The Revolution Will Be Revolutionized

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, it’s quite evident that the world is going to Hell in huge plastic totes.

Political disasters are bombarding people simultaneously: the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the defunding of more than seventeen federal programs that greatly benefit the working class, and most recently the immigration ban that prevents even documented immigrants and refugees from returning to the United States for 90 days. While anti-Trump protestors target the newly appointed president, it is later revealed that Chief Strategist/Ex-Nazi Promoter Steven Bannon is the co-author of these executive orders.

The Left responds in drones, protesting major airlines while taxis driven by immigrants refuse to provide services in solidarity.  Most of us crowded the streets with signs, posted articles on our blogs and updates on our statuses.  When Uber CEO Travis Kalanick becomes a member of Trump’s Advisory Council, the response is a boycott that costs the transportation company millions, making Kalanick drop out of the council.  The resistance is powerful, beautiful to witness and—in some cases—be a part of.

Yet while reading updates about the immigration ban resistance on my computer screen, I’ve become increasingly numb and irritable, mentally and emotionally shutting down when scrolling down my newsfeed.  Eventually, I’d exit out of my browser, feeling psychologically jarred by statues about the Islamophobic executive orders Trump placed into motion with a stroke of a pen. I’ve since reduced my Facebook usage by only using it to either schedule social outings, post a few articles, or to write a status.

Another reason is the infighting among Leftists in all factions. The debates between and vague statuses about radicals, liberals, Democrats, Anarchists, and Socialists have become increasingly acidic.  Though I blame this behavior on Call-out culture and intellectual elitism, I also believe that elevating uncertainties for the world’s future triggers the recent disputes.  The intensity of the drama unfolding on my Facebook feed has affected my writing to a certain extent.  I was a day away from completing an article about the Liberal/Radical divide, but had difficulty even looking at it.

It has taken me distancing myself from social media to realize the reason behind my reaction:  we Leftists remain discordant towards one another, the distrust elevating to near-critical levels. Many of us can’t even have a political discussion on social media (or in person) without it resorting to a battle of wills. And this petty shit needs to cease effective immediately—especially if we are to revolutionize this world.

Because let’s be real:  To obtain political power, we must realize that none of us has the Ultimate Answer to dismantle this system.  This requires all Leftists to thoroughly evaluate, question, and challenge their assumptions and ideologies about one another.  Are all Democrats or Liberals unwilling to distance themselves from their privilege?  Are most of them White people who only chant “Black Lives Matter” to earn ally points?  Is it accurate for Leftists who believe in the system to brand Anarchists or other radicals as violent towards entire establishments?  In fact, from where did these stereotypes derive and what purpose do they serve other than to cause unnecessary division?

The mainstream and some independent media outlets play a role publicizing the detrimental assumptions about Leftists.  They observe the actions of certain factions, magnify it, and report on the dramatic moments exclusively.  We verify these generalizations by using some of our personal interactions with one another as evidence.  This is the reason why radical groups like the Black Bloc are considered destructive while Liberals and Democrats are deemed spineless.  When focusing on differences, we Leftists fail to establish the trust necessary to collaborate on innovative tactics to resist oppressive industrial complexes.

Forming trust among each other also involves inner reflection and the ability to accept constructive criticism.  I remember the backlash people of color and/or transwomen received after critiquing the National Women’s March. The former rightfully argue that the nationwide campaign have excluded them by adhering to White cis-female feminism.  Instead of hearing them out, many of the participants (mostly White women) accuse these marginalized demographics of divisiveness—a tactic often used to silence.  Even here in Rochester, organizers of the Solidarity March have come under scrutiny when one of them gave a shout out to the city’s police department. Some of the commentators (White folks) defend this status, stating that the cops have provided services worth noting.

Journalist Jake Fuentes writes “stop believing that protests alone do much good. Protests galvanize groups and display strong opposition, but they’re not sufficient. Not only are they relatively ineffective at changing policy, they’re also falsely cathartic to those protesting. Protesters get all kinds of feel-good that they’re among fellow believers and standing up for what’s right, and they go home feeling like they’ve done their part. Even if protesters gain mild, symbolic concessions, the fact that their anger has an outlet is useful to the other side. Do protest, but be very wary of going home feeling like you’ve done your job. You haven’t.”

Though he is referring to those protesting the immigration ban, his statement is very fitting for those who support oppressive organizations.  What some of the Solidarity March folks don’t understand is that their Whiteness protects them from being harassed and/or murdered by law enforcement during a peaceful demonstration.  Unlike Black and non-Black activists (and even our White accomplices), many of the participants will return home safely with the feeling of accomplishment and without the fear of police brutality. So if these particular individuals feel too obligated to study the history of law enforcement and the mistrust towards this industrial complex, they are not worth fucking with.

However, not all liberals (regardless of ethnicity) aren’t blinded by the system and second-wave feminism.  In fact, many of us radical Leftists fail to recognize the Liberals that are down for what we do.  These folks who attend our rallies or organizational meetings, but cannot devote themselves fully for whatever reason.  These are also the ones who check their White friends (without the hope to earn cookies), incorporate intersectionality into their political and personal work.  In fact, some of them have agreed with the radicals who’ve confronted the Liberals and Democrats thanking the police on the Solidarity March page.  So if we are staunchly against working alongside these radicalized liberals, we have to ask ourselves why and what is hindering our ability to do so.

Trust also involves the acceptance of non-traditional forms of activism such as online, radio, and literary activism, slam poetry—among others.  Many Leftists (regardless of age or generation) often dismiss non-traditional activism because it doesn’t involve able-bodied direct action.  “Please stop acting like social media activists ain’t shit,” states online activist/Ratchet Feminist Fiyah Angelou.  “Those are the ones that give your movements additional momentum. They use their platforms to support you and in return you foolishly minimize their contributions. These are the ones that share your shit and encourage people to be active in this movement these folks keep your street activism relevant. Stop that ableist shit!! The revolution will be accessible. The revolution will be revolutionized!!”

Angelou is absolutely correct in her assessment regarding non-traditional activism.  Many activists with hectic work/school schedules, family duties, issues with trauma and/or disabled cannot (or will not) engage in direct action.  They instead exercise other means to remain involved in their communities as well as the general population.  Activists such as Love Life of An Asian Guy, AO Anderson, and Fiyah Angelou use their Facebook pages to serve as a platform to educate and engage their audiences. To completely disregard the influence of non-traditional activism by deeming it a waste of effort is not only insulting but ableist.

Why am I writing this?  Because, as a Black Radical, I’m wanting my fellow Leftists to pull themselves together and function as a collective juggernaut. I want us to become more radicalized—if not shove our ideological differences aside to shut down the government and the industrial complexes employed by it.  And from where I’m sitting, we Leftists really don’t have much of a choice.

Speaking from Experience: A Black Woman’s Take on Boundaries

 

do-not-cross

 

About a couple of months ago, my friend Michelle proposed that I write a piece about how to establish boundaries for yourself and to respect that of others.

Honestly, I have no advice for my friend or my fellow readers as I can only speak from my perspective and personal experiences. As a Black female abuse survivor with mental illness and neurodivergence, the very concept of boundaries is dissimilar to that of the next individual.  For one, I had to find out and understand were boundaries were. The term itself is defined as “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent,” meaning that a barrier (invisible or otherwise) is employed to preserve something significantly important.

But for countless Black women and young girls, boundaries within their immediate environment are nonexistent.  Writer Nneka M. Okona accurately describes the typical role of the Black woman within the family structure when she writes: “We do not belong to ourselves: our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our hearts, our spiritual state. Our emotional labor is prescribed and expected.”  I grew up in a household where healthy boundaries were not exactly established—let alone enforced. In addition to rarely having my own space in our little home on 19th Street (as I shared it with my brothers or visiting cousins), my body, ideologies, creative expression, and even my voice was under what seemed like constant scrutiny. My aspirations and need for self-identity were dismissed because they didn’t involve my mother’s Christian God.  When I attempted to defend myself, I was punished even further as I was not allowed express any emotion towards being mistreated.

So, by the time I stumbled into young adulthood, I’ve concluded that my very identity was spoken for by others.  Whenever I was asked to do something, I complied despite my misgivings about the people and situation at hand.  The main objective, I justified, was to keep everyone calm to avoid an altercation that would involve me being violated. It wasn’t until I moved to Rochester, New York in 2005 and began my personal journey towards sobriety that I gave myself the permission to feel.  While I was a newcomer in Alcoholics Anonymous, my first sponsor informed me that expressing anger was allowed—a foreign concept to me.  Nevertheless, that invitation stuck with me and, after years of taming it to some extent, my fury groomed me into the passionate, opinionated Radical creative I am today.

And who I am at this moment is one of the reasons I decided to not marginalize myself in regards to my capabilities.  Throughout the education system, Black children with learning disabilities are often labeled incompetent and unteachable while associated with negative stereotypes constructed by systematic racism.  Already branded as an “Other,” the result is that many of us place limitations on ourselves psychologically as adults, resigning to the false narrative that we’ll never make it. For more than a decade, I unknowingly struggled with Inattentive Attention Deficit Disorder or Inattentive ADD.  Because I was untreated the majority of the time, I literally navigated through this society believing that I was unintelligent (being called “stupid” by family members and bullies only seemed to solidify this perception).

But once I realized what I was struggling with, I had to learn to overcome the psychological, emotional, and intellectually boundaries I placed on myself and my capabilities. This White dominated society thrives on neurotypical induced ableism infused with supremacy.  Since it refuses to support me and my learning needs, my only alternative was to discover ways to manage my symptoms. I can’t retain information, so I write everything down—most of the time—and read aloud so I remember.  I’m a visual learner who loves to read, which is why I watch programs with closed captions to catch every word. I have “To Do” sticky notes on my computer to stay on track.  My doctor will reinstate the prescription for Adderal due to my high blood pressure, so strong coffee works as a substitute.

But above all, I refuse to allow intellectual elitists of any shade plant the seed that I am incapable. If anyone even attempts to take there, I exercise right to aggressively vocalize my disdain with exemption.   Too many people have crossed my boundaries because I did not have the courage to speak up in the past.  I even considered the feelings of the other person above my own believing that I’ve done something wrong. At this point in my life, however, I have neither patience for assholes nor for their aspiration to do the absolute most.

And I now expect a similar response from others when I myself become a line-stepper.  Until recently, I often thought that many people (particularly Radical Leftists) shared similar ideologies regarding sex. As a sexual abuse survivor, my views on relationships and intimacy are skewed for the most part. So I went through my early 20s/early 30s chasing partners, sexualizing friendships by only viewing them to as a means to an end—which involved getting into their bed.  If there was an “initial session,” I treated that person as if they owed me companionship and became infuriated when affection was not reciprocated. I’ve burned entire bridges due to my unhealthy conduct towards unhealthy people.

Though I’m gradually embracing my sexual expression, I had to understand that not all minds think alike in regards to sex and relationships.  In retrospect, my behavior was very similar to that of my perpetrator and those who’ve sexual assaulted me as an adult.  The power and control inflicted upon me throughout the years—the emotional manipulation, feigned compassion, intimidation, and infuriation—I’ve imposed onto potential partners.  Beneath the shield toxicity was the yearning for the unconditional love and respect I barely experienced as a child.  Unfortunately, my story is nothing new, considering that Black women and young girls are more likely raped and/or sexually abused before the age of eighteen.  And many of us, searching for validation, often use sex to obtain it by violating the borderlines of others.

That fact alone forced me to realize that not every individual I shake hands with is a friend for life.  I learned that I’ve no right to hold someone hostage simply because we had coffee a few times.  No one owes me eternal friendship.  People have the liberty to tell me “No,” “Not right now,” and multiple versions of that response.  My fear of rejection and loneliness is not an excuse to step over someone’s line in the sand.  If anything, I deserve to have my feelings hurt if the situation calls for it—especially if I’m not acquainted with the individual or group in question.

And yes, I naturally want to assist folks—especially friends and family members for when I care about deeply.  But not everyone needs me caping for them when they are more capable of defending themselves.  Besides being a Captain Saveaho causing me humiliation and stress on numerous occasions, it further perpetuates the Mammy stereotype associated with protective Black women.  I’m not insinuating that I’m going to cease supporting folks, but unless the situation is dire and the person is in imminent danger, I only intervene when asked.

As I said before, everyone has their own set of boundaries so there are many answers to this universal question of where to draw the line.  But by the end of the day, establishing one’s threshold includes constant self-reflection and learning from personal experiences.  It involves being mindful of how I am treated as a Black woman with a traumatic history, what I myself have allowed to occur, and why.  It’s understanding and respecting the limitations of others and their tolerance for my behavior—even though my bruised ego may not agree.  But most importantly, it’s about knowing what my boundaries are to begin with and living by those convictions to maintain a meaningful quality of life.