Archive | October, 2012

so far to go: a cfc mix on finding your way

30 Oct

Listen, this isn’t what I expected: adult-onset acne, speech and eating disorders. I would have been struck dumb had you asked me to forecast these grown-up times in my ponytailed private school days. I daydreamed a lot but my imagined life was clipped: a timid choose your own adventure whose stalled plot was as foreseeable as it is now disappointing. And in running from that neuroses-made valley I am daily acquainted with pain, fired in it and conscripted to lay poultices on the skin of my kiln mates.

Girl on fire is a punchline in the ‘buked wail of Alicia Keys’ failed instrument, a dirge when we get stuck, when we forget Smokey’s advice. Just last week it was a black woman’s willful hell, an extreme, yes, and emblem of other private purgatories. But let’s call it our ignition and start: “sail through this to that” by Lucille Clifton’s consecration, by recognition of our own peerlessness. I heard a soprano lift Clifton’s “Blessing the Boats” in a New England parlor last week and I teared up despite my liquid eyeliner. My teacup tottered on a saucer at my boots and for those few minutes I threw it all away. It can all be better with a song. This is what I know, why I push the fader. Well, I also like to dance.

When Dilla refigured Junie’s “Tight Rope,” I’d like to think he was broadcasting more than his genius. “You have come so far, you’ve got so far to go” respects the process, the jerky choreography of our time. These songs wobble something similar. Try and catch the beat.

so far to go: a cfc mix on finding your way 

“Ghost” Alecia Chakour & The Osrah
“Popular/ Count’s Coda” Van Hunt
“That Girl” Esthero
“So Far” Georgia Anne Muldrow
“Find A Place To Live” Newban
“Find Your Way” Dionne Farris
“Love Me Instead” Melinda Camille
“Lost Where I Belong” Andreya Triana
“The Song of Loving/Kindness” Gary Bartz
“Long As You’re Living” Elizabeth Shepherd
“It’s Our World” Gil Scott-Heron
“I Know Myself” The Sylvers
“Faith” Faith Evans
“Devotion” Ledisi
“Beautiful” Joy Jones

[STREAM/DOWNLOAD]

The Silliest Girl in Vagina Class, or Why Women’s Studies is Needed Now More Than Ever

29 Oct sue

In the past four years, I’ve developed a favorite pastime: taking advantage of all services covered by my tuition. To my delight, I discovered that my university offers free sexuality counseling. So after spending an hour with the local version of Dr. Sue, I was invited by my new sex therapist to join a three-week class called “I Heart My Vagina.” I signed up enthusiastically, imagining the types of yoni workshops I’d read about in books like Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot: Not Your Mother’s Orgasm Book.

Imagine my shock when I walked into a classroom full of undergrads with crossed ankles and nervous grins. I’d taken the DeLorean straight into my worst memory: middle school family planning class. In all fairness, I did gain some valuable information, my own speculum, free lubricant and the newest edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. But since I was one of the oldest women in the class, I also spent a lot of time biting my lip and doing kegels as the freshmen reminded me that youth is wasted on the young. I’d now like to celebrate* the SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS by sharing some of the things she said that were too ridiculous not to write down:

On Being Woman
Dr. Sue: Let’s name one or two things we love about being women. We’ll go around the circle.
Gender Essentialist: Being emotional and loving.
Loud Religious Moralist: Using my body to bring life into the world and producing food with my own breasts.
Me (I am trying to avoid social constructs and stick to the body, but I end up looking like a pervert): I love having a clitoris, a body part designed exclusively for pleasure.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I like that you can wear jeans and skirts and not be gay.
Two women in 'I heart my vagina shirts"

On Gendered Intelligence
Dr. Sue: What you have in your hands is one of the most influential texts about women’s health. Our Bodies, Ourselves was the first American, comprehensive scientific text written by women, for women.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I’ve got a, like, question.
Dr. Sue: Yes?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Being that it’s written and published by women, is all the stuff in this book, like, accurate?

On Ovulation
(Dr. Sue has spent thirty minutes explaining the menstrual cycle…)
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Umm… question?
Dr. Sue: Go ahead.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Right after your, like, menstruation ends and you stop bleeding and stuff, is that when you can get pregnant?
Dr. Sue: There’s actually a likelihood of conception at every point in the menstrual cycle. There are, however, some days that you’re more fertile than others.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Well when is the day that you can most not likely get pregnant?

On Literacy
Dr. Sue: I’d like to do a study someday to see how students find out information about sexuality. Are you guys reading books or browsing the internet?
Me: I prefer books. I like to build subject libraries.
Modernist: I look things up on the internet. The information is just a click away and it’s free.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: I, like, have noticed that I haven’t read much since starting high school. Like, after eight grade when you’re tired of reading your textbook for, like, homework and stuff and you just start to hate it. Do you guys ever feel like that?
Dr. Sue: Sometimes I have less time for reading than I’d like, but I’ve never had an aversion to reading.
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: It’s not an aversion; it’s just something I don’t do. Like, if I have some extra time on my hands, I’d rather sleep.
Dr. Sue: Right.

On Abortion:
Loud Religious Moralist: Are there legal limits on the time that a woman has to decide if she will have an abortion?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: No. Not anymore.
Dr. Sue: Access to abortions past the first trimester varies by state.

On Surgery
Gender Essentialist: Why do women have C-sections instead of having babies the natural way?
Loud Religious Moralist: Yeah, like we’ve been doing it for five thousand years…
Dr. Sue: Or a couple million…
Loud Religious Moralist: Some say millions, God says thousands… But we’ve been having babies that way for a long time. Why surgery now?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: Some people do it for beauty… no, wait…

On Sexual Ethics
Dr. Sue: This has been a fascinating class with a wonderful group! I’m so glad that you all signed up. Before we leave, are there any final comments or questions?
SILLIEST GIRL IN VAGINA CLASS: My mother never talked to me about sex, so I thought that babies magically came out when you were married until I was in the eight grade. And, like, I’m a Christian and I’m just learning about sex so, like, my question is: wouldn’t the church say it’s bad to masturbate if you do it a lot?

* When I first wrote this post, I was making fun of the girl. But reducing the young girl to an object of ridicule only distances me from an earlier version of myself, a girl with less boldness than this character but equal misinformation. In twenty years, I may look at earlier writings and feel the impulse to make fun of myself. I hope I will be wise enough to celebrate this moment for what it is- a spot on a long journey. And I celebrate this girl because she was as bold as she was silly and she was courageous enough to show up each night.

Overcoming A-stigma-tism: (An Affirmation) For Blackgirls Who Have Considered Suicide When Closed Eyes Are Enuf

25 Oct

astigmatism: the inability to see clearly

stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy

-ism: a suffix added to terms to reflect a symptom or ideology

“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.”

I see you.

You are beautiful and you don’t even know it.

I mean it.

You are!

If no one has told you yet today, consider me the first.

Sometimes just hearing the words can make all the difference in the world.  I know what it feels like when no one tells you that you are beautiful.  I know how powerful those words can become when someone uses them against you… wielding them like a weapon used to keep you in line, threatening to destroy you with the silence that you feel so deep when the words stop being spoken.  “…with your fine self,” …”with your pretty self,” “with your ___________…”

The world stops telling blackgirls they are beautiful after while,

if it ever tells us at all

Mama doesn’t say it

either because she thinks you already know it

or because she is preoccupied with getting by

Daddy might not say it

because he is too busy calling out somebody else’s pretty

After elementary school, when you need to hear it the most

friends won’t say it

out of fear that your pretty might be prettier than theirs

In high school the words are hidden beneath innuendos that imply your pretty is conditional

But it’s not

By the time you are in your twenties you are so used to being presumed ugly that it is internalized

Looking back at myself, I had no idea I was a pretty blackgirl

I was too busy trying to be invisible

apologizing to myself &

overcompensating for what I thought was wrong (with me)

Don’t make that mistake, don’t accept the hype, don’t believe the bullish

Don’t let the absence of words cloud your vision or keep you from seeing (yourself) straight.

Don’t wait for a man, or a friend, or a father, or a stranger, or a woman you like to tell you

Tell yourself

And mean it

Pay attention to who you are, what you have overcome, what you have survived.

You are a remarkable, beautiful, precious genius!  Everything about you is wonderful.

You are just the way you are supposed to be

You are not a distortion or a mistake

You are loved.

And worthy of love.

And forgiveness.

Sometimes the stigma of so much pain and disappointment and worry and sickness and stereotypes and struggles and self-hate and sacrifice and lack and discrimination and blackness and femaleness and being different pass down

legacies of loss or shame

that weigh you down

but I have a remedy

for astigmatism (not seeing yourself clearly)

for the stigma (of past choices or limitations)

of feeling misunderstood

for the –ism that feels attached to everything you do

and everything you are

It’s a perception problem

You need a new lens

so you can see yourself

fully

differently

abundantly

beautifully

Stop in front of a mirror today

Open your eyes all the way

Don’t stop looking until you see it

Your capacity and possibility

Your mahogany-skinned beauty

Your charcoal eyes

Your frizzy/wavy/kinky/curly/straight hair

Your wide nose

Your luscious lips

The pot in your belly, the junk in your trunk

The marks that stretch from here to there

And the moles and marks that are uniquely your own

You are beautiful

And being beautiful-black doesn’t mean you have to be strong

But be awake

Be present

Be open

And be forgiving

Open your eyes

See yourself

& love yourself

in all your magnificence and fury

And when you do, and tears rush into an open smile

Show another blackgirl

How badass beautiful she is

Tell her ‘til she rolls her eyes at the ridiculousness of it all

When she doesn’t hear you, because she’s not used to the words,

Tell her again

Tell her ‘til she throws up her hands, shakes her head, and smiles in sweet surrender

to the fact that being all of who she is

is (and always has been) enuf

She’s Not Heavy, She’s Our Sister: Love Notes for Sharmeka

24 Oct
Dear Sharmeka,

I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I am sending you love. What happened to you has been a wake up call about the traumas of being multiply marginalized in this world. I hope you get exactly what you need.

So much love,

Moya


Dear Sharmeka,

Hey sis. I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I am thinking about you and sending you love and best wishes for a speedy recovery. What’s been going on with you, girl? Maybe you felt invisible, maybe you felt like you deserved this particular type of pain? I just don’t know. I do know that you are probably on the receiving end of a lot of anger and frustration, some of which has to do with your situation and some of which is connected to you simply because you’ve become a symbol of our decidedly not post-racial society. I hope you can find support, healing, and empathy as you move forward. And I hope that the rest of us can see your story as an opportunity to move forward in the world with a spirit of support, healing, and empathy.

Yours truly,
Susana

Sharmeka,

I feel like I know you.  You represent any number of blackgirls I see every day carrying pain that the world can’t see.  I wish the hopelessness you felt in a moment of self-demise could be retracted…that I could help heal what was broken…that you could see in yourself the beauty and majesty that was there all along.

Blackgirl to Blackgirl, I wish that self-hate crimes didn’t exist, that blackgirls didn’t feel the need to be so strong, and that the raced histories and legacies that frame the scenario you initially told were not so prevalent.  Truth is, I feel speechless around how to approach my disappointment and confusion in the staging of the incident.  Racial politics are complicated and our public dialogue needs to be shrouded in honesty.  The untruth you told jeopardizes the credibility of other blackgirls’ stories, myself included. I’m struggling with knowing how to hold you accountable and hold you UP at the same time.   But one thing I feel full voiced about is my unwavering support of YOUR WELL BEING.  I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with hopelessness and pain.  I know how it feels to be pushed in on all sides (multiple discriminations happening at once).  I know how it feels to hurt so bad that you want to hurt yourself.

My hope for you, moving forward, is that you get the support and help you need to be hopeful, whole, and at peace.

In solidarity & love,

Robin

Dear Sharmeka,

I wish everything about this story wasn’t true. I wish you were not lying in a hospital bed with scars that you will have to live with for your entire life.  I wish we didn’t live in a world that makes Black girls feel invisible. I wish the terror you felt on the inside didn’t feel like the terror of being ambushed while you walked in a park alone, a terror that so many Black women have felt and do feel everyday. I wish we could tell the truth about racism, so that we would be clear that your singular lie against the KKK in no way equates to the systematic reign of terror that they have perpetrated on Black women. I wish that broken and bruised black bodies weren’t the only credible forms of evidence in our fight against racism, since even the broken bodies frequently aren’t believed. I wish that sexism did not create a world in which Black girls’ bodies are collateral damage in the war on racism. I wish we knew better how to stay well in a world hell-bent on making us unwell.  I wish I could say that I didn’t feel anger and embarrassment when I found out that some parts of your story are apparently untrue. But then I wish we lived in a world where you could have told us your truths, your pain, and your struggle, and been believed.

I hope you are surrounded in love and support. I hope that healing is forthcoming. I hope you see someday the outpouring of care you received from all races of people. I hope that care is not so swiftly retracted. And I hope that anybody who would wish you harm, any opportunist who would equate your misguided act with a reverse ism of any sort, would think again and then take a seat.

You are not heavy. You are our sister. And we have your back.

Much love,

Brittney

My Sister Sharmeka,
I have spoken your name with my students at Spelman and in private send you love and affirmations. We recognized that your body was experiencing pain but now it seems there was much more pain than we could have recognized. I will continue to speak your name in love and to encourage others to try to understand and listen in hopes that no other black girl feels so silenced and invisible and alone that she experiences such pains.  I wish you peace and recovery but mostly I want you to be surrounded by many experiences of black girl love that crowd out the noise of black girl hate. You have sisters and brothers who are sending you fierce love but wanting you to know that you must be accountable for your choices. In these difficult times please remember to ask for what you need.

With so much love,
Sheri


Dear Sharmeka,

What can I say but I am sorry. I am sorry that you, your life and your story are being reduced to catchy headlines and two minute news clips.  I am sorry that, for many, you will become a symbol and cease to be a real person with needs and concerns.  Most of all, I am sorry that you are in pain, in any and every sense.  I am sending you love, healing energy and recognition.

With Love,

Whitney

Sharmeka,

Wellness is my wish for you: healing for the wounds that festered before the fire and the ones opened by the flame.

love,
jalylah

Resources:

When the Hoodies Are White: Justice4SharmekaMoffitt

23 Oct

Sharmeka Moffitt

On Sunday evening, Sharmeka Moffitt went to a local park in Winnsboro, Louisiana to “walk a mile and run a mile.” Sometime later, she was approached by three men in “white t-shirt hoodies” who doused her with flammable liquid and set her on fire. For good measure, they scrawled “KKK” and “nigger” on her car. Sharmeka was able to get to a spigot of water, put out the flames, and then call 911 for help. She is now in critical condition with burns to over 60% of her body at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport, LA.

As of late Monday evening, the local Louisiana authorities were still vacillating over whether or not to call this a hate crime. Part of their hesitancy stems from the fact that Sharmeka could not definitively identify the race of her attackers. 

The fact that the race of her attackers is being used as a gauge for this hate crime demonstrates the limitations of how we think about race and racism in this country. This Black woman was targeted and subjected to severe and life-threatening bodily injury for sport. Her perpetrators then thought they should punctuate their crime by scrawling hateful racially incendiary messages on her car. What isn’t hateful about that?

And what is with all the shock and bewilderment? Winnsboro, Louisiana is just about 60 miles from Jena, Louisiana, the site of the 2007 Jena 6 incident. I grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, about 75 miles from Winnsboro. As late as the late 1990s, the KKK marched in downtown Ruston, and my classmates bragged during class trips about having relatives who were high ranking officials in the terrorist organization.  Racially incendiary acts are commonplace in this part of the world. (Every damn part of the U.S. world) Like critical race theorists tell us, racism is not an aberration. It is part of the everyday, commonplace fabric of our lives. Before folks start decrying this act as an individual aberration of 3 sick individuals, perhaps we would do well to remember that their acts are symptomatic of the continued persistence of racism in this country.

Racism is like an autoimmune disorder. It attacks the body politic from the inside out, warring against itself, but frequently on the surface, things seem normal and healthy. We are only attuned to the problem when a flare up happens. But to continue to act as though the flare up is the disease is to engage in the most unhealthy and self-defeating form of denial there is. 

Then again, maybe it’s the hoodies. Selective historical amnesia being what it is, perhaps folks have come to believe that only Black men roam in public space under hooded covers threatening to do harm to other citizens.  Our rush into a postracial fantasy makes us too soon forget that white men, particularly rural Southern white men, are experts in terrorizing and policing racial minorities’ access to public space.

Even if it turns out that Sharmeka’s attackers are not white men, we should ask ourselves why her attackers would choose such a powerfully interpretive  historical narrative in which to play out their need to do harm to a Black girl’s body and personhood. Racism has a basic grammar, a set of rules, which we all learn to speak, having been immersed in it our entire lives. In a racist grammar, the subjects know that power is predicated on the ability to exercise violence (of various types) against a direct object, namely an innocent victim who bears the marks of the wrong skin color in the wrong time and place. 

And for all the folks who think Black women don’t use public parks for exercise because we want to maintain our hair styles, let this be an object lesson. Maybe Black women with modest resources who can’t afford to go to the gym  don’t use public parks because those spaces are unsafe. 

As of this point, the coverage of Moffitt’s attack has been minimal. I knew about it only because folks back home were posting info from local news sources. I guess it is left up to social media to convince the world yet again that violence against Black women matters. And I hope Black folks remember, too, that Sharmeka’s life deserves the same energy that we gave to the Jena 6 and to Trayvon Martin. 

Sharmeka, you are not invisible to us. We stand with you in your fight.

You can see updates on her story here.

Returning To My First Love

22 Oct

“Once you learn to read, you’ll be forever free”

Frederick Douglass

The idea that literacy is a type of freedom might seem clichéd or even a bit earnest and naïve. Still, it’s an idea that continues to resonate with me.

Mine is perhaps a typical story. As a kid, I had an almost insatiable appetite for books. Being a poor, chubby, black girl with glasses, I knew I wasn’t what others called beautiful and most didn’t expect me to be smart either. But in books I could escape into a world of beauty, love, fantasy, and adventure where I could imagine myself as a brilliant heroine who saved the day.

I spent a whole lot of time in libraries and I read everything I could get my hands on. I moved from children’s books pretty quickly, devouring everything from Harlequin romances, to V.C. Andrews’s novels, to high fantasy series, to classics of African American literature.  I always had a book in my hand—on the school bus, at lunch, even at the dinner table—and my mama really did not play that. But I think she realized that books were a lifeline for me and she let some things slide.

In time, my love of reading became a desire to teach and write. I wrote (bad) poetry, spunky short stories, and even a novel or two.  By the time I was in high school I wanted to spend my life talking about literature, language, and grand ideas. I got a couple of degrees in English and became a professor.

And then I stopped reading.

Okay, so I didn’t exactly stop reading. I read signs, recipes, memos, e-mails, and text messages. I read (and write) blog posts, tweets, and Facebook status updates.  I read student essays and exams, and articles about Toni Morrison. What I don’t do is read for pleasure.

Yes, I confess: I am an English professor who does not read for fun.

Oh, boo hoo. You are gainfully employed and you don’t get to read for fun? Get the @#$% outta here.

That’s my inner voice. She’s pretty crunk, clearly, and she does not suffer fools lightly or approve of complaining and survivor’s guilt.

But, real talk, between my Saturn Return, then work and life and all that goes along with it, I’ve been feeling like I’m running on empty. Self-care has been a struggle for me, something I think about and write about a lot. But this time felt different. Without achieving some sort of work-life balance I was not going to bend, I was going to break. I needed something different to restore me.

It couldn’t be the things that I’ve been doing. Not cooking, watching ratchet reality TV, or sleeping late. I had to return to the source and the site of so many of my best memories. It had to be reading.

I started reading at night before bed and I even got myself a Kindle.  Let me tell you, though, reading was really, really difficult. Try as I might, I could not quiet my mind. I would read a paragraph and then it would go something like this:

Did I respond to such and such’s email? When is the 18th? I should just go on ahead and pay that Sallie Mae bill. They don’t just want money, they want my first born. If I have the time to read before bed I should probably just grade those papers. Damn, I’m tired…

And on and on.

It was hard to read more than a sentence or two without being interrupted by my incessant multitasking brain. At some point it was actually painful to continue to be present in the moment and allow myself to let go and be free.

I am in the process of reprogramming my mind and my body, giving myself permission to indulge my own desires without feeling guilty. It’s a process, but I’m slowly returning to my first love.

Right now I’m reading, yes reading, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and it’s awesome. And I feel just a little closer to being free.

Fam, have you experienced this sort of struggle with being present in your own life? Share your experiences in the comments.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some classic R&B.

A tarnished ring on a tarnished chaaaaaaaain

Avant & Keke Wyatt, for the youngins

 

Armed and… Ambivalent?

18 Oct

Let’s begin with a confession: I was born and raised in the great state of Texas and prior to two weeks ago, I had never fired a gun.  That will certainly be surprising to some folks as Texas often invokes images of shotguns, six shooters and gun-toting cowboys.  For me, however, Texas is about home, family, the State Fair and where my own brand of quirky country makes perfect sense.  While, like the rest of the country, I grew up in a pervasive gun culture, there was not one in my immediate family.  I didn’t grow up around hunting trips, shotguns, rifles and pistols.  My experience with guns was not linked to family or individual recreation, as it is for some, but to fear, intimidation and violence.  I remember having to run, duck and hide more than my fair share because somebody at a football game or an after party decided to flex and start shooting in a crowd.  I know the sting of losing friends and classmates to shootings and self-inflicted gun shot wounds.  I remember how I felt being pushed inside a vault as three men armed with guns robbed my partner and me.  So, while I had never shot a gun before, I knew all too well its power and effects.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself at a gun range on the outskirts of Atlanta.  It was supposed to be an outing with friends (somebody found a groupon, so you know how that goes). I thought it might be a chance to address some of my fear of guns so I agreed.  Slowly but surely, everybody got a little too busy to go and I was the last woman standing.  Far be it from me to waist money or a good coupon, so I went.  I didn’t fully realize how frightened I would be until I walked in the door of the range.  For a while I was the only woman and one of two people of color in the building.  It was strange to be standing in a room full of firearms and white men in camouflage hunting caps and biker boots.  That could have been a very different scene at a different time of day, in a different location. I was fully aware that I was out of place and that being out place as a woman and as a person of color is always potentially dangerous.  I remained out of place in the range that day as I jumped every time I heard a gun fire, including my own.   I shot fifty rounds and even though it turns out that I’m pretty good shot, I never felt fully comfortable loading the bullets, holding the gun or pulling the trigger. Yet, a mix of exhilaration, pride and fear left me shaking for at least thirty minutes after I left the range.   Though I wasn’t fully sure how to process it, and I’m still not, I was sure I would be back.

And back I was, this time at an outdoor range in Texas and anything but alone as I went with my mother, her partner and a good family friend who owns the guns we used, and who happens to be white. This trip felt decidedly different from my first experience.  I am sure it was the combination of sunlight, fresh air and not being by myself.  It wasn’t lost on me, however, that though I was not alone this time I was still very much out of place. Two Black women, a Black man and a White man are still an “odd” grouping to many.  It was certainly “odd” to most of the folks at the gun range that day as we got plenty of stares and double takes, some lasting longer than others.  It wasn’t long before I noticed two white men who had taken a particular interest in us.  Staring each time I stepped up to operate the manual launcher as we shot at clay targets and loudly commenting on my shooting and on our family friend’s efforts to assist me, they made their disgust and discomfort at our presence known.  It was a stark reminder of the history/reality of guns, race and place in the South or anywhere for that matter.

For me, both of these experiences at gun ranges in two different major Southern cities brought up issues of race, place and belonging.  There was certainly something powerful in my ability to walk into these ranges, spaces dominated by white masculinity, and be defiantly “out of place.”  Yet, I also felt “out of place” in my own skin as I tried to reconcile my enjoyment of recreational shooting with my own history and politics.  How can I understand my experiences with gun violence on a number of different levels with wielding a gun in the controlled environment of a gun range?  Can I be interested in guns, even recreationally, and still be vehemently anti-violence?  Where do guns figure in my Black feminist politic?  Is there room to think about women, safety and guns in a kind of feminist politics of self-defense?  While going to the gun range was not about self-defense for me, as I write this a local news story is airing about a young Black woman who shot one of two men attempting to break into her home at 11am in broad daylight.  Her father says he is proud of her for defending herself.  He said that he taught her to use the gun for just that purpose and now he will teach her to forgive herself for doing what she had to do.  I’m relieved that she was able to defend herself but I am afraid because she will still have to wait for the final word from a grand jury to decide whether there will be charges. And Black women don’t always have an easy time making claims of self-defense especially not when guns are involved, just ask Marissa Alexander

Clearly, I’m left with more questions than answers.  On some level, I wish I could say that going to these two ranges has given me a clear position either completely for or against guns but it hasn’t.  What I am sure of is that these two experiences refuse to let me take any position for granted.  They are, however, undoubtedly forcing me to think deeply about my politics, my fears and my history in order to move more fully into an understanding that refuses neat or logical conclusion but bravely tangles with the messiness and nuance that lies at the heart of the personal and the political.

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