Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Sometimes, a juxtaposition jumps up and slaps me in the face and helps me think through some of what I am feeling all the damn time but rarely know how to say. As a writer, I am thankful for these moments that help me construct stories I wouldn't otherwise know how to tell at all. As an activist, I am deferential to the people and communities whose lives and experiences comprise these stories, and I hope that anything I have to say is beneficial -- not claiming to speak for anyone but rather illuminating for a different audience the issues underlying the stories. And as a human being, I have an agenda (obviously), and hope that sharing my perspective with you could garner some kind of agreement or resonance and might facilitate the kind of transformative change I want to see in the world.
I've been struck by two stories about two very different people lately: a young, white, cisgender, self-proclaimed-rich-girl from East Oakland who goes by the name of Kreayshawn, and a young, black transwoman from Minneapolis named Crishaun (nickname Cece.) You can get a glimpse of Kreayshawn in all of her classist, privileged, black-culture-appropriating, hipster-fusion ridiculousness here. And here you can find a quick and rather biased rundown of why Cece is in the news.
I don't blog to report facts and remain unbiased. The alleged facts about both of these people can be found in news articles about them and in their youtube videos, social network pages, and through face-to-face contact, which I have not had with either of them. I'm here to tell you what I think and how I feel about their media attention, the turns their lives have taken (as far as I can tell), and how that all connects to the kind of world I wish we all could live in.
Kreayshawn is a white girl who "raps," has a music video out that has upward of four million hits on youtube, and due to her newfound fame, has a gig directing the next Red Hot Chili Peppers video. Chrishaun is a black transwoman who recently was arrested for allegedly murdering a man who verbally and physically assaulted her and her friends, using trans/homophobic and racist slurs. Kreayshawn's lyrics mention "basic bitches" who "work at Arby's"; a facebook page dedicated to Chrishaun mentions four youth displaced by her incarceration, who were previously housed and supported by her, and who have secured housing but now seek furniture and other household goods to make their space livable. Kreayshawn requests you "address [her] as 'your majesty;'" Chrishaun recently had her request to get out of solitary confinement met, and has been placed in the psych ward, often (and unfortunately) the safest place for trans and gender non-conforming inmates.
The differences in the lives of these two women are stark. I am left wondering what kind of world we would need to live in for the Kreayshawns of the world to sustain themselves in a way that does not appropriate and is not disrespectful of the reality of African-Americans. And what kind of a world would we need to live in for the Chrishauns of the world to be able to make bail and receive a fair trial or even simply be referred to by the pronouns that match their gender identity?
What if Kreayshawn knew Chrishaun? Would she still be mocking black women who work at fast food restaurants in an attempt to pay their bills and make a living? What if Chrishaun knew Kreayshawn? Would that mean she lived in a context - belonged to a class - that would allow her to make bail, to afford a lawyer who would make it easier for her to get a fair trial? What if we could live in a world that was beyond these questions? What if class and access were no longer issues? What if we didn't have the prison industrial complex to worry about anymore? What if we didn't have to worry about racist and transphobic cops? What if we evolved to a place in which Chrishaun didn't have to face racist and transphobic people, and if those people weren't conditioned and socialized to be racist and transphobic? What if each of these situations was approached through a lens of accountability, and not through the systemic problems of racism, classism, homophobia and transphobia?
Asking these questions, it is difficult not to feel angry at the Kreayshawns of the world, the people who profit off of a culture that capitalism allows them to exploit, but that they don't have to experience the harsh realities of. I get focused, stuck on what might be her truest lyrics: "The type of bitch that make you wish that you ain't never met her." And I wish it wasn't that way. I wish that didn't have to be the place at which I get stuck. I wish we didn't have to be so stuck like this all the time.