Race Issues Are Queer Issues

During the post-CNN/Dan Savage Prop 8 debacle, it fell to black queer people to remind the “community” that we existed and that we did not all come from offensively homophobic families just itching to burn down gayborhoods like white people did to Rosewood, Pierce City, and others in the past. It also fell to the entire queer community/ies of color to remind both gay and straight white people that they had not authored, sponsored, nor ushered in the bill and that homophobia crosses race, class, and gender lines. More than that, people of color and allies had to trot out endless evidence that they had in fact organized against Prop 8 and that many had done so with no funding or support from larger queer organizations. It was the stuff of nightmares that reminded us all that despite all sharing one identity, the intersections crossing that identity meant that we were still, sadly, on different & exploitable divides.

Richard Settle/Flickr

Enter the immigration debate. At this past week’s Netroots 10 conference, at least one panel on immigration included a discussion in which a white queer blogger argued correctly that gay rights people need to fight for immigration issues because “when one of us is not free, none of us is free.” Though I share his sentiment, the juxtaposition of one community with the other once again renders them mutually exclusive. Yet gay immigrants not only exist, they have the unique distinction of being cut out of one of the major ways to gain legal access to citizenship in the U.S.: family reunification. After all, if your family isn’t legally recognized neither is its reunification. Even if queer immigrants are able to come here legally through other means, they also run the risk of having their legal marriages abroad considered null and void in the majority of the United States. So the marriage issue is in fact an immigration issues and vice versa.

Queer immigrants are also routinely denied asylum despite the fact that homophobic harassment, especially by police or military, should clearly qualify them. These denials have often sent queer petitioners home to their deaths a distinction they share with women escaping domestic violence and government sponsored rape and torture or immigrants whose ethnic or religious affiliation is no longer of import or has never been important to the political aims of the U.S. When HIV exemptions were still on the books, many gay men were denied citizenship, even when legally petitioned for as part of a larger family unit, based on the erroneous fear they were infected. Sometimes, the HIV exemption was used to punish citizen and asylum seekers for being gay; though statistics on how many were denied for this reason is hard to comeby, anecdotal stories from lawyers and advocates exist. The list of discrimination goes on.

So whether we are talking about equal access to marriage or not, as long as gay people have limited or no rights, certain immigrants will lack certain rights and vice versa. Ultimately gay rights and immigrant rights are not just equally important because of how oppressions are linked but also because for some people they are the same thing.

Understanding these connections are fundamental to an effective and inclusive gay rights strategy. Yet, prominent gay or queer (as a verb not a noun) artists seem to understand this less than the movement(s) itself. Last week Elton John played Tuscon AZ despite massive protest. In response, he told his audience:

“We are all very pleased to be playing in Arizona. I have read that some of the artists won’t come here. They are f***wits! Let’s face it: I still play in California, and as a gay man I have no legal rights whatsoever. So what’s the f**k with these people?”

His comment stood in stark relief against his decision to play Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, which not only flew in the face of the gay marriage ban in multiple parts of the U.S. but also his own rights as Limbaugh has spoken out against them on his show and supported others who have done so. More than that Elton seemed to turn the idea of shared freedom on its head, claiming “if I am not free, who cares if you are” in place of “if one of us is not free, none of us are.” Not only is this sentiment self-interested, hypocritical, and oppressive it also shows the underlining issues with how SB1070 is perceived and likely to be applied. After all, Elton John has no more legal right to be married in AZ than he does in CA but more than that, if the judge had not put on hold the ID portion of SB1070 this week Elton would have had to carry his papers to do any future concerts in the state. He did not think about that because he is white and European and like everybody else, he assumes he will not be stopped, harassed, or “accidentally” deported because he does not “look like an illegal immigrant.” That difference and the privilege to not only exploit it but also be completely oblivious to it is one of the fundamental problems with queer organizing in the U.S. and to a lesser extent Britain. Both groups continue to articulate themselves as white, upper class, and male. While they claim to be interested in socio-political issues outside of themselves, there is very little stated or real effort to be interested in issues related to poor people and people of color (both of whom are assumed to not be queer).

Elton is not alone in his complete denial of the import of immigrants’ rights. Lady Gaga plans to play Phoenix AZ at the end of the month. Though her appeal crosses sexualities and genders, Gaga has become one of the queer icons, in every since of the word, of our time. Like Madonna she has been taken in by a community that she claims while keeping her sexuality largely out of it. Like Elton John she has also made headlines for oppressive decisions like mocking trans women. And also like Elton John she has no qualms with playing a concert in a state that most artists have refused to play until the pass law comes down. Gaga’s concert also coincides with a week long solidarity effort called for by queer organizations, immigrants rights activists, and progressive organizations across the country asking everyone to use the week to raise awareness, organize protests, and refuse to have anything to do with AZ accept boycott. So in essence, Gaga’s concert not only violates an unspoken decision to boycott but also a very clear picket line.

In both instances, artists with considerable international fame and connections have simply snubbed their nose at human rights in the name of the almighty dollar. Neither Gaga’s silence nor Elton’s tried and true tactic of “hey look at that over there it’s much worse than this” can mask the fact that in a very public way white queer performers have failed to see the connection between the struggles of people of color and their own. They have once again transformed the public face of the movement(s) into one of racial privilege and racial disdain despite the work that queer people, regardless of race, have been doing to support immigrants rights and communities of color. They have made it that much harder for coalitions to be formed in the future and for new generations of activists to see their lives and their work implicated in the lives and work of people they perceive to be different from them.

Arizona is not California. But every activist involved in ending Prop 8 learned a valuable lesson about racial exclusion and racial myopia that everyone else should take note of if we are ever going to get equal rights in the U.S. Race Issues are Queer Issues. Queer Issues are Race Issues. And anyone who does not get that needs both education on oppression and an end to ticket sales. If you can boycott AZ businesses in the name of solidarity, you can stop listening to Lady Gaga too. There are several petitions circulating to try and get Gaga to cancel her concert, the most legitimate one seems to be here.

(Update, this post was written prior to Gaga’s concert. You can read my response to her Sharpie activism during that concert here.)

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images of Gaga, Elton & Eminem unattributed

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Assembly Required

I just got my copy of Raymond Luczak’s book, Assembly Required, for a proposed faculty book group next semester on the intersections of ability, sexuality, and popular culture.  I’ve already suggested Eli Clare and just to push it into the poetic and the blogosphere as pop culture, “Tears and Beauty” by CripChick but I am looking forward to reading Luczak as another potential recommendation for our reading. As the video above points out, he is the editor of two anthologies on the Deaf queer community and the first to publish an anthology on the subject. I’ve been tempted to suggest one of the anthologies but we’ve tried to commit to single authored texts for the first book group . . . Mostly, I’m just excited that a few colleagues and I finally got a grant to bring these pieces together at the larger university level reading and hopefully what that will mean for inclusivity when everyone puts their syllabi together in the future.

Update on the Status of Women in Afghanistan

Women for Women for International would like everyone to know about today’s Public Broadcasting spotlight on the status of women in Afghanistan that includes interviews with women with whom they work.  The issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan helped fuel nationalist feminist support for the war in 9/11 but soon fell out of discussion as global feminists and decolonized anti-racist feminists in the U.S. pointed out that wars such as this one, have never benefited women, nor were women’s rights in Afghanistan a cause for national concern in the U.S. before the decision to invade but when the Taliban were taking over or still very much in power.

pbs

We must now return to discussions of the status of women in Afghanistan for multiple reasons:

  1. we are culpable in the current instability of the lives of Afghan women and girls
  2. an adviser to the president quoted off the record said that “women’s issues” may have to be left behind in order to win the war in Afghanistan
  3. Pres. Obama has recommitted us to a war in a region we once claimed was Russia’s Vietnam and in which those same military advisers warned was unwinable regardless of the circumstance

By listening to Afghan women outline their needs and what they want from us as global feminists, hopefully we can actually stand in solidarity with them from an anti-colonial perspective while also pushing for an end to this war in allegiance with the well being of both of our nations. You can read the Women for Women International 2009 report on the status of Afghan women here.

Ahh the Guests

So the boy is moving in for a while and we are going to do a series on the blog on gay marriage initiatives in the next week. The boy is a big time advocate who has been losing his cookies over all the gay baiting tactics in various states and I am 20 years committed but not married who finds the gay baiting out there as well as on the blog whenever I dare to write on the topic equally disconcerting, so hopefully writing together we will give you a balanced view of the marriage issue (ie that for some it means everything and for others it is one of many issues where we should have equality but not one we should think will suddenly make it so) then again we may just rant . . .

Thanks to the Guestbloggers for holding it down:

ES – thanks for CFP which looks fascinating and the voter rights piece which not only makes the mind boggle at high tech disenfranchisement but also how little history has changed. Some of the links are a bevy of local information as well which I can’t wait to dive into. I am thinking seriously on asking our poli sci fac to teach a course on feminist civic engagement next term, she does great stuff on race, gender, and voting.

Laura – I cannot tell you how glad I am you did the “link love” post, I’ve been meaning to give the Temple blog a shout out for a while so thanks for beating me to the punch and for tying it in to some of the “current affairs.” I’m telling you this blog is turning into an election reflection . . . which I only get excited about when I look at your post.

JT – I did not get a chance to look at my Taskforce newsletter before today, so thank you for posting this the more people who get the word out the better the results for the project.  I’m thinking there is another oral history archive with a trans section online . . . but cannot find it right now. (I’ll check in the office Tuesday)

Other things to look for:

Alejandro is finishing up a piece on HIV/AIDS and Aging for the blog which is his area. It is just a quickie but I am excited to see it since I have not done nearly enough thinking on the issue myself.

Final thanks:

To the 1000s of people who stopped by this past week looking to help in Texas, you are all amazing!!!  I got an email from one of the organizations listed saying that the blog post generated tons of needed funds and volunteers and that they were grateful to all of you. 😀 Thanks for reminding me how easy it is to transform blogging into important political work, however mediated by class it may be.

Hopefully regular posts will start again Monday

-pbw

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Dies (Feminist Spotlight)

Congressional MainlingsOhio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, suffered an aneurysm while driving her car last night in OH. She was rushed to the hospital but did not recover. She was a Super Delegate who campaigned for Hillary Clinton.

Tubbs Jones was an important feminist inspiration marking several firsts in her career. Before becoming a Congresswoman, she served as the first African-American and the first female Cuyahoga County, Ohio Prosecutor. She was the first African-American woman to sit on the Common Pleas bench in the State of Ohio and was a Municipal Court Judge in the City of Cleveland.

In Congress, Tubbs Jones was the first African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives tubbshomelessnessfrom Ohio. She was also first African-American woman to chair the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) and the first African-American woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

Recently she worked alongside others to help with the mortgage crisis by helping to pass the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Act and urging banking bail out discussions to include funds for community stabilization. Her eye on housing also included active work for homeless people’s rights and access to safe housing. She supported health care reform especially for the most vulnerable, including the elderly, and ensuring military and veterans benefits and tubbsjonesdifferentlyabledspending that supported the troops but capped perpetual war. She also supported immigration reform and educational spending and was a long time advocate for workers’ rights including differently-abled workers.

Tubbs Jones was also a strong advocate of GLBTQ rights in Congress. She co-sponsored inclusive legislation for the GLBTQ rights at work and supported legislation to repeal don’t ask don’t tell. She also helped expand federal hate crimes to include the GLBTQ community. And she was currently supporting legislation to provide same sex couples the same rights of sponsorship andtubbsworkerrally increased asylum as other immigrants. Given the overarching conservative approach to queer issues in OH her voice was particularly significant at the local level as well as a needed voice on Capital Hill.

She was serving her 5th term in Congress and despite being a Congresswoman, never moved out of the depressed local area where she lived most of her life. She was an important advocate for women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds bu especially poor women, women of color, and local women.

to learn more about her see her website here.

Learn more about signs of a brain aneurysm here

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images
  • Tubbs Jones speaking at meeting in Cleveland. Stock Photo. Unattributed
  • Tubbs Jones with homeless advocates. unattributed
  • Tubbs Jones meeting with differently-abled workers. unattributed.
  • Tubbs Jones at Rally for workers. unattributed.

Quote of the Week from a Blog Reader

I am wrapping up my travels in the land of P which means live blogging is back in effect starting now. I was at an impromptu retreat with 6 amazing woc professors representing the entire academic lifecycle this side of the PhD: a brand new junior scholar, some “I survived my first and second years,” some endowed chairs of all things everywhere, and some with one toe happily dipping in the retirement pool and me smack dab in the middle. It was the exact right place to be at this moment – when faith gets shaken, the call to mentor from marginalized students is starting to cap my academic email bandwidth (which by the way, why is it not unlimited?), and my hopes and dreams, that always spike this time of year, dance with my disappointments and dread across the landscape of my memories and my waking thoughts about this life in academe. I wish I could give each of those brilliant women a “shout out” but, ours is secret club in the good and blessed way. where we meet and dream together for the strength and peace of the spirit and the doing of the tasks at hand. We have no plans for shaping the world in our image or forcing out the unbelievers who are just as convinced that we are the problem. Instead, we are trying

  • to listen
  • to remember
  • to strengthen
  • to grow.

For endless screed (whose blog has been down for 6 months?! but still has an ejournal and a website) I can give a special shout out for putting the whole thing together. b/c when I asked, she said, making that head cocked to one side face of hers, “dude, I don’t care.” It was good to see her in her home town, her little kid energy is infectious. All of the young ones have that energizer bunny thing going on that makes me wonder if I missed the day they passed out batteries.

 

I am happy to report that despite the fact that google outed her as an “author of this blog” this past Fall without either of our knowledge/consent, grrrrrr, for those TWO archived pieces here on the Chavez Street controversy and gentrification, she is willing to write a few pieces here again, this time with credit. 😀 When I said, “what about what people said to you when they thought you were me,” she sucked her teeth and said “At least I know who your friends are.” Yep, me too. Ain’t blogging grand. (And this my friends is why I don’t tell you my real name, that and the fact that I don’t represent my uni, organizations to which I belong or for which I volunteer, or am the chair,  at the spot. Reality is, as much as it has hurt my soul to discover, some people are never so honest about what they really think about your politics, or about how they treat people they think have little to no influence, until they think you aren’t in the room.)

So it is in that spirit, that I bring you this week’s Best Quote, it comes from an old comment Selmas made in the Say Hey section. (Some of my feistier colleagues at the retreat are going to be disappointed that I did not use the Puro Pedo quote about women in ethnic studies that had us all rolling on the floor, but think about it, this one fits.)

Selmas was talking about why woc bloggers are important and about how blogging has provided a forum for women of color to not only speak but contribute publicly to the production of feminist knowledge that the publishing industry, departments, and other institutions often deny us or erase. The quote is technically from Alice Walker:

“Anything We Love Can Be Saved.”

This myopic moment has been brought to you by the letter P and the number 6 and a bunch of powerful and amazing women I am proud to know.

 

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images
  • coffee shop
  • before photo from so curls gallery. image unattributed.
  • untitled. flickr. awcc photostream.

 

Update on Maria and Bronco Wines

The United Farm Workers Union reports that over 3000 people signed condolence cards to Maria’s mother and are inviting everyone who has not done so to come to the website and fill one out.

They also held a pilgrimage for fallen workers from Lodi to Sacramento in Maria’s name on June 1-4, 2008. (I am sorry to have not reported it sooner but I did not know.) 600 walkers started at Lodi carrying 3 coffins – one for Maria, one for her unborn baby, and one for all the workers whose names we may or may not know. They were joined on the last leg of the march by another 500 people.

The pilgrimage concluded with a rally outside the capital demanding that the rights of workers and their right to unionize be upheld by the state.

What has happened since my last post:

  • Merced Farm Labor contractor, the company that hired Maria, has been banned from operating in California until all of the areas where they contract are in compliance with California state law. Read more here (don’t believe the caption, Merced can go back to work as soon as it is in compliance that is not “put out of business” as the caption and first paragraph claim.) They are now claiming that the family refused to get help for Maria and that her fiance drove her to a local grocery store offsite to try and revive her before taking her to the hospital. They are also claiming that they had no part in her death!
  • Farm inspections by the state, resulting from Maria’s death have unmasked violations across the agricultural sector in California. One inspection refocused the spotlight on cherries. However, it is unclear how much these “discoveries” are actually benefiting workers since these kinds of abuses are well known parts of the agricultural system in the U.S. and it seems like maybe all this “look at the horrible conditions” posturing may ultimately be just for show, or worse get workers fired or deported. Please write to the California State government and let them know that what you want to see is regulations followed, proper hydration, equipment, housing, etc. for workers and not a bunch of deportations and firings.
  • The Governer, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (dem), and Sen Darrell Steinberg (dem), have all expressed their commitment to ensure California state labor laws are followed and to make sure that safety is a priority to prevent any future deaths.
  • Assembly Speaker Emiritus, Fabian Nuñez (dem), also introduced a bill to ensure that existing State rules about unionization be followed and to allow workers to vote from home or at poll sites about whether they wanted to start or join a union. He and others argued that such safeguards would ensure that labor contractors and company’s could not manipulate or intimidate workers into giving up their rights.

Please consider giving to UFW to support their continued work for farm workers rights. If you do not have money, send a letter of solidarity and ask to be put on their mailing list so you too can help raise awareness about what is going on.