In Spring of 2011 I wrote and performed a poem “Tryna” expressing and owning up to my internalized racism and how it shapes my desire.
After performing this poem for the first time I had several queer people of color approach me and tell me in private that they, too, shared similar desires for whiteness, but had never felt comfortable articulating it publically. Curiously enough many of my white queer friends avoided eye contact with me after the poem and never brought it up again. Every time I perform this piece I get similar reactions.
In this piece I want to share my personal story of internalized racism and how this was and continues to be linked to my queer identity. It is my goal to use this piece as a starting piece for a collection of essays on race, queerness, and desire. In subsequent posts I want to address, in more detail, questions and strategies that I raise here.
Gay identity as a tactic of white supremacy
The mainstream gay narrative includes a story that begins with trauma, abjection, insecurity and ends with liberation, visibility, and confidence. We are asked: When did you know? When did you first figure out? And we respond with the stories they want to hear: we tell them about screaming “I’m gay” outside in the middle of the night, we tell them about sneaking looks in the locker room. But we do not tell them about the first time we were called a nigger. We do not tell them about how we refused to speak our native tongue at home. These stories, they elide histories of racial trauma that are not ancillary, but actual central to the construction of our queer identities. I want us to revisit our self-narratives and think about the role of race in their construction. I believe that race is, actually, always already implicated in these stories, even for white people.
I have always been attracted to whiteness. I remember in kindergarten I would develop crushes on all the white boys in my class – those white boys who came from rich families with mothers who ran the parent-teacher organizations, those white boys who played little league baseball and joined Boy Scouts.
These were the days I would go home and ask my mother why we didn’t go to church. I would tell my grandmother to stop wearing saris and put on pants instead. These were the days I’d ask my parents why we weren’t like other families: why we didn’t eat steak for dinner, and watch football, and do the things that normal families do. Growing up I always felt inadequate and embarrassed by my brownness and my Hindu/South Asian culture. I would willingly attend Christian youth groups with my white friends and feel so much validation in their acceptance.
This attraction was, and continues to be, always about power. I wanted to be white so desperately because that meant I would finally be normal, finally be accepted. I admired the white boys in my kindergarten class because they had power, they had respect, they were beautiful.
At first I didn’t have the language to understand my feelings of Otherness and inadequacy. It was only after 9/11 that I was able to understand that I had a race. I remember it vividly: on September 12 my mother told me to be careful at school. My middle-school had an assembly in the gym. We were all instructed to wear white and blue and we gathered and sang the national anthem. I remember singing as loud as the rest, and I remember feeling part of something bigger than myself. I didn’t really understand what happened, but goddamnit I knew that I was American. I knew it in the same way my Hindu temple knew that it was a good idea to put an American flag on the back of our t-shirts: “God bless America / we will never forget September 11.” After the assembly a white classmate came up to me and asked me, “Why did your people do this to us?” And for the first time I felt the burden of brownness.
The truth is, at some level, I began to believe everything they said. I began to believe that I was not an American. I began to believe that my people were wrong. I began to believe that my people were ugly.
Coming into consciousness of my brownness occurred at the same time I began to come into awareness of my same-sex desire. It’s impossible for me to divorce these narratives – they have been, and will always be – interrelated. The boys I began to fantasize about were the same boys I wrote love letters to as a child, were the same boys I wanted to become so desperately. The boys – the men – I was sexually attracted to were the very white men who made me feel ugly, made me feel insignificant, made me feel worthless.
Awareness of my homosexuality arrived at the same time as consciousness of my racialization. In some ways, my homosexuality worked as a mechanism of my racial oppression and contributed to my feelings of racial inadequacy. Now, the very white men who degraded me felt sexy to me. My desire shackled me to white supremacy. As much as I wanted to love my brownness, my culture, my otherness – I became even more drawn, tantalized, and attracted to whiteness. As much as I resented and was bruised by the racial trauma inflicted by the white men around me, I found myself deeply attracted to them. I found myself accepting their insults, their stereotypes, their racialization – justifying it with my attraction to them.
When I ‘came out’ and began to consume gay discourses – pornography, blogs, movies, etc. – the depictions of gayness reified whiteness. Queer characters were almost always white, gay porn almost always included white men – unless it was explicitly marked as interracial or racial/fetish porn, etc. At first I didn’t mind this. In fact, I enjoyed it; I found these depictions of whiteness incredibly attractive. Now that I look back on it, consuming these discourses, coming out as ‘gay,’ and organizing within a traditional ‘gay rights’ framework made me happy because I felt like I was becoming white. Being ‘gay’ being part of a ‘gay’ community gave me an opportunity to escape from my race, gave me new connections to whiteness, new ways to intimately embrace it and experience its validation. As I began to get more involved with mainstream gay life, I found myself feeling less brown. I used language and identity-frameworks that were inaccessible to the South Asian community I grew up with (and was okay with that, because at least my white friends accepted me). I went to parties and political gatherings with mostly white people. I stopped talking and thinking about race, and fabricated a de-racinated narrative of queer oppression to fit in, to be part of the community.
Racial Fetishism Within Queer Male Communities
Originally I thought that identifying as gay and participating in gay communities would make me feel more legitimate, more desirable, more affirmed by structures of whiteness. However, I soon realized that queer communities actually inflicted some of the most severe racial trauma for me.
My first significant relationship was with a South Asian woman my first year of high school – before I started actively identifying and participating in gay/queer communities. We shared our experiences with racial trauma, our experiences as diasporic South Asians, our anxieties about our Hindu religion in our small town and I began to develop erotic and romantic feelings for her. Our subsequent four-year relationship was perhaps the most important development in my project of racial liberation. Through her I began to feel beauty in brownness. Looking back, I was less attracted to her gender, and more attracted to her race. Typical heterosexual narratives that suggest that men enter relationships with the ‘opposite’ gender and rely on a difference model did not align well here. Rather, I was attracted to her because of our mutual sameness.
In all of my subsequent relationships and interactions with (white) men, I have been unable to experience this sense of solidarity, of kinship, of sameness. Mainstream narratives of homosexuality conceptualize it as ‘same-sex’ desire: we hear stories about how men know how to please other men better because they have a penis. We hear how same-sex relationships are more functional because both parties “get one another.” These narratives, as is the case with most gay narratives, do not map well on queer of color experience like my own. All of my relationships with (white) men have felt much more conflicted, racially charged, and based on a paradigm of ‘opposites.’ Embracing a white male body never feels comfortable, natural, same. It feels foreign, exotic, opposite.
As I began to participate in white gay communities I recognized that what attracted to me to these boys – what had always attracted me to whiteness – was its difference from me. Whiteness was a commodity, a property that I didn’t own and was systematically denied. I wanted to be with white guys because I was attracted to the power, to their foreignness, to the thrill of difference. I found myself turning down incredibly charming and political queer boys of color, because I just didn’t get the same power trip, the same attraction to them. I found myself pursuing the most problematic, the most racist and obnoxious white boys, just because their otherness was that desirable.
My early and uncritical experiences with white men reminded me that I can never have access to this cultural capital, that I will always be brown, no matter how much queer communities profess to be ‘one.’ I began to realize the extreme racism and colorism that governs much of queer male life: the lighter you are, the more attractive you are. The darker you are, the more likely you are to be friend-zoned.
The majority of the times I found myself incredible invisible to the white queer gaze. I met white boys with dating profiles: “No Asians / No Fems.” Sexual racism like this was rarely as explicit, it manifested itself in more silent and pernicious ways: always being the ‘friend’ and never anything more, etc. When I would confront my white queer friends about why they didn’t date other boys of color they’d often say things like: “I don’t see race – get over it, it’s not important!” And though they would often profess liberal and anti-racist politics, they would still only sleep with and date other white men. When I began to meet white queer men who were or experienced intimate relations across the color lines they would often say that race wasn’t central to their desire or relationship. The idea was that being gay already involved transgressing one taboo, why not jump over another?
Those white queer men who did express interest often articulated it in ways that were just as problematic, just in a reverse direction. One white boy told me that he had always wanted to be with a brown man. He told me that I felt like a real man. And, at the time, I loved it. For the first time in my life I experienced validation from the very body that taunted me growing up. When he embraced me I felt like America taking me back again, I felt worthy, I felt normal. In that small encounter I experienced a tremendous range of trauma and emotion. I performed my race – in its most bastardized forms – for him so that I could obtain his acceptance. In subsequent relationships I experienced similar hyper-fetishization – experiences where my brownness was central to a white man’s attraction to me. It manifested itself in sometimes subtle ways – comments on my rugged masculinity (gesturing to histories of associations with bodies of color and primitive animality), cloaked racist sayings like all South Asians are so sexy).
In all of these experiences – the ones where I was hyper invisible and hyper visible – one theme remained constant: I was always reduced to my race. My race was the primary basis of my desireability or undesireability. I never was able to enter interactions where my race was not salient – the paradigm established was that I was always the one with ‘the race,’ while whiteness remained unmarked, uncontested.
Thus, ironically, even though I expected my homosexuality to integrate me into a community that made me finally feel part of something bigger than myself again (after becoming an outcast in a post 9/11 nationalist American), I actually began to feel even more brown, even more violently racialized.
After severally racially charged experiences with white men I found myself in some of the deepest and most visceral racial trauma of my life. I found myself predicating my very self-worth, my integrity, on validation by white men. It didn’t matter how many people of color were attracted to me, only white guys counted. It didn’t matter to me how successful I was in school or how wonderful of an activist I was, only validation by white men could make me happy.
The Limits of Queer Epistemologies: Ways Forward
I soon recognized that the ways I, uncritically, desired whiteness were destructive to my political and emotional liberation. I began to read a lot more critical race theory, post-colonial theory, and think much more about white supremacy and how queer projects are complicit in it. I am now committed to decolonizing the intimacy I participate in – to disarticulating my attraction from the imprint of my oppression and envisioning alternative and radical ways to feel, relate, and engage with whiteness.
I am extremely skeptical of the race neutrality of the majority of queer/gender/sexuality desire. I strongly disapprove of the way that queer communities and individuals organize, fuck, art, envision, and grow together in ways that don’t address racial difference. My experiences with internalized racism have given me the privilege to see how race can actually become central to our desire and politics. Here are some ways that I’ve been thinking about this:
1. Our Sexual Identity Frameworks are already racist. We need to stop relying on a framework of sexual identity that anchors our attraction to ‘sex.’ Currently the only way that we think of sexual identity is in terms of what gender/sex’s we are attracted to. The only discourse I had access to growing up told me that I was “gay” because I was attracted to (some) men. However, it makes no sense for me to identify as ‘gay.’ Identifying as gay would mean that I am a man attracted to other men. But the truth is I am not attracted to all men. I am attracted to a very particular type of racialized, classed, gendered, etc. masculinity. Current frameworks of sexual identity assume that ‘men’ and ‘women’ exist as stable categories and elide racial and other differences among men and women. The assumption here is that all men look the same, which is obviously not the case. Using this framework, white man can identify as gay but still only be intimate with other white men. Gay becomes a way in which we can cloak our racisms, rather than make them central to the way that we articulate our desires. We need a more complex way to relate our sexual proclivities and histories to one another. We need a language that acknowledges the multiple vectors that we come to fetishize. In my case, my desire and identities have been more oriented around race, than sex/gender
2. Our sexual desires themselves are already racist. As a queer body of color I have not had the privilege to disassociate my attraction from my oppression. The people I am most attracted to are the people I have been told to be attracted to. Our society – through media, and other discourse – valorizes particular expressions of white and masculine identity. These images have been ingrained into me to the point that I often have to question whether I am attracted to an individual for them, or for their whiteness - whether I am attracted to an individual, or a system. I am troubled by a paradigm that locates minority bodies as the only bodies that experience attraction this way. The fact is that all desires are implicated within racist, classist, colonial, etc. systems and circuits of desire – it’s just for some of us this is more salient. We must think critically about the nature of our desires and how to contest, unlearn, and re-imagine them.
3. We need to talk more about the relationship between white supremacy and sexual politics: I have shown how my body of color has been implicated in a project of white supremacy. It is important that we move beyond a framework that suggests that white people are the only people who can be racist. The reality of the situation is that most of us are white supremacists. White supremacy is a pervasive, totalizing, and dominant ideology that becomes bolstered by all bodies – not just white bodies. I want us to think more about what our queer movements and radical sex movements are doing to contest white supremacy – or, rather, how they are becoming (or have always been) complicit with this ideology.
4. Attraction as already fetishistic: I believe that fetish-oriented models of sexuality are a way to allow us to talk about internalized racism and other prejudices in relation to our sexual desires. Inspired by queer psychoanalysts like Tim Dean, I’m interested in re-imagining all desire as fetishistic. What this means is that we are not born predisposed to any particular attraction. Rather, we develop our attractions. (ie the penis is not inherently attractive, it becomes attractive). This process of becoming attractive occurs within a white supremacist, patriarchal, prejudiced culture in which particular fetishes become normalized (ie white heterosexual intimacy) while others become seen as perverse (foot fetish, racial fetish, etc.). Talking about our desires as fetishes is productive because it helps us remember that our desires are protean, able to shift, change, and respond. It reminds us that we experience desire as individuals – that no group-oriented terms like ‘gay’ (or even queer people of color) can adequately describe the specificity of our desire.
5. Gay rights/advocacy is not a queer project. Within a narrow-issue gay politic, I could excuse myself of my internalized racism and focus on my same-sex intimacy as already inherently radical. This isn’t sufficient. I think the power of a queer project lies in its ability and acknowledgement that our desires are political and that our intimacies are microcosms of the Revolution. A queer project involves unlearning our identities and attractions, disarticulating our racial fetishes and allowing ourselves to be attracted to all races. A queer project makes us be more critical of the way that we have conflated homosexuality as inherently transgressive. Isn’t predominant attraction to men or women implicated within structures of sexism and patriarchy? Queer desiring men need to think more about how our lack of attraction to women is related to and contributes to misogynist interpretations of the female body. Queering our desires involves opening ourselves to new types of intimacies, new types of consensual pleasures, with all types of identities. We are not yet queer, we aspire to queerness – and as part of that project we have to learn how to expand our desires and make them more empathetic, embracing, and radical for all.
Why does this set up for April 2014 Bello magazine seem so familiar??
Oh that’s right, I know why:
Ya’ll can put a tanned white girl on the cover in color, but g-d forbid someone with some melanin isn’t in black and white. whatever.
So tired of this so called “artistic shit” they so afraid of brown and black people upsetting they precious white customers. They probably do black and white because they overexpose black people all the time. Trying to act like it don’t matter when it comes to black people and photography.
Why are the so afraid of Black skin?
I remember watching this show and falling in love with him and his strength. He is still in the movement fighting for People to Recognize that Racism is all about who controls the power dynamic.
In the past few months, debate surrounding the use of racial caricatures as pro sports mascots has reached a fever pitch. Just ask the Washington Redskins, who’ve endured significant backlash for both their refusal to change their name and their half-assed attempts to placate their critics.
But a few miles west, fans of the MLB’s Cleveland Indians are taking a stand. In a motion of solidarity, a small but growing number have been “de-Chiefing” their paraphernalia by removing the offensive “Chief Wahoo” mascot from caps and jerseys that bear its likeness.
butthurt white people
I love how they rlly hate to see someone doing better than them & then put it off on race like if a white dude had the same achievements no one would be doing anything but sucking his dick and patting him on the back like this is some top tier hater shit & it’s so funny
White people love to bring up affirmative action as if their entire lives aren’t a fucking breeze
They’re acting like this kid didn’t put in work to get where he is though. They literally think it was handed to him because he’s black???? Yeah that’s definitely how America works
they’re so mad
I’m thrown off by the Asian hatin
When white people get upset about affirmative action, conveniently forgetting why it needed to be implemented to begin with. Oy vey.
Did you read The Washington Post article about this?
Another reason why respectability politcis is bullshit…because all that bullshit white liberals and white conservatives love spew about “If everyone just worked hard, and stopped complaining blah blah” and we we do “Oh you just got it because you’re black.”…..take note followers. This is why respectability politics don’t work it doesn’t matter how hard to play their game, you are black and as long as you’re black you’re never gonna sit at their table period. Also check how quick white folks went to the good minority shit with Asians, and look how quick the anti-black racism came out with the “I’m asian and I didn’t get half of what this black kid got.”……they are so hurt, to see a black kid shining.
"Guitar’s anger is justified &his love for African-Americans admirable, but the manner in which he expresses his love,murder,is disgraceful &pointless." i mean OBVIOUSLY murdering people is wrong but like they mention lots of times in the book before ch 6 the murder of emmett till, and no one in my class so much as batted a fucking eyelash,yet they were up in arms about this. smh.
At first, I was like, yes I have, but then I realised you were not talking about the bible
that sounds very gross, i’m sorry english classes suck
In the 19th century, the father of modern gynecology, J. Marion Sims, conducted his research experiments on enslaved Black women. Sims performed the invasive and torturous procedures without anesthesia. J. Marion Sims’ justification for choosing not to anesthetize his test subjects was that he did not believe Black women felt pain at all. In an 1857 lecture, he stated that it was “not painful enough to justify the trouble”.
The Tuskegee Institute and the Public Health Service began a study of the natural progression of syphilis involving 600 Black men (399 with syphilis, 201 uninfected) in 1932. The infected men involved in the study were never made aware of their condition upon diagnosis and believed they were being treated for “bad blood”. In exchange for their participation, the men received free medical examinations and burial insurance. They were never treated for the disease. These trials went on until 1972 when the study was exposed by The Associated Press. The remaining victims and their family members won a $10,000,000 reparations settlement which guaranteed them lifetime health coverage and burial insurance.
The Pellagra Incident
Pellagra is an ailment commonly caused by a lack of niacin (vitamin B-13) in the human diet. The symptoms include skin lesions, sunlight sensitivity, dementia and ends in death. At the turn of the twentieth century, millions of people in the United States died from this disease. Scientists claimed that the cause of the disease was a toxin found in corn. In 1915, the U.S. Surgeon General ordered government funded experiments on Black prisoners afflicted with pellagra. Poor diet and niacin deficiency was found to be the cause. However, these life-saving findings were not released to the public until 1935 because the majority of Pellagra-induced deaths affected Black communities.
In 1945, African-American Ebb Cade, a 53-year-old truck driver, was secretly injected with plutonium, the substance used to make nuclear bombs. After breaking several of his bones in automotible accident, he was rushed to the emergency room. Unbeknownst to Ebb Cade, he was in the care of doctors that were also U.S. Atomic Agency employees. For six months, he was held in the hospital under the belief that they were treating his injuries. During that time, he was injected with more than 40 times the amount of plutonium an average person is exposed to in a lifetime. The doctors and researchers collected bone samples and extracted 15 teeth to monitor the effects of his exposure. Ebb Cade grew suspicious of his broken-bone treatments and escaped from the hospital. Unfortunately, Cade suffered from the brutal effects of intense radiation until he died from heart failure eight years later at the age of 61.
In the early 1950′s, the United States government conducted an experiment to see if mosquitoes could be weaponized. The CIA and the U.S. military released nearly a half million mosquitoes carrying yellow fever and dengue fever viruses into several Black communities in Florida. In the predominantly Black community of Avon Park, dozens of Black people became ill, eight dying as a result of this government-issued mosquito attack.
In June 1990, more than 1500 six-month old Black and Hispanic babies in Los Angeles were given what seemed to be a standard measles vaccination. The parents were not told that this particular vaccine, Edmonston Zagreb measles vaccine (EZ), was still in its research phase and not approved by the FDA. The EZ vaccine already had a reputation in Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Haiti, triggering an increased death rate among infant girls, most not living past the age of two. The Center for Disease Control would later confess that the infants were injected with an experimental vaccination without their parent’s knowledge. Presently, it is believed that many of these families are still unaware that their babies were used as guinea pigs.
In the year 2000, Federally funded researchers from John Hopkins University, the EPA, HUD, The Kennedy Krieger Institute and Department of Agriculture spread sludge from a sewage treatment plant on the lawns of nine low-income families, and a vacant lot in Baltimore and East St. Louis. The families and residents were told the sludge was safe and not informed about the toxic mixture of human and industrial waste the sludge contained. The research was conducted to see if the toxic waste absorbed into the water supply could effectively reduce lead levels in children.
In December 2012, at least 500 children in Gouro, Chad were forcibly given the MenAfriVac during school resulting in dangerous side effects including convulsions, and paralysis. Parents were not notified of any plans to vaccination their children at school and parental consent was never requested. The forced vaccinations were part of an aggressive healthcare initiative sponsored by several internationally revered organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
There’s also that Nigeria scandal with Pfizer and testing meningitis drugs.
Ellaria Sand/Indira Varma in Game of Thrones: Bastards of Westeros
BUT WHY IS SHE WHITE
EDIT: She is half Indian, but still very light skint for a sandy dornish person, so I was v. disappointed.
America is spoiled and FAT.
Look to your right. This is REAL rape culture. and you cry babies bitch about a Robin Thicke song and cat calls.. Be lucky you live in this side of the world.. Oh geez. I’m sorry. should have put a Trigger warning on this.
Trigger Warning: you’re a bitch
Let me tell you exactly why you’re a human shit stain:
Your argument is literally “You don’t have it THAT bad so don’t complain that you’re being treated like shit. We COULD treat you worse.”
Honestly? So, if you’re punching me in the face, I shouldn’t complain ‘cause thank god you aren’t stabbing me, right? It COULD be worse.
That shit doesn’t make sense.
We’re trying to make America a safer, more welcoming place for young women to grow in without being demeaned by assholes like Robin Thicke, “blurring the lines” between consent and refusal.
I get that there is some fucked up shit happening in different parts of the world, but as an American, Western-centric feminist, it isn’t my place to go to other countries and tell them what they should do. I will leave it to the feminists over there who know more about their own culture than I do.
America has it’s own shit to sort out before it can go up in other countries’ business.
ummmmm OP is a massive racist shitstain, like lbr, first of all critiquing a movement a black woman took part in because “bossy” is something black girls don’t always have the luxury to be otherwise they fall under the “outspoken/angry black woman” trope that people box them into (yr other option is sassy/comedic relief, yay!) and then putting the words ‘spousal rape’ over teenage muslim girls (are those even iraqi girls? why did you choose iraq? you do realise that the US went in and fucked up so much shit in iraq, right? and you weren’t saving iraqi women from shit? in fact, there are videos soldiers have taken of themselves raping iraqi girls, so you really want to go down that path? no, really, why iraq? why not saudi, or some other country you probably couldn’t point to on a map?).
like fuck you and the horse you rode in on, fuck yr flippant attitude towards trigger warnings, fuck you and yr racist jaahil ass, please go sit in a corner and think about what a massive douchecanoe you are.
Oh my god I have fucking shivers
EDIT: I have been informed that dream hampton wrote this letter, not Jay-Z
makin’ racists angry
have all y’all seen this? cause if not, you need to see it.
It’s very very very easy to do.
or you’re just messing with someone’s favourite character
guys, i found the racist
When someone says he’s emotionally invested in a character with 60+ years of continuity he isn’t saying he’s a racist, you calling him one doesn’t make you right, it makes you a bully.
found another racist~
ps, why do racists go out of their way to reblog from me when they don’t even follow me, like come on folks
pps, pointing out when people are racist isn’t actually bullying, no more than telling the sky that it’s blue is bullying
PS - please explain how that kid saying you’re messing with his favorite character makes him a racist and how me calling you out for it makes me anymore racist - I will explain to you why it makes you a bully: you don’t argue his point you go straight to name-calling because he doesn’t agree with you.
PSS why would I follow you when clearly you’re an asshole?
I have class in fifteen min, so this is the last reblog I’ll entertain. Following this, please refrain from reblogging from me~
If I have an Arab friend named Yusuf, and I say, “This is my Arab friend, Yusuf,” I am not bullying him. Similarly, if there is a racist on a post, and I say, “Hey, that person is a racist because they said/did a racist thing,” I am not name-calling, nor am I bullying, I am pointing out a fact, and calling out someone’s bullshit.
It never ceases to amuse me how white people feel like being called racist is bullyin and much worse than, I dunno actually being racist?? lol
it’s actually pps, because ps stands for post script, or “after text” like an after thought. so you would say “post post script” for “after” the “after thought”
but yeah, pps, i’m just amused that you had to go to a post i reblogged like six to nine months ago because clearly your life is so uneventful you needed to start drama on a post you don’t even understand. you don’t follow me (because i’m an asshole), but you’ll go to my blog, to a post i reblogged a long ass time ago to give me a piece of your mind!
like, why? if i’m such an asshole, why bother talking to me? just leave me and my blog alone? pls && thank~ have a lovely day~~