Not everyone’s cup of tea

“I find myself disagreeing with much of the content and becoming agitated, when I had hoped to become more educated. This just isn’t working for me.” – exit survey of now former BGIM patron

I started writing about race back in 2003, back when writing about race as a non-academic was far, far less of the thing it is today—and almost not a thing at all in Maine. I received my first death threat less than a year after I started writing about my life as a Black woman living in the whitest state in America.

I say that to say this: I have had to develop some thick skin to stay with this work, especially at a time when the average white person assumed that white supremacy meant I was talking about the Ku Klux Klan and not an entire intentionally designed social-political-economic system.

My work and my writing is not everyone’s cup of tea. I know this. However, this platform is about honest conversations on race. Those conversations often use personal narratives that, for myself and BGIM Media’s Black and POC writers, allow us to be real about how racism affects us and how we navigate life. For my white writers, this space allows them to share their personal narratives on their continuous journey to dismantle whiteness within themselves and their white communities.

As the creator of this space, and as the executive director of Community Change Inc, one of the oldest anti-racism organizations in the nation, I strive to make the basic tenets of anti-racism work accessible, understanding that the process of truly being an anti-racist is a lifelong journey.

We live in the house that white supremacy built. Racism will not end in our lifetimes and we cannot love our ways out of this racially inequitable system—nor can checklist our way out of racism. While I am not white, I do know from my white anti-racism colleagues that their commitment to being anti-racist is a daily struggle. Whiteness is seductive and if you aren’t diligent, you will fall back into its luring arms. To truly work to become anti-racist requires sitting with uncomfortable truths—to understand that much of what you thought to be true as a white person was a half-truth at best. Given the state of today’s textbooks, it often might all be a lie (since enslaved Africans were never “immigrants” to this country and Indigenous people didn’t just give up their land).

Racism is internal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural. Once you start to have a new lens of seeing and understanding racism and the levels at which it operates in this country, you will notice it everywhere. Our work on this site serves to shine a spotlight on the crevices where racism hides that it becomes easy not to see, much like the dust bunnies that many of us ignore in our corners.

As a Black woman, my work can assist in providing an anti-racism education, but it is ultimately up to individual white people to do their work. With that in mind, if my work or the work of our writers is upsetting and agitating to you, it can be either a potential breakthrough moment…or a sign that you aren’t ready (or willing) to go deeper.

Losing patrons is a fact of life. We hate to see people go, but circumstances do change. However, I have never had a patron tell me that they found my work upsetting (as in the introductory quote to this post). To be honest, it begs the question: How did you end up as a patron to begin with? I would hope that people support this work because they have already found it to be valuable and have some sense of what they are supporting beforehand.

To those who have stayed with BGIM Media on this journey, I thank you for your readership and support and hope that our work continues to be a part of your commitment to being an anti-racist.

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 Kira auf der Heide from Unsplash

The science argument is a two-edged sword

Every time I see a white liberal and a white conservative having an argument, inevitably the liberal will say something along the lines of, “Well, I believe in science!” If this is one of your go-tos, stop it.

You don’t believe in science. You believe in “science.” You talk like every time curiosity strikes you don your trusty lab coat and goggles, fire up the ol’ Bunsen burner and let your beakers do the talkin’! But in reality, right now you’re looking at a screen that for all intents and purposes as far as you’re concerned might as well purely be a function of magic.

Now, before we get too far, no, I’m not saying science isn’t real. This isn’t some kind of anti-vax/climate denial/woowoo bullshit. I’m just saying that you probably don’t know what science is. In fact, right now there’s a replication crisis happening, so not only do you not know what science is, science doesn’t even know what science is. That’s OK, though. You’re not supposed to. That’s the point of society. We all learn separate and different things for the shared benefit of the entire group. Ideally, anyway.

But I digress.

The point is that science isn’t so much The Truth as a weapon wielded in the name of The Truth. And while we all associate ourselves with groups we feel share our truths, power is the only thing that gets to define The Truth. For example, here are…

5 Perfectly Good Reasons Not to Believe in “Science”

1: Eugenics

Google defines eugenics as “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.” I’m sure it’s possible to look at that definition and think that the key word is “science” but I’m pretty sure it’s “desirable” as in who thinks which characteristics are and why? In case you’re not familiar, eugenics was a big deal in America for a long time. In fact, it was such a big deal over here that Hitler heard about it from us! Then he committed genocide. Then he lost the war and we decided eugenics wasn’t such a good idea anymore. While this may seem somewhat irrelevant because it was such a long time ago, don’t worry! Our president is a believer in eugenics, so it’s a very contemporary concern.

2: Resurrection Men

Much of our medical knowledge came out of the study of corpses. Unfortunately, in the early days of this country not a lot of people were in a big hurry to donate their bodies to science. And so up rose the industry of body snatching! Steal a corpse out of a fresh grave, sell it to a university and walk away proudly knowing that you’d done your part for “science”! Just one thing: guess what color those snatched bodies usually were?

3: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The U.S. government deliberately experimented on Black men with syphilis in Macon County, Alabama from 1932-1972. That’s right, it went on for 40 years. It would’ve gone on longer except they got caught. For more details, you can read all about these men’s contribution to “science” on the actual CDC website.

4: Vertus Hardiman

Did you think the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was the only time Black people were experimented on by the U.S. government? If so, then you must never have heard of Vertus Hardiman. He lived to be 85, but in 1928 when he was just five years old, Vertus was one of 10 children who were the subjects of a radiation experiment. For his contribution Vertus’ head would be horribly scarred and a very real hole burned through his skull. “Science” knows no bounds when it comes to unethical human experimentation.

5: The AIDS Crisis

Think about our current climate crisis. Think about how Black and brown people have been suffering under the causes of our climate crisis for decades. Now think about how our conservative leadership laughs and balks at the very idea of science. At the edges, you can see belief starting to set in. You can see that once enough people or maybe just the right people start to feel the effects, leadership will start to take action. Now think about all of the people who soon will be or already are displaced or dead. Think about how many lives of marginalized people will be lost because of “science”? Think about all of that while you watch this horrifying Vanity Fair video on the Reagan administration’s shockingly cruel reaction to a different crisis effecting a marginalized people.

So, the next time you’re arguing with some conservative fool about climate change or whatever, don’t. Just don’t. It’ll save you, your time and your blood pressure. Just accept that there is a moral difference between the two of you that cannot be overcome by argument. But if you absolutely, positively just can’t seem to help yourself in any possible way, don’t weaponized your belief in “science.” It’s been weaponized enough.

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 Artur Kerkhoff from Unsplash

This is a business and a mission, not a performance

I am a professional. I am a small business owner. And I am a human being.

Why do I feel like I need to say these things?

Because of a comment sent to the previous post here at the BGIM Media site, which literally had nothing to do with the actual piece written by Samuel James. A comment that I commented on over at Twitter and Facebook because it offended me and creeped me out. I don’t feel a desire to go into the full details here in this post because the person has already gotten too much of the attention they sought, but it got me fired up about some things that this person represents when it comes to my work and my life. So, if you’re confused, hit the links above, then come on back.

Too often, people seem to feel entitled to come at me about my life and my money just because I have a little name recognition and a little notoriety. And yes, the “little” is accurate. I am a professional who serves as executive director of a roughly half-century-old anti-racism organization, but much of that organization’s work has traditionally been centered in the Boston metro area. Yes, I have this website which is both my small business and my mission/passion and people sometimes recognize me on the street and sometimes I’m interviewed by media, but there are many bigger movers and shakers in social justice circles. Yes, I do speaking engagements but I don’t get paid nearly as much or get nearly as many opportunities as multiple other racial-related experts—and the book deal dream still eludes me.

The fact is that I have visibility, but I am not a celebrity. Even if I was a celebrity, people wouldn’t have the right to expect that I will put my whole life on display, no matter how much they demand to dig into such people’s lives. But in the end, I’m not. I have some fans and I get recognized sometimes, but my work is my work and my life is my life. The BGIM site may have started long ago with some aspects of a “mommy blog” but it was never really a mommy blog and it hasn’t had any overtones like that in ages so my family and personal life are not the focus here.

My family is not on display here or anywhere for people’s entertainment, and I sure don’t roll them out as a cash-grab. Twitter may be a space where I promote this site and other aspects of my work, but it is also a personal space where I sometimes vent. That’s the nature of Twitter. On Facebook, I have separate accounts for Black Girl in Maine and Shay Stewart-Bouley. I’m not saying I never vent on the former or post work-related stuff on the latter, but there is substantial separation.

Even when my family had the N-word hurled at us in Portland one fine sunny day on a stroll, I didn’t bring that out to get attention. I talked about it because a journalist who saw what happened turned it into a story without my consent and without talking to me like a journalist would. When things happen to my family, racially or otherwise, they rarely make it into this site because my family members are not props.

When I talk about a major family health problem on social media, it is simply to vent and, yes, to hopefully get a little emotional support. But I didn’t ask for money any time I’ve talked about this family health crisis. I’m not crowdfunding. Why would I share details of who is facing the health challenge and what that health crisis is?

More than that: Why would anyone imply that I “must” do so to deserve money?

The only real money I ask here and in social media with any prominence or regularity is to support this BGIM Media site. This is a business, with hosting costs, writers to pay, taxes to pay to Uncle Sam, a technical person to pay and multiple upgrades to security protocols because this site is literally attacked multiple times per day—and more expenses as well.

Was this “CK” who posted here stalking me about my family’s health and speculating about my financials referring to the little blurb at the end of Sam’s post asking people to contribute to the site (which is still 100 patrons away from being fully funded, so I’m hardly rolling in money) or to hire me to speak? Every post has that blurb.

Was it because I sometimes mention on social media that if someone really wants to do something nice for me perhaps think of a nice spa gift certificate or something like that? That’s because I don’t make the gobs of money “CK” seems to imply that I do (and the amount they are guessing at isn’t a high standard of living in a today’s world, honestly), and sometimes I want a little relief and, for some people, it’s easier to gift something than to commit to becoming a patron of the site or whatever. Plus, it never hurts to ask for something nice when you’re doing work that gets you stalkers and death threats and MAGA trolls.

Bottom line is that I work hard and I’m still struggling in a lot of ways, even if I’m not poverty-stricken. There’s a lot people don’t know (and don’t have a right to know) about what I own (or don’t) and where I live (or don’t anymore) and what my family suffers (or doesn’t) and people don’t have a right to have open access to my life.

They sure as hell don’t have a right to question whether I, as a professional Black woman who works hard in a country built on racism, make too much money (or already make “enough” money in their eyes) or has the right to seek additional work like speaking engagements. And they doubly don’t have the right to call upon me to lay open the personal health issues of any of my family—or to share where I live or where I might have property when even the biggest city in Maine is so small.

Yes, I’m going through a crisis, and part of the reason I’ve mentioned it in passing here on the site is to let you know I’m stretched thin and stressed out but still working as hard as I am able to keep fresh content here. Because this is not just a site with a mission to teach people, open eyes and hearts, and fight racism and other oppressions—it is also a business that some of you support and I hope more of you will in the future. And a business without product isn’t much of a business. I will keep working to provide for you, even as I ask for your support.

But kindly don’t make demands of my time or ask me to shuck and jive for the money. I’m a professional, not a hustler or performer.

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.