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Language is malleable, yes—but we cannot allow social justice language, particularly the type of language specifically invented to empower victims of abuse, to work against us, to re-silence us, again and again. 

[TW- Mention of sexual assault]

A couple of weeks ago, when the #MeToo campaign was making its way across the social media landscape, I finally decided to out my rapist publicly. We had been friends for many years, romantically involved off and on—and then, about a year ago, I cut off contact with him completely. It wasn’t just one time that it happened, the rape. It was multiple times. But the most egregious and horrifying one, the one that eventually lead me to cut off contact with him completely, had stayed lodged within me like a splinter, unprocessed, unmoving.

Few people in our circles knew what had actually happened between us. Although I had admitted to being sexually assaulted on multiple occasions, I never stated his name out loud, much less publicly. It felt too vulnerable, and I didn’t feel ready for the onslaught of emotions that would inevitably accompany such an outing. But the #MeToo campaign struck a nerve. As woman after woman on my feed posted #MeToo, my only thought was: why are we the ones who have to make ourselves vulnerable, again, while our rapists sit there cloaked in silence—in the complacent comfort of non-confrontation?

I understand that there can be catharsis, even a feeling of solidarity, in seeing huge numbers of women in your community speak up publicly about the fact that they were sexually assaulted. But it didn’t feel like enough for me. If I was going to admit that I was raped in a public forum, I thought, folks better be damn sure I’m also going to name the person who raped me. If I have to make myself uncomfortable, then folks better be damn sure I’m going to make him uncomfortable too. I wasn’t about to re-victimize myself in the process of outing my oppressor.

My worry was that the #MeToo campaign was starting to render the idea of rape into something abstract—one of those things “every woman has experienced,” while, in the meantime, the actual, concrete people that raped them remain safely anonymous.   

https://twitter.com/sndrsng/status/920097942010200064

Part of the reason why I was so intent on outing him was that I knew other women had already reported him as a rapist to powerful institutions—such as Yale University, where he is currently a graduate student—only to have their requests ignored and silenced. Granted, Yale (along with, let’s face it, most institutions of higher learning) has a terrible track record of bringing justice to victims of sexual assault. But to see it happen so close to home just enraged me further. No institution would ever hold my rapist accountable—I knew this, and I know it now.

Given that, it seemed to me that the only real form of accountability available to me—to us—was social accountability. I needed my community to know what he had done—to me, and to many, many other women. The consequences of social outing for a rapist can be numerous, but here are some of the outcomes I hoped for in outing him publicly: first, mutual friends severing their ties with him; second, a sense of shock for my community—particularly my male friends who had been close friends with him for many years—that yes, they too, had been complicit. They, too, had been harboring and protecting rapists in their close friendships for many years without thinking twice about what that looked like to me and the numerous other women he had raped.

Related: HOW OUR USE OF LANGUAGE DEHUMANIZES & DEMONIZES MENTAL ILLNESS

Callouts can be used to bring attention to important issues, but with any callout there needs to be context.

By Mari Ramsawakh If you’re an activist or online often enough, you’re familiar with callout culture. You’ve probably called someone out yourself— in and of itself, a callout isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes when someone says or does something that perpetuates violence or ignorance against marginalized identities, we should say something. But callouts are just a tool and there is no inherent good or bad to them; they are how they are used, and sometimes there is an attached toxicity to callouts. More specifically, sometimes when you lose the nuance of callouts, they can be used to perpetuate white victimhood. When I say white victimhood, I mean the tendency that white folks have to center themselves as victims of any given scenario. We’ve seen it throughout the civil rights movement: as soon as people of colour get an inch of progress we’re asked, but how does it affect white people? People of colour live constantly under the pressure of how their actions and their success affects the white people around them. So when white people start to use callouts, well, it can become a slippery slope. Not every callout from a white person is bad or wrong, it’s a specific kind of callout. It’s the type of callout that typically comes as a deflection of responsibility and it usually uses a very selective form of intersectionality. It only struck me how easily some people could throw another person under the bus in order to avoid taking action for their own transgressions. One example is when I started to see Vellum and Vinyl getting dragged on Facebook among other Facebook pages like Love Life of an Asian Guy (LLAG) and Shaun King. King and LLAG were and are being called out for their abuse of women of colour, plagiarism, and speaking over Black people — especially Black women — on matters of race. These other popular pages have expressed violence and a fundamental lack of consideration for the people they claim to speak for. Vellum and Vinyl was called out for being anti-semitic (the proof being that she said she was Pro-Palestinian, which is not the same as anti-semitism), as well as a post on neurotypical advice, and for not communicating properly to autistic people as an autistic person. You can see that there’s a bit of disconnect between the severity of the offenses.
Related: FIVE WAYS TO REDISTRIBUTE SOCIAL CAPITAL IN ACTIVIST SPACES

Swap one of the current brands you buy from for one of the companies featured below.

Ironically nicknamed Land of the Free, the United States is the world’s #1 jailer. The U.S. represents only five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s inmates are here. By the close of 2010, America had 1,267,000 people behind bars in state prisons, 744,500 in local jails, and 216,900 in federal facilities—more than 2.2 million people in total. 1 in 5 inmates are low level drug offenders, and Black people are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated for drugs than whites despite using drugs at roughly the same rates. Those who are released from prison are often still under state surveillance, and as a consequence, they are subject to discrimination that contributes to America’s 76 percent recidivism rate. Most people who were incarcerated are required to have employment as a condition of their parole. Employers, however, are allowed to screen people with felonies during the application process, making it difficult for formerly incarcerated folks to get a job and feed themselves and their families.
Related: A Primer On The Prison Industrial Complex

The labor that Black women contribute to the world and to movements for Black liberation is often condensed to supporting roles, or erased altogether.

NPR just ran a story about GiveDirectly, an organization that has been based in Africa since 2008 and gives money directly to those in “extreme poverty.” Now, they are coming to Texas, which will be “the first time they have tried this model in the U.S. and, for now, probably the only time. After [Texas], they plan on turning their focus back to their projects in East Africa.” Here’s the thing: a Black woman already organized direct giving efforts in and around Houston immediately following hurricane Harvey and raised over $30k in the first 24 hours, all of which went directly to Black women. Her name is Dr. Roni Dean-Burren and she was not mentioned in NPR’s story. Dean-Burren and several others reached out to the reporter of the story to notify them of their oversight, but none have received a response. This scenario is not uncommon because, too often, Black women's work goes overlooked in favor of others. You may know her as the Texas Textbook mom who took on McGraw-Hill two years ago when her son informed her of the dishonest way that their history textbook portrayed the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Since then, she has kept busy as an educator, activist, and mother raising free Black children and fiercely advocating for Black women. “I was enlightened by the death of Korryn Gaines,” Dean-Burren says. “Her murder by the Baltimore Police Department was met with such vitriol—from white people and from Black men alike. That left me feeling tons of acrimony, but it also helped me to focus my work, thoughts, and time into supporting Black women.”
Related: WE DON’T CARE ABOUT BLACK WOMEN AND FEMMES, SO WE NEED #SAYHERNAME

Support may come in various forms, but no matter what, we must remember that corporations will not save us.

In the last two weeks alone, the news has been filled with nothing but tragedy. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has wrecked havoc in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Social media and mainstream publications has been littered with links to crowdsourcing funds, giving the names of organizations and corporations emerging to rise to fill the need. And on the surface, this is admirable, necessary work, but looking deeper, we can see that this is nothing more than a strategy used to maintain their image. At the same time, Munroe Bergdorf — L'Oreal's first Black transgender model — was ousted from her position after calling out white supremacy in a Facebook post following the events of Charlottesville in August. Though both of these instances seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, it's clear that both signal a necessary lesson: our reliance on corporations and organizations to do the work for us signals our own compliance with saviorism. In the wake of tragedy, we often see a public rush to donate to the first organization that we see and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. But to put our faith within organizations, especially those who have long histories of cooperating within the oppression they pay lip service to fight, is a lazy way that we allow casual oppression to continue.
Related: THIS LABOR DAY, DON’T FORGET ABOUT INCARCERATED PEOPLE.

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