Decolonize ALL The Things

The UNsettling reflections of a Decolonial Scientist in a Constant State of Rage

Intersectional Food Politics & The Failure of SNAP Challenges

April 16, 2015
Shay-Akil

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Recently Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a picture of $29 worth of food to equate to what a family on SNAP benefits has for a week with on food stamps.  She isn’t the first celebrity to do this, we’ve even seen politicians do this to make a point to fight against cutting SNAP benefits.  While they may mean well, they may think that they are helping, the end result is about the same as them not speaking or doing anything at all.  SNAP challenges are in many ways a form of problematic mockery that reduce complicated interconnected issues into single isolated problems that appear to have not too difficult fixes.  Attempting to mimic this one component of the very unfortunate inequitable lives of poor people in the U.S. is not solidarity.  In many ways intersectionally privileged people engaging in SNAP challenges comes off as some fad, especially when real help & solutions are possible. What Gwyneth Paltrow’s SNAP challenge reveals is that she really is clueless about the intersections of poverty.  If Gwyneth wants to help then that’s great, she needs to find an effective way to help that isn’t just donating to food banks which usually provide high calorie low nutrient produce & doesn’t solve the issue of poverty.  Food banks do not help combat the ultimate causal factors of poverty, so its influence is minimal & doesn’t combat the host of health problems that come along with poverty.  We don’t need band aid solutions & to be honest here, we don’t need band aid solutions from people with enough influence & power to actually HELP.  Poor people aren’t just here for you to have pity on so you can feel better about your sense of morality.  If you value these human lives then help in was that can alter the balance of power like: a living wage; shifts in workplace control; universal, affordable, quality child care; safe and affordable housing; equitable access to quality education; and universal prevention focused health care, etc..   Continue Reading

Let’s Talk About Human Rights: The Failure of ‘Rights’ Rhetoric

April 1, 2015
Shay-Akil

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The popular narratives behind civil rights have come to the forefront in light of the recent attention paid to extrajudicial murders of Black people by the state.  What I find most interesting is the constant references back to the civil rights movement.  Much of what has been in the media refers Ferguson, NYC, and other Black Lives Matter protests to the “new” or “next” Civil Rights Movement.  Gay marriage has been called a type of new civil rights movement as well.  There’s a number of problems with this popular narrative that reduces any and every struggle for a single type of right to being “civil rights”.  We’ve seen this happen with gay marriage, immigrant rights, and then the labeling of any new focus on a marginalized group as “The New Black”.

In her research, legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw revealed that legislation that spoke to Blackness alone and then gender alone failed Black women.  It was at the intersections that Black women suffered and civil rights legislation ignore this reality.  To call LGBTQ rights the new Civil Rights is anti-Black erasure.  It ignores the existence of Black LGBTQ as well as turns Black people into these empty signifiers for rights that our people have fought and struggled for and still do not get in this nation.  These vaccuum discussions of rights struggles manage to use Black resistance as the stepping stool for non Black peoples to utilize as part of their narrative in demanding rights.  And to do so is to demand rights at the expense of dehumanizing other people.  If we can not have a discussion about human rights that’s intersectional (encompassing all of the socio-political statuses that impact peoples’ lives) then we take the risk of erasing & ignoring the nuance & difference within each other’s experiences.  If intersectionality is at the core of our discussion about what “rights” are, its extremely important for us to understand that struggles for recognition as humans among marginalized/disempowered populations are all part of the larger goal of achieving human rights.  So this means putting things into historical, political, social, & economic contexts that do not erase people or use their history & labor as stepping stones for you to get attention. Continue Reading

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