On being a white activist

I’m White. Capital-W, raised in the suburbs, maybe 2 Black kids at my elementary school White. I named this page after a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr: in his sermon “Transformed Nonconformist” he said “Everybody passionately seeks to be well-adjusted,” he said. “…but there are some things in our world to which men of good will must be maladjusted….Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

In the same sermon he also said “There are those who tell me that I should stick with civil rights, and stay in my place. I can only respond that I have fought too hard and long to end segregated public accommodations to segregate my own moral concerns. It is my deep conviction that justice is indivisible, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
King was a hero to Black people, and the widespread maltreatment of Black people led him to fight the underlying system which begets oppression. He chose to strike at the heart of the issue, and as a result he fought for all of us.
Black communities suffered from widespread poverty, so he embraced socialism and fought the causes of poverty, greed and the capitalist systems which were built around it. Black folks were drafted and killed in combat at disproportionate rates, but he spoke out against the Vietnam war as a whole. If he’d lived longer, seen the rise of queer awareness and the widespread oppression of queer folks, gay and trans people of color especially, I’m certain he would have been a champion for queer people as well.
King was many things. He was a civil rights leader, a socialist, one of the greatest orators and philosophers of the modern age. Unlike many Black leaders who quite reasonably chose to focus on the Black audience, he chose to speak to everyone, to attempt a large scale transformation in the viewpoints of the general population, a massive paradigm shift in which non-Black, non-activist people would start to see some of the injustice which society makes it so easy to ignore.
King was and is a Black hero, first and foremost. I don’t claim him as my own; he was not a product of my culture. But I can listen. I can say “this was a very smart man”, read his works, think on and internalize his philosophy. I can learn to center the people most affected by a particular issue, to signal boost rather than speaking for myself on subjects which do not affect me personally. I can encourage others to do the same.
In “A Proper Sense of Priorities”, he said “On some positions cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?!’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience must ask the question, ‘Is it right?!’ And there comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right.”
I’m just trying to do what’s right.

Brains Vary

Great minds do not think alike.

My mother is a dancer. She thinks in movement, choreography. I think in emotional impressions. Ideas, abstractions, art.

I used to live much deeper inside my head than I do now. I found the outside world confusing, or rather the people in it and their bizarre expectations of how I should think and act. I learned over the course of years of painful trial and error to think and act more “normally”, but adapting changed me profoundly. I will bear the scars and regrets of that process for the rest of my life.

I learned to think in shorter, more discrete ideas. It dampened my creativity, but translating abstract ideas for neurotypical people is a necessary survival skill for Autistics. I don’t think as creatively now, or quickly, and I miss that. But heaven forbid “normal” people should have to learn to accommodate us. That would be unreasonable.

Thinking in discrete short ideas has made it easier for me to communicate verbally, but only when the ideas which need communicating don’t require foundational explanation, and I lost a great deal in the transition. I could no longer connect disparate concepts as well as I once could, and my imagination became limited by the shared assumptions of neurotypical society. I rebelled as much as I could, but I cannot say I won that war. I’m pretty weird still, but not like I was. A Pyrrhic victory at best.

Whatever operating system you use, regardless of the layout of your internal world, know that each person is unique, and that different people’s ways of thinking each have their own strengths. Stand in solidarity with your fellow freaks, fight back against the people who would steal your birthright.

You are not alone.

The place of emotion and intuition in a rational mind

45733137[1]Have you ever noticed the correlation between “funny” and “interesting”? Humor appears to me to be a positive evolutionary tool to encourage learning: much of what we find funny involves the connection of disparate ideas, unexpected knowledge which gives us a “Eureka!” moment and makes us feel good, encouraging more such behavior. Emotions are primarily your hindbrain’s way of communicating with your forebrain, giving you strong intuitive reactions for emergency situations. If you have good emotional discipline, able to listen to their advice without letting them control your actions, they can be a valuable tool for self-awareness and intuitive thought.

Intuition is the special something which separates the organic brain from a binary machine. By allowing for “maybe” and using complex interconnections of ideas to form conclusions, your brain can come up with likely answers to problems which can’t be solved through formal logic alone. It’s essentially a background process which spits out answers without telling you how it arrived at a given conclusion (though with enough self-awareness it is often possible to trace the intuition back to its source).

In short, formal logic (thought out step by step, forebrain thinking), ¬†intuition (answers out of nowhere, “hunches”), and emotions (primitive intuition, hindbrain thinking) are all necessary tools for a human to develop the most effective (powerful, flexible) mind possible.

Wisdom (to my mind) is the ability to solve problems gained through experience, knowledge, and training. Raw knowledge is useless without a mind to conceive of practical applications for it, and our minds don’t do a very good job on their own. Thinking through the implications of a given piece of knowledge helps us to connect it to other pieces. (Our brains don’t work like hard drives.*) More and deeper connections between ideas (i.e. connections between pieces of those ideas and more understanding of the implications of combined knowledge) helps us by making such original thought easier, creating a self-reinforcing positive reaction. This pattern of automatic positive reinforcement encourages us to continue learning and questioning constantly, helping us to become better problem solvers overall.

*See here for an excellent article explaining how traditional rote schooling has it backwards.

Gendered aggression: Masculine & feminine violence

This is a guest post by Zee Zaki (Facebook) (tumblr)

So one thing I’ve been really interested in in the last several months was messing with the idea of feminine and masculine. Like, how can we take feminine or masculine traits and acknowledge the potentials and forms they have to be less normative? How do we see those bits in ourselves? How does it shape how we define our gender or how comfortable we are embracing the gender that *feels* right?

One example of this is aggression. In our culture we have blanketly categorized aggression (esp focused aggression) as masculine. So women who fight are a little masculine. I disagree. Some are, some aren’t.

This is where my conversation about being “mama bear and daddy penguin” came from. I’m bigender; I have two genders. Both are very queer forms of femininity and masculinity, and that is why it’s been hard for me to pin down what makes me “feminine” and “masculine”. It’s starting to make sense.

So the way that my masculine gender is protective is gentle–it is “I am larger than my babies and I will stand in front of them. Take me first; take me down before you get to them. I will fight if necessary but I will first stare you down as I huddle around my babies to protect them.”

The way my feminine gender is protective is fierce– it is “I will leave my babies with someone else and I will -come for you- and -destroy you- for trying to hurt them. I will beat you severely if you try to hurt me or someone¬† I love who isn’t quite as weak as my babies.”

So this brings me to masculine vs feminine violence as archetypes.

Masculine violence is greedy–it is taking power where they see fit; it is taking out inner turmoil on others; it is a savior complex–using someone else’s vulnerability to take out aggression on their aggressor, and receive validation, even if they were never asked to help.

Feminine violence is offensive defense. It is calculated and driven by pain. Women are oppressed, and when they/we fight back it is to survive, it is to take back things stolen, it is to protect those who cannot defend themselves or who are afraid to. Feminine violence is not greedy. A feminine aggressor will hand another person a sword to fight along with her. But if that person huddles in fear she will instead fight hard enough for the both of them.

Feminine violence comes from pain; masculine violence comes from entitlement and bottled anger. My masculine protectiveness is queer because it is not masculine *violence*. It is shielding, not oppression. My feminine violence is queer because it is an acknowledgement of the power that women have inside them, a power our culture tries its best to convince us that we do not have so that we don’t try to fight back against masculine violence.

I want to reclaim female aggression. I am not masculine when I fight. I am, for me, MOST feminine when I am fighting.

What is sobriety?

“as much as sobriety is a myth to people like me, there is a good reason to believe it is a myth for everyone. Anyone who is watching television may feel either an excitement from the bright moving images or a boredom because none of the images call out to them. Even the pre-eminent scholar Derrida refers to the written word through the metaphor of the drug. Intoxication is everywhere. No one can completely free themselves of being intoxicated either by the brightness of the sun, by the sound of that street musician or by the smell of dinner roasting. Media and all the sensations of life constantly intoxicate us.”

Stims, Stammers and Winks: A Catalogue of Awkward Gestures

Sobriety is a tricky term, not least because it means different things to different people. Dictionary definitions typically focus on a lack of intoxicating substances, but there’s an intriguing secondary meaning which I find much more useful: Clearheadedness and the ability to make rational decisions. The absence of substances which lower inhibitions, alcohol being the obvious example, is an important part of this. However, mood altering circumstances can be just as debilitating. Someone dealing with a bad breakup isn’t entirely in their right mind, for example, and should follow the same guidelines as anyone in an altered state: avoid making major decisions, stay out of dangerous environments, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.

This phenomenon makes “sober spaces” problematic: Any place that says something to the effect of “nobody under the influence allowed” implies that one can only be functional / make sound decisions when no drugs are in your system, highlights those of us who need drugs to function as deviant, and reinforces the false dichotomy of medical and recreational use, which in turn reinforces the medical model of disability.

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