Introduction of Sharon Patricia Holland’s The Erotic Life of Racism

I heard Holland speak this evening, she was wonderful.

Has anyone typed up a more accessible version of this so it’s not just an image, or would be willing to?

Introduction of Sharon Patricia Holland’s The Erotic Life of Racism

(In a screenreader friendly format, text from image at top of this post)

A few days after Tupac Shakur’s death in 1996, I pulled into a Safeway parking lot in Palo Alto, California, with my friend’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Danielle. We were listening to one of Shakur’s songs on the radio; because he was a hometown boy, the stations were playing his music around the clock–a kind of electromagnetic vigil, if you will. An older (but not elderly) woman with a grocery cart came to the driver’s side of my car and asked me to move my vehicle so that she could unload her groceries. The tone of her voice assumed fruition–it was not only a request but a demand that would surely be met. The Southerner in me would have been happy to help; the critic in me didn’t understand why she simply couldn’t put her groceries in on the other side where there were no other cars or potential impediments. I told the woman that I would gladly wait in my car until she unloaded her groceries–that way, there would be plenty of room for her to maneuver.

While she did this, I continued to listen to Shakur’s music and talk with Danielle. We were “bonding,” and I was glad that she was talking to me about how Shakur’s death was affecting her and her classmates. When I noticed that the woman had completed her unloading, I got out and we walked behind her car toward the Safeway. What happened next has stayed with me as one of the defining moments of my life in Northern California. As we passed the right rear bumper of her car, she said with mustered indignation, “And to think I marched for you!” I was stunned at first–when something like this happens to you, you see the whole event in slow motion. I recovered and decided that I had two options: to walk away without a word or to confront the accusation–to model for Danielle how to handle with a modicum of brace what would surely be part of the fabric of her life as a black woman in the United States. I turned to the woman and said, “You didn’t march for me, you marched for yourself–and if you don’t know that, I can’t help you.”

When average people participate in racist acts, they demonstrate a profound misreading of the subjects they encounter. The scene related above dramatises a host of racialized relations: the expectation that black women will cease a connection with their won families in order to respond to the needs of white persons; the comprehension of a refusal to do so as a criminal act; the need to subject black bodies to the rule of race; and the absolute denial of the connection between seemingly disparate peoples that the phrase “civil rights march” connotes. For that woman in the parking lot, the civil rights struggle was not about freedom for us all, it was about acquiring a kind of purchase on black life. I would be given the right to participate in “democratic process,” but the ability to exercise the autonomy inherent in such a right would be looked upon with disdain and, at times, outrage.

The scene from the parking lot stays with me as if the woman and I were locked in a past that has tremendous purchase on my present. In my mind, we hover there touching one another with the lie of difference and non-relation balancing precariously between us–like the characters Rosa and Clytie at war on the dilapidated staircase in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, a scene I explicate at some length in the conclusion of this book. The psychic violation of that moment in the parking lot haunts me still;

but it is the intimacy of that moment that arrests me. That woman expected something from me–one usually does not expect anything from strangers. Moreover, our connection as women, tenuous though it might have been,was completely obscured, if not obliterated by this racist act. It was then that I began to think about “race” under the auspices of racism, the thing that according to the epigraph for this chapter “endures.”

THANK YOU!!!!!!!


That whole thing where the appearance of ally-ship or ally-like acts equals a currency that, instead of buying individual slaves, is assumed to have bought an entire ethno-cultural group. Like the period of Civil Rights PoC in the US were fighting for, was some giant COSTCO and every right equaled a cooperative slice of ownership in every PoC, particularly Black Person in the US, EVER.

That thing where ‘liberal yt ppl’ assume themselves to be kinder, gentler masters and why aren’t we ‘darkies’ cooperating with that delusion?

(Source: todoelajo, via cesarconacento)