Will you support the work?

Dear Readers,

In the past year, I have written a handful of posts explaining the mission of the blog and why financial support from readers is critical to our mission.  

BGIM Media’s goal is twofold. First, to serve as a space for Black people and other POC living in primarily white spaces to have a voice and to know that they are not alone by having a community online. Moving to Maine in 2002 from Chicago fundamentally shifted everything I understood about the world around race, and finding (and providing) community even in online spaces was key to me keeping myself together. Second, our goal is to serve as a place of education for white people and others who are looking to do their own work on race. Having now spent 17 years in Maine and almost six years as the executive director of Community Change Inc., I have spent a lot of time in proximity to white people and working with them on matters of race. BGIM Media often uses personal stories to discuss larger systemic issues; this style of storytelling derives from my childhood idol Studs Terkel.

As I wrote back in December 2018, the site has grown but the financial support has not kept pace. Unfortunately, that remains true today.

Despite almost a year of trying to get the site fully funded, it hasn’t happened and in the past several months, we have lost some support. While seasonal fluctuations are a reality, the fluctuations that I am seeing are not normal.

We continue to gain new subscribers and to see an increase in likes/followers on social media. Despite monthly fluctuations in readership, we are on track to exceed last year’s numbers as far as hits to the site. But the financial support to the site is decreasing at a time when our expenses and needs are increasing.

Earlier this year, I toyed with moving all of our work behind a paywall to Patreon but after hearing from many of you, I decided against it. But the fact is that keeping an open site such as this which serves as a resource to many comes at a cost to me. Daily hacking attempts are our norm and the security and the skill to keep the site secure costs money. I am fortunate to have a dedicated tech person, who on more than one occasion has worked through the night to keep the site safe. But she doesn’t work for free.

There is the cost of the numerous subscriptions that we maintain and share links from and then there actual labor costs. All writers at BGIM Media are paid, and our rates are in line with other similar-sized publications.

So, I am making a special request: If this site is a source of information and a site that you value, please make a gift today. If you aren’t a monthly patron, consider a $5-a-month gift or a one-time gift of $60. If you are already a monthly patron, thank you for support and if you feel moved to make an additional one-time gift, it would be greatly appreciated.

As always, thank you for your support and keep fighting! Fight as if your lives depend on it. Because, for many of us, that really is the case.

In solidarity,

Shay aka BGIM

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

How do we really break the patterns?

[An evergreen reminder: I am a white woman writing about racism so I might share with other white people what I learn—mostly what I learn from people of color—so we can all work toward societal transformation and liberation.]

In the car this morning, my 10-year-old and I started listening to NPR’s podcast, “Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed.” We’re eagerly awaiting the next installment of the “1619 Project” podcast and Rebecca Nagle’s “This Land” and have already listened to Seeing White two or three times. We’ve been on a search for a podcast we can get into. We started from the beginning of Code Switch and agree we’re really happy we found it.

Part of my racial justice work is a daily consideration of how to be white in a way that doesn’t depend on the oppression of others. That is, how can I break free from “whiteness?” The first episode of Code Switch mentioned that issue—white people figuring out what it means to be white.

In her recent post on this blog, “Moving white people from navel-gazing to anti-racism,” Shay Stewart-Bouley writes, “You cannot be an anti-racist while sitting comfortably in your whiteness.” That feels very true to me. I have to be sure that my racial justice work isn’t about finding ways to make myself feel more comfortable, even if some of it does. So, while doing what I can to break free from whiteness is a daily practice that involves making myself feel better—more whole, fully human, not weighed down by the mental pretzels caused by denial—my racial justice work can’t simply be about learning new ways of looking at myself or even new ways of looking at the world around me.

Shay’s piece begins with a quote from a substantial article by Sara Ahmed that speaks to one of my greatest concerns about racial justice work as a white person. Simply stating the fact that I’m white, that I benefit from white supremacy, etc. etc. and learning a lot is not anti-racist activism.

Historically, waves of white people have been involved good anti-racism work. There were white abolitionists in slavery times, there were white activists in the 60s, and there are effective white anti-racism activists now. In my social circles, there is a cultural swing for a lot of white people to “dig deeper.” A lot of us white people are learning about racism, white supremacy, and our own part in these systems. Some of us are practicing talking about it and are using new language to describe what we’re learning.

The waves of anti-racism activism on the part of white people across the history of the United States have been good; they were and are necessary and important. But we white people have historically, with very few exceptions, been eager to get back into comfortable. We want things to be better, to be okay, to be easy again.

So, this time, when #BlackLivesMatter and Trump’s election has forced so many of us white people to start (again) “waking up” to the realities of racism, how can we not repeat history? How can we resist white supremacy’s slippery and tricky ways of morphing into new techniques for avoiding harsh realities?

For example, most white liberals I know are pretty well-versed in the idea of “white privilege.” But, as Shay and many others have pointed out, recognizing that fact—even understanding it deeply and emotionally and practically—isn’t the same as changing white supremacy.

We white people need to figure out how to prevent ourselves from slipping back into the more familiar state of denial. For me, uncovering my own internalized racism and consistently and regularly addressing my tendency to ignore my biases (understandably but irrationally, I want to be bias-free!) has been helpful. I’ve also written before about concrete actions I take, and I’m sure I will write in the future about other actions we white people can take, especially in terms of organizing. We need to avoid the slippery slope back into ignorance where we can believe everything is better.

See, that’s how white supremacy works. Like other addictions I know well, it slips in and does what it can to seem harmless. It morphs and changes so much that what we think is fighting it is actually just supporting it. “I know about xyz” or “I’ve done difficult work in workshops” or “I’ve marched/protested” or “I’ve read and talked and written a lot” so now I can rest. White supremacy wants us to believe we’re “one of the good ones” instead of bringing action and organizing into our everyday lives. Let’s make sure we are on the path of justice and love (“love and justice are not two”).

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Laurentiu Iordache on Unsplash

We Black people shall use the N-word as we please, thank you very much

There are few things that white people in general seem to like as much as policing the actions, behaviors and speech of Black people. Be Black and have a BBQ in the park…or take a nap in the common area of the university you attend…or try to enter your own apartment complex…or swim in a pool…or whatever—well, there will be a white person to call the police on you or threaten you or block you or harass you.

It’s a trip, really. A power trip. And it’s long past time it ended.

And now we have famous and renowned Black author Walter Mosley getting a call from the human resources folks at a studio telling him he shouldn’t use the N-word.

Yup. The man who has written countless novels about Black people; many of them in the crime fiction genre. And in case you didn’t catch it before and aren’t familiar with him: he is Black.

So, what happened? Well, he left a show (“Star Trek: Discovery” at CBS Studios) after using the N-word in the writer’s room and then later getting a call from human resources that such language was unacceptable to the studio and made the other writers uncomfortable.

Mosley’s response in an op-ed piece recently: “I have to stop with the forward thrust of this story to say that I had indeed said the word in the room. I hadn’t called anyone it. I just told a story about a cop who explained to me, on the streets of Los Angeles, that he stopped all n*****s in paddy neighborhoods and all paddies in n***** neighborhoods, because they were usually up to no good. I was telling a true story as I remembered it.”

I’ve said it before and let me say it again. Black people can choose to use (or not) the N-word how we decide to. White people cannot. It’s that simple. And I’m sick and tired of white people who say “No one should be able to say the word if we can’t” or any variation of that. It’s a word that out of the mouth of just about anyone other than a Black person (but especially from the mouth of a white person) is violence, pure and simple. For Black people, many of us have our reasons for claiming the word and repurposing it and that’s for us to decide.

We Black folks tell white people that they cannot use the N-word, and so many of them try to find loopholes or excuses as to when they might be all right to say the whole damn word. They are itching to find a way to say it in so many cases even when they aren’t conservative assholes or rabid racists. Black people make it clear that certain words for them aren’t cool (from colored to pickaninny to coon to mulatto) and for the most part white people, even the nasty ones, will steer clear of them. But the N-word, which is the nuclear option that Black people keep saying white people should steer clear of? For some reason that’s the one white people have to be able to use…at least sometimes.

And when they can’t, apparently it’s time to police Black people’s use of the word.

Sorry, we’ve taken it back. It’s ours. Get used to it. Get over yourselves if you think you have any ownership of it or right to tell Black people how, when or if to use it.

I have grown up knowing that there are certain words that aren’t mine to use. Slurs for Italian people or for gay people or any number of other groups. They are words I should not use, and so I don’t use them. But I don’t tell people in those groups how to use them or whether they should. And the fact is that none of those words carries as much baggage and dark history as the N-word. So, if I know not to use words I shouldn’t use that are bad but aren’t as bad as the N-word, how hard is it for non-Black people to realize the same about n*****? Why is this so hard?

I mean, I know why. Because Black people are, along with Indigenous People, the most reviled, least respected people in the United States. The ones who “need” to be told what to do. Who aren’t allowed to have anything that isn’t either shut down or co-opted or otherwise stolen from us.

I’m tired of it.

Walter Mosley is a Black man who has seen some shit in life and written about some shit and if he drops an N-bomb or two, that’s his choice.

If white people so often can try to find ways to justify how they should be able to say the N-word or write it right now or in some future context, then I’m pretty damn sure they can hear the word from a Black person’s mouth without melting on the spot, deal with it, and avoid calling HR to drag him for doing it.

To quote Mosley again as he recounted the HR call: “A pleasant-sounding young man said, ‘Mr. Mosley, it has been reported that you used the N-word in the writers’ room.’ I replied, ‘I am the N-word in the writers’ room.’”

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

(Photo of Walter Mosley from his official website, www.waltermosley.com, regarding his receipt of the 2016 Grand Master Award by the Mystery Writers of America)