The “something else”: Eleven Years Online
What has eleven years online taught me ?
It’s always about something else.
There will be something else. My personal entanglements, the “ real work”, business goals the bop shoo wop do wop , the ramalamading dong, something else.
There will always be a something else that is slightly more important than looking at how we treat black women. A moment that needs more attention, a goal that is more pressing or a performance that needs to be bigger. It usually passes quickly leaving nothing behind to justify itself but a missed opportunity and that feeling.
But here we are . So here are some of my something else’s from 11 years online.
“ Millennials curate their lives to seem happier than they are”
I start my online mythos with my father’s deportation. It’s an anchor point rather than a genesis. Things coalesce there they do not begin. A thunderclap fracturing , the lock you link so many of your early experiences to as you puzzle how you got to this place. Pieces of paper, lawyers visits, requests for letters of support, phone calls that end in you sobbing and running . Pieces become points of data, that generated income , that made your family shatter. Deportation is a finality of data and experience, they have analyzed all of the data and handed you this experience.
You are not worthy .
The other data experience is graduation. I wait for grades, collect gowns, pay fees , prepare for pictures. Sit on the hallowed ground of my ridiculously privileged school as a UN Secretary tells us how special and worthy we are. How much we owe it to the less privileged, the dispossessed, the rootless to “change the world” with our elite educations. There are people who do not have a country ! . Can you imagine being one of those people instead of you the best of the best?
You can’t be both .
I drape my gown in kente cloth, carry the Guyanese flag and hang my father’s car ornament from cap , I make a joke of it. I am actually screaming, futile protest in student debt. I should be able to have all of this . My education, my blackness,my heritage , and my daddy.
I am worthy, I should have this . I don’t but the pictures will look like it when I put it on this new thing they call Facebook
“Is Surveillance a Feminist issue”
I actually begin with my momma . Mahmee or Mummy. She is smarter than I am.
She’s the oldest girl of a traditional family whose mother married “below “ her. She’s the poor cousin branch, went to the second tier schools,did all the house work, raises other peoples kids. Sometimes does housework for our more prominent cousins. She fights her mother to go to school, her father to not beat her mother, her brothers for by being smarter, and most of the country to get the education she wants.She tries for 9 years to get pregnant before she emigrates because she wants a Guyanese child and her job skills actually transfer well to America. She doesn’t get pregnant, decides fuck it and leaves.
Her husband’s family is kind of awful but she’s brilliant and has good skills and no kids and gets a good job. She’ll save up and adopt. She’s glad she’s childless and not pregnant because this job involves counting and carrying and long hours and
She faints her second week. She’s pregnant. It’s the job or the kid . She quits immediately. I arrive. She gets another job, she’s still skilled . She has baby sitters. Her husband will help. I don’t remember much but my babysitters were abusive . She loses that job, she almost loses her freedom when she threatens the babysitter’s life. When the next one’s son “hurts” me she packs my food in a hard lunchbox and tells me to swing next time he tries something.
I swing the next time he breathes.
I don’t have that babysitter after that and when my father is convicted we don’t do well apart.
She becomes a home aid and housekeeper.She is a union rep, and for all they sell her she never makes a real wage . She packs sheets,lunchboxes and books in a bag bigger than she is . I am raised mostly on white people’s floors till the 3rd grade.
My mother is fascinated by me. I am brilliant and talkative and when my father gets out on probation nearly get her arrested twice. I describe my father smoking something white in such vivid detail that they think it’s crack. She spends grocery money to buy cigarettes so ACS can see I’m talking about the white papers around Newport’s. They give up, she loses the money but I join the gifted pre-K.
I learn about surveillance from having to talk to people who don’t believe I’m real or that a housekeeper can raise a kid like this. I learn about it when our Section 8 becomes murky because convicted felons aren’t supposed to live in houses. I learn about surveillance when we have to hire lawyers when her papers become “tricky” . I’m a citizen . She and he are not. He may never be. She has to prove she deserves it, I become “proof” she contributes to society. It could be easier the say if she babied me less , or sent me home, or left me with people besides her best friend in the Bronx two hours away.
She doesn’t curse but the look she gives becomes famous throughout New York City Education.Public, Independent and Aspirational.My mother fights surveillance, systemic violence, generational trauma on a subpar salary and an iron will.
She only kind of knows about feminism. “Dat white lady ting suh”
My mother is smarter than I am .I find out when I join Mensa to pass geometry .When someone says our test is more like Mensa and our teacher says Mensa is harder I bite. I’m struggling,disorganized, ADHD undiagnosed or unmanaged, so I cheat a little. I’m a Prep For Prep kid. I did two years of extra schooling just to be in this class on this ridiculous campus, bussed an hour each way. My IQ got me in.
I find a date , tell my mom it’s good for college and practice online. My mother is fascinated by my life having fought the world to give it to me. She wants to “play the game” I’m playing on the computer I’m so fascinated with. I don’t tell her it’s an IQ test.
She outscores me when she doesn’t know. She does worse when she does. She doesn’t always trust computers but she nearly kills herself to make sure we are one of the first families with internet around my way.
They/I tell her it’s good for school.She fought the world for that . She’ll make it work.
“Engaging Best Through Negative Discourse”
I blog so I don’t rage out during work. I work retail at one of the most famous places on earth. I juggle languages, millions of dollars, and fast paced technology. I have a two hour commute, on my feet on concrete for 8 hours .
My mother has two seizures, a cystic fibrosis scare, an MS scare and loses her job. My teeth are rotting, I have multiple hospital stays and haven’t seen my father five years. He nearly dies twice. I don’t go out or date or do much of anything but blog and work . A strange white professor is obsessed with me and online is the only way to get this out. I use a pseudonym because I can’t lose this “good “ job. I fundraise for almost everyone who asks , because while I don’t have money , my online “klout” is important.
SPEAK! /RWOC blogger collective “get” me.Immigration, racism, classism we have the training but not the capital. Our ideas go on walk about and if we fight it we’re a joke or in someone’s paper. It’s public after all. No one as far as I can see is talking about what we’re talking about until it looks like it can get them money. Then it’s the zeitgeist or something. I’m sad and desperate and exhausted.
I don’t tell people about how often I think of ending it . Of the piling bills of not being able to fully voice this pain. I don’t do stuff I like. I consume news . I write about it. I make money , not enough of it I want to die. I help when I can though. I go to workshops and do links and give keynotes. Nobody tells me I’m building a career but my best friends . I’m not white or acceptable so I think this is price I pay to be read.
I see a therapist.I work out more. I join a theatre group that changes my life. I perform in subways, in basements, on street corners. I perform through hurricanes and floods. I perform in the middle of Eastern Parkway as van drivers scream I should be raped because the crowd is paying them no mind . I do tweetups and meetups and hashtags .. My girls save my life. I save myself. I write .I get paid.
Then someone makes my friend cry . I may not defend myself but I will defend her to the end. I say Fuck ( major feminist press) . I get compared to a creepy guy at a bar, end up in people’s books and works and something .. CRACKS. If I’m going to catch hell and death threats for being me ANYWAY?
“ Identity Politics detract from the real issues”
I notice things about race and feminism and safety. I get shoved off. I notice things about shaming and surveillance and colorism . I get shoved off. I don’t think it’s just online. I don’t think it started with Blogger or Twitter or Tumblr . I should be paid . I shouldn’t work for free . It’s not enough .
I go to radical meetings where the activists look more like the kids from my fancy schools than my mom . My godmother is gentrified out of her neighborhood.Columbia grad students lecture me at work and online about capitalism from her old zipcode .Their radical organizing never makes it to my zipcode. I sell computers and cellphones to people who use them to send emails they think I don’t see about how “toxic” I am. I donate and work and give . This is how I’m worth it.
Creepy white guy admits to abusing me for years.It starts a hashtag , most people forget about me. Someone stalks my twitter page and posts it Facebook forgetting we share friends. He does it to my friend as well.He does good work , so they do nothing.I do lots of work for an org that forgets about me when the press comes. I’ve done it for years.I’m a bit of an asshole .Even though I don’t do it alone , the threats only go to the dark skin black girls. I’m don’t understand the real problems of the system. . I’m a divisive poseur who has no commitment to the real work of oppressed people from my online perch.I am a thing to be defended against.
Black people die so regularly I have nightmares. I march on Times Square.Different people buy our building, the rent goes up 1/3 . My mother and I lie to each other about our health. We both know we’re lying.
I’m not really Guyanese because I’m from the people who left. I go back for the first time in 20 years . I see my father for the first time in 8. I nearly knock him down.I get subtweeted by people who went to all the schools my mother wasn’t allowed to and didn’t get accepted into any of the ones I worked my way into.
I am too reformist/bougie /academic because I decline to suffer for anyone else. I am fat/ugly/rapey/ a fraud. I’m violent. I’m toxic.
It makes it okay. It makes the coordinated attack okay. It makes the plagiarism okay. It makes lying okay . It makes ignoring patterns okay. I watch black women sketch out the harassment plans for years into the future. I watch people declare victories while others plan to hurt us. I take notes.I exchange notes in public and private. I see the plans . I report the tweets. I post receipts. Something is coming . Why don’t we talk about how we talk to each other? Why do we have to like each other to do right by each other?
I lose friends . I regain them. I say sorry . I say I’m not sorry . This is about me
The only person who has to pick a side is me . I choose me. I lose my comfort with the labels but I find (some of)myself
I learn to say no. I stop trying to be understanding. I aim for kind and honest.I don’t pay this price anymore.
I’ll be that.