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My academic and related writings are maintained on a separate website. The most recent posts are displayed here via RSS feed, though some media content does not carry over (e.g., embedded videos). Click the title of any post to go to the original.

Full site: Questions and Tea

Cup of tea







I’ve copied most of the blog posts over to my MA / PhD site. They’ll remain here, too, for the time being. All future academic and social justice writings of this sort will live o’er yonder. Hope to see you there.


Sudden OnSet, aka, ‘o’er yonder’, can be found here:


I’m sure this is being said elsewhere on the Internet and in far more articulate fashion than will follow here. But it’s probably being said by brown people, which means that white people are automatically not listening. Or lumping it in with existing statistics. Or, worse, sending their white tears and endless “thoughts and prayers”. I hope because I am mostly white and, therefore, live on mostly the same plane of existence and with the same level of comfortable isolation as the rest of you white folks, maybe you’ll be more willing to listen.

While I have been encouraged at the level of resistance and outrage expressed across the nation – and, indeed, around the globe – at the recent happenings in Charlottesville, the main rallying point, the death of Heather Heyer, is causing me quite a lot of frustration. Not because she did anything wrong; not because she was doing anything other than what a person of privilege should be doing – using her position to raise others up – not because what happened to her was anything other than a tragedy. But because it took the death of a white woman to finally rile people up and rouse them to action.

Did the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Walter Scott, and Laquan McDonald mean nothing to you? Did the POTUS’s appointment of a known white supremacist not outrage you? Did the decades and decades of complaints of racism, mistreatment, and being denied opportunity from people of colour even register inside your cloud? Did the murders of trans women of colour slide right off your back? Does the name Matthew Shepard mean anything to you? How do you feel about the torching of mosques and the defacing of synagogues? Does. Any. One. Piece. Of. This. Puzzle. Mean. A. Thing. To. You?

Why did it take the death of a white woman to galvanise you into action? Why is she suddenly a hero when people have been dying for the cause of equality all over the country? Is it that you finally realise you’re not safe inside your bubble? If they’ll kill a pretty white lady, they’ll kill anyone, you say?

Stop mourning her. If you had acted when you should have she would not be dead. Dry up your white tears and act. Start listening to people of colour, to trans people, to disabled people, to Muslims, to women who talk about sexism – basically to anyone Nazis hate. Listen to them, believe them, empathise with them. And get rid of the politicians who are not vehemently and consistently opposed to exclusionary policies.

Anyone who supported the current POTUS, regardless of any conciliatory statements they’ve made this past week, is on the list for removal. That man showed the world who he was long before he decided to run for office. There is no excuse – none – for supporting that bigot.

Educate yourself, educate your friends, neighbours, colleagues, and family about which politicians endorsed 45. Vote them out. Demonstrate in the streets. Call your representatives and demand that he be impeached, removed from office, and prosecuted.

And through all that, take a deep look at your beliefs about race. Know that no matter how uncomfortable, even painful, it may be to admit it, you are probably racist. Not because you wielded a torch or ran over protesters, but because you didn’t stop it from happening.


sugar coated donut

This article points out the many ways in which the discussion around discrimination caters to white people’s fear of not being in control. The way racism is coded in white society is like the layers of an onion. That’s why it needs constant scrutiny and vigilance against complacency.

Terms like “inclusion” and “white privilege” are designed to sneak past the racial stress triggers of White Fragility. They center Whiteness in a way that makes White people comfortable, while deflecting from the stressful realities of the racist harm that Whiteness causes. Imagine how many racial stress trigger alarm bells would go off if we were using words like “discrimination awareness” and “white undeserved advantages” instead.

Read the article here: The Sugarcoated Language Of White Fragility | HuffPost

The University of Chicago recently stated ‘We Do Not Support So-Called Trigger Warnings’. “So-Called”, eh? Because millennials are entitled and overly sensitive and oppressive, right? Not because anyone has ever experienced actual trauma and requested a little warning in order to properly administer self care, of course. Because mental health, being invisible, is still not as valid as physical health that can be readily perceived.

This is not about censorship. This is part of toxic masculinity, rape culture, and the “suck it up” mindset that has been damaging real, living human beings for generations. If millennials are willing to speak up about such societal poison, we should be thanking them, not punishing them.

Erica D. Price wrote an amazing piece on Medium. Please go have a read.

I have honored every request for a trigger or content warning that a student has ever given me, and I go out of my way to tag any potentially upsetting material with trigger warnings. I don’t do this because I am a beaten-down, scared shitless academic with no intellectual freedom. My students have not backed me into a corner and demanded that I keep thought-provoking content at bay. Students who disagree with me politically or philosophically (of which there are many) do not try to silence me under a deluge of TW requests. My universities have not twisted my arms, pinned me down, and affixed black TW duct tape across my mouth. That’s not how TW’s work.

via Hey U of Chicago: I’m an academic & survivor. I use trigger warnings in my classes. Here’s why. – Medium

Don’t believe anyone who says it’s a slow, trickle-down process. Don’t buy into that “be patient” nonsense. There is no reason that writers, cast, and crew are anything less than representative of the population other than an absolute willingness to uphold the status quo.

a sign reading "time for change. we're hiring"

When a person in power says “do it”, it gets done.

Linda Holmes, the host of one of my very favourite podcasts, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, mentioned a conversation she and Variety’s Mo Ryan had with John Landgraf, the CEO of FX, at the Television Critics Association 2016 press tour. The FX Network likes to see itself as a leader, yet was trailing horribly in terms of diversity and inclusion. From Variety, “In the 2014-15 TV season, only 12% of FX’s directors were women or people of color… At the moment, 51% of the directors booked by FX and FXX are men and women of color, or white women.”

Although creators on FX retain tremendous decision-making power, Mr. Landgraf threw all his weight and support behind hiring more diverse crew members. When that happened, things changed. Very, very quickly.

PCHH’s 19 August 2016 episode, “The Get Down and TCA 2016”:

Relevant section begins around the 20:45 minute mark. 

You can read the full Variety article here:

FX CEO John Landgraf on the ‘Racially Biased’ System and Taking Major Steps to Change His Network’s Director Rosters

So guess what, kids? You know what works for implementing great change? Not platitudes, not plans for the future, not talking a good game about how your organisation theoretically welcomes minorities and women despite maintaining a hostile environment. No, it’s getting the people in power to declare that it is imperative.

Don’t believe anyone, least of all someone who has an interest in maintaining the status quo, who says it cannot be done. It can and is being done right now.

Some great stuff here about diversity in geekdom, especially comics.

In one of his final interviews, the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, comic writer and producer of such quality superhero cartoons as Justice League, introduced us to the “Rule of Three”: In popular entertainment, if there are three or more Black people in it, it is then labeled a “Black” product. And so, when McDuffie added four Black characters to the Justice League of America comic, fandom flipped out and began foaming that it was “statistically impossible” to have so many Black heroes on a superhero team, and that this was only a stunt to “fill quotas.” To which McDuffie wryly replied, “The quota arguments on fictional teams crack me up. Is someone losing a job here? Which fictional character is losing a job?”

via The New Nazi Captain America Is the Hero That Bigoted Comic-Book Fans Deserve – Tablet Magazine

While I continue to plan the future of my academic career, I find myself in need of a creative outlet. I’ve started a small Instagram project that allows for collaboration with friends and kindred spirits. It’s a wee thing, though until I manage to streamline the process, it is still very labour intensive!

The stories, whenever they sporadically appear, will be posted on the @TeaTimeTinies Instagram account.

Here’s a screenshot of the first piece. It’s called Little Brave Riding Hood and it’s about a girl who loves her maths, her Granny, and her rocket scientist mum.


I’m especially interested in irreverent, iconoclastic, or dark (à la Edward Gorey) versions of stories. Extreme abbreviation as art form also welcome. I’m itching to do something like War and Peace in this format.

Have a story to contribute or interpret in a new way? Artwork? Let me know.

This is probably not what you think. It’s probably much better and more challenging. White people will likely have a hard time embracing this on the first round. It’s worth the shakeup. This is just an excerpt. Read the whole thing.

The dilemma of what white people should do to address racism has the same exhausting function of racism, because this dilemma is racism. Because for white people “to do” anything means that whiteness must be centered in a way that would perpetuate its oppressive essentiality.

There is nothing redeeming or redeemable about whiteness—by definition. Only the radical negation of it is helpful or freeing. And it is not enough for us as Black people to encourage or allow white people to try their hand at addressing racism. It is necessary instead to adopt a politic of exclusion. This is to build upon Malcolm X’s claim in The Autobiography of Malcolm X that “Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is,” (X, Haley 1964: 383–384) with the vital understanding that Black victims exist everywhere whiteness does.

via White People Have No Place In Black Liberation. – RaceBaitR


Not only are there problems with empathy in terms of race and gender, but it seems anything outside of one’s experience is an excuse to put on a superior tone and lecture others. I understand that sometimes being an objective outsider can provide a fresh perspective. Yet that tends to be a different dynamic – participatory, supportive – from positioning oneself as omniscient and higher-caliber than the unwashed masses.

Through comments on the For Harriet Facebook page I discovered an interview with writer Sister Souljah in which she discusses, among other things, her views on Hillary Clinton. (Disclosure: I am a Bernie Sanders supporter.) The video below was embedded in an article titled Sister Souljah: Hillary Clinton Is Slave Master’s Wife, Talks Down To Black People, so responses to sharing it were likely to be charged.


What I wasn’t expecting was a reply so laced with contradictions that my first response was simply, “Wow.” I began to type a response – “I find your statement troubling on so many levels…” – when Facebook displayed an error to let me know the comment to which I was replying had been deleted. Probably a wise move, but it was too late. I had seen it. I saw it, copied it, and saved a screenshot, in fact.

Sorry, I don’t like this woman. There are far more articulate spokespeople on the history of race relations than she, and I personally find it rather hypocritical to accuse someone else of Eurocentrism when you’ve got a straight weave that probably cost hundreds of dollars on your head. That’s just me, though.

I am currently taking an online class in creative writing. We are frequently challenged to densely pack several concepts into a short 100 to 200 words. If someone had told me to write something racially charged and problematic in as many ways possible without using slurs, I don’t think I could have done any better.

Let me see if I can break down some of the reasons why this is so troubling.

1) That nasty word “articulate“. It’s a racially loaded word. It’s frequently used passive-aggressively in racist statements by expressing expectations of uneducated, base behaviour from people of colour. It normalises a particular way of speaking, one that is inescapably linked with whiteness. Judging someone on how “articulate” they are puts one in the position of arbiter of what is and is not a valid way of speaking and, hence, feeling. Watch Jamila Lyiscott’s TED Talk, 3 ways to speak English, for more.

Ps: she’s a best-selling author. As a word-smith by trade, it is quite a stretch to find a way to make the label of “inarticulate” stick.

2) Demanding that someone fill the role of spokesperson for a particular group – ethnicity or race, gender identity, orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, etc. – is an exercise in privilege. It is othering and dehumanising. It says, “You are different [from the norm]. You must demonstrate to me why your opinion is valid.” In no way does it acknowledge a person’s right to their opinion and their experience outside of what is found acceptable by prevailing norms. It makes zero allowances for individuality and can also serve to reinforce tokenism.

Sister Souljah was expressing her own opinion. She did not claim to be representing all African Americans, though there are undoubtedly sentiments that are broadly true for many. Insisting otherwise is relegating the voices of individual black people to a small and insignificant minority, heard only when an invitation to speak is offered.

3) Hair. Really? Do we really need to get into why commenting on a black woman’s hair is so shockingly inappropriate? Apparently we do.

The way that African Americans in general, and African American women in particular, have historically lacked agency over their own bodies means that seemingly small gestures like commenting on or (much worse) touching their hair is extremely inappropriate. (Please read this great post on Everyday Feminism about black women’s hair.) How a woman, any woman, decides to manage her own body is, frankly, none of anyone else’s business. But simultaneously saying that she should both be more “articulate” – meaning, conform to a white standard of speaking – and criticising her for having straight hair – another white standard – is infuriatingly convoluted.

Are you even aware of the many ways that black women are routinely penalised for wearing their hair naturally? That the US military has racist policies in place? That the American Civil Liberties Union had to go after the TSA in order to reduce invasive and unnecessary hair searches performed on women of colour?  Rhonda Lee, an African American meteorologist, was told she needed to make her hair “…more pleasing to a wider audience…” and was later fired for pushing back. The National Institutes of Health even published a study about the penalties African American women are subject to for simply wearing a natural hair style.

Whether Sister Souljah wears straight hair for fun and fashion or because of pressure to conform to Eurocentric hair norms is none of your business. Using it as an excuse to undermine the validity of her opinions is both a fallacy and racist.

4) Why does it matter how much money she spent on her hair? Or makeup, clothes, smartphone, car, plane tickets? Does she not deserve to spend hundreds of dollars? Is her opinion only valid if she is poor and, in your mind, looks it? Time to revisit your awareness of privilege and why or why not someone’s opinion is valid.


What can we take from this? Well, first let me back up a bit. It might be useful to know that the commenter is a woman of colour. She is not African American and has led an economically privileged life. Does that change your perspective on her comment and my explanations?

A big conversation going on that needs to gain more attention is one of intersectionality: “Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.”

Privilege is the other side of oppression. One cannot exist without the other, yet how we define each for ourselves is not a binary proposition. For example, because I present as white, I reap the benefits of white privilege. However, since I am a woman, I experience the oppression of patriarchal systems and misogyny. They do not cancel each other out, nor do they make the suffering or advantages experienced by others meaningless. The ways in which struggles for equality and dignity parallel and overlap each other is inextricable. We would all do well to recognise how many more similarities, rather than differences, we share with our fellow human beings.

Perhaps I should end this post on a note of righteous outrage, a swelling crescendo of emotion that carries the audience out of the theatre and lingers in their thoughts over dinner. It would no doubt be useful in generating conversation. Yet outrage only goes so far. I think it’s far more useful, once a problem has been defined, to pursue options for correcting it.

So what would I advise? Educate yourself on intersectionality. On privilege, on oppression, on unconscious bias. Question things you take for granted and develop your self-awareness. If new age philosophy is your flavour of choice, call it “mindfulness”. Empathy is what will save us from ourselves.

We all have work to do, so get to it.

I should not still be shocked at the stories of offensive ignorance and outright discrimination that come out of the land of tech, not after my MA work and the interviews I conducted for my dissertation, or all the hours of reading and research. And yet I am. When Leslie Miley, as a guest on the Reply All podcast, described some of the things he has encountered as an African American man in Silicon Valley my jaw dropped. No, he was not not describing violence or outright threats, just shocking behaviour from superiors and coworkers.

Of course, I immediately paused the podcast and looked him up online. He’s left Google, Twitter, Apple, and other tech giants behind and is now Director of Engineering at Entelo. The company provides software solutions for recruitment. Although I’ve just discovered the man and the company, I am hoping that, based on his past experiences, their product and company philospohy include a focus on connecting with and retaining diverse candidates.

Since finding solutions that *work* for addressing the difficulties of increasing diversity is what my research is all about, having someone as accomplished as Mr. Miley working on the problem has gotten me very excited. I’m doing a quick re-blog of one of his posts on Medium to share his work with you and to make a big, fat bookmark for myself to have available for quick reference. Click the link at the end to read the complete article.

More links for Leslie Miley:

Twitter: @shaft (can’t say he’s without humour)

Q&A With The Black Twitter Engineer Who Left Over Diversity Problems

Thoughts on Diversity Part 2. Why Diversity is Difficult.
I am passionate about Twitter the service, and I love Twitter, the company. The opportunity to work on a product that is positively changing how African Americans are perceived in this country is humbling. Every day for almost three years, I have looked forward to making contributions to the platform that enables #BlackLivesMatter, and that amplifies the voices of #BlackTwitter.

That is why is the public commitment by Twitter to a measurable diversity goal is so important. In 2014 27% of African American, 25% of Hispanic Americans and 21% of Women use Twitter according to Pew. Only 3% of Engineering and Product at Twitter are African American/Hispanic and less than 15% are Women. This is why the work many people have done, and continue to do in diversity at Twitter is so important. They are indomitable, have the will, strength and courage to change the story of diversity at Twitter…

via Thoughts on Diversity Part 2. Why Diversity is Difficult. — Tech Diversity Files — Medium.