Rare Racism Topics: Targeted Harassment

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People of Colour are often punished or harassed for the same things that white people can and do get away with.  From things like being arrested, imprisoned and ‘mysteriously’ dying in police custody (very U.K specific example), to being targeted for harassment online.  This is a sometimes-subtle way that POC receive racism.  And the further down in people’s estimation we are, the poorer treatment we receive.  I’m going to concentrate mostly on online harassment, although these are often played out offline too.  The more life-ending examples are too painful for me to write about right now.

Example 1: A cisgender man of colour makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  He will get the inevitable pushback and defensiveness from white people, the “what about..?”, the “Not all whites,” and “You’re the real racist,” alongside some other horrible responses blaming him for the situation.  A few days pass and things will mostly die down.

Example 2: An Asian person makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  They will get all of the above, plus accusations of being a terrorist, Islamaphobic slurs (whether they’re Muslim or not), and in some cases they’ll have their photo, if they used one, altered in photoshop so they appear to be carrying an explosive (yes, that’s happened).  Some respondents will send DMs to the poster, with pics of atrocities against Muslim people (I’ve also had that happen to me).  Things will take a very long time to die down.

Example 3: A black woman who is heterosexual and cisgender makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  She will get all of the above two examples, but in much higher numbers.  She will get these reactions from people of all ethnicities and genders.  Her DMs will be full of thinly-veiled, or outright death threats, rape threats, details of personal information that go on to be shared (doxxed).  She will be hounded off social media, live in fear for her life and that of her family &/or friends.  She will receive very little support.  The police (U.K example) will not help unless she is very famous, which isn’t that likely.

Example 4: The most subtle and insidious example is of people who are not often considered human by bigots in the first place.  People like me: Black, nonbinary, fat, disabled and bisexual.  So I’ll use my own personal experience here:

I don’t make a post about racism.  I only press the “Repost” button, or maybe I respond to a post on racism with, “Thank you for this.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders inundate me with horrible responses, using many of the things in the three examples above.  The original poster does not receive anything near the volume of abuse that I do.  I wonder why this is the case, and then remember that I am open about who I am online.  I have photos and posts about fatness, blackness, gender, disability and bisexuality.  The abusive respondents have taken a few minutes to have a look at my online presence.  I am deemed to be “bottom of the barrel,” or an “Easy target.”  They know, and are often correct, that nobody is going to support me or respond to their public hate.  I also receive sexually violent images and threats in emails outside of the social media platform.  Many people will blame me for my own harassment.  I am told to “Ignore them!” Or “Don’t feed the trolls.”  The original poster will often ignore what is going on in their mentions/replies/comments section.  This has happened to me so many times online and offline too.  Things don’t move on until months or even years have passed by.  I leave social media, or at least leave for a very long time before I return, scared in case anyone still remembers me.

In the first three cases, the original poster will experience stress, worsening mental health, fear, and physical reactions to trauma, whether potential or not.  In the fourth example, people like me, who are often the most vulnerable in society, experience thoughts of suicide, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse, desperation, and all of the things experienced by the victims of the first three examples.

Racial Harassment is not equal.  Even within minorities there is still a “pecking order.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders carry out this kind of thing.  So called Progressive people carry out this sort of thing, particularly when it comes to Fatness, especially if that person is fat and black.  It is a soul-destroying thing to be on the receiving end of.  Social media is often the major means of communication for vulnerable people like me.  When we leave, our world becomes infinitely smaller.  More needs to discussed about this.  But for now I just want you to acknowledge it as an often hidden racism topic that is far bigger than it seems.

The Forest Inside me

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This isn’t Epping Forest, but a pic of Muir Woods that I took on my visit to San Francisco in 2013.

Thanks to @DualityDreamers on Instagram for reminding me of this poem, written by several of my Alter Personalities: Forest Jacq, Larry, Munro, Shadoe, and Outside Jacq (me, the host)

This is probably the most open I’ve been about Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it’s no coincidence that this illness is one of the most demonised in mental health (along with Psychosis & Schizophrenia).  Before I was diagnosed with DID, I only knew about it through horror films by its old name (Multiple Personality Disorder).  People with DID are not the evil villains in life – if you want to see that, look at the people who hurt and abused us when we were so young.

Trigger Warnings in the poem: Mentions of child abuse, but nothing graphic or detailed.

The forest inside me

People like me at 12-step groups

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People like me aren’t supposed to ask for help when we have problems.  Black people are supposed to be resilient and strong.  According to the Bisexuality Report (Open University, 2012) Bisexual people are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than straight, gay and lesbian people.  Biphobia and racism inside and outside of LGBT+ communities can also lead to worse mental health outcomes than others in the groups above (Bi’s of Colour report 2015).  

When I’m told by well meaning people to “Pray on it,” or “Get support from the family and church,” this advice is not so useful for me.  I’m an ex-runaway who fled their family of origin almost 30 years ago.  Most churches in the U.K are not welcoming towards LGBT+ people, and if by chance they are one of the few queer led congregations, they definitely are aimed at lesbians and gays only.  Detox and Mental health services in the NHS have little experience or willingness to learn about the intersections of ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion: one size fits all is what I’ve been offered in the past, but their little boxes of recovery can’t hold all that I am.  So I looked to group support in 12-step groups.

I’ve attended three 12-step groups in my life: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA), and Overeaters Anonymous (OA).

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation I had heard about in media growing up, but I had never heard of the other two groups until I was floundering around in libraries for information, long before the internet really existed.  The AA groups I attended were always overwhelmingly straight, white and male.  S.I.A and OA were very much straight, white and female.  I was usually the only black person in the room, and I was often made to feel unwelcome, but I persisted with each group, sometimes over the course of years, until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I exist at the intersection of many marginalised identities.  People who are in the cultural majority often find it difficult to understand why this affects everything I do, including how I heal and work through issues.  In most 12-step groups, differences are ignored in the most part, and the baseline is simply a “desire to heal”.  But I can’t heal if white straight people talk over me, ignore my hand when it’s raised in meetings, or laugh when I share about how oppression affects me.  

In the last AA meeting I attended, I shared about racism I’d faced in previous meetings I’d attended in various locations in London.  As I left the building, a white man approached me and said, “Maybe we should all wear boot polish next week, then we’ll be the same.”  He walked away quickly after my retort of, “I can’t believe you just said that!”  

At many OA meetings, people had the tendency to hug each other before leaving.  As a survivor of sexual violence, it has taken me decades to be comfortable with hugging people I don’t know well, unless they ask if it’s okay to do that first.  At the end of my last OA meeting, a man launched himself at me with arms wide and a big grin on his face.  I stepped back and said, “No thanks.” 

The man looked at me with eyes wide in shock and said in a very angry tone, “I wanna hug you.  I’m not gonna hurt you!”

At a different OA meeting, someone brought their dog, and left the animal free to wander around the small room.  When I asked them to keep their dog away from me, as I’m scared of most animals, I was met with an aggressive white woman spitting words at me, and stating I was at a ‘dog-friendly’ meeting, and I should ‘get used to it or just go’.

These outbursts left me scared and upset.  We all have different ways we interact with the world, but because of how I look and am perceived, it’s assumed I can handle everything thrown at me without a word of complaint; the ‘Strong Black Woman’ trope is alive and well it appears.  I’m rarely seen as a human with feelings, but just a jumble of stereotypes.  Also, I’m nonbinary.

Disbelief, silence, a lack of respect toward boundaries, sexism, biphobia and general racism before, during and after meetings, were an everyday occurrence in the groups I attended.  London is a multicultural city, but when I went to meetings, I may have well been in the most isolated rural settlement.  There was nobody to speak to about my problems I encountered in meetings, as 12-step groups don’t operate with a system of leadership or even culpability.  I simply found myself alone and unwanted everywhere I went.  I no longer attend any group and it saddens me, because I can see how much they have helped white people; I can see the potential that could exist for me too, if I wasn’t the person I am. But I know I should never feel forced to change or ignore who I am, in order to get the help I desperately need.

Speculative (and erotic) poem

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(Image: Intersex flag)

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After the great session at WorldCon on Speculative poetry, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years back – set in Chislehurst Caves, just outside London. Caves feature in my work an awful lot: I’m sure there’s something psychological about that, but I’ve never found any relatable meaning in my research.

This is a long rhyming poem, but one I love to reread often.  I hope everyone (over the age of 18) enjoys it too!

Stain upon the floor

Bigotry and representation

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the following are notes I made before, and shortly after 2 panels I spoke on at WorldCon Dublin.  The sessions were titled: Bigotry is not allegorical, and Building inclusivity in Genre.  The examples I have are all onscreen depictions, and mostly in the Science fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres, but some are not in those categories.

Race done badly

Game of Thrones (white saviour, black savages, black slaves)

Scott Pilgrim film (Knives character – anime stereotype, Scotts comments about dating diff race)

Avatar (white saviour)

Loqueesha (black stereotypes of loud dark black women, white men are victims etc)

Sherlock, especially Season 1, episode 2 (violent Arab, demure East Asian )

Dr Who (Every flipping thing about Martha Jones – see my post http://www.scififantasynetwork.com/why-i-stopped-watching-doctor-who-by/)

Race done well

Star Trek: Uhura (Original Series), Geordie La Forge (Next Generation), Sisko, Dr Bashir (Deep Space 9), Chakotay (Voyager), Michael Burnham, Philippa Georgiou (Discovery)

Fatness done badly

Thor in Avengers Endgame

Shallow Hal

Insatiable

Fatness done well

Steven Universe

Sexual orientation & Gender identity done badly

Sherlock (BBC) for Queerbaiting

IT Crowd (transphobia)

Sexual orientation & Gender identity done well

Lucifer (Bisexuality)

Torchwood (Omnisexual)

Caprica (Polyamory)

Lost Girl (Pansexual)

Mental Disability done badly

Split

Psycho

Night hunter 

Mental Disabilities done well

Star Trek Discovery – Ash Tyler PTSD

Star Trek First Contact – Captain Picard PTSD

The Punisher – Main and secondary characters – PTSD (including Combat PTSD)

Iron Man 3 – Tony Stark PTSD

 

For a much more detailed look at bigotry and marginalisation, see N.K Jemsin’s site: http://nkjemisin.com/2011/06/go-hollywood/

What saddened me was all the examples of mental disability done badly were for the same condition: Dissociative Identity Disorder (old name: multiple personality disorder). Alongside this, all the examples for this post are things that I identify with.  When marginalised identities are demonised; shown as dangerous, perverted etc, the viewer gets the message that this is “Just how things are.”  We should be able to separate fiction from reality, but when we see these examples time and again, many people outside of these groups tend to believe them.  Most, if not all representations of mental illness in fiction, non-fiction, news media etc paint us as dangerous to ourselves and others, when in fact the reverse is often true: we are more likely to be victims of crime than be perpetrators (this is especially the case when mass shooters who are white, are instantly branded with mental illness, as a way to shrink the issue down to individuals, instead of a toxic society that encourages white men to be or condone violence to others.

 

Heartbroken

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When I think about the majority of my romantic relationships with white people, they always betray me with racism.  Racism is the lover that is comfortable; always welcoming to them. This lover never asks questions or nags. Racism makes them feel good.

My ex partners didn’t have to throw slurs or bricks at me.  They only had to say nothing, do nothing when I was  bullied and discriminated against. They only had to create reasons why I couldn’t  meet their family and friends. They only had to learn how to recite, “I’m not racist. I’m with you!”

But I have learned that nobody can fuck their way out of racism. Nobody has the right to insist their partner explain in detail why this racist world chips away at them until only dust remains.

My heart passed them by on a puff of wind. They didn’t notice.

Mental health services are shit

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TW: Suicide, Suicidal ideation

If you’ve had to use mental health services in the UK, you’ll probably know this already.  I have several mental health diagnoses: depression has given me a whole heap of trouble, despite the fact it’s one of the minor mental health ailments I live with.

In January 2018 my doctor sent me to Casualty after I told her I was suicidal. I was referred to the Home Treatment team, and that was where the nightmare really began.  Over the course of a week, I was seen by 5 different people, most of whom hadn’t read any of my notes, so I had to start from the beginning with them.  Each one said they would return, or that I’d see a maximum of 2 people from the team.  That didn’t happen obviously.  What really made this all even more horrible was when I was seen by a black woman who ended up being very biphobic and queerphobic, and could hardly look at me after I spoke to her about how biphobia affected my life in a negative way.  To get this behaviour from a professional in my own home felt truly awful.

I was also encouraged to attend a support group at a day centre.  Again I was met with bigoted and racist views from a Clinical Psychologist who ran the group.  I finally wrote a complaint letter in February.  I met with 2 of the senior staff (one glared at me the whole time).  They said they would review how things were done, but nobody apologised.  In fact it was December 2018 before I got an apology from the head psychiatrist.  She told me she would get an Occupational Therapist and a Psychologist to contact me after the Christmas period.  I heard nothing until 4 months later, I phoned the mental health centre to discharge myself.  I had barely ended the call when I got an incoming call from the Occupational Therapist apologising for the long wait.  “Maybe you’ll think about staying with us,” she said.  “I’ve been thinking about this for 4 months, and the answer is no,” I replied.

I love the NHS, but when it comes to mental health, things are chronically bad.  There is no consistency of service, no awareness of multiple marginalisation, no LGBT+ training.  The only thing in abundance is the volume of lies I’ve been told.  There are no other services for suicidal adults in my part of London.  I can’t get seen by another borough on the NHS.  I have precisely zero options when it comes to this.  Being suicidal is bad, but the way I’ve been treated has magnified that into being intolerable.  These people are supposed to help, but they’ve made things far worse for me, and what tops it off is that the next time I’m suicidal, I’m supposed to go to Casualty where the only thing they can do is refer me to the same people who treated me like shit.cropped-tumblr_os67y3q7tk1qd3j1wo2_1280