a digital common place book | an @s_m_i production | one of a few

a list poem for working-class girls trying to grow up and into themselves
1. It is okay to leave anyone and anything and anyplace that makes you feel like shit. It’s hard, but it’s okay. And fuck explaining anything to anyone, unless you want to. Let them fucking wonder. 2. Know who the fuck you are. Not just on some touchy-feely fuzzy pretty-on-the-inside tip, but knowing who you are racially, culturally, in relationship to your sexuality, gender and your class- is a source of your power. You define that for you. Don’t ever let anyone else tell you who you are. This may change in time, as you grow and learn more. That’s okay. Manage any shame or guilt you may feel through acts of accountability. 3. Be accountable for what you do. This means owning up to how you fuck up, just as much as it means owning and defending the contested space you fill. You will fuck up, and only you can seek atonement for this. You will need to defend yourself, and rarely will anyone do that work for you. Acknowledging both your mistakes and your rights is equally important. 4. They will call you crazy. You are a woman. There is no way of going through the world in the moment we live in and not get called crazy by someone, often someone you wish would see you as deeply sane. You are not crazy. The world is fucking crazy. If you are affected by this imbalanced, unjust world, it only proves that you are a sentient being with some sense of empathy. 5. Empathy is built. You need to learn to really listen. This means listening without thinking about how it relates to you, or planning the next thing you are going to say. This means seeing everyone, regardless of who they are, as a human being. You cannot really be a human being unless you regard everyone as such, even your greatest nemeses and the gravest perpetrators. All of our damage comes from somewhere. Yours and everyone else’s. Learn to listen to others. Learn to listen to yourself. Empathy cannot exist without really, deeply listening first. 6. You are going to have moments of unbearable pain. It takes time to learn how to heal yourself. And healing sometimes still leaves scars. Healing is sometimes incomplete. Think of your scars as battle-wounds – evidence of how much wiser you are now- maps of where not to return. Cherish these scars and honor them. There will come times when they are the only reminder of where you have been, and how much you still need to grow. 7. You are going to have moments of unbearable loneliness. You need to learn how to love being with yourself, because ultimately, no one has the potential to love you like you can. It is beautiful to love and be loved, but these are just hints as to how to regard yourself. If you regard yourself highly, and learn to turn loneliness into soothing solitude, you will be capable of giving and receiving truly transformative love. 8. Find something that makes you feel like the world makes sense, even if you can’t justify it intellectually to yourself or anyone else. Personally, if I don’t rock a wall, get up, get laid, get down on a dancefloor, read a good book, write a poem, listen to a mind-blowing record or have a soul-shaking, satisfying conversation at least once a week, the world doesn’t make sense to me and I am unmoored. If I don’t get these things for a month, I become a total, inconsolable, incomprehensible wreck. This wreck can easily snowball into all kinds of self-destruction. Find what works for you and be loyal to it as a loyalty to yourself. 9. The world you live in is sick. This sickness creeps into all of us, and in many it manifests as an inability to love oneself, let alone others. Some of those afflicted with a parasitic strain of this illness will latch onto you as a host. You may believe it is part of your nature to nurture and support endlessly. These people will eat your love whole, and you with it, and leave you as a husk. You can grow again from your husk, but it will be hard, and it takes time and the training of betrayal and heartbreak to learn to trust yourself enough to determine who is worthy of your trust. Do not let anyone ride you. Only walk with those who will walk side by side with you, as an equal. 10. Do not fuck with lovers that don’t prioritize your pleasure. That can look like a lot of different things, and you’re probably still figuring it out. Don’t put up with lovers that don’t give you room to explore, to express, and above all – if a lover is only focused on using you as a vessel to reach their plateau –be out. This doesn’t mean to ignore your partner’s pleasure, but rather to see yours as of equal worth. 11. You are not responsible for the actions of those who hated themselves so much that they hurt you on purpose. 12. Collectivism is a beautiful concept, and something worth constantly striving toward and building. Collectivism has radically changed and challenged unjust structures and institutions. But if you sacrifice your own survival for the benefit of the whole, you will find yourself wringing your hands and questioning the meaning of your life and doubting the worth of others in light of their unabashed self-interest. Find a balance. 13. Do not carry broken people who are not in the process of rebuilding themselves. 14. You are not your job. Your job is simply a paycheck, and you are probably not compensated what you are worth and it is not your fucking fault- you inherited a broken economic system, and you will not be the first generation to fight for your right to live. But you need to fucking fight for your right to live, in solidarity, with those around you who are also struggling. 15. Going to college is an accomplishment. It does not, however, make you better than anyone else. It doesn’t make you essentially more intelligent. You never really make it “out” of the class you came from, and you never really make it “in” to the class you aspired to. 16. If you cannot translate what you have learned from whatever access you’ve had back to wherever you came from, then you have not gained anything- you have changed. Assimilation is a choice. Seek to be a translator. Seek to share your access to those who you may have left behind. Seek to disrupt the structures that taught those of us who gained more access that we are worth more than where we left, and less than what we found ourselves among.
17. Never take validation too deeply to heart. This is especially true of those who came up entrenched in the age of social media. The gaze of hegemony is always on us. Find validation in the ratio between how positively you impact yourself and others versus how you fuck up and hurt others. You will hurt others. Be accountable for this, when you need to be, and always be mindful of how often that happens in relation to those you help grow. None of us can be saints, but we can be salient and sentient. 18. Take your struggle to your community, and find community in those whose struggles intersect. It is only within one another that we will make any sense of this destroyed world and it’s corrupt ideology that we’ve inherited. Fight. Fight. Fight. 19. You are inherently valuable. You have worth. Ask no one for permission for this.
Tagged: #truth
One of the things which keeps us alive, meaning which prevents us from succumbing to all the bad experiences an immigrant can have, is nostalgia, our memory of what we like best about ourselves. That is home. Because of this you carry Barbados or Trinidad in your heart, in your body, in your soul with a relentlessness which Trinidadians who have never lived abroad take for granted.

Austin Clarke, “Food for West Indian Thought”, interview with Aneiksha Baksh, 2002. (via caribbeanwriters)

To stay alive and out of jail, brown and black kids learn to cope. They learn to say, “Sorry, sir,” for having sandwiches in the wrong parking lot. They learn, as LeVar Burton has, to remove their hats and sunglasses and put their hands up when police pull them over. They learn to tolerate the indignity of strange, drunken men approaching them and calling them and their loved ones a bunch of niggers. They learn that even if you’re willing to punch a harasser and face the consequences, there’s always a chance a police officer will come to arrest you, put you face down on the ground, and then shoot you execution style. Maybe the cop who shoots you will only get two years in jail, because it was all a big misunderstanding. You see, he meant to be shooting you in the back with his taser.

Trayvon Martin is dead—and so many young men like him are dead or in prison—because in America it was his responsibility to take it. It was his responsibility to let a stranger with a gun follow him at night in his own neighborhood and suspect him of wrongdoing. It was his responsibility to apologize for being a black kid who scared people. It was not George Zimmerman’s responsibility to let a boy get home to his family.

Why is it people always get so upset about Affirmative Action but not about legacies? For some reason we’re ok with the historically advantaged having a leg-up over the rest of us, but not the historically disenfranchised.
- One of the best comment about Affirmative Action I’ve seen (found in response to this article)
Tagged: #truth
Communication is important. Mutual generosity is important. Men’s inner emotional lives are important. Women’s sexual boundaries are important. And vice versa on all counts, of course. But when talking about sex, female trauma is not subordinate to male frustration. Men not “getting” enough sex from their chilly wives (as though wives couldn’t possibly want sex, or be justified in not wanting it) has been our oversimplified narrative for generations. Prioritizing men’s sexual issues over women’s is not a revolutionary, maverick stance—it is the status quo dressed up as progressive pablum. And exploiting one couple’s very specific emotional trauma and dysfunction in order to support sweeping, regressive generalizations about the sexual function of entire genders is utterly fucked up.

How Not to Talk About Sex in Relationships

Sometimes, Jezebel, sometimes you stick that goddamned landing so very hard.

Encouraging women and people of color to take more risks and be more aggressive might help somewhat, but if those risk-taking behaviors aren’t rewarded (or, in some cases, even safe), then the people who end up getting ahead will still be white men. Entrepreneurial activity will probably always entail a certain amount of risk — the only way to level the playing field would be to extend to young women and minorities the same indulgence that white boys get. It’s hard to say what this would look like — encouraging more kids to steal or get in trouble with the cops isn’t very good public policy. But there are ways in which (white) boys’ misbehavior is treated as natural and expected, even if it results in worse grades. Those who worry about boys’ education have advocated for letting boys be boys a bit more, but maybe we really need to let girls be boys.