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BRAND X

Orphaned transracial international ungrateful insurgent Class Bastard.

Posts tagged eating the other

Sep 15 '14

White People Need Not Always Reply

  • Me: "*rolls eyes* *files nails*"
  • White person: "Oh wow, are you angry while getting a manicure?"
  • Me: "Winning!" (in reply to someone telling me something awesome)
  • White person: "What sport do you play?"
  • Me: "Girrrrrrl..." (in reply to a Black woman)
  • White person: "Okay girlfriend! Sister! I raise my fist too!"
  • Me: "Wah gwan?"
  • White person: "I went to Jamaica once! I got cornrows!"
  • Me: "About to watch a movie."
  • White person: "Well watch these 15 films, here are 7 links to my favorite TV shows, buy these 86 DVDs and I will DM you every cinema experience I ever had. Did you want my Netflix listing? Who's your favorite actor? Do you watch Tyler Perry? Halle Berry is so hot!"
  • Me: "Ashy Larry Twitter, wayment, whatchu talmbout?"
  • White person: "I am 3 of 5. Resistance is futile. Must now either degrade AAVE or use AAVE. Resistance is futile."
  • Me: "So when Black men..."
  • White person: "All men; there is no racism or specific issues for Black men. All. ALL. AAAALLLL!!!!"
  • Me: "So, fellow Black women..."
  • White person: "ALL women. Ally! You're divisive. What about feminism? Unity! Me me me me me."
  • Me: "So this particular issue in the Black community..."
  • White person: "Hey, what about ALL humans? Race is a social construct thereby racism is imaginary. [Blah blah], [hot air], [misdirection], [derailment], [false equalization], [ahistorical analysis], [anti-intersectionality], [White privilege], [ad hominem], [racism], [White supremacy], [White Tears™], meeeeeeee!"
Sep 14 '14

How White Supremacy Creates Paternalism and Violence In “Sex Positivity” Discourse

gradientlair:

I find “sex positivity” politics to be paternalistic and violent. Paternalistic and violent. My tolerance for it is at about the level of my tolerance of street harassment now. These politics remain White supremacist, cishet-focused and anti-intersectional. They are about forced sexuality in unwelcome spaces (and then judgment when that force is critiqued) and assault (when people are aware of others’ boundaries, have been made aware several times and yet find pleasure not in their sexual freedom itself, but in denying choice to others) more than about empowerment for all women since no one sexual politic about “all women” could exist any more than any one articulation of feminism in praxis could ever exist

If intersectionality (H/T Kimberlé Crenshaw) reveals that not all women experience gender in the same way, if it shows that not all women—even ones that share race/gender/class/sexual orientation oppression for which intersectionality itself was first articulated on—experience oppression in the same way, why on earth would a politics of “sex positivity” that continues to center Whiteness, heterosexuality, phallocentrism, and almost a willful disregard for the varying histories of sexual politics for women who are not White (and especially Black women for whom the construction of White womanhood could not exist without making Black womanhood the antithesis) be something accurate and of interest to me?

There is no articulation of “sex positivity” by mainstream feminism that will ever mean anything to me. It is regularly paternalism and violence. In the same way that their feminism itself does not speak to my experience and I regularly have to avoid it or interrogate it—hence womanism shapes my lens by which I view, experience and challenge the world—is the same way that I have to avoid or interrogate their “sex positivity” politics. One can only be triggered on a daily basis for so long. One can only stomach the paternalism of White sermons about how sex is “political” for some people for so long. Oh how nice, sexual politics history from women who are always considered human and “people” to start with. Must be nice. (Really White women, you’re gonna educate me on feminism? This is laughable. Check the repertoire.) This paternalism is what causes their concern trolling for Black women who express their sexuality freely and openly yet judgment for ones whose sexual politics may more often involve the word NO, as I wrote about in For Me, Sex Positivity Involves The Word “NO.”

For some reason, lack of discernment and lack of respect for boundaries is now called “liberation.” So, I have to applaud every disgusting, poorly made, hideous, and violent sexual Vine video that comes across my Twitter timeline or is forced into my mentions to “prove” how “sex positive” I am. Every sexual photo, especially of a phallus, must be praised. Every non-sexual conversation that I have in peace with someone that I actually like in social media—which is so, so few people—has to be forcefully turned into a conversation where someone who I have never seen in my life then discusses their sexual intercourse frequency, desires, or fantasies. Every time I share an image of a celebrity or “beautiful” person, I can’t get replies on the quality of the photograph (I’m a photographer, sue me) and the beauty of the person (since other types of attraction exist; not solely sexual); people have to go a step further with graphic sexual explanations and forced and repeated sexual commentary that dominates my Twitter mentions for hours or days. I don’t even mean simple sexual comments such as "my body is ready" or "that person in the photo can get it!" which coming from people that I know and trust can be very funny and jokes I’ve made myself (though admittedly I don’t want to hear this every single time I share a photo). These comments that I am speaking of are usually much more graphic and violent at times. Worse, these people will then conflate my rejection of their violence as me being anti-sex in general or anti-sex work which is categorically false. Their slander is attached to the idea that I must accept their violence to “prove” I support women.

Much of this endless violence on a daily basis—yes, a daily and at times hourly occurrence—is only in response to the last several months of me discussing asexuality. Some of this is very new abuse. Some people who would’ve never said a thing to me about sex before now do so solely because I write about asexuality. People feel that I should be punished for this identification because of several factors. In general, asexuality is misunderstood and/or hated. It is the one time I’ve watched some queer people align with their oppressors, some heterosexual people, to degrade asexual people. They’re a team on the topic. A lot of it has to do with how I am perceived in the male gaze—as “pretty” quite often, thereby I should automatically be “available” to men, particularly cishet Black men. If a person is viewed as “attractive” then how dare they choose not to be sexual (though some asexual people have had sex before and/or do have sex; attraction is not behavior). It also has to do with how I am perceived in the White Gaze—as a Black woman, thereby “hypersexual” and automatically heterosexual. Thus, speaking of my perspectives and experiences as an ace violates other people’s perception of who I should be and thereby they feel that I should be punished. Hence the paternalism and violence.

Obviously being a Black woman complicates this. Some White women behave as if they’re getting “street cred” by forcing sexual conversations with me. This is why at past jobs White women would immediately tell me about all of the Black men they’ve fucked or their sexual desires when I barely cleared my 90 days at jobs, when we had no relationship other than getting paychecks from the same place. Their consistent need to dominate and consume where Black bodies are concerned shapes their “sex positivity.” It feeds their eat pray love syndrome of “slumming” and fucking their way to “liberation” by use of Black bodies and bodies of colour as tools and props. And when the racism involved in this “sex positivity” is called out, they claim it is “misogyny” even if the ones doing the calling out are Black women. If the “purity” of White womanhood is “liberated” by mimicking the stereotypical concept of the “deviance” of Black womanhood, then they have to project every sexual action—whether words, forced conversations, stereotypes, cultural appropriation, or actual sex with Black people—onto any Black people that they can. What better person to do it on than a Black woman who is an ace since to them asexuality for Black women has always meant the loving “mammy” who listens, not the sexual orientation and empowered stance that asexuality can be and is for me, as I wrote about in Black Womanhood, Asexuality and Agency. Instead, asexuality, queerness and heterosexuality for Black women is viewed as “the mammy,” “the deviant” and “the Jezebel” in the White Gaze. Oh boy, oh boy the White supremacy to unpack from “sex positivity” makes my skin fucking crawl. The impact of White supremacy on sexuality itself is something that I discussed in The Large Space That White Supremacy Occupies In Conversations About Sexuality.

"Sex positivity" as articulated by Black women hasn’t been perfect for me either, but much better and definitely much safer. While there are a few Black women who also do not seem to understand boundaries and respect, feel that forced sexuality conversation is “freedom” (and why they do is much different from why White women do), and that “sex positivity” is more performative than intrinsic to Black feminist or womanist politics, many have to be told something only once. If I say, “well this particular thing is a NO for me” they’re told once. We don’t argue about it on a daily basis. There’s no paternalism or violence. And this definitely is shaped by the fact that our bodies and sexual choices have been colonized for so long that some of us are committed to not also being oppressors. It’s more imperative for us since our value as human beings is regularly tied to sexuality based on misogynoiristic lies and oppressive constructions such as controlling images. Black women don’t have the luxury of pretending that “sex positivity” as articulated by mainstream feminism is a blanket liberating tool. Most of it rests on the notion of “deviant” Black womanhood anyway. That’s why Black women clearly make more effort and intersectionality is considered in “sex positivity” as opposed to a space where our liberation is based on the degradation of another woman in the way that mainstream feminism’s “sex positivity” remains anti-intersectional while standing on the backs of women who aren’t cishet and White. (When I want to hear and experience messages of what doesn’t feel like abusive and oppressive notions about sexuality, I often turn to some Black women’s music.)

I’ve talked to Black women about consent, dating, sexual intercourse, sexual orientation, desire, same-race relationships, interracial relationships, celibacy, BDSM, sex work and more with an ease and safety that is not there for me with Whites or men. And since the latter refuse to acknowledge how stereotypes about who I am as a Black woman matters to them more than who I am, Trudy, the person they may have followed online for months or years, their conversations remain cyclically abusive, paternalistic and down right violent. For the ones who aren’t simply ignorant and presumptuous about my sexual orientation and sexuality, it’s purposeful harm they’re engaging in. Their need to harm me is so important, as if they do not already harm me via their privilege and via White supremacy and patriarchy which benefits them. So this “extra” need to harm on an interpersonal level is so caustically violent and sickening. Worse, some seem to equate my choice to engage in conversation about sexuality at times with permission for them to use that discourse to harm me at unrelated and/or non-consensual times. I do not feel safe discussing anything about sexuality with Whites (and I mean in a sociopolitical sense; I am NOT making a value judgment on interpersonal interracial relationships). 

I am done with “sex positivity” as it is currently articulated. I don’t want this White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchal construction anywhere near me any more than I want mainstream feminism anywhere near me. In fact, I would argue that it IS mainstream feminism. My womanism is always one that embraces people of any sexual orientation, the right to any consensual sexual choices or non-sexual choices without stigma and shame rooted in oppression that facilitate oppression, the space for intersectional perspectives on sexuality and why notions of gender, womanhood, choice and agency vary, and the space to acknowledge while respect of choice and agency themselves is critical, actual worshipping of each individual choice even when that choice is harmful for me as a Black woman and only benefits White women is antithetical to the wholeness that womanism articulates. My womanism is not one that can indulge White supremacy as “sex positive.” 

Sexual politics will never be intersectionality-neutral space. As long as “sex positivity” remains about forcing sexuality and only particular conceptions of sexuality, it will remain abusive and beneficial only to a very small group of women, the same ones who regularly get to decide what is feminist or not while standing on the backs of the women they’re judging. If “sex positivity” means that White women get to decide what my boundaries are, it is White supremacy. If it means that only sexual intercourse itself matters, not all the politics that shape sex long before the bedroom, it will remain patriarchal. If it means that the history of the colonization of Black women’s bodies must be excluded from the conversation when that colonization is what White womanhood itself cannot exist without, it will remain oppressive.

A week ago someone said to me that they thought that “sex positivity” was supposed to be "sex is good." I replied I thought it was ”any consensual sexual or non-sexual choice should be considered valid and stigma-free.” Obviously my thoughts on the matter don’t even remotely relate to “sex positivity.” I was delusional. And of course the "if it’s not perfect, then it’s not the thing mentioned" people will come to derail. The same ones who claim TERFs or racists aren’t “real” feminists because they don’t want to take responsibility for how actual feminists harm will claim that the people who do what I have described here aren’t “really” “sex positive.” They can save it. My disinterest is palpable.

I have no problem with sexuality itself; clearly. I discuss it often with responsible people, which of course is then derailed by violent notions of “sex positivity” or the actual “sex is shame” type of respectability politics-loving patriarchal misogynoiristic type of people. My problem is about *how* people choose to engage me on the topic; without consent, with paternalism and with a frame of violence. My problem with “sex positivity” as popularly articulated is my problem with White supremacy or patriarchy. It oppresses me. It does not liberate me. This "we’ll show them!" attitude where since sex is shamed then forced sexuality becomes pride is a binary that I want no part of. The fact that people need to “perform” their non-consensual “sex positivity” for me on a triggering hourly/daily basis—especially after asked not to on a daily basis—is violence. There’s nothing “positive” about it. 

Related Post: Physical Arousal As “Proof” Of The Non-Existence of Asexuality Is Bigoted And Supports Rape Culture

Aug 27 '14
lakotapeopleslawproject:

Please Keep Sharing and become a Member at http://lakota.cc/1kvf8ka to help create a foster care system run by Lakota, for Lakota and end the corrupt practices of the state of South Dakota.The children of the nine Lakota tribes of South Dakota, over the past ten-year period, have been ten times more likely to be taken by the state than White children. Every year since 2001, an average of 742 Lakota children have been seized and forcibly removed from, not only their Lakota parents, but, indeed, from their entire Lakota tribe and culture by the State of South Dakota and “placed” in all-White foster care settings. Approximately 10,000 such Lakota children have, therefore, been essentially kidnapped from their Indian culture since the beginning of this century. Although Lakota children make up less than 13 percent of the child population of the State of South Dakota, they make up over 60 percent of all of the children presently in state foster care institutions and non-native homes in the State of South Dakota. Lakota foster care children are indeed “money-makers” for the State of South Dakota, which classifies ALL Lakota children as “Special Needs Children”, thereby authorizing the State of South Dakota to collect up to $79,000 per child, amounting to some $65 million in federal monies per year for the state.
This must stop! Please show your support by becoming a member.

lakotapeopleslawproject:

Please Keep Sharing and become a Member at http://lakota.cc/1kvf8ka to help create a foster care system run by Lakota, for Lakota and end the corrupt practices of the state of South Dakota.

The children of the nine Lakota tribes of South Dakota, over the past ten-year period, have been ten times more likely to be taken by the state than White children. Every year since 2001, an average of 742 Lakota children have been seized and forcibly removed from, not only their Lakota parents, but, indeed, from their entire Lakota tribe and culture by the State of South Dakota and “placed” in all-White foster care settings. Approximately 10,000 such Lakota children have, therefore, been essentially kidnapped from their Indian culture since the beginning of this century. Although Lakota children make up less than 13 percent of the child population of the State of South Dakota, they make up over 60 percent of all of the children presently in state foster care institutions and non-native homes in the State of South Dakota.

Lakota foster care children are indeed “money-makers” for the State of South Dakota, which classifies ALL Lakota children as “Special Needs Children”, thereby authorizing the State of South Dakota to collect up to $79,000 per child, amounting to some $65 million in federal monies per year for the state.

This must stop! Please show your support by becoming a member.

Jul 23 '14
fanufactured:

rootworkn:

museumartblog:

museumartblog:

My dreads a few months ago. They changed fast.

Calm down guys. It’s just a picture of new dreads and loose hair. It takes a while to lock up. It’s a process.

Your blatent cultural appropriation and disrespect now has your hair looking like a fucking rats nest with pencils and dust bunnies in it.
You got an ask telling you what the problem is, and you ignored it- classic caught white girl. “Its just a hairstyle I like!”
That shit is not doing it.

Reblogging this to explain why there are people of color upset about this hideous, hideous display:
I am a man of color who wears locs. My hair has been loc’d since 2005. It is clean, I maintain it monthly, moisturize it weekly and wash it as needed (this can be multiple times a month if I’m feeling athletic and trying to get my fitness on). It is loc’d to the root. I went through the early loc’ing phase when I was in college but AT NO POINT did it look dirty, unclean or unwashed.
DAILY I have people who try to connect the dots between my hair and my race and use that against me. I have people (COWORKERS) who’ve thought I was a drug dealer (I barely drink) and have people who classify me as a thug because of the way I wear the hair God gave me.
People (white) who come up to me and tell me how they”dreaded their hair for a few months but cut it out because it was so dirty, you know what I mean?” I wear my hair pulled back in a neat ponytail 97% of the time because I know all this hair makes white people nervous. Imagine if everytime someone saw you they assumed you were dirty, simply because they tried to do something you did (locs) and failed because their hair texture wasn’t correct, and instead of realizing that maybe it was just their situation, they’ve decided to apply that to everyone they meet.
And this nasty, unwashed young woman who feels the need to rebel against something (probably a shower) is sitting up proclaiming to the world that she has locs?
White privilege at work. Not only would I be unemployed if I had the audacity to traipse into my job looking like the inside of a drain, but I would immediately be classified as more of a thug than people already THINK I AM.
That’s why we’re upset. Black women can’t even wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads without it being a national scandal, yet this unwashed, unclean, clearly disturbed individual whose friends obviously have not informed her of the error of her ways will walk out in public and people will not only accept her, they will applaud her for being so different and unique.
Women like this are DIRECTLY affecting my life in that almost everyone I encounter has a friend or a cousin who is her and has given an entire LEGION of people a bad rap.
This is why cultural appropriation is harmful: when we do something and excel at it, are professional about it, look good doing it, it’s worthless. But throw it on a white body doing it the most lazy, bastardized, mediocre way ever and suddenly not only is it OK, it’s amazing! And so much better! 
*PS It really does look horrible. 

I’ve seen better looking hair in a shower drain. [lolwhitepeople.gif]

fanufactured:

rootworkn:

museumartblog:

museumartblog:

My dreads a few months ago. They changed fast.

Calm down guys. It’s just a picture of new dreads and loose hair. It takes a while to lock up. It’s a process.

Your blatent cultural appropriation and disrespect now has your hair looking like a fucking rats nest with pencils and dust bunnies in it.

You got an ask telling you what the problem is, and you ignored it- classic caught white girl. “Its just a hairstyle I like!”

That shit is not doing it.

Reblogging this to explain why there are people of color upset about this hideous, hideous display:

I am a man of color who wears locs. My hair has been loc’d since 2005. It is clean, I maintain it monthly, moisturize it weekly and wash it as needed (this can be multiple times a month if I’m feeling athletic and trying to get my fitness on). It is loc’d to the root. I went through the early loc’ing phase when I was in college but AT NO POINT did it look dirty, unclean or unwashed.

DAILY I have people who try to connect the dots between my hair and my race and use that against me. I have people (COWORKERS) who’ve thought I was a drug dealer (I barely drink) and have people who classify me as a thug because of the way I wear the hair God gave me.

People (white) who come up to me and tell me how they”dreaded their hair for a few months but cut it out because it was so dirty, you know what I mean?” I wear my hair pulled back in a neat ponytail 97% of the time because I know all this hair makes white people nervous. Imagine if everytime someone saw you they assumed you were dirty, simply because they tried to do something you did (locs) and failed because their hair texture wasn’t correct, and instead of realizing that maybe it was just their situation, they’ve decided to apply that to everyone they meet.

And this nasty, unwashed young woman who feels the need to rebel against something (probably a shower) is sitting up proclaiming to the world that she has locs?

White privilege at work. Not only would I be unemployed if I had the audacity to traipse into my job looking like the inside of a drain, but I would immediately be classified as more of a thug than people already THINK I AM.

That’s why we’re upset. Black women can’t even wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads without it being a national scandal, yet this unwashed, unclean, clearly disturbed individual whose friends obviously have not informed her of the error of her ways will walk out in public and people will not only accept her, they will applaud her for being so different and unique.

Women like this are DIRECTLY affecting my life in that almost everyone I encounter has a friend or a cousin who is her and has given an entire LEGION of people a bad rap.

This is why cultural appropriation is harmful: when we do something and excel at it, are professional about it, look good doing it, it’s worthless. But throw it on a white body doing it the most lazy, bastardized, mediocre way ever and suddenly not only is it OK, it’s amazing! And so much better! 

*PS It really does look horrible. 

I’ve seen better looking hair in a shower drain.
[lolwhitepeople.gif]

Jul 15 '14

visualize-materialize:

tashabilities:

dragaljubavi:

carry-on-my-wayward-butt:

White People Not Getting The Point: A Channel 4 Special (2009)

A documentary special on Jane Elliot and her exercise in teaching 30 adults in the United Kingdom about racism in society, and people who absolutely refused to grasp the point.

these are great examples of white people who do not want to unlearn racism.

they do not want to battle against their white supremacy. they are comfortable being the powers of society. they are comfortable being perpetrators. they are uncomfortable being exposed to their racism. they do not want people of color to feel victims for their differences. but at the same time, they want to be victims, too. hmpf.

the school teacher scared me the most. she was most hardcore about maintaining and defending her racism. and she teaches children! yikes.

This is 99% of white people.

They do this shit on purpose, which is why I’m NEVER talking to them.

I was scrolling through my dash, read this and liked it; carried on thinking a reblog wasn’t necessary given the content of most of the blogs I follow here—I was wrong.

I’ve noticed (for some time now ) that a lot of people who run blogs of the “spirituality/peaceloveunity/new-age/cosmos/positivity” ilk are either entirely delusional or oblivious of their privileged.  Not surprising as most of said blogs are run by white people; some who festishize Eastern cultures; others who legitimately have an interest the in the religions/philosophies; even those who post with the intention of highlighting our unifying human condition via optimistic quotes. 

Despite their intentions I always find myself hovering over the “unfollow” button or rolling my eyes at whatever it is they’re unwittingly espousing. Below are two screen caps: one that I saw a few posts below this one, that caused me to write this post; and the second is an excerpt of Q&A from a very popular Eastern philosophy inspired blog. 


Note the tags and couple it with the commentary

Much like in the video, people who don’t experience racism refuse to see it even when it’s right in front of them. The explanation provided is in itself an assumption. Price difference in dark and light skinned dolls is not isolated to this incident; even the most cursory search can corroborate this.


Way to sidestep what could've been a great teaching experience

I get that this blog is all about trying to help people see things through a different scope. Most people who have taken an intro course to Eastern philosophies “gets” what LazyYogi is trying to do here. But at the same time it sidesteps a perfectly good opportunity to truly open peoples eyes to the actual/factual going-ons known as white privilege.
Again, like in the video, this response is turning it on the person calling out the privilege “This must be the reason for your distrust of any who discriminate in terms of such things.” 

Watch the video provided in the original post, look at those screen caps, read the commentary in this thread.

I’m not saying that these people are inherently bad people, just using them as examples as to how blind people are to this sort of thing. Even people who run blogs of the aforementioned nature have some of the same mentalities as those in the video.

Jul 11 '14
  • Mom: *says something racist*
  • Me: Mom that's racist.
  • Mom: How could I possibly be racist?! I have a Korean son and an African-American daughter!!!!
  • Me: *internalize the pain, internalize the exasperation, internalize the rage, internalize everything* Okay mom.
Jul 6 '14
"In his preface to Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters” Black people have served as a kind of mirror to whites, but not one that gives a true image: more like a warped, polished surface that provides a distorted representation.

Much of whites’ self-image has been constructed as a response to what they believe Blacks are not. If whites understand themselves to be superior, intellectually and culturally, then images of Blacks have signified ignorance and barbarity. It has been vital to maintain those reflections, no matter how hideously inaccurate. […] Black people, especially those conspicuously engaged in entertainment, have been reminders to whites of what they are not. As we noted in the first chapter, the very category of whiteness was invented in counterposition to Blackness. In simple terms, without Black people, there were no whites; no “others,”, no “us.”"
Ellis Cashmore, The Black Culture Industry (via wretchedoftheearth)
Jun 25 '14
pleasedotheneedful:

socimages:

#intagrammingafrica: The narcissism of global voluntourism.
By Lauren Kascak with Sayantani DasGupta PhD
An article in The Onion mocks voluntourism, joking that a 6-day visit to a rural African village can “completely change a woman’s facebook profile picture.”  The article quotes “22-year old Angela Fisher” who says:

I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders.

It goes on to say that Fisher “has been encouraging every one of her friends to visit Africa, promising that it would change their Facebook profile photos as well.”
I was once Angela Fisher. But I’m not any more.
***
I have participated in not one but three separate, and increasingly disillusioning, international health brigades, short-term visits to developing countries that involve bringing health care to struggling populations.
Such trips – critically called voluntourism — are a booming business, even though they do very little advertising and charge people thousands of dollars to participate.
How do they attract so many paying volunteers?
Photography is a big part of the answer.  Voluntourism organizations don’t have to advertise, because they can crowdsource.  Photography – particularly the habit of taking and posting selfies with local children – is a central component of the voluntourism experience. Hashtags like #InstagrammingAfrica are popular with students on international health brigades, as are #medicalbrigades, #globalhealth, and of course the nostalgic-for-the-good-days hashtag #takemeback.
It was the photographs posted by other students that inspired me to go on my first overseas medical mission. When classmates uploaded the experience of themselves wearing scrubs beside adorable children in developing countries, I believed I was missing out on a pivotal pre-med experience. I took over 200 photos on my first international volunteer mission. I modeled those I had seen on Facebook and even premeditated photo opportunities to acquire the “perfect” image that would receive the most “likes.”
Over time, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the ethics of those photographs, and ultimately left my camera at home. Now, as an insider, I see three common types of photographs voluntourists share through social media: The Suffering Other, The Self-Directed Samaritan, and The Overseas Selfie.
The Suffering Other
In a photograph taken by a fellow voluntourist in Ghana (not shown), a child stands isolated with her bare feet digging in the dirt. Her hands pull up her shirt to expose an umbilical hernia, distended belly, and a pair of too-big underwear. Her face is uncertain and her scalp shows evidence of dermatological pathology or a nutritional deficiency—maybe both. Behind her, only weeds grow.
Anthropologists Arthur and Joan Kleinman note that images of distant, suffering women and children suggest there are communities incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people. These photographs justify colonialist, paternalistic attitudes and policies, suggesting that the individual in the photograph…

…must be protected, as well as represented, by others. The image of the subaltern conjures up an almost neocolonial ideology of failure, inadequacy, passivity, fatalism, and inevitability. Something must be done, and it must be done soon, but from outside the local setting. The authorization of action through an appeal for foreign aid, even foreign intervention, begins with an evocation of indigenous absence, an erasure of local voices and acts.

The Self-directed Samaritan
Above we have a smiling young white girl with a French braid, medical scrubs, and a well-intentioned smile. This young lady is the centerpiece of the photo; she is its protagonist. Her scrubs suggest that she is doing important work among those who are so poor, so vulnerable, and so Other.
The girl is me. And the photograph was taken on my first trip to Ghana during a 10 day medical brigade. I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?
This photograph is less about doing actual work and more about retrospectively appearing to have had a positive impact overseas. Photographs like these represent the overseas experience in accordance with what writer Teju Cole calls the “White Savior Industrial Complex.”
Moreover, in directing, capturing, and performing in photos such as these, voluntourists prevent themselves from actually engaging with the others in the photo. In On Photography, Susan Sontag reminds us:

Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that…it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.

On these trips, we hide behind the lens, consuming the world around us with our powerful gazes and the clicking of camera shutters. When I directed this photo opportunity and starred in it, I used my privilege to capture a photograph that made me feel as though I was engaging with the community. Only now do I realize that what I was actually doing was making myself the hero/star in a story about “suffering Africa.”
The Overseas Selfie

(Photo obtained from Global Brigades.)
In his New York Times Op-Ed, that modern champion of the selfie James Franco wrote:

Selfies are avatars: Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are … In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”

Although related to the Self-Directed Samaritan shot, there’s something extra-insidious about this type of super-close range photo. “Hello, this is me” takes on new meaning – there is only one subject in this photo, the white subject. Capturing this image and posting it on the internet is to understand the Other not as a separate person who exists in the context of their own family or community but rather, as a prop, an extra, someone only intelligible in relation to the Western volunteer.
***
Voluntourism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit. In fact, medical volunteerism often breaks down existing local health systems. In Ghana, I realized that that local people weren’t purchasing health insurance, since they knew there would be free foreign health care and medications available every few months. This left them vulnerable in the intervening times, not to mention when the organization would leave the community.
In the end, the Africa we voluntourists photograph isn’t a real place at all. It is an imaginary geography whose landscapes are forged by colonialism, as well as a good deal of narcissism. I hope my fellow students think critically about what they are doing and why before they sign up for a short-term global volunteer experience. And if they do go, it is my hope that they might think with some degree of narrative humility about how to de-center themselves from the Western savior narrative. Most importantly, I hope they leave their iphones at home.
Lauren Kascak is a graduate of the Masters Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, where Sayantani DasGupta is a faculty member.  DasGupta is the editor of Stories of Illness and Healing and the author of The Demon Slayers and Other Stories and Her Own Medicine.

Totally. I get that volunteerism isn’t totally altruistic but I often see people take it to a level that comes off as totally disingenuous. Several years ago I probably would’ve been guilty of the same.
Also worthwhile to investigate candidate mission organizations and see what kind of long-term impact their work has on the local community… as touched on here, some end up doing more harm than good.

To name just one example: Child Trafficking “Orphan” Trade in Nepal Directly Fueled by Voluntourism
Because who gives a fuck about white peoples’ narratives &/ motivations really. The most salient point is that white voluntourism not only corrupts local infrastructure (a fact barely referenced and only by the end of the piece), but actively destroys the lives of non-Western people, then expects the survivors (most often children of color) to be grateful.

pleasedotheneedful:

socimages:

#intagrammingafrica: The narcissism of global voluntourism.

By Lauren Kascak with Sayantani DasGupta PhD

An article in The Onion mocks voluntourism, joking that a 6-day visit to a rural African village can “completely change a woman’s facebook profile picture.”  The article quotes “22-year old Angela Fisher” who says:

I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders.

It goes on to say that Fisher “has been encouraging every one of her friends to visit Africa, promising that it would change their Facebook profile photos as well.”

I was once Angela Fisher. But I’m not any more.

***

I have participated in not one but three separate, and increasingly disillusioning, international health brigades, short-term visits to developing countries that involve bringing health care to struggling populations.

Such trips – critically called voluntourism — are a booming business, even though they do very little advertising and charge people thousands of dollars to participate.

How do they attract so many paying volunteers?

Photography is a big part of the answer.  Voluntourism organizations don’t have to advertise, because they can crowdsource.  Photography – particularly the habit of taking and posting selfies with local children – is a central component of the voluntourism experience. Hashtags like #InstagrammingAfrica are popular with students on international health brigades, as are #medicalbrigades, #globalhealth, and of course the nostalgic-for-the-good-days hashtag #takemeback.

It was the photographs posted by other students that inspired me to go on my first overseas medical mission. When classmates uploaded the experience of themselves wearing scrubs beside adorable children in developing countries, I believed I was missing out on a pivotal pre-med experience. I took over 200 photos on my first international volunteer mission. I modeled those I had seen on Facebook and even premeditated photo opportunities to acquire the “perfect” image that would receive the most “likes.”

Over time, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the ethics of those photographs, and ultimately left my camera at home. Now, as an insider, I see three common types of photographs voluntourists share through social media: The Suffering Other, The Self-Directed Samaritan, and The Overseas Selfie.

The Suffering Other

In a photograph taken by a fellow voluntourist in Ghana (not shown), a child stands isolated with her bare feet digging in the dirt. Her hands pull up her shirt to expose an umbilical hernia, distended belly, and a pair of too-big underwear. Her face is uncertain and her scalp shows evidence of dermatological pathology or a nutritional deficiency—maybe both. Behind her, only weeds grow.

Anthropologists Arthur and Joan Kleinman note that images of distant, suffering women and children suggest there are communities incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people. These photographs justify colonialist, paternalistic attitudes and policies, suggesting that the individual in the photograph…

…must be protected, as well as represented, by others. The image of the subaltern conjures up an almost neocolonial ideology of failure, inadequacy, passivity, fatalism, and inevitability. Something must be done, and it must be done soon, but from outside the local setting. The authorization of action through an appeal for foreign aid, even foreign intervention, begins with an evocation of indigenous absence, an erasure of local voices and acts.

The Self-directed Samaritan

Above we have a smiling young white girl with a French braid, medical scrubs, and a well-intentioned smile. This young lady is the centerpiece of the photo; she is its protagonist. Her scrubs suggest that she is doing important work among those who are so poor, so vulnerable, and so Other.

The girl is me. And the photograph was taken on my first trip to Ghana during a 10 day medical brigade. I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?

This photograph is less about doing actual work and more about retrospectively appearing to have had a positive impact overseas. Photographs like these represent the overseas experience in accordance with what writer Teju Cole calls the “White Savior Industrial Complex.”

Moreover, in directing, capturing, and performing in photos such as these, voluntourists prevent themselves from actually engaging with the others in the photo. In On PhotographySusan Sontag reminds us:

Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that…it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.

On these trips, we hide behind the lens, consuming the world around us with our powerful gazes and the clicking of camera shutters. When I directed this photo opportunity and starred in it, I used my privilege to capture a photograph that made me feel as though I was engaging with the community. Only now do I realize that what I was actually doing was making myself the hero/star in a story about “suffering Africa.”

The Overseas Selfie

1 (2)

(Photo obtained from Global Brigades.)

In his New York Times Op-Ed, that modern champion of the selfie James Franco wrote:

Selfies are avatars: Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are … In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”

Although related to the Self-Directed Samaritan shot, there’s something extra-insidious about this type of super-close range photo. “Hello, this is me” takes on new meaning – there is only one subject in this photo, the white subject. Capturing this image and posting it on the internet is to understand the Other not as a separate person who exists in the context of their own family or community but rather, as a prop, an extra, someone only intelligible in relation to the Western volunteer.

***

Voluntourism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit. In fact, medical volunteerism often breaks down existing local health systems. In Ghana, I realized that that local people weren’t purchasing health insurance, since they knew there would be free foreign health care and medications available every few months. This left them vulnerable in the intervening times, not to mention when the organization would leave the community.

In the end, the Africa we voluntourists photograph isn’t a real place at all. It is an imaginary geography whose landscapes are forged by colonialism, as well as a good deal of narcissism. I hope my fellow students think critically about what they are doing and why before they sign up for a short-term global volunteer experience. And if they do go, it is my hope that they might think with some degree of narrative humility about how to de-center themselves from the Western savior narrative. Most importantly, I hope they leave their iphones at home.

Lauren Kascak is a graduate of the Masters Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, where Sayantani DasGupta is a faculty member.  DasGupta is the editor of Stories of Illness and Healing and the author of The Demon Slayers and Other Stories and Her Own Medicine.

Totally. I get that volunteerism isn’t totally altruistic but I often see people take it to a level that comes off as totally disingenuous. Several years ago I probably would’ve been guilty of the same.

Also worthwhile to investigate candidate mission organizations and see what kind of long-term impact their work has on the local community… as touched on here, some end up doing more harm than good.

To name just one example: Child Trafficking “Orphan” Trade in Nepal Directly Fueled by Voluntourism

Because who gives a fuck about white peoples’ narratives &/ motivations really. The most salient point is that white voluntourism not only corrupts local infrastructure (a fact barely referenced and only by the end of the piece), but actively destroys the lives of non-Western people, then expects the survivors (most often children of color) to be grateful.

Jun 25 '14

collegehumor:

"Columbusing" Perfectly Describes Something All White People Do

"…so the next time someone credits Miley Cyrus for twerking, you’ll be ready."

Jun 12 '14

amazing-how-you-love:

All my life white people have been making fun of me for meditating, doing yoga, and then practicing acupuncture. Now that there’s yoga mats they have no problem telling me my problem is I need to do yoga, meditate, and try acupuncture.