Remember By Doing


Posted in Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on October 31, 2009

The recent rape at Richmond High is a shocking, sick, violent act that fills me with incredible sadness.  However, the articles about the rapists being animals make me feel ill too.  A weapon of racism is to compare people of color to animals (therefore lesser/all the better to exploit them with).  While those young men (and bystanders) need some serious help and there is no doubt that they are deeply disturbed, this case is an example of the prison industrial complex doing its work: the youth are being charged as adults.  There are so many rape cases where men get away with it.  It becomes a quiet, guilt-ridden struggle.  Most rape is perpetrated by an acquaintance of the victim, and this acquaintance rarely gets punished. However, when there is a group rape that becomes public, there are double standards and gray areas – especially when the rapists are white/rich (remember the Duke case? or Roman Polanski?).  Men of color become animals and women of color helpless victims/deserved it – while white men rarely are accused of being animals (what about that fucker who kidnapped a women and kept her in his backyard?) with the same vehemence.  Instead, its more about the women who were raped – did they deserve it?  I believe the best way to prevent rape is to teach men not be rapists, yet this is rarely included in discussion about women’s safety.

Also crazy is that these youth are being tried as adults. This law is rife with racial disparities and injustices:  “There are approximately 225 juveniles in California serving a life without parole sentence. California has the worst racial disparity rate in the nation for sentencing juveniles to life without parole.  Black youth are given this sentence at 22 times the rate of white youth.” – While these men deserve punishment and education, life without parole will not help them or our culture reduce rape.  I am inspired by Critical Resistance‘s mission: “Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope.”  The recent hate crime legislation, which initially seems like something to celebrate, is put into perspective by this viewpoint: more people in prison won’t solve our culture of hate.

And what about the victims?  What growth comes from their aggressors being locked up?  How does that heal their communities?  As someone who hasn’t experienced rape or robbery, I can’t speak from the “victim” perspective – partly because I believe we are all victims of a system that hurts us, and I see the structures in place that make us aggressors.

On another note, here’s a crazy story about rape and health care.


Personal transformative politics

Posted in Art, Personal Politics, Uncategorized by rememberbydoing on October 19, 2009

Warning: the follow is very live-journal.

I grew up loving art and caring about design.  I still do.  And I guess my love for art/design perfectly expresses my struggle to IMG_2418establish personal transformative politics.

My family is Swedish, and Swedish textile and ceramic design mean a lot to me.  The problem with them is, they’re just things.  And usually they are things produced commercially, and shipped across the world, and I have no idea who made them or how much they were paid and what the factory is like, and the desire to create them felt so separate from my political development.   I grew up thinking how much I would love to be a textile designer, or a maker of beautiful things, but felt ambivalent, as I couldn’t see how I could be a textile designer and also be invested in social change.  I know that it would have be compartmentalized: textile designer by day, struggling to break into a competitive environment, and social activist on the weekends.  Sounds hypocritical and crazy-making.  But the idea of living a “dry” political life, which I had no idea how it looked or could be, feels unsustainable as well.  I am afraid of giving up privilege and feel too invested in beautiful things.

Today I went to a talk put on by Catalyst called “Visionary Politics: Another World is Possible”.  A panel of organizers/movement builders/kick-ass women spoke to how their organizations built their politics and movements.  Much of the conversation was about a transformative narrative, and how important it is to integrate a vision of a different world into your work.  A woman from Critical Resistance talked about how you have to ask for what you want, and not what you need, and how this allows for an agenda and ideology that moves forward and is able to unite the material and ideological.  A question was asked as well about self-care and how the organizers make sure they don’t burn out.  One of the organizers responded by pointing out how often this emphasis comes from white organizers, and while it is important, it can’t be compartmentalized (a little breather in Hawaii or an expensive massage are great, but need to be seen as what they are: they still have the same consequences as any choice you make).  She said that her politics are what sustain her; that by practicing her politics well helps her visualize a better material world.  Other organizers spoke about the importance of a collective and how that sustains the work.

This spoke to me as I try to figure out what the hell I’m doing and how to unite that ideological with the material.  I am redistribute shirtconstantly frustrated by trying to take in a wage, sustain my spirit, and navigate the world, as they never seem to match up.  This wears me down.  Even if I was doing textile design, which nurtures one part of my soul, it is such an energy and time commitment that I know that without it integrating my politics, I wouldn’t do them.  I’m not sure how deep my accountability goes.  But I don’t think this is a reason to shy away from building a narrative that unites my ideologies into all practices.  And, I don’t think its a reason to shy away from art.  Visual communication is huge in building an alternative vision.

Seeing those organizers up there, talking both about heady brain ideas and practical on-the-ground manifestations of those ideas, helped me believe too that the radical, organizing Left isn’t for insane, dried-up people that the media may have us believe.  To be a radical is practical and bodily.  It is growth and life and love.  It’s real.

Growing up in Whitopia

Posted in Home by rememberbydoing on October 19, 2009

Here’s an article from a new book, Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin, that lays out the history of neighborhood whisegregation and how white people clump together and hoard resources.  As someone who grew up in Whitopia, the logic of the white families makes sense; I grew up going to good schools, around greenspace, low crime, high perceived safety.  The untold story behind that Whitopia is I grew up confused about whiteness with skyrocketing rates of drug and alcohol abuse.  It was a segregated county where the Latino and black neighborhoods were “dangerous” and lacked resources, had underfunded schools (in comparison), expensive/poor public transportation, and very little protection for day workers.  I grew up confused by the liberal/Democrat sentiments of color-blindness and bleeding hearts and the huge disparities and apathy of the residents of the county.  Privilege was nice, but made me confused and not whole; living in Whitopia does not solve the problems moving there is supposed to solve.  It perpetuates not only the dangerous consequences of the school/community/policing/housing/criminalizing policies and attitudes for people of color, but it makes the white folks who grow up there live in denial of both a racial identity and an understanding of the world they live in.  It cripples true community.  The privileges are shallow and for the short-run.

OK, and here‘s a video about a climate change lesson with young students of color with some surprising responses.

And a cool website about the commercialization of breast cancer products,

And the latest insanity.

Obama wins the nobel peace prize, and other news

Posted in News by rememberbydoing on October 9, 2009

Well, Obama wins some stuff again.  I think that this win categorizes my ambivalent feelings towards Obama in general, where I identify more with his general political ideology (though his actions aren’t always reflective of his whole “Change” image) than other presidents we may have had, and I respect the huge job he has and the lines he is always walking.  However, he hasn’t stuck his neck out much for the people who need it.  In general, his policies seem to enforce business as usual more than they disrupt through his constant compromising.  But on the left, we walk a careful line of criticizing him, and criticizing what he represents to the general populace.  He represents change and he represents addressing race in America, and these are delicate things.  I find it interesting that anti-government radicals on the right and anti-imperialists on the left are sometimes united in their criticism.  What kind of partnership could that bring?  Anyway, with the nobel prize, I don’t see Obama as having done much in his tortured  political presence.  But I have to hope that his representation as change will be strengthened and enforced, although to many I’m not sure his worth will ever be proven, by prestigious awards or otherwise.  (Race Wire says it better here)

In other news, Obama gets an A in my book for hanging a Glenn Ligon piece in the White House.  And here’s a great article about Gangster Elmo from Racialicious.

Arm the Spirit

Posted in Art, Personal Politics by rememberbydoing on October 3, 2009

I just finished Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back from AK Press and really enjoyed it.  Diana Block’s chronicles of political awakening, committment, and vulnerabilities really appealed to me.

One section in particular that was pertinent was her return to SF after she comes up from underground.  She is shocked by the political climate and the Left’s fracturing.  Here’s what she says:

“As I walked around the streets of the Mission, I could still feel the insistent presence of progressive politics…Yet, as I began to investigate their programs and activities, it seemed that each one operated separately from the others, pursuing projects and goals that I supported, but without the breadth of vision or ideological orientation that was necessary to build a more unified political movement.  In fact, the burgeoning non-profit industrial complex seemed, in many ways, to have taken over the spirit and structure of the left.

The positive missions and programs of the non-profits were distorted by the competitive drive for funds and marketable agenda, which too often seemed to mirror rather than challenge corporate templates.  In the seventies, we had funded our political activities through salaries from ‘straight’ jobs, a multitude of benefit events, and individual donors who supported our goals…Now the situation had flipped and young progressive people searched for jobs with non-profit organizations that could fulfill their desire to do meaningful, social change work.  But jobs were tied to funding and funding was tied to the thousands of foundations that had mushroomed in the past twenty years, efficiently modeling the corporate mentality for the well-intentioned non-profit sector.  Instead of working together, each non-profit was fragmented to its own track, scurrying competitively to procure grants and recruit the youthful, passionate, hardworking personnel who would ensure its survival.  I couldn’t prove it, but it seemed like a deliberate, systemic plan to co-opt and disorganize the left under the guise of working for social justice.”

Damn. I am only recently starting to see myself as a member of the left, which is weird.  The sense of the “left” among my friends/classmates seemed to be more that it was a thing of the past, a funny mix of communists/organizers that had turned into rich Democrats that put on house parties for non-profits they like, or that they have been defeated and are now doing their small and quiet projects. This can’t help but seem deliberate to me, or at least a by-product of deliberate action against the revolutionary left (COINTELPRO, etc).  Without this historical context, the young leftists I know feel lost. As a white, middleclass college educated person, I know I keep finding jobs in non-profits that I believe in only partially (it’s mostly a distrust of the non-profit foundation system), and keep getting shuffled along into a professional career path while I’m not really looking.  Which is a privilege, of course.  I am getting used to making compromises in my politics in order to find work, instead of making it work.  And what contributes to that is fear (of not making money, of being a white anti-racist, of not owning my politics).