What Happened to Sandra Bland?

What can you do?

1. Sign this petition so the U.S. Department of Justice will take over the investigation.  The Sheriff in Waller County TX has previously been fired for racist actions and the prosecutor also has a history of racist comments and prejudicial prosecuting, so we need federal assistance investigating Sandra’s death.  The officer who arrested her has been placed on administrative duty for violating procedures.

2. Broaden your definition of racism.  racism definitionDon’t quote the dictionary at me; it was written and updated by white men, making it an oppressive force.  Its definition of racism is incomplete and self-serving.  It defines racism as stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.  But that’s not ALL racism is. Many people experience those things, but only oppressed people experience all of that AND institutionalized violence and systematic erasure.  We cannot turn to the dictionary for real social justice definitions because “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” (-Audre Lorde).  A more accurate definition of terms can be found in Social Justice Terminology.

3. Examine your own white privilege.  white privilegeTry not to be defensive.  This is not about YOU. An excellent article about the difference between you personally being a racist and the systematic institutional racism we all need to battle together can be found here.  Use existing resources, and tests for examining your privilege.  Learn about white fragility and white people’s typically defensive response.  Understand why white people struggle to admitcan be found here.  Use existing resources, and tests for examining your privilege.  Learn about white fragility and white people’s typically defensive response. racism is real.   If you truly look at yourself in the mirror and realize you are a part of this twisted reflection we’ve all created, you can become part of phenomenon of dismantling racial hatred and oppression everywhere.

4. Talk to your friends and coworkers.  black lives matterShare information on social media. If you see or hear racist shit, CALL. IT. OUT. There are over 700 active hate groups in the United States! Join a local chapter of the anti-racist action network.  Join the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites.  Find out why feminism and anti-racism must be linked.  Change where you get your news from -if you are on twitter, listen to Black voices.  Follow The Root for Black news.  If you are on Facebook, consider joining Showing Up for Racial Justice or the Unpacking Privilege group.

 

5. Read & Learn:

cannot be partAdditional Information about Sandra Bland

8 Facts every person should know to understand racism

– Black Women’s Experiences with Police Brutality

– White womanhood and its problematic history with racism.

How to Navigate Whiteness and Feminism

– How to transform white fragility into courageous imperfection

– How white Americans can fight racism

– Why it’s so hard to talk to white people about racism

10 Things White Feminists should know to understand intersectionality

– The Black Feminist’s Guide to Racial Shit White Feminists Say

– List for Further Reading

Mark My Words: Conscious Creative Cursing

“Powerful people can do more, say more, and have their speech count for more than the powerless.” -Rae Langton

Have you ever said “that’s so lame”?  As a disabled person who has trouble walking, it’s not fun to be a cultural reference point for things that suck.  Alternative word choices are everywhere,  like “that’s so crappy.”  Or perhaps you’ve called someone a douchebag. Why exactly is it insulting to call someone a tool used to clean a vagina?  Because any word associated with female genitalia is a put-down in our society, as a method of oppressing women.  For centuries women have been labeled hysterical and crazy as a method of subordination and silencing.

psychoI’ve been with people who watched someone acting odd and heard them wonder aloud if the “oddball” was bipolar.  As someone who actually is bipolar, that’s offensive.  Mental illness is not a joke, and it’s not just “changing your mind” like Katy Perry sang in “Hot N Cold.” Do you have a “gay friend” or a “Black friend?”  Your friends and coworkers are just “your friends.” They are more than their sexual orientations and races.  And “gay marriage” is just “marriage.”

nword2Words have the power to marginalize, reinforcing “pervasive, restrictive, oppressive hierarchies… and the dominant group has the power to define reality.”  Did you know the dictionary was written and updated by white men?  This makes it an oppressive force.  Especially when its definitions are incomplete or self-serving.  The dictionary defines racism as stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.  But that’s not ALL racism is. Many people experience those things, but only oppressed people experience all of that AND institutionalized violence and systematic erasure.  We cannot turn to the dictionary for real social justice definitions because “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” (-Audre Lorde).  A more accurate definition of terms can be found in Social Justice Terminology.

“Language is an encyclopedia of ignorance. Old perceptions are frozen into language and force us to look at the world in an old-fashioned way.”                    – Edward de Bono

bitch2Oppressive slang has become such a part of language that it can be difficult to pick apart its actual meaning. Bitch, for example, is defined by Andi Zeisler as “a woman who is strong, angry, uncompromising and, often, uninterested in pleasing men. We use it for the woman who doesn’t back down from a confrontation. This word perpetuates the mindset that deems powerful women to be scary, angry and, of course, unfeminine.”

manup6Language can be used to maintain stereotypical gender norms. You may not even be aware you’re perpetuating micro-aggressions (subtle, automatic, stereotypical, insensitive behavior or comments about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability).  Micro-aggressions are present in phrases like “man up”, “grow a pair” and “ballsy”, which equate strength with male genitalia, and “throwing, running, or crying like a girl” which equate weakness with being female.   Skinny Girl Cocktails and Hungry-Man Dinners reinforce the beauty standard of thinness for women. What you say reflects your thoughts, perceptions, values, and beliefs.

welfarequeen2“Language is constantly changing, both its meanings and its connotations. Words are in flux, words many of us grew up familiar with as common terms, but which we are now being encouraged to rethink.” Thirty years ago when I was in high school, it was common to hear slurs like “That’s so gay” or “He’s so retarded.”  Thankfully our understanding of how wrong this is has evolved over time and fewer people say these particular phrases today.  But some still do.  There are still many other sexist, homophobic, and ableist terms you may not even realize are a part of your vocabulary.

no-h8Do you call women “girls”?  This infantilizes them and diminishes their power.  Notice that men are rarely called “boys.”  Girls and boys are children, not adults. Words matter. They are not harmless; words are like mirrors- they reflect and project thoughts and actions. They create and reflect our (rape) culture. Have you ever sang along to the Christmas classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside?” Did you notice the line where she asks “what’s in this drink?” (cringe) How can Bill Cosby NOT come to mind?

pussyMy favorite swear used to be “mother-fucker” until I began looking at things with a feminist lens. Why is it an insult to have sex with someone’s mother? There is no equivalent, as no woman has ever been called a “father-fucker”, nor would it be an insult if she was. Son-of-a-bitch and Bastard are also insults based on relationship to a woman. Cocksucker and “suck my dick” speak to the projected inferiority of any person who interacts with male genitalia.

You Don’t Say                                                                                                                      slut2Last year two student organizations at Duke University launched a campaign called “You Don’t Say” to spread awareness about commonly used phrases and their impact.  Their mission advocated for ending the derogatory usage of language that marginalizes women or anyone on the gender and sexual spectrum.  Since then they’ve expanded their campaign to include terms about racism, physical and mental disability, and substance abuse, among others.  Their goal is to challenge marginalizing language and bias, building safer and more inclusive communities, and validating the identities and experiences of people of all backgrounds.

PC Police vs. Inclusion                                                                                                Political correctness is externally driven; being inclusive is internally driven. 20695-Think-Before-You-SpeakWhen people are politically correct it often conflicts with their values – they’re doing it because they’ve been told they should, even if they don’t believe it themselves.  In contrast, when people are inclusive, value conflict doesn’t occur because being inclusive is a value.

 

Intentions vs. outcomes                                                                                         balls“Intentions are theoretical while outcomes are real.” People often have good intentions and don’t intend to offend.  When they offend anyway, they “jump from the Political Correctness frying pan into the Victim Blaming fire.”  Nobody likes to be wrong and defensiveness ensues. Regardless of what you were trying to accomplish, if someone tells you they find your language offensive, believe them.  The concrete impact is what matters most.  If you’re not sure if a word may be offensive, check it out before you say it! Look it up first in a Slang Dictionary to determine origins and whether or not it may be derogatory.

Lighten Up! It’s Just A Joke!                                                                                       get over itWhen a “joke” covertly or overtly expresses violence against a group of discriminated people (those of a different gender, race, orientation, or ability), we need to hold up a mirror to make the invisible visible. Ask if this is really the intended reflection because *this reflection* from this *one joke* is how our culture continues to be consciously co-created by each of us. Micro-aggressions like “jokes” are the bedrock of our subtle oppressive culture.  Ridicule is a suppression technique that diminishes and belittles its victims. Words reflect real world opinions, beliefs, prejudices, and discriminations that affect people from marginalized groups.

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.” – Benjamin Lee Whorf

Offensive Words and Phrases

Type Examples
Stereotypical Gender Norms Throw, Run, Cry, or Act “Like a Girl”, “Man Up”, She’s so bossy (not used to describe a man)
Gender Slurs Bitch, Bitch-Slap, Son-of-a-Bitch, Bastard, Shemale, Tranny
Genitalia “Grow a Pair”, “That took Balls”, Ballsy, “Don’t be a pussy”,  cunt, Twat, He’s a Prick, Dick, Mangina
Interacting with Genitalia Motherfucker, Cocksucker, “Suck my Cock”, “Suck my Dick”, Douchebag, Douche, Douchecanoe
Sexuality Gay, Faggot, Fag, Homo, Pansy, Slut, Fuckboy, Skank, Whore, Hoe, Thot (That Hoe Over There), Hoebag
Racist The n word, Oreo, Mulatto
Ableist Retard, Retarded, Lame, Cripple, Crazy, Mental, Mental Case, Nuts, Psycho
Classist Welfare Queen

Replacement Alternatives:

Inoffensive Insults

R rated PG
Ass

Assbag

Asshat

Asshole

Asswipe

Assbucket

Fascist

Fucker

Fucknoodle

Fucknugget

Jackass

Sack of Shit

Shitbag

Shithead

Shitmitten

Shitsock

Butthead

Chucklebutt

Diaper biscuit

Dingleberry

Fart basket

Jerk

Jerkwad

Poopsicle

Pond scum

Poopweasel

Poopyhead

Boogie-Muncher

Snot Face

Snotrag

Trash muncher

Turd

Call to Action

words have power2If you believe in social justice, there are many avenues to take to make a difference.  Some are easier than others.  Sherryl Kleinman clarifies that “language is one (thing) we can work on right now, if we’re willing. It’s easier to start saying “you all” instead of “you guys” than to change the wage gap tomorrow.”

imagesAIWTK6U2This one situation, this moment, matters. It is a creative moment so let’s make it a conscious moment! Each one of us is individually responsible for the words we choose and the language we use to communicate with the world.  We impact other people, sending ripples into our collective ocean. Let us hold each other accountable.

untitledYou can, in this moment, make an impact by calling out oppressive linguistic forces. Speak up when necessary and call attention to a lack of awareness and empathy when you see it.  Self-awareness is critical for without it, how can we shine the flashlight on our own or others’ language choices?  If you hear oppressive language, CALL. IT. OUT.  Naming it raises awareness and allows discussion, opening the door for information and alternatives.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot