Friday 27 April 2012

Why I have Pride

Posted by Zim

Hello all! How are you today? I hope you're at least 50% fantastic. If you're not, I strognly advise a hot drink of your choosing and relaxing in a comfortable (or as near to it as you can get) position whilst watching something hilarious that requires minimal brain activity on your part.

Or maybe that's not your thing. I've got no reccomendations in that case; I can only speak from experience.

What's that, I'm pretending you just said? "What a masterful segue"? Oh dear, imaginary reader. You're too kind.

Why yes indeed, I am Zim, and I am here to talk about my experiences and feelings.

Now, I could perhaps discuss with you how, after several years, being compared to a tiny, green alien ceases to be hilarious. (Though it does bear mentioning that all your base are indeed belong to me.) Or perhaps the hardships of a life lived as someone with a large head who also happens to look fabulous in a large variety of hats. Maybe even my flaming vitriol at the fact that mushrooms continue to exist as a viable foodsource despite all the letters I've written to their parents and their supervisors.*

There are so, so many things I could talk about incessantly to you all, but I think I'll settle on the topic of Pride.

My identity is fairly complex for someone whose fashion sense tends towards, "does it fit, does it smell, is it black? Cool, I'll shimmy my way into that." For you see, I am an AFAB** genderqueer aromantic asexual. Though my gender identity tends to lean more towards 'beards' than anything that even remotely resembles an actual gender. I'm also what we refer to in the biz (the biz of referring to things) as a multi-ethnic black person.

I guess it's not actually that complex at all, but I'm sure you can understand why Pride (as opposed to pride, with a lowercase 'p'. Which is lions or something, I'm not sure,) is a big deal to me. Throughout my life, I've always been Proud to be black. When I still identified as such, I was Proud to be a girl/woman/etc. (Though, despite not identifying as female and being distinctly uncomfortable with female pronouns, I still talk about myself and my experiences as a woman? Do any other non-binary folks have this experience? Hit me up, yo.) I was so Proud, always with my metaphorical chin held high - even when my real one was dragging on the pavement - but I never really knew why. I always knew that there was a difference between being male and being female. Between being cis and trans*, or straight and LGB. On a purely intuitive level I knew there was a wealth of difference between Black Pride and White Pride, but beyond the part of my mind that went, "because White Pride is what racists say," I never really understood why. Why should I be proud when all I've done for most of my life is continue to exist, consume resources and occaionally troll debates on GaiaOnline?

Of course, it wasn't until I was maybe eighteen or nineteen that I started to Get It. I'd always had some vague understanding of sexism and historical racism, or what it meant to be a queer ally, but it wasn't until then that I really started to understand institutional oppressions. And it wasn't until later that I finally got the concept of intersectionality.

I should probably point out at this point, that I'm largely approaching this from a racial perspective. But even though the specific details will differ, I feel that the things I have to say are largely applicable to any marginalized group.

I'm going to start by throwing it out there that I think the concept of race as we use it is mostly bullshit. If you happen to follow me on tumblr (I don't recommend it, it's mostly gifs of Jack Marston and incomprehensible run-on sentences,) you probably already know that I feel this way. The short of it is that there is more genetic variance between members of any given ethnic group than between the groups themselves. Which means that I am pretty much just as different to a person of my particular ethnic makeup as I am to say, a WASP.

This is kind of a diversion from my original point, because race is a complex issue for me and it's hard not to go off on tangents. You see, because being black is a core part of my identity. I can't divorce myself from it. Even if I say that the conflation of race and culture is silly, that doesn't stop the crude fetishization of black women as aggressive sexual objects who need to be tamed, which puts us at a higher risk of sexual assault than white women. That doesn't change the fact that I - and people like me - am twice as likely to be stuck in a low income home than white people. It doesn't stop me from being more likely to get arrested, be refused work or education  or from having to have horrible slurs thrown my way. It doesn't stop me from having my history rewritten or ignored. I mean, seriously. Hands up, how many of you knew Rosa Parks was a pro-choice activist? Or that she actively made the choice not to stand, knowing exactly what she was doing - not because she was just a tired old lady.*** What about people's knowledge of Black History that consisted solely of the same, vague discussion of slavery every Black History Month, rather than maybe a discussion of pre-colonial African history. Or a discussion of blackface and racist caricatures (Picaninny, Sambo, Golliwog, etc.) Or even mention how, when Americans talk about women getting the vote in 1920, they steamroll all over the fact that Black Women - despite legally having the right - were largely denied the ability to vote until the 60s.

I mean, if we're going to relegate talking about the vast history and numerous contributions of Black people to a month every year, there's a whole lot more to talk about and do than watch Roots and have a half hour discussion about how bad slavery was and gosh wasn't apartheid so bad gee aren't we glad we don't have racism now? Racism is so bad. That just seems a lot more productive than, you know, making poor, bitty Zim feel deeply uncomfortable for pointing out that To Kill a Mockingbird was really just But I Have Black Friends: The Novel.

I wish so much that I'd understood just how deep the racism hole goes when I was younger, because now I understand what Pride means. It's so much more than being at peace with the colour of my skin. It's about a history of hardship and revolution that's been passed down to me and placed in my hands to do with as I please. It's about existing despite the copious amounts of work people in the past put in to make sure I never could, and continuing to do so despite the adversity and the hurdles that come my way. Seeing the status quo for what it is and being able to say, "that's not good enough."

It's about fighting to get what you deserve and having the power to change the world for the better. And of that, I am very Proud.

*Seriously, my hatred of mushrooms is so intense it borders on self-parody.  Their supervisors assert that this is bullying and they'll have to bring in the solicitors if I keep this up though.

**AFAB = Assigned Female at Birth. Which goes hand-in-hand (for those so inclined) with AMAB, which is Assigned Male at Birth.

***Rosa Parks was 42 during the famous bus incident, despite the fact that most view her at this moment as a demure woman in her 70s. She was also a youth leader in and one of the first women to join the NAACP, and sat on the board of Planned Parenthood.
A couple of good links are this one, about her intentions and feelings when choosing not to leave her seat, and this one, about how tragic it is that her legacy is frequently reduced to sitting on a bus in the shadow of MLK Jr.

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