Martese Johnson, a Small Glimpse into a Huge Issue

On Wednesday, March 19, 2015 Martese Johnson, a 20 year old black man, was arrested by white agents from the Alcoholic Beverage Control. Johnson was tackled to the ground and sustained many injuries to his face during the arrest. The white agents described Johnson as being “agitated and belligerent” however witnesses stated that the police acted with unnecessary force; a bystander quotes “He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all” (BBC News, 2015). This incident involving Martese Johnson is not an isolate event where a black person was targeted and abuse, and the white assailant escaped punishment, but rather a small picture into a much larger reality that is all to prevalent in modern day society. Earlier this year Michel Brown, a black man who was unarmed and surrendering, was shot and murdered by a white police officer that faced no legal repercussions despite Michel Browns death being ruled a homicide (The Washington Post, 2014). Also this past year, Eric Gardner was chocked to death by a white police officer, the assault was recorded on camera, in the video you can hear Gardner whispering “I can’t breath” however once again, the white police officer escapes punishment. These are all examples of terrible crimes that have been committed against black people, by white men in authority who escaped punishment, just in the past 5 years. These law enforcement officers all used Violence as a Lens through which to see the world. Violence becomes a lens through which individuals see and know black bodies, and thus make them victims of inflicted harm and injury. This is not a new occurrence, but goes all the way back to colonialism when people who were not white were viewed as people who needed to be civilized, as lesser humans. Even now in 2015 these prejudice mindsets are still far too common. People still have the same racist mindsets that they had when black people were in slavery, white people often still see themselves as more valuable, like they should be in charge, like they are untouchable and rules do not apply for them. Black people are viewed as less, as property as opposed to people. These are never ending systems of violence that have been occurring for hundreds of years, it’s the same violence and racism that is present in slavery, colonialism and now, in the 21st Century.

The racism in present day society can be deeply hidden; it is not only prevalent in black people being targeted by law enforcement, but also in our prison systems. In Angels Davis’ article Masked Racisms; Davis reveals the reality of the injustice among prison systems and imprisonment of people of colour. More than 70% of people in prisons are people of colour, prisons disappear people in order to portray the illusion of solving social problems (Davis, 2013). “the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has become a business, but prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings” (Davis, 2013). When using violence as a lens people of colour are often targeted, victimized, and the offenders often receive no punishments. This issue creates huge barriers within our society. White privilege blinds people from the needs and injustices that are so prevalent around us, the law enforcements white privilege protects them from receiving a fair punishment for their actions. This is so prevalent in the prison industrial complex; the prison industrial complex helps secure the authority of people who get their power through racial, economic and other structural privileges (White people, American citizens, people with property, people with money) by defending current power distributions. It benefits government and industry, as well as those individuals who already hold power in our society. (Herzing, 2005) This promotes cycles of racism and discrimination. Black people lives are used as pieces in a game to get more money for those in power. It dehumanizes people and locks them away; their lives are taken over by the powerful white people who are making more money off of destroying these peoples lives. This is the same thing that happened with slavery when black people were exploited to benefit the white man.

All to many people in present day society create an atmosphere of anti-blackness, people who are anti-blackness go beyond disrespect, it dehumanize people, denying their right to exist as humans. This is the case with some of the law enforcement on the Johnson, Brown, and Ericson cases. This ties into the idea of respectability politics, respectability politics are grounded in the idea that black culture needs to be fixed, it refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference. It puts the responsibility on black people and blames them for the issues in society instead of the oppressors (Dolberry, 2013). The prejudice towards people of colour over rights their civil duty to keep people safe.

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Black Twitter is a place people went to voice their opinions on the injustices present within each of these cases. Black twitter is an archive of black thought, it’s an area of twitter for social interaction, sharing knowledge, building community, commenting and criticizing black culture, and activism (Tolmie, 2015). Kimberley C. Ellis states, “For us, Twitter is an electronic medium that allows enough flexibility for uninhibited and unfabricated creativity while exhibiting more of the strengths of social media that allow us to build community.” Black twitter creates a way for opinions of the public on these serious issues of discrimination to be addressed. Hashtag activism is something that also occurs on social media to raise awareness and unite people for a common cause. Hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter allowed people to speak out and raise social and political intervention in a world where black lives are intentionally targeted. Hashtag activism contests a social system where black lives are seen as less valuable (Tolmie, 2015). Hashtag activism is part of a movement known as anti-racism. Anti-Racism is defined as “the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably” (NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity). The solution to solving these huge issues hindering modern day society is not easy to come by. People must take on the mindset of anti-racism and value each person because they are human and have so much to offer the world. Discriminating for any reason, only hurts people and hinders society as a whole. The more people who can take on a anti-racist mindset the more society as a whole can benefit, and horrible issues such as Johnson’s beating will hopefully occur less, and when injustices like this do occur, the abuser will be prosecuted for their actions.

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Works Cited

“Anti-Racism Defined.” Anti-Racism Defined. University of Calgary, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Davis, Angela. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex.” Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Dolberry. “”I Hate Myself!”: What Are Respectability Politics, and Why Do Black People Subscribe to Them?” A Line in the Sand. N.p., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Hackman, Rose. “‘She Was Only a Baby’: Last Charge Dropped in Police Raid That Killed Sleeping Detroit Child.” The Guardian. N.p., Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Herzing, Rachel. “Defending Justice – What Is The Prison Industrial Complex?” Defending Justice – What Is The Prison Industrial Complex? N.p., 2005. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Somashekhar, Sandhya. “Was Michael Brown Surrendering or Advancing to Attack Officer Darren Wilson?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

Tolmie, Jane. Haughton Lecture Slides. 2015

“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. N.p., 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

“Was Michael Brown Surrendering or Advancing to Attack Officer Darren Wilson?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015


How Could Discrimination Ever be Justified? The Story of Baby Bay.

In 2014 in Vermont, a happy couple, Krista and Jami were delighted to welcome their child Bay into the world, however the joyful feelings were soon dismantled by the stark reality of the presence of homophobia within the doctor they were planning on seeing. When taking there 6 day old child, Bay in to the doctor for a check up, they were met and informed that the doctor they had planned on meeting had prayed about treating Bay and decided that she did not think she could care for Bay. The doctor did not even come into the clinic that morning to avoid seeing the mothers ( Staff 2015). Gender binary classifies people into one category or the other (Male or Female) it fails to recognize that gender is a spectrum. Sex is something a person is born with, however gender is learned. Bay does not have a sexual identity yet, there is no reason why this doctor should be allowed to discriminate against a child who does not even have a gender yet. The doctor is discriminating against the Krista and Jamie for their sexual orientation. This doctor is homophobic and is using her fundamentalist beliefs to discriminate against people of non-heternormative identities.

People everywhere are choosing different masks to hide behind for the justification of their discrimination. In the case of Bay this doctor is hiding behind her religion, when in fact, nowhere in religion does it promote discrimination. There is a stigma around people who are religious hating people who identify as anything other than heteronormative, this may be the case in some circumstances however it shouldn’t ever be true. If this doctor were following Jesus and could understand the core message of the gospel maybe this doctor could recognize that it is a message of love and acceptance. The gospel reveals how when Jesus was on earth his friends where those who were out cast by society, those who were looked down upon and shamed, if she were truly following Jesus her life should be a reflection of that. Essentially this doctor is hiding behind religious principles and rules that do not even exist and do not hold biblical accuracy.

This story is part of the larger issues we have been discussing in Genders 125; it is one small incident that is part of a much bigger picture. This issue involving homophobia is not a rare occurrence. This is not a one-time event, but rather a small example of the state of our society as a whole. In London in 2010 a man and a women beat a man who identified as gay as a hate crime ( 2010). He experienced severe brain trauma and died from the beating. This is another example of people who do not fit in to the category of hetronormative being hurt and taken advantage of by those with heterosexual privilege. This year in 2015 in Germany a father threatened to murder his 15-year-old son who had just come out as gay to his father ( 2015). In Berlin a family tried to force their gay son to marry a women despite their son coming out as gay ( 2015). The discrimination Jamie and Krista are facing with Bay is not an isolated incident, but rather reveals that the discrimination towards anyone who is not cis-gendered is a universal problem. Our society has a mold for the ideal man and the ideal woman that from childhood people are taught we must fit into. Anyone who does not fit into this category is shamed for it, told there is something wrong, they are broken or defective in someway, this is known queercripping, this is a mode of criticism that exposes the arbitrary separation of normal and defective (heterosexual vs. homosexual, able-bodied vs. ‘crippled’). (Tolmie, Jane. 2015). Queer crippling has become a common aspect of modern day society, it must be eliminated in order for there to be a chance at achieving a society where people are equal and do not face discrimination.

An intersectional approach to these issues would state that there are many different forms of discrimination and all must be resolved for equality to be possible. There is the issue of people who identify as gay or anything other than cis-gendered being discriminated against and also the issue of the people who discriminate hiding behind things such as religion in order to escape taking responsibility for their homophobia. In order for these issues to be resolved both sides to the issue must be resolved. People must stand up and take responsibility for their actions, also the discrimination in its self needs to be eliminated, simply removing the things that people hide behind would still leave the discrimination, removing the main issue of the treatment of people who do not fit into the typical gender binary would not hold the victimizers accountable for their actions.

Overall the story of Jamie and Krista and there child Bay provides a glimpse into how society treats those who do not fit into the stereotypical gender binary. Bay’s story reveals a much bigger picture that does not stop and end with the visit to the doctor, but rather has a serious impact on whether people who face discrimination stay quiet or stand up for their rights. I believe that there are people who are going to be rude, to be offensive, and to victimize. But I also believe there are people who will stand in solidarity with those facing victimization. I believe people must speak up about the struggles they are facing so that those people who will stand up to society, can come along side them and support them.

Works Cited

“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. N.p., 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

“Family Tried to Force Gay Son to Marry.” – The Local. N.p., 12 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

Jackson, Peter. “Gay Hate ‘alive And, Sometimes, Kicking'” BBC News. N.p., 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

Patterson, Tony. “Father Who Threatened to ‘ram Knife into Throat’ of Teenage Son for Coming out Fined by German Court in Landmark Homophobia Ruling.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.


How Overcoming Oppression Makes Lives Worth Living

On January 31,2015 as part of the Reelout Film Festival in Kingston, I attended the film Lives Worth Living. I had never been to a film festival and did not know what to expect. I went into the Screening Room where there was a line up of people at the door, we walked into a small theater and a man came up to the front to provide a background on the short films we were going to be watching. Unlike the majority of the movies I watch which contain a heterosexual matrix, Lives Worth Living contained multiple gender identities and many sexualities that one may identify with. Lives Worth Living was a series of short films that displayed many issues in modern day society that contain cross-cultural relevance. The series of films were all extremely unique and each displayed a very different way of telling a story. The first was a tape recording where a narrator described the pain of losing her brother. The simple visuals allowed all the focus to be on the words and the pain displayed in the author’s voice. The second film was a beautiful silent film that displayed two men overcoming obstacles and seemingly impossible differences to fall in love. This was an incredible film that would most likely not get much media attention because the lead characters were sexual minorities.

My personal favorite film featured another sexual minority, an LGBTQ women struggling with anxiety who attempts to hide her anxiety because she thinks then she will have a better chance of the woman she loves loving her back. Most modern day popular movie are shown through a lens of androcentrism, with the movie being about how the overly sexualized female can gain the attention of the male. Everything is centered on the man and how the woman can please the man to win his attention. This movie is very much the opposite, with two female leads it adds an interesting dynamic where it is not about a female trying to please a man, but instead 2 females being honest and open with each other and forming a relationship based upon that. This movie is my favorite because there are so many places where the viewer can think deeper into the film. The main character struggles with anxiety, the anxiety is especially prevalent when she is in situations where others could judge her, the female lead character does not dress like a stereotypical female, but instead chooses to wear traditionally male clothing. Children are often raised with gender socialization; children are taught because they have a specific sex they should act a certain way. (Boundless, 2014) When children choose to go against societal pressures and dress how they choose to, they are often judged and ridiculed which can cause many stresses in their lives, often disorders such as anxiety can be developed as well, this could have been the cause of some of the women in the films anxiety.

In the media today, the main feature films are based on characters with heterosexual privilege. They are commonly white, upper class, physically attractive, heterosexual people, if there are people of color or of a lower socioeconomic status they are typically placed in highly stereotypical roles. In Lives Worth Living, the minorities that are typically marginalized in society and not displayed in the media were the featured roles. One short film was about Phantom Rude who was a transgender drag queen. The movie was a documentary on Phantom Rude’s life, the appeal in watching this movie is that for those of us who are bound by our white privilege in that we commonly view movies that pertain to our place in society, with actors who are similar to the majorities of society, there is often a high underrepresentation of minorities. Our white privilege blinds us to the needs of those around us, (MacIntosh, 1989) Watching Phantom Rude’s story provided the viewers a glimpse into the lives of those who are often cast out by society. Watching Phantom Rude’s story illustrates that so many people who are marginalized have incredible lives and stories that we never get to see.

The short film in Lives Worth Living all demonstrated different forms of intersectionality. In one film there was a girl who was struggling with anxiety and the fear of letting people know what she was struggling with. She was also struggling with society marginalizing her because she identified as LGBTQ. Both these issues are interlocking and both cause oppression. Telling people about her anxiety would not completely provide the freedom she is searching for, she must also find people who will support her and encourage her in her sexuality. Fixing one if the issues would still leave her facing oppression. The main character must find support for both of the struggles she is facing in order for the oppression to be resolved. Simply finding support for one of the forms of oppression would not solve the issue because the oppression would still be there. Phantom Rude also faces oppression because he is lower class as evident in that he is living out of a van, and also LGBTQ. Phantom Rude experiences oppression for being lower class and for being transgender. If one of these oppressions were to be alleviated, the problem would still be present as there would still be oppression based on the remaining circumstance that would still exist.

Overall Lives Worth Living was a very well done film. It highlighted people who were often marginalized by society however had incredible stories to tell. It brought to light issues that society likes to pass over such as oppression faced by LGBTQ, suicide, mental illness, and treatment of those living in poverty. Watching Lives Worth living was a very eye-opening experience that I would highly recommend.


Works Cited:

“Gender Socialization – Boundless Open Textbook.” Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

“Lives Worth Living Shorts Program.” Reelout. Reelout Arts Program Inc., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

MacIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege, Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” Web. 9 Feb. 2015.