Andrea Smith and Rachel Dolezal….Is Identity Really Important?

I have been a college student for many years.  Yes, I am a late bloomer.  I didn’t start college until I was in my mid 40’s.  Before that I did a 20 year military career, and after I retired, I ended up getting divorced, and being a single mom.  During those times of my life college was not much of a priority  One day a client at the Dermatology practice where I work came in and told me about the Post 911 GI Bill.  I didn’t have any other GI bill because when I joined the military, it wasn’t available to us.  (anyone remember the VEAP Program??)

Anyway, as a college student I took a Women’s Studies class, and was immediately hooked!  I decided to add a second major: Women’s Studies.  And as a student of Women’s studies I have learned about intersectionality, cultural appropriation, misogyny, identity, etc, etc.  In learning about these things I have definitely been influenced by my professors and the writers I read: Linda Nicholson, The Combahee River Collective, Monique Wittig, Raewynn Connell, Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, Patricia Hill Collins, Michael Foucault, and Andrea Smith to name a few. These men and women have definitely shaped and influenced me, but I definitely make up my own mind about things and speak my own truth.

So when Rachel Dolezal was “outed” by her parents as not being a black woman, I had thoughts about that.  I was upset that this woman took on another identity and claimed it as her own.  I totally understand her empathizing with the struggles African Americans have in their everyday lives because of the social constructs we have in this country, and the racism that is embedded in our society. But for her to take on the identity of a black woman was going too far in my opinion.  According to the accounts I have read online and watched on TV, she identified as a white girl and was raised by white parents.

Rachel Dolezal
Rachel Dolezal

And as a white woman, after it was revealed she was portraying herself as a woman of color when she wasn’t, she could step back into her white woman’s skin and all of the privilege that entails without missing a beat.  If an African American woman was able to “pass” as a white woman, and it was revealed she was actually a woman of color, she would not be able to return to a race with privilege, but instead would have to return to a race that has less privilege, and is replete with racism, even within her own community.

For Rachel Dolezal, her critics contend that she has committed cultural appropriation and fraud; her supporters contend that her racial identity is genuine, although not based on biology or ancestry. She states that she is “biracial”, and that she is just trying to match how she feels “internally with how she looks externally”.

What bothered me even more than the Rachel Dolezal cultural appropriation was the articles that again started surfacing regarding the questions around Andrea Smith’s heritage.

I feel that the controversy surrounding Andrea Smith is different.  Andrea Smith has always maintained that she is Native American.  She was raised believing she is Native American.  She was not born to white parents and somehow along the way adopted a different racial identity than the one she was born with.  She is not enrolled in a tribe to my knowledge.  But enrollment does not prove ancestry.

I think that what bothers me the most about the attacks on Andrea Smith is that I have yet to find ANY articles or stories, or papers from the Cherokee Nation that refute Andrea’s claims of Native heritage.  And believe me I have searched.  Wat I have found is all of the articles by the man who was supposedly hired to “research” her heritage and found nothing.  Also by people she supposedly “admitted” he was not truly Native.  No one has yet to provide any real documentation such as a birth certificate, or college documents, etc that deny her heritage.

Andrea Smith
Andrea Smith

With others, those documents were published quickly to “prove” they were not what they claimed to be.  If Andrea Smith really is not a Native why is there no “proof” that she isn’t??

So for me I have decided to stick by Andrea Smith, who is by the way an amazing scholar and activist who has helped to found groups such as: Women of All Red Nations, INCITE, and the Boarding School Healing Project.  She has written books, articles and lectured all over the country.  Here is her statement about the most recent controversy surrounding her race.

In the controversy of cultural appropriation I feel Rachel Dolezal is guilty and Andrea Smith is not.  At this point nothing will change my mind about that, no matter how many articles I am sent by people to try to change my mind!


How much Privilege do you really have?

 So I have been talking about privilege for many years.  I have gotten into arguments on Facebook and Twitter about privilege.  People almost always come back with (particularly white heterosexual males): “I am not privileged.  I have had to struggle”
Ummmm, okay, so privilege is not about whether or not you have had to struggle in your life.  It is about how society in general perceives you and judges you with regards to things like your gender, sexual orientation, race and financial status.
My friend Tonya posted this Buzzfeed (I LOVE Buzz feed, btw), with questions about privilege and to be honest I think it is a very comprehensive list, so I am going to copy it (and give credit of course) here so people may have an understanding of privilege and how it works. So, How much Privilege do you really have?
Please feel free to share your number (if you are comfortable) in the comments on the blog so it becomes more apparent to all how privilege works.
Give your self one point for every comment you can say yes to: (I added the stuff in Italics)
1.  I am white.
2.  I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color.
3.  I have never been the only person of my race in a room.
4.  I have never been mocked for my accent.
5.  I have never been told I am attractive “for my race.”
6.  I have never been a victim of violence because of my race.
7.  have never been called a racial slur.
8. I have never been told I “sound white.”
9.  A stranger has never asked to touch my hair, or asked if it is real.
10. I am heterosexual.
11. I have never lied about my sexuality.
12. I never had to “come out.”
13. I never doubted my parents’ acceptance of my sexuality.
14. I have never been called “fag.”
15. I have never been called “dyke.”
16. I have never been called a “fairy,” or any other derogatory slur for homosexuals.
17. I have never tried to hide my sexuality.
18. I am always comfortable with P.D.A. with my partner in public.
19. I have never pretended to be “just friends” with my significant other.
20. I have never been ostracized by my religion for my sexual orientation.
21. I have never been told I would “burn in hell” for my sexual orientation.
22. I have never been told that my sexuality is “just a phase.”
23. I have never been violently threatened because of my sexuality.
24. I am a man.
25. I feel comfortable in the gender I was born as.
26. I still identify as the gender I was born in.
27. I have never tried to change my gender.
28. I have never been denied an opportunity because of my gender.
29. I make more money than my professional counterparts of a different gender.
30. I have never felt unsafe because of my gender.
31. I have never been catcalled.
32. I have never been sexually harassed or assaulted.
33. I have never been raped.
34. I work in a salaried job.
35. My family and I have never lived below the poverty line.
36. I don’t have any student loans.
37. I have never gone to bed hungry.
38. I have never been homeless.
39. My parents (or someone else) pay some of my bills.
40. My parents (or someone else) pay all of my bills.
41. I don’t rely on public transportation.
42. I buy new clothes at least once a month.
43. I have never done my taxes myself.
44. I have never felt poor.
45. I have never had to worry about making rent.
46. I have never worked as a waiter, barista, bartender, or salesperson.
47. I have had an unpaid internship.
48. I have had multiple unpaid internships.
49. I went to summer camp.
50. I went to private school.
51. I graduated high school.
52. I went to an elite college.
53. I graduated college.
54. My parents (or someone else or the VA) paid (at least some of) my tuition.
55. I had a car in high school.
56. I’ve never had a roommate.
57. I’ve always had cable or Direct TV
58. I have traveled internationally.(not military service)
59. I travel internationally at least once a year.(again not for military service)
60. I studied abroad.
61. I’ve never skipped a meal to save money.
62. I don’t know what “Sallie Mae” is. (Or know what it is but have never had to use it)
63. I spent Spring Breaks abroad.
64. I have frequent flier miles.
65. My parents are heterosexual.
66. My parents are both alive.
67. My parents are still married. (or would be if they were alive)
68. I do not have any physical disabilities.
69. I do not have any social disabilities.
70. I do not have any learning disabilities.
71. I have never had an eating disorder.
72. I have never been depressed.
73. I have never considered suicide.
74. I have never attempted suicide.
75. I have never taken medication for my mental health.
76. I can afford medication if/when I need it.(and have a co-pay I CAN afford, even if I think it is too high)
77. I have never been told I’m overweight or “too skinny.”
78. I have never felt overweight or underweight or “too skinny.”
79. I have never been shamed for my body type.
80. I consider myself to be physically attractive.
81. I can afford a therapist.
82. I’ve used prescription drugs recreationally.
83. I have never had an addiction.
84. I have never been shamed for my religious beliefs.
85. I have never been violently threatened for my religious beliefs.
86. I have never been violently attacked for my religious beliefs.
87. There is a place of worship for my religion in my town.
88. I have never lied about my ethnicity as self-defense.
89. I have never lied about my religion as self-defense.
90. All my jobs have been accommodating of my religious practices.
91. I am not nervous in airport security lines.
92. I have never heard this statement: “You have been randomly selected for secondary passport control.”
93. I have never been called a terrorist.
94. Nobody has ever tried to “save” me for my religious beliefs, or my sexual orientation
95. I have never been cyber-bullied for any of my identities.
96. I was not bullied as a child for any of my identities.
97. I have never tried to distance myself from any of my identities.
98. I have never been self-conscious about any of my identities.
99. I have never questioned any of my identities.
100.  I feel privileged because of the identities I was born with
I originally thought I scored a 30, but I actually scored a 31.  Which is a bit better but not by much!
I believe my score is only 30 because as a JEWISH, WOMAN in a SAME GENDERED relationship who has also struggled financially as a SINGLE MOM, I cannot get as many points as if I could remove one of those labels.
This also brings up intersectionality.  Look how many words in the above sentence  are bold.  I could also add OVERWEIGHT to those categories……I have many “adjectives” that describe me…. that is what intersectionality is in a nut shell.  We are many things, not just one, and each one of those adjectives, (or intersections) forms how we view ourselves and how society as a whole views us.
Please feel free to comment about how this made you feel if you are comfortable.  Until we start having a discussion about privilege it will be more difficult to remove these labels that cause separation in our society.
#womenslives  #blacklivesmatter

Same Sex Marriage……..Maybe not for me….

OK, so unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard the news that the Supreme Court of the United States, (aka SCOTUS) has struck down the ban on same sex marriage, and it is now legal in every state in the United States to get married if you are a same sex couple.  Interestingly, according to CNN, the US is the 21st country to make marriage legal for ALL citizens.

The Netherlands was the first country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in 2001, when their Parliament voted 107-33 to eliminate discrimination from their marriage laws. The law requires that at least one member of the couple be a Dutch national or live in the Netherlands, and it took effect on April 1, 2001. 14 years ago……..hmmm.    Twenty countries have approved the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, France, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, Britain, Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland), while Mexico allows the freedom to marry regionally and has  court-directed provisions enabling same-sex couples to share in the freedom to marry. In Slovenia, Parliament approved a marriage bill in March 2015 and is headed to the president’s desk. Many other countries provide some protections for such couples. As more and more countries win the freedom to marry, families are helped, and communities and countries made stronger, by protecting all loving committed couples.

I have lots of thoughts on this matter.  As a matter of fact, when I went on vacation last summer to visit my mother, who lives in Kissimmee Florida, she asked me what my thoughts were on gay marriage.  My mother is  NOT homophobic in the least, but she doesn’t really understand it.  She is 76 and comes from a different era than I do.  It does not bother me at all that she does not understand, the fact that she is accepting of me and Karol, and loves me anyway, is all that matters to me.

In the past, quite a few of my friends have said that Karol and I should get married in a nearby state and then wait for Virginia to catch up.  We just chuckled, and the questions stopped.  Then marriage became legal in Virginia and the comments started again.  That time we said we didn’t want to get married until EVERYONE could get married, well, now it is legal all over the US and the comments and questions have started again……sigh…..

However, recently, when my mother asked me about it, and two of my besties also asked me when we are getting married, I had to delve deep into my own thoughts and really think about why I don’t want to get married.

gay wedding

To be honest there are a few reasons why we don’t want to get married….yet…..

First and foremost is that fact that most of our household income comes from Karol, and if we marry my children will no longer be eligible for grants and some student loans.  So to marry now means my kids will lose money to help them pay for college, and I feel that to do that just to say I am “married” is extremely elfish…

wedding rngs

Another reason is harder to explain and believe me these are MY OWN thoughts and I believe them ONLY for myself, and I do NOT think everyone, (or anyone) has to believe the way I do, but here it is:

As a die hard feminist I have a hard time participating in a traditional “wedding” which I believe is a patriarchal heterosexual ideology.  Let’s face it, “marriage” has always been a heterosexual thing.  I don’t believe anyone should be exempted from getting married if that is their desire, so I do support same sex marriage, but I am just not sure it is for me.  I do think at some point it will be important for Karol and I to be legally bound to each other, (social security, retirement, etc), but I would like to find a nontraditional way to do that.

Plus, we have both had the traditional wedding before, and I don’t “need” to have a wedding dress, guests, cake, reception wedding in my life as any kind of statement about my relationship with my partner of 11 years. I don’t want our marriage to be a bigger deal than our wonderful, complicated, sometimes difficult, mostly completely happy,  living together lives already are.  We have been together for 11 years.  We have lived together for 8 years.  It has been easy, it has been hard, we have fought, we have yelled, we have loved……through it all we have loved…..each other and our 4 kids.

I like the idea of having a “love party”.  Getting legally hitched at the Justice of the Peace quietly with just our kids and maybe one or two others in attendance and then having a party (a backyard BBQ) with our friends and loved ones…..but that will have to be years from now when the kids are out of college and since the youngest one is about to turn 16, by then same sex marriage will be routine………

I guess we will revisit the idea in about 6 years or so…. I will let you know…