Thursday, November 20, 2014

Black Feminists Hate Men


" Guilt is not a response to anger, it is a response to one's own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the communication of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness" Audre Lorde 

As a black feminist, there is this notion that I 1) hate men and 2) blame men for everything that is “ wrong” in my life.

To set the record straight, I think it is important to note that I am human. I can experience both joy and pain simultaneously. I can both be happy and discontent. I can constructively critique systematic, institutionalized barriers that impact my livelihood as a black women while claiming my joy as a black women law student. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Before I had the language “black feminist”, I was still me. The academia and shared experiences of so many black woman has only helped build community and ensure me that I have not been crazy all these years. This language has also helped me grow as a person and into a young woman who is unapologetically herself.

Back to the matter.

I find that the term “ blame” is used as a silencing tactic to absolve men of responsibilities. I feel like it is a cop out. To believe that so many women enjoy being victims. To believe that being oppressed or experiencing struggle is somehow a want or a blessing speaks more to you than it does feminism.

I do not hate men nor do I blame men for everything that is wrong in my life. I happen to have a very good relationship with men in my life and if you took a journey through my blog you would find my appreciation for men and love.

What I do hate is misogyny. I hate sexism. I hate patriarchy. I hate white supremacy. I hate classism. I hate ageism. I detest them. I abhor them.

I am not here to place blame.  I am not here to make you feel guilty. No. 

I want everyone to take accountability and responsibility for the systems that benefit some and harm others.

I have a deep resentment for men who know better but don’t do better. I have a deep resentment for people who understand systems of oppression but choose to ignore it or only discuss it when it benefits self. No one is perfect. Yes. But I value integrity. I value honesty. 

I am angry. I am angry at the fact that we live in a society where people excuse Bill Cosby and Ray Rice's behavior. I am angry that I am constantly battling in my head what is and what is not acceptable as a black women. I am constantly at war with what I have learned and what I am unlearning. I am angry at the fact that I have to continuously explain to people why having the ability to make choices as a woman, free from judgment based on gender and outside of society’s constraints is necessary to my humanity.

That is what I am angry about. That is what disgusts me. I am not disgusted by you individual men. I am disgusted by the system that places you on a pedestal for none other than our difference in sex organs. No other than the fact that I menstruate and I have the capability of carrying a fetus for 9 months. I think this is both irrational and illogical.

I am disgusted by the fact that both women and men have been socialized to internalize these norms.

I do not hate you men. I don’t blame you individually for my woes. But what I must point out that while it may seem that I speak about “ society” as an idea, I am acknowledging that society is made of individuals.

So while I am not attacking you personally, I am attacking you as a a collective who is part of a greater society and system. I am challenging us all to step outside our comfort zone and view things from the perspective of the vulnerable and the oppressed.

I want myself and others to ask, “ Why?”.  Why. Why. Why.

When something becomes normalized, we internalize it. It is very hard to bring our subconscious thoughts into the conscious. It is very difficult to see how our subconscious thoughts manifest in a way that is harmful. But I do not think it is impossible.

All I ask for is accountability and responsibility. I do not ask for guilt because you think I blame you individually for my woes. That is a cop out.

Do not reduce black feminist to their justified anger. Do not make blanket statements without context. If I am angry it is for a reason. I can be all things at once. I am a whole human being who has the capability to experience different emotions at once. I am a whole human being that can experience both pain and joy. I am a whole human being who can both love men and critique patriarchy.

I am a whole human being that can step outside of my comfort zone and objectively view systems that hurt my sisters and myself.

Feminism is not a slur. My feminism does not harm me nor does it harm you. My feminism does not blind me. My feminism allows me to view the world in ways that I would not have otherwise. My feminism gives me the language to speak on my experiences and connect with other women in ways I have not before. My feminism allows me to create community.

But most of all my feminism allows me to define feminism for myself because as a woman I should have the choice to do so. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To be black and woman and have a voice is to be constantly at war with society

When you speak out about misogyny , sexism , and homophobia expect to be attacked .

As it stands, we live in a society where white patriarchy dominates conversations and culture . We live in a society where the norm perpetuates misogyny , racism , and homophobia . Without the oppression of these groups , the status quo cannot remain . Thus , when the status quo is questioned in a way that we are not taught to question it , the questioners are abused .

However , what I do know is that I am not perfect and I don't claim to know the absolute truth of everything in life . That would do me a disservice . That would mean I have no room to learn and I don't value growth .

What I do know is that I can speak to my experiences on being black , being a women , and being a black women . I know that everything about me is political.

I claim to know myself and my experiences better than others because I work everyday to deconstruct the patriarchy that has been internalized within me. I am at constant conflict . But I understand this . I take up this responsibility . I own it.

I have taken a choice to make myself vulnerable to criticism because to assert myself in places where I was never and still am not welcomed is powerful to me. It is empowering to me and empowering to so many other women who are working to deconstruct patriarchy .

As a black women , I am forced to navigate both through systems of sexism and racism to survive . In order to deconstruct these two system I have to understand how they operate to benefit some and hurt others .

I am constantly asked to put my humanity on trial. Those who benefit from my oppression become my judge, jury and executioner . They force me to speak on their terms . They create this window of rationality that only benefits them. They claim objectivity on a matter that pertains to my personal experiences . Then they turn around and call me bias .

This playbook is so unoriginal and boring . But because I want to deconstruct the system that benefits you and hurts me, I understand why it is so hard for people to unmask their privilege and begin to listen . I understand the pushback. I understand the misunderstanding. I understand it but because of my deep love for my people, I want us to always to better. I want to always do better. It is my deep love of people that I feel compelled to speak out about injustices.

I have been there before . I have not always had the answers and I do not admit to have them now . But I have always been a learner. The only way I have been able to learn is by educating myself and by listening but most of all making myself uncomfortable . Forcing myself to think . Challenging what I have been taught.

Change does not come out of comfort .

Otherwise ,

What incentive does one have to break the systems in which they benefit from ? What incentive does a man have to denounce misogyny ? What incentive does a white person have to denounce racism ? What incentive does a heterosexual have to denounce homophobia ? It takes a special type of constant introspection that is not fun nor comfortable .

To find out that what you've been taught your whole life is a lie . That your existence is predicated on the oppression of others is not something to look forward .

When you live in a world that perpetuates your ignorance and favors your violence , there is rarely an opportunity to find a space to deconstruct it .

What may be true today may not be true tomorrow but I embrace that . The beauty of life is that we have the unlimited capacity to learn . But in the same breath , there are facts that exist today, in real time that help us operate in today's world.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but not their own facts . As it stands there are Institutionalized systems of oppression that effect my livelihood . I am told that my narrative is not enough . I am not told that statistics are not enough. What good is engaging those who don't respect your humanity and intellect enough to listen ?

Which is why I firmly believe self education is the best education . Everyone must always be willing to constantly educate themselves and listen in on spaces that are reserved for those who experience it .
I don't ask for your sympathy . In fact I don't think any activist wants your sympathy . I simply want the space to be human . To experience joy while actively deconstructing systems and speaking out on things that affect me and millions of others .

If you are not interested in the work or are not interested in adding value to the conversation , I ask that you respect that .

To be black and woman and have a voice is to be constantly at war with society . I own that and I am okay with that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On being First Generation Nigerian American Pt.1


My parents did not anticipate the result of raising a Nigerian in America
This unidentified identity that is sometimes swept under the rug
The “I never fully had the American experience growing up in a Nigerian home”
Yet “I never fully had a Nigerian experience because I grew up in America”
The “how to I identify as a black person when my direct roots are from Nigeria”
Yet “I never fully had the Black experience because my parents are immigrants.”
There is something unique about the Black first generation American that other immigrant families do not share. Particularly because of the unique experience of Blacks in America. There is a great disconnect.

Part of the disconnect comes from my generation’s inability to find a space that helps unmask and articulate the conflating experiences.

While my parents grew up in Nigeria , they are no more free from white supremacy than Blacks in America. It is the ramifications of colonization that forced them to immigrant to this country. While I cannot imagine how it was to immigrate to a foreign land, this experience has a direct impact on my experience as a first generation Nigerian American.

While my parents taught me culture. That is, respect your elders, don’t use your left hand, education is highly valued. They did not teach me history or my language. Or so they tried.

My parents’ need to assimilate and survive in America left them voiceless and story-less as to the reason why they had to come to America. What caused one to leave a country? This is a past my parents wont discuss. Instead they focus on their struggle to come here and the struggle to survive here. But what one must understand is that the immigration was a choice and a privilege that too often is used to erase the white imperialism that created a situation that gave rise to the migration.

Anti-blackness does not only exist outside of blackness. White supremacy thought is deeply engrained in the upbringing of Africans. Abuser pathology does not only exist in Black Americans. It exists in Nigerian Immigrants. The need to belong and be accepted by people who until this day dehumanize you and ridicule your culture.

Nigerians thought they were the exception. If they just practiced respectability politics, they would be favored by White Americans. Yet the need for assimilation is the direct cause of a lost generation of young people yearning to search for self.

Both my parents have English names. All my siblings have English names. Most of my aunts and uncles go by their English name. Assimilation was a tool used to survive. But we know too often that using the master’s tools to liberate ourselves will only end in failure.

By ridiculing Black Americans while trying to get the acceptance of White Americans, you failed. But I don’t blame you. Again anti-blackness exists within all of us. It is through colonization and imperialism that we were indoctrinated with the idea that our culture is primitive and unworthy. We pride ourselves in culture yet ignore the rampant influences of White supremacy and its deadly effect on our ideology and outlook of the world.

It is because of our insecurities, that we defer to our ethnicity or tribe without constructively criticizing how our culture has been manipulated and packaged in a way that appeases Whites. This naivety has left their children with a lost identity, scrambling to put our Igbo words into sentences. Struggling to keep our food well seasoned.  

I wish my parents did not shield me from being Black in America. I wish it did not take me into college to understand what blackness meant and how it affected millions of people’s livelihood. It would have helped me to better articulate my identity and create a space for those who identify with my experiences. But I don’t blame them because I don’t think they knew better. And if they did not better it was their defense mechanism to having your whole existence being determined by your skin color. But if my parents and so many others were able to come to terms with that and not deflate the reality, we would have a better sense of self.

But I don’t blame them. Theories and ideologies are for the privileged.  Language is for the privileged. So many shared experiences but no spaces or words to convey what has been felt. My parents did not have that privilege.

I know more black history than Nigerian history. I want to know both because they both influence who I am and how I am perceived. History is a powerful tool so it is of no surprise that many of the early books on Nigerian History were written by white people.

It is as if African history started when the colonizers came and began to “ observe” .  In order to reserve my sanity, I need to connect the dots. I need to create a space in which I am Nigerian, American, and Black American but also a Nigerian woman and a black woman. Intersectionality is important and it is not binary.

I struggle with creating a space in which I can express my differences without being called divisive or a space in which I can express my difference without my peers creating a hierarchy. At the end of the day this is about claiming and preserving our humanity and identity. One does not need to dismiss another’s humanity to preserve our own. We must recognize that when our brothers and sister’s are oppressed we too are oppressed.

So in this same space, it is important to recognize my privilege as a first generation Nigerian American. Why? Because my parents had a choice to migrate to this country. They came here for school. Although they went through loops and hurdles such as literacy test similar to Black Americans , they automatically entered a space of academia that was not afforded to many Black Americans.

As a result, I grew up comfortable. While I was not afforded all the privileges of my White counterparts, I was afforded far more opportunities than my Black American peers.

Because of Black Americans, my parents had the opportunity to come to school in America. But the privilege that my parents have that I do not have is a strong sense of self. By the time my parents came to America they already were immersed in their own culture. My whole life has been me figuring out how to navigate in America with Nigerian roots while identifying as Black American. Yet I am not afforded the space to discuss this. There is an assumption that because my parents came from Nigeria, I have a direct relationship with Nigeria and all things Nigerian. This is false and erasure. It does not give me the opportunity to explore my identity or talk about the experiences . It limits my ability to grow and become more self-aware.

It also makes me embarrassed that I must find journals and books to learn about myself. Because it is assumed that I indeed know about myself.  I am still figuring out myself. While I know how to cook Nigerian food and know how to shake my behind, I am still searching.

I find that because Nigerian Americans lack a sense of history, we, like our parents, cling to our culture, which shields us from learning. We accuse Black Americans for not knowing their history yet we fall short of our own. But what we must understand that it is a result of the same force, that is, white supremacy.

Audre Lorde captured it the best: “ It is learning how to take our difference and make them strengths” “ Without community there is no liberation, but community must not mean a shedding of our difference, nor the pretense that these differences do not exist”

We act as though different experiences are a bad thing. We need to understand our differences in order to genuinely come together and understand one another. With this new wave of first generation Africans, it is impossible for us to move forward without both sides reconciling. This is also true for my Afro-Caribbean brothers and sisters whose migration wave to America was much earlier than ours.

When we don’t understand ourselves, when we don’t face our past, when we don’t question why it is where we are, we fail ourselves. When we fail ourselves, we resent others and abuse others. We use the same tactics that our oppressors have used to divide and conquer. Audre Lorde urges us to rid of divide and conquer and replace this notion with define and empower.

There must be space to define our experiences and identities. But we must not invade the space of others. It requires us to check our privilege, which is often hard to do when we don’t have a great handle on who we really are. Our fear of losing the little that we have comes off as arrogance and we have to change that.

How to share differences without creating a hierarchy . How to create spaces without one interpreting it as divisive.


We have to start documenting our experiences. We also must educate ourselves on Black history. We must then reconcile our experiences so that our children will be able to navigate through America better than we have.

the afrolegalise 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Puzzle

Sometimes I fear that I am too kind .
For when it comes to the world
My skin has not one crack
But my heart crumbles
Is it the humanity in me ?
That produces this compassionate
And kind behavior
Even when faced hurt
How then can I build the facade that
Keeps me sane
Up against the world
My outside reflection
And integrate it into my heart
I wish only for barbed wire
So I never have to feel
Love does that to ones soul
The chaotic eruption
Two loud words expressing the bursting of human emotion
But I have not yet felt that love
But I watch as people's hearts crumble
And I so badly want to lock my kindness and compassion inside
A locket with a key only I hold possession to
How brilliant it would be to unlock and lock
For more people would fall in love
a switch, a programmed amygdala
If vulnerability was something we could control
But I see too many hearts crumble
Crumbs don't afford the luxury of a puzzle
They are shattered unrecognizable pieces
Something of the past
Suppressed memories and emotions

Friday, November 7, 2014

My existence

I don't want to escape this reality .
Despite how harsh the world is .
I want to be here to witness my survival.
I don't want to dream of what may be .
I want to experience it . I want to feel . I want to do.
Because that is what makes me feel human
In a world so cold
In a world that does not see me as I see myself
My existence is what keeps me sane
It is what gives me hope
But what keep me sane is where I experience the most pain
My existence

Do we believe that?

Some say "if there were no more problems in the world we wouldn't have anything to live for " do we really believe that ?
Fighting something that may be inevitable .
Discouragement lingers .
Hope dies .

Are you there God ?

Are you there God ?
It's me Chichi
I was wondering if I could get a sign
A foundation of hope
My addiction to making things better
Mrs justice on coke
I am no longer sure love is the way
For your children are filled with grief and dismay
So much anger hate and I just wonder
Where is my sign ?
The sign things will get better
Where is my leap of faith
That all this talking learning working isn't in vein
I swear people are so evil
Swear they are so bad
And maybe I'm looking myself in the mirror
Maybe I'm coming to terms with myself
This idea of morality spoon fed
Making us think were better than we are
But when I read books
I listen to stories
I hear about experiences
All I see and hear is pain
Why so much pain ?
Why so much suffering ?
Why do some get so much and others so little ?
Are you there God ?
It's me Chichi
I need some answers .
Why are people so cruel
Why do people abuse their power
Why do people hurt
Is the "devil " that powerful ?
How does one find hope in a world so cold and dark
I don't know there is a such thing as eternal happiness
I don't know that things will ever get better
One solution . Five more problems .
Are you there God ?
It's me Chichi .
I just want to know how to be the light in a room full of darkness
Especially when many choose darkness instead of light