Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fleeing into Space Away from White "Safe Space"

It is ironic that fleeing one space has driven me to another- that I once saw as a tabula rasa on which I could self-express, then which became a guilty wagging finger as it remained, in fact, a blank slate, for months. With decreasing validity of excuse.

Fleeing "safe space", both times, I grew silent.

July was the last time I posted anything on my own blog. I have written nothing of substance that I have actually published since that time, although many things have been started, then set aside with second-guessing. The decreased amount of blogging time I dedicated, instead, to contributing to someone else's space, someone else's community. A rationalized outcome seen by me at the time as the easier alternative to writing nothing at all, given how long it takes me to produce anything that I believe is of suitable quality. Others use their blogs as news aggregators, 5 or 10 or 20 pithy comments a day that catch attention but provide no real analysis, hoping that ensuing dialogue will provide that critical element. That's never been my style, though, and, since I can be nothing other than me, I published nothing at all.

That will change. Starting now.

When I started this blog a year ago, I did so out of a need to write again, having self-silenced for decades, despite writing having been at at the heart of myself as a child and young adult. I saw it as an opportunity to express self - with all the eclecticism, inconsistencies and thinking outside the box that I actually have lived. To again speak in my own Black woman's voice, free from the weight of worry about others' opinions, validation, or acceptance. How quickly that changed, and I became like those that trouble me most: willing and able to self-censor, for fear of reaction. At least until my silenced feelings boiled over I was no longer able to exercise even a modicum of self-censorship to shield the ignorant from the bombardment of their senses that comes when you finally bitch-slap them upside the head with uncomfortable truths. Unable to at that point be silent, I became instead unable to follow my instincts, and not throw myself in front of the speeding train that is the predictable white liberal response to any Black person - but most definitely a Black woman - that tells them straight on that their shit still stinks. Much as a deer in the headlights is unable to move, I was unable to follow the primary Black rule of survival: nod, smile, and STFU.

But the deer, unable to move, will die if he does not.

I am not willing, quite yet, to die. I may have fatally wounded myself in terms of public acceptance from my "friends". I may have sent my own self into emotional turmoil, worrying about their feelings as much as my own if not more. And I may have lost my way in terms of rhythm and synch, meaning that it will probably take even longer to write. I may (likely) will be writing again to the audience of one - myself.

I don't care.

One of the most important things I believe I hve been called to do is to express the truth about ongoing racism in America, such as it is, the place of Black people in America vis a vis our culture and our majority (whites and their allies) as I see it, and the role it plays, when it does, in everything from the illegal immigration debate to abortion to the ascendancy and maintenance of the time of Emperor George W. Bush. That is not to say that everything is race, no matter how many times my detractors accuse me of making it such. Rather, it is to say that racialism plays a central role in a great deal of what this country chooses to do as a matter of policy. Whether we're talking about bombing brown Iraqis to the next world in the name of giving them "freedom". Or immigration law that uses Latinos and non-American "blacks" to validate the ongoing condition of the descendants of African slaves in America. Or even the vileness of what we decide is, or is not, obscene on television.

This is not to say that I do not have political views detached from race. I believe my earlier writing has made that crystal clear. Rather, it is that I also have pretty finely developed racism antenna at this point, where unconscious racism is concerned. And, because I actually do love people, I can no longer let comfortable white liberals silence and reject out of hand what that antenna demonstrates, even if that means I'll be drawn and quartered rhetorically much like one of my heroines in the Blogosphere, Nubian of Black(A)demic was over the summer. She has bounced back with a vengeance from her self-imposed silence, a gift to the blogosphere. Me not doing so would therefore contribute to my own similar condition, our own similar condition. So I'm going to try, keeping in mind what is most important: why I blog in the first place. Borrowing prose from that wise young sister, Nubian:

I Blog Because I Need to

i blog because:
i have a voice
i have something to say
i have something to type
i do not want to be ignored, silenced, erased, avoided, negated
i do not want to become co-opted
i want to be visible
i want to be heard

It's as simple as that.

So I'm going to give myself a fresh start, and fresh voice, knowing that I will be "unsafe" in all likelihood. But if I'm going to be unsafe speaking my version of the truth anyway (and recent blog experiences make that crystal clear) I might as well do so in my own language and on my own terms. With my own words, in my own voice, but at last free from the need to tart it up for consumption by majoritarian-thinking audiences that still condition believing and agreement about things that are evident to a small child on their personal sense of homeostasis and comfort.

I'm not talking about me speaking some universal truth because I claim to know it: I don't. I am not God. I am not all Black people. Or all women. Or all bisexuals. Definitely not all parents. Heck, I'm not even all lawyers. But a dimension of my identity rests in each of those venn diagram circles. When it comes to the most difficult of these identity pieces -- race, gender and sexuality -- I only know what I have seen and experienced over 45 years on earth and know that they are the same thing as millions in the collective have also experienced, and I know that only crazy people deny what they have seen over and over and over again as the truth. Since I know that I am not crazy, no matter how much craziness other people's denial about truth (born from those ever-present evils, fear, guilt and defensiveness) evinces, I am no longer going to let needing anyone's agreement or approval stand in my way. I figure that's a pretty good start, and I will just take my chances on what flows from that, rhetorically and otherwise.

I guess I need to thank those white liberal friends who could not see that their demand for "safe space" and insistence that they are "the same and its' all about class" when discussing the issues of race and racism were inherently unsafe-making for voices of color wanting to speak the truth about our experiences and what we have learned from them. Since it wouldn't have happened without their well-meaning self-delusion, and I would not be back here in all likelihood.

We'll see if my newfound sense of purpose holds true.


At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Cantankerous Bitch said...

My dear Shanikka,
I am nothing before you, if not humble.

Glad to see you posting here again. I've missed your voice at the aforementioned "safe space" and feared you'd hung up blogging completely.

I don't pretend to know your frustrations, and I certainly can't claim to know a damn thing about the world as you know it. But, for what it's worth, you teach me. And for that, I am indescribably grateful.

Thank you for your unfettered self.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Shanikka said...

Dear CB:

Thank you for both your kind words and willingness to come here, a space in which now that my own silence is hopefully breaking will be safe again, in the truest sense of the word: one can be one's self. Even when people disagree -- and perhaps most importantly then.

I was feeling at one point that I should just retire completely. But then I realized that the reasons I started this blog in the first place were not yet dissipated. So, hard as it is given my change in work situation, I'm going to keep trying. Both here and, when I am no longer sad and weary and hurt (an emotion I'm not sure that others realize I too can feel) in the other spaces I've been in as well.

Thank you for being willing to try to hear. And engage.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Michelle Klein-Hass said...

Thanks for continuing to blog.

I've been fairly silent because of school stuff and depression over Phil Angelides self-destructing. I am also skeptical about the forecasted Dem sweep. I'm waiting for the next shoe to drop. The Dems are worse than the Cubs for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Maybe knowing you've chosen to go back to blogging actively gives me the impetus to blog actively. Thanks.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Shanikka said...

Angelides was, for those of us who have watched him for the last 20 years (I first met him when I was a member of the CA Democratic State Central Committee), an extremely predictable outcome. He is a nice person, and obviously extremely loyal to the party. But he simply does not have what it took to campaign effectively in this state, and that's not a fault, that's just reality. IMO, he is on our ticket first and foremost as political payment for steadfast loyalty. I repeatedly heard from folks still active in the party structure that it was "Phil's turn". Well, I guess it is - but it is his turn to get rolled. And he will on Tuesday, if the last numbers I saw (Arnie up 16 points) are any indication.
Folks looking at this situation with the Chameleonater warned that no matter how bad his numbers looked late last year, it was going to take a lot more than just nebbishness and good liberal theory to beat Arnold and that Angelides was not the candidate to throw our weight behind right now, whether or not it was "his turn."

Of course, I can't completely blame Angelides - he's just being who he is. I can fault a LOT the national party, which pretty much abandoned him early on. It may have been a pessimistic race from the outset, but the party not even trying to fight here in California really pisses me off.

This too, shall pass.

BTW I agree with you - I have been extremely silent whenever the "we're gonna blow OUT the Republicans" mantra chimes up. I don't see enough evidence that folks are planning to stay home just because of Foley or Bush or anything else (on the right, anyhow; far too much depressing evidence that a lot of folks on the left, including Black ones) and none that any significant amount are crossing party lines. I think this thing is going to be much much closer than folks are counting on. And in states like Maryland? The party may well have indeed snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Oh well, I still hope.

Thanks for weighing in.


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