I restarted graduate school this fall in order to finish my MA this year, so that’s why there haven’t been any recent posts. I have far too many ideas — upwards of 50 partially-researched or half-written essays and articles — and suddenly I have school to focus on as well, which is currently taking up about 85-95% of my time as I find my footing. So my efforts for now are geared toward striking that ephemeral balance between writing and parenting and academics.
In the meantime, here is an abbreviated list of the posts I am particularly fond of:
Years ago, I took the dog to the vet. Once we got to the examination room, I informed the vet that I thought the dog might have fleas, but if she did, it was a mild case. He said to me, “Having a mild case of fleas is like being a little bit pregnant. You either have fleas or you don’t.”
More and more, I can’t help but wonder whether racism is like having fleas. You either have it or you don’t. I want to briefly address the differing levels of racism because I think that’s where many many many people get hung up, begin to shut down, and wear blinders. Pardon the analogy, but racism is not a black and white issue. It’s all kinds of nuanced shades of grey (brown?), and this fact gets lost amongst the defensive posturing and divisive, derailing language from people who don’t see themselves as being racist. So let’s begin: Continue reading →
From the Toronto Star reporting on a press conference earlier today, Obama finally gives the world a bit more than a written statement about the Trayvon Martin case.
“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” said Obama, not just acknowledging but slaying the elephant in the room.
A gape-jawed White House press corps sat astonished as Obama, himself the product of a biracial family — a black father from Kenya, a white mother from Kansas — described, as never before, what it feels like inside young, black male skin.
Time changes but history doesn’t. And it is “inescapable” that African-Americans will see the scot-free exoneration of Zimmerman in the shooting death of a Skittles-toting Florida teen through the lens of their own collective experience.
“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” said Obama.
Before the Zimmerman verdict came down yesterday, I had plans to post about racism. I had a perfect post in mind, about how each person who grew up in the States, myself included, is racist, whether they believe so or not. And for that matter, each white person who grew up in a country where white people hold the structural power, each of those people is racist, too. It is an inevitable fact because you can’t separate yourself from the air you breathe or the water you drink. It’s all woven into us. And it’s a fact that we don’t want to face because of all of the shame that comes with it.
As an anti-racist, I have openly admitted to my racism in fora where the participants are predominantly people of colour and I’ve done so for the plain and simple truth that a) it exists and acknowledging it helps us all breathe a sigh of relief and b) the only way to make it go away is to address it, examine it, and break it apart. I don’t want racism anymore so I’m working to divest myself of it in a way that is healthy, open, and honest.
I, Angela Warner, am a racist anti-racist. I also struggle with internalized misogyny and internalized homophobia. It’s all part of me, woven into how and where I was raised.
It’s not enough to simply know that racism exists, that we live in a racist world. In the outpourings of grief and anger about the Zimmerman verdict, I’m asking myself and other white people: how are we reflecting on and actively transforming our own personal racism? And our collective racism? Because white people: we are ALL racist. It is impossible to have grown up in a white supremacy and not have taken on racist beliefs and actions. And before you defensively cite the number of friends of colour you have, please remember that sometimes these beliefs and actions are incredibly sneaky – they are designed by white supremacy to look normal and natural. As white people, sometimes we can find them difficult to spot – yet they are glaringly obvious to those who are hurt EVERY SINGLE DAY by our racism. I originally posted that I was not going to elaborate with detailed examples today, because on this day of grief and rage I didn’t want to unconsenually subject friends of colour, particularly black friends, to the details of the racism that arise in me and that I need to vigilantly be aware of, unpack and work to change. However, I got some feedback a few hours after posting that some liberal white folks couldn’t read beyond the first paragraph because they were upset at having been called “racist”. So, I’m going to post a list of examples right at the bottom of this article, with warning at the top so folks of colour and Indigenous people can choose whether/when to read this.
Go Read The Examples in Drake’s post. This is an important thing to do. We can’t fix the problem if no one knows what the problem really looks like, and if everyone, therefore, feels they can deny that there’s a problem. If all of us are walking around saying to ourselves and others, “It’s Not Me! I’m Not The Problem! It’s Those People Over There! I’M NOT RACIST” meanwhile, they’re busy minding their own business and then suddenly a race-based stereotype pops up into their thinky thoughts but that gets relegated to generic stereotype and not seen as the racism that it is, racism will continue to persist.
And when others’ sneaky thinky thoughts become vocalized and are seen for what they are, it’s a good idea to pay attention to how to approach that conversation. Watch this, because this is important. This is something I wish I had seen ages ago when it first came out. It would have saved me several heated “discussions”: How To Tell People They Sound Racist
It is also important to note that just as internalized misogyny and internalized homophobia exist, internalized racism exists, too. This is what I was referencing when I initially stated that All of Us who grew up in the States are racist. It’s awful, and this is some of what it looks like: A Girl Like Me
In his post, Drake makes lucid and valuable points when he talks about the shame of racism and how we can work to free ourselves from it. He states plainly that “the shame is not that these racist things come up in us – growing up in a white supremacy, it is impossible for them to not. The shame is when we deny it, refuse to do the work and therefore turn our backs on our sisters, brothers and siblings of colour. The shame is when we are inactive through fear of doing the wrong thing.”
Would you like to witness what people feeling shame looks like? This is the most amazing and astounding example of shame I have yet seen recorded. It’s really something to marvel at.
When Brené Brown did her second TED Talk, she spoke about Listening to Shame. Her first talk was on the Power of Vulnerability, and this talk on shame helped bring her back to the roots of her research. She says, “Jungian analysts call shame, ‘The Swampland of the Soul.’ And we’re going to walk in. And the purpose is not to walk in and construct a home and live there. It is to put on some galoshes, and walk through, and find our way around.” Watch what happens next (skip to 10:11):
Did you catch that? When she says, “Here’s why. We heard the most compelling call ever to have a conversation in this country, and I think, globally, around race, right?” When she says that, what does the audience do? *crickets*
In the same talk, at 18:58, Brown says, “If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy because empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive…. If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.”
We need to let ourselves be seen honestly, instead of putting up a wall between us and the problem. When we do that, we become part of the problem that we want to go away, so ultimately it’s really unproductive. In his post, Drake continues with this:
Let’s raise the bar. Let’s listen deeply to people of colour and Indigenous people and respect their wisdom and stop appropriating it and re-packing it into $30,000 university degrees and pretending we came up with it (thanks Kim Crosby for pointing that out). Let’s learn to admit when we fuck up (because we do, everyday) and figure out how to transform ourselves and make amends to those who we hurt. Let’s lovingly yet firmly point out racism to each other and hold each other accountable for making amends to the people we hurt and changing our behaviour for future. Let’s remember that we are the ones responsible for holding each other through the process of changing, so that we’re not expecting the support of folks of colour – think about how painful that must be- first, being hurt by racism, then having to hold the hand of the person who hurt you…
We’re all in this together, but the white folk need to put on their big girl and big boy undies and own their shit. There is no Us versus Them because we’re all human here, sharing this planet with each other. Most of us want to believe we’re all playing on the same team. We need to start acting like it. The only dividing lines that exist are the ones we’ve created ourselves or the ones we continue to pass down from the racist societal structures we live in. Denying the existence of those dividing lines (through denial of white privilege or pretending to be colourblind, which is the dumbest fucking thing ever) is a slap in the face to people who are hurt daily by those divisions. Yes, we humans constructed those dividing lines, but they don’t need to persist. Go read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, if you’re new to this and feel compelled to learn more. It’s eye-opening.
Being able to be real about things is as sexy to me as self-confidence. Reclaiming words is awesome.
“Reclaiming the word fat was the most empowering step in my progress. I stopped using it for insult or degradation and instead replaced it with truth, because the truth is that I am fat, and that’s ok. So now when someone calls me fat, I agree, whereas before I would get embarrassed and emotional.” — Beth Ditto of Gossip
In his article, The Obesity Era, David Berreby outlines a multitude of factors that can contribute to obesity, from the overly simplistic law of thermodynamics (i.e. put down the fork), to the starvation of previous generations, industrial chemicals like BPA, artificial light, viruses, bacteria, thermoneutral environments that don’t make the body work to maintain homeostasis (air conditioning, for example), differing qualities of calories, and the one which he appears to most favour: the machinations of Capitalism, a theory set forth by Jonathan C. K. Wells. I like this theory because it’s far-reaching, makes sense as it was explained in the article, and also because I’m biased against Capitalism. Heavily so, so to speak.
In reading the comments section (yes, I know! and I did it anyway!), it really brings home the fact that there is no one true cause of anything and that if everybody did the same thing, there would be n results, where n=the number of participants/everybody. By which I mean that an individualized and holistic approach needs to be considered because what works for me isn’t going to work for you. Every body is made differently. We are not robots created in a factory setting, but too many people think and respond as though we were, without taking metabolism, illness, injury, medication, genetics, or overarching societal and economic machinations into account. All that one-size-fits-all approach does is shame people who don’t fit the prescribed norm of what a human body is supposed to look like.
What is a human body supposed to look like?
This made me cry: real women by Hanne Blank, someone whose writing I was introduced to over a decade ago. I haven’t really kept up with her, but I have pretty much always loved what she has written. It was the part where she said, Real women are fat. And thin. And both, and neither, and otherwise. Doesn’t make them any less real. It was the ‘both’ part that did it. If you’ve read other posts of mine, you may have noted that I’m ‘pear-shaped’. My top is more slight than my bottom. My life from the point at which my hips lurched out to either side — and I swear that’s what they did, it happened so fast. I only got to wear those awesome batik parachute pants twice because I suddenly couldn’t fit them over my hips, and I was absolutely devastated. Yeah, that’s right. Parachute pants. Batik. Devastated. I’m still a bit upset about it, to be honest. — From that point forward, I felt very much like a person from one of those books of people, the pages of which are bisected at the person’s waist, and you can mix and match jeans with blouse with skirt with male with female with suit top with pyjama pants with overalls, etc. I’m two different people, top to bottom, bisected at the waist. An extra small on top and a medium on the bottom. And prior to pregnancy, there was a 12″ difference between my waist and my hips.
There is a phrase I wish I could engrave upon the hearts of every single person, everywhere in the world, and it is this sentence which comes from the genius lips of the grand and eloquent Mr. Glenn Marla:
There is no wrong way to have a body.
I’m going to say it again because it’s important: There is no wrong way to have a body.
And if your moral compass points in any way, shape, or form to equality, you need to get this through your thick skull and stop with the “real women are like such-and-so” crap.
You are not the authority on what “real” human beings are, and who qualifies as “real” and on what basis. All human beings are real.
Yes, I know you’re tired of feeling disenfranchised. It is a tiresome and loathsome thing to be and to feel. But the tit-for-tat disenfranchisement of others is not going to solve that problem. Solidarity has to start somewhere and it might as well be with you and me.
This, my friends, is a thing of beauty. And you know what else? So’s your body. It is a thing of beauty and it is real and it’s what a human body is supposed to look like.
And just as there are plenty of ways we fat-shame, there are ways we thin-shame, too. Being 5’1″, I’ve been relegated to the category of tiny and cute, or at least that’s how it appears people think of me as being. I’m also about 120-ish* lbs and my ribs show across my chest. I’m thin and have a difficult time putting on weight and an easy time losing it. I often don’t feel like I’m ‘qualified’ to talk about fat acceptance because of these things — because I’m on the outside. *(I don’t have a scale, or rest assured, I’d have the exact number for you. Why don’t I have a scale? Because I have two young boys with poor impulse control who will bounce on it until it breaks. That’s why.)
The body you have and/or the body you are working toward having, is a good and worthy body. And you are whatever gender you say you are. And if you identify as a man, then you’re a real man. And if you identify as a woman, then you’re a real woman. This graphic says it best:
Don’t even get me started on radical feminist transphobia. OMFG. And yes, I am an ardent feminist because I believe that women are equal to men. And I believe that women who were born with penises are still women. Exclusionary bullshit always feels bad. Do humanity a favour and quit being so insecure about yourselves, ok? Same goes for all the insecure men who’ve sexually assaulted… well… anyone because they feel the need to prove themselves more manly and more powerful than cis-women, trans-women, and trans-men. Give the world a break, folks. No one needs your bullshit. Save it for therapy, k? In the meantime, this about sums it up as to how simple it is: Continue reading →
I spent last week in the States, where I spent the first 23 years of my life. This trip was the first time I’d been back by myself. Prior to that, I’d always brought someone else with me. It’s a radically different experience going somewhere by myself than it is with someone. I’m able to be with my reactions and responses a lot more. I don’t spend any energy working to help create a certain experience for someone else.
It was eye-opening.
Let’s take the example of the Paula Deen thing that’s happening. For context: Prior to my coming to the States last week, I had no idea who this woman was. I haven’t had a TV in years and don’t really care about network television or cable programming. Additionally, I am actively anti-racist. I work to be an ally. I pay attention to situations where my white privilege gets me things that it doesn’t get a person of colour.
Every single person who I questioned about the Paula Deen case told me this:
20+ years ago, she said the N-word and now she’s being sued by a white person for being a racist. Can you believe it?
And then there’d be rhetoric defending her. I suppose it would be important to note that each person I spoke with on the matter was/is white.
I took them at their word, which was, in retrospect, quite naive. I now respond: Aw, hell no.
Why the change in my response? Because I actually read a little on the matter and learned more about what’s going on. Read the following for what’s really going on.
Yesterday, I was in Port Credit, Mississauga. Mississauga, New Market, and Brampton are the top three most multicultural cities in the world. They’re part of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day.
92-year-old Mayor Hazel McCallion has held office since 1978. Photo Credit: Angela Warner
A little bit of Africa Photo Credit: Angela Warner
Philippine Heritage Band Photo Credit: Angela Warner
Philippine Heritage Band Photo Credit: Angela Warner
St. Andrews Pipes and Drums Photo Credit: Angela Warner
Welcome to Port Credit Photo Credit: Angela Warner
South Asia Photo Credit: Angela Warner
And there was the Mississauga Chinese Arts Organization performing, which I took a video of. Youtube is being difficult and won’t let me upload the video, nor will WordPress.
Technical difficulties aside, I’m so thrilled to see such diversity. On one float, there was a man on a platform talking about diversity instead of assimilation, and truly, that’s where it’s at. Believing someone is inferior because of their skin tone is seriously one of the most ridiculous things we humans have come up with in our global cultural legacy. I find it absolutely bizarre.
While I was visiting the States, I felt the divide between white people and people of colour so much more pronouncedly than I ever feel it in Toronto. I distinctly recall thinking, “Oh yeah, there really is this divide in the way white people perceive people of colour. I remember thinking this way. Thinking about Them, as though they’re Different from Us. The Great Othering.”
I don’t feel that divide so much anymore. People really are just people. We all want to have fulfilling lives. We all want to feel loved and useful and relevant. We all want to have the means to pay our bills on time. If more of us acted like we’re really all on the same team, fewer of us would be defending Paula Deen. And, more importantly, even fewer of us would be acting like her.
“When you say ‘your thoughts shape your reality’ or ‘this person is just angry at me because they are carrying this or that attachment’ we are minimizing all the systemic factors that shape people’s experiences. We are minimizing forces like racism, sexism, homophobia and importantly for the yoga world – ableism. Without intending to, we are being condescending and dismissive. We are causing harm because, without even meaning to, we are reinforcing our privilege.”
Thank God someone is finally saying something about this. I DO believe our thoughts create our reality. On. One. Level. Which doesn’t at all dismiss all the other systemic factors that limit freedoms. Both can be equally true; it’s not one or the other. One person can have a debilitating condition and let it limit them. Another person can have the same debilitation and instead use it as a springboard to new levels of joyous life experience, and everything in between. Two single queer mothers of colour trying to make ends meet can have two very different experiences depending upon both their life situations in relation to capitalism, racism, ableism, sizeism, sexism, homophobia *and* how they react and respond to those limitations on an individual level. It’s everything all at once and never all one or the other. By not acknowledging the systemic limitations that very much do exist in this world, we devalue other people’s experiences, even erase them, and in doing so, we deny them their humanity.
The ‘this person is angry at me because they are carrying this or that attachment’ line of thinking is pretty much straight up a way of dismissing the other person’s perspective and abnegating personal responsibility for compassionate conscious communication. That attachment may exist and may be responsible for creating an angry response to something a person said or did but we also have personal responsibility for what we put out into the world. Off-loading blame is a crappy way to live in this world. Using spirituality to eschew responsibility for one’s actions is just… wow. It’s completely antithetical to what spirituality is. Spirituality is extra-ego. It’s the state we strive for as spiritual beings having our human experiences. Part and parcel to being human is contending with ego and learning not to let it rule everything we do.
Anyway, this is just my off-the-cuff reaction to the little bit that was quoted. Go read the whole article — it’s completely worthwhile and really gets to the core of the matter far and away more thoroughly than I do here. Really, it’s something that’s needed to be said for a long long time, so major kudos to Andrea MacDonald for getting the white-, able-bodied-half of the conversation started (‘cuz it’s not like people of colour, etc., haven’t yet noticed this yoga/privilege issue, y’know. Just sayin’).
Thanks to S, for posting the article and quote on FB.