01 February 2007


I have officially finished moving to my new blog at http://nosnowhere.wordpress.com and I will no longer be posting here, so please come check me out!

29 January 2007


I only started blogging a little over a month ago, and I've already decided to move to another service because I keep hearing about how much better WordPress is than Blogger. So far, I'm not so sure, but we'll see. Check for me here http://nosnowhere.wordpress.com/ from now on!

Using the Restroom while Arab & Trans

From Women of Color Blog (emphasis mine):

[Nadine Naber] also talked about how transgendered Arab feminists are being forced into terrible positions in bathrooms–when a woman assumes a transgendered woman is indeed an Arab male–the assumption then becomes “What is this Arab male doing in a woman’s bathroom? Is he there to blow the place up?” Thus, transgendered Arabs are not only dealing with the prospect of being beaten up for being a man in a woman’s bathroom, but also being arrested for being a terrorist in a womans bathroom. Naber wrapped up by saying that “an analysis of the lives of women and men doesn’t adequatly cover the experiences of all people” and it’s our jobs as radical women of color to begin examining how we can better confront these forms of violence in our organizing.

26 January 2007

Bettye Saar imagery at college "ghetto party"

Bettye Saar's The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972) reframes the ubiquitos image of the jolly, happy-to-serve "mammy" by suggesting--with the gun-- that, contrary to common modes of representing black life on screen and in print, black people are most definately not content and that, as suggested by the black fist, revolutions are being plotted and change is impending.

At Tarleton State University, in Stephenville, TX (about sixty miles from Dallas/Fort Worth, the city of my birth), some students saw fit to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday by hosting a "ghetto party." From BREITBART.com(emphasis mine):

Photographs posted on social networking Web site Facebook.com showed partygoers wearing Afro wigs and fake gold and silver teeth. One photo showed students "mocking how African-Americans do step shows," Elder said. In another picture, a student is dressed as Aunt Jemima and carries a gun.

I immedietly thought of Saar's "The Liberation of Aunt Jemima," but I can only speculate on whether or not this student was familiar with the work. It's possible that she wasn't familiar with the imagery. A quick look at Tarleton State's website shows that they offer a BFA in Fine Art but no degrees in Art History, and no art history classes either. So then why include a gun with your Aunt Jemima costume? Because it's "gangsta?" And if this student was aware of the imagery her costume referenced, what exactly was the costume mocking? Attempts by black people to assert an identity in visual representation that is threatening to the white power structure? The desire to rise up and revolt? The anger of a people who have been owned, subjugated, abused and tortured by a white power structure and who continue to be negatively affected in multiple arenas of life by the same power structure?

In the photo I found, she has her hands full with a 40oz. and some syrup and there is no gun. You can view a slideshow of the images that were posted on facebook at The Smoking Gun.

For those who don't know, "ghetto parties" are events where a predominately white group of young people (I would say it is usually people of my generation, in their teens and twenties, who throw these parties) get together to eat fried chicken, drink malt liquor and mock any and all aspects of black culture. Even though I know that these parties exist, and I know of actual people who throw them and attend them, I always find myself a little surprised when I hear of new cases.

These "incidents" bring up issues of affirmative action and equality in higher education, as well as issues of equality in the judicial system. As Philip Arthur Moore notes in response to another "ghetto party" that occured at the University of Conneticut School of Law the weekend following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, "One thing that comes to mind is the reality that the legal system will one day be run by these people. Would it be a stretch to say, then, that the legal system is racist? Because these parties surely are." You can view the facebook photos of the UConn Law School party at The Smoking Gun.

Because these students were foolish enough to post these photos to the internet, we now have visual evidence of a lot of things we already knew. When these students thought about black life, and how to impersonate it, these are the things they came up with. When they think of black people, this is what they come up with. One student asserts that "the photos of the black students in attendance were not released to the media," but what this student fails to acknowledge is the pervasiveness of socialized self-hate and the reality that inclusion of people of color does not prevent a "ghetto party" from being racist. Another thing we already know is that these students will not be expelled, and will go on to have a better shot at available jobs than their non-white classmates, and their employers and family members will most likely write this off as just a crazy college party. At least this is what I think will happen, but I would love to be proven wrong.

[edit] from Racialicious: XXL has a good solution: New rule: if you make fun of ghettos, you have to go to one.

23 January 2007

Girl Germs

Arab women bloggers have been speaking directly to my heart this week! Amal at Improvisations: Arab Woman Proggressive Voice writes:
I was reminded of such a life-changing moment this morning. I was 14. Your typical painfully self-conscious, self-centered, angular, awkward girl. A "good girl" to boot: the "from home to school" type, with the occasional visit to a friend's house. One day on such a visit, I ran into my friend's parents sitting with other relatives. Doing what I'm expected to do, I approached them to shake hands, as it is the habit. When I extended my hand to the father, my hand just hung there. All alone. Not met. Spurned. Rejected. Embarrassed. Humiliated. The man muttered a quick greeting that I didn't hear. I went deaf. I became all Hand. Hands don't have ears or mouths or eyes. But, god, do they feel!!

The whole encounter took seconds but lasted a life time. That was the first time I learned that some Muslim men won't shake my hand. Even at 14 I have shaken many a man's hand--cousins, uncles, family friends, neighbors, strangers--but this was my first encounter with a Muslim man who refused to shake hands.

I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit. I wasn't interested in knowing the theological justification for it; I didn't do research to see which Muslim school allowed a man to shake hands with a woman and which didn't. I didn't give a damn. I only cared about how it made me feel--about my body and my female being. It wasn't a good feeling. I wanted to disappear and wished the ground would open and swallow me. I shrank, physically and psychologically. I wished I had no hands, no breasts, no lips, no eyes, no thighs, no vagina. I wished I were nothing.

And I smarted for weeks. Exactly the way I smarted years later when a jerk grabbed my breast in a crowded street in the Old City of Jerusalem.
I don't have anything more to add at this time, but this post did get me thinking about Muslim and Arab cultural niceties expected of young women. I am Arab American, emphasis on the American, and when I went to Amman in 2000 I was sixteen and hadn't learned these niceties. I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of being the only one in a large group of people for an extended period of time who isn't acclimated to their social mores and modes of interaction--if you are an immigrant maybe you know what I'm talking about--but it's not easy. When I accepted gifts from people and was later told that when someone offers me something, I am supposed to refuse it at first and only accept if they insist, I was so embarrassed. When my Tata hissed at my cousins and I, saying we were like whores because we were laughing on the street, I felt stifled by all the rules. When I kissed a distant uncle, who I hadn't seen since I was nine, and my aunt told me I shouldn't greet men that way, I thought, "Damn, I can't do anything right." And to this day I get slightly upset when strangers [who are Arab or who I perceive to be Arab] offer me things, like for example their chair at a crowded event, because I almost feel as thought I'm being tricked! On Fridays when I pass the men leaving the Islamic Center by my house, I keep my eyes down, but when I am in the street with my friends I talk and laugh as loud as I want to.

21 January 2007

Portland: Women & Trans D.I.Y. Eating Disorder Support Group

I just saw this today, so it is a little late, but I thought I'd post it anyway. Cut and pasted from a friendster (which I haven't looked at in years) bulletin:

Subject: Portland: Women & Trans D.I.Y. Eating Disorder Support Group
Message: This is a non-professional,
non-hierarchal discussion/support group
for people in
all stages of recovery. What we hope to
achieve with this group is to have a place
of support where we can be honest about
these issues without fear of judgement
and/or ridicule. Strictly confidential,
anonymity is respected. Open to everyone
who feels like this speaks to them,
regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Open to all body types.

This is a radical group, meaning totally
do-it-yourself and unprofessional, but this
is not an activist group. Our first
session will be Sunday, January 21,
2007. If
you would like to RSVP or need more
information, please e-mail

please re-post and tell your friends.

20 January 2007

Born Palestinian...in America

I often feel that, as people of color, our authenticating factor is the extent to which we've suffered due to our status as people of color, and also the specific ways in which we've suffered. And the more we have suffered in those ways, the more authenticly Other we are. If we have not suffered a sufficient amount in those specific ways, our authenticity is called into question. This can be a self-conscious feeling and/or actually expressed by other members of our group. Both our right to inclusion in our group and the work we do to help our communities might be called into question based on any educational, economic or citizenship privileges we may have or be perceived as having.

It seems that being Palestinian is synonymous with suffering, but what about being a '48 Palestinian who grew up somewhere else, who's parents grew up somewhere else? What about being a Palestinian American? Al-Falasteenyia's recent post summed up a lot of things that I have been thinking about recently.

And as I walked I began to imagine what would happen if these streets were filled with the IDF tanks…enforcing a curfew- locking everyone indefinitely in their apartments. What if soldiers vandalized these very shops- kill these very pedestrians-….and I tired to picture myself living, witnessing 1948. It’s one thing to always talk about it, but I am sure it’s nothing like being there, seeing it. It is like how I always talk about Palestine, and my identity as a Palestine, totally disconnected from the events that continue to effect me and shape who I am.
Looking back it, I was used to (and still am) experiencing Palestine in academic settings, intellectual panels/convo’s, and activism....that had shaped my identity. But all this was gone now, as I sat in a huge room with other Palestinians, waiting. Right then and there, I lost my identity. To be a Palestinian meant sitting at borders and checkpoints, it meant living it everday- and not through reading the news, or being an activist, or wearing a hatta, or thinking about Palestinians “over there”. It meant “being there”….and I know this issue has come up before in previous posts I’ve written- on being, or not being, a Palestinian. It’s just that this term has come to mean so many things….my life is different from other Palestinians in that I do not experience apartheid everyday. I acknowledge it of course, campaign against it, but I don’t actually experience it. and my brief 4 day journey into Palestine, was barely an experience….it was like the tip of the ice berg. On the other side of things, as an American, my ethnic background is always questioned: and people can never guess- I mean they try to- I’ve been previously classified as Russian, Romanian, Canadian, French, Spanish, Italian, British, Iranian, Albanian, Greek, Latina….i can go on- but the point here is classification. Everyone here in America must be classified (on a societal level). If you are multiracial, well people want an explanation….I’ve found out that they can’t not know your background. They want to know- and this is true of everyone. It only becomes an issue when the observer takes a look at u and cant decide right away if you’re black, white, or Dominican. So they become confused….afterall, how else are they to interact with you? And in these cases, after a few guesses I do not hesitate to tell people I’m Palestinian. For example, at the Doc’s office one of the technicians asked me and she seemed puzzeled at my answer…like she’s never heard of such a thing. Her colleuage turned to her and said, “Palestinian! Don’t you know? Palestine, next to Israel…” Then of course you have people who, no matter how many times you tell them you are Palestinian, insist that you are Pakastani- but I digress.
What does being Palestinian mean to me? I hadn't thought of it specifically before. To me, identifying as Palestinian in the US is important because it increases visibility, it let's people know that, yes, we do exist.

Re: the D Exhibit

Come to the "Re: the D" exhibit this Friday, January 26th! The show is located in the new Wayne State University student run gallery (so new it doesn't have a name yet), which can be accessed by entering Old Main's (which is at the corner of Cass and Warren) side entrance, near the Elaine L. Jacobs Gallery. If you need further directions, check here. I have two pieces in the show.

19 January 2007

A Poem for my Mother

When he was two
my brother asked
"Mama, when will I go to live with my real mama?"
"I am your real mama," she answered
but he kept asking for years.

The first night we moved to Amman
the kids ran home and left him at the corner store
and he walked, never crossing the street,
until he was so far away
he sat on the curb and cried.

My uncle's old white van
sped to the masjid
where a nice man had taken my brother
and my mother
hugged him and kissed him
and cried out of joy.

Fourteen years later
in her kitchen, chopping onions
my auntie tells me
she couldn't believe it
because when she saw her own daughter
practically fall out of their ninth story window
she ran up the stairs
to beat her
"and your mother just held him
kissed him and said 'it's okay, it's okay.'"

Because my mother has always loved us
more more more
and I don't know how she does it
in the face of being asked,
"Mama, when will I go to live with my real mama?"