Tag Archives: women of color

Quoted: Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody

The Root: The experience of having your Miss Navajo Nation reign challenged calls to mind the debate over the Cherokee Freedmen. Is this a common issue across the Native community, of African-Native Americans having trouble finding acceptance?

Radmilla Cody: I grew up having to deal with racism and prejudices on both the Navajo and the black sides, and when I ran for Miss Navajo Nation, that especially brought out a lot of curiosity in people. It’s something that we’re still having to address as black Natives, still having to prove ourselves in some way or another, because at the end of the day, it all falls back to what people think a Native American should look like.

But there’s been many times when people have said to me, “Oh, my great-great-grandmother was an Indian.” I’ll ask them if they know what tribe, and they don’t. It’s very important because in order to be acknowledged as a tribal member, you have to be enrolled. So I can see where Native people are protective about defining who’s a tribal member, and are questioning of people claiming Native ancestry.

TR: Were you surprised by the backlash that you received?

RC: I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was going to happen. Right before I left to go to compete in the pageant, my grandmother sat down with me. She said to me, “My child, I just want you to know that there are going to be some people who are not going to be accepting of this.”

Growing up, I was taunted at school with racial slurs and would come home in tears. My grandmother would be there, waiting to console me. She always said, “Let ‘em talk. You are a Navajo woman. This is your land. This is how I raised you. You be proud of who you are.” Every time, that’s what she would say.

So this day before the pageant, when she cautioned me about people who wouldn’t be accepting of me participating, I turned around and told her, “Let ‘em talk, Grandma. I’m a proud Navajo woman, remember?” She had a big smile on her face. I think she felt content that I was ready for what I was going to be challenged with.

TR: Do you have any connection to African-American culture and community?

RC: I spent more time in the Navajo community growing up because my grandmother raised me. When I would come into town in Flagstaff, Ariz., to see my mom, who had black friends, and my dad’s relatives, I was in the black community more. I went to high school in Flagstaff, and one day a friend was wearing a T-shirt with a big “X” on it. I said, “That’s cool! I should get one that says ‘R’ for Radmilla!” I didn’t know anything about Malcolm X. He told me to join the black student organization. I had a lot to educate myself about and embrace, because I come from two beautiful cultures.

In the black community I also had my challenges. I was always told, “You think you’re cute because you got that long, fine hair,” and I would have to stand up for my Navajo side because of stereotypes placed upon the Navajo. When I’d go back to the Navajo community, I would have to stand up for my black side because of stereotypes.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image credit: unieketrouwringen.nl

Quoted: The Gaps Between Young People of Color and AIDS Activism

But in the terms of the power discussion, what if, in fact, you are power? What if in fact you are powerful, in that you feel like you make the decisions about the man that you’re going to sleep with, and whether you’re going to use a condom with him or not? What if you’ve got the power in deciding? But we know this is not the case for so many of our young women, and yet we’ve grown up with prevention that presumes and assumes, and that incorporates the idea of giving women power. We’re asking — we’re needing — power over primarily an organ that we don’t even have attached to our body.

“The other piece of the discussion, of course, that’s always been missing, long been missing, is: AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with heterosexually identified men….AIDS, Inc., does not know what to do with sexually active men who are not exclusively gay — let me put it like that. Unless you are exclusively gay, out, or even a little bit kind of halfway what society labels as “down low,” AIDS, Inc. doesn’t know what to do with black men’s sexuality. It just doesn’t. We don’t have the right studies for it. We don’t have the right access for it. We don’t have any idea, except prison — which is my whole other issue — of where you can have an opportunity to engage men around health literacy, right? Sexuality addiction that plays into factors; sex that happens with men that does not mean, or does not reflect, an orientation. We don’t have the places to have those discussions. The good thing about what we’re doing with the girls is that we’re able to have those venues to have that discussion.

“But as long as we’re able to access health care, mostly around our reproductive organs, and men don’t have a similar place where they even ever have to come into care, unless they’re coming into care for prostate cancer — and that’s a sure sign that they’ve come too late — we’ve been doing one-hand clapping for a long time. So it’s not even about what works, or what doesn’t work; we’re still trying to figure it out.”

~~Tracie Gardner, Founder and Coordinator of the Women’s Initiative to Stop HIV/AIDS NY at the Legal Action Center

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image Credit: News One


A Contrarian View of Lady Gaga

By Thea Lim and Andrea PlaidLady Gaga Beyonce WireImage

After watching her Facebook news feed fill up with links to articles adoring the politics of Gaga, Thea emailed her local sex/race/gender/pop culture expert: Andrea.  Thea was puzzled by the wild adulation heaped upon Gaga as “transgressive” and “binary-breaking” by the gender studies crowd…not because Gaga is without merit, but because Thea could think of lots of other mainstream artists who had tried to play with appearances and femininity, and not gotten the same love.  When those adulations started to slide towards race, suggesting that Gaga’s work could be read not just as gender subversive, but also questioning and decentering whiteness, it was time for a Racialicious convo.

Thea: I was reading some articles over the weekend about how trangressive the video for “Telephone” is, and I couldn’t help but feel that people are reading things into her work. Not that there is anything wrong with that (especially considering what I do on Racialicious), but it seems as if people are giving her credit for being deeper than she is, rather than saying, oh look what this work could represent, regardless of the artist’s intentions.

There’s this article, which beyond seemingly giving Gaga way more credit than she deserves, makes a gratuitous comment in the article about how the positioning of Beyonce vs Gaga in “Telephone” is a reversal of the black/white dynamic. But I don’t think so at all. For example, in the video Gaga addresses Beyonce with a silly, cloying nickname with is a little condescending, and the video ends with Gaga definitely being the Decider. The article says that Beyonce breaking Gaga out of jail shows that black/white reversal, but the video ends with Gaga “taking care” of Beyonce: the reversal (which I’m not sure I buy in the first place) effectively nullified.

I do get the Gaga mania among queer and feminist theorists, but I also feel like there have been artists before her who were doing interesting things with gender in their work — like M.I.A. who really does not fit easily into either poptart or rock goddess categories. (And M.I.A. has gone so far as to call out the racist-sexism of the music industry, even at the risk of alienating key collaborators.) Even the evolution over the years of Beyonce has been fascinating, in terms of how she went from being this ideal of hetero desire (and also being a blond, light-skinned black lady who was accessible from a white point of view) to making these crazy-ass videos. Like the video for “Video Phone” is just weird.

So why does Gaga get all the love? How much of it is because, as a small young blonde woman she appears to be trangressive in a way that artists like M.I.A. or even Trina cannot be transgressive, because to begin with they are already seen as non-normative, simply because they aren’t white? Is it because the feminist model is predicated on whiteness, so that is what it is drawn to untangling?

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Women of Color and Wealth – Looking at Outliers and Outsiders [Part 5]

by Latoya Peterson

Please note, this is part five of a multi-part series on the Lifting As We Climb: Women of Color and Wealth report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Please carefully read part one and review our comment moderation policy before participating in the comments.

Over the course of the Women of Color and Wealth series one question has come up time and time again – what about Asian women? Native women?  Other, more specific breakdowns of different racial/ethnic groups?  Is there data for queer women of color?  For transgender women of color?  Sadly, the answer is no.

The report includes a separate break out discussion of Asian and Native American women, saying (all emphasis mine):

Because Asian Americans and Native Americans comprise a much smaller proportion of the U.S. population than blacks and Hispanics and because most surveys that measure wealth do not oversample these groups, our knowledge about their wealth is less robust—particularly for Native Americans.

According to 2004 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, Asian Americans have a higher median net worth than white non-Hispanic households ($144,000 and $137,200, respectively).  Much of this is due to their home equity, as the Asian population is concentrated in a few cities with very high home values. When data is adjusted for these and other factors, Asians have less wealth than whites on similar socioeconomic characteristics. In interpreting the high home equity of Asian Americans, it is also important to bear in mind that they are likely to own and occupy the home with extended family members and are more likely than whites to contribute more than half of their household income to housing costs.

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Feminist Intersection: My thoughts post-International Women’s Day week

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Bitch Magazine

A lot of us working/breathing/organizing in feminist/humanist/womanist communities were running from event to event last week during International Women’s Day (IWD) week, and I thought I’d share some of the deconstructing thoughts I’ve been having aloud about what I witnessed and participated in.

There’s been debate over whether it’s the 99th or 100th year anniversary of IWD, and whatever the case, I find myself perplexed and widely critical once again of how the day and week gets celebrated.

Many of you already know all too well the tokenization that happens when we Indigenous and racialized women get invited to things our own communities are not putting together, the envelopes we sometimes have to push, the chastising we get from both white people and people in our own communities who don’t like that we’re calling ourselves feminists/womanists/humanists, so on and so forth.

During IWD last week I talked a lot about the academic industrial complex that mainstream feminism still lies in (which is, btw, part of the working title of a new book I’m working on this year – more about that later) but I fully knew where I was going and who my audience was going to be during these “official” type events – which was, incidentally, white women who were “professionals” mostly having attended post-secondary education.

My biggest musings to myself weren’t the typical “there they go getting upset at me for asking why the women’s rights movement today doesn’t appear to care about all the Indigenous women who are being murdered and going missing” or “now you care ALL OF A SUDDEN since it’s making the mainstream news headlines for some apparent reason when our women have had systemic violence by the thousands for 500+ years”. I’m BEYOND used to that in and outside of the academy and organizational settings, and I already know the many reasons why this happens and why I still get invited to speak so they can “check-mark box” my “inclusion”.

My biggest musing to myself was “why do I, myself, still do this?” Why do I go to this kind of stuff, expend the energy, and waste the time deconstructing it in my mind afterward? Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – Starting Points and Class Jumping [Part 3]

by Latoya Peterson

Please note, this is part three of a multi-part series on the Lifting As We Climb: Women of Color and Wealth report released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Please carefully read part one and review our comment moderation policy before participating in the comments.

zero wealth chart

I’m fightin for strength, in the street grindin for cents/
I know I’m ahead of my time but I’m behind on my rent/
Askin Kanye for money just to pay on my gas bill/
He asked me for it back, nigga brush up on your math skills/
Nothin plus zip equals zero; he couldn’t relate/
That nigga ain’t been broke since “H to the Izzo”

–Rhymefest, “Devil’s Pie

For many of us who grow up lower middle class or in poverty, the issues began before we were born. Parents struggling to make ends meet rarely find that things get easier once a child arrives – in general, already strained resources are required to stretch even further. Economically devastated parents generally do not have the resources to pass on to their children – indeed, the children may be asked to help participate in taking care of the bills, or once another income is flowing, provide funds to take care of other members of the family.

Looking at the chart above, single black and latina female households are hit the hardest by these disparities – but what does it really mean when a household has zero or negative wealth? How does it impact a child’s upbringing and future? Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – Looking at the Wealth Gap [Part 2]

by Latoya Peterson
mercedes logo

Because so many women of color have such little wealth other than the value of a vehicle, the rest of the paper uses the definition of wealth that excludes vehicles in order to capture the economic vulnerability experienced by women of color.

Excluding vehicles, single black women have a median wealth of $100 and Hispanic women $120 respectively, while their same-race male counterparts have $7,900 and $9,730. The median wealth of single white women is $41,500. To put it another way, single black and Hispanic women have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by their male counterparts and a tiny fraction of a penny for every dollar of wealth owned by white women. With so little in reserve, half of all single black and Hispanic women could not afford to take an unpaid sick day or to even have a major appliance repaired without going into debt. The precarious financial situation of women of color is also evident when looking at those with zero or negative wealth, (negative wealth occurs when the value of one’s assets is lower than the value of their debts). Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth (see Figure 2).

Pre-retirement wealth disparities for women of color affect them drastically in their retirement years. According to federal poverty standards, poverty rates for people age 65 and over are highest for women of color. In 2007 16.7% of white women living alone were poor, but 26% of Asian women living alone, 38.5% of black women living alone, and 41.1% of Hispanic women living alone were poor. 21

What does it mean when we talk about the difference between wealth and income?  These two terms are not to be conflated.  Someone can be a high earner, but still have no wealth at all – it is as simple as spending more than you earn.  It doesn’t matter what the money is spent on – it can go up your nose, on your feet, to your landlord or thrown in mass amounts on a stage.  However, if you manage to make a million dollars a year, and you spend $1.5 million, you are not wealthy.  Not even close. Continue reading

Women of Color and Wealth – The Scope of The Problem [Part 1]

by Latoya Peterson

Yesterday, a headline in the Post-Gazette worked its way around Twitter:  Study finds median wealth for single black women at $5. Most outlets qualified the link by calling it “shocking” or mentioning the five dollar figure was not a typo.

I called up a fellow young black professional friend of mine and told her about the findings of the study.  “Is it messed up that I’m kind of glad in a way?” she asked, “I mean, all this time I’ve been wondering why I can’t get my shit together, but it turns out I’m normal.” We both laughed at her small attempt at gallows humor around a situation many of us know a little too intimately – when it comes to our white counterparts, women of color are light years behind in wealth.

The study is a new report from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, titled “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future.”  The report is an in-depth look at the issues in wealth accumulation particular to black women, Latinas, Asian and Native American women.  However, even as this report is one of the most comprehensive I have seen on the subject, the limited data for Asian American and Native American women means that their statistics are limited from entire sections of the report, and discussed in a subsequent section about the need for better stats.  The report’s title is should be a familiar refrain to many black women, but the author of the report, Mariko Chang, kindly includes an explanation of the origin of the phrase:

More than a century ago, the National Association for Colored Women was founded by African American women leaders in response to a vicious attack on the character of African-American women. A few decades distant from the abolition of slavery, the intensification of poverty, discrimination, and segregation impelled these women to action in defense of their race. Their motto was “Lifting as We Climb,” signaling their understanding that no individual woman of color could rise, nor did they want to rise, without the improvement of the whole race. At the top of their agenda were job training, wage equity, and child care: issues that, if addressed, would lift all women, and all people of color.

The lift as we climb refrain was implanted into some of us from birth and a lot of my earliest lessons about black empowerment focused on financial empowerment.  Yet, these adages about saving money, investing in the community, and being a conscious consumer was like propping a footstool against a fifty foot high sheer rock wall.  Continue reading