Monday, January 20, 2014

Started From the Bottom Now You Where?: An MLK Day Reflection, of Sorts

Cheryl Clarke once prudently instructed, “So, all of us would do well to stop fighting each other for our space at the bottom, because there ain’t no more room.” Clarke, a poet/scholar celebrated for fearlessly and brilliantly giving voice to the experiences of Black lesbian feminists, has always been acutely aware of the ways that myopic politics result in movement asphyxiation—the ways that one’s refusal to think beyond his own experience of oppression and liberation might easily result in the suffocating of those who are packed tightly in the lowermost regions of the US socio-sexual-economic order. 

She knew the price of a fight waged against the wrong enemy would be costly. She knew, for example, as evidenced by the argument she articulated in her now classic essay “Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community,” that the undoing of a world organized around White racial supremacy would be incomplete if Black folk, especially men, refused to do away with their own tools of oppression. She knew that some Black brother’s vision of “freedom” could easily double as restriction in the lives of Black women. She knew that some heterosexual feminists—White, Black, and otherwise—imagined a liberated anti-patriarchal future that did not include her queer likeness and that of other queer and trans people. She knew, like some of us, that even though non-White, non-straight, non-abled, non-male, non-bourgeois, and other nonentities (as imagined by those in power) might be the everyday targets of structural violence, we are all differently situated at the proverbial bottom.

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