FML.

Zara puts the “dirty” back into “dirty pretty things.”

One Day at HCC

I grew up in a really white town. There is a large Latino population in the region, but segregation, though informal, is very considerable, and most Latinos lived in areas away from whites. Meaning I was usually one of two or three people of color in my class at school. There was a smattering of people of all races, other than white and Latino. For example, at my high school of 1400, I think there were about 8 “Asians,” including myself. (My brother told me yesterday that he has friends that refer to such places as “counting places”- towns or locations where you note the presence of every poc besides yourself. When my sister came to Austin recently, she would point out every desi person on the street even though I was like, dude, you are going to count over 100 desis in the next hour if you keep this up.)

Then I escaped and went to college on the west side and after that, I lived in Seattle, where there are definitely more people of color, but the character of the place can still be considered very “white.” This is not to downplay the histories of Natives, Black folks, Latinos or Asians in these places. Our history there is incredible, and our presence notable. There remain neighborhoods which are historically Black or Asian. But the overall character of the city, what it is known for, is shaped overwhelmingly by white bougie people.

I felt the difference immediately when I moved to Austin. Even though Austin is one of the whitest cities in Texas, I would sit on the bus and be surprised by the number of people of color. This, despite the fact that gentrification has reduced the number of black folks in the city by half over the last several years. I noticed how Chicano and Latino culture had shaped the overall culture. In the northwest, you would never look on a non-Latino restaurant menu and see Spanish words used, like queso. Queso would just be called cheese dip. I also observed racial segregation on UT’s campus in a way I never noticed on campuses in Washington. I rarely saw kids of different races socializing together, unless it was through a more lefty project, like the poc queer group on campus.

Houston, now, is a whole nother story. It, like Texas as a whole, is majority poc. I go to the Whole Foods sometimes (because there’s no discount health food stores that I know of) and am shocked when its mostly pocs in there, too! I am happy in Houston, with the huge Little India and Little Saigon right next to each other in the SW, I feel at home.

But I dont think I am used to this majority poc thing yet, in a visceral way. I still get surprised in new situations by the number of pocs.

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Fahisha: Queer Muslim Youth

This is an amazing short documentary on queer Muslim youth in New York. I am so glad that the filmmaker, Nabila, is doing this work. \

I love it because it is painfully honest. It breaks down the (false) dichotomy of approaches to queer liberation for Muslims which usually one of two things: 1) you demonize Muslims, call them backwards, and glorify “Western society” a la Irshad Manji or 2) you react to this white liberal feminist crap that tries to argue that Muslim women and queers will be saved only by US imperialism or Zionism, and resort to defending patriarchy and homophobia in the community, in order not to “air dirty laundry” publicly. This video slices through both of those perspectives. The father interviewed is not a black and white patriarch, although he has contradictory ideas. Some of the kids have turned their backs on the Muslim community, and dont want to bother with that mess anymore, which is a legitimate response to their experiences, even though they know that the rest of society doesnt open their arms to queers.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/27154101]

You can find more info on it here.

Class, the London riots, and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post on Octavia Butler’s two part series, The Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Talents. I read it for the second time recently, and I noticed so many more politically relevant and potent aspects of the novels this time around. Of course, I was reading it in the bathtub and not taking notes, so I dont remember most of the things I wanted to write about, but something came up today.

Towards the beginning of the first book, we are introduced to a sort of post-apocalyptic America. The US government is still there, but barely hanging on. Life is extremely dangerous and insecure. The main character, Lauren, is a 15 year old woman, “lucky” to be living in a lower middle class neighborhood with a giant wall built around it. Few people who live within have jobs on the outside. They grow their own food, raise chickens to sell, and the young people never go outside except to ride their bikes with adults into the hills so that they can target practice.

Unfortunately, as Lauren suspects will happen, this situation wont last forever. Although the mega-rich are still out there, the lumpen cant reach them inside their gated communities protected by security contractors. And so they go after Lauren’s neighborhood. In her eyes, they aren’t rich and dont warrant such an attack. In the eyes of the street people and drug addicts who carry out the attack, though, they have privilege, wealth and everything that comes with it and, hence, are deserving of attack.

This story makes me think about the reports of working class neighborhoods being looted and lit on fire by the rioters in London and surrounding areas. If you grow up in the projects or estates, cant get a job, cant go to college, then people who have jobs, and cars, and their own homes and even small businesses could look like pretty tempting bait. They could look like the rich who are deserving of attack, even if they are exploited on the job by managers and capitalists and have no control over their lives and only a little more paper to show for it than you do. And the super rich are in their gated communities, protected by the police, and video surveillance… much too challenging for an unorganized riot to take on. But not an insurrection.

I’ve been thinking for some time that I need to understand more clearly class composition in the United States. My reflections on my family and class are a piece of this, but its related to the bigger picture. Its not clear who is on what side of the class war, or where they will fall when the time comes. If we had this political clarity, then we could argue against violence on the working class, without just condemning the riots. We could push for a reorientation to the capitalists, the ruling class, the mega rich. We could fight for class solidarity with the rest of the working class… and even argue that the lower middle classes interests lie with ours. But I think first we need this political clarity: What is class? Who is working class? Why does that mean we shouldnt attack each other and we have the same interests? (Unless youre a fascist or something.)

Random News Roundup

In a town that is near and dear to my heart, a city council member, Loren Nichols, says that undocumented immigrants should be “shot at the border.”

In happier news, in the same state, a Native tribe legalized same-sex marriage. 

And in the city I rep now, 100,000 people showed up to a convention center where free school supplies, haircut vouchers, immunizations, and fresh produce were being handed out. This kind of thing has been happening in cities all over the country since 2008. Living in Houston, I have the sense that there is more economic expansion here, and hence more jobs, than anywhere else in the country, but that doesnt mean that the situation isnt dire. My comrades and I are looking for an area of organizing, and I have a strong sense that we will focus on an area of the budget cuts and austerity measures that disproportionately affect women and queers of color. Also, I really need to start studying more political economy and about the economic crisis. Are these the bread lines of our times?

What is actually happening in England?

This article by al-jazeera combats some of the propaganda of the bourgeois press about the London riots: these mindless youths, they’re violent and out of control, all we need are 30,000 cops to deal with them, but its a routine thing, no big deal.

Here’s an excerpt:

More broadly, any breakdown of civil order is inescapably political. Quite large numbers of mostly young people have decided that, on balance, they want to take to the streets and attack the forces of law and order, damage property or steal goods. Their motives may differ – they are bound to differ. But their actions can only be understood adequately in political terms. While the recklessness of adrenaline has something to do with what is happening, the willingness to act is something to be explained. We should perhaps ask them what they were thinking before reaching for phrases like “mindless violence”. We might actually learn something.

I have a lot of questions about whats happening right now. Everyone I know who lives in the UK and is commenting on it are on the side of the petty bourgeoisie, calling the rioters “idiots”, and so on. But what is the racial composition, what are the various political forces involved on the ground? Is the left agitating and organizing? Is anyone else? I hear armed Nazi gangs are roaming the streets, too, but this ISO newspaper article makes it seem like its just the state against the people, without mentioning the Nazis. They call it a “rebellion against racism” but they dont mention that many South Asians, for example, are setting up community defense and hence defending what they perceive as their own class interests.

They also emphasize that Mark Duggan was “a father of four” while elsewhere people talks about how he is a well-known crack dealer. He may have been both of these things, and if he was, his life needs to be looked at in its totality. He is no less a reason for people to protest police brutality if he sold drugs. Emphasizing that he was a father in this society where the question of Black men and family is so heated, seems like a cheap ploy to appeal to those who still hold onto “traditional family values” ie patriarchal values.

Its hard to know how to analyze it when you’re not there, and dont really understand the social forces and class tensions. This article by the Commune talks about from the perspective of some libertarian left revolutionaries. Their main point is pretty much that people need to get serious and politicize the riots, when right now they are almost purely economic. I agree with that, but I dont like how they talk about them needing to organize the rioters. I think the al-jazeera quote above gets at what needs to be done first: ask people what they are thinking. Most of them are likely highly aware of what is happening in their country in terms of race  and class. Maybe that is part of the Commune’s organizing method; I guess it is hard to tell since they urge people to organize but they dont talk about their own organizing. That doesnt mean that they are not organizing their asses off; maybe for security reasons they are not blasting their shit all over the internet. But I still dont really know whats going on.

The Dark Side

I cant get this shit out of my mind. Its aesthetic, visually and musically, appeals to my dark side.

 

[Verse 1]
I’m a fucking walking paradox, no I’m not
Threesomes with a fucking triceratops, Reptar

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