On Mental Health Metalanguages: From New York to Newtown

Names of the Newtown Shooting Victims

 

 

I just wrote about violence. And I don’t want to add to any of the media hype surrounding recent events.

I only want to say this:

We need to get clear about what we call for when we call for mental health reform.

We need to be careful.  Because it sounds like we are putting it in the same category as gun control and school security.  And that is a dangerous correlation to make.  Putting those three things together constructs a symbology of state violence we are not being proactive about deconstructing.

Reforming mental health services–what does this mean to you?  Does it mean we see someone walking down the street, talking to themselves, and we call the police who lock them up–just this time in a facility and not a jail?  Does it mean we target the young, white boy wearing a black trench coat or the hyperactive black boy running around the room or the too skinny girl sitting in the corner gazing out the window?  Does it mean we create holistic, community-centered alternatives to institutionalization and overmedication?  Does it mean we build higher, thicker walls around our schools, workplaces, and homes to keep out “the crazies” but forget to deal with the fact that mental illness is, as Rha Goddess once said, literally in the damn water.  What is treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation in a world where we tie mental health reform to jail and the police aren’t always friendly to those of us who are black, brown, queer, poor, homeless?  We want to feel safe but how do we create safe spaces and community acountability without setting up new and even more dangerous stigmas?

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

We had better get really critical, really quickly, because we are not all speaking the same language.

We don’t want another drug war.  We know who will suffer–is already suffering–first.

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Preparing…

Looking for the author of this image..

I’m compiling material for a panel at the American Studies Association conference, happening in Puerto Rico next week.  The title?

On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part 2 (An #AntiJemimas Imperative)

Read Part I here.

I’m presenting with Fleshy Prof but I’ll basically be playing myself (yeah, wrap your minds around that).  And the entire family is invited:  Zora Walker, the Sable Fan Gyrl, the WOC Survival Kit–even Pretty Magnolia’s fine ass.

This little intellectual endeavor comes at a difficult time.  Personally and professionally, I am heavy, struggling to find my voice and stake my claim.  Balancing, consolidating, and exposing the alters will be like walking into a cold classroom filled with hostile, condescending adults and stripping down to a bright red thong.  It will be sexy, nerve-wracking, and vaguely reminiscent of slavery.

While pulling the material for the presentation together, I’m realizing  I’m more of a practitioner than I ever thought.  The #AntiJemimas are more than a project.  They are a lifestyle (note the new blog title) and a survival imperative.  So what does presentating a practice look like…in practice?  How does it roll into the audience?  Does it wave goodbye when attendees come and go?  Does it LOL?  Does it (O_o)?

There is touching to be done in Puerto Rico.  Touching and laughing and mindstroking and healing are waiting for me.  And I can’t wait.

But damn.  I’m not really that much of a voyeur to be so exposed.

 

On Fantasy and Feeling (Regarding #Beasts of the Southern Wild)

[Edit:  Warning – Spoilers abound]

If ever there was a film that maximized sensation without devolving into spectacle, Beasts of the Southern Wild was it.  Barely.  It rides the line between poverty porn and social critique, but somehow never manages to lose balance and fall on one side or the other.  It takes children seriously.  Quvenzhane Wallis, the girl who plays Hushpuppy, deserves every one of the accolades she has received.  She made this movie.  Give that child an Oscar TODAY.

Beasts is effervescent with feeling.  Hushpuppy, Wink, and the people of the Bathtub feel everything and the film’s execution of that pleasure is surreal.  Their world is carnal and crimson.  Dirt, sweat, rain, sun, shelled shrimp, alcohol–everything is tactile.  One of the first scenes with the entire community is filled with sparklers, simulating the magic of fête and festival.  Miss Bathsheba teaches social studies using a tattoo of an Auroch on her thigh, a moment so viscreal for Hush Puppy that the beasts become symbolic of the chaos of the storm and her father’s impending death.  Even the crawfish are wet and lush, mouth watering.

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On Violence (From Denver to New York)

There is a suburb outside of Chicago named Aurora.  This is the closest I will probably ever get to the community near Denver that was hit by violence early this morning.

As someone suspended between fandom and archive, this incident is terrifying.  I can’t imagine the unreality of watching one of the darkest superhero movies of our generation, at midnight, and seeing a true villain come through the doors in full combat regalia with three guns and multiple tear gas projectiles.  It would have been traumatizing.  If this had been a practical joke gone wrong, if he’d done nothing but stand there and wave his guns around, it still would have made the news, he still would have been detained, and a psychiatric evaluation would still have been issued.  More than likely, he would have been charged with some misdemeanor for the awful shock he gave moviegoers young and old.  As Alisha Gaines noted on twitter, “it matters that many witnesses first thought is was ‘part of the movie.'”

But for this man to then open fire…in a theatre filled to capacity…in the dark….

I have nightmares around scenarios like this.

And when I heard this was happening in New York, I didn’t feel better.  I felt worse.

There is no question that all of my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the survivors, their kin, and with the city itself.  But there is also no question that in a city where the mayor and police department are under fire for using ‘Stop and Frisk’ to harass, beat, and kill young black and Latin@ residents, increasing the police presence doesn’t make me feel safe.

It makes me feel terrorized.

Who do we think they will target first if they (think they) see something amiss at the movies this weekend?  How many young people will be killed and how many more will be frisked, placed in handcuffs, or publicly intimidated and made to feel violated and shamed in the name of public safety?

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The LatiNegr@s Project: A Response In Solidarity

In light of the recent Letter to the Editor of Latina Magazine from Alicia Anabel Santos, we, The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino, stand in agreement that Latina Magazine is misrepresenting Afr@Latin@s through their recent list of “Happy Black History Month: The 50 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinos In Hollywood.” We also believe that the term Afr@Latin@ is not a fad in which to be used to sell magazines or advertisements.

However, we disagree in terms of who and what defines Afr@Latin@s.  Here is why.

Black Latinidad, Afr@Latin@s, LatiNegr@s and other panethnic terms are young in both U.S. and diasporic history. While it may seem easiest to define Afr@Latin@s as “descended of” any one particular thing, doing so only falls in line with codes that have been used to divide us (people of African-descent in the Americas) from much needed resources and divide nosotros (people of African-descent who are also Latin@ or Latin American) from creating coalitions with Anglo-identified or identifying Blacks in the Americas.  Policing culture, bloodlines, and birthplace is behavior very familiar to imperialist and colonialist regimes the world over—and it has worked for generations on generations.  None of it has ever gotten at the root of exorcising racist systems of oppression, classist modes of resources distribution or sexual violence within our communities.

The struggle against racist systems of oppression is about Blackness, as it relates to Afr@latinidad, being acknowledged as its own entity.

Afr@Latin@s are not Black in the same way African-Americans are Black.  Some are Afr@Latin@ because they have African ancestors connected to a particular land with its own particular culture that is not the U.S.  Others are Afr@Latin@s because their experiences, culture, lineage, and personal histories are both of Latin@ or Latin American-descent and of Black descent, whether that be U.S. or diasporic.  This is particularly true of the fast growing population of Afr@Latin@s in the United States—those of Latin@ and Anglo-identifying Black descent.  Still others are Afr@Latin@ because they self-identify as both marked by Blackness and as part of a global struggle against racist oppression enacted against Latin@s and Latin Americans of African-descent.

There have been generations of Afr@Latin@s born on U.S. soil. We cannot ignore or dismiss this history. As early as the fifteenth century and into the last decades of the nineteenth, Africans moved through the slave holding societies of North, Central and South America.  Most often as slaves, though sometimes as free people of Color, they crossed false boundaries created by colonial regimes.  Over the course of a lifetime, a Black person might find themselves enslaved in Cuba, fomenting slave revolt in Haiti, and freed in New York City.

Moreover, and especially in Latin America, Blackness existed and exists along a spectrum created at the intersection of two things.  On the one hand, state-sanctioned racial codes policed and police the line between Black and white.  In Latin America, gradations of morena, quarterona and other castas further divided people of African-descent, even determining access to freedom, occupations, and education.  As a result, Black identity was never any one thing but was always stigmatized in relation to whites.  On the other hand, Blackness itself was and is deep and varied, as Africans hailing from Dahomey created families with those of Congo or Segu, and a myriad other societies and cultures over time, including those here in the Americas.  The combination created and creates conflicting racial identities.  This is why there are even Latin@s of African-descent who do not identify as ‘Afr@Latino@.’  And yet their agency is important too.

This is our history.  ‘Afr@latinidad’ is not linear.  But our struggle creates commonalities.  Because Afr@Latin@s usually don’t match a specific “Latin@” image, we are forced to negotiate our identity and are discursively or personally positioned as outsiders in ‘Latin@’ spaces.  The struggle for inclusion, rights, and resources is also about our children, grandchildren, and kin.  And while relations between Afro@Latin@s and African-Americans, or Caribbean and Latin American folk who identify as indigenous or white, have never been perfect, bonds existed and continue to be formed.  We cannot dismiss or police individuals for how they have structured their families, and we must not think we can dictate individuals racial identities to them.  Self-identification is key.

We are concerned with the definition presented in the Letter to Latina Magazine because there is a difference between denying and accepting African-roots.  We gain nothing by using mainstream constructions of race to define our politics or our struggle.  Coalitions and acceptance are political imperatives as we work on behalf of ourselves and our communities.

To be clear: we will always stand strong when it comes to the exploitation and colonization of our people. We will not stand for commercialization and corporate colonization of Black and Latin@ people anywhere in the world. In Latina Magazine’s blatant disregard of the term and identity Afr@Latin@, they have allowed us to have a dialogue that makes our community stronger.

We always support dialogue that promotes Afr@Latin@s and African Descendants.  Discussion of Latin@s of African-descent needs to happen; often. Acknowledging, honoring, and raising awareness of Black people in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean is critical, necessary, and not up for debate.  And people of Color producing and sharing knowledge is powerful.  Remembering our historical legacy and the long struggle behind and ahead will only make us stronger.

In Solidarity,
The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino Team

X-Posted at The LatiNegr@s Project

Empathy (The #Rihanna Post)

Rihanna – You Da One Video Screenshot (:13)

I’m going to make this short and quick. And angry.

Every time you tell someone Rihanna deserves what she gets because [insert misogynistic and ignorant reason here], you are wrong.

Every time you tell someone, Rihanna is “publicly accepting her abuser–nothing more, nothing less” or “it’s so black and white,” you are wrong.

Every time you tell someone Rihanna should or should not have done whatever, whenever, wherever, and how dare she and (my favorite) how COULD she–Congratulations.

You’ve just silenced someone around you who is being abused.

And I’m not talking about Rihanna. This post isn’t about Rihanna.

This post is about the woman in the office next to you who says grace over her food. This post is about your personal trainer and his fantastic thighs. This post is about your best friend from college who you are meeting for drinks later. This post is about your professor. Or your student. Or the kid you babysit for.

This post is about your play cousin and your godchild and your niece.

This post is about your sister and your mother and the pastor’s wife.

Every time you decide to pass some abstract and sanctimonious judgement on Rihanna and her relationship with Chris Brown–man she loved, a man who beat her, a man who she is now collaborating with again–

Every time you do ANYTHING LESS THAN WALK WITH EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING WITH HER, you’ve just let someone in your life know that everything that happens to them–abuse, rape, psychological warfare–it is all their fault. If they go back, they are to blame. If s/he hits them next time, they are to blame. If s/he kills them when they leave, they are to blame.

You’ve let them know that there is no reason for them to come to YOU for help, should they decide that this time is too much and it is time to go. Worse, you’ve let them know that even if they are leaving, they can’t come to you because you are no longer–if you ever were–a safe space. A space where they don’t have to deal with the recriminations, the guilt, the pressure and fear and anger that is swimming around them because the society we live in is COMPLETELY UNFORGIVING of survivors of abuse and is especially unforgiving of “sassy,” “spicy,” “ratchet” women of color (I mean, don’t we all deserve what we get?).

Because you’ve let your judgement, your agenda, your own internalized misogyny erase safety from the picture, you’ve let someone you love know that they will not be able to rely on you in THEIR time of need.

Everytime you decide that it is fun or funny or provocative to recirculate pictures of Rihanna’s beaten face, you’ve just closed yourself off as a resource to someone who needs you. Not because you aren’t willing to help. I’m sure you are. But your actions have now shown someone around you, SOMEONE YOU LOVE, that asking you for help is also asking for ridicule. And in a situation that is already frightening and dangerous, you’ve confirmed what they already feared was true–that no one will believe them, that they are crazy, that it is all their fault and their problem, and that there is no support out there for someone like them.

Every time you decide to judge Rihanna in the Saturday Morning sitcom binary of leave/success or stay/fail, you are LETTING SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE KNOW THAT YOUR LOVE HAS CONDITIONS, THAT YOUR AID COMES WITH STIPULATIONS AND CRITERIA THEY NEED TO MEET BEFORE THEY CAN BE DEEMED WORTHY

If not Rihanna, who is worthy? Sad faced white women? Puppies? Chris Brown who “apologized?”

The funniest part of this? Three years ago, half of y’all couldn’t even be bothered. She deserved it then too, so I guess I should be surprised that she deserves it now.

But I am.

Because, again, this isn’t about Rihanna.

But someone in your life who thought they could rely on you is hearing you. And they just unpacked their bags. Because you just closed the door in their face.

Shame on you.

(This post is dedicated to my boo, @dopegirlfresh)

Happy Black History Month from the Lati-Negr@s Project

Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico

From In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience:

“From early on, racial classifications of Latin America and the Caribbean were complex. The criteria included skin shade, hair texture, and social background. The definition accepted in the United States-the only country with such a categorization-is the so-called one-drop rule, which makes anyone with any known African ancestry a black person.

In eighteenth-century Mexico, as in the rest of Latin America, racial mixture was classified in great detail.”

X-Posted at the LatiNegr@s Project.

Follow us on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook for the Afro-Latino perspective as we celebrate Black History Month.  Honor your ancestors 365 familia.

Honor & Human Rights to Halmeoni (Grandmothers) x 1000

If I was a middle-class white man with too much time on his hands

Never mind.  News about black folks (read: African-American)  is capital these days.  Especially news that appears to cross conversations occurring within the community with the megaphone of an unsympathetic outsider.  I’m not a Google spider, but I can only imagine a certain host website exploded its monthly click and traffic quota this month.  And I won’t help since there are so many amazing critiques floating about.*

What did not get much burn this week was this:

South Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery held their 1,000th weekly protest outside Japan’s embassy yesterday, demanding compensation and an apology from Tokyo as they have since 1992.

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The (Confederate) Flag and the (Black) Student

Um, this happened:

Byron Thomas is 19, black, a freshman at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and a proud Southerner. He hung a Confederate flag in his dorm room window until the university asked him to take it down because several people had complained about it. (The university later stepped back from the request, saying all students have the right to free speech.)

“I know it’s kinda weird because I’m black,” Thomas said in an iReport he submitted. “When I look at this flag, I just don’t see racism. I see pride, respect. Southern pride, that’s what I see.”

“Ignorance gave that flag a bad name, ignorant people like the KKK,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon.

And this happened:

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Loving Vampire Diaries: Why History, Slavery and Race in Fandom Matters

Bonnie (Kat Graham) and Emily (Bianca Lawson) in CW's Vampire Diaries

I spent a good chunk of my Thanksgiving break falling into the CW’s Vampire Diaries (thank you @Netflix).  In the process I turned Little Sis, T the Great and Nuñez Mom into fangirls and addicts.

I didn’t mean to get sucked in.  I cut my tween Sable Fan Gyrl teeth on the original Vampire Diaries trilogy (plus one post mortem) by L. J. Smith.  And when the CW series started, I was determined not to watch because it couldn’t possibly be as amazing as the books were.  I was convinced the casting was all wrong and a little pissed the disgusting success of Meyer’s Twilight was the only reason anyone even seemed interested in L. J. Smith fandom.

I was stupid, ignorant and wrong all at once.

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