Browse Tag: xenophobia

Saying No to Saviorism, Celebrating Africa's Resistance

Saying No to Media Saviorism, Celebrating Africa’s Resistance

Dear Readers,

You may wonder where I’ve been for the past month. The answer: RESTING.

But, I’ve also been contributing to some of my favorite media outlets — Racialicious.com, plus now, Gender Across Borders — working on a chapbook (so fun!), and finally, developing a fierce editorial advisory board for my new media project highlighting diaspora voices. It’s all been very exciting, but has kept me very busy (ok, ok — I totally lied about the resting). The head-first dive into the global media blogosphere has left me with thoughts. And you all know what happens when I get thoughts.

For Gender Across Borders, I just published my first intro piece, “Celebrating Africa’s Resistance.” I invite you to read, share with your networks, and of course, use the comment section to leave me your thoughts. I look forward to reading your own reflections on the state of media coverage of African, the global south, and people of color, in general. So excited to be back!

Warrior Love,
Spectra

Say No to Media Saviorism: Celebrating Africa’s Resistance
Originally published at GenderAcrossBorders.com

When I hear “Gender Across Borders” the images that immediately come to mind are tragic: African women who face violence and sexual assault during times of war, groups of Afghan women in burqas shuffling through the unsettled dust of conflict resolution in silence, poor and starving African girls being nursed back to health for the premeditated purposes of child trafficking, and much worse. A quick google search for “gender justice” and “human rights” returns an inspiring list of organizations and websites (including this one) dedicated to addressing these issues in a myriad of ways: media coverage, non-profit direct service, volunteerism, advocacy, cause campaigning, etc. Yet, I found that as I clicked into each site, I was met with even more bad news, “shocking” reports, and yet, again, the same images: women being oppressed all over the non-western world.

As a daughter of Africa, who is currently based in the US, I wonder to myself if a time will finally come when cable networks will include coverage of Africa beyond the saviorist commercials that urge me to save poor and starving African children, if major news outlets will consider Africa’s resistance and self-liberation newsworthy enough for morning shows (not just “breaking news”), when independent blogs will consider amplifying more than just the “atrocious” acts that are often committed against us to also include our resilience — how African women continue to get back on their feet and march forward – every – single – time. Undoubtedly, many of these media organizations mean well and, despite the negative news coverage, are creating a positive impact by raising awareness; in my mind, the desire to bring to light the injustices that women face all over the world (given a white male-dominated media) is commendable. But, is oppression truly all that we can cover?

How about we — as global gender justice advocates — subvert the idea that women are perpetual victims by covering our collective resistance (at least much more often than, say, our male counterparts)? How about we more frequently discuss the kind of rebellion that may not necessarily inspire political protests as large in scale as the Arab Spring, but affirm brave acts that carve out new territory within the scope of women in government? How about we spend less time sharing negative news stories that go viral during major national crises, but focus on highlighting the slow and steady work of the underdog that is happening under the radar? How about we cut back on the sensationalism — the shock tactics and controversy we once deployed to get mainstream media to pay attention to issues important to us — and now spend time amassing an archive of positive happenings that could inspire legendary bed time stories of the many feminist heroes and heroines that have been paving the way to our liberation?

Just to clarify, I do not intend to create a hierarchy of media coverage (i.e. good media vs. better media) within the context of global gender justice; any coverage of women’s issues (whether positive or negative) is much-needed coverage of women’s issues. Organizations like Gender Across Borders, the Caribbean feminist collective, Code Red, Women, Action and the Media, South Africa’s LGBT news hub, Behind the Mask, the LGBT Asylum News online portal, and hundreds more doing similar work to raise marginalized voices within have already made considerable gains in this arena, and thus, granted me the right to be greedy — now, I want now to see women’s and gender equality issues covered more thoroughly; I want it all — the good, the bad, the ugly.

The desire for more coverage of women’s proactive, creative solutions to Africa’s problems in part from one of my Afrofeminist principles; namely, it is just as (if not more) important to live from a place of hope, than from a place of fear and constant criticism. But surely, I’m not the only one who’s craving more positive news. I can’t be the only African, LGBT activist, trans* person, immigrant etc who cringes at the thought of having my experience manifest as projected by public health reports and/or “cold hard facts.” (Apparently, as an African gender non-conforming person, I’m expected to live till the age of 35. I just turned 30, by the way).

There is obviously more discussion to be had about western media’s loyalty to third world suffering, its incessant feeding on plight of the global south, but that is not the focus of this post. I intend to explore this idea more fully in the future, but today, I’d like to focus on what I’m going to do about it. Today, I’d like to assure you of just one thing:

I will not be using my column on Gender Across Borders to talk about the plight of African women. Whereas, in the past, I’ve contributed my fare share of critique, one of my new year’s resolutions as an afrofeminist (more on that later) is to focus more on highlighting positive media (versus constantly reacting to negative news).

Instead, I’ll be covering women all around the world who use their art, performance, and media to raise awareness of critical issues and under-the-radar uprisings. I look forward to sharing my favorite musicians, artists, writers, and media organizations with you.

I want to cover LGBT Africa’s resistance — one that doesn’t place sexual violence, political warfare, and death at the focal point, but reiterates over and over again that every day citizens are standing fast against oppression, speaking up for each other in the face of the west’s infantilizing media.

I want to cover women’s movements happening around kitchen tables, in hair salons, within the sanctity of religious and spiritual spaces, and familiarity of traditional ceremonies. I want to give young people a chance to understand that real movements happen within the scope of every day, and not just within political discourse.

I want to show the world that Africa can — on its own — walk and run; that our continent has caught up (and, has already been leading) many parts of the world in various areas — social entrepreneurship, women’s political participation, innovation and technology, and more.

Due to my own background, there may be some initial focus on Africa, but I am determined to highlight acts of resistance as they are happening all across Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world, as well. As I will be contributing to GAB weekly, please feel free to send me any artists, performers, media and/or filmmakers, and organizations who are creating positive change (not just reacting to it) by commenting under this post, via my GAB email, or my Twitter handle @spectraspeaks.

If the work is creative, inspiring, and impacts women and/or gender justice, I want to hear about it. I want you to hear about it. The world must hear about it.

Viva Africa.

[ps — none of this negates the fact that I’m known for my ranting, and thus, will continue to do so, just in moderation]

Anti-Muslim Bigot Literally Takes a “Stab” at Patriotism

I just read the article on ColorLines.com about the NYC stabbing of a Muslim cab driver…

I’m filled with so much rage.

I can’t believe this. And yet, I can. I’m so ashamed today to ever defend this country from foreigners who believe that the citizen collective is a walking head case. Really? An unprovoked stabbing of a 42-year old father and working class citizen just because some drunken, misinformed, a**hole decided to literally take a stab at patriotism?

Enright, who asked to be taken to 43rd St. and Third Ave., was friendly when he first got into the cab, asking Sharif where he was from, how long had he been in America and inquiring about his religion. “As the cab was proceeding, the passenger asked, ‘Are you Muslim?’ and the driver said that he was,'” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters. After his initial flurry of questions, Enright grew silent for several minutes before suddenly attacking the unsuspecting Sharif. Just before Enright whipped out the knife from his multi-gadget Leatherman tool, he barked: “Al salaam aalaykum”

He’s NOT just a “Muslim”, you asshole. He was someone’s father. He’s an American by right.

This could’ve been about anybody — a latino boy in the wrong part of Arizona, another trans person in Puerto Rico, a gay couple in Malawi, a queer in Nigeria… and what really scares me is that his profile on paper seems to suggest that he would be an ally to the Muslim community.

Enright was a volunteer for Intersections International, a Manhattan-based group that promotes peace among different religions. A spokesman confirmed he was filming for the group, which recently threw its support behind the controversial Park 51 mosque project near Ground Zero.

Enright was a volunteer for Intersections International, a Manhattan-based group that promotes peace among different religions. A spokesman confirmed he was filming for the group, which recently threw its support behind the controversial Park 51 mosque project near Ground Zero.

I’m so angry that I’m tempted to say that street justice is the best approach to situations like this; the courts take too long to come to the wrong conclusion. But if we let our anger and emotional need for retaliation lead us, then we’d be no better than this 21-yr who thinks that fear is the only way America can be free…

I won’t give up on people. I won’t I won’t I won’t…

Read the Full Article in the New York Daily News

Rant: Neo-Colonialists Demand to Know Why I Don’t Call Myself “American”

Simply put, I don’t want to — I’m Nigerian.

But in case this isn’t enough for you, here’s my angry rebuttal. I’m leaving it angry because, well I’m angry, at constantly having to defend the right to claim my Nigerian cultural identity to xenophobic Americans. Just because many people don’t claim Ireland, or Germany, or Poland, or “Africa” for that matter, doesn’t mean that I’m required to follow suit.

I recognize that being able to claim where I’m from may be viewed as a privilege in this country, given the sensitive history, but, again, I’m not American, I’m Nigerian, and where I’m from, we claim our cultural identities down to the last sign post. Delta, Nigeria, West Africa, I won’t lose myself in this so-called melting pot just yet… I want kids at home to look at all that I stood for and accomplished and be able to say, “That’s one of our own, too.” It’s more important to me to empower the marginalized groups and communities that I’m a part of than to appease the egos of a bunch of privileged, nationalist people (who made fun of my accent in high school and laughed when I bowed to greet elders).

Begin Rant

1) Most of these nationalist labelers don’t even own passports; everyone knows that the majority of Americans living in this country hardly travel outside of the western hemisphere (that’s right, Mexico and the Dominican Republic for spring break don’t count). If we’re gonna start defining “Americans” as those people who actually “own passports” then there goes a whooolle lotta people, including you most likely.

2) Should I really be deemed more american than the people who actually want to claim that title? I imagine that’s a danger to “National Security”. Oh that’s right, some people actually agree with this! No wonder immigrants get treated like second class citizens, are threatened daily with the erasure of their histories, and Obama got called a Terrorist for having a Kenyan father and a Muslim name.

3) I have a Nigerian (green) passport as well as a US (blue) one, which is common. In fact, most of my friends from home have as many as three passports. Passports, simply put, enable you to ‘pass ports’ and experience the world beyond the borders of your immediate experience (whatever that may be). That’s why the rest of the world is so cultured — it’s not so ‘impressive’ when people speak two or three languages. Incidentally, Americans (black, white, educated, young, old etc) have asked me the dumbest questions I’ve ever heard in my life. “Do you have milk in Africa?” No, my mother fed me oil when I was a toddler. Wow.

4) Passport Privilege — If you’re saying that your blue passport is better than my green passport just because you live here and have been brainwashed to believe that the rest of the world is unhappy/poor/communist/carnivorous/inferior/etc, then clearly you’re an ignorant colonist wretch (and no, brown people are not absolved from exhibiting this same infantalizing colonist attitude about ‘citizenship’). (Incidentally, if you’re unaware of your blue passport privilege, I suggest you (at least once) take on the burden of turning your head slightly to the left or right at the airport just before you arrive in a new country — the people in those long ass, slow-moving immigration lines usually aren’t smiling.)

5) If I don’t want to be called American, then out of respect — no matter how convincing you think you argument is — please call me by whatever name I choose. I’m Nigerian. I’m proud of it (even if they piss me off too). Arguing with me over my preferred/claimed nationality is no better than forcing “dyke”, “black”, “feminist”, “man or woman” or even “nerd” on a person who doesn’t claim those nouns/labels. These nouns are only empowering if the individual chooses them for his/her/their self. Would you call a biracial person “white” if they claimed the african-american part of their racial identity? Would you insult a trans woman by routinely (and deliberately) referring to her as “he”? Arguing with me about my nationality is no different. Learn some manners and perhaps you’ll make a few more friends

6) Smart, progressive, Americans know that unity and diversity are only attained if we respect and acknowledge each other. So please, stop perpetuating to the rest of the world (including the multi-national people/immigrants currently residing in the US) that ignorance and xenophobia are the only catalyst available in this so-called “melting pot.”

End Rant

In closing: The fight for equal treatment under the law, immigration reform, and citizenship for members of  both my immediate and adopted (immigrant community) family does NOT equate to any sort of desire to erase my cultural background/heritage. I am the warrior woman I am today in part because of where I’m from; no one (man or country) can ever take that away from me.


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