two to 13. I went to a private school, I took horseback riding lessons, I had a therapist. Whiteness was my entire jam. So, white was normal, I felt normal, therefore I was basically white. It didn’t help that my education, while extensive in most areas, left me with the incorrect impression that the history of racism in American was this: Slavery; Lynching; Dr. Martin Luther King; Racism is over.
Female-presenting people making themselves look different using facepaints is deception and even sorcery, according to the outrage on the Internet.
Take this image on the right.It’s the selfie that launched a thousand (okay, okay, more like three) questions. My caption referenced a game-changing technique for concealer application that I had recently learned.
The dark circles under my eyes come from my mother’s side of the family. I realized that they were inevitable when I first noticed that my cousins’ babies are born with it. They are always there no matter how much I sleep, hydrate, decongest, and roll in substances.
For years, I thought concealer was mostly useless, especially in the under-eye area. My instinct was always to rub or buff, as one would apply lotion, but I was dead wrong. Not only does rubbing encourage further puffiness in the undereye area, it basically blends away the concealer to levels where it hardly conceals anything. Oops. With poor technique like that, no wonder I thought concealer made me look worse.
Exacerbating matters is the fact that most concealers come in shades even more limited than those for foundations. Untanned, I’m 1Y08 in Pantone+Sephora’s Color IQ system and 3Y08 when I’ve seen some sun. In non-technical beauty terms, I’m medium-brown with neutral-toned skin that leans warm (i.e. a bit yellow). This means that I need to find skin makeup that not only isn’t pink-toned (i.e. cool-toned), but also isn’t too yellow-toned.
In a world where even expensive, fancy-pants brands only carry three shades of concealer, no wonder I thought under-eye cover-up made my bags look ashy and more noticeable.
A quick note for my cooler- and/or fairer-toned siblings in beauty: Please, when you can, make an effort to give your money to companies that offer wide ranges of skin-toned makeup. Even if a brand works for you, your darker- and/or warmer-toned colleagues would appreciate it if you voted with your dollars for inclusivity. Chances are, if a brand (barring ethnicity-targeted ones, of course) offers a shade that would work for me, they’ll have one that works for you, too.
Women’s Leadership Project (WLP) fills a vacuum in a school district that has few programs that specifically address the intersection of sexism, racism, misogyny and heterosexism in the lives of young women of color. The program is designed to redress the normalized violence that young women of color encounter on a daily basis and has trained hundreds of 10-12th students to question and challenge the normalization of violence against women and advocate for safer school-communities.
As the project is run by secular author and activist extraordinaire Sikivu Hutchinson, along with Diane Arellano, it has a heartily humanist bent to it. The campaign ended last night having raised just over its $1500 matching funds goal.
As one atheist-aimed project reached its end on January 6th, another had begun earlier in the day. This one was for Ryan J. Bell, the pastor who decided that, for 2014, he would try being an atheist in the sense that he would live as if there were no god. An interesting thought experiment, to be sure, but after the announcement of the experiment, the man lost his sources of income with his perhaps unsurprisingly irate Christian employers. A GoFundMe campaign was created in response which asked for $5000. By the end of its first day, it had raised triple that amount.
When I re-posted the link to the WLP project last night, I got responses that attempted to explain why it didn’t garner as much attention and raise as much money as the fundraiser for Ryan J. Bell. There were the “well, what did you expect?/Welcome to reality where page views and click-bait rule” type; these express a sense of capitulation and resignation to the status quo that I do not share. However, most of them were more along the lines of “Oh, I never heard of this so it must not have been promoted enough.”
I am not suggesting that the disparity was on purpose on the part of anyone involved. I am not suggesting that anyone promoting one fundraiser and/or not promoting the other is an evil, awful person in any way. I doubt that anyone deliberately looked at the one and then the other and said “meh, those lower-income female students of color can fend for themselves, I’m going to give my money to a white male Christian.”
That’s precisely the problem. So many of us don’t critically examine to what we pay attention and why, to whom we give our money and why, of what sort of news we keep abreast and why, about what we find out and why. We fail to recognize the disturbing patterns indicating structural injustices that emerge when we consider all the factors at hand and how these sorts of situations play out.
Obviously, fundraising isn’t a zero-sum game. There is more than one cause in the world that is worthy of attention and money. As someone who has suffered financially as a result of religion, I don’t begrudge Mr. Bell the money he will need as he figures out what to do in this brutal American economic climate. In the end, thankfully, WLP did exceed its matching funds goal.
Why do I bring this up?
One of my friends is a Christian minister and he jokes that every atheist in America must have at least 3 websites apiece. He is on-point in that we godless types tend to have strong Internet presences. It’s about time that we take a good, hard look at which causes and individuals we choose to follow, talk about, and promote using these platforms. Furthermore, given that atheists tend to be in the upper income bracket of society, it is also important to look at to whom we choose to give our money.
Why do so many people think that Macklemore was the first pro-LGBT rapper, then? Sadly, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a white rapper who spends the first verse of his song asserting his heterosexuality before speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage is more likely to get attention than a pro-LGBT person of color. Indeed, there have been openly LGBT-identified rappers, white and of color, for years now. To be clear, the problem here isn’t Macklemore’s message (and he seems to be at least a little aware of what’s up), it’s that we aren’t hearing the voices of the very marginalized people allies like him claim to support. Record labels flock to promote straight white allies (yes, your favorite pro-LGBT straight white rapper isn’t actually indie) while mostly ignoring LGBT rappers of color.
I suppose one could argue from practicality about the matter. A man like Macklemore can get the pro-equality message out in a way that, say, a black lesbian rapper can’t. That aside, this isn’t an exercise in telling you that Macklemore is bad and you should feel bad. There are many better critiques of him than I could ever write. Instead of feeling bad about liking Thrift Shop or Same Love, you can go listen to some of these artists and tell your friends about the ones you like.
Though rumors have surrounded her sexuality for years, she prefers to keep her private life private. However, many other rappers have said that she’s been with women. Also, she’s a positive figure and role model in many ways and thus warrants a mention regardless of her sexual orientation.
Frank Ocean He’s more R&B than hip-hop or rap, but is, if I might speak so soon, historically significant. After all, his coming out was what spurred many of the aforementioned hip-hop artists to come out in favor of LGBT equality.
God-Des & She
I am unsure of their race. They look white to me but will always have a special place in my heart as the first hip-hop artists I listened to who I knew were queer (I discovered them the summer I came out, no less). With such songs as “Lick It” (yes, it’s about what you think it’s about), God-Des’s swagger is swoon-worthy.
Syd The Kyd
She might hate the word “lesbian,” but the Odd Future member definitely and openly loves women.
The following is an exercise in assuming the best intentions of people who ask things.
How did this all this end up happening?
To quote the only dynamic (and possibly most problematic) adult character on South Park, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people. I’m pretty sure I’m not stupid. Therefore, I planned to ask a question that’s been bothering me for a long time. I must say, it’s been burning and frothing and and itching away at its little corner of my brain like a psychosomatic yeast infection. I was careful to ask it of the relevant group because I’m ignorant and I both need and deserve to be educated. It’s not my fault that I don’t know, right? That’s just my perspective. There’s not, like, some kind of tool by which I can access more perspectives that could educate me than I could read in my entire lifetime, right?
All I planned to ask at this panel of women at this atheist conference was what women planned on doing about a very important issue for women. I really do want to help with whatever efforts they make to end this scourge upon women. Just so you know, I’m in solidarity with women, not a sexist. I mean, a true sexist wouldn’t ask women at all but would disregard their input and do whatever he wanted. An even worse true sexist would ignore the problem. Because I care about the problem and I’m going out of my way to ask women about it, I’m an ally. I have other allies who are just like me on my side.
I’m a man and yet I attended this panel comprised entirely of women where they’re talking about feminist issues. Yes, I heard the f-word, and I wasn’t even put off by it. Good for me. I couldn’t wait until the Q&A so I could pose my query. When I did, it went well. The person on the panel answered graciously. I knew I was doing the right thing by asking and I still don’t think I did anything wrong.
It was what happened after that was the issue. Some mean lady decided that my question wasn’t okay. How dare she question my right to ask a question?! I mean, how else am I going to learn? Other people, potential allies just like me, excused themselves when she went on her rant, which proves my point: hurting my feelings as an ally is bad for your cause. Would you believe it, but a famous person, an ally like I am, was among those who left the room. Some other lady decided I was wrong, but the famous person who stormed out? He made sure that the world knows what happened: all I did was ask a simple question and I had the worst assumed of me by this lady.
She definitely should’ve reacted more reasonably. I’m not playing into sexist stereotypes for saying so, since all the other allies, not just the one who posted about it, are telling her to stop being so gosh-darn hysterical. It’s not as if a perfunctory search would have yielded any information as to what women are doing about this woman-specific issue. I mean, what kind of world do we live in where a man can’t ask about false rape accusations at a panel about women without having someone jump down his throat?
What’s next, a white person won’t be able to quote Fox News to black people without being called a racist?
Saturday night was a heartbreaking, if not surprising, one for many of us, when George Zimmerman walked away to a legally consequence-free life after having killed an unarmed teenage boy. He currently fears the same vigilante justice he so unceremoniously doled out. As of right now, the NRA has made no calls for young black men to arm themselves in self-defense against vigilantes.
If you take issue with my use of the term “vigilantes,” let me fix it for you. I meant “Neighborhood Watch” types who violate their own rules and, if I might venture to suggest, have personal histories that render them terrible candidates for gun ownership.
I repeat: not only is there an article with a title like “The George Zimmerman jury reached the right verdict” on an atheist website, but there exist people who are invested in defending it because it is made of facts.
On the face of it, sure. To say that the verdict reached was legally sound, correct as per the law, in accordance with Stand Your Ground in Florida — that’s all fine. Ta-Nehisi Coates, an incredibly well-known writer and activist on matters including race, knows that the law was followed in the verdict and explains the whys and hows very well. Avicenna at Freethought Blogs wrote all about how the verdict was legally correct, as did Think Progress.
There is a way to talk about how Zimmerman’s verdict was legally sound that doesn’t utterly disregard and disrespect people of color. People of color, like the ones I’ve mentioned above, have been doing so. Indeed, so have those white people who have been paying attention to how the “justice” system serves certain people in certain ways and is far from the neutral(ish) body many would love to imagine it to be.
The approach of titling a piece that way, especially with its usage of the word “right” (a term that has moral implications), then, is clueless given the context in which it exists. Whether the author intended it to provoke or not, it hit all the wrong notes. On a day when the country was in mourning for a young honor student whose life was taken from him in cold blood, the author approached the matter in a way that utterly disregarded context.
There’s nothing “factual” about writing in a vacuum. The last time I checked, there was no requirement to check in one’s ability to grasp nuance and context at the door when entering into the hallowed halls of (dis)organized atheism.
Why am I fixating on this piece? Because it represents exactly what is wrong with the conversation around racism in general society — a wrongness that seems, to me at least, to be amplified in the white-dominated spaces of skepticism and atheism. Think Atheist carried the piece I’m addressing. The notoriously atheist-dominated Reddit failed to impress, as usual. Those atheist, humanist, and/or skeptical activists and laypeople with whom I am connected on Facebook had to do Racism 101 over and over again, sometimes to the point of un-friending. Too many of us tired on Twitter trying to explain, over and over again, that racism is A Thing, and one that is not the exclusive province of the KKK.
People of color do not have the luxury of ignoring the context from which emerged the verdict that allowed a man to walk after stalking and killing an unarmed minor. White people might often escape this awareness, but that’s where education comes in. Anyone writing on the Internet has access to a wealth of information, perspectives, and resources at their fingertips.
Here are your tools. For the love of all that is noodly and delicious, use them.
And until more people do, I’m going to retreat to a corner and cringe until someone tells my face and my palm to get a room.
This piece is adapted from my research and notes for the speech I gave this past Sunday, May 20th, at the Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference. The talk was entitled “Push and Pull: The Role of Religion in Social Justice.” Look for the follow-up to this piece tomorrow about the positive role religion has played in social justice.
Generally speaking, among the skeptically-minded, religion is seen almost universally as a hindering force to anything approaching progress in society. Moving backwards in history, it is easy to see why that is the case.
One of the many criticisms leveled at the atheist, skeptic, and feminist community (and its related intersections) is something along the lines of “you all form your little communities and then you all just nod and agree with each other all the time.”