Things that bring me joy: Get out (leave! Right now)

Since the Orange Tangerine and his merry band of Hateful Nonsense™ has been added to the already daily dose of constant isms I face as a female member of team Black n’ Gay, the list of topics I’ve wanted to write about has gone through the roof. In an attempt to clear out my draft list, I created a rule for myself: I wouldn’t write new things unless I finished a few old posts.

And then, last Tuesday, I went out to see Get Out. A movie is so good, it currently has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This, coupled with the fact that I have no discipline and I write what I want, is why we’re here.

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I have a sh*tton to say, and there will probably be spoilers. #sorrynotsorry

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge the joy of seeing this movie surrounded by my friends of color, and 50 other Black people in Tacoma. There is no greater bonding experience than a whole theatre full of POCs cheering on a Black man curbstomp a racist dude bro on his way out to survival. Jordan Peele and his incredible brain brought the community together.

Get Out is one of the most brilliant films of this year. There is no way around this fact. I hate horror films, yet I would go see Get Out again. And write a dissertation on it. But maybe not in Naperville, because I can’t go to my childhood hometown anymore. Or many of my friend’s homes. When I say I walked into work the next day suspicious as hell. I love my coworkers, but I’m going to need proof of safety exits and three references from Black women who made it out alive before I can go back to my boss’ house. (Ashleigh’s note: If you go to your boss’s house, TELL ME!)

The beauty of horror films is their ability to add some plausibility to the audience. We are scared not just because certain elements are terrifying, but because somewhere in the back of our mind, we can imagine pieces of the movie happening to us. And one of reasons Get Out is such a great horror film is because it is so stepped in realism: specifically for Black people and people of color, it accurately portrays the spectrum of racism that we experience on a daily basis. Literally the only fake thing was the psychosis+extreme sci-fi mind control. 89-96% of this scary movie is literally Black people’s experiences with White folks.

Example: If you haven’t had the privilege of being the only person of color at a function (while, in your identity development, woke enough to realize the racial tension that comes with being greatly outnumbered by White people), let me break it down for you: it is an uncomfortable feeling. At best, the majority of the White people you’re around are those you trust and somewhat vouch for their ability to engage in allyship, so you can at least enjoy your friends’ company as you stick out like a sore thumb.  At worst, you’re around multiple people you don’t know, and your only coping options are to finish your presentation/sit in the back and pray no one notices you/get so drunk you forget your own name, until you’re able to leave the speech/conference/wedding/shower.

The party scene in Get Out captured all this so eloquently, and brought me back to the times that, either by my own doing or out of my control, I was the only brown person in the room. A note to many of my White friends and exes: you have taken me to spaces like this. Multiple times. And even if you’ve tried to make as comforting as possible, it’s still weird. Especially if there’s 10,000 White eyes on me, and a lot of microaggressional-questions about my body/hair/upbringing/skin/name. I love you. But still.

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Yaaaaaaaay.

I have never had a horror movie speak so accurately into my soul. And that is just ONE SCENE with ONE THEME to unpack. Not to even talk about the prevalence of White woman tears and toxic White women feminism and fakeness.  And their obsession with thinking Black men are/need to be obsessed with them (*eHEM*). Or the analogy of cultural appropriation, and White folks wanting so bad to be us without wanting to be us. Or the assimilation to White culture, and ignoring other Black people.  Or the perfect analogies of the sunken place. Or or or or, or or, or. I haven’t even scratch the surface.

To me, Get Out feels iconic for a few different reasons. I think about the unapologetic way it captures White liberalism. Which is probably why the movie has a few White people mad: it holds the mirror up not only to the explicitly racist Neo-Nazis of our time, but to White moderates who tell you they’ve voted for Obama and drop 2-5 microaggressions in the same breathe. It calls out “well meaning White folks,” and shows that, unchecked, they too, can be racist. We’re at a place where “well meaning White folks” society stresses out about Black millennials voting the right way and then turns around AND VOTES FOR TRUMP. Or where “well meaning White” woman get mad because a women’s march acknowledges intersecting identities and offended when asked if we’ll see them at the next #BlackLivesMatter march (fun fact: apparently “nice White lady” is a slur). To be “well meaning” is not enough. And Get Out stresses this point perfectly.

Get Out is also powerful because a Black person defeated the odds and made it out of the house. As we know, often times, that’s not how the story ends. And I’m not even talking about other horror movies. Around the same time Get Out was released, 18-year-old Ben Keita was found hung in the woods near Seattle. 24-year-old Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond was shot multiple times in Chicago and was misgendered in the news. And then, less than a few days later, 31-year-old Chyna Doll Dupree was shot in New Orleans (and misgendered in the news), And then, less than a few days later, 25-year-old Ciara McElveen was stabbed in New Orleans (and misgendered in the news). Get Out is not a tool to forget about these individuals, but gives us a narrative that we as Black folks don’t get to hear often: a Black person, in the presence of several White people that wanted to harm them, ESCAPED. There is power in that statement, a storyline that we don’t hear enough in real life.

Honestly, Get Out is the movie we need and deserve. Beyond the fact that it gave us a lot of material for hilarious tweets (my favorites being the ones that give a shout-out to Rod from TSA), it does a great job of calling out Whiteness and allowing folks to see what it’s like to be the only Black person in a room, all while being witty, smart, and real as hell.

Things that bring me joy: AMANDLA STENBERG GIRL I LOVE YOU

Last week, Amandla Stenberg, creator of the video “Don’t Cash Crop on my Cornrows,” portrayer of Rue in the Hunger Games, caller-outer of all things cultural appropriation, and all-around badass, came out. She CAME OUT, everyone. LIKE. OUT. AS BISEXUAL. On Teen Vogue’s video line/Snapchat video/something for youths that I’m fuzzy on. And I know it’s probably old news, but I don’t care, because it will always be new news in my heart, so there you go.

Please don’t think I’m over-exaggerating when I said I almost cried when I saw the video. Granted, I almost cry over a lot of things (pictures of polar bears, wedding gowns, missing my mom, dropping my phone on my face, etc.). But for real, the video brought up some real emotions. Maybe I missed the announcement and there’s been five other Black actresses who have come out as bisexual in the past year. But since my Android has me on news alerts for “Black girls” and “bisexuality,” I don’t think so. I’ve often seen us exist within spaces meant for each other (Facebook groups, niche magazines, certain podcasts) and around trusted friends. But never so openly, especially in a mainstream publication. Until now.

There isn’t enough bi-visibility, not to even to talk about Black women bi-visibility. And if you’re tired of hearing that, I’m sorry, but it’s true. Yes, let’s not forget there are some awesome celebrities championing the bi and pan cause. And let’s not forget the media’s portrayal of bisexual women is still not great. For every Brittany and Bo and Brenna, we have the sneaky/crazy bisexual trope, or the wishy washy bisexual trope, or the “I’m not that into labels” trope. I am hard-pressed to come up with a character who has actually identified as “pansexual.” Hard-pressed. Not to even mention the complete lack of Black bi or pan girls on television. Of course Tiana, from Empire, comes to mind. But she’s been gone for OVER HALF THE RUN OF THE SHOW, and her bisexuality only was mentioned for a few episodes (and sometimes, not in a super-positive way). #WhereisTiana? Come on, Fox. Do better.

(Frederic: sick of your shit since 1972).

I’ve been lucky to have supportive friends who totally understand my bis/pansexuality. And it isn’t always positive. Besides my general “I do NOT want to come out to my family narrative” right now, I often don’t feel comfortable coming out to certain people, including surrounding lesbians and gay men as well as straight allies. I’ve heard that so-and-so’s bisexual identity is probably a stop before inevitable straightness/gayness, and that my sexuality is probably a phase. Not to even mention that people sometimes straight up forget. Like. Just straight up forget that I’m a queer woman.

And that’s why Amandla’s coming out video is so important. How cool was it that she felt comfortable enough to mention it on Teen freakin’ Vogue’s video Snapchat thing. This isn’t to downplay how tough it is to open to conversation and be vulnerable (she talks about how hard this video was at the end), but to praise her directness and willingness to state who she is so strongly.  She was just like “I’m Black and bisexual, deal with it” (not a direct quote), and then talked more about how Black girls cannot be suppressed because “we are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears and be big and bold and DEFINITELY not easy to swallow.” YES, Amandla, yes. You better get on your Audre Lorde “if I didn’t define myself for myself” train.

May this start a movement: there should be no TIME to argue with fools about how your bisexuality is just a mere trend, or to convince potential suitors that your bisexuality does NOT equal a three-way. I’m going to start wearing a button that says “Please don’t ask me about my bisexuality after I tell you about it unless I feel safe enough to initiate conversation or you are also bisexual and we are going to take a moment to bond over it. Do not define me. Just let me live LET ME BE BOLD.” Maybe not, because that sentence was long as hell, and I’m not quite out to my parents, so a button probably would be unwise. But still. STILL.

To have a Black girl, a well-known, vocal Black girl, come out as bisexual is wonderful. I know that not all Black girls and women share the same story–maybe we’ve came out since we were 5 and Amandla’s video did not phase us; maybe we couldn’t dream of coming out and are nowhere near this stage of declaring our bisexuality; maybe we DID come out and are now facing emotional and economical hardships that this video will never be able to fix, that are bigger than this girl–and I want to acknowledge that. I do not claim to be the voice of the entire population of Black bisexual women, because our journeys are all different. But for me–a Black bisexual woman who, quite frankly, often allows herself to be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive–I needed so badly to see another Black bisexual woman tell everyone (on social media through a publication that reaches A MILLION PEOPLE)  “there is nothing to change. We can not be suppressed.” And I feel like at least one other Black bisexual woman needed to hear it, too.

So thank you, Amandla. And lemme know if you want me to make you one of those sweet buttons.

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YES LORD. Go ahead with your badass self, girl. Caption credit: instagram.com/amandlastenberg

 

Things that bring me joy: Gender Equity Book Group

One of the great things about where I work is that they take quality in-house professional development seriously. Case in point: in early October, Human Resources emailed everyone about starting a “book group that focused on gender equity and higher education.” The book in question? Disrupting the Culture of Silence: Confronting Gender Inequality and Making Change in Higher Education.

Um. YES YES YESSSSSSSS.

Me and bae, TOGETHER AT LAST

Me and bae, TOGETHER AT LAST

Believe me when I say I signed up for this so fast. To be placed into one of the five groups, the main organizer asked for an explanation on why we’re interested and how it would benefit us. I think she was looking for a blurb, but I busted out an essay about working in a male-dominated field and wanting to examine what gender equity looks like when you add in racial identity. I would have done tap dances and back flips (read: probably not, as I am as nimble as uncooked pasta) to get into that Book Group, because it has two of my favorite things: discussions about gender with other people, and reading. My inner nerd was all about this.

After I got in, I started to read the book and look at the book and hug the book. Because HOLY BATMAN, Disrupting the Culture of Silence is awesome. By no means does it tell the story of every identity within a gender lens (at least, I think. I am on page 65), but there is some variety. The selections on being a women of color in academia and student affairs are vast and plentiful. Do you want to talk about work-family politics, or queer facility experiences? Done. And there are CASE STUDIES, YA’LL.  Case. Studies. Case studies are personal narratives with a learning-centrist twist. I. Love them. Emmergawd. May my workload never keep me too busy to thoroughly read and process this book, please please please.

yes yesnerd yes

And I am so glad the university created this Book Group, because it is absolutely needed. My work community is great, but no school can escape the realities of gender inequality in higher education, and we need to talk about it. As you look up in the student affairs ladder, the number of women in leadership positions get smaller and smaller. According to 2014 data, only 26% of college and university presidents are women, which is interesting when you consider that 57% of college students are women. Female Chief Student Affairs Officers are less likely to aspire to university presidency than their male counterparts. And this is just looking at data that’s exclusive to VPSAs and presidents, not to even talk about the personal anecdotes I’ve heard from trusted mentors, or some of the (to be honest, horrific) experiences told by members of my book group last week.

I have been very lucky to work in environments that, for the most part, get it. And sometimes, people don’t get it. And I need this space because I want to both make sure I don’t perpetuate inequality through my actions, and because I want to fight for gender equality in higher education. What does that work look like when I have limited control over institutional oppression? Some days I don’t know, so I’m glad that for now, I have this Book Group, this space, to help me figure it out. Because I personally need a space to talk about gender inequality in student affairs as well.  Continue reading