The Problem With Unlearning

society, thinkpiece July 9, 2020

 If you’ve read my last two posts, then you probably recognize that I wholeheartedly welcome this revolution, wherein oppressed people are finally able to exercise their basic human rights. And because of that, I recognize the things within myself that need to change to help facilitate that. With chants of “Black Lives Matter,” and “Abolish the Police,” fading into background noise, the real work begins. So, what does that look like?

A hell of a lot of unlearning.

It’s something that started some time ago for me, beginning with recognizing how I,  a fashion lover, was directly responsible for the suffering of garment factory workers in faraway lands, and the pollution of the rivers and streams they rely on, by avidly buying fast fashion. So, I stopped. And yet, in my unlearning, I’m recognizing that I’m still royally fucking up.

I’m still unlearning capitalist behaviors, and relinquishing many of the fairytales that I once hoped to bring to life, because in the grand scheme of things, they are (and always were) meaningless accolades and titles. You know, the sandcastle-in-the-sky type of daydreams, ones in which I considered what Instagram post I’d make to announce my appearance on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, or what The Queen and I might talk about when I marry Prince Harry (…I let that one ago around the Chelsy Davy days), or the five cities that I’d want to have homes in.

I’ve realized that if I’m truly to be as pro-Black as I claim to be, I have to take responsibility for what I’m contributing to this ecosystem, wherein we’re all simultaneously senders and receivers.

Screaming from the rooftops about wanting equity, inclusivity, and representation isn’t enough, because, as I’ve learned from being honest with my damn self, we’re constantly acting in ways that uphold hegemonic structures–the same ones that we claim to want to destroy. And for me, that means coming to terms with the fact that, as much as I want Breonna Taylor’s killers to die in prison, I want to abolish the prison industrial complex, rendering that impossible; I’m coming to terms with the fact that there is still anti-Blackness within me that I need to deprogram;  I’m coming to terms with the fact that capitalism has given me an inflated sense of self, which has caused me to cause harm to others. And so, I’m actively trying to expedite the unlearning that I have to do.

While recognizing that I’ve actively been harmful to others–even if it has been unintentional.

I’ve learned that you can genuinely try to be an ally, as I do to the LGBTQ+ community, and still misgender non-binary people unintentionally–as I have on two separate occasions between this year, and last. And I’ve learned that it’s not enough to own and apologize for the unintentional harm that I could’ve caused, but that I must also question my own brainwashing, from a perspective of “how can I unlearn my phobias towards non-cis-hetero people?” Going far beyond merely asking, “do I have these phobias?”

A draining amount of self-discernment led me to become absolutely disgusted with my lack of allyship to Indigenous people. It took me 25 years to ask my family if we could stop celebrating the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, yet it only took 12 for me to tell them I was going vegetarian. Could this late-blooming of my self-awareness have caused immense harm? I’m sure it has, but only God knows how much. All of this has taught me one thing: ultimately, the only real problem with unlearning is that it forces us to keep unlearning, decolonizing, reframing, and letting go of inherently harmful traditions and lifestyles; but even then, we aren’t doing the work until we militantly integrate new traditions and lifestyles that counter the collective harm that we’ve done.

So, where the hell can we start? Maria Vicente has 99 ideas:

1)   Get familiar with the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle

2)      Be critical towards globalisation and its effects on global diversity. Keep yourself informed.

3)      Protect the minorities! And empower those who are stigmatised.

4)      Get yourself a reachable challenge (e.g. no plastic for a month, no meat for a week).

5)       Remember that there are unlimited amount of ways to resist capitalism. It is important to take small steps and appreciate them!

6)      Choose a more responsible bank – for example one that doesn’t support wars.

7)      Preserve and embrace ethnic diversity.

8)      Don’t throw away stuff: find a new life for it.

9)      Save water and energy.

10)   Join a collective working together to improve the world.

11)   Make your own hygiene products.

12)   Install and use solar panels in your house.

13)   Make your own household cleaning materials.

14)   Wash clothes only when it is needed. Air clothes that you have only used once.

15)   Wash clothes on a low temperature.

16)   Don’t produce garbage (instead: compost, recycle, donate).

17)   Grow your own food.

18)   Buy organic food (not GMO) and avoid food from big corporations.

19)   Organise urban gardens in your city, and inspire those around you to grow food.

20)   Go to live in the countryside and strive for self-sufficiency.

21)   Make food packages instead of buying take-away food.

22)    Get involved in foraging activities with your school, neighbours, community, etc.

23)    Avoid sugar! It harms your body and mind.

24)   Take good care of your health. The healthier you are, the more you can do to improve the world.

25)   Get to know your neighbours. Capitalism promotes individualism and loneliness. If you get together with those around you, you will all become stronger.

26)   Be in control of your own life. Don’t let yourself be ruled by trends, fashions, and the mainstream opinions and ways of living.

27)   Take time to truly follow your own path. Your future belongs to you, don’t allow yourself to be put into a box.

28)   Be together with other people about your difficulties, and theirs. If you share your problems, they become smaller.

29)   Promote togetherness in your neighbourhood, community, village, city, etc.

30)   Disconnect from internet. Connect with People and nature.

31)   Speak out when you see something wrong.

32)   Get involved in other people’s lives.Your brothers and sisters have for sure found some ways to fight capitalism, acknowledge and respect them for it.

33)   Refuse to accept stereotypes.

34)   Free yourself from what is expected from you!

35)   Avoid spending money.

36)   Dumpster dive and talk about dumpster diving.

37)   Buy local products.

38)   Buy second-hand clothes.

39)   Buy things of a good quality that will last longer.

40)   Buy fair trade products.

41)   Avoid buying NEW electronics.

42)   Don’t follow fast fashion.

43)   Avoid products that exploit people and nature (coffee, chocolate, etc.)

44)   Don’t follow trends that disappear fast.

45)   Avoid gender targeted products.

46)   In case you have a baby: Avoid disposable diapers and wet towels.

47)   In case you have a baby: Buy second hand clothes, stroller, car seat, etc.

48)   In case you have a baby: Avoid baby targeted products.

49)   In case you have a baby: Re-sell or gift your used baby things.

50)   In case you have a baby: Avoid food jars, plastic fruit pouches and all sorts of “baby food”.

51)   In case you have a baby: Avoid formula milk! Breastfeed!

52)   Support small businesses.

53)   Avoid buying things during date-specific consumerist periods (Valentine’s day, Christmas).

54)   Get as many things for FREE as possible.

55)   Give away as many things for FREE as possible.

56)   In case you are a woman: Use reusable menstrual products (moon cup, cloth pads, etc).

57)   Support collective owned companies.

58)   Don’t buy stuff made in sweat shops (clothes, electronics).

59)   Go for Open Source programmes, and all things that are made for people, not for profit.

60)   Get to know who owns which companies (for example, Unilever owns many small companies that look “innocent”).

61)   In case you are a woman: Get to know your body and your cycle works! Be aware of which contraceptive method you use!

62)   Pay CLOSE attention to which medicines you use, and why!

63)   Take good care of stuff so it can last longer

64)   Hitchhike

65)   Use car-sharing

66)   Bicycle more often.

67)   Use public transport.

68)   Buy an electric car.

69)   Fuel your car from state-owned oil companies.

70)   Walk more.

71)   Avoid travelling by plane and if you do so, choose a responsible company.

72)   Avoid plastic of all sorts.

73)   Boycott big corporations (Nestle, Coca Cola, Pantene, Starbucks, etc.)

74)   Avoid disposable products.

75)   Avoid all sorts of useless packaging.

76)   Actively protest war and tell your family and friends about the ugly business behind it.

77)   Actively protest companies that dig oil (for example, by trying to stop the ships from leaving the harbour) – or simply tell people about it!

78)   Actively protest companies that mine and transport coal, uranium, nuclear waste, or other harmful materials (for example, by trying to block the trains that transport it) – or simply tell people about it!

79)   Actively protest heavy machinery from entering the forest to cut it – or simply tell people about it!

80)   Avoid buying stuff that travels too much before arriving to you.

81)   Never buy plastic water bottles, and other one-time use products.

82)   Protect the public sectors by using and nourishing them (hospitals, schools, state owned companies)

83)   Talk with restaurants and supermarkets in your area about how to reduce food waste.

84)   Form collectives (in your community, work place, block buildings, etc). It is by far one of the most efficient ways to fight capitalism. Collectivism is the biggest threat to their success.

85)   Share economy (in your family, work place, village, block buildings, etc).

86)   Share house and your private facilities.

87)    Buy food in big quantities together with your friends, neighbours, family, etc.

88)   Share kitchen utensils with your neighbours

89)   Share electronics with your neighbours

90)   Talk about using renewable energy in your working place

91)   Don’t settle for jobs that don’t respect your rights

92)   Don’t be afraid to lose a job that pays you a small salary. Ask support from those around you in case you find yourself in this situation, and want to quit your job

93)   Be active in your working place, and get fully involved in what you do, and why you do it

94)   Speak out for workers’ rights!

95)   In case you are a woman: refuse to receive a lower salary than a man! (with the same skills)

96)   In case you are an immigrant: refuse to receive a lower salary than a local! (with the same skills)

97)   Join, or create, a workers’ union.

98)   Watch documentaries, read articles! Get informed! Be intellectually active!

99)   Share this article and give ideas to your friends of the many ways to fight capitalism!

And if you’re contemplating what ‘brave new world’ we should create in place of capitalism, just know that I am too.

Europeans, Let’s Talk…

europe, global, racism, society, thinkpiece July 1, 2020

Lockdown has pushed me into developing several new interests, some of them, very delicious, and others, seemingly pointless–or, so I thought, initially. Long story short, the Instagram accounts of the least interesting characters of Love Island have helped me to confirm my long-running theory:

White Europeans are blind to Europe’s massive racism problem.

OK? Now, let’s break down how we got here (prepare to pray for me in 3, 2, 1). Sans my Love Island fix, I’m following more former Islanders on Instagram; and because of that, my discover page shows posts from the ones who fell through the cracks. Does that mean something? It didn’t until I started noticing a peculiar pattern. Being? An absence of black squares. Meaning? Absolutely nothing to the untrained eye, and the untrained eye only–but, EYE, am a professional, luv.

After I identified my (aforementioned) hypothesis, I quickly differentiated between my control group, the Islanders who posted nothing, and, my experimental group, the Islanders who posted black squares. And while testing my hypothesis, like the damn good scientist et investigateur that I am, I observed something that unearthed it all: within several captions, the words, I stand with America, or some variation of the sort. WTF does that really tell us though? British people, like so many other Europeans, are failing to call out the racism that exists in their very backyard.

Years of visiting, vacationing, or working in cities like Milan, Paris, London, Amsterdam, all the way down to the island of Ibiza, have revealed to me Europeans’ genuine belief that racism isn’t nearly as bad in Europe as it is in the United States. Some Europeans have fallen so deep into the Kool Aid, that they even believe that racism is nearly non-existent in Europe. If you’re one of them, I need you to understand this;

When Black people hear you say, “Europe doesn’t really have the same race issues that exist in America,” we say the name Phillip Mbuji Johansen,

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a Black, Danish man named in a piece published in the New York Times yesterday titled, “A Black Man Was Tortured and Killed in Denmark. The Police Insist It Wasn’t About Race.”

We say the name Shukri Abdi,

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 a 12 year-old Somalian girl who was murdered in Manchester, UK in 2017. Shukri was bullied by her classmates who were at the scene where she was found drowned. The police failed to investigate, and declared her death a “tragic accident.”

We say the name Adama Traoré,

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a Black, French man murdered by Paris Metropolitan Police on his 24th birthday in 2016. It was reported that “Traoré was detained and pinned down by three police offers, reportedly telling them before he died that he couldn’t breathe.”

We think of the African immigrants shot by a Fascist in Macerata, Italy. We think of Black, European footballers like Italian-Ghanian pro, Mario Balotelli, saying things like, “the ‘really extreme’ racism I’ve witnessed in Italian football is worse than any I’ve seen in England or France.”

We think of the racist actions of the UK government that lead to The Grenfell Tower Fire. We think of reports that a dozen cops in Rouen, France, exchanging a series of white supremacist messages in a WhatsApp group in late 2019; and of the StreetPress’ exposé, “uncovering a private Facebook group of eight thousand, French, law enforcement members from across the country, in which police regularly exchanged racist commentary.”

We say the names Alberto Adriano, Sean RiggKingsley Burrell, Stephen Lawrence, Zyed Benna, Bouna Traoré, and so many other Black and Brown Europeans who had their lives stolen from them. And before you call their deaths mere “exceptions to the rule,”

you should know that the history of racism across Europe is well-documented, although, significant erasure has taken place.

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Anti-Black, German propaganda

Most Europeans are unaware of the human zoos, or “ethnological exhibitions,” that displayed Black people in cities like Hamberg, Berlin, Paris, Riga, Bern, Bucharest, Warsaw, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, and more well into the 1960s.

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"The World’s Fair, in 1889 was visited by 28 million people, who 
lined up to see 400 indigenous people as the major attraction. 
The 1900 World’s Fair followed suit, as did the Colonial Exhibitions
in Marseilles (1906 and 1922) and in Paris (1907 and 1931) which 
displayed naked or semi-naked humans in cages. Paris saw 34 million 
people attend their exhibition in six months alone."

Most Europeans don’t know the name of Ota Benga who was put on display at The Bronx Zoo in 1904.

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According to reports, “the card outside the exhibit read: Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches. Weight 103 pound. Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Central Africa, By D. Samuel P Verner. Exhibited each afternoon during September.” 

It isn’t well-known that Hitler sterilized as many African-German mixed race children without anesthetics. And:

"Black soldiers of the American, French, and British Armies were 
worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of 
mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were 
never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the 
SS or Gestapo. Black prisoners received harsher treatment and less 
food than white POWs, and whilst most white POWs were imprisoned, 
many of the black soldiers either worked until they died or were 
executed."

Sweeping these atrocities ‘under the rug’ doesn’t make them any less real, heartbreaking, violent, and racist. So, white Europeans, I beg:

stop allowing the horrors, and the Americanness of police brutality to distract you from dismantling the racism that is killing and oppressing the Black people who call Europe home.

We. Are. Tired.

america, politics, society, thinkpiece June 22, 2020

I couldn’t get these words out last Wednesday, on my usual ‘new post’ day. I was too tired. I couldn’t do it last Thursday either, because I was too busy being tired carrying the weight of other things. And I figured talking about this on Juneteenth might come with bad juju, so today’s the day that I’ll say this:

I’m tired.

I was hoping I’d have more energy to talk about how urgently we must practice and protect our freedoms, how we undermine the size of our spheres of influence,

 

the history of governments wanting us to shut the fuck up, as shown through America’s Sedition laws, and The Earn It Act; I wanted to share notes from the talk I gave to a class at California State University last fall, in which I highlighted Michael Kent Curtis’s sentiments in his Free Speech, The People’s Darling Privilege, revealing, “the Supreme Court came to its current protective view of free speech only very gradually and only in the twentieth century…[due to struggles] between the Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans over the 1798 Sedition Act, the fight over slavery, attempts to suppress antislavery speech, as well as anti war speech during the Civil War,” but I’m tired. 

I wanted to talk about how The Earn It Act threatens our cybersecurity and free speech, under the guise of spending $5 billion towards “uncovering more child sex abuse material by investing in more FBI agents and online investigators,” but I’m tired.

I wanted to use this space–the one I pay to occupy–to inform, drop sources, and stir conversation, but, I’m tired, just like SO many Black women.

We show up, we take up space, we do the work, just like OLUWATOYIN SAULUonly to be subjected to humiliation or death by male assailants. We’re pushed in dumpsters for timelines. And when we’re not being called out for merely being, we’re gaslighted for merely feeling. Even after we start book clubs, and show that we truly just want the best for the people who look like us and still don’t see our humanity, just as much as we do the people who don’t look us and never saw us, we’re the least prioritized.

And when Black women are silent, because we’re busy healing from the traumas we carry; because we’re tired of screaming at the top of our lungs in memoriam; because we’re tired of our hearts breaking over the people who call us QUEEN with the same venom they’ll use to call us cockroaches, we’re selfish.

Why can’t we fucking rest instead?

"We mostly praise Black women for how much they can endure, strength, how much emotional labor they can provide for us. 
That alone is dehumanizing. Think about what you're contributing to. And please listen to Black women on this. You are causing harm. 
Protect Black women."

Pas Si Chic

fashion, lifestyle, survival guide June 10, 2020

I’m writing this as an escape.

There’s so much performative shenanigans littering the world that I have to do something that makes me feel sane.

Side note: I never imagined that at the ripe age of 24 writing into an algorithmic abyss would be the thing keeping me sane but, here we are. I mean, have you ever voluntarily taken up a hobby that requires you to eat your ego before throwing it up everywhere? Or, are you normal?

Like I said, I need an escape; if you know where we can find some frivolity for this pandemic please let me know. The speed at which white silence did a 180°, then evolved into the optical cacophony that was several white Senators kneeling in Kente cloth, is truly neck-breaking. And, during a pandemic.

We are still. living through. our first global pandemic. 

Does anyone else’s brain zone out and totally forget about that, only to come to in a wave of anxiety? I have to laugh …or bake…every weekend, to get through this. Mind you, before my instant active dry yeast arrived almost three weeks ago, I had already analyzed all hundred of the existential crises I had had; if anything, now I’m just getting more creative with my coping mechanisms. I’m quite literally doing what floats my boat. I mean, yeast goes to your ass…right?

 And every good bake or dinner requires a worthy dinner outfit. Yeah, I said it: dressing up to eat my dinner, or the things I bake myself, all alone, is the only thing keeping me sane right now. This girl loves her downtime, but I never intended to swap out glitzy dinner outfits for pseudo-groutfits (though, we never go full on grout over here) for this long. So, as a pick-me-up to the realization that I’ve been coordinating pseudo-groutfits with non-medical face masks for the past 4 months, I’ve been dressing up in for dinner.

Scoff if you’re boring, I’m gonna find a way to have fun.

Cue the Lookbook:

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And, these are  some looks I don’t (yet) own that send me into daydreams (my credit card’s nightmare):

IMG_4069Jolié Maxi Dress, Hanifa

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Heron Preston x Sami Miro Vintage SS2020

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Silk Sundown Wrap Dress, Fe Noel 

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White Lace Mini Dress, TLZ L’FEMME

…When I’m not daydreaming about the revolution, that is.

White Silence Is Violence

identity, know, lifestyle, society June 1, 2020

To any White friend I have, or have had:

In this deeply racist society, it’s simply not enough for you to “not be racist;”

It’s not enough for you to treat me with the respect I deserve;

It’s not enough for you to open your home to me, and your other Black friends;

It’s not enough for you to know what’s happening;

It’s not enough for you to be and to be ‘outraged;’

It’s not enough for you to know the history of racism in this country, or even, of every other country on the face of this Earth;

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It’s not enough for you to read Angela Davis;

It’s not enough for you to know Malcolm X;

It’s not enough for you to walk in Black Live Matter protests;

It’s not enough for you to recognize your White Privilege;

It’s not enough for you to know how capitalism is inherently racist;

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It’s not enough for you to repent for the sins of Whiteness: multiplying the number of Nat Turner’s, Emmett Till’s, and Henrietta Lack’s;

It’s not enough for you to be actively antiracist;

It’s not enough for you to hold your White counterparts accountable;

It’s not enough for you to unlearn your racism;

None of it is enough when you remain silent about it.

White supremacy doesn’t end by you doing your antiracist work in the shadows. White supremacy doesn’t end by you not making it inherently clear that you are antiracist. Again, and again, and again. Until you’re blue in the face. Anything less than making your antiracist action known to your white friends and white family is violence. Anything less than you normalizing talking about race with your white friends and white family is violence. Anything less than you continuously shouting from the rooftops how white people can unlearn their racism, and how white people can contribute to dismantling white supremacy is violence.

And your violence is no longer acceptable to me.

I’ve endured years of your silence. I’ve seen you consume every inch of Black culture except for the death that comes with it. Through the years, I’ve heard chorus upon chorus of your thoughts on the latest Black dance, win by your favorite majority-Black sports team, Twitter beef between your favorite Black celebrities, or clothing drop from your favorite streetwear brand that routinely coopts trends started by Black people. And throughout the years, I’ve heard your deafening silence when police killed Trayvon Martin, Clifford Glover, Claude Reese, Randy Evans, Yvonne Smallwood, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Jordan Davis, Jonathan Ferrell, Ezell Ford, Darius Pinex, Ramarley Graham, Yvette Smith, Darrien Hunt, Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams, Kendrick McDade, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Aiyana Jones, John Crawford, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Stephon Watts, Rekia Boyd, Trisha Miller, Dakota Bright, Corey Harris, Larry Jackson Jr., Tarika Wilson, John Crawford, Gary Hatcher, Manuel Loggins Jr., Nicholas Hayward, Kathryn Johnston, Samuel Dubose, Freddie Gray, The Charleston 9, Sandra Bland, Corey Jones, Alton Sterling, Roshad McIntosh, Ronald Madison, Joel Acevedo, Philando Castile, Patrick Dorismond, Jordan Baker, Timothy Stanbury, Terrence Crutcher, Keith Scott, Jordan Edwards, Stephon Clark, Bothem Sean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor,  Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.

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I’ve endured your silence all 60+ chances you’ve had to speak out. I’ve endured watching you take zero of those chances, and still resolving to calling yourself my ‘friend.’ “Maybe they’re waiting for the next one?” I used to wonder. But, now I know that your silence means that you don’t see the perpetual violence against Blackness as your problem.

And it’s laughable.

Have you not lived this life in community with so many people? The next time your friend’s family member is sick, will you not console them? Will you not congratulate the next family member of yours who gives birth? Will you not check in on your friend who attended a funeral? Or, console the next one who has their heart broken? …Oh, I’m mistaken? You’ll be there for them? Even though none of those things directly have anything to do with you?

So, then, why the fuck are you not avidly fighting to make Black Lives Matter?

It’s because you don’t believe that they do.

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