Are You Making Your Country/Community Look Bad?

As social creatures, human beings love keeping up appearances. Poor people find a way to buy their kids brand new shoes for a new school year. Middle class people manicure their lawns and upgrade their homes based on the behavior of their neighbors. Wealthy people make sure they are seen doing the right things with the right people. We all participate in putting on a show at some point or another. At what cost and to what end do communities and countries focus on appearances influence the quality of the community and the integrity of the nation? When do we draw the distinction between wanting to fit in and covering up problems that desperately need solving?

One of the oft cited reasons why West Indians should ignore social problems like unsolved rapes and murders as well as homophobia and a slew of social issues, is the taboo of airing our dirty laundry. Many Caribbean people will deny problems exist even if they recognize that they do because admitting to a social problem is akin to being unpatriotic. Since many people view our nations as a “product” to be sold to Americans and other first-world people, they believe that admitting to social ills counts as a form of tarnishing the brand of the friendly, peaceful, docile, indolent Caribbean.

Our islands are not actually commodities. A reputation or perceived reputation is immaterial. The human beings that live and suffer under and acclimate to oppressive policies are not however capitalist creations. The choice to prioritize the “appearance” of a country’s international brand over the well-being of its people paints a vivid and revealing picture about how we view other human beings. Keeping up appearances becomes malignant when appearances matter more than the health of the society.

If you’ve been accused of making your family or community “look bad” for speaking up about injustice, your critic has demonstrated where their values lie. Where do yours?

Why You're Not A Misogynist Because You Aren't Feeling That Chick From Game of Thrones

In my year long hiatus from blogging, I’ve been analyzing my relationship to social media and writing, as well as some of the relationships that I see around me, especially with people who talk about feminism, racism, and similar heavy subjects. Social media serves our “monkey brains”. This is one of the reasons why social media is considered addictive and positively correlated with depressive symptoms. Even Silicon Valley employees agree that social media is intentionally addictive. This isn’t to say that social media is inherently bad — duh, but our relationship to social media deserves some extra attention. The question I have is this: When do ideas and opinions popular on social media bleed into real life, and when can this become malignant?

Social media rewards anger. Social media rewards black and white thinking, hence the rise of “cancel culture” which has subsumed the more rational practice of public accountability and appropriate justice. (Whether that’s doled out publicly or not is not my issue.) Like in any community, social media rewards behaviors, thoughts and opinions that are most commonly held amongst members of various sub-communities. For example, we’re most likely to be rewarded for politeness in a culture where most people agree politeness is an important value to have.

Theoretically, from the perspective of activists, enforcing a certain set of community standards would make progressive beliefs more attractive. If you get rewarded for not being a misogynist, you could theorize that feminism would become more appealing. However, unlike communities built through interpersonal interactions where people bond through first hand experiences, physical contact, and in other ways that involve connecting on an empathetic level, social media creates a pseudo-community where a hierarchy of those who can “beat the algorithm” is established in favor of a more equitable community hierarchy. Social media also encourages other ways of “bonding” individuals, such as a shared group of progressive dogma in favor of a shared set of values. Social media communities might reward the idea that “women are equal to men”, but the values that underly that belief are missing from the statement. Treating women with kindness is not actually necessary as long as you believe in the idea.

When this bleeds into real life, jarring and alienating experiences ensue. Someone can hold similar values to you without having the same beliefs and online communities tend to be bereft of this nuance. Those who think differently receive the label of an outsider, a misogynist, a TERF, an ableist scum, you get the point. While yes, there are many people who are misogynists, transphobic, or ableist, these are not necessarily the people to whom these labels are applied.

Progressive activism and the associated beliefs bleed into consumption habits, in the perspective of many members of online communities. Your opinion on prison abolition is as likely to alienate you as your opinion on The Cosby Show, and within these spaces, all “ideas” are given equal weight and important. Your consumption dictates your ethics. If you don’t like Sansa Stark, you’re a misogynist out to personally discredit all rape victims. After all, if you don’t agree with the latest Buzzfeed style “10 Reasons Why Arya From GOT Is A Feminist Sex Pot Polyamorous BAMF”, you can’t possibly have a genuine understanding of… praxis.

In true American individualist fashion, opinions are on an undeserved pedestal and your opinion becomes a shield against self-reflection and change, as long as you belong. As long as you share the “good ideas”, you are “good”, and there is no need to reflect, to educate yourself or to change. Unfortunately, this type of thinking leaves room for propagandizing less-than-progressive ideas, as long as they’re masquerading behind language and tone deemed acceptable. This is one of the many ways “sex positivity” has been co-opted by misogynists with violent sexual practices towards women. As long as what you’re doing has been deemed liberating, and contains the “right ideas” who cares if it’s uncomfortable, painful, degrading or a symptom of deeply violent misogyny. The values behind the activism are lost when dogma takes center stage. Ideas should always be thoroughly questioned and examined against our values — that’s the real measure of a good idea, not how agreeable it is to whomever is winning today’s online popularity contest.

This is not a typical centrist whine-fest about wanting to be freely discriminatory in public. Public accountability is natural in most communities. I view this as an “in-group” problem of well-meaning people who at the end of the day, are human. I am not calling for an elimination to “cancel culture” or for people to “give R. Kelly’s music a chance”.

All I want is for us to ask: who do we empower when we make ideas impenetrable to questioning? Are our communities empowered by dogma, or are we made susceptible to horrible violence and abuse by accepting even an opinion of an artist, a TV show, or a fashion line as incontrovertible proof of someone’s morality?

2015: "Why I Started This Blog"

I started this blog because I noticed a profound lack of accurate information and analysis on black issues, especially black feminist issues in the Caribbean. Most popular Caribbean pages were either written by foreigners or written by people who did not engage in in-depth cultural analysis that portrayed the reality of West Indians without imposing paternalistic psychology regarding our culture. I wanted to have a space to write about my reality and the reality of the people around me. I wanted a place where I could be honest about West Indian culture without covering up the dark truths or relying on unnuanced and uninformed perspectives.

This blog offers you the truth. This blog offers a safe space for black Caribbean women from all walks of life. Here you can expect to find the truth, no matter how unpleasant or how blunt it is. Here, no aspect of Caribbean culture is free from criticism. Here, the authentic West Indian experience will be deconstructed and analyzed with the ultimate goal of changing the hearts and minds of Caribbean people (and allies) and helping them see a future where black liberation is not just ideal, but necessary.

The issues of anti-blackness, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are far greater than most people are willing to accept. Politicians pretend to be invested in ending violence, poverty and crime in our region, but are unwilling to confront the real societal factors that are preventing us from having true peace. We accept violence because our societies were founded on blood spilled by colonizers. We have known violence for so long that it sometimes gets mistaken for peace -- acquiescing to the wishes of colonizing nations is seen as progress for example. As a writer and as a person, I have no allegiance to any colonizing nation. My politics center those who are most in need of liberation.

If you get nothing else from this blog, I can guarantee that you will be exposed to new ideas. While I am educated by standards that are validated in American society, my biggest commitment is to self-education and encouraging others around me to self-educate. You will learn ways to educate yourself and you will find ways to love yourself from reading this blog. You will find validation in your lived experiences. You will find a fresh perspective that you haven't seen in the media. You will find West Indian identity at the forefront of everything I write and every analysis that I post.

I write about this because I have read countless books about Black American history, Caribbean history and black feminism. Throughout all of this self-education, I have still found the West Indian perspective unexamined. And black American women have no duty to examine our perspective. However, I feel that I do have a duty to fill that gap drawing from my 21 years of experience as a black woman as well as over seven years of formal and self-education about feminism, black history and black culture. If you enjoy bluntness, honesty and reading something different about West Indian blackness, you'll probably find something for you here.I have a "take no prisoners" approach, but one of the primary goals of this blog is to connect with others who share my experiences and discuss these ideas and what we can do for ourselves and for each other moving forward.

Please keep in touch...But as I said... I "take no prisoners" so there are some ground rules. I will not be condescended to. I will not be abused and milked for free labor. Keep that in mind before you post or reach out to me. (Many men have trouble with this, so this is for you. Trust me, you don't want problems.)

If you're willing to respect my simple boundaries, feel free to comment on any of my posts or reach me by email at mywestindianlife@gmail.com. I will typically respond to emails about any of my posts or ideas within 2-5 business days since I'm a business owner and actually quite busy a lot of the time.