Sunday, November 30, 2008

25 Ways to Tokenize or Alienate a Non-White Person Around You

(or, 25 Examples of the Racism We Witness on a Regular Basis)
by basil, billie, qwo-li, jenn and colin from Colours of Resistance

1. Walk up to that black girl you barely know in the co-op and say, "What do you think of the new (insert hip-hop artist here) album?"

2. Ask one of the only Arabs in your community to write the article for your newspaper on the situation in Palestine.
a) Then, after they write it, take their research, re-write the article and sign your name to it.

3. In a big group of many activists, say, "How can we bring more people of color into our struggle?"

4. In a big group of many activists, say, "Black people don't have the time to care about trees.”

5. Go up to the Makah woman at the Unlearning Racism workshop and say, "I saw a program about Crazy Horse on PBS, he did a lot for your people."

6. Act like the only people of non-white ancestry in your community are the ones visible to you.
a) Assume that light skinned people around you are white without ever knowing their ancestry.

7. Talk about race as if the only groups are black and white.
a) Talk about race as if the only groups are black, white and hispanic.
b) Talk about race as if the only groups are black, white, hispanic and asian.
c) Talk about race as if the only groups are black, white, hispanic, asian and native american.

8. Picture a violent, irrational Arab every time the word "terrorist" is mentioned. Ignore the Arabs who do not fit into this stereotype.

9. Look to a non-white person in the room every time racism is brought up.
a) Make sure they have the last and most defining word on the subject.
b) Sympathetically and silently agree with everything they say.
c) Thank them profusely.

10. Fearfully avoid assertive non-white people in your community.

11. Ask a native person, "Do you make your own jewelry?"

12. Use the identity of white anti-racist as a shield against accusations of racism.

13. Ask an Arab you don't know what they think about the war in Iraq.

14. After a non-white person in your predominantly white workplace points out racism, ask "What are some of the positives of working here?"

15. Get a [racist] white person to facilitate a panel on racism featuring non-white queer people for a predominately white audience.

16. Pit light-skinned non-white people against each other based on how they identify racially and what you think is most correct.

17. Say "I noticed a lot of Black, Filipino, and Korean people who own grocery stores sell a lot of liquor."

18. When a multiracial native person tells you their heritages, say "What a magical mix."

19. Tell a racially mixed black person, "You don't act black."

20. When you find out that someone is Mizrachi, say:
a) "You're an Arab Jew? That's fucked up."
b) "What are you talking about? I've never heard of Sephardi/Mizrachi jews. What makes you think you're a person of color?"
c) "Jews are from Europe."
d) "There are no Palestinian Jews."
e) all of the above.

21. At the last minute, get two non-white people to facilitate a workshop on racism at your skill share and make sure none of the white folks from your organization attend the workshop. Profoundly, deeply thank the facilitators.

22. If a non-white person wants to organize a workshop at your conference specific to their ethnic community, before you "let" them, ask them "How many do you need?"

23. Organize a conference with an all white organizing committee.
a) When non-white people organize at the conference and want to speak for themselves, accuse them of "hijicking" the event.
b) Tell them you will publish their written statement on your website, and wait two years to do so.

24. If you see a black man speak about racism, say, "He was so angry - but very articulate."

25. If you're white and confronted on your racism, cry.

Have you witnessed any racism lately? If so, please feel free to add your story to this list!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Workshopping for Anti-Oppression-framed Activism

This past weekend, I put together and co-facilitated an Anti-Oppression workshop as part of the intensive training course for Points of Distribution.

Points of Distribution is a direct action outreach collective based in Oakland that provides safer injection supplies, and HIV rapid testing and results to street-based injection drug users (IDUs) in both the East and West Bay.

I was recently asked to join this collective, and as a prerequisite to going on outreach shifts, we must first go through an eight week training course which covers topics such as Drugs 101, History of Drugs & the War on Drugs, STIs, HIV, Hep. A, B, C, Anti-Oppression, Civil Liberties, Homelessness & Homeless Health, Sex Work, Mental Health & Suicide, DOPE Project Training, Soft Tissue Infections, etc.

The training is *intense*, but informative and useful for getting people from different backgrounds, politics, and privileges, closer to the same page. Because of the positive feedback we received about the Anti-Oppression workshop, and the amazing conversations that were inspired from the group, I've decided to put up some of the reading materials here on the blog throughout the next few days.

The following posts are some food for thought, in hopes that the issues brought up will lubricate those anti-oppression gears in yer mind towards a society based in collective consensus rather than domination and hierarchy.

Stay tuned, and enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fuck Globally, Think Locally

This excerpt from Ara Manoogian's groundbreaking investigation on the Armenian sex trade to Dubai has a 20-second introduction to the city of Dubai itself pulled from Discovery Channel's "Really Big Things." Ara's documentary originally aired on

Work what you got, girl. This video is straight up.

"Of the six women in the group, two were tricked to come to Dubai, the other four came voluntarily."

Another example of how trafficking sometimes results in a beneficial economic exchange between city, [client/tourist], and worker. Now if only there was a way to successfully address safety and health issues to keep people from bad situations. But in examining different cities around the world, it becomes clear that the circumstances around sex trafficking and human trafficking differ uniquely depending on the socio-economic status of the city and its place within the global market. Each context needs to be deeply examined before any productive strategic plan can be implemented to address the deeper issues that create unsafe working environments that harm its workers. And a response to coerced trafficking in one city may not work for another city with another set of circumstances.

(And no, the heading of this post is not meant to be a Gogol Bordello reference, but the idea fits just the same.)

Anti-Oppression Work Is Ongoing, Even If We Are In San Fran-fucking-cisco

Lately, I've been extra-sensitive and frustrated about the fact that so many radical activist circles that I work with are predominantly white - and I've been noticing quite a bit of cultural insensitivity within these spaces. As a person of color, a queerdo-genderqueer-tranny-faggot, sex worker anarcho-feminist, my identities are constantly being pulled in multiple directions in search of safe, supportive community. It is both a motivation for creation and energetically draining.

For example, to be in a sex-worker-positive space means to be in a predominantly white privileged environment. Same with most anarchist scenes, with the addition of a whopping side of patriarchy and sexism. But to be in a place where I can relate with others over the social etiquettes and struggles as a queer person of color? It means that I often have to keep sex work on the down low. Anarchism is a less common frame of reference. And sometimes, I'm not even out as queer, let alone as genderqueer. I feel perpetually caught in the middle, floating, searching, but always leaving some vital part of me neglected in the end.

I've been ranting about it to friends more than usual, and my ranting about these privileged-yet-unaware activist spaces is probably starting to make me sound like I think all white people are racist - because, well, yes, I'm going to come right out and say it - White people who have grown up in our current society are socialized to be inherently racist. Period. Of course I know that there are good people doing good work, and who happen to be white. Some of my close friends come to mind. And there are some People of Color that are the worst about sensitivity and non-judgement. And I have no illusions that POC folks can't also be racist just because they are POC. But lately, I have been getting hit on all sides with general cultural insensitivity, and its fucking frustrating.

I have come to the conclusion that it is because ironically, we are in San Francisco - the land of forward politics, green culture, and radical activists! And thats just the thing - everyone is a 'lefty' activist here. Its 'cool' to be a lefty activist here. And though there is nothing wrong with that, it seems to me that at some point, the dogma surrounding anti-oppression has become more common buzz word and less critical self-reflection. Just because a person is an activist doesn't mean that they automatically get anti-oppression cred. It's not like when someone 'turns activist', they suddenly have an epiphany about what privilege means, and they become not sexist or racist etc. forever.

It seems like 'SF activist' has developed into an identity all in itself which dangerously assumes that this means said activist must already be aware of privilege, class, race, and gender issues. This assumption leads to laziness, and all of a sudden, I am finding myself in spaces where people (but especially white people) aren't self-reflecting on these issues, and how it may affect the people and social environments around them.

It is important, not only to acknowledge one's privilege, but also to ask oneself, How does this privilege frame my experience, and how do my actions affect the people and places around me?

And what are you going to do with your answers?

Anti-oppression work is an ongoing lifetime process, both within ourselves, and the world at large. These types of conversations need to happen regularly - its like activist mental maintenance to keep that anti-oppression lense clean! People have gotten comfortable in our radical sf activist bubble, and take for granted the language that has been developed to talk about __(insert political buzz word here)__, but let's see people consistently putting action to their words, please!

hah yeah. maybe my head would explode.
i drank too much coffee and i'm gonna go off.
i can feel it.
yes. i am a fucking asshole and i have high expectations towards people who call themselves activists.
no. i don't give a fuck. we are all accountable.
im pissed off and impatient.
my cynicism bleeds from repetitive lacerations of an optimistic heart.
picking and choosing battles, i know how to compromise in the face of this reality,
but it doesn't mean i will.

Thank you for the reminders that there is still hope. Ultimately, I am thankful for the freedom of expressions that San Francisco allows. Sometimes, I do get lost. Sometimes, it just feels good to vent to an understanding, listening friend.

Then we pick it back up, and do it again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trafficking is a Labor Issue

Human trafficking in Thailand - 14 Apr 2008

Trafficking is a labor issue, an immigration issue, as well as a sex work issue. In all these cases, it is always a migration of an individual away from an impoverished situation in search of a chance to work and more opportunity.

Here, the Thai government has acknowledged their awareness of trafficking, yet little is done to address the horrific conditions and abusive exploitations of trafficked individuals. It is in their favor to pass the buck, because ultimately, their very economy actually thrives off of the cheap labor that trafficking brings.

And along the same lines, sex tourism is a big industry that brings in substantial profit for many big cities around the world. As long as governments maintain the *illusion* that they are morally upstanding - such as criminalizing prostitution or saying "We don't like it, but we need evidence" - the legislations that keep people hungry also keeps them vulnerable and open to the exploits of the rich and powerful.

Why would they want to change a thing?

Human Trafficking in Cambodia
Everywoman - Human Trafficking - 21 Sep 07 - Part 1

Dr. Bridget Anderson brings up a good point. She doesn't like the emphasis on the UN definition of "human trafficking", where its about moving, using force, coersion, or abuse for the purposes of exploitation. But we need to ask ourselves some really important questions:

What does exploitation mean?
What does force and coersion mean?
Why does movement matter?

A great informative video touching on the complicated issues of sex trafficking, making connections with the videos above regarding global human trafficking, and the steep prices people will pay in search of a better life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Please Don't Shoot the President (Yet)

Obama won, and I felt like I should have been more excited than I could actually muster. The whole thing felt so anti-climatic. We all stood in the gallery staring at the election count projected on the wall, getting more and more tipsy on the wine, making small talk about political art. And watching the clock.

At the strike of midnight, the count was in for the west coast. The screen flashed subtle - California, Oregon, Washington turned blue.


And it was over. Obama surpassed the needed 270 electoral votes to win, and it was over.

People had been chatting and mingling, too spaced out or engrossed to realize the gravity of what had just silently flickered on the wall.

Oh, Obama won, I announced, a little more deadpan than I intended.

What? What happened?! What?! I watched as the room slowly spun crescendo into a confused flurry as people began to realize that the elections were over.

Yeah, its over. Obama just won. He got California, Oregon, and Washington for 270 electoral votes, so he's president now, I sigh, detached from why I felt so detached at this momentous occassion.

Screaming ensues.

Oh my God, Obama won! We have a black president! Obama won! Fuck yeah!

My friends hug me, hug each other, and scream some more while I stand, forcing a smile, mumbling yeah and its awesome. Everyone was so excited, I didn't want to rain on their parade.

In my head, I couldn't turn off my cynicism. At this point, democrats and republicans might as well be the same party to me. Ultimately, they will all look out for number one, upholding the wealth within an unequal capitalist economy, and it's all about the bottom line, baby. At least Republicans are honest about their intentions and discriminations, even if it is totally effed up.

So will Obama be any different?..

In my head, I couldn't turn off the shock. And as excited as I am that a person of color is finally sitting in that oval office, we have learned, through examples such as our darling Condaleeza, that just because your skin is brown does not necessarily mean you will advocate for other brown skinned people once you hold power that has historically been equated with whiteness, colonization, and slavery. Though it is definitely a good strategic angle to market yourself to the public vote..

I am keeping my skepticism about Obama's claims at bay with the faith that things will get better. I want to see action backing up his words. His acceptance speech was inspiring and made me feel better about the future, but I still left the party early that night.

The Obama family are the new Kennedys in the White House, and I wonder, what change will we see?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Street Survivor - 2006/DV/21 mins

Director : Lin Jing Jie, Music : Lim Giong
2006/ DV / 21mins, Taiwan

Street Survivor is the portrait of a Taiwanese street worker and the cop who arrests her.

Election Day 2008,

This is how I voted:

State Propositions:

1A - High-speed rail bond - YES
2 - Farm Animal Protections - YES
3 - Childrens hospital bonds - NO (public money for private hospitals=bad)
4 - Parental notification of abortion - NO
5 - Treatment instead of jail - YES
6 - Prison spending - NO
7 - Strangely written renewable energy generation - NO
8 - Same Sex Marriage bans - NO
9 - Restrictions on parole - NO
10 - Alternative fuel vehicles bond - NO
11 - Redistricting commission - no vote
12 - Veterans bond act - no vote

City Propositions:

A - SF General Hospital Bonds - YES
B - Affordable Housing Fund - YES
C - Ban City Employees from commission - NO
D - Finance Pier 70 waterfront district - no vote
E - Recall reform - NO
F - Mayoral Elections in even-numbered years - NO
G - Retirement credit for parental leave - YES
H - SF Clean Energy Act - YES
I - Independent ratepayer advocate - no vote
J - Historic Preservation Commission - no vote
K - Decriminalize sex work - YES
L - Fund the community justice center - NO
M - Tenants' Rights - YES
N - Real Estate transfer tax - YES
O - Emergency response fee - YES
P - Transportation authority changes - NO
Q - Payroll Tax Modification - YES
R - Rename sewage plant George W. Bush - YES
S - Budget set-aside policies - NO
T - Substance abuse treatment on demand - YES
U - Defund Iraq War - YES
V - Bring bank JROTC - NO

Monday, November 3, 2008


This is a song that my friend D emailed to me. D is a sex worker ally, advocate, friend, client, and long-time volunteer with the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) in Taipei, Taiwan.

"This song was written for a close friend of COSWAS that chose to end her life jumping off a cliff into the sea. She was the first sex worker that wasn't afraid of exposing herself to the media during and after the struggle for re-legalization of sex work ten years ago.

i don't know if you could understand the lyrics. they're in Taiwanese

I translated the lyrics of "happiness" to english. the lyrics in chinese is more poetic, I sort of ruined it, but better than nothing. Hope you like it."


If you ask me what is happiness, what should i tell you?
If I was born in a wealthy family, happiness would be much more easier to achieve

If you ask me what is life, what I should tell you?
I come from a poor family. tell me where could i find happiness.

Ah.... I'm a long blossoming wild flower in the fields
Happiness is like a candle in the wind
We have to cherish and protect it with our hands

Ah.... We are long blossoming wild flowers in the fields
Life is like the lights in the dark which leads us forward

Even though we are discriminated walking down this path
We feed our families like anyone else, It is not shameful at all
Red lights, cross roads, and narrow alleys, we walk silently and alone
I-Yo, in order to provide our family with food shelter and clothes
That's my life

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Human Trafficking is Not Always a Crime

"In the first place, a persistent problem in combating trafficking is the lack of willingness of victims to report the crime. One of the reasons is the fear to be prosecuted themselves for prostitution."
(Wijers, M.,

As we come to the eves of election day, there have been more and more discussions within the online sex worker activist community regarding sex trafficking. Perhaps it is the accumulated frustrations I feel towards problematic patterns of discourse that I've noticed in this movement. Perhaps I'm just extra grumpy today.

But today, I am offended by this statement.

Now, I am not denying the fact that huge numbers of trafficked people have fallen victim to horrible violence, rape, extortion, coersion, and worse. And somethings needs to be done. Decriminalizing prostitution will remove another invasive law legislating the choices we make with our bodies, and provide another avenue of empowerment for women in trafficked situations. Hooray for that! But let's be real here - decriminalizing prostitution will not save trafficked individuals.

And anyway, who said that they all wanted to be "saved"? What if the reason human trafficking is so hard to pin down is because some of the so-called "victims" *want* to be there?

Does anyone else find this sentence offensive? The word "victim" makes me cringe in its self-righteousness. And the predictable "blame the victim" explanation to defend years of ineffective, non-productive scapegoat legislations and wasted tax dollars. Maybe the author is right - maybe it is a "lack of willingness".

And maybe that shouldn't be the problem.

The truth of the matter is that human trafficking is not always directly violent contract between trafficker and traffickee, but the fact that it is illegal makes it harder to consistently maintain a standard of safety, just like one of our arguments for Proposition K.

If you think about it, a person making the choice to be trafficked is also a person engaging in sex work. And a comrade to this struggle.

Thus, I am wary of the language we use to discuss human trafficking, for fear that it could perpetuate more stereotypical generalizations about an issue layered within the complexities of poverty, need, immigration, and consent. I feel it is especially important for sex worker activists to be conscious of these issues - as well as be able to acknowledge that our perspectives on trafficking come from a much more privileged place - when speaking about human trafficking. Because this community is, in some ways, seen as an authority at the forefront of sex workers' rights, and each of our perspectives can hold powerful influence.

With the Prop K campaign, we are experiencing first hand how difficult it is to re-differentiate the various definitions - (ie. voluntary sex work vs. coerced sex trafficking) - once they have been misguidedly clumped into one broadly overgeneralized wad of moral turpitude - Prostitution! And just like not all prostitution is bad, not all human trafficking is bad either.

And it is important to make this distinction in order to prevent the further marginalization of people (usually poor and from the 'global south'..) who choose to engage themselves in a trafficking trade when all other options for survival are no longer available to them.

Vote YES on Proposition K!