Life

The Manufacture of Different

From the moment I was able to consciously form thoughts and ideas, I knew I was different. It wasn’t inherent knowledge or what my parents stressed on me; it was simply daily interactions with my environment and others that helped shape my understanding of these differences and what they meant. It helped me understand where my place was, what I could and could not do, where I could and could not go, and just about every facet of my life defined by a vastly complex system of classifications.

One of the earliest experiences I recall is the idea of being like everyone else in order to deflect attention from yourself because any deviation from the “norm” draws negative reactions. As a child your ability to comprehend this need to fit in was limited because “fitting in” meant conforming to what was “popular” at the time. Childhoods can be very traumatic, as children and adolescents often make uninformed opinions and decisions. Their source of information is mainly comprised of the playground and what they hear from other classmates, or perhaps the cultural impacts of their families. Being from an Indian family, I was not out of touch with the concept of race and racism. Though I did not experience much racism as a child, I saw it happen to others. I experienced racism more in my teenage to adulthood years. As I child, I faced confrontations regarding my gender more than my race. I enjoyed playing sports from a fairly early age, which became a central part of my life throughout grade school until university. I had never thought that was what defined me as a person. It is interesting to note how these definitions changed over time as my environment changed and the ways in which others defined me. Teasing and name-calling seemed to be a regular occurrence when I went to school or the friends I hung out with at home. I was typically described as a “tom-boy” or “he-she” because I didn’t look like all the other girls at school. My composition did not meet the exterior ideals of what “defined” a girl. Girls were supposed to be dainty, passive, quiet, and had to play with Barbie. I was none of those things and I didn’t own a Barbie, but it was these qualities, these mannerisms that made me different than the other girls. Thus, making friends did not come easy. The girls thought I was too much like a boy and the boys thought the same. At that time, being different didn’t serve me too well, which I find ironic now because it seems as though being “different” is what has become “popular” today. Yet being “different” means everyone is the same “different”.

As I entered high school I began to understand why so many kids dreaded being there. I hated going most of the time and the only people I seemed to relate to were my friends. It wasn’t the easiest time and I certainly let my feelings show, which I always thought contributed to others’ perception of my personality, as an angsty kid with a pessimistic attitude. Nevertheless, I always felt I had more of an open mind than most of the kids I went to school with. Some of my teachers asserted that opinion; they had always told me I was mature for my age and I never decided whether that was a good or bad thing. In high school your identity is so essential to people characterizing who you are and it didn’t bother me until I came out as a lesbian. Through the years, my description changed from emo-depressive kid, to jock kid, and finally – the gay kid. There were other “out” kids at my school and I never understood why it was a big deal when I came out. A part of me thought it was because it confirmed everyone’s opinions. Amrit is a tomboy; therefore she must be a lesbian, but not all tomboys are lesbians. Another part of me thought it was because I wasn’t like other Indian girls at my school: long black hair, slender bodies, and feminine traits. I couldn’t understand why the students and teachers thought that way, and more importantly I couldn’t understand why it bothered me so much. Regardless, it was another facet of my identity that made me “different” and for the people at my school it was confusing. It was then I started to believe the impact of my “identity” on society and how it would influence my life.

University brought a new kind of understanding in the perceptions of my identity. As a criminology student I was enlightened to so many more systems of personal classifications. This class is certainly not my first encounter with the theory of white privilege and some of the articles such as The Invisible Knapsack. Furthermore, Peggy McIntosh and Richard Dyer’s articles on white privilege emphasized the ideas that I have for so long thought about but could never say without any legitimacy. The concept of white privilege, albeit having some idea of what it meant, helped me understand and articulate why I only saw white people on tv and in movies for so long. As a child, my parents never talked to me about race or gender equality. Having heard many racist and stereotypical comments didn’t leave me with a racist, sexist, or other discriminatory worldview. I knew from an early age that if I wanted to live my life I had to keep an open mind and a large part of me wanted to defy stereotypes. My parents came from traditional Indian backgrounds but never impressed their culture upon me. Their parents did stress the hegemonic ideals of their cultural values. Clear definitions of what a girl and boy should and should not be. As I progressed through university, I began to see all the pieces that made up my identity fall into these classifications I was learning about and had experienced through society and my family’s cultural values. Being a female meant I was inferior to males, a homosexual inferior to the heterosexual norm, and as a minority inferior to the white race. Having learned these systems of classification, I concluded that it was in fact these “characteristics” that made me “different” and how they would impact my career, my opinions, my worldview, and basically every facet of my life.

In having realized how my race, sexuality, gender, and arguably my individuality affected my life, I also realized what privileges I garnered and which I did not. Comparatively, I am ranked well below the privileged middle-class white male. However, it wasn’t until I began taking aboriginal-focused classes that I began to understand what my advantages were. The indigenous populations of Canada are the most under-privileged people in this country. Arguably, their culture and people have been eradicated. Descendants of aboriginal origin face immense hardships and extremely overbearing obstacles in defying stereotypes and racism. Being a gay Indian woman didn’t have the same affect on me having known and met several aboriginal women working the sex trade. I realized how much of a barrier my existence played in the lives of these women and the first nations peoples. My day-to-day activities uphold the systemic suppression of the aboriginals much like the white male maintains control over the societal normative. Even further, I realized what my professors meant by categorizations of race, age, sexuality, gender, sex, disability, etc. I focused so much of my attention on what made me different than the white male. I realized I only evaluated myself to that discourse when there were a vast number of comparatives I did not even consider.

Nevertheless, my worldview remained consistent in that societal norms are a discourse people have been subjected to for centuries. The experiences I dealt with in my life such as racism and enduring harassment for being a homosexual didn’t change my opinions on what I believed the social and political values of this country represent. As societies progress, so too will the understandings of the classifications we discuss, or at least that is the hope. Though I want to believe in the possibilities of changing hegemonic, heterosexual norms, I am not that optimistic. Ending systemic racism did not end racism entirely. It found news way in which to affect the unprivileged, even if it were under the surface. I continue to challenge those who discriminate, whether intentional or not, because the first step is knowledge. Having acknowledged who I am has enabled my understanding to reflect universality and the need to change this way of thinking, but that also means acknowledging how my being affects another.

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It’s 2014 and genocide still happens.

what a strange thing that we allow atrocities to be committed
that i could be standing in the anne frank house one day
and the next, i am standing before the nazi party rally grounds.
a place with so much history… where decades ago, a man stood before the people
he stood there and said things.
things that would eventually lead to some of the most unimaginable acts i’ve ever read about and seen
my sense of reality is shook
to imagine a world in which a young girl loses all faith in life
she loses the ability to see the good the world has to offer because it dealt her cruelty
unfathomable cruelty.
as it does, to so many people.
desire can be endless. and its that which men desire so it turns to obsession
it’s hard to pretend that it’s okay
that the things that happen to others is an inevitability of this world
some say it’s the reality of things
that the evil men do cannot be stopped or altered or changed
that the world cannot change, what chaos ensues, needs to occur
it’s hard to accept that
it’s difficult for me to accept that we cannot change the things that are wrong
i couldn’t help but wonder the things anne wrote in her diary
the things she said to the lady after having been taken to the camps
i remember her saying she couldn’t even go outside, and that was something she missed the most
she had to stay inside the house all day, all night… that her and her family couldn’t go outside
they weren’t even supposed to be living where they were…

“the best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy, is to go outside, somewhere so
they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, and nature, and God. because only then does one
feel that all is as it should be”

i take that for granted now… as i walk around outside. i can go anywhere.
I’m here in germany now
and i was in amsterdam yesterday,
and last week i was at home in canada.
i can go outside whenever i want… i can just walk out my door.

“memories mean more to me than dresses”

it’s so fucked up. so fucked up what we give value to.
how social conditioning has made it so definitive what it means to be productive and successful
that to tell me i am experiencing this, and this… so it makes me THIS
why are you telling me how i feel, and why I’m feeling that way…
am i alone, incapable?

why have we attached so much value to monetary worth?
you can’t play the game when it isn’t equal, but its disguised as such
we’ve become commodities.
this spirit, this extraordinary thing is completely devalued

how can we do this to each other?

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I had written that while i was in the Netherlands/Germany a couple months ago. So much of what I’ve seen in the last few weeks with the Israel/Gaza conflict makes me sick. It reminds me that we’re still so savage-like. Bombing Gaza in the hopes of killing a few “terrorists” while murdering hundreds of innocent people is fucked up.

You’ve got to be a really fucked up individual if you’re going to take orders from somebody and drop bombs at random thinking you’re doing a “great service” to your country. It’s ludicrous. It’s brainwashing at it’s scariest.

BtfyR3JCEAAhNem

I don’t understand why this … is happening.

“I’m 28, raising four kids, in my mother’s house.”

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. A long while. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to talk about. I’ve just been “too busy” to sit down and free my mind of all of the things it’s been occupied with as of late. It’s funny I say that because I hate that. Too busy? Why? What am I doing? Mostly trying to figure out how to function at a frequency that this place seems to want us to vibe on. Nope.

A few weeks ago, my friend was celebrating her birthday at a nightclub, and I had arrived really late, but the important thing was that I was there, right? Right. I was having a good time; my friend was really happy to see me, so.. the night was as usual as it could be.

I remember asking this woman for a lighter so my friend could light her smoke, but this woman looked… Run. Down. I had returned her lighter and asked why she wasn’t dancing like nobody’s business. She looked at me for a minute before she sighed and shrugged her shoulders. I told her it was a good night… she was alive, and there was good music, she should just dance. And she took my arm and said “I’m 28. I’m 28, and I have 4 kids at home.” I told her that was amazing. And she shook her head, “No, I’m fucking 28 and I’ve four kids and I live with my mother.” She looked incredibly disappointed and sad. Like the world had made her believe her life was something to feel embarrassed about. I told her it was an incredible thing that she was raising four kids, when I can barely take care of myself, and that being 28 shouldn’t make her feel any type of way. 28 is the new 18! The fact that she was able to have a space to keep her kids fed and clothed — that’s an insane accomplishment. There are kids who aren’t so fortunate, who wouldn’t have parents putting their lives first because they would be out partying all night, every night, or outright abandoning their kids. Nobody knows her circumstances but herself, and there’s no reason for her journey to be questioned or invalidated because of some imaginary timeline constructed by arbitrary societal pressures.

She high-fived me, gave me a hug, and said “You’re right! Fuck. You know what? You’re right.. it is the new 18! I am hard-working.. I’m trying everyday!”

You are. There are so many of us trying every single day, and we don’t need the expectations of a society to measure our successes and failures.

I’m a fucking snail. I’ll get where I need to be at my own pace. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your journey is not their journey and vice versa. Just acknowledge the efforts you make every day, and be grateful for the things you have. The rest will follow.

Courage: The Power Within

It’s strange to me that the very things that I was taught to embody to be a “good” human being, are the very things that have often led me down some fucked up paths. Or at least that’s what I thought.

I had been wanting to post something about an event, an occurrence in my life that really changed a lot for me. I’ve been wanting to share this for quite some time, but I think the reason why I hadn’t already, was because of feeling vulnerable.

Vulnerability is really strange too. I find a lot of things strange. There’s this thing that we all do to protect ourselves. We try not to question or say things that we feel will have a particular reaction, usually a negative reaction. We hesitate to tell our crush we like them in fear that they won’t like us back. We appear a certain way so we don’t receive the negative reactions attached to appearing any different. And we say and do things… with hesitation, always over-analyzing, always over-thinking our behaviours. It’s this feeling of vulnerability that we don’t want to experience. We feel the need to protect our hearts from getting broken, our self-esteems from being bruised, and ultimately… this fragility we all walk around with, is self-inflicted.

I knew from very early on, and I’ve mentioned this before, that I’ve always felt like the other. Not just in my appearance, or what I thought or talked about… but the way I carried myself. I think at a point though, I acted very selfishly… I had carried around the weight of my issues and what I’ve experienced in life, dragged it around everywhere. Everywhere! I was on the path to complete self-destruction before I had ever stepped in that direction. I expected my friends and my family to understand what I was going through and help me fix it. And that was the problem. The expectation.

November 5, 2011: I was having drinks with some friends. The night was fine; just like any other I thought. I was going to get wasted, get high off of whatever I could get my hands on, and I was going to force myself to forget the things that made me feel like not wanting to get out of bed every morning for the past however many years of my life…

November 6, 2011: I woke up in a hospital bed with my best friend sitting on a chair next to the bed… I had never felt more guilty and selfish in my entire life.

The vast majority of the night is not in my memory. It’s like a movie trailer… I recall snippets of things. I remember calling a close friend of mine and balling… I remember saying I can’t do this anymore; I can’t fight the thing inside of me that wants me to die. I remember being driven in an ambulance, sort of, it felt like a coffin on wheels. I felt constrained. There was a woman’s voice asking me questions like what I had taken, what I had been doing all night. I can recall someone kneeling down in front of me once I arrived at the hospital… and I didn’t look up because I was too afraid or too fucked up, or both, to care. I felt someone’s scruffy face rub against mine and their arms reaching around me, and I knew it was my brother. From that point on… I remember just having the toughest night of my life…alone…

I had to confront everything.

I had to acknowledge my fears.

I had to acknowledge I got my heart broke.

I had to acknowledge abuse, emotionally and physically.

I had to acknowledge the idea of someone close to me dying.

I had to face everything that I had carried around for so long… and deal with it, alone.

Up until the age of 21, I had never taken drugs or drank alcohol, with the fear of turning into somebody I really did not want to. And within the short span of 2 years, I had become the very person I had feared.

Someone, and to this day I don’t know who, wrote a note in my phone that night…

Image

 

And there it was… I couldn’t run from it anymore. Either get living, or get dying. You know which path you’ve been on. What are you so afraid of? I made a decision that day, that every day I was going to do the very things that I had been doing since I was a kid… believe in myself, believe in the power of change, and fucking love myself.

This was really nerve wracking to write… but I want to thank an individual I went to high school with for reminding me of the courage within me, and for reminding me of this journey I’ve been on. He had messaged me a few nights ago, when I had come home very discouraged. I had felt like maybe I was wrong about the universe, and my teeny existence in space and time. He messaged me on Facebook… telling me a very personal account of his life after high school, and that he’s sorry he never worked up the courage to talk to me in high school. He told me I was one of the most courageous people he had ever seen because I just didn’t give a fuck, and not just for the sake of nonconformity. I truly just didnt give a fuck and he was inspired by that. You walked around with a shaved head! I did, haha.

It was a mind trip. To think your own tiny little existence impacted somebody without you not even having realized it! The fucking universe intervenes and drops a bomb. She’s like “hey, check this out”… and some guy, I barely remember from high school… (we’re talking, totally opposite crowds in high school terms)… messages me to tell ME, I’m courageous and inspirational. MIND BLOWN.

But… then I really thought about it. I started to have one of the coolest revelations ever. It’s true. I’m not afraid to tell anybody how I feel. I’m not afraid to walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to go out with me. I wasn’t afraid to shave my head, dress like boy, and kiss my girlfriend in the hallways of my high school. I’m not afraid, I’ve never been afraid… so why was I so afraid of living when I had had the courage all along? I wear my heart on my sleeve always and I’m spontaneous; I do what I want, and I don’t care that that’s a vulnerability, because when I think about it… it’s not. It makes me courageous as all hell.

But that courage is inside all of us. For every day you get up out of bed and you face the world, you’re vulnerable… and that’s courageous. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability, embrace it. Just be you. Imagine the best you that you can be, because that’s who you truly are. Be vulnerable, it’s what makes us who we are and it makes this place one insane, wonderful mind trip.

I love you friends.

– Am 🙂

A DECULTURED HYBRID “OTHER” LIVING IN A EURO-CENTRIC,

A DECULTURED HYBRID “OTHER” LIVING IN A EURO-CENTRIC, HEGEMONIC SOCIETY INFUSED WITH ASPECTS OF SYNERGY AND TRANSCULTURATION  

or  

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Ignore the Iggy Azalea’s of the World”

Written by: Dom

PREFACE:

I cannot help but laugh mockingly at myself as I begin, largely because I distinctly remember once holding great disdain for having to memorize these very terms, which I at the time found inanely superfluous. I recall challenging that these postcolonial and cultural studies courses depended too much on terminology that was overly rhetorical and only served the purpose of providing self-satisfactory pleasure in quibbling over nuance. Cultural Studies is an area of academia perfect for those individuals who believe that it is satisfactory to undermine an entire person’s argument based on their incorrect use of a term that is really only two shades different than the term they will present to you as the more accurate one.

Alas, here I am though… in the very shade of these terms I found so tediously redundant. Funnier still is that I tend to express myself with the same excessive wordiness and I can see that that is probably because I spend much of my own contemplative time in that similarly intractable gray-hued shade.

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Lately, I have realized that almost every facet of my conscious experiences are and therein likely have been tinged with the quandaries of post-colonialism. I say “conscious experiences” because at no other point in my life have I been able to look at what I see around me, which includes seeing people see me, and be able to comfortably rationalize the thought pattern behind, for instance, an absurd music video or the terribly offensive dialogue in a movie or the strange perplexed look in someone’s eyes when they see me or my best friend. Why the need for “comfortable rationalization”? Well, before this I tended to take things far too personally, particularly as an indictment of myself, and also because this is the upgrade I needed in order to continue to protect innocent idiots and the not so innocent idiots from my violent predisposition to “smack sense” and bring the “boot of doom” to asses everywhere. You are all welcome, by the way.

What encouraged this, you may wonder? Two fucking doses of Iggy Azalea.

Now, to be clear, my use of profanity is not because I harbour any personal or negative feelings towards Amethyst Amelia Kelly, also known as Iggy Azalea. Honestly, I like her flow and it’s golden almost precisely because one could listen to her rap complete, utter nonsense whilst being entranced by her voice, her tones, and her delivery. Nevertheless, as I was saying, I do not know her, I cannot presume to actually know her thought pattern, nor do I feel that she is the blue-eyed soul-sucking devil incarnate. In fact, I don’t even think she has blue eyes; it’s more of an expression… much the same way that Iggy Azalea functions as an expression of the problematic dalliances between cultural appropriation and synergy that have been waltzing through my grey matter of late.

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My understanding of the terms “cultural appropriation”, “synergy” and so forth, I owe to Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. And if you click the link, the handy excerpt reads “This best selling key guide, now in its second edition, provides an essential key to understanding the issues which characterize post-colonialism; explaining what it is, where it is encountered and why it is crucial in forging new cultural identities. As a subject, post-colonial studies stands at the intersection of debates about race, colonialism, gender, politics and language.” The bolded sections of this excerpt essentially encapsulate my “eureka” moment where practical, everyday application of post-colonial discourse in my life is concerned. First generation Canadian, check. Family immigrated from a former colony, check, to another former colony, check-check. Female, check. Of Afro-descent, check. Attachment to a language or mode of expression that is not from Canada, check.

And so, while I waltzed through my thoughts about Iggy Azalea’s alleged comments regarding the use of the N-word , her apology for that “I’m a runaway slave / master” line and her recent music video, Bounce, I realized that yes, “new cultural identities” are clearly being formed because… really, what the fuck is this shit if not some product of transculturation or maybe even transcultural shared experience?

As I recall, transculturation is rooted in the “phenomenon of the contact zone”, whereby cultural practices and various means of representation (of culture) coalesce … into … blue-eyed soul-sucking devils? I kid! But seriously, this concept is a beacon in the dim grey landscape of my mind. Places like Canada are prime examples of “contact zones” where various cultures come into “contact” with one and other, producing new hybrid ways of “being” that make those tired black/white binaries even more tedious than studying post-colonialism.

A very comfortable rationalization, indeed; however, it does not end there because power and privilege distort what subsequently emerges as sufficient (and I argue respectful) representation of (a) culture. Add authenticity to that question of representation and it’s a nightmare, it’s a bloody shit show and the boot of doom is destroying everything. Not so comfortable anymore — this is my thought process.

So if transculturation is a euphemism and hegemony (power and privilege) undermines this “rainbow-hand-holding-cultural-love-fest” then how can we respectfully practice or engage in a culture that we, for lack of a better expression, were not born into or raised in, particularly where the question of being privy to practice a different culture is concerned? My answer to that has always been that it is important to distinguish between the malignant and the benign, the callously insensitive and the innocuous. In the case of the above, the difference between malignant “appropriation” and benign “synergy”. Here is where the grey gets stormy:

  • Malignant Appropriation: Appropriation, as I understand it, is basically used to describe the way in which a hegemonic power usurps the cultural domains of those it intends to “take over” or integrate under it’s own institutional design. Important to keep in mind is that these domains that are being usurped have important historical, social, and cultural articulations of identity. This is all an oversimplification, probably a grievous one given the nuances of this entire field of study from which I borrow my terminology and understanding. Nevertheless, there is an inherent power dynamic captured in post-colonial studies that illustrates the fact that in this situation the hegemonic power or even hegemonic culture (colonizer) is atomizing and reshaping the identity of the “colonized” or of the Other with iniquitous disregard.
  • Benign Synergy: This term brings the rainbow back into transculturation. Synergy emphasizes that post-colonial cultures or societies like Canada, the US, and Australia, are a product of various contributing cultures as well as the consequent complex cultural formations that develop thereafter, which too are various in scope. The unequal power dynamic and the implications of negativity inherent in the term appropriation do not pervade this characterization of cultural exchange as it occurs in a now much more positive, synergistic, transcultural manner. When cultural exchange is respectful (appreciably difficult to determine) or at least endeavours to be then it is much less problematic and thus benign in my eyes. Like a benign cancer, it is still something to watch but not something to get overly aggressive about. Feelings may still be hurt, minds may still be perplexed by flagrant cultural insensitivity but in recognizing that the intent was not to harm, a much more productive dialogue can begin or you can move on to frying bigger fish.

Okay, now why does any of this matter? I don’t know that it really does, but I’ll tell you what it means to me… it means that I wish I could read something that talks about race or gender or culture/ expressions of culture without seeing “THIS IS APPROPRIATION!” scrawled in crayon. It calls to mind the imagery of fighting a battle but with a renegade part of your army just recklessly blowing up everything, undermining all strategic advances.

For example, if dreadlocks is a part of your culture and all of a sudden you see someone who does not look like they were born in and/or raised in your culture wearing dreadlocks … and thus somehow not privy to that aspect of your culture… it does not mean that this is an undisputable example of appropriation. Now this is in no way a binary argument, a “this is either appropriation or it’s not and it’s synergy”; I appreciate that there is a lot of grey and it is precisely this grey that needs to be taken into consideration before we lambast everyone for being culturally insensitive. Take the dreadlock example again; if the “wearing dreadlocks” consisted of a hat with a few cottony tendrils then by all means, let us talk about how a corporation has appropriated and commoditized an expression of culture.

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That was my end game… I went on a mental waltz because I was annoyed with reading that every breath is apparently a vile act of appropriation; I was annoyed by the N-word debacle; I was annoyed by disrespectful appropriative expressions of culture; and I was annoyed that people were erroneously classing positive, synergistic exchanges of culture as “APPROPRIATION”.  Synergy and appropriation are very similar but it is the nuances that make them distinct, just as the nuances of a music video or a conversation or a side-glance can be an indicator of whether intentions are malignant or benign.

So I guess it can be said that those two doses of Iggy Azalea I referred to earlier really only turned my existing dalliance with this subject matter into a dizzying Viennese waltz, adding Hesitations that would throw a professional ballroom dancer into a tizzy. And while I may be annoyed with all the grandiose displays of carelessness, at the end of all this postulating about postcolonial discourse being relevant to my sphere of existence I realized that it is best to ignore some things. Intention is not always clear… and in those instances where the hateful or disrespectful nature of an intention is apparent, I can say a very healthy “Fuck you” without burdening my heart/soul with baffled negativity. Conversely, if I so choose and the other party is a reasonable human being, we can respectful discuss annoyances, miscommunications, embedded socio-historical context, and ways to be less insensitive. That way we are not attacking every seemingly silly nitwit with a head dress because how unfortunate would it be if that person turned around and told you everything there is to know about it, down to the significance of every artifact while all the ammo you had was “that’s appropriation because you are not allowed to wear that because you… don’t look like you’re from that culture!”

Discussions when possible are helpful, especially when mind reading is not an option. In response to the “runaway slave / master” issue, Iggy wrote, “[i]n all fairness, it was a tacky and careless thing to say and if you are offended, I am sorry […] Sometimes we get so caught up in our art and creating or trying to push boundaries, we don’t stop to think how others may be hurt by it. In this situation, I am guilty of doing that and I regret not thinking things through more.” Whether or not this is a genuine apology is difficult to know, just as it may be difficult at times to differentiate between appropriation and synergy but the most important caveats I take from her statement are that “we don’t stop to think how others may be hurt” and “it was tacky and careless”. That is a huge problem on both levels. Telling someone they cannot dread their hair as an expression of themselves or wear a kimono to their graduation, and to take it a step further by inferring they are evil imperial cultural usurpers by doing so because they weren’t born into the right culture is hurtful, unnecessary, tacky, careless, and presumes you know their intention. Of course, I cannot tell anyone to not be offended by something… that is ridiculous and would be ironically hypocritical but I hope more people will think about what they are processing and therein be more thoughtful about how they begin a dialogue about it — sans hurtful accusation when obvious intent is not actually obvious. Again, I’m not telling anyone to not be offended, I’m saying that you should think about what it is you are offended by, try to understand it, and when you’ve checked all your boxes then you can lace up your “boot of doom”. By not doing this and charging head on, crayons raised high, those who systematically and hatefully offend get to hide under the grey veil of nuance and worse still… turn those who speak up against them into “bullies” and I don’t know if anyone else has been paying attention but they are really good at that.

All of this thoughtless mud slinging is poised to turn our collective social space into more of a whirlwind, cancerous, shit storm… and it’s already hardly bearable. When we call out appropriation, racism, sexism, or cultural sensitivity let us not be like Iggy Azalea – careless and tacky – but instead let’s be thoughtful and strategic.

Friends

Written by: Am
Relationships are hard. And I mean all kinds of relationships. It’s a balance of compromises and unconditional love. What happens if there’s an imbalance? It slowly begins to unravel and eventually, things aren’t the same any more.
A huge part of my life is devoted to making sure that I’m being the best friend / girlfriend that I can be. There’s an unspoken understanding that when things get difficult, it’s not okay to bail or act as if there are way more important things going on in my life than theirs. It also means, being there no matter what’s going on… even if one of my friends wants their own time and their own space.
I think often times we forget that wanting to know everything about someone you deeply care about isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. My best friend and I have been friends for over 10 years, and there have been times when both of us may be absent from each other’s lives for a little while or we’re not exactly sure what’s going on with the other, but it doesn’t mean our relationship’s changed or become weaker. (We call them “black out” periods, haha). I think the reason we’ve remained friends though is because we’re able to pick up exactly where we left off, and we aren’t offended if there are things we don’t want to talk to each other about. Eventually, we’ll talk about whatever’s going on and there’s no animosity about it. I believe the few close friends I have, have the same understanding.
That unconditional love is very important. You don’t make friends with someone and decide “hey, I like 70% of you, but I don’t care for the other 30%”. You don’t love that person wholly  and that’s selfish, because it becomes a relationship based on conveniences.
We all have periods in our lives when sometimes, being difficult is okay. There’s nothing wrong with dealing with your issues the way you need to in order to have some sort of clarity. It’s also absurd to assume your friends or significant other are anything but themselves 100% of the time if you truly know them. There are things or habits I have I know annoy my friends, and vice versa… but it never changes the love we have for each other. Why would the focus of your friendship be on these very few annoyances versus the countless good qualities and reasons you’re friends? That’s what unconditional love is about. It means never having to compromise who you are or what you feel to make your friends happy – they will understand if they’re your friends, and giving them the same understanding.