quirky black girls and class and mamahood
November 20, 2008 § 2 Comments
i wrote this initially as a response to a discussion on quirky black girls about quirky black girls and class.
class to me feels like one of those issues that no one wants to talk about. it is impolite. it is unseemly to ask how much money someone makes or how did they afford to do what they do…funny, how most people i know will tell you the intimacies of their sex life before they will tell you how much they have their bank account (unless they are certain that they have just as much as you). so lex thanks for bringing it up.
after a year at college i decided to drop-out. mainly because the only thing i felt like i was getting from paying that tuition was a piece of paper, a degree. and being in college i was actually reading less than i had been when i was teaching myself. i wanted to read, write, travel, be a part of the revolution and instead i was reading and writing about what i had not experienced first hand. in sarah lawrence they say: learning is a conversation, well, then learning is largely dependent on whom is in the conversation.
i also could not reconcile the incredible racial and class differences between our little private school and our neighbours in the bronx and yonkers. part of the sarah lawrence experience was that nudge of superiority toward our neighbours. i guess that is the college/townie norm, but after a year i was learning more from the folks who i would hang with outside of college than i was from being in my classes…
i have only rarely regretted my decision to leave college. in the past ten years i have lived the quirky life of my dreams. i dont have degrees to fall back on, but i have great stories. once you get past my shy facade, i am quite a good storyteller. i am most comfortable at a good ole boys bar with a pint in my hand at closing hour laughing my ass off.
but the fact that i had the confidence to leave college, was certainly an expression of my class privilege. i knew i had enough cultural capital that i could forgo the degree. i knew that i could produce brilliant theory, write well, had good taste in books, speak ‘well’, learn languages on my own, etc. and honestly if you look at my resume, it looks so scattered and ridiculous, because i am always working to save up money to afford the next trip and then i am off.
i had a friend in chiapas who basically lectured me on how irresponsible it was for me to have a child since it lowered my ability to gain all of the class privilege available to unattached women, but since i had CHOSEN to have a child, i had no right to talk about the down-pression of mothers. at first i got silent and then i just started to laugh. and laugh. and laugh. because, isnt one of the basic tenets of being ‘radical’ giving up your privilege? doing reparations? realizing that privilege is violence? one of the primary reasons that i became a mother was because i work to be in solidarity with global women and one of the more effective ways to do so is through the shared experience of motherhood.
i write all this while i prepare to attend birzeit university in palestine. i had told myself i would go back to college if it was a radical university. if i was going there more for learning than for the degree. and if by going there i would be giving up even more privilege. birzeit fits the bill. and so when the opportunity arrived, birzeit was the first on my list.
but what about my daughter? the funny thing is that she will end up being SO privileged in palestine. i cannot even comprehend it. she will be a lil princess. us passport, tri lingual, upper middle class college educated christian (i.e. non-muslim) parents, visually passes for palestinian, world traveler, trust fund baby…god. and plus she is cute as hell. then we will come back to the west and she will realize that we are working class. so i am struggling with how will i teach her to act in solidarity with palestinians. and not to encapsulate herself into her elite-ness. i struggle with the contradictions between privilege and solidarity myself.
then i wrote this second response to further questions about class: Does rejecting class privilege mean rejecting opportunities that our ancestors worked hard for us to get–opportunities that could in turn help someone else? Is rejecting privilege a product of privilege itself?
for me these are some of the core questions that i have been asking myself in the past few years. and i dont have clear answers at all. i wish i did though. for me, ‘rejecting’ my privilege is a function of privilege. because i have the choice which expressions of privilege i am going to forgo. and that choice is the mantle of privilege. i buy into the false promises of privilege daily.
and there is plenty that my mother and my grandparents struggled for, so that i wouldnt have to, and sometimes we do have disagreements about what i do with that legacy. but part of that legacy includes feeling superior and structural violence over those who are even ‘lower’ in the hierachy than they are and i cannot deny that.
for example my grandmother (whom i love more than light itself) is stunningly homophobic and classist. it cuts my heart to hear some of the crazy things she says which sit right next to some of the most sublime wisdom that informs my life. so human she is.
my privilege blinds me. it shackles me with choices. i dont feel guilty, i feel like the world i live in is invisible to me because my privilege is like a false promise. i dont feel like it is my duty to feel safe and secure in this world, and if it is my right to live so, my privilege is not what ensures that security. community is what ensures that security, that safety. and my privilege is what separates me from community. being higher on the caterpillar pile has never made me happier, or more sane, or more loving, or more loved. i focus on co-creating communities of survival and resistance to violence. and in my work, i see, constantly, that false hierachy, based on structural violence, destroys communities. and that i am most effective co-creating communities when i am letting go of my privilege.
i guess what i am saying is that i would rather live in a cardboard box with a bunch of other folks living in cardboard boxes as we build a healthy community of survival and resistance from violence than make six figures and live in a condo and be afraid of my neighbours.
but that is just me. and im a lil quirky sometimes.