Now that I am home from my summer teaching in the Northeast, I have been trying to get back into my usual routine. As someone who tends to be a fairly strong 'J' on the Meyers Briggs scale (no comments from the peanut gallery), having a routine is helpful for me in order to get things done. Especially given my own commitment to completing and defending my dissertation by the end of March 2015, routine feels essential to my ability to making the progress I need to be making.
Part of my routine has been to wake up, make my morning coffee, and do a bit of correspondence before diving into my work. I find that answering emails in the morning and evening is a good way to wake my mind up, and thankfully it rarely takes long to get through. I also tend to scroll through Facebook as I work through my coffee, checking in on all the latest from friends across the country. Lately, however, among some of my friends, there have been a devastating rash of postings about Black youth being murdered by police as well as the murder of trans* women of color. While some of my friends continue to post about these atrocities, I have also noticed a visible silence among many (not all, but many) of my White peers regarding these incidents. It is this continuation of the murder of Black youth and trans* women of color, the systemic nature by which this persists, and the seeming lack of conversation by many of my White peers that has me feeling a range of emotions lately.
I feel lost and confused, particularly because I myself am not sure what do to. I am not sure how to move forward given the pernicious realities that face Black youth and trans* women of color. As someone who is a resiliency researcher, these tragedies are stark reminders that there may be limits to one's ability to be resilient. That despite one's ability to bounce back from facing difficulty, there are ways in which many will not be allowed to bounce back, and that inability is through no fault of their own. Not everything is good and well in the land of resiliency-based research, and sometimes I struggle with how to tell a narrative that highlights the complex both/and nature of the lives of participants alongside whom I've worked.
I am angry that more people are not talking about these events; that more people do not understand that these are not singular events, but they are the manifestation of the persistent and ongoing realities racism, genderism, and transmisogyny in this country. My anger is also bound up with a complete and utter sadness, a gut-wrenching feeling that I have not known to this level for some time. I am sad for the lives that have been taken, and I am sad for their families. I am also sad for the people who have lived in fear (and will continue to do so) as a result of these murders and these forms of overt policing of identities and life chances. My sadness reached a zenith a few weeks ago, when one of the participants with whom I have been working for the past year and a half uploaded a #iftheygunnedmedown photoset. Seeing this photoset served as another painful reminder about the ways racism and genderism intersect to further delimit possibilities for some. Even thinking about this photoset brings tears to my eyes as I type now, as I don't want to imagine a life without Micah (a pseudonym), a world in which these forms of senseless violence continue to happen.
In the wake of the recent media attention regarding Ferguson, and the people in my life who have been posting important, yet painful news articles about the many Black youth and trans* women of color whose lives have been taken, I have found myself asking on more than one occasion, "What can I do?" I understand that I have a specific sphere of influence, and I have a set of talents, but I have been wondering what I can do that will make an impact, and will, in some way, help to increase life chances for those who are the most marginalized (Spade, 2011)?
And so I continue to post and repost, and I continue to talk about the effects of these systems of oppression in the classes I teach, and I continue to talk to my friends and family about what it means to live in a society regulated by White supremacy and genderism, and I continue to explore how I am complicit in that same White supremacy and genderism (among other systems of oppression) that I work to deconstruct on a regular basis. And yet, it still doesn't seem like enough...because there are more news articles that are posted each morning, and there are still many of my White acquaintances who are not talking about this.
Now I get that I am a Millennial, and I know one of the (several) uncool things about my generation is that we need instant results. I am guilty of falling into this logic (again, no comments from the peanut gallery). I also know that these are realities about which there are no easy or quick fixes. Change, especially the sorts of cultural change I am wishing to see, take massive amounts of time. Because of this, I have come to the realization that I, too, need to spend large chunks of time focused on these events if I want to see some change. I need to be dedicated to continuing to bring these things up in singular moments, or in spaces where the attention span of those listening is short (e.g., Facebook), but I also need to be heavily invested in continually building a narrative about how these systems of oppression play out in the lives of those who are highly marginalized.
Because of this, I have decided to focus my work toward exploring the effects of racism, genderism, and transmisogyny in the lives of trans* women of color. This is not so much a calling as something in which I feel it is truly important for me to be invested. This is my community, and these are my people who are being found dead and are being slain for no other reason than being Black and trans*. As I told the students in the Diversity and Social Justice class I taught this summer, this is not an abstraction; this is real life, and these systems of oppression have real effects on people's life chances.
I don't want, nor do I expect, high fives or pats on the back for this post. In fact, I hope they do not come, because at the end of the day, the work isn't about me. It's about us, and it's about making change within my particular sphere of influence in a way that makes lives better for those who face extreme marginalization, vulnerability, and threat. It's about making sure that Micah, and everyone else who has posted a #iftheygunnedmedown photoset, can feel safe, and it's about lifting up the power, support, and love of community action and resistance against state-sanctioned violence. It's high time I did something, and in fact, I still fear my actions are not enough. But I have to start somewhere, and I hope that I can propel the conversation and action further, even if it gets one more of my White peers to wake up and realize there is a persistent problem regarding racism and genderism in our country, and that these acts of violence can no longer be overlooked as singular, isolated events.
Black lives matter. Trans* lives matter. And these events have been, are, and will continue to happen unless we collectively wake up and resist it. So I add my voice to the collective resistance.
Thanks for the people in my life who have continued to talk with me about these recent events and who have (and continue) to work alongside me in not only checking my own White privilege, but also helping me refine a research agenda that will address these intersecting forms of oppression. Specifically, I would like to thank T.J., Susan, Dan, Tobias, Michael, A.J., and my mother, Nancy. And for my friend Micah, who I care for immensely and am honored and humbled to be witness to your vulnerability and determination to make our world a safer place.
This blog is a space where I engage with ideas, concepts, and research that seeks to increase life chances for trans* people.