Links Roundup 1.10.13

Anytime privileged gay men are wronged, the world takes notice. Do you know how many times, as a trans woman, that I have tweeted about celebs using trans women as punch lines or gags, calling us “tranny,” and no one makes a peep or writes a single article? (I’m side-eyeing beloved gay allies like Kathy Griffin and Roseanne Barr who’ve both belittled women like myself).

So after my eye roll, I dug a bit deeper because this, dear Janet, is not about you. I read countless posts on their feud, studied their Twitter exchanges, saw what the queer folks on Tumblr were saying, and then downloaded some of Banks’ music to get a peek into who she was.

Banks, a rapper who is openly bisexual, said she grew up around “gays” in the New York City ball culture and pulls from that scene, which was created by gay men and trans women of color. No wonder I was thoroughly entertained by her beats, “Paris Is Burning” references and in-your-face-ness. But when I heard the words “Adam’s apple,” in a song called “Us,” I paused. I have one of those, I thought, and rewound the mp3 for context: “She got that Adam’s apple and she asked about that fashion/And we passed her with that laughter.”

Again, aren’t trans women just so f-cking funny? People can’t help themselves.

People say “n-gger” about fifty-eleven times in Django Unchained. It’s set in 1858 stretching into 1859, so you kinda have to expect it. What I like about the movie is how Tarantino doesn’t just stop there. He plays with language, with slurs, in a way that isn’t just a surface level treatment.

I don’t know how I missed it, but the usage of “Jimmy” in Django Unchained made something super obvious click for me. Crow as a slur for blacks, “Jimmy Crack Corn,” and those crows in Dumbo — they all come from the same place. Racial slurs go way deeper than nigger and darkie. Sometimes they take subtler forms, but when they click, things you’ve heard in the past tend to snap into alignment, and you see how this language has infested our culture.

Jimmy’s just one of the slurs in Django Unchained. Crow, black, nigger, pony, and so on … it’s fascinating. It’s easy to forget that racism isn’t as simple as somebody hating someone else over the color of their skin. It’s bigger than that. It’s a system. Language is just the first line of attack.

If the foreman doesn’t like you, he makes you redo the work. In the strawberry fields you’re always worried that the foreman is going to send you back and tell you to redo your box because it’s not full enough. In the morning as soon as I get to the field, I pick four boxes so that I can have extras in case they tell me I have to redo some of the boxes during the day.

It’s always based on if they like you or not. We just have to put our heads down and work quietly. There were many times I stayed quiet and didn’t defend a fellow co-worker, but one time I did speak up. I had a woman foreman who spoke to us disrespectfully. When I asked her why, she told me to give her my tools and fired me. I told her I didn’t understand why I was being treated that way, but the other foreman grabbed me by the arm and told me to leave.

Our work and life is hard here, and we don’t see many benefits. When the cost of living was low, our wages were low. When our wages went up, it was only because of the increased cost of living. Have you seen the current gas prices? Before we had to work an hour to cover our cost of gas, and now we have to work two hours. We don’t have anything left. The more we earn, the more they take away. We can’t move forward.

Go to the charity’s website and you are confronted with a patronising message to “make Africa famous for its epic landscapes” before urging you to hand over your cash to “help end hunger”. This is unsurprising. The leading lights in the ever-growing aid industry are very proficient marketeers, with their data-harvesting tricks and media manipulation. Many of Oxfam’s rivals remain hooked on hoary old clichés; just look at Save the Children’s recent advertising.

But at least Oxfam’s acknowledgment is a start – a belated admission of how its sector’s sins and salvation fantasies distorted our image of Africa. There are enduring problems there, of course, as in other places, of corruption and violence, of gut-wrenching poverty and grotesque political incompetence. Many will take international action to solve. Who, after all, sells the guns, funds the despots, launders stolen assets, and prevents fair trade?

The anachronistic obsession with aid, increasingly alienating the people it is designed to benefit, has blinded Britons to the modern realities of Africa. It is not just the advance in peace and prosperity, with startling stories of declining conflict, rapid urbanisation, record falls in infant mortality, and rampant growth levels. It is also about Nigerian investors buying assets in Britain, young Europeans searching for work in Algeria and Angola, and American firms seeking technological innovations in Ghana and Kenya.