Feb 092013
 

Part one: http://www.mollena.com/2013/02/blackface-still-racist-yall

Part Two http://www.mollena.com/2013/02/racism-in-leather

Many people continue to defend the racism of a white male drag-queen donning blackface as “humor” and insist that we ignore it if we don’t like it.

Many people feel free to tell me how to react to racism, even as I stand and see people I considered friends and allies walk away from me when I ask for help fighting this battle.

Many people turn a blind eye to this issue because they don’t have time.

There are many examples of how, over the course of history, this country has stepped away from ugliness and hatred. And there are many examples of how our attitudes are still ugly.

These are two photographs of lynchings of Black Americans by white Americans. You’ll note the smiling faces, the little white girl beaming up and the mutilated corpse of a Black man who never had a day in court. The little white boys standing beside their stern faced fathers.

Where will you be in the annals of history?

Where will you be in the annals of history?

This was entertainment. Family entertainment, American style. Hell, you could buy postcards to send home of lynching parties!

Sickening? Doubtless. Horrifying? Yes, it is. And it is a really real part of our shared story. And these crimes against us continue. Not all contemporary lynchings are done with a noose. And not all racism takes the life of its victims.

But it batters and bleeds our souls, every day.

Every day.

Every day.

Dehumanizing Black people lead to the capacity of those who would call themselves civilized to treat us like animals. And now I am expected to smile and “agree to disagree” with people who support racism? Because some Black folks think it is fine?  Because some white folks have decided it is funny? Because some Black people have performed in “whiteface?” Because RuPaul speaks for all Black people and he has endorsed this racist diatribe?Because it is just a joke and I should just “lighten up…?”

Because my opinion doesn’t matter?

Well, yes..because  I matter less because I am Black.

As a Black American, I will, on average die younger than a white American. I am more likely to be assaulted by a Peace Officer, or die in their custody. I am more likely to be incarcerated, and for a  longer period of time than a criminal who is white who commits the same crime. I work longer hours for less money.

And  I am supposed to accept this, and smile. and “Be Strong!”  Through racial profiling. Through narrowly escaping a sexual assault at the hands of a white cop and knowing there was no point to me trying to press charges. Through having racial epithets hurled at me on the street. To having my hair stroked by people who forget the day they could do as they wanted with us are long past. Through having my then-boyfriend’s father make flagrantly racist remarks and my boyfriend begging me to be silent, to suck it up, because his father “will never change, so what’s the difference?”

I have spent 43 years trying not to let Them see me break. It was a point of pride in my family.

I am not sure I will automatically connect silence with pride in myself any longer.

There are those in the Leather community who point fingers and say “Well, why is blackface racist and race-play not racist? I find race-play offensive!”

Let me clarify this for you:

BDSM-BASED RACE- PLAY IS ABOUT CONSENT. RACISM IS NOT ABOUT CONSENT.

RACE-PLAY IS SPECIFICALLY ABOUT TAKING THE HORRORS OF RACIAL ABUSE AND EXPLORING THEM AND RECLAIMING ONE’S POWER IN A SEXUALIZED CONTEXT.

RACISM IS ABOUT ENACTING THE HORRORS OF RACIAL ABUSE REGARDLESS OF THE DESIRES OF THE OTHER PERSON.

I’ve been interviewed on and written a bit about race-play and you can peruse these discussions at your leisure.

The difference between race play and racism is the difference between a BDSM scene and domestic violence.

Got it?

There is a Forum happening February 10th, 2013, hosted by Leatherati. The title of the forum is so very broad, and a bit misleading as the only panelists are Black. And we are hardly the only ones faced by racism. Not by a longshot. I am approaching it on good faith. I don’t know how it will go, but the support of those who would support my right to be human is most sincerely appreciated.

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  19 Responses to “On Racism, entertainment, and race-play.”

  1. Horrible stuff to have to cope with…

  2. I didn’t get a chance to really look at the previous postings til now. Now that I have I have to say that it’s shocking and disgusting. I’m sorry that there are those who are willing to look away or ever expect for someone to “deal with it” keep quiet. Keeping quiet has probably never changed the minds of the ignorant.
    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of those who want to know and those who NEED to hear it.

  3. Well, this white guy is standing with you. Our community should know better and do better. Keep speaking out, and I’ll add my voice to yours!
    Desmond Ravenstone´s most recent blog post moment of Zen on the net was…Comment on Share your story by Kinky in Atlanta

  4. Great comparison: BDSM to domestic violence.

    Thank you for being you.

    Love you muchly.

  5. I’ve got your back. This is not your fight alone.

  6. Thank you for bringing attention to this. I will not only share but continue to help fight for social justice even in the very community (our community) that prides itself on acceptance.

  7. Racism and sexism are no strangers to the gay community. I had many experiences of going to men’s bars with gay male friends in the 1970s and being asked to show multiple picture i.d.s, for example, while my hunky young male friends frequently weren’t carded at all. I even had a couple of experiences of being in a bar and being threatened with physical violence just for being there. I recall the same thing being done to exclude Asian men from many of the bars. For example:

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Gays-at-receiving-end-of-bias-claim-2659647.php#page-2

    This business, though–with this horribly racist, unfunny, revolting person–jeez. I’d kind of hoped folks had learned. Evidently not, I’m sad to realize. It *is* hard to take a stand and to say that this is hateful and wrong. I applaud you, Mo, for doing so and for all you’ve done to shine a light on this person and the larger issue.

    The more that folks are oppressed, I’ve observed, the more they tend to oppress others–particularly their peers. It’s a tragic and self-defeating cycle. Calling it out isn’t easy, but it’s essential.

    Thanks for speaking from your experience. We all need to hear it.

    • Hi, Earline…

      Thank you for that link, and for being a voice in the chorus against this bullshit. It means a lot to me to hear it.

      Peace

      Mo

  8. The stain of racism in America still mars the fabric of trust and community. The expression of indifference to the anger and confusion caused by the hiring of Shirley Q Liquor is as hurtful and distancing as the horrific depiction of African American Women. I feel your sense of abandonment and appreciate your loud angry complaints at the lack of outrage.

  9. I totally get your feelings on Blackface and how it historically has been used for the detriment of another’s pain and suffering historically. You feel very strongly about this, yet you find a place in your world to do BDSM-themed race play scenes and coin it fetish or KINK or freeing ones self. I question your sincerity and seriousness a bit, but I am not judging you. I know you, like me, have a right to our own personal choices and liberties, but honesty we also have to look at what we perpetuate to the world or audience at large and understand that just cuz we call something a cutesy name (like race play) does not mean it takes the sting out of it for a lot of people who may watch it, although know one is forcing anyone to do that, but the thought of it happening sickens some of us, black and otherwise and it is a slap-in-the-face to our ancestry and heritage to engage in it and call it KINK. But that’s just my sentiment. I don’t know about the rest of the BDSM Leather world. And it’s also hard for me to believe that you didn’t know racism of this kind and other kinds exist in the leather scene. Surely, this is not your first encounter of racism rearing its’ ugly head in leather. We’d have to be living under a rock to think otherwise.

    Signed,
    A Black Woman

    • No, this is not my first exposure to racism. However. This is my first experience of widespread acceptance of racism, yes. Individual experiences are quite different from seeing hundreds of people be so dismissive, which is deeply disappointing. We aren’t talking about someone being an ass. We are talking about someone being an ass, someone else paying them to do so, and hundreds of people insisting that those who object are being “oversensitive.” Surely you can see the difference there.

      Your saying you are not judging me is belied by your deeply judgmental language within your reply. If you are truly unable to discern the difference between consensual BDSM and institutionalized racism, I am not sure how much more clear I can make it . You can be appalled by the thought of my perusing a difficult form of play. You can dismiss me by demeaning my language around it as “cutesy” and you can hide behind your anonymity to attack my position. Hey, you can even try to say that my lifestyle is somehow at fault for institutionalized racism. What I do in my bedroom or in a dungeon, among my peers, does not impact and humiliate an entire group pf people. Your thinly veiled cry of hypocrisy underscores a deeper lack of understanding about the nature of consent, and how consent works in my community.

      But that fact is, when it is all said and done? You are just further derailing the matter at hand, and your being “A Black Woman” doesn’t make your misguided, misinformed derailment any more valid. What it boils down to is this, “A Black Woman.” I am standing up, using my name and my face and my voice to take a stand against what I see as a troubling reality in the Leather community. What are you doing?

    • The fact that you choose to base your argument on part for the things Mollena does in the pursuit of her own pleasure doesn’t lend credence to the stand that you are trying to create here. It just appears as an ad hominem attack, and your unwillingness to give a name gives credence to that. No offense, but as an amateur rhetorician, it’s all I can see.

      Beyond that, let’s get to the points you raise, shall we?

      Rather than accuse her of being part of the problem, look at the many ways she has tried and is trying to point to solutions and notice the distinct lack of support she gets from the greater community. The people who are standing up with her, (my brown ass included) are calling it how we see it. This shit is BUSTED. By trying to say that she’s somehow been under some sort of delusion about racism in the community you discredit her words and the words of other PoC (who may not be black) who have noticed similar situations and have tried to raise our voices, only to be drowned out by people who try to gaslight us into believing that what we experience COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE RACISM.

      By the way, yes, that is my name.
      Lina´s most recent blog post moment of Zen on the net was…Disillusionment

    • This whole derailment of comparing a public “comedian” act using “blackface” to mock, ridicule and degrade an entire group of people with race play is really getting tedious. I hear that you are offended by race play, but that is an entirely different discussion. In play, the direct participants, both “giving” and “receiving”, are _consensually_ engaging in the activity they chose (for example race play or rape play, to use Laura Antoniou’s excellent example), while a white male person using “blackface” on a stage to entertain a bunch of white male people does not have the consent nor participation of the “receiving” party, i.e.POC..

      Engaging in race play does not negate anyone’s right to express, be heard and supported in their reaction to being publicly attacked by a white man in “blackface” hurling the worst stereotypes to make other white people laugh. It does not make “blackface” any less wrong and reprehensible.

      And it does not make racism in the leather community or anywhere else for that matter any less of a problem.

  10. You are SO brainwashed that it is ridiculous! SMH…YOu and the rest of these people should be ashamed!

  11. I’ll try to make this as simple as possible for the benefit of people who really do not understand the difference between a fantasy and institutional bias. Because I know this is a HARD concept.

    It’s been acknowledged for decades now that many women have rape fantasies. That is, they will get aroused by imagining – or even role playing! – that they are abducted, forced, surprised, molested, compelled, even coerced and manipulatively seduced into having sex they “don’t want” or “didn’t ask for.” Some women fantasize romance-novel-esque “My Swarthy Pirate” style ravishment, some imagine that handsome celebrities make them offers they cannot refuse, and some have darker, more violent fantasies. Even dehumanizing ones.

    Here’s the thing though, where it gets really TRICKY.

    1) These women with the rape fantasies? They actually do not want someone to rape them. They actually do prefer to choose their sex partners and activities. I KNOW! This is amazing-balls news, and only about 100 years old.

    and

    2) No matter how violent, extreme or frequently role played within a consensual context, women who have rape fantasies do NOT want to contribute to, inspire, or in any way facilitate actual harm to other women. In fact, their individual choices and preferences in fantasy life – whether kept silent or expressed with partners and in the context of adult, consensual relationships – do not actually have the power in mass culture to make other people believe or act in a certain way. If a rapist were to say in court, for example, “Hey, I read that 25% of women have rape fantasies, I figured at least one out of four would be happy with what I did,” the most likely response to that would be incredulity.

    But you know what does encourage rapists? Sitting in a crowd of people laughing at rape jokes. No kidding. Because when they hear other men laughing at rape jokes, they assume these other man are ALSO RAPISTS. It actually makes them feel happier, more comfortable, assured that their twisted, violent world is more acceptable, is actually just a thing. When the larger culture laughs at, minimizes, even tacitly encourages rape as a solution to something (shutting up a heckler! curing a lesbian! getting your frigid wife to respond!) – it establishes and supports a sick mythology/belief that permeates not only the consciousness of people who seek to justify bad or evil behavior, but even those who would never actually rape a woman – but will now easily add to the fears, discomforts and feelings of dismissal and oppression that women experience when they feel threatened by rape.

    So. Here’s the next tough part.

    For “rape fantasy” please substitute “race play fantasy.”

    When a …performer…because I sure as hell don’t find this guy very funny – thinks it’s the height of comedy to create a character who is a drunken, ignorant, poorly spoken black women who is a welfare cheat with 19 children whose names she makes up because she doesn’t know that the syllables sound out products or diseases – he is participating in a racist culture. He is perpetuating one of the most misogynist, racist stereotypes there is, and doing it as a white, gay man. And while none of his audience will probably ever go out to don a white hood or tighten voting laws to eliminate more people of color, you know what they will do? They will laugh. They will support this insulting, degrading image of a black woman as funny, and every real racist sitting there will think, oh, see, I’m cool. All the other guys think this is hysterical. And true. Or, at least, easy to laugh at.

    And then, the “good guys” wonder why their black friends don’t think it’s funny too. Or, you know, those feminazi lesbian bitches who can’t get a man anyway and don’t understand why rape jokes are funny. Or, maybe those limp-wristed fairies who Got AIDS Yet? (hahaha! The classics!) – and why they don’t understand that a vast audience of people laughing at the image of a father killing his son because he’s a fag, or gays being beaten to death by a mob is JUST LIKE consensual scenes enacted at a Inferno.

    Hoping this helps!

    Laura

  12. Thanks, Mo’ and Laura. You said it good.

  13. Decided to ignore the comments and simply say thank you. I will also use my name and my voice to speak out (and image, but don’t really want to upload anything). Thank you Mollena Williams for being so public about addressing issues around racism, especially in gay/kink scenes. Willing to do the work, and will step up when I need to, and thanks again because sometimes (like now) I’m just too exhausted to even bother defending myself.

    Blessing,
    Selam Gebrekidan

  14. Mo, you do the hard thing and you do it well. I love you. Always have and always will.
    Love ~ Sybil

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