m jacqui alexander

Of course, the failure of decolonization springs from different sources.

First, the avid embrace of new structures of imperialism, such as structural adjustment, that in essence adjust economic and political violence makes it almost impossible for the bulk of the population in ‘‘former’’ colonies, and for working-class communities and those of color in metropolitan countries, to live with dignity. Second, there is a fierce denial on the part of the state and other institutions, including the academy, that their own contemporary practices of racialization have been shaped by their refusal to admit and confront their historical complicity in racism against indigenous people of color on these shores. Third, the fierce revival of ethnonationalisms of different kinds has frustrated solidarity projects.

Part of our own unfinished work, therefore, is to remember the objective fact of these systems of power and their ability to graft themselves onto the very minute interstices of our daily lives. It means that we are all defined in some relationship to them, in some relationship to hierarchy. Neither complicity (usually cathected onto someone else) nor vigilance (usually reserved for ourselves) is given to any of us before the fact of our living. Both complicity and vigilance are learned in this complicated process of figuring out who we are and who we wish to become. The far more difficult question we must collectively engage has to do with the political positions (in the widest sense) that we come to practice, not merely espouse; the mutual frameworks we adopt, as we live (both consciously and unconsciously) our daily lives. No matter our countries of origin, decolonization is a project for all

Pedagogies of Crossing, M. Jacqui Alexander

To the extent that citizenship is contained within heterosexuality, the state can produce a group of nonprocreative noncitizens who are objects of its surveillance and control – subjected to its processes of normalization and naturalization that serve to veil the ruses of power.
—  M. Jacqui Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (2005)
Part of our own unfinished work, therefore is to remember the objective fact of these systems of power and their ability to graft themselves onto the very minute interstices of our daily lives. It means that we are all defined in some relationship to them, in some relationship to hierarchy. Neither complicity (usually cathected onto someone else) nor vigilance (usually reserved for ourselves) is given to any of us before the fact of our living. Both complicity and vigilance are learned in this complicated process of figuring out who we are and who we wish to become.
—  M. Jacqui Alexander - Pedagogies of Crossing

When we have failed at solidarity work we often retreat, struggling to convince ourselves that this is indeed the work we have been called on to do. The fact of the matter is that there is no other work but the work of creating and re-creating ourselves within the context of community. Simply put, there is no other work. It took five hundred years, at least in this hemisphere, to solidify the division of things that belong together. But it need not take us another five hundred years to move ourselves out of this existential impasse. Spirit work does not conform to the dictates of human time, but it needs our courage, revolutionary patience, and intentional shifts in consciousness so that we can anchor the struggle for social justice within the ample space of the erotic.

M. Jacqui Alexander, “Remembering ‘This Bridge Called My Back’, Remembering Ourselves,” Pedagogies of Crossing

We are not born women of color. We become women of color. In order to become women of color, we would need to become fluent in each others’ histories, to resist and unlearn an impulse to claim first oppression, most-devastating oppression, one-of-a-kind oppression, defying comparison oppression. We would have to unlearn an impulse that allows mythologies about each other to replace knowing about one another. We would need to cultivate a way of knowing in which we direct our social, cultural, psychic, and spiritually marked attention on each other. We cannot afford to cease yearning for each others’ company.

M. Jacqui Alexander, “Remembering ‘This Bridge Called My Back’, Remembering Ourselves,” Pedagogies of Crossing

If the academy as a political space is absent from our syllabi, even as experience remains central to feminist thinking, surely there is a major contradiction here. We may be erasing our own experiences (and the profoundly material effects of our locations) at our own peril.
—  M. Jacqui Alexander & Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Cartographies of Knowledge and Power: Transnational Feminist as Radical Praxis,” appearing in Richa Nagar & Amanda Lock Swarr’s Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis

anonymous asked:

have you guys seen the post floating around about when PoC/WoC is appropriate to use and when it is not? i was only introduced to the term when i joined tumblr but i connected with it immediately. however, i feel like the article has some valid points, and i need to reevaluate when/how i use the term. what are your guys' thoughts?

There are a lot of posts like that floating around so without a URL to definitively go to I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same one(s). 

Attanya and I literally had this conversation a few days ago though so chances are we probably agree with the post. We clearly like the term Woman of Color and think it can be extremely useful - but not all the time. Some of the things we were talking about, in terms of what really bothers us personally when people use PoC/WoC are:

1) People using the term to imply that all People of Color experience the same things like we’re one homogenous group. This is just false. People of Color can be a really great term to use, but if you’re talking about a specific group of people, don’t use the catch-all. This is especially relevant when someone’s talking about anti-Blackness but they act like it’s an all-PoC experience. Using PoC like this is actually really harmful because it erases our differences and oppressions within this gigantic group of peoples. We need to use details and nuances.


2) Related - when people use the strict dichotomy of white or Person of Color like these are the only two groups in the world. It’s incredibly homogenizing, as stated above. It’s like people really don’t understand that there are hundreds of cultures, experiences, peoples, etc. that fall under the umbrella term of People of Color.

3) When people either actively ignore (or just don’t know) the origins of these terms. Woman of Color is not just an ethnoracial identifier. It is supposed to be an active term of political solidarity. It was created by Black women in the U.S. to actively chose to work with other nonwhite women. The term itself is a social construction (like everything) and a sociopolitical identifier. Learn your history, y’all, seriously. Stop erasing the Black women behind our go-to terms. I now firmly believe you should not be calling yourself a Woman of Color if you’re not committed to active solidarity work regardless of ethnoracial background.  Seriously, everyone please read these (a very short list of just a handful of texts on this matter):

4) Connected - people who identify as a Person of Color and then use that excuse to engage in / defend their anti-Blackness. Do I even need to explain this one? So many Black women have talked about this in detail and it’s blatantly ignored. Non-Black People of Color really think that being nonwhite is an excuse, particularly when contributing to misogynoir. 

5) When people think that you’re either a white person or you’re a Person of Color. A lot of times we (I’ve done this before which I really regret) forget that whiteness is not static. Someone who was once not considered white could be / is white now. But furthermore, when we assume that just because a group is racialized as nonwhite, it means that they are People of Color. This  happens a lot retroactively - for example, just because the Irish were considered nonwhite, does not mean that they were People of Color. This is dangerous because it actively takes the term PoC/WoC out of its context and presupposes that everyone, short of like Anglo-Saxon Brits, were at one point in history People of Color. Sometimes it feels like people think that the definition of Person of Color is “my people were colonized by a dominant white group.” Related to this is also when we (mostly U.S. Americans but not exclusively) apply our racial categories to other countries. Some oppressions, like anti-Black racism are universal. Some are not. And there are a looooot of people who aren’t from the U.S. who talk about this U.S.-centricity when it comes to racism. Those are really important posts (and/but also: we can’t forget where terms like “Women of Color” come from. See point 3).

 Attanya and I didn’t really say anything that people haven’t already brought up, which is really important. These were some of the major things I remembered from our personal conversation (I also asked Attanya to read this over before publishing it so I didn’t miss anything or put words in her mouth).

- Jennifer (and Attanya, who has cosigned this post)