Tag Archives: Global South

Living for the Legacy: On Misogynoir and Climate Disasters

[Feature image from the 5th annual Congress of Afro Ecuadorian Women, 2016]

Hey people. I’m in the midst of packing to leave Ecuador for EcuaYork, my home-away-from-home-away-from-home in Queens, rather reluctantly, but also ready to see my people and eat all the things and enjoy la primavera. My knee is all messed up and my back is already aching at the thought of having to endure two flights tomorrow, but that’s #travelingwhiledisabled for ya. FYI: Yesterday’s POC Travel Book Club talk was riddled with tech issues I’m still tryna resolve, but we will be rescheduling so wait up for the next newsletter.

Today I’m sharing part four of my series on climate disasters and oppression for Bitch Magazine: Misogynoir and Climate Change: How Disaster Relief Fails Black Women. Mad thanks to France Francois and Jeri Hilt for talking to me about their experiences and thoughts on these issues. Jeri’s piece, Marine Botany and Standing Rocks, which is accompanied by video footage from a spiritual retreat for Black women in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, absolutely blew me away, as did her piece in Bitch Magazine, There Are No Survivors Without Scars, that I pulled from for my essay.

I decided a few years ago to live for the legacy and not the details, to build for three generations ahead because some battles have already been lost.

Jeri Hilt

With this essay I focused on the cumulative effects of environmental racism against Black communities coupled with the heightened levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that women, feminized, and gender non-conforming people are often exposed to in the wake of climate disasters, all which further burden Black and Afrodescendant women whose businesses, families, incomes, and livelihoods are put in jeopardy due to climate change. I also point out how the institutions in charge of distributing aid to those in need during and after disasters are flawed as fuck, and finally, stress how important it is to support environmental and climate justice work led by Black women if we really care about you know, the future of the planet. Read the essay in full here.

Also also: this series was just featured in Longreads’ Rising Up Against Climate Change: A Reading List, which was put together in response to the Science and Climate Marches. I’ve been hoping (for a while now; gotta get my shit together) to put together a comprehensive list of E+CJ groups led by BW to throw your dollars at instead of the goddamned ACLU and SPLC and probably Greenpeace or whatever liberal white folks are pushing at the moment. Stay tuned.

Pray For [Blank]: Climate Disasters & The Narrative of Place

I can hear the water trickling back up through the pipes. It’s been off all day, probably ‘cause it rained like a motherfucker last night. They don’t call it a rain forest for nothing. We generally don’t realize how precious water is until our access to it gets interrupted, which brings me to today’s topic. My essay, A Country Within A Country: Climate Change, Privilege, and Disaster Survival was published in Bitch Magazine last year but I’m only now just getting around to sharing it with y’all, and, unfortunately, it’s relevance hasn’t waned in the slightest.  This Sunday will mark the one year anniversary of the major earthquake that devastated Ecuador last year, the event that sparked this series in the first place. It brought me to write this:

The disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina and its mismanagement were broadcast across international media for all to see, and while the hurricane took many lives and will impact the Gulf region for generations to come, the media spectacle showing the hurricane’s effects didn’t translate into solidarity. New Orleanians were abandoned, almost as an example for what we, the underprivileged in the most privileged place on the planet, have to look forward to.

With #45 and a bunch of dudes who get rich off of shit like this in office, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got a lot more Katrinas on the way. But the focus of this piece is how the narrative of climate disasters (and tragedies in general) shift based on where they happen and who they happen to, and particularly how this plays out on social and mainstream media. For example:

“If you turned down the sound on your television, if you didn’t know where you were, you might think it was Haiti or maybe one of those African countries.” – Soledad O’Brien’s reaction to Katrina on CNN. Then there’s Nancy Gibbs in Time magazine: “These things happened in Haiti, but not here.”

If Katrina taught us anything, it’s that those things do, in fact, happen here. They continue to happen and they will not stop. So can we retire this awful tendency of comparing tragedies on US soil to ones in “those African countries”? And what do they reveal to us about the myth of American exceptionalism? I turned to author Edwidge Danticat’s incredible essay, Another Country, to try to answer this. From her work:

“It’s hard for those of us from places like Freetown or Port-au-Prince, and those of us who are immigrants who still have relatives living in places like Freetown or Port-au-Prince, not to wonder why the so-called developed world needs so desperately to distance itself from us, especially at times when an unimaginable disaster shows us exactly how much alike we are.” Let’s be real: This kind of rhetoric is a coded way of saying, “We deserve better. They don’t.”

Nope, the US isn’t disaster-proof, and being shocked that it isn’t operates from a flawed understanding of how shit works here. Because those folks in New Orleans probably have more in common with people in “those African countries” than they might with the wealthy hotel owners downtown in the French Quarter. Did we really believe that the resources the US has looted from the rest of the world, a primary driver of climate change, were equally distributed among the people of the US? That Tio Samuel is really gonna have our backs when disaster strikes?

I don’t think people like O’Brien or Gibbs consciously believe this, though. I think this is the message the United States sends to the rest of the world on a daily basis, from the events and ideals at its foundation, to its current foreign policies, to the way it treats migrants of all kinds right here in the god-blessed U.S. of A. I think people like O’Brien and Gibbs represent so many in the American public who feel the need to help craft a revisionist fairy tale about their country to boost its self-esteem and to swallow the reality that one in eight households here live in hunger (or “food insecurity”) according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They treat the Story of America like a child crying home to his parents because the kids at school called him racist. The revisionist consoles the child, saying, “Now now, son, tell them you aren’t racist, you’re alt-right.”

Nothing will bring you back to your senses like a climate disaster. They lay bare the ugly reality of how things work here, and since we’re going to be seeing a lot more of these, we have to be real about who’s going to be hit the hardest, and why. (Hint: it’s race.) We’ll need more than Facebook filters that are usually reserved for majority-white victims of tragedies, more than a fake story about a shitty dream to unite us; more than a flag. Because what use is all of that when you don’t even have water?

Read the full essay here.

The Least Convenient Truth: White Supremacy and Climate Change

If we’re going to protect the sacred and prepare for the worst, we must look at the environmental effects of white supremacy.

Real talk: it’s been a fucked up month in a fucked up year and I, like many of you, am afraid. Since November, I’ve been hibernating, maybe because I feel safe inside, also because the cold weather is racist, and have tripled down on reading and writing. A lot of that writing was published this week, notably my series on climate change and oppression for Bitch Magazine that accompanies my feature on “natural” disasters in their latest Chaos issue. I’ll be releasing one essay per week, starting with everyone’s favorite topics, white supremacy and climate change. Just some light holiday reading.

“Poor places experience forest-cover loss because they are exploited by wealthy places.” Historical context for current crises demands accountability from those wealthy places, and this is key if what we’re fighting for is environmental justice.

I lay out a brief history of the deforestation of Haiti by colonial and imperial powers that took place way before the current (white, Western) environmental narrative decided it was an issue. The takeaway here is that these wealthy countries have been using the climate to punish Haiti for resisting white supremacy ever since they dared to overthrow their slavers.

I get capitalism, but if your goal is long-term domination, wouldn’t you be in favor of environmental sustainability? Turns out: Nah. Because they knew in the end, people of color would be the ones paying the highest price for the environmental consequences of settler colonialism.

I blame the creation of the settler state, which is predicated upon the genocide of Indigenous people and the enslavement of people of African descent, for being a major contributor to our current climate crisis, and the settler colonialist framework many environmental groups rely on that stalls progress. I think it’s detrimental that people of color remain stewards of the land, because we historically know how to take care of it best.

Read the essay in its entirety here.

Thoughts? Cries for help? Totally panicking? Share your feels below.

LISTEN: Unnatural Disasters, Climate Change, Ecuador and Beyoncé

Hey people. So while I was in Ecuador this summer writing about the earthquake in Ecuador this spring, an earthquake hit. I was fine, but it exacerbated the urgency I felt in writing about disasters brought about by climate change and how they affect the most marginalized among us who don’t usually benefit from aid, but instead are all the more oppressed by the disaster capitalism that props up in the aftermath. I talked about all of this and more on Bitch Magazine’s Popaganda podcast. Listen below.

Subscribers to Bitch can look out for my essay Unnatural Disasters in the Chaos issue while the rest of y’all can just chill ’til it goes live online or hits newsstands over the next few weeks.

How to Help Haiti, Not Disaster Capitalists

Back in April, when the initial 7.8 earthquake hit Ecuador, I was running around trying to get folks to, first of all, know that we exist, second of all, care, third, care enough to donate for the relief, and fourth, to donate to activist organizations for marginalized folks and families instead of charities, foreign-run NGOs and a host of shady savior campaigns. Now that Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti at unthinkable proportions, I’m at least glad that the ‘international community’ is way more aware of what’s at stake, maybe having learned something from the 2010 earthquake (though not many are talking about how the Clintons looted Haiti, but I digress.)

My next feature for Bitch Magazine is actually about all this – what we really mean when we invoke the term ‘natural disaster,’ how they disproportionately affect the marginalized, and what the earthquake did to Ecuador. So, you know, just some light reading.

I’m sharing this list of organizations that you can feel more secure in donating to, in that they’re actually going to those in need and not lining some opportunist’s pockets. This comes from France Francois of the blog First Class is a Lesson:

“I’ve been getting a lot of messages from well-meaning individuals collecting goods to send to Haiti. Let me reiterate: Please DO NOT collect items to send to Haiti. Both the Haitian gov and Haitian orgs have made it clear that this actually hinders rather than helps relief efforts. Anything you can buy in the U.S., you can buy in Port-au-Prince so unnecessary goods end up 1. creating a backlog in customs that prevent emergency relief items, medical supplies, and construction materials from getting in 2. undermining the local economy and putting Haitians out of business by flooding Haiti with free stuff. We are trying not to repeat the mistakes of the earthquake response, well-meaning or not. Instead, please donate money to local organizations already responding to the disaster.”

Konbit Mizik
Haiti Communitere
Sakala Haiti
Fondation Aquin Solidarité
Volontariat pour le Développement d’Haïti
Lambi Fund
MADRE
Sowaseed
Haitian American Caucus
Art Creation Foundation for Children
Prodev Haiti
SOIL

Non-Haitian Orgs with proven track records in Haiti:
Doctors Without Borders
Roots of Development
Partners in Health
Nova Hope for Haiti

Spend & Save: The Narrative of Fair Trade and White Saviorism

Pick up the latest issue of Bitch Magazine (or just check it out online) to read my feature essay on Gendered Orientalism, Imperial Feminism, White Feminism – whateveryouwannacallit, and the artisan fair trade industry. (Sounds so sexy, right?) Here’s the thesis:

The overwhelming majority of founders, CEOs, and employees in these organizations—all of which claim to provide an equitable transaction between the globally wealthy and the globally poor, to the tune of more than $200 million a year—are white women. And the workers who produce the colorful wares that line the online shelves are poor women of color from developing countries. How “fair” is this trade? And what does its proliferation say about relationships of power between women, who account for the majority of both producers and consumers in this industry?

I drop some history on the origins of the fair trade movement (I went all the way back to scripture, but that got cut out! A different story for another day…) and how its present-day practices rely on the Savior narrative – as well as global inequity – to rake in dough. Another bite:

The connotations of poverty seen through this white gaze are apolitical, a sad fluke of modern society. White supremacy and western hegemony are just as oppressive to underprivileged women of color in poor nations as poverty is, but to mention them would be a tough sell, a real downer for customers to ponder while they’re shopping for a new pair of sandals.

Finally, I go into Cause-Related Marketing – the business of commodifying social ’causes’ for profit – (also known as Consumption Philanthropy), using it as a critique of White Feminist Entrepreneurship.

With names like Buy the Change, Global Girlfriend, and Indigenous Designs, these companies employ practices that are naive and self-serving at best, and that reek of imperialist exploitation at worst. In the middle lies a controlled form of cultural appropriation, where white women get the green light to wear “authentic” “ethnic” garb, to consume the oft-endangered cultures of the Other.

Thoughts? Praises? Rants? Resources? Feel free to engage with this piece in the comments below, on the Twitter, FB or IG. Click here to read the article in full.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Someplace Else: A Decolonial Travel Checklist

Hey peeples. I have SO MUCH GOING ON so don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned you and will fill you in on all the new good shit going down in my lil’ decolonial travel world, but right now I’d just like to share my recent article for Bitch Magazine, an intersectional summer travel checklist! Someone called it ‘how to avoid eatprayloving your way through the world’ so I just stole that. Here’s a bite:

Peep the history. Remember: Wherever you are, you’re on native land. Do some research on the historical relationship between your place of origin and your place of visitation. As an American of color, I don’t take the power of my blue passport and the heavy imperialist history it weighs over others, a history which enables me to be a tourist today, lightly.

The Nice White Lady tears began a-dripping mere moments after the Publish button was hit but I’d like to thank them for keeping me hydrated in this swampy Florida heat. Just goes to show you how the real racist is me! Just kidding; it goes to show just how much work has to be done in the travel writing genre and blogging world, where even the POC are copy-and-pasting the colonial narrative and wrapping it up with an Identity bow or are simply opportunists who give negative zero fux about their complicity in this hierarchy of oppression. And that’s cool, just let me do my thing and remember to -ask questions -when you engage with the work/me, not demand solutions for world peace or write me a raging sonnet I will delete in .2 seconds. This might be uncomfortable subject matter (to you) but it’s not a personal attack. I promise you, I don’t bite. Here’s another excerpt:

Mi casa NO es su casa. You’re a guest in someone else’s home. Do you take pride in your raggedy clothes when locals have no other choice but to wear theirs? Are you soaking in some resort Jacuzzi surrounded by people struggling for access to clean, drinkable water? Is the way you dress respectful of the local culture? You can also ameliorate the harm of tourism by adhering to local customs on tipping and following immigration laws if they favor your placement on the power spectrum. Don’t overstay your visa in a poorer country even though you’re white and can afford it. Learn as much of the local language as you’re able and don’t openly mock signs misspelled in English. You’re being gross. Finally, you ain’t no rock star—a poor woman of color is most likely cleaning up after your hotel mess. (Who raised you?)

Read the article in its entirety.