I haven’t had the physical health these days to address what I see as an ever increasing culture of violence in mainstream North America. This violence is aimed particularly sharply at women of color but also any number of marginalized groups that may or may not include us in their ranks. As I have said before, I see the linguistic and visual acts of violence against women of color (women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, etc.) as a harbinger of physical violence. I do not think nooses hanging from trees are either “schoolboy pranks” nor isolated self-contained incidents. Nor do I think the recent multiple hit and run (ran over, back up, ran over again) of a transwoman of color, the week long torture of a woman of color, or the death threats received by faculty women of color last year (which I would argue is at an all time high if I actually had access to the numbers to prove it) are the work of exceptional monsters. I grew up in K territory. In England, I had the dubious privilege of living down the street from where the BNP were stockpiling weapons in an underground warehouse (yes, I kid you not). I lost an Aunt to racialized sexual violence and murder in the “deep south.” And on a date in CT, I looked out from the golf course to see a K rally filling the parking lot below (yes, the date was spent hiding in a pavillion hoping no one looked up and saw me there). It is in this context that I look at the rising hate crime statistics, the supremacist recruiting and papering of communities along the border, the willingness of police and prosecuters to eschew hate crime, and the Supreme Court’s systematic statement to the nation that integration and civil rights days are numbered, that I say hold on because the ride is about to get deadly.
In another post, when I am not ill, I will talk about what I see as the legacy of Pres. Yosemite Sam and VP Voldermort, but for now I have to htp Rachel’s Tavern for bringing this to my attention:
Central CT State Uni school paper, The Recorder (scroll to page 16), printed a cartoon of a man peeing on a captive Latina. The caption references questions about the taste of his urine as the motivation for the humiliation but not the kidnap.
Clearly the Editors of The Recorder are making some connections that we should all pay attention to:
- obvious – the recent kidnap of the west virginia woman who was forced to eat feces
- the violence and humiliation increasingly aimed at Latin@ immigrants which, for women, is often sexual and involving detention against ones will
- the belief that academia is an appropriate place for hate speech and that it will be sanctioned (ie no consequences)
Where did they get the idea that making light of recent events in West Virginia was ok? Did they get it from a culture that brings us comedy sketches like “Date Grape” or the backlash against feminism that has my female students coming to class and saying “well sometimes girls do make it [rape] up.” ? In the ways in which the violation of women has always been semi-acceptable in this country, yes I think that is certainly the sexism part of the equation.
However, I think point two shows clearly that there is also a clear message that women of color are imminently violatable. Black women may be purchased for the night or simply abducted, ridiculed and assaulted, because ultimately everyone will excuse the behavior as something else. Latinas, who thanks to the immigration debate, have become the perpetual immigrants are open to state sanctioned assault by border patrol, coyotes, minute men, supervisors, etc. as well documented in ICE data, court documents, and made for tv movies. Worse they are also border candy where if you pay extra you can kill them like in Juarez or violate their corpses like the still famous N. American artist turned exile critiqued in Coco Fusco’s essay “At Your Service.” In fact, as Andrea Smith reminds us in her chapter, “Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide” that women of color have always lacked bodily integrity (the right to say no, the right to their reproduction, the right to “respectability,” etc.) in the eyes of the N. American nation-state and as the court documents and the objectifying narrative of Mclarin’s Celia: A Slave remind us, at certain periods in history these acts were written into law. Much in the way they are unspokenly written in in the current period.
Third, and perhaps most important for the academics among us is the way in which college campuses have become one location of a multi-sited battle. The racialized physical, emotional, and sexual assault of women on college campuses is not new. One of the reasons I like to remind people the Duke Lacrosse team was not “found innocent” but rather the case was “dismissed due to insufficient evidence” after items went missing, witness testimony was compromised, and the victim’s credibility was dragged through the mud by the press and some feminist communities, is because I have seen with my own eyes the pacts privileged boys at privileged schools make about targeting and assaulting women of color. However, hanging nooses, chalking nooses, sending death threats, drawing supremacist images on homework, etc. are all resurgent behaviors that had largely died out. The use of the school paper to demean women, people of color, and the GLBTQ community had also largely been unacceptable of late but has clearly made a comeback. And though I chided in love, Anxious Black Woman, for worrying about having her classroom invaded by protesting conservatives from Horowitz camp since I believed it to be a teachable moment, I think they, the pledge, and the list of names are all part of this environment.
One very clear legacy of Castle Grey Skull (the gubment) is that we will have to live, or survive, a racially polarized nation that solves its domestic and foreign anxieties with violence. Women of color have always been the first to pay in this kind of climate but we are never alone as all marginalized people bear the brunt and thus society suffers as a whole.
One good thing, students in CT are not taking this latest event lightly. They have a new blog to take back the recorder and I think they are proving that we are equally powerful in the contest for whose voice and whose safety will be central to the post-Bush era.