The story of Sarah Winchester and her unfinished mansion is one that would not exist without the violence of white colonialism.In San Jose, there stands an extravagant mansion with hundreds of rooms that is still, technically, unfinished. It has secret rooms, hidden passageways, trap doors, windows in the floors, and staircases that lead to nowhere. The construction of this surreal, monstrous structure was commissioned by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Following the unexpected deaths of both her infant daughter and husband, Sarah visited a spiritual medium who gave her a grim answer to her existential questions. Sarah would forever be haunted by the vengeful spirits of those who had fallen victim to the Winchester repeating rifle, more popularly known as “The Gun That Won The West.” Slaughtered by the weapon that created the Winchester fortune and helped to ensure Manifest Destiny, the restless spirits seemed to be attacking the Winchester family in retaliation for the destruction that the rifle had caused during the American-Indian Wars. The spiritual medium convinced Sarah that this haunting was responsible for the deaths of her family, and that it would forever be attached to her. In an effort to deter the angry ghosts, she began to build the San Jose home in 1884 and the building continued until her death in 1922. It was believed that the maze-like layout and sheer size of the mansion would confuse the spirits and therefore protect her from their wrath. The story of Sarah Winchester and her unfinished mansion is one that would not exist without the violence of white colonialism, but I do not expect that to be contemplated much in the newest sensationalized version of her story, a biopic and horror drama starring Helen Mirren. “Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built” is set for release Feb. 2. With this feature, Hollywood continues the tradition of sensationalizing and distorting the reality of Native American suffering in order to tell horror stories that center white characters. The same is true of narratives with Black ghosts that use racialized U.S. chattel slavery and antebellum violences. Rarely are the lives or deaths of Black and Native people explored in horror films unless they are done so in this way. These racialized violences are used as nothing more than plot devices, rather than as a means to interrogate and condemn the white supremacy and colonialism that necessitates them.
Oprah’s speech obviously made a huge impression and once again a Black woman is being called upon to save us from white recklessness/racism.Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes award-acceptance speech ignited a fiery debate on social media, as people speculated over whether or not she should run for President. Discussions ranged from complete adoration and reckless stanning to fervent disapproval. Some wondered if the latter was due to racism (likely for some). Some blamed sexism. Some highlighted the fact that running a country is not like running a business and that Oprah is not politically versed and gave the names of other, more qualified, candidates. Whatever the case, Oprah’s speech obviously made a huge impression and once again a Black woman is being called upon to save us from white recklessness/racism. Whether she’s qualified or not is beside the point. What I want to know is why people continue to advocate for a Pine-Sol Lady™ style clean up of their mess? While the typical Magical Negro is usually a Black man (typically disabled or impoverished) the Mammy stereotype is another gendered racial trope that dehumanizes Black women and seeks to place us in the diminished role of white savior-mother-maid. Mammies are like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. If you are not familiar with the premise of the book it goes like this: The tree loves the boy. The boy gathers her leaves and plays beneath her. He shares his woes and receives comfort and support. Supposedly the boy loves the tree. Whatever. The relationship appears mutually beneficial, right? So the boy grows up a little. Stops visiting as much. He’s getting some, he’s going through puberty. The tree patiently waits. The boy occasionally appears whenever he needs comfort for some life disappointment, or when he needs something material. This continues until the tree has sacrificed its fruit, branches and trunk. All while being understanding and kind and never asking for anything in return. The rest is irrelevant. I wept for that tree.
As sexist and misogynistic as it is heteronormative, this inordinate value placed on romance and marriage is consistently used to devalue single and unmarried women, painting us as inherently unworthy and pathetic, too difficult and too picky.Romance is not universal, or necessary. However, due to the way that romance has been heralded as a fundamental part of human experience (and even non-human animal experience in some instances), this is something that many people will disagree with. So, I will say it again. Romance is not universal, or necessary. The idea that it is necessary is one that is deeply embedded among societal expectations and permissions about relationships (and sex), and it is imperative for us to understand that our experiences with romance are not universal and that all orientations are valid. To many people, romance is a necessary part of their lives, and that is fair. For others, however, romance is a foreign and sometimes impossible concept. For some, romantic entanglements easily become toxic. For some, romantic involvements easily trigger many anxieties. For some, romantic situations are traumatic. The term amatonormativity, coined by Elizabeth Blake, refers to the “widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.” It constructs romantic relationships as inherently superior and more necessary than non-romantic ones. This pervasive idea is damaging for everyone, as Elizabeth Brake details in her scholarships on marriage and policy, but especially so for those on the aromantic spectrum and others who fall outside of the heteronormative monogamous model of romance. Amatonormativity erases the significance of familial, platonic, and queerplatonic friendships/relationships. So much so, that we refer to romantic partners as “significant other.” As a largely heteronormative concept, it is one of the driving forces behind mind-boggling and widely accepted cultural myths like "men and women can't be friends,” because it assumes that romance, and by extension, sex are the default in relationships between men and women. It's also why so many people abandon friendships and neglect other people when they start dating someone new. And why the contemporary concept of marriage is viewed as the end goal of dating, despite the fact that marriage is neither wanted or needed by many people for legitimate reasons.
Related: OUR IDEAS OF ROMANCE ARE ABUSIVE
If you really want Black women to "save you", do us all a favor and save yourself.Last night, America watched as Alabama held an election as to who would hold the Senate seat. In a close race, Republican Roy Moore lost the race by 20,000 votes to Democrat Doug Jones. So many are stunned by the Democrat victory in a deep red state, but it's not so much who won this Senate race than who is still being fetishized that bothers me. We've seen this spotlighted since the 2016 presidential election — when the poll breakdown by race and gender are published, the numbers confirm what Black women* have known since the dawn of time: we are one of the very few, if not the only, community that has consistently voted in the interest of human rights. Yet, our voting choices has always been weaponized against us; turned around from being an act of self-preservation into one that assuages white folks' racist guilt, giving them an opportunity to "thank Black women for saving [us]". Here's a news flash: We never belonged to you. This morning, my social media was flooded with posts from "well-meaning" to obtuse non-Black folks who mentioned the same fetishizing nonsense we've been seeing since politics turned into a dystopian nightmare for everyone else. Amidst the "Black women saved us," and "Black women voted for us," there's an afterthought of supporting Black women. But these bare minimum posts signal nothing more than finding another way to assert power over Black women. The bar is set on the ground if white folks are using a Senate election as the push they need to finally understand that this country is built on white supremacy. But even more than that, it is no more than an opportunistic ploy to once again treat Black women like the mammies or mules they want us to be. You can set a watch to the timing of white supremacy using Black women for their own means. In centering Black women's voting track record, this means that Black women are collectively robbed of their personal autonomy. When the first thought that comes to the minds of non-Black folks is that anything Black women do is for anyone but themselves, we are moving to take ownership of Black women. Plain and simple. To assert that kind of power over a marginalized group is an extension of the white supremacy that already hangs over our heads.
Hattie McDaniel's legacy goes beyond her roles, she chipped away at racism in Hollywood by simply existing and making room for herself.If Ms. Hattie McDaniel was still with us, she would have been 122 years old, and she would probably be flawless. Today is her birthday and she needs to be celebrated. For those of you who don't know who Hattie McDaniel is, she is the first woman of color to be nominated and win an Academy Award in 1940 for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. The Mammy trope is one that is ubiquitous with racist America, it is present in pop culture as well as marketing. Hell, she is the original Aunt Jemima before they gave her a jerry curl afro and dentures. [caption id="attachment_46279" align="alignnone" width="400"] Gone with the Wind (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming
Shown from left: Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel[/caption] The Mammy trope is represented as a thick, dark skinned Black woman who spends her time doting on a white family. She is a magnificent cook, a great listener, subservient in her spirit and she can probably sing a mean spiritual. The Mammy trope is non-sexual – as opposed to the Black Jezebel trope – but she has kids of her own. She doesn’t have the time to give them the attention they deserve because she is forced to take care of the white family she is bound to. If it were up to just Hollywood, the Mammy trope would be Hattie's legacy. Fuck that. Hattie was a boss.