The Teresa Jusino Experience

Create Like An Activist

Tag: racism

Create Like An Activist: TJXP’s New Mission Statement

Soundtrack: “Chief Don’t Run” by Jidenna

I got a new agenda that I gotta carry through
When your father’s enemies try to bury you…

The results of our recent Presidential election was a gut punch, and I spent all of last week recovering. You can read the last thing I had to say about the election HERE. However, the stuff that’s of particular note reads as follows:

But while I do plan on holding Trump, Pence, and the rest of their administration accountable for any decisions of theirs that hurt my communities and continuing to fight for the needs of my communities, I’m also not going to make them the focus of activism and work.

Instead:

1) I will up my political activism game. Now is the time for me to keep tabs on my local politicians to make sure they’re doing what we need them to be doing, regularly reaching out to their offices not only when there’s something I wanna yell at them about, but also to write in praise of awesome things they’ve supported that are important to me.

I will keep up with these people, as well as midterm candidates, throughout the year so that, when elections roll around, I’ll be informed about what’s going on and who’s actually standing up for me in office.

2) Since certain issues may receive less attention from a Trump/Pence administration, I will put my time, energy, and resources into organizations that advocate for, provide awareness of, and provide services to the populations and issues that are important to me. In this case, my focus will likely be on (in no particular order):

    • Gender Equality
    • LGBTQIA Equality
    • the fight against racism and bigotry
    • Campaign Finance/Election Reform
    • L.A’s homeless population
    • the protection of Civil Liberties.

3) I will create like an activist. Now, more than ever, I am confident in the importance of stories. Not just any stories, but the stories I need and want to tell. Because a big contributor to people being so willing to throw people like me under the bus is the fact that they have no personal connection to people like me. I get that.

But I also understand that media plays that important role in people’s lives. I have a friend from the Upper Penninsula in Michigan who told me once that the first Latinx she ever “met” were Maria and Luis on Sesame Street. And she thought they were so cool. And having grown up in a majority-white, sparsely populated area of Michigan, she’s gone on to have traveled all over the world, move to New York, and be one of the most kind and welcoming people you could ever meet. Because the shows she watched, the books she read, and the films she saw gave her a glimpse of a wider world she’d never encountered in real life, and made her want more. That might never have happened had Sesame Street only been about a bunch of white people hanging out with some Muppets. 🙂

May the diverse characters I create, the diverse communities I depict, and the stories I tell be that glimpse of a wider world for someone else and inspire that person to action.

And may my work as a producer of those stories allow me to employ from marginalized communities and contribute directly to those communities from production through the release of the project, and beyond.

angela-davis

And so here I am, back to my blog after months of being away, because one of the few silver linings of this election for me is that it has lit a fire under my ass, and I’ve decided to use whatever platforms I have at my disposal to try and protect the progress already made with regard to the populations and causes I care about, as well as continue to fight for further progress.

To that end, the new tagline around here, and my new mantra is “Create Like An Activist.”

The weapons with which I am the most skilled are: my writing (fiction and non), the ability to translate ideas in a way that allows people to understand opposing views (or think about things in a new way), and my history of being a connector between people.

Media and pop culture are where I live, and where I hope to make my living for the rest of my life. It’s my area of the world, and fluffy and superficial as it may seem to some, it’s an area in which I can affect the way people think, feel, and take action. It’s an area in which I can inspire people and help them maintain the strength to keep going, and it’s a place where, eventually, I will have the power to provide opportunities for the most marginalized among us.

But I don’t believe I have to wait until I get to that place of power to start making changes with what I do. I can do it right now, through the characters I create, or the artists/projects I choose to cover in my pop culture writing. I can do it by speaking up when I see injustice being done in my industry (or elsewhere in my life). I can do it by being brave enough to turn down opportunities, or refuse to work for certain people – lucrative though an opportunity might be – if they don’t align with my ethics. I can do it by using my art as a way to help others (ie: screenings as fundraisers, donating leftover craft services to homeless organizations, organizing casts and crews for volunteer opportunities, etc).

And so I plan on using this blog as a hub for all of that work. There’ll continue to be fun stuff around here, too (and what’s more fun than helping others!), and I will continue to write about my journey through this bonkers life and career of mine, but there will definitely be a shift in focus and intention.

I will write about both the creative and the more activist work I’m doing, and I will also provide resources and ideas for work you can be doing. Especially if you’re interested in the same areas I mention above. None of us can do everything, but if we all do what we can in the areas we care about the most, we can change the world. And if you’re interested in causes like solving climate change, ending factory farming, or any other issues I haven’t mentioned, I hope that you can take any ideas that I bring up here, and apply them to whatever’s most important to you.

Sadly, I’m not confident that the government that’s currently been elected into office will operate in the best interests of all its citizens. So, in addition to resisting anything they do or pass that will negatively affect already marginalized and oppressed communities, I will be setting more of an intention both with and outside of the creative work I do to take on some of that work myself, helping others do the same.

It’s our country. It’s up to all of us to take care of it, and each other. I love you all. Yes, even you. 😉

NEW AT BEACON: “That Person is Racist” Vs. “That Costume is Racist”

For those of you who missed it on Halloween, here’s my latest piece at Beacon! It’s about planning costume choices based on your interests AND ensuring racial and gender equality. It IS possible for White people to dress as characters or celebrities of color – but it has to be done in a very specific way. I talk about this, and other things in the piece.

EXCERPT:

As I said, racism is about a power dynamic. One group has to be superiorand another group has to be inferior. In the case of costumes, White people have the power, because there are more White characters to choose from. And that’s the case, because minorities don’t have as much representation in pop culture as they should. There are more White celebrities to choose from. And that’s the case, because it is more likely that a White person will have the advantages that will allow them to make the choices that will lead to them being a celebrity (they’re in demand to play all those White characters, for starters). 

That freedom and variety of choice is the power in this situation. And so, when people talk about costume choices as racist, it’s not to say that the White people who do this are horrible or hate minorities. It’s to say that the act of choosing to appropriate cultural garb as a “costume,” or to paint your skin black or brown, or to apply make-up to your eyes to make yourself look Japanese or Chinese perpetuates a racist society by further appropriating things that have already had a difficult time surviving to begin with. It’s racist because, even with all the freedom of choice in the world, you’re choosing to take from someone else, rather than making use of the myriad options you already have.

To read the entire post, or to comment on it, CLICK HERE!

Whether you subscribe to me at Beacon or not, you can now read all of my posts for FREE for seven days. So feel free to not only read and comment, but pass the link around! Hopefully, you’ll like what you read enough (both my work and the work of some of the other talented writers at Beacon) to subscribe to me for as little as $5/month and enjoy all that Beacon has to offer!

And if you like what you read, don’t forget to click the “Worth It” button at the bottom of the article! 🙂 Thanks!

THE GENDER BLENDER: When Feminism Meets Cultural Insensitivity?

women

My friend Cathy recently made me aware of this new blog called Gender Eyes, where a blogger by the name of Jennifer is setting out to “walk in the shoes of women from other parts of the globe.” From her blog:

Ever wonder what it’s like to walk in the shoes of women from other parts of the globe?  Say a woman from Sub-Saharan Africa or even the local homeless woman?   Well, I HAVE!

My name is Jennifer, and I’m a wife and mother foremost, but curiosity, my passion for human rights, and the desire to shed light on women’s issues has led me to chronicle my journey of adopting some of the daily rigors of what it means to be a woman in the world.

Follow me as I apply global women’s struggles to my own life by walking in their shoes for a day, one day and one issue at a time.

When I first saw this, I knew that her intentions were good, she’s clearly passionate about women’s rights, and she’s done a lot of study on the subject, but there was something about the endeavor that bothered me, and I couldn’t put my finger on what. I think what finally helped me do that was this:

All to gain a humble perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in other parts of the world.

I will explore my own prejudices, presumptions, and privilege as I chronicle my adventure. However, I recognize I will be doing so through the lens of a middle-class, white, American woman. As a result, I’ll also interview other women along the way who personally bear these burdens on a daily basis. My hope is that through this project, I can shed light on the struggles so many women and girls face in the world solely because of their gender, while offering solutions or ways to help, when possible.

It kind of bothers me that she’s framing sexism as something that she doesn’t have to deal with as a middle-class, white, American woman. She faces it every day. Getting paid less than her male counterparts for the same job, needing to worry about choosing between working or raising her daughter, sexist comments or assumptions about her based on what she does or doesn’t wear, or how she does or doesn’t live her life, etc. Given her Women’s Studies background, she should already be well aware of the effects of sexism in her own life, despite being married to a feminist husband. Yes, there’s a difference in degree between what middle-class women in the US experience, and what women experience in other countries, but a lot of those differences are deeply rooted in culture and class, things that she wouldn’t truly understand by “wearing a burqa for a day.”

Also, there’s stuff that she’s getting into that’s presented incompletely or inaccurately:

  • She’s going to shave her head as an example of how women in India face a “social death” when they become widows. What she doesn’t say is that men in India also shave their heads and facial hair to express grief. The head-shaving is the part that actually has the least to do with the gender inequality.
  • She’s going to spend time in a menstruation hut for three days to highlight how certain cultures feel about the “uncleanliness” of menstruation. However, many Native American tribes had menstruation huts for their women for exactly the opposite reason. There was no shame in menstruation – on the contrary, it was a way to honor women in their natural state, and for four days out of the month, women in the tribe would commune with each other and engage in a strong oral tradition. This makes me wonder if her knowledge of menstruation huts in Mali and the Congo is based in fact, or based on the assumptions of an outsider looking in and not understanding what they’re seeing.
  • Spending a night in a shelter is not the same thing as experiencing domestic violence or homelessness. Applying to work at Hooters is not the same as being a victim of sex trafficking. And she’s going to “be a subservient wife?” What exactly does that mean? And she’s already chosen to stay home and raise her daughter rather than work. Which is a TOTALLY valid choice, but it’s still generally only a choice the woman in the relationship has to make. No one expects Dad to stay home to raise the child. And if he does choose to do so, he’s hailed as The Most Awesome Person in the Land, while Working Mom feels guilty for being a “bad parent.”
  • Also, has she given any thought to how LGBT people, both here and globally, experience gender? Like, at all?

Her heart’s in the right place – I’m not saying she’s a horrible person – I just think that this particular experiment is a little misguided and feeds into class-ism and ethnocentrism, albeit unintentionally. I’m not the first person to criticize mainstream feminist discourse for for focusing on white women who are middle-class and above while treating women of different cultures and classes as “other.” While she says that she wants to examine her prejudices and privilege, I feel like this whole exercise is an example of her privilege. I feel that, by doing something like this, Jennifer is reinforcing the fact that “those” people have it worse than we do, when the truth is, it’s all the same fight. This seems like a stunt somehow. I’d be happier if she focused on the interview component of what she wants to do. Let these women tell THEIR stories. Give THEM a voice, rather than trying to imitate what they go through. Nothing she does for a limited amount of time is going to give her insight that’s any more real than talking to women who actually LIVE this on a daily basis.

What do you all think? Feel free to comment below. And Jennifer, if you ever read this, please know that I’m not criticizing your cred or your intentions, but I am concerned with your methods, and I would love to hear more about how and why you’re doing this, should you choose to share.

I Hate Black History Month?

This video is just over two years old, but I came across it yesterday while looking for other stuff, clicked on it because of the obviously sensationalistic title, and watched it. You might want to take a moment and do the same:

I don’t want to vilify this girl, as the point she is making is an understandable one. Why not just erase all differences and just see each other as people? If we want everyone to be treated equally, why do we have to emphasize our differences through things like Black History Month, or Women’s History Month, or Hispanic Heritage Month? I was a lot like this girl when I was in high school. I remember applying for colleges and not wanting to specify on my applications that I was Puerto Rican, because it was important to me to get in based on merit, not because they needed to fill some kind of quota. I remember not wanting to stand out as different then, because I thought that my difference was the symptom of a problem. That if people saw me as different, I must be doing something wrong.

When the fact of the matter is, differences exist.

The girl who made this video is two years older now, and I wonder how she feels about the issue today. (I’m trying to ignore the sinking feeling that the only reason she posted the video in the first place was to be controversial and up the clicks on her YouTube page. I’m trying not to be that cynical.) The video seems indicative of a naive, yet understandable phase in a person’s life. Naive, ignorant, and wrong.

The thing is, and what I didn’t understand when I was in high school, is that the reason why these holidays exist and laws like Affirmative Action exist, is because the effects of racism are still felt to this day. The effects of slavery are still felt to this day. The effects of Europeans coming here and pushing Native Americans off their land (or going to Puerto Rico to push native Tainos off theirs), are still being felt to this day. It’s the “price we pay” for living in a country born of disparate peoples being shoved together that we have to acknowledge difference. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring it the way more homogeneous places do.

But that’s the very reason that these differences should not only be acknowledged, but celebrated. Because these differences make this country what it is. And because people, being what they are, get distracted very easily, and we need celebrations like Black History Month to remind us that yes, this country is great because we were born out of difference and we would be nothing without the contributions of each and every ethnic group that calls it home. We also need them to remind us of the times when we were at our worst – slavery, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the racism that lingers today – so we don’t go back to those places ever again; so that we see how bad things can get if we’re not careful. We need to be students of history. Always.

And that, ultimately, is the problem this girl has,  most kids have, and sadly many adults have. She has no sense of history, or any real knowledge of what it means. She only knows right now. The thing is, Right Now is affected by Back Then, and we need to know that and not be so controlled by our On Demand/internet/now, now, now mentality that we forget that there was another way once.

To quote Battlestar Galactica, “This has all happened before, and it will all happen again…” But it doesn’t have to. Not if we are careful. Not if we live deliberately, rather than just being pushed along by life. We can change the world, but how do we expect to do that if we forget what we’re changing it from?

So, Happy Black History Month! Celebrate by looking into the Black achievers in whatever your field of interest is. For example, I plan on seeking out Black writers of sci-fi and fantasy this month – might even share them here with you if you’re nice. 🙂 And I’ll leave you with this video – a poem by Julian Curry. It’s another old video, but no less timely:

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