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All points are quoted from the video posted here.

1. Allies know that it is not sufficient to be liberal; in fact, the liberal position is actually a walk backwards. The politically liberal position is the hegemonic force of the academy and carries with it  all the numbing characteristics of any hegemonic force. Hegemony blinds us to what is hiding in plain sight.

2. Be loud and crazy so black folks won’t have to be. Speak out! Name it! Say it! If you are male, you be the one to tell your department chair that the women’s salaries in your department must be brought in line with those of the men. If you are white, you be the one to advocate for the qualified graduate student of color applicant over the qualified white graduate student applicant. If you are straight, you be the one to attend the [university] president’s speech tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning [for equal benefits for partners] at the University of Texas. If you are Christian, you be the one to be sure that Muslim students have safe accessible spaces on campus for the obligatory five times a day prayers. Speaking up does not mean being reckless, strategizing is always important…Speaking up does mean being willing to relinquish some piece of privilege in order to create justice. Allies step up, the do the work that has left others weary and depleted.

3. Do not tell anyone in any oppressed group to be patient. Doing so is the sign of your own privilege and unconscious though absolute disregard for the person with whom you are speaking. Remember: It was a number of white ministers in Atlanta who advised Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be ‘patient’ in reacting to U.S. racism…Patience is not a political strategy, it is a diversionary tactic. It is a patronizing recommendation made only by those who do not believe that oppression is killing us all…Allies plan with us.

4. Recognize the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia. It is institutional and structural. Learn to walk in a room and count the people of color. And know what you know: the absence of people of color in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Learn to see how many women are in charge. The absence of powerful women in any space cannot be account for by chance or accident. Learn to see and feel those spaces that are unsafe for queer people. The absence of queer people in any space cannot be accounted for by chance or accident. Allies know that racism, sexism, and homophobia are real. And never tell people, “You could be wrong, you know.” Such a statement presumes that you have greater insights than those with lived experience inside multiple oppressions. Recognizing the new racism, the new sexism, the old homophobia means listeningAllies know how to spot oppression and to support others as they reveal their wounds.

5. When called out about your racism, sexism, or homophobia. Don’t cower in embarrassment, don’t cry, and don’t silently think ‘she’s crazy’ and vow never to interact with her again. We are all plagued by sexism, racism, and homophobia. Be grateful that someone took the time to expose yours. Remember: exposure allows the wind to whip around and get rid of isolation and fear. Exposure is a step toward freedom. Allies welcome an opportunity to see how their choices, ideas, words may be erasing those around them. It’s not about your intent…It is about the effect, the damaging effect your choice had on others…Allies want to know when they have contributed to the very oppression they oppose. Allies know they are not above reproach.

6. Allies actively support alternative possibilities. Some of us publish in nationally recognized journals that our departments do not know or respect. Some of us write in poetic or non-standard or elliptical styles as a matter of choice, not ignorance. Some of us paint our truths rather than write them. Some of us teach with a loose map. Because allies believe the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, allies consider the transgressive power in alternative academic strategies. A power that works to undo patriarchy, white supremacy, the insatiability of capitalism and heterosexism. Supporting alternative possibilities is the only way we can all dream ourselves into the world we want to live in.

 

 

[I am finally working my way through the reflections and responses that I drafted throughout March. These next few posts will be a loose processing of a series of incredible events (talks, meetings, lectures, performances, collective celebrations) which unfolded over the last month and to which I alluded in a post in early March. The notes, responses, reflections, and questions that I will post in the coming days/week emerge from of a series of events which have not only moved my ‘actual’ (i.e. institutional) PhD process along, but, more importantly, have witnessed the beginnings of an engagement with the community/collective of incredible folks at YorkU Faculty of Environmental Studies, as well as people located institutionally and geographically ‘elsewhere’.

The day following my first comp defense, on which I immediately, and exhaustedly/briefly reflected (below), I was honored to participate in a panel called “Doing (and Being) Queer in Environmental Studies: Research and Visibility.” For me, this was the ideal follow-up event to the more theoretically and individually inclined comp defense. I felt, as I did many years ago when I over-eagerly volunteered to discuss the history of my neighborhood association based on my very  emergent experience, a bit out of my depth. Nevertheless, I tried to listen more than speak. I will reflect more deeply on that event in another post, but say here that it marks, in very concrete terms, a distinct moment of politicization, becoming-collective, and reflexivity in my thinking and doing as a PhD student (in general) and as a queer PhD student at York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (more specifically).

Up to that point, I had been longing for a collectivity; I was very much missing the political community of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (see above), where I first participated in anti-racist community/collective organizing. I had been feeling isolated and uncertain about being in Toronto, but aware that there was much missing from my narrow view, framed as it was by the dashboard of the first year of a PhD in an unfamiliar city and institution.

Over the last month, I have finally begun to feel at home here: in Toronto, at York, in FES, in my apartment. But home is, as Loree Erickson explored in her contribution to “Doing (and Being) Queer…”, a contingent and complex form of ‘coming alive in our bodies,’ of reconciling the ideology of “you can do anything [in FES]” with the material realities of what ‘fits’ and ‘is needed’. As Loree explored, our survival depends deeply on making FES fabulous. This means we need to care for, accommodate, listen to, work shit out with, and also just be around each other. Radical care and support is not an option, but a necessity.

And yet, writing from my particular experience, I am aware that I don’t want to fetishize or exploit other people’s struggles for home; I especially don’t want to colonize someone else’s home. Nevertheless, at least in Canada, I am implicated in the latter even though I want to reject it, which is why decolonizing not only my thinking, but also my actions, has become and will remain an imperative. I want to be aware of the conditions under which my various movements and displacements – themselves often elaborate schemes to avoid my educational debt, to attempt to build this future-oriented structure called ‘a career’, to escape failing temporary arrangements – are undertaken. To this end, I am beginning to work on becoming a responsible and engaged ally to the many communities of which I am not a member but to which I feel an obligation and for which I hope to be a useful ally.

All of this grows from finally arriving, from allowing myself to be in one this particular place for an extended period of time; from feeling it as a new home, even if it isn’t the only one. I haven’t been very established in once place for the last few years, so I am very much looking forward to cultivating the relationships, commitments, responsibilities, and engagements that (should and do) come along with the bizarre privilege of doing a PhD.

As this series of posts will explore, my own scholarly interest in displacement, invasiveness, nomadism, and the ethics and politics of queerness are beginning to react to/situate themselves in the settler colonial country in which I reside as a temporary and conditional guest. I am trying to come to know the history and ancestry of the occupied territory which I too have come to occupy as a scholar, a queer, and an able-bodied white guy. I am trying to navigate the the various forms of institutional support, from which I sometimes benefit, and to identify, understand, and resist the violence that often comes with it. This violence is something I unambiguously oppose, but something which I cannot always figure out how to act against.

All I know is that I cannot do any of these things in isolation, which is the first thing so many people told me a PhD would be. I hope these posts speak back to the assumed inevitability of that condition by highlighting the many collectivities, dependencies, and entanglements that present themselves as evidence – and not necessarily always positive – to the contrary.]

Today March 4, 2013 was rare magic. I successfully defended my first comprehensive examination as a PhD student. The topic was queer theory, so ‘defensive’ isn’t exactly the most appropriate mood. Let’s say I embodied a version of the knowledge-object which was the focus of my first comprehensive examination. I also accounted for the extensive amount of writing I had done and listened attentively to the insights and critiques of my advisor and committee members. The discussion I had with my committee was spirited and, at times, toasty. I mentioned Cleveland more than once; this was surprising. I talked about my personal past in ways I didn’t anticipate doing. I wore a (used) suede jacket; the lining was more than a little moist after two hours. The four of us discussed two pieces of my writing – one whose title is too long to reproduce here and one called “Ec[o]topia Remixed” – and a list of 30 texts constellated around themes of time, subjectivity, sexuality, (meta)feminism, trans history, and space. I spoke at length about concepts of sexual difference, the histories of feminism and queer theory, vegetality and displacement. I’m not sure that I feel any more qualified to ‘think’ or ‘do’ queer now, but I do feel a distinct sense of what happens when certain knowledges are formally tested, acknowledged, and represented and I definitely have a greater sense of the differences and entanglements among my scholarly, activist, personal, and emotional work.

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