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Social Justice y Mi Cultura

Content note: anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican sentiments, child abuse

This list brought back a lot of childhood memories (the tub of butter being something I do now but it bothered me when grandma did it) and things I had forgotten (Panky cookies! Now I must go in search of them!). It was mostly a nice trip down memory lane and reaffirmation of “Yup, I’m so Boricua”. However, two things bothered me. They’re something I’m constantly running across on Puerto Rican pride posts. Estas cosas me tiene’ harta and so here we are:

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(Image: Picture of a tanned woman, she has long black hair, is wearing hoop earrings. She looks displeased. White texts on the picture reads: How Puerto Ricans look when someone calls them Mexican)

This is implying something is wrong with being Mexican. It also speaks to the feelings of superiority that some Puerto Ricans feel towards immigrants. A perfect example is this T-shirt:

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(image is of a black t-shirt, with the Puerto Rican flag on it. It has white text on it which reads, Relax, gringo, I’m legal)

The joke is supposed to be that white people can’t tell Hispanics apart. But it pushes undocumented people under the bus. It’s saying, “hey don’t bother me! I’m one of the “good” ones”. Not to mention that no one is “illegal”.
I’m not exactly prideful or boastful of Puerto Rico being a colonia. Do you even know the history between Los United Estates and Puerto Rico? If you did, you wouldn’t think you’re better than undocumented immigrants. Also, someone explain to me why being confused for Mexican would be bad? I mean, Thalia, the food, the novelas, Selena (I know, she was from Texas but she was also Mexican) C’mon. The list is endless for reasons Mexico and its people are wonderful.

We’re all in this together. At the end of the day, Gringo isn’t going to care if I have a piece of paper or not. Racism doesn’t work that way.

And the second point in that list:

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(image of a medicine box, it has been digitally manipulated to say Bofeta, coco-taso flavored. Red text above the box reads, Trusted by Puerto Rican mothers, red text below the box, reads all over the world)

So, some translation is in order. Bofetada (in the Puerto Rican dialect the ending “da” is dropped) means “slap”. Cocotaso refers to a knock upside the head. Coco meaning coconut but in this instance it refers to the head.

Now, la chancla (the house slipper), la escoba (the broom) and la correa (the belt) are often looked back at fondly by Puerto Ricans as tools used by their parents for discipline. See, they were malo (bad) and needed que le rompieran la cara (literally: break their face, loosely; a beating). This glorification of child abuse is not something I can abide in mi cultura. I got la chancla and the belt buckle several times. I was constantly being beaten for being “malcri’a” (malcraida). Malcriada literally means that I was raised badly, but that meaning never seemed to bother the adults in my life who justified their abuse to me. I tried telling them and all it got me was a tapa boca (slap to the mouth). The abuse I suffered as a child is largely responsible for my being in abusive relationships as an adult. I believed I deserved the abuse. It was all I ever knew.  I under no circumstances condone child abuse. I don’t care if you say it’s a simple nalgadita (a spanking). I do not care if you claim it’s part of your culture. Machismo and homophobia are part of my culture too and I do not condone those either.

I love being Puerto Rican. I was born Stateside but raised in La Isla del Encato. I love las playas y la comida. I love that my hair and facial features easily speak of my African and Indigenous roots. Borinquen will forever be my homeland. I take the coqui’s song and the blue sky in my heart. I teach my daughter about la bomba y plena. Arrastro la letra R. I can talk to you about el campo y los Vejigantes. I am an atheist and I still ask grandma for la bendición. I consider myself Puerto Rican first, American second.

Just as I love my culture, I also repudiate it’s sexism, homophobia, it’s anti Blackness which seeks to forget Africa while wanting to eat una sopa de guingombo.

Acknowledging the parts of my culture I don’t like makes the love I have for the other parts stronger. I appreciate everything else so much more.
I’m proud to be a queer non-binary Boricua. La bomba y plena with it’s clear African influence makes my heart swell with so much joy. I hate the colorism that runs rampant in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. So con más gana’ muevo mis caderas and show off my big curly hair porque esas cosas son tan odiadas.
I’m a feminist and Latino Machismo is no match for me. Soy fuerte e independiente. A mi no me ganan. My daughter knows, unlike I did at that age, that she is just as important as the boys. She knows that gender is a spectrum and not a binary.

The day when child abuse and bigotry is no longer something celebrated in my culture cannot come fast enough. Yo soy Boricua, pa’ que tú lo sepa. But I’m also a social justice warrior and I will have my culture with justicia y concienca.

Header photo taken Sunflower Punk SJW, Puerto Rico 2014- Flamboyan tree

Social Justice y Mi Cultura

What ADHD Can Look Like

It took a long time to recognize that I have ADHD.

This is not an uncommon story for women and non-men with ADHD, Autism, and a variety of spectrum disorders. Symptoms are often excused as being a lack of discipline or an influence of their gender. Interestingly, many women who are later diagnosed or discover that they are autistic get a diagnosis for ADHD fist.

In school, one of the most common complaints heard from teachers was that I was too chatty. I liked to talk a lot, and very quickly. Sometimes people couldn’t understand me because I spoke so fast, and yet I would hear time and time again how bright I was or how articulate. I would ask endless questions, of everyone. I could never seem to learn that whole “don’t talk to strangers” lesson. In fact even now I find myself talking to strangers. When I left for university, my parents were surprised by how many people around town seemed to know me. While my frequent conversations with strangers bothered my mother endlessly, even into my adult years, so often the people I talked to would end up spilling their stories to me. There are times when one question leads to me seemingly learning a person’s entire life story.

At school, my focus would begin to wander a few months into the school year. I would start of the school year strong, then plummet towards the middle of the year, and then make back some of the marks towards the end. I followed this pattern throughout all my schooling.

Homework was difficult. If it was too easy, I wouldn’t pay complete attention and make inattentive mistakes. If it was too difficult, it was hard to stay focused and still long enough to understand. The longer it took, the more anxious I would get and the more difficult it would become to focus. I felt like I was unintelligent, and often my dad helping me with certain work would turn into screaming matches until suddenly something clicked and it all made sense. (Strange confession, I actually enjoyed those screaming matches with my father, feeling a strange sort of pride that I was the only one who could make him raise his voice. Sometimes I think he enjoyed it too.)

I found a lot of the books for school extremely tedious. I remember the teachers complaining about the fact that I mentioned that I preferred English books to French books. I was at a French school, so I can see why they had a problem with that, but no one considered that my problem might not be with the language, but rather with the fact that the French material was selected for me, while the English material I got to choose myself.

The stories I chose myself were more engaging, more enjoyable. They didn’t follow the same patterns that every “learn to read” type story did. Where the story doesn’t seem to matter so much as they were looking for excuses to use specific words. Continue reading “What ADHD Can Look Like”

What ADHD Can Look Like

It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time

CN/TW: Descriptions of Assault and Rape

I was at a party the other weekend, when the subject of my book came up.

I decided to tell the anecdote of the faith healer, the punch line of which was the description of his hand on my crotch and ass stroking back and forth, while I tried not to laugh in his face or look at my mother who was also struggling. I played it like I always do; for laughs at the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. But this time something was different. Maybe it was the look on the face of the person I was speaking to. Maybe it was the fact that I was already thinking about something related to assault. Whatever it was, even as I was laughing, I was suddenly face with the fact that what I was describing was sexual assault.

A man was touching my body in intimate places, in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. He was stroking my crotch because he knew he could get away with it. Despite the fact that my mother was sitting right there. I was in a position where I couldn’t object, and I couldn’t really refuse. Not without possible consequences.

It’s not as if the realization changed much. I was already an assault victim, having come to terms with what had happened to me at 18 years old with a doctor.

But the realization that I had been telling the story of my assault as a humorous story made me stop and think.

Continue reading “It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time”

It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time

Response to Disillusioned Leftists

Today I read this article and felt I needed to address a few things.

I do agree with the author that some folks do become pretentious about their activism. These “allies” seem to only be in it for brownie points.
But I disagree with their assessment of marginalized people they’ve worked with. The author claims:

one of the first things you learn is that they usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University. For the most part, they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”.

I’m aware that not all people are cognizant of how these forces affect their lives. However, I’ve been homeless, I’m a victim of abuse and I’m mentally ill. I absolutely think of my oppression in those terms. My social circle, which compromises of people dealing with several forms of oppression, also know their situations are due to patriarchy, power imbalances and such other concepts. We absolutely DO bother with policing our language. Marginalized people are capable of perpetuating bigotry. We absolutely do educate ourselves “on the intricacies of capitalism.” We do “sit around pondering the effects of “problematic behaviours” in radical communities.” We are concerned with checking our privilege. For one example, I have light skin privilege. While I do experience racism, my light skin is seen as non-threatening. I can easily find make up for my skin tone.
Yes, I am extremely busy trying to survive and get my family’s needs met. But I know the reason I have such a battle ahead of me with these things is because of systemic inequality.

Speaking of Fascism, there is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere.

Because we’d like oppressors not to have a platform to speak their bigotry is NOT an example of rejecting free speech. One recent example is Richard Dawkins being disinvited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. His right to have bigoted beliefs isn’t being taken away. The government isn’t taking away his Twitter account. So, his free speech isn’t being violated. He has a right to his opinions. I have a right not to listen to them.

Freedom of expression and the like does not mean we have to agree with what another person says…in fact, it means that when we do not, we certainly have the right to challenge it. But what myself and many others are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely, for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of world history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.

I agree we don’t have to agree with what another person says. However, I do not want to engage with a bigot. And yes, that is entirely for the purpose of safety. My not wanting to speak to a bigot is not censorship. Again, see above for my explanation on free speech.

Now, the ending paragraphs of this article deal with trigger warnings and safe spaces. The author asks that we “stop with the trigger warnings and get serious about changing the world”. I am completely serious about changing the world, and one way to do that is to make it safe and accessible. Asking, for example, that a class syllabus have trigger warnings makes it possible for someone with PTSD to plan around their study time. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. If a college class is then made inaccessible to someone with a mental illness, how is that not violating that person’s right to an education?

We are fully aware the world isn’t always going to be “fun and pleasant”. I mean, we have PTSD so, yeah we are more than aware. I am always scared but I continue with my activism because, pardon the cliché, I need to be the change I want to see in the world.

Author, you seem to think marginalized folks aren’t activists. Your article comes off as ableist because you’re asking for people not to ask for and use an accessibility tool I.e, trigger warnings.
Your tone comes off as condescending because you’re assuming marginalized folks don’t think about their situations as part of systemic oppression. Which is also classist because you talk about “university educated activists” as if marginalized people don’t also attend university. Or that university is the only way to become enlightened of these issues.

Response to Disillusioned Leftists

Six Months

Today is the sixth month anniversary of TJ and I leaving the shelter. Having my apartment made me realize just how many things most people take for granted.
I no longer have to sign in and out to leave the building. 
I can have guests over.
I can stay out overnight. In the shelters, we had strict curfews and weren’t allowed visitors.
I don’t have to worry about unannounced inspections. It is such a great relief to be able to take a shower in peace and not worry that some case worker is going to barge into the room.
I can have all my possessions with me. The rooms at the shelter had limited space so most of our things were in storage.
I can cook proper meals. I have an oven. I was able to bake cookies for the first time in years. In the shelters we were in, we only had hot plates. Cooking a full meal on a hot plate takes time and a lot of patience.
 I can decorate how I want. The shelters prefered you didn’t put anything on the walls.
I can bring in alcohol. Alcohol wasn’t allowed in the shelter.
My daughter can have sleepovers, she can go to sleepovers. 
We can sleep in. The shelter preferred you spent the day elsewhere.
We decorated for the holidays. 
My daughter has loads of space to play and dance. The previous shelters were so cramped and uncomfortable.
I can buy lots of groceries and fill my fridge. In the shelters all we had was a mini fridge which didn’t have much space.
I have proper furniture! 
Privacy. So much privacy.
I’ve had less stress so I’ve been able to start drawing and reading again.
Depression saps your creativity and energy and I hadn’t been able to enjoy my hobbies in years.
I have a view! It seems trivial, but in the shelters I had one window and my view was the building next door. In the apartment we have several windows and on a clear day the view is pretty great.

Six months may not seem like a long time but it seems like forever ago to me. Every day the fear I’ll be homeless once again, becomes a bit smaller. My daughter tells me she hopes we never go back to “those tiny, yucky rooms in the shelter”.

I’ll make sure we never do.

 

Six Months

Street Harassment and Me

CN: street harassment, catcalls, sexualization of young girls

 

 

I was 11 years old when I was first cat called. I remember it vividly. I was on my way to school when two men in a red sports car started yelling at me and honking the horn. I ignored them, they drove up to me and slowed down. They were commenting on my body and asking my name. I kept ignoring them. I was about 10 minutes away from school. I had my uniform on, I think at that time I was carrying my Rugrats backpack. I knew if I stopped walking they might have gotten out of the car. But if I kept walking they would know where I enter school. I was afraid they’d be waiting for me. I wanted to cry. These were grown men and I was just a little girl. I screamed that I was eleven. The guy driving said, “damn!” and then they sped off. They only left me alone once they realized they could go to jail.

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Clearly, a preadolescent girl in a school uniform carrying this bag was the ideal target for cat calls.(image is of a black, maroon and plaid backbag with three cartoon characters from the kids’ TV show Rugrats.)

I told mami and grandma later that day. They told me the usual; not to get in cars with strangers but to also not worry. I should worry once men stopped looking at me. That day I learned men’s pleasure was above my safety.

I stopped telling anybody about the street harassment I got when I walked to and from school.

Up until I was fifteen, the harassment was just verbal. Then it became physical. It was Halloween and I was out with a friend. We walked past some men and one of them grabbed my arm and asked “trick or treat”. Ever since, I never walk past a large group of men. I usually cross the street or wait until the group has dispersed.

I would tell my friends and the girls would commiserate with me, but also tell me I was being overly sensitive. There was nothing we could do, so we might as well endure it. The boys would tell me they wished they got cat called by girls. I wondered if they really meant that? Did they want to spend extra time on an outfit to determine whether or not that particular pant or shirt would get them more harassment than usual?

As a result of the daily street harassment, I started hating my body. The men who cat called me would comment on my thick thighs, my big butt and wide hips. Once, a man told me “tanta carne y yo sin arroz” (literally “so much meat and I don’t have rice”). That man literally said I was a piece of meat. That’s how I felt too.
People told me that I shouldn’t worry about street harassment since nothing would happen to me becuase I was “jailbait”.

I wanted to believe that was true. When I turned 17 the big joke was that now I couldn’t cry “jailbait” at cat callers. I was on the train once when I noticed this guy staring at me. He got off at the same stop I did. He walked alongside me. He was asking me where I lived, what I did, if I had a boyfriend. I figured I would lie about my age and he’d leave me alone. I told him I had just turned 16. He said it didn’t matter, that we could still be friends. I told him I was too young. He said, “with that body it doesn’t matter. You could kill with that body”. I held on tighter to my messenger bag. I needed to get on the bus and was afraid he’d follow me. I lied and said I was on my way to my boyfriend’s house. He eventually gave up and walked away. I stayed on the station platform for about 30 minutes just to make sure he wasn’t waiting for me.

And again when I told anyone, they’d tell me to be flattered.

The harassment has only gotten worse as I age. I may have a “baby face” but my body’s shape gives me away. It took me a long time not to hate my body. It was those men and the rape culture I should hate.

Walking with my mom or grandma doesn’t stop the harassment. In fact, the men think if they’re nice to mami or grandma they have an “in”. Walking with TJ also gets me harassed. I’m asked if I’m looking for a daddy for her. Once a man commented on my dimples and said he was sure we’d make “beautiful light ‘skinned babies together”.
The only time I’m left alone is when I’m with other men. It pisses me off that I’m only respected as some other man’s property and not as someone autonomous. As stated above I’ve been taught the only feelings which matter are men’s.
“Be flattered!”
“Don’t be rude!”
“Say thank you! It’s a compliment!”

I’m not safe from any age group. When I was 14 some boys, no older than 10 passed by me and said something about my ass. When I was in college, some teens hollered at me about how slutty my dress was. Another time, a man old enough to be my grandfather, told me I had a “great rack”. And yet another time, an elderly man actually used TJ to get to me. TJ was three years old at the time. It was a hot summer day. I was wearing shorts. The old man was walking towards us and said TJ was very pretty. I said thank you and kept walking. Then he said “she gonna be tall”, looks at me “just like her momma, she got legs for miles, hmmm”. I picked up TJ and ran away. I was disgusted and it got me thinking, how old will TJ be when she first experiences street harassment directed towards her?

Thinking about it fills me with dread. I don’t know what I will do, but what I do know is that she will know street harassment is unacceptable. She will most definitely know that her safety is paramount. She’ll know she can come to me and I won’t dismiss her fears.

Street Harassment and Me

I almost died last week.

CN: Descriptions of withdrawal, hospital admission, medical symptoms and needles.

It wasn’t an accident, or even a sudden onset of something like appendicitis. No, my brush with death came about as a result of fear. Specifically, other people’s fear. Fear of addiction, fear of being wrong, and fear of being fooled.

You see, the week before I was admitted with Crohn’s. I went to an appointment with my Gastroenterologist and he sent me straight to the ER. I was admitted, and put on high doses of Dilaudid, after the usual adjusting games where they started me on 1mg every 6 hours, before finally conceding that 2 mg every 4 was what was needed. In addition to that, I had Gravol and Benadryl to control the various side effects of the opiate.

I spent the week essentially zonked out after several weeks of increasing pain and nausea, and a trip to the ER every 2 weeks since Christmas. My admission came on the heels of two weeks of being sick with a sore throat, which kept me not just from being able to take my Remicade, but my medical marijuana as well. My throat hurt too much to handle the irritation from the smoke.

My crohn’s had gone into overdrive. I wasn’t digesting, I was in pain, and I needed help.

The reason the doctors agreed to finally treat my pain properly is that I told them, that once I got home I wouldn’t be taking dilaudid anymore.

Not one doctor stopped thinking about their fear of addiction long enough to hear what I was saying and remember their training. Continue reading “I almost died last week.”

I almost died last week.

Guest Post: "Women's Work"

This is a guest post from Sunflower Punk of Social Justice, posted with permission.

People would always tell my mom she was lucky she had at least one daughter. They would tell her I would help her when her parents were elderly and needed taking care of. No one ever mentioned my brothers. It was always like that; the girls in my family were expected to take care of their parents even after marrying and making lives of their own. The men were never expected to though. In fact when a man was taking care of a parent, I’d hear how selfless and wonderful that man was. My grandma ended up taking care of her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law. My grandma is the best example of a woman dropping everything to take care of someone else, often at the expense of her own health.

Now, it’s on me and my daughter to take care of my mother and grandma. I’ve heard it plenty of times. “It’s so great you had a girl. If you’d had a boy you’d be alone”. They don’t expect TJ to have a life of her own when she’s grown. If I had a boy, they would expect him to leave me as soon as he was able.

I’m the one in charge of mami’s affairs when she dies. I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions should she ever end up in the hospital. Grandma is sick and may need surgery. Who does the responsibility fall on? Mami. But since she isn’t well, it’s my job. My 6-year-old daughter is expected to help out too. I have two brothers. One of them lives with grandma. But I’m the “girl” so it’s my job to take care of everybody.

My brothers are able bodied. I am not. But I had the bad luck of being assigned female at birth. I can’t leave grandma and mami to fend for themselves without someone accusing me of being selfish. Even if I protested and mentioned my brothers, I’d be told that it isn’t proper for sons to take care of their mothers. This was made clear to me when I was nine years old and my mother had a hysterectomy. It was my job to help her wash up and get dressed. One day I couldn’t help her because I was sick. So my younger brother volunteered. My grandmother started yelling at me. She told me I was lazy and that it was wrong for a son to see his mother naked. I questioned what mami was supposed to do if she hadn’t had a daughter. I was slapped and told to stop talking back.

I wouldn’t leave mami and grandma to fend for themselves. I’m not that cruel. I wasn’t conditioned to be selfish. I was conditioned to never think of myself. It’s taken me a while to get out of that thinking. It’s taken me a while to learn to say no and to take care of my needs.

When the time comes to take care of either mami or grandma, I’ll do it. I’ll know it’s because it’s expected of me but also because no matter how hard I try I will never be callous like my brothers. I know I’ll hear all about how selfless I am and what a good daughter I am, and don’t I hope TJ will take care of me in my old age.

And I will know that if I ever need TJ to take care of me, it’s because I earned her love and respect, not because it her “womanly” duty or because she owes me.

 

Guest Post: "Women's Work"