reclamation

May 14, 2009 § 10 Comments

1. ha! i can blog again. for the past couple of days something funky was up and i couldnt blog here…it was becoming a desperate and depressing situation.

2. on some list serve that my partner (but thankfully not me) belongs to mainly made up of over privileged expats here in cairo, they are having one of those ridiculous over-privileged conversations about whether or not you can use derogatory words about another group of more-marginalized-than-you people in a playful carefree way. and then other over privileged folks are chiming in about how words can be reclaimed and yadda yadda yadda…

so thank god i have j smooth to keep my brain in check from exploding from the incredible amount of disrespect being thrown around.

3. cause what jay is saying is that in a healthy (key word!) relationship as the boundaries change we care more (not less) about how what we are doing effects the other person/people. so if we are going to be post-identity politics then we need to start caring more (not less) about other people’s boundaries. in other words: if someone tells you that a word hurt them or people that they love. stop using the word.

its like we have been trained that our feeling entitled to say what we want when we want how we want to who we want is not just a privilege, it is a right. and that right in a post-identity politics world will not be challenged. or not be legitimately challenged. get over it. yes it will be. because playful or carefree or whimsical or bullshit or whatever…you do not have the right to hurt other people and not be held accountable for that hurt.

4. and this is where broken borders come in. a friend keeps talking about how i make everything political. or how its not about politics its about spirituality. but you want to know why i am not on this list serve. because the last thing i want coming in my inbox every morning is a digest of expat chitchat. when i wake up and check my email i have a gorgeous list of creative, innovative, hard core, radical women of color flooding me with their ideas, critique, love letters, humor, and ways that they are actively changing the world. its not about who is most popular (i.e. can bribe refugee young boys with money the most). its not about creating one more ngo/npo that is like every other ngo/npo. its not about having all the answers but not knowing how to ask the right questions.

its not about disrespecting some one’s borders/boundaries because you feel entitled to. because you are so ‘over’ respecting other people’s boundaries. cause you know their boundaries are their issues and you shouldnt have to deal with their issues.

that is the attitude of too many of the expats here. living in egypt doesnt seem to have opened them up but increased their sense of entitlement. and i can understand why. when you as a person from the first world (esp white) live in the third world, often you are able to live with certain luxuries you would not be able to afford back home.

for instance, on this list serve a college student wrote in saying that she had talked to a woman to clean her flat and the woman had quoted her this ‘ridiculously’ high price. but it wasnt ridiculously high. it was the going rate. it cost about the same amount as going out to eat at a mid-price restaurant in cairo. in other words: not that much for a first world college student.

what does this all have to do with broken borders? a cleaning lady here can make 1200 pounds a month. 200 dollars. and in the sudanese refugee community that is a decent amount of money. not alot. but decent.

no expat college student lives on that kind of money here in cairo. not even close.

5. the thing about that conversation on that list serve about derogatory words is that the whole conversation is assuming that everyone on that list serve is ok or should be ok with waking up in the morning and reading a list of expletives. it assumes that i want to wake up and read hate speech with my hibiscus tea. it assumes that me, or my friends, or my family are not on that list serve. and if we are our borders are so broken, our boundaries are so compromised that we agree that the more privileged ought to be able to set the terms of the discussion. because they already have. because they always have. because we are tough enough. we are assimilated enough. we assume they have good intentions because they are us. because they speak for us. because they should have the power to determine what every one else’s work is worth.

6. power over corrupts. and absolute power over corrupts absolutely

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§ 10 Responses to reclamation

  • nakedthoughts says:

    I’ve been watching this over and over since I first saw it.

    I posted it pointedly to a forum of privileged individuals, but I don’t think they will think it applies to them. But that’s privilege for you.

  • joankelly6000 says:

    Mai’a,

    Would it be okay for me to link to this post at my blog? I love this post, but don’t presume that everybody wants to be linked, or necessarily by me at any rate. I’m at http://www.joankelly6000.wordpress.com in case you’re not sure who I am…

    Thanks either way, and no pressure. Still happy I get to read you here.

  • […] Mai’a, who we LOVE By joankelly6000 This post entitled Reclamation is like the proverbial breath of fresh air except also simultaneously it is a fierce kick in the […]

  • Blackamazon says:

    i Reallyh ave to come upw ith better than you RULE!

  • Jo says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    its not about disrespecting some one’s borders/boundaries because you feel entitled to. because you are so ‘over’ respecting other people’s boundaries. cause you know their boundaries are their issues and you shouldnt have to deal with their issues.

    And this, especially, is heartbreaking and infuriating and so damn frustrating. How is it that in supposedly moving to a place of greater shared humanity, treating people with basic human decency and respect is so easily lost?

    • mama says:

      @ blackamazon
      that is a high high compliment coming from you

      @jo
      yeah sometimes i wonder what did people expect in a post racial world? isnt this what everyone wanted? who said it was going to be easier? oh…right…everyone…said it was going to be easier…cause…in a post racial world you wouldnt have to think about your privilege at all. you could just say and do what you like and everyone would just have to accept that the way things are right now … that is the way things are always going to be…which means your privilege is now codified and legitimized and not able to be to be challenged and…oh god it just makes my head hurt…

  • Derek says:

    “it assumes that i want to wake up and read hate speech with my hibiscus tea.”

    Mai’a, that’s absolute poetry there.

    I’m always amazed by how much I learn from reading your blog.

  • mokatara says:

    Ahh. J Smooth. I don’t know how I could make it without him. So beautiful. Thanks for this–and everything else on your blog. I miss Cairo. Tahrir Square and Gizeh. Mahdi. The Nile. And what was the elite neighborhood–Garden something? I just wrote an intro for a re-issue of Nawal El-Saadawi’s memoir. Rereading it reminded me of so, so much. Stay safe, sister. Much love.

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