Capture Bonding & Professional Respectability

Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.

Kiese Laymon makes me want to hang up my keyboard and forget about writing on the regular. His piece for The Guardian, “Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves” is no exception.

As I’m inclined to do, I try to relate articles like this with my experience as a black professional in a predominately white profession. My reluctance to put myself forward for jobs, speaking opportunities, or even acceptance from people is my way of staging resistance. Why participate in rituals and structures that aren’t designed with me in mind, and are only invested in supporting my success if I perform in such a way that makes me visible to them? This resistance often comes with a high price; visibility and professional accolades sometimes come at the expense of my own sense of worth.

We bond with our captors1, develop sympathy for them, and become convinced that their way is the only way. The indignities and traumas continue to mount, but we smile, we dance, we submit papers and answer calls for proposals, because the alternative is professional obscurity.

It is insanity.


  1. This phenomenon is also known as stockholm syndrome. 

Distress Signals

a black and white double exposure photo of the US flag

It is a peculiar time to be a black American. Maybe there has always been tension in this relationship; maybe in the past I’ve been more willing to live within that tension, to use it to test my own limits of what I can endure. Those limits were pulverized into powder this week.

America is in distress. I am in distress. And I’m feeling like we are all beyond saving.

Scene From The Staff Elevator

I work in a scent-light workplace, so I try to be conscious of wearing heavily perfumed grooming products. This morning it couldn’t be helped because I was out of my usual hair gunk and had to use Oyin Handmade Burnt Sugar Pomade on my hair.

A guy who works in IT got on the elevator and remarked “It smells like maple fudge in here.” I pointed to my head and sheepishly apologized. “No, it smells good. Can I lick your head?”

I’m sure it sounded way different in his head. 😆

An Open Letter to Active Transportation Advocacy Groups

(I originally posted this to Facebook, but the response I got there convinced me to post it here.)

Dear Active Transportation Advocates & Advocacy Groups:

I’m fat.

Until very recently, I rode a bike everywhere.

I was still fat.

I’m not alone. Oh sure, there aren’t many of us in Vancouver, but there are in other cities.

If you want to convince more atypical people to adopt active transportation as a lifestyle choice, STOP DEMONIZING FAT PEOPLE and stop using the “obesity” scare word. It makes you look like smug a-holes.

Here are a few free tips on how you can get more people on bicycles:

  • Talk about how much fun it is to ride a bike.
  • Tell them that riding a bike makes you feel like a kid again.
  • If they’re slightly libertarian, tell them how riding a bike makes you feel like you’re getting over on society (which I personally enjoy).

Tying desired cycling improvement to behavioral and “health” outcomes is a surefire way to keep people off their bikes, particularly if they’re already feeling beaten up by the fitness/health industry.

Signed,

A Fat Person on a Vespa (for now, until she can ride her bike again).

#L1S Tweetchat a Success

The inaugural First Generation Library Professionals chat went very well last night – much better than I expected. The biggest takeaway for me is that there is definitely a need among those of us who fall into this group to network and discuss issues around class, access, and navigating professional responsibilities. What I didn’t expect were the heartbreaking stories of how entering into the professional class created distance — and in some cases, resentment — from family members.

Other chats are forthcoming. If you have suggestions for chat themes, leave them below in the comments, or connect with me via twitter.

Many thanks to Abby for creating the Storify archive of last night’s chat.