Classism & Shoplifting Accusations: Why Intersectionality Matters

I went to a popular/famous bookstore here in Portland yesterday to find some thank-you cards and a gift for my friend. The device to enter my debit card password was acting up and the cashier treated me like it was my fault.

This reminded me of the time I was accused of stealing by one of their managers...I had been reading in the café there for my anthropology class and when I left, the security system went off. The security guard stopped me and the manager went all passively apeshit as they are wont to do here. She was very condescending and the security guard kept trying coerce me into admitting that I knew him. I was adamant in my refusal and denial. The item in question was a  book that I had bought at my college bookstore. It even had the sticker from that store still on it and was filled with my reading notes! It wasn't my fault that they couldn't find their only copy. It was humiliating.

I am aware that I am very White-passing, so I do not think that race was playing a factor. I do think that class was. When I was in college I dressed gothy or grungy (because it was cheap) and favored hoodies. I also had prominent piercings. I don't wear expensive looking clothes. I dress differently at work, but when I'm on my own time I dress how I please. What I notice is that people definitely treat me differently depending on the context and the clothing I'm wearing at the time. You never see well-dressed people being accused of stealing. This is why intersectionality matters. We have to be aware of all these things and how they work together.

Needless to say, I don't shop at that bookstore very often now.


Microaggressions at the Grocery Store

Hello World, Happy Chanukkah! Although it is a fun time, it’s always this time of year that I’ve got to have the inevitable awkward conversations with clients, colleagues and total strangers that I don’t in fact celebrate Christmas but that I celebrate the festival of lights, Chanukkah. I don’t usually find this notable and I just file it away in my cognitive box of unimportance. Last Friday however, I felt the need to write about my experience at the grocery.

Last Friday was the day before Chanukkah and of course I was running late on everything due to exams and commuting back and forth from the city. I rushed over to Safeway in the evening in an attempt to procure some candles for my hanukkiya. I couldn’t find the kosher section, which was unusual; normally it is in the pan-ethnic section of Safeway. I managed to catch the attention of an employee in the produce aisle.

He didn’t know where the kosher section was, and took me over to another employee in the meat section who “knew where everything was”. This gentleman then took us to the kosher section which had inexplicably moved to the soup and beans aisle (!!!), all the while talking about how all the kosher food had to have it’s own shelf and be separated from other food (as I understand it this is not a requirement of Kashrut in non-Jewish grocery stores, it can sit on the shelf next to other items so I didn’t like the implications).  He kept states this to his co-worker and me multiple times and how interesting he thought it was. I was starting to get uncomfortable and pressured for some reason. The section didn’t have what I was looking for and the employee voiced how he couldn’t remember where the Chanukkah items were. He then wished me a happy Chanukkah and they both went back to their departments.

I gave up and looked around the store a few minutes longer trying to find a spot featuring some Chanukkah stuff: gelt, candles, kitschy wrapping paper even. Yet there was nothing! There was an entire AISLE dedicated to Christmas items yet not a single magen david or chocolate coin to be found for me and the other yehudit. I admit I was frustrated at that point and still a little perturbed by my previous interaction. I left.

Upon later reflection I realized I felt unsafe identifying myself as Jewish to two strangers in a public space, especially after one of the men having shown a weird aggressiveness in his description of the kosher section. I think I was probably the only Jewish person either of them had ever met and the implications of the meat department worker’s speech still make me uneasy.

I’m going to look past this incident and continue to celebrate Chanukkah.



Hoy, en vez de darse gracias, recordamos a los que fueron antes de nosotros y para quienes que aun existen en esta tierra robada. Recordamos también que la tierra es sagrada y violamos a este pacto con ella si seguimos así, borrando y conquistando. 

Nantucket Historical Association

Hoy  por mi parte, pido perdón a los indios y la tierra. Yo no olvido.


"Bear" Culture & White Gay Hegemony

As I have grow older, I developed more of a body type that is a defining factor for the 'bear' subculture of mainstream Western (American) gay society. I have some issues with this label, especially because I do not identify as a 'bear' nor do I identify with many of the aspects & interests within this gay subculture.

Bear culture may have originally formed as an answer to the vibrant femme presence that most people thought of as "gay". Bears tend to perfer to present as hypermasculine by growing beards, cultivating more muscular or fat heavy bodies, not shaving their body hair (popular in mainstream gay culture), & dressing more "straight" among other things.

The irony of the bear image is that it is very specific, which seems contrary to it's first incarnation as a down-to-earth answer to starving twink bodies and gilded drag queen fabulous. Men are judged as non-bear based on body weight (even too much fat can be non-bear), their facial hair and body hair, among other identifiers.

Another issue with the image of what is "bear" is that generally bears are seen almost exclusively as White men. There have been many incidents of people of color who find bear body types attractive or who identify as bears who were unable to gain access to a certain online community. There is also a large reflection of the "no Blacks, no Asians" trend on profile sites. This echoes the implicit racism in mainstream gay culture as well.

While bears may have originally presented as your average man who happens to desire other men, who is "working class" and "just another one of the guys", this has shifted greatly. Bear culture tends to side with mainstream gay culture which has a backbone in upper middle class capitalism (classism), racism, economic marriage equality (heteronormativity) and body image issues (who gets to define a bear?)

I take issue with this, especially the issues in presenting another White face of the gay community. I also take issue because I do not identify as gay, whereas bear culture is disproportionally full of gay men. Bisexuals, transpeople and people who idenitfy as queer or otherwise may not be as accepted in bear communities.

Even though now I reflect more of a bear-type body, I remember when I tried gaining access to bear culture and community as a thinner man and was denied many times by men I found desirable.

This is why I do not identify as a bear.


The Cloud Atlas: A Problematic Disaster

So the Cloud Atlas...

Those were seriously the worst makeup prosthetics I have ever seen in my life. It was totally distracting of the message. Which, by the way, was kind of contradictory. Was it that hard to find some kick-ass Asian actors (Chow-Yun Fat, Tadanobu Asano, John Cho...they're out there!)

Can we please stop using this tired bullshit trope of the White Savior Complex? I understand that all these White 'merrricans are tired of hearing Black folks talk about slavery...well too bad! We should never stop talking about how the backbone of this nation was built on slave labor and continues to perpetuate the issues that arose with it. So you try to ease your White guilt with another example of the nice-white-guy (usually an outsider or an intellectual) saving some poor 'savage' (or better yet, woman of color). So effective.

Also, complete failure to effectively address the Holocaust and why the character of Jocasta might be upset with fraternizing WITH A FUCKING NAZI!

(Perhaps I will write a more intelligible review later. Don't hold your breath.)


Suffering from "-isms" in the classroom?

I've been very busy with starting college again for the first time in two years. It's very challenging, but I have been running into roadblocks I didn't expect to find in academia. As it turns out, my new department is very prescriptivist, which as a linguist, I find very troubling. However, there are even more things making me uncomfortable.

In my speech and language development class, we've been reading a textbook by a professor of speech language pathology (and a PhD) that I have found very troubling. He uses a lot of stereotyped examples when talking about cultural differences in language development (such as, "Asians are more reticent that Americans in speech") and without providing any evidence other than anecdotal items. That is not hard data! Also he uses "middle-class Americans" as a standard, while omitting race from the information unless he want's to differentiate between what he calls "middle-class Americans" and "middle-class African-Americans". I think he needs to incorporate White in his statements and so-called observations, otherwise his categorizations make no sense.

On top of this, I don't feel like my professor really respects my unease or disagreement with the way this author is presenting his information. I don't really know what to do, and I'm a bit tired of being the only dissenter in the class.

Furthermore my professor recently corrected my writing in a paper as not being "people first language", I had written 'deaf infants' where I should have written 'infants who are deaf'...meanwhile the professor allows a sociology major (!) in class use the term homosexual...which is very clinical and not people-first at all! (In case you are wondering, same-sex or gay/lesbian is more appropriate and "people first").

My last point, we were watching different videos of babies practicing a concept called joint attention with various caregivers. All of my classmates ooh-ed and aw-ed over all of the white babies but during a video of a very cute black girl, no one said anything or made any noises at all. I didn't think about this at first, but I was feeling odd and then it was all bit chilling to me upon further reminiscing. What are the implications of this? I'm not sure.

I'm not sure what to do, I feel like a black sheep in my department. This is all new to me, I've never encountered this in academia before. My undergraduate degree program was in a linguistics department that was very forward thinking, pro-feminist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic, very social justice oriented and active in our community. From what I have seen in this department, things are a bit different. I am not sure how to proceed.


What is greatness (in the USA)?

I've been back from Eire for almost two weeks now and with graduate school starting I have definitely had a combined culture shock. I am going to write some more about being away later on, with parts of my journal from the trip but right now I just want to repost something from my tumblr account that I've been mulling over since returning Stateside:

So, what exactly happened to the Civil Rights Movement? After the 1960s and 70s.
I mean, yeah we have come forward quite a bit...but it seems like things have just puttered out especially in the last decade or so. One step forward and three steps backward? Maybe I have an idealized view on the 90s and what I remember of the 80s, but things seemed to have degraded a lot since then.

Here are some points: We had one of the nastiest elections in the last four years with politicians and citizens being super disrespectful to each other and even now to our first non-White president, Barack Obama. We have politicians and regular folk calling other human beings "illegal", we got schools being shut down while military spending still hasn't been curbed nor have the armed forces withdrawn from multiple occupied countries. Women still don't make as much money as men do, check the data. Folks are still being killed in this country for being queer, or brown and poor (or all three).

This is not the vision. This is not the United States.
The melting pot isn't supposed to be cultural genocide.

What happend to the vision?

How are we all equal?

How can folks say this country is great?


Portland's Questionable Urban Development Strategies

I have complaining writing about gentrification and development of metropolitan Portland for some time now. It is a subject I think many people don’t want to examine. Recently, it came to my attention (in this PBJ May article) that city commissioners voted 3-1 to create a $169 million dollar “urban renewal area” around Portland State University. For geographical knowledge, PSU is in downtown, flanks the business district as well as the wealthy neighbourhoods around Good Hollow.  The Portland Business Journal said the move would “revitalize the sleepy south side of downtown” and that officials at Portland State claim it’s critical for PSU’s continued growth. (Sidebar: if PSU is growing, then why is it cutting student jobs and health care coverage?)

My apartment complex lies near PSU, on the edge of the so-called business district. As a long-time resident of the downtown area, I will bluntly say that this is an obscene waste of money and resources. This area absolutely does not need any “urban renewal”.

If you compare my neighbourhood to that of the Alberta neighbourhood, the N Williams area, Kenton area, or the Southeast Powell neighbourhoods…you can see we got it good. We have infrastructure that isn’t falling apart, we have direct access to a major grocery store and easy access to an organic grocery. The roads are not messed up, we can access the MAX, the streetcar, safe sidewalks, all of the bus lines and there are well-placed bike lanes. The major source of crime in the area is larceny, which is benign if you compare it to the major source of crime in neighbourhoods further out from the SE Hosford-Abernathy and Belmont neighbourhoods buffer or in North Portland.

In their 2011 November article “Market of No Choice”, the Willamette Weekly pointed out that the Portland Development Commission (another supporter of the urban renewal area) conducted a study that concluded a “high-end grocery store near Portland State University” was needed. Furthermore, it was also evident that the PDC’s study didn’t consider the “food deserts” of Portland. Food deserts are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as concentrations of low-income residents living a mile or more from a large grocery store.
Instead, the study looked at high-income areas including the PSU site, Belmont and 10th as well as two sites at the South Waterfront (the South Waterfront is nothing but high-rises with condos and overpriced townhouses. There are leases due to the housing market bubble, but the residents do not qualify as “low-income”).
Willamette Week further reported that the PDC’s spokeswoman Anne Mangan claimed the agency paid for the $18,700 study because it had heard complaints from downtown residents unhappy with their choice of grocery stores.
Let me break this down for you, assuming that most of the residents of downtown are high-income earners (which minus the students and low-income housing projects, they are); they already have more access (money) to be able to buy food at the grocery store of their choice. I researched mileage from my neighborhood (which is demographically high-income earners) and found four different grocery stores under a mile and a half away: the aforementioned Safeway is 0.5 or half a mile, a Whole Foods is 1 mile, a Fred Meyer is 1.2 miles and a Trader Joes is 1.4 miles away.
So why are these supposed downtown residents unhappy with their access to grocery stores? Two of their choices are high-end and Fred Meyer has all the basics with reasonable prices and quality. It’s true, Safeway isn’t the best…but it is still there. Downtown is not a food desert.
These actions and proposals show that the Portland Development Commission, the Portland Business Alliance, the mayor (also in favor) and city commissioners are not on the side of equality when it comes to access to basic needs for its residents. It looks like it’s pandering to a few whiny rich people honestly. Why not use the grant to improve roadways in Southeast (many with gigantic dangerous potholes), or build a grocery store in the Lents neighborhood of East Portland?
Perhaps most telling of all, the vice chairman of the Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council, David McIntyre, says he didn’t know the PDC was conducting the study and that “when it comes to food [access], this is an issue everywhere, but Portland can be a bit segregated.”
Think about it. Urban development/renewal reinforces the economic (and yes, still sometimes racial) segregation that splits our city. That’s gentrification at work.


More Portland Police Bureau Bullshit

In a SHOCKING (lol) article this week, the Portland Mercury stated that the latest data from the Portland Police Bureau on all traffic stops in 2010 shows that officers pulled over and searched Blacks and Latinos TWICE as much as they did to White Portlanders.

Now the 2010 census reported that Portland is 72.2% White and only 7.8 and 9.4% Black and Latino respectively. Theoretically more White people would be pulled over because of numbers, right?

Even more outrageous numbers in the Mercury article indicate that despite this trend, White Portlanders had a higher percentage (32%) of having contraband than  Latinos (23%) or Blacks (26%).

So what does that say about the PPB that we didn't already know? Despite the bureau's surprising admission that racism is playing a factor, it doesn't sound like they're doing much to curb it.

(Ed. note: You can read the full article here.)


Israeli Hypocrisy and the Immigrant Experience

So, there was a story about an immigration crackdown in a mostly African immigrant neighbourhood in Tel Aviv this past week. I’ve sat on this news for a while mostly because I was too chickenshit to say anything about it and also because it depresses me. Last night my friend (who is also half Moroccan Jew like me) told me a story about how his mother, growing up in Israel, would eat apple cores out of trashcans because she was hungry and her family too poor to afford proper meals. I was incensed and felt the call to write something

In the United States, we Americanized Jews are fed this idea of Israel as this egalitarian safe space where all are welcome and we are with our “people”. The irony is this is wholly untrue, especially for those who are not European Jews or residents of Israel who are from Africa such as refugees, migrant workers and other similar groups.  I remember a story especially, back in 2010 where Ashkenazim (European Jews) didn’t want their children studying with Sephardim (North-African, Middle Eastern, Arab, Persian Jews etc) and were taking their kids out of schools. Segregation is illegal in Israel.

Recently, the anti-African hatred in Israel has grown to disgusting proportions and really highlights a gigantic disconnect between rich European Jews and their poor African neighbours while mirroring the Sephardic/Mizrahi experience in Israel for generations (though perhaps not to the extreme of current oppression): There have been numerous race riots where Africans are targeted, the police have been racially profiling migrant workers, Israel is building a detention centre for African migrants, sex-trafficking victims from Sudan and Ethiopia were put in a jail because shelter space was limited, but perhaps most chilling was the cheering of police as they hunted down Sudanese on the streets of Eliat.

I am the child of generations of Iberian-Sephardic Jews who made their home in Morocco after the racist Catholic monarchy expelled them in 1492 (same year they started conquering the “New” World, by the way). I am the child of Moroccans that survived the Holocaust because the King of Morocco refused to bow to the colonial Vichy regime’s Nazi policies. I was not born to sit here and be quiet while injustice is meted out by a powerful few.  A writer for Haaretz, Sarah Kreimer put it well: “What would my grandfather say about migrant workers? We owe it to ourselves – as a society that understands what it means to be refugees – to treat them with basic human decency and respect.”

What is happening in Israel right now is wrong, very wrong. It is contrary to the teachings of our people. Palestinians are being pushed out of their homes and murdered in the streets, African refugees are being treated like criminals, land is being occupied, bombs are blowing up Jewish children in the name of G-d, drones and missiles are ripping apart communities. It must stop. I am only one voice, but I am raising it up.

I dedicate this article to my grandmother.


Sharon Needles and (Racist) White Gay Hegemony

So, it came to my attention in this week's Willamette Weekly that Sharon Needles (a.k.a. Aaron Coady) of RuPaul's Drag Race is going to be in Portland.

Fun Facts About Sharon Needles:  
Sharon Needles has worn a swastika t-shirt.

Sharon Needles has worn a Confederate flag one-piece swimsuit.

Sharon Needles has used the N-WORD onstage. (Courtesy of Queerty)

Oh and did I mention the bitch be Aryan as hell?

Not only that but WW's interview spot called the Hotseat in the "Culture" section interviewed Sharon. What I found rather hilarious is that despite this column's name, Aaron Spencer (the interviewer) did not ask any difficult questions of Sharon. In fact he didn't touch any of the controversy surrounding Needles, who has been accused of being not only racist but also transphobic and classist. I noticed also during RuPaul's Drag Race (shut up!) that Needles wore many controversial tee-shirts, two supporting Republican politicians and one even being a confederate flag, which the producers apparently made her cover up later in the episode. In a video after the series finished, Needles is quoted as saying: 

The other night me and a couple of my friends went out to have a good time, and there's this young thing. I call her a "thing" because, you know, I don't know how to tip-toe around gender rules or queer politics. I'm 30 years old, rich, and famous; I don't have to deal with that shit anymore, you know what I mean? So we'll just call them "him"/"her"/"thing," whatever. And you know she really finds my shows offensive. ... So anyway she got upset that I paint myself brown, that I would use language that she found offensive. ... She made me an unnecessary poster child for post-racial change."

SIDE EYE FOREVER! As if we're post-racial...ha!

Also Needles posted this on her Facebook:

i fucked a black last week…call me a cheater, not a racists..i don’t say n-word..i say n****r..thats the word..i’m not afraid of language..and i’m not afraid to say red lipstick is not your color..and i’m not afraid to say that i hate when people post pictures of them self eating..beans for that matter!! but the baby picture is super cute!!" (Full story here)

Yeah, so there was that.
To me, Sharon Needles reflects a huge disconnect of the gay White (male) mainstream and queer people of color, poor queer people, lesbians, disabled queers, fat people and transfolk. We are constantly barraged with images of skinny White "twink" men and Needles does a huge disservice to the community as a whole when she uses her privilege for evil. Sorry guys, racism and transphobia is evil. No other word for it. I don't want this bitch coming to my city, but I gotta remember she's playing to the White Gay Hegemony and that's just the way it is. Then again, I also remember reading somewhere that Lady Gaga is a fan. So fuck you, Sharon Needles.

No love.


A Bit of Perspective: My Response to Memorial Day Patriotism

Yesterday, I got into a very frustrating argument on a gay social-networking site on the validity of supporting war and supporting Memorial Day. Despite that I have relative and friends who have served in the American Armed Forces, I do not support war ideologically or spiritually and I am a vocal anti-war advocate, especially when it comes to celebrating memorials of war. I think that remembering and honouring the dead is fine, but there are no national holidays for remembering war victims, only people who fight in wars. 

My frustration with patriotism especially comes from this, I had many people on the website calling me names and saying I was disgusting for not respecting the dead. I have respect for the dead. I do not respect the war they fought in. I refuse to memorialize war. Patriotism goes hand-in-hand with white patriarchy and heterosexism in the United States. People who are seen as unpatriotic for their dissent are labelled traitors. Apparently I am a traitor. Despite this, I still firmly believe that peace is patriotic, and dissent is also patriotic.

One man tried to end the conversation by accusing me of “not caring about the deaths of hundreds of Chinese and Jews”. I assume this person does not know I am Jewish. It enrages me as a Jewish man when White Christocentric Americans use the Holocaust as a justification for war. The United States not only took its time when coming to the rescue of Europe’s Jewry, but it also sent back boatloads of Jewish refugees when they came seeking asylum. It is insulting to victims of the Holocaust and other genocides to use their suffering as a justification for war. Where is America’s Memorial Day for Yom ha-Shoah, where is America’s Memorial Day for the Nanking Massacre? It is also insulting to use genocide as an example to insult people with differing opinions from yourself…especially when espousing how WW2 was justified by saving the Jewish people but conveniently forgetting the slaughter of close to a million Japanese civilians in the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Another point that I want to emphasize is that the people calling me out, one self-described Libertarian even calling me a fool, were all White biological men. I believe that their sexual orientation is irrelevant in this case. Your sexuality or gender identity does not excuse White privilege. All these men have the privilege of occupying the upper echelons of our society especially as White men who have been to college. Education is a privilege and they used their privilege in an attempt to silence me. With this privilege comes power, and it is men like them who continue to perpetuate the interlocking systems of oppression in our society that hold women, people of colour and GLBTQ persons hostage. War and patriotism perpetuate these systems of oppression and I find it sadly ironic that these gay men continue to support them, erstwhile preventing true liberation.

(Ed. Note: I am currently reading Elizabeth Ammon’s Brave New Words: How Literature Will Save the Planet. She underlines how liberalism and academia have failed social justice. This, combined with White privilege in writing history from a White perspective and the privilege of succeeding as White people in higher education also fail social justice. I encourage you to read her book.)


UPDATE: The Ron Frashour Case

So, according to the Oregonian, lawyers for the city of Portland are arguing that the reinstatement of Ron Frashour, a Portland police officer fired in 2010 for using excessive force on an unarmed black man, Aaron Campbell, who then died from his injuries, would violate many statutes. These include but are not limited to violation of the city charter, the state constitution and also the national constitution. I am very pleased with this news and I hope that the city can continue holding up its decision to fire Frashour. He does not deserve to be reinstated. 

This would be an amazing step towards justice in our city because Portland has had a history of reinstating racist killer cops after they are removed from service. This would be the first time an arbitrators reinstatement decision is ignored and fought. 

For example: In 2009, Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys shot an unarmed 12-year old black girl with a shotgun at close range, on her own doorstep. He was suspended by the city commissioner but later reinstated after the Portland Police Association staged a rally and announced a no-confidence vote taken against the city commissioner and the chief of police.

In 2005, Portland police officer Scott McCollister shot Kendra James, a 21 year old black female and left her handcuffed and bleeding on the street to die. An all White jury found McCollister not guilty of excessive force and he was reinstated after arbitration. 

These are just a few examples of why our police force is out of control and needs to be stopped. They have a history of killing unarmed people of color or people with documented mental disorders and disabilities. And they get away with it.

(Ed. note: Thanks to the Portland Independent Media Center organization for continued vigilance and information on the history of Portland's racist killer cops.)


Mouthrape (Or, a parable of dating bullshit)

I just read an amahzing amazing piece by Phaedra Starling called “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guys guide to approaching strange women without getting maced”. It comingled with the conversation last Saturday at a house party I was having about bad kissers. My particular contribution to the story was a meet up a few years ago at my fav NW bar, MuuMuus for some drinking and dinner. Nothing big. To be honest, I wasn’t really into the guy. I was doing what Drea DeMatteo’s character in Broken English refers to as “duty dating.” Dating so I don’t lose the magic touch, lolz.

Anyway, this brother and I were having dinner and some good conversation. I’m still not feeling any sparks and I’m good and sloshed and it’s getting late. Time to go. We go Dutch, (as being queer still doesn’t have a dating designation for who pays what and all that shit) and head out for a ciggy before parting.

Here’s where the trouble starts: the guy wants a kiss goodnight. Yeah, okay. Whatever. No biggie. I do my duty, without any sort of extra oomph, you know? Then he grabs me by both arms, and he’s really a lot bigger and taller than me and tries to whisper sexily “You can do better.” RED FLAG MOTHERFUCKER. Not sexy at all. We kiss again, this time with me not so much kissing as limp and waiting for it to be over. This dude doesn’t get it. He didn’t take any of my signals. I had god-only-knows-how-many texts from him over the next week. Now, I wasn’t being a bitch or anything but I making myself clear and was NOT into him. Some guys just can’t read the writing on your walls.

Anyway, this article really rang true to me, despite not being a girl. I think it can be applied to homosexual queer relations as well. Here is what you need to know (edited for us queers):

Because a (queer) man who ignores a woman’s (queer man’s) NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well. So if you speak to a woman (queer man) who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message.

And what is that message? Well, that you don’t respect boundaries or rights. Hopefully this just means you’re a bit ambitious or not too clued in on social cues. In other words not a rapist, but who really knows? 
Stay safe, kiddies.


A Manifesto of Validation of My Self

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m too White-looking or middle-class for brown folk, but I’m too queer/brown/Political/supersites for Whiteys. I guess that’s the fallacy of thinking you’re special in America.

Scratch that. I don’t know why I am so into navel gazing lately…it’s like I think I am saying something profound. To be completely honest, it ain’t really profound to anyone except to me. I used to dream about making this stupid blog into something amazing, changing peoples minds and shit…pero en el fondo I don’t really know if I am even touching anyone.

So here’s my manifesto, for me, inspired by Zac Slams.

A Manifesto of Validation of My Self

1.     My ethno-racial/sexual/gender identity is on my terms, not yours. I choose to identify myself a certain way so as not to be blotted out by heterosexism, racism, classism, regionalism and other interlocking systems of oppression.
I do not need to explain myself to you. Ever. I will embrace my Otherness and use it as a tool for my protection, validation and revolution.

2.     Si yo elija hablar en español y tu no entiendes, eso no vale nada. El español es el lenguaje de mi corazón, de mi alma. No me importa un carajo si tu no entiendas lo que digo, ademas probablamente no quieres escucharlo. That is no excuse, however, for racism.

3.     I have the right to say/express what I think/see/feel. My opinions, whether they are right or not, are just as valid and important as yours. I have the right to be heard, despite our society’s attempt at quelling those of us that speak out.

4.     I choose to live. I have a right to life. I will not let myself be co-opted/colonized/erased/assaulted/raped/molested/attacked ever again and I will defend my body and my self with force if necessary.


Brown (a poem)

They say to me,

“You’re not really brown, you know.”
Or,  “I thought you were White.” and
“Oh, well you don’t look
(insert: Latino, Spanish, Jewish, Arab, Middle-Eastern, BROWN.)

I know what my skin looks like:
café au lait, with too much lait

Brown isn’t a skin colour,
Brown is an experience

Brown is being told
To speak English

Brown is being called a terrorist on the train
When someone confuses your yarmulke with a kufi

Brown is people mispronouncing your name
Every fucking day

Brown is being afraid security is gonna be called
 When you’re browsing the aisles

Brown is being told to go back to where you came from,
When your apartment is just a block away

Brown is being assaulted in public,
With everybody watching

Brown is being scared of walking alone at night,
Of airports, the police, your own neighbours

Brown is being told
Your experience doesn’t matter

Brown is an experience.
I am brown.


Driving Miss Gaga

"Are Latinos supposed to be grateful that a white superstar, born of privilege, included a racist shout out to our community? Not all Latino ladies are 'cholas' in the barrio, some of them are teachers, writers, engineers and nurses and doctors." -- Robert Paul Reyes

A while back I wrote an article praising the Estonian technopop artist Kerli Kõiv because she represents what I think a true musician should be: modest, compassionate and real. For juxtaposition I am going to talk about Stefani Germanotta better known as Lady Gaga.

I have remained silent for the most part in my dislike of Lady Gaga. I am not a fan of attention-seeking stunts or high fashionistas. I am especially not into mainstream American pop music and Lady Gaga is arguably mainstream.

My real beef with her though, is her privilege. She is from a wealthy background (she used to party with Paris Hilton), she is conventionally attractive, and she is cisgendered, White and skinny. Her inability to accept any of this is troubling.

Somehow there was some kind of rumor that Lady Gaga came from a poor background and that she made herself from nothing, this is patently untrue. In her wikipedia article she is quoted as having said that her family came from modest means and that her parents worked for everything. Her private school upbringing and matriculation to the exclusive Tisch School of the Arts at NYU say otherwise. I have heard the argument before, about parents working hard. My parents worked hard, my dad put himself through medical school on scholarships and crappy cleric positions, but that doesn't mean my sister and I grew up with little means. I have no problem accepting and deconstructing my class privilege.

Another issue with Gaga's privilege is her racism. People hailed her single "Born This Way" as the newest "gay anthem". Hold up, what? I gotta wonder, have these people even read the lyrics: "YOU'RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT

Excuse me, but that is racist. It is tacitly agreed that using the word "Oriental" is about the same as using the word "Negro" and wholly inappropriate. Political correct-ness aside, this was a stupid word to use in a song dubbed progressive. Orientals are rugs, not people. (Ed. I understand that she didn't use the word "Oriental" precisely but she did truncate the word to fit her rhyme, she refers to races in this line so arguably the word "orient" was referring to "Oriental" or Asian. So STFU.)

Furthermore, the word "chola" is problematic too. The term was originally used as a designation for people of mixed or pure Amerindian descent in the racist classification system of colonial Latin America. The word presently has come to refer to "low income Mexican-American families in the United States" or "Latino gangsters". (see Wikipedia article here). Miguel Perez, of Chicanos Unidos further elucidates in this article. Basically, Gaga is relegating all Latinos to this designation of poor and criminal.

Also, what is this beige bullshit? I guess that's my category.

I just want people to see Lady Gaga for who she is. She is not "weird" or unattractive, that is her makeup and clothing. She is skinny, she is White and she dresses as our society prescribes for her biological gender. What is special about 

It's easy to be angry with all of this, but in the end it's like my boyfriend said this morning,“When we're talking about Lady Gaga and Madonna, we’re not talking about women; we’re talking about clothes and makeup.”

(Ed. note: Also, see Lady Gaga's "Little Monster" fans respond to Miguel Perez's article Warning! Very triggering.)


Vote, dammit!

This is just a small side bar for any readers here in Multnomah County. The mayoral race is getting hectic and the ballots went out over the weekend. I just want to encourage ya'll to use your voice and vote.

Now here's my beef.
I've been grueling over who to vote for mayor and I don't have a good answer. I don't like any of the candidates' (especially Eileen Brady's) answers or understanding of issues I find important namely: gentrification, plutocracy and police brutality.

This is what I have to choose from?!

All I can say at this point is that I really, really hope that Portland doesn't elect Eileen Brady or Charlie Hale. They are most definitely the worst candidates out of all the rest. Hale kept a residence in Oregon while living in Washington to escape taxes and Brady is just a lying, incompetent fool. 


Te cuento el cuento

Cuantos días hacían? Cuando me dijiste que me amas.
La verdad es que no sé. No quiero contar los días por miedo de perderlos.

Recuerdo que fue un año horrible para nosotros. Tú huiste a Berlín y yo me quedé aquí en Portland. Después de tantos meses sin trabajo yo trataba de alcanzar una nueva vida en Boston pero la universidad no me quería y fue imposible de encontrar una alquiler. Los alquiladores fueron pendejitos.

Cuantos horas pasaron pensando en ti? Cuantos tiros en bares desagradables? Cuantas citas con hombres estúpidos, cuantos besos que no quería darles? Cuantas noches solitas? No lo recuerdo.

Solo sé que volviste en mi vida, y el color de mi vida cambió. Tú regresaste y te convirtió en mi héroe.  Así que no cuento nada, por qué no es necesario más tiempo. 


Personal Space: The Grocery Store is Not a Country Club

My friend S. recently told me a disturbing story. This is nothing new to me, but it was one of the first times he had experienced racism in Portland due to his experience. So you know, S. is half Moroccan like me, but he has darker skin than I do.

S. is health-concious and prefers shopping for his food at places like Whole Foods, New Seasons etc. He was in NW Portland's Whole Foods (located on the skirts of the Pearl District) last Sunday to do some shopping but he had to use the bathroom. Whole Foods has a customer only policy on bathrooms, and S. for all intents and purposes was a customer. He did not have the entry code on a receipt though, because he wasn't finished shopping. This is where the trouble started. S. waited while the bathroom was occupied and then tried to enter after an older White man came out. The man tried to stop S. from going in, demanding to see his receipt and when S. didn't answer him the man started calling for security. S. theorized to me that his skin color and his reticence (and possibly his attire) led the man to believe he didn't speak English nor was a customer of the store. It was humiliating and afterwards S. went to the manager and told him what happened. Fortunately the manager was sympathetic. Unfortunately there is nothing he can do about. Nor will it be the last time something like this happens.

I have had many experiences like S.'s and sadly I was not surprised by his story. I was disgusted, of course, and also saddened that he had to experience this. S. comes from a more multicultural/multiethnic community in Pennsylvania and I don't think he has had to confront other people perceiving him as an "Other" before.

I found myself thinking more about this incident and then about two days later I had an epiphany. Rich (and/or) White people constantly feel entitled to question the presence of people like us in a space that they perceive as "theirs". The neighborhood in which this particular grocery is located is demographically-speaking, overwhelmingly White and furthermore the Whole Foods brand attracts mostly wealthy White customers.

What I don't understand is why the customer decided to intervene. It really wasn't any of his business. That is what Whole Foods employs security guards for. Moreover, S. was carrying a Whole Foods bag, so theoretically he was also a customer. This man decided that my friend did not belong in his space, his neighborhood and felt threatened. Why do White people feel they can question this? The rest of us are certainly made to feel that we can't question gentrification, be it in our working class neighborhoods, our gay bars or our religious community centers.

The grocery store is not a country club.


Celebrate with irony!

I found the juxtaposition of these two images/articles on the Huffington Post very interesting. Also, I despise the way the media fawns over the British Royal Family.

If your god rose from the dead today, Happy Easter! I'm celebrating my people's escape from slavery instead (Pesach).


Beam Me Up to Good Times!

Sometimes when shit get's real, the universe sends us a little moment to make us forget all the bad juju. Here's our prez with the lovely Nichelle Nichols a.k.a. Lieutenant Nyota Uhura of the USS Enterprise. Live long and prosper, ya'll.


UPDATE: Protest at City Hall (4/2/2012)

This morning I walked down from my flat to city hall in downtown Portland to attend the protest/rally against the ruling to reinstate Ron Frashour, a Portland police officer who shot an unarmed man in the back with an assault rifle in January of 2010. Frashour had already been fired by the department but an arbitrator recently made the recommendation that he did nothing wrong after an almost two-year battle. 

The protest was fairly well-attended and there were multiple keynote speakerings including the very eloquent Rev. LeRoy Haynes of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, representatives from the Urban League of Portland and many local lawmakers. Haynes urged us on and demanded that we never give up this fight for justice. 

Unfortunately, I noticed some people milling around with signs that had the faces of various members of Socialist groups "for president" pasted on the placards and not one but two people from different so-called Socialist groups came up to me and tried to give me their literature. For the record, I lean Socialist, but their obvious co-opting of the event to spread their propaganda kind of pissed me off. Especially when a super-blonde milktoast beardie guy was trying to explain to me the connection of racial profiling. I've been racially profiled, more than once. I don't need a straight White man to tell me what it is. Another representative that spoke to me was from the Bread and Roses Center, a location of the Freedom Socialist Party, and I have had dealings with them when working for the Portland Queer People of Color group and Las Mujeres de La Raza (associated with M.E.Ch.A.). Basically they wanted our support as tokenism, which of course none of us were okay with. Shockingly, all these people with their magical flyers disappeared as the keynote speakers began, which I felt really spoke to their true agenda. Thanks guys.

I know I am digressing, but that really set the tone for my day and was really disappointing. I am, however, very grateful for the White allies and allies from other communities of colour that were truly present. I only hope that as we continue to protest this ruling, more people can join us in our demand for justice and racial equality in Portland. 
Signing off, 
Fuck la policia! 



I want justice for victims of racial violence. The world has gone mad. It is disgusting. 

Everyone has been talking about the Trayvon Martin (learn about it herecase...frankly I am glad it is getting so much press. It has brought up a lot of strong feelings in my community here and I want to touch on how it relates to the injustice of the system here in Portland.

It's been about a month since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and on March 13th a local Latino man (link: Alberto Flores-Haro) was shot in the stomach by our notorious police force when he came out into his yard to check for intruders late in the evening.

On top of that, I discovered today that the Portland Police Bureau is considering reinstating Ron Frashour (AFTER HE WAS FIRED!), the officer who shot a mentally-unstable, unarmed Black man in the back with an assault rifle (Jason Campbell) last January. An arbitrator for the case states that "it was reasonable to believe that he could be armed" (Portland Mercury, 2012). What was the justification for this? Was it reasonable because he was Black and upset? The record states that it "appeared" he was reaching for a gun as he ran away but many local citizens are unsatisfied by that idea. I am one of them.

The Trayvon Martin case stirs up a lot of feelings for those of us living here in Portland because of the nature of the crime: An unarmed young Black man being shot to death. The Portland Police Bureau has a sordid history (google Portland Copwatch) of shooting unarmed homeless, disabled and/or people of color. With the possible reinstating of Frashour,it appears that we cannot control the police and we have no voice for justice in our city.

Is there justice anywhere?


Worst F*cking Nightmare

In light of the recent gentrification topics, I found this image particularly hilarious.

It's the Holy Trinity of what I want to avoid while walking down the sidewalks of Portland: liberal heterosexual White couples, their kids and their dogs.


Bike Lanes: White People Ruin Everything

Well, that's it. Today I found out that the North Williams Stakeholder Advisory Committee has reached a decision and decided to go ahead with the bike lane expansion on North Williams Avenue. This, after months of debate, is yet another blow to the historical African American community in North Portland. What disgusts me most were the circus antics of the committee and City Council, pretending to give a shit what residents think. 

One of the biggest problems with the average Portlander is they have no idea what gentrification is, or how they're contributing to it. Portland used to have a vibrant Black community centered by a "main street" that is now occupied by the Rose Quarter transit center and highway ramps. Now as then, the city has ignored the history and legitimacy of the Black community in Portland. 

People continue to move here, and these people are overwhelmingly White, upper-middle class educated heterosexual couples. One such citizen, Angela Goldsmith, was interviewed by the Portland Mercury in their article "It's Not About the Bikes" (http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/its-not-about-the-bikes/Content?oid=5619639) and opined: "I'm not selling my property so I don't give a shit." Really classy. Turns out Goldsmith was one of the first gentrifiers to swoop in after the construction of the Legacy hospital (which displaced hundreds of Black families and shut down local business) and buy a house. She now owns three properties in the area. I feel like Ms. Goldsmith is a prime example of the issues surrounding gentrification and the N. Williams Avenue problem. It's easy for a White person with power, privilege and money to dismiss the concerns as trifling.

I'm not really sure what else to say. I'm really angry right now, but honestly not surprised. I should have expected it. Right now I'm just questioning what I can do to fight back on behalf of the Black community. At least I'm talking about it.

For further reading about Portland's sordid history of gentrification and discrimination, please read Karen J. Gibson's "Bleeding Albina, A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000". It can be found here: (http://www.kingneighborhood.org/history/Bleeding%20Albina:%20A%20History%20of%20Community%20Disinvestment,%201940-2000.pdf)



I don't know if the universe is trying to tell me something, or trying to prepare me in some way, but in the last week I have run into many people from my past. It's not as if I was trying to escape the past, I chose to leave those people behind for various reasons. Some of those people were from school, some were fair-weather friends, some work colleagues...it doesn't matter. I didn't want them to be in my life anymore. I don't think life is trying to make me confront them or something about them or maybe reconcile myself with them, but I think it's trying to tell me something. That much I am sure of! 

Interestingly enough, in all but one encounter there was no approaching nor recognition They all stayed away. It seems as though I have a reputation for cutting people out of my life and them staying cut off. I can't say whether that is true or not, all I know is that I don't have any contact with those people anymore for a reason. It's not as if I sat them down and told them off, I just let myself disappear from their lives. Each situation is different, of course. I feel however, that I have to hold on to my principles so I don't end up getting hurt or compromising who I am.


Speaking up, speaking out

Lately I am running out of things to say, it seems. I have been harping on the same subjects over and over and to what end? There have been myriad encounters and stories like my previous post here in this city. It's something that doesn't seem like to change. I want to challenge people to think outside their privilege and see the reality of our society but at the same time I am having issues getting past the anger I feel when I am being discriminated against. 

I'm tired of being told that I'm demasiado intenso, that I just need to have a positive outlook, that I shouldn't be so mean. Most of the people telling me this are my White friends. It probably doesn't help that most of my friends here are White...but what do you expect? My cousin Armenia, on the contrary, reinforces me against giving in to complacency. She thinks it is a positive trait that I am so outspoken and that I will confront people who are being racist/homophobic/classist/sexist etc. 

I guess the issue is that I need to find some happy medium without giving up the fight. I think maybe that I don't have to be so combative, but I also don't have to stay silent.



I’m reflecting on last night, where again I have found myself the only non-White person at a party. Something in me urges to write about this experience, I’m trying to be nonplussed about it, but it’s hard. It’s always hard.  I realized today that I’m sick of letting myself be co-opted for whiteboyworld’s entertainment. I know I live in Portland, where it’s 85% Caucasian, but I’m still breathing, still a part of that other percentage that all the White activists ignore when they rail about classism.

Back to the party…I remember when me and two other of my companions sneak our way back up the stairs on a mission masquerading as a smoke break to really clear our heads. Some of the partygoers leak out after us and strike a conversation in the driveway. We all introduce ourselves. Predictably there is an audible silence after me and the quintessential nicewhitegirl says how she likes my name, how it’s a cool name. Oh yay, the tokenism has begun. At least they didn’t ask me where I was from. I just smile awkwardly and that’s the last time I speak directly to anyone I don’t previously know at this shindig. I realize it’s time to go when some newcomers have a side conversation about what’s the PC term for a Native American while one of them is wearing some Urban Outfitters shit with a “Navajo” design fluttering above her tiny midriff.

I can’t stand this world. I feel like more analogously Caucasian faces and thought-patterns are slowly blotting me out.  I’m tired of being the only coloured person at the party, the only Latino in the “Hispanic” food section of Fred Meyers, the only guy on my block who rocks a skullcap. I’m not a token, I’m not going to be colonized for someone else’s mental well being because they have a friend that is queer/of colour/Jewish etc. I’m not going to teach you a pithy lesson from my homeland; I’m not going to teach you Spanish.

Yes, I am going to be offended by your racist good intentions. I’m going to talk back; I’m going to correct your perceptions. I’m going to make you mad, I’m going to dismantle your co-options, and I’m going to throw your world for a loop. I’m not going to sit here and let you blot me out for this anti-septic, White, bourgeois vision of what you think your community should be. Fuck that noise.
I’m decolonizing that shit.



"Do you know what people did in the old days when they had secrets they didn't want to share? They'd climb a moutain, find a tree, carve a hole in it, whisper the secret into the hole and cover it up with mud. That way, nobody else would ever learn the secret..." -Tak, 2046

This is my tree with its hole carved sitting on top of a mountain. 
I'm an asshole. That's my secret. I am misanthropic, I hate everyone. The kicker is that secretly I hate myself.

Today was not a good day. Not a shining moment for me. I sped over to my car dealership at the last minute to see if they could figure out what was wrong with my nav system...this place has the most obscene parking lot in the universe. On top of that, I accidentally parked in the handicapped parking spot so I had to move my car twice. The second time I was stuck behind people in a car, while waiting for this woman to get out...I didn't know what they were doing at first, just seemed like they were sitting there in the parking lot...in the way. I honked lightly, not too much. I honked twice though. Then the old lady comes up to me and trys to talk to me threw the window but I'm shaking my head and mouthing at her to leave me alone and go away. I can't deal with it.

Later she comes in to the garage, calling me sir and stuff, telling me about how she's on chemotherapy and she doesn't move very quickly and she was stuck in between two kids trying to get out of the car. It's all I can do not to scream. I just want to die, right there. I'm still not clear on why she was even there in the first place. It's like the universe is teaching me a lesson...this whole month has been full of lessons. Maybe I should just kill myself and get it over with.

M. has been telling me that I need to let go of my anger. I don't even know how. I feel like my anger protects me from harm, until things like this happen. Then I am just humiliated and I want to disappear. I wish the ground would just open up and swallow me forever. 

So there it is, I'm an asshole.


Gay is NOT the "New Black"

Although the hubbub has died down around the catchphrase that so-called GLBTQ activists coined, “Gay is the new Black”, I feel like now I can coherently address the issues around it from my perspective as a queer-identified person of colour. 

The problem with this phrase, other than the obvious denigration of the Black experience, centres on choice. No, not the choice that the rabid Christian right is always squawking about…I am not talking about the choice to be GLBTQ, because as any educated person would know…it’s biological. I am talking about the choice to come out and identify oneself in the public sphere as GLBTQ.  This is key.

People of colour do not choose to identify as people of colour, we don’t “come out of the closet” so to speak about being Black, Latino, Asian etc. It is easily identifiable by our skin, our hair or our speech patterns among other things. It is written upon us for all to see. This is the difference between being a person of colour and being GLBTQ. Arguably you cannot “see” GLBTQ.

Identity politics aside, being identified as person of colour is not a choice. (White) GLBTQ people have a choice and the privilege to come out and be identified as GLBTQ. Those of us who are not White, and regardless of our sexuality, do not have that privilege. Therein lies the difference and should point out the issue in claiming that “gay is the new Black.” Black is still Black and the last time I checked, the civil rights struggle for racial equality was far from over.