Ph.D. Year 3.5: To Exterminate Hegemonic Whiteness

Current Mood: Roll it Gal by Alison Hinds

Once upon a time, we were taught to forget the past.

My father taught me about Las Americas at a very young age. I could almost see the contempt on his face now when we three came home explaining our elementary school’s shoddy attempt at teaching us that Florida history began with colonialism: the performance consisted of a singular “Swamp Owl” character dressed in “Indian” clothes (?) and speaking using past-tense about his people. There was (is) an 1800s war reenactment that is shown to people of all ages in which we [are supposed to] learn that Florida, as we know it today, exists because of a compromise reached between the Natives and the “pioneers,” of which Swamp Owl is both (and it’s a source of pride). It was cool, at the time, to touch his clothing and the various animals of the region, which he brought along with him… I may have been 8 at the time?

“Bodies Like Mine Were Raped Into Existence,” Junot Diaz said last month. Pues mira aqui! I said that shit back in 2nd grade at All Souls Catholic School, in Sanford, Florida circa 1993. Give credit, where credit is due, Diaz! I even got in trouble for using “inappropriate” language then. Pero, ya tu sabes. For real, though, mi Papi was the one who told it to me. And he learned that shit from his older siblings and parents and they learned from our ancestors. We have not forgotten our histories. They are alive and well!!

Soy un pedazo de tierra que vale la pena

Back in the 1990s I hated school. Not yet a truant (or rather, not allowed) but getting real uncomfortable real quick, I spent a lot of time fighting in school. Teachers hated my incessant questions. My peers mocked my food (my mighty platanos even!!), my home language, my family. “Go back to Spain!” the idiots would say, even on the basketball courts – the boys hated playing ball with the girls and I was often fouled out of games for being #peliona. I may have been the first girl in my class to get suspended for punching (I remember “elbowing” but his word against mine) a kid on the courts. To add injury, the school curriculum made no mention of my existence so the hatred was reinforced daily. What a waste of money that school was! Pero ya tu sabe!  The choices my parents made were the best they could at that given moment in history.

Forget the “Golden Rule,” treat others as they want/deserve to be treated!!

I remember that it was difficult to say “Seminole” when we first moved to La Florida. I often said “Sen-i-mole,” I think. English, I argue, just does not flow as well as Español. Most would agree that it’s definitely not as rhyme rich. Migrating south, when we explored the lands of our new home, Papi would challenge us to connect the names of bodies of water, or regions to la gente indigena. He’d correct us when we would use the term “Americanos” instead of Anglo-Americanos o Estadounidense, for we are from this land; our ancestors were already here migrating freely throughout the continent, which was later named after an Italian Amerigo Vespucci, during colonialism.

All of this is coming up now as I sit in a cafe in New Orleans.

I arrived to Louisiana yesterday and seeing the names of rivers and lakes, I wanted to learn about Tangipahoa people and language. No one has been able to help me yet. The Native languages color Louisiana’s vocabulary: Avoyelles, Caddo, Catahoula, Calcasieu, Tangipahoa, Ouachita, Tensas, and Natchitoches Parish all derive their names from indigenous tongues. The word “bayou,” for example, is itself derived from the Choctaw (or Mobilian) word, bayuk. Atchafalaya, Mermentau, Calcasieu, Tensas, Ouachita, Dorcheat, Bisinteau, Catahoula, Tchefuncte, and Floctaw are names of Louisiana water bodies. Baton Rouge—isti huma in a Muskogean language—the Red Stick, was once a tribal boundary.

I wrote today on Facebook:

Of course, I’m having a wonderful time but it’s fuckin frustrating that I cannot find black-owned or indigenous-owned places easily and learn more about the Alabama, Koasati, Choctaw, Chitimacha, Acolapissa, Houma, Hasinai, and Tunica-Biloxi peoples because it is nowhere. All the stories begin with colonialism   #AlbasPhDLifeYr3 #Researcherdiaries

My purpose is to inculcate that which has been extracted from our remembering.

“It’s useful as an artist to know what the culture wishes to abolish.” – J. Díaz

In other, somewhat related, news, I’ve recently (since turning 33) been revisiting my own standards of behavior and relationships. I have been using this:

racism-scale-v3-0_orig.jpg

I decided this Year of the Dog, a year in which I feel I’m flourishing (finally), that in order for me to work at a friendship, I need the other person to at least understand that the experiences of whites are drastically different than that of PoC. These rules don’t only apply to white folks – lest we forget that racism is embedded in every aspect of our society – I may just be more critical of them than PoC. Also, that standard is also my Sex Standard (which is not the same as my romantic relationship standard).

Yes, it’s a scale. I understand that we are ALL moving along and it is important for me to be assured that you are at least attempting to work towards the abolitionist state of mind.

This week in Memphis and New Orleans, considering recent very productive conversations with 2 cis-hetero white guys, my dating standard starts at Systemic racism is very real and needs to be ended. Further, my partnership standard has recently been upped to I will make space for PoC.

I’m considering doing some writing about Interest Convergence. While many Critical Race Theorists express that we shouldn’t regard white folks when making decisions to empower PoC, I believe there is a time and place for them (e.g. please literally put your body in front of mine to save me from persecution and give me access to opportunities, cab rides, etc). In a world where Black Lives Matter, we have exterminated Hegemonic Whiteness not white people.

Let us be clear that impact matters more than intent.

Whites that I may consider surrounding myself with should:

  1. BE UNCOMFORTABLE; anti-racist work is always already not meant to comfort you
  2. not be centered in civil rights movements; just STFU already!!
  3. always follow the lead of PoC, in terms of abolitionist moves
  4. sacrifice and invest their literal money, bodies and jobs to uphold PoC

For more info check out: Performative Allyship, Practicing Performative Allyship

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