Slam Poets Address Intersectionality and “Oppression Olympics”

Despite having the best intentions in pursuing goals of social justice– sometimes in an effort to advocate on behalf of a “cause” (especially when it’s something tied to your identity/personhood), we are susceptible to falling victim to the “Oppression Olympics” (where groups or individuals compete to prove that they are more oppressed than the other

In the 2012 Youth Speaks’ annual slam poetry competition, “Brave New Voices,” two young poets– Shanita Jackson and Dakota Odur–addressed the issue of intersectionality in a piece titled “Gay Is The New Black.”  (Original Article posting Transcript and Video)

Transcript of the poem:

(B- represents both women speaking, L- woman on the left, R-woman on the right) 

B: I am a prime example of American unacceptablility.

R: I’ve always been too

L: Gay

R: Black

L: Liberated

R: Uppity

B: And America has a time-honored tradition of keeping us in our place

L: Like November 27, 1978 when Harvey Milk was assassinated

R: More like April 4th, 1968 when MLK was shot down

B: Hold the Hell up

R: I hope you don’t think some dead gay guy is equivalent to Dr. King. Milk was a martyr, but King is an icon and that is not the same thing

L: I think you forgot the definition of Civil Rights; you’re not the only one struggling around here.

R: How could I forget anything when I look outside my window everyday and see the statistically correct neighborhood I was predicted to live in

L: At least they can see you. All they have to do is look at you to see where you come from, what you’ve been through. I am still fighting for the right to exist. They’re telling my children we should be kept in pens so we can die out like you quarantine disease.

B: How many times do I have to hear people say you f***in fa**ot/ni**er

R: At least you know your last name. Our skin gives away our homeland but not our home. You aren’t owned or traded based on how hot you are as a commodity. We stood stark unclothed on a platform with the sun heating the skin beneath our shackles, watching our life value drain with every increasing bid. Bent backs, broken Bones and tear stained cotton is not something you could just forget.

B: My bones are genetically thickened due to the brutality my ancestors bore

L: My legacy has been swept under rugs. No one has ever sung me a closet spiritual to lead me to the promised land or made me rainbow cake to remind me of where I come from. We are history’s middle children who have to wear glitter to get attention. We are your siblings. We’re not looking to replace you on our family tree, we just want a hug at Christmas time.

B: They’re hanging us by our own ropes.

L: And for us, it’s déjà vu and I know for you it’s more PTSD, so

B: Why are you letting this happen to us?

R: Changing subjects is the same thing as giving up, which is basically saying black oppression is no longer an issue. But would the  K1an still run rampant internationally, waving their rebel flags and cowering beneath their white hoodies if this sh!t were no longer an issue. We were plagued with the elements of prejudice, doused by the stream of insults that drown our dignity. When was the last time someone spat on you and called you a flea bitten savage, a worthless monkey, told your ni**er a$$ to go back to Africa when we were dragged here by force.

L: Do you know why they call us faggots? The only history I have to cling to is that once I was a fire starter that wasn’t even worth the price of a match. Witches were burned on my ashes like I was never good enough to be anything but kindling anyways. You think your roots run deeper, but just because you couldn’t hear me screaming doesn’t mean they weren’t

B: Raping and beating me, starving, and shocking, and anything to fix me.

R: I know you are not talking to me about burning. Those crosses in Carolina blazed, those bombs in Birmingham incinerated, compare a sprinkle of holy water to skin shredding fire hoses.

L: I was at  Woolworth’s  and Stonewall while you were too busy turning the other cheek to ask me if I’d walk with you. If it was possible that we could share roots. Didn’t want to see me at your rallies because it would complicate things. They tell me it was a different time, but you made sure times were changing, you just never looked back for your aunt Rosie and her roommate of 50 years.

R: Our voices were only heard because we screamed.

L: You didn’t give us a chance to open our mouths.

B: Can’t you see they’re trying to kill me. Trying to kill us.

R: So why are we waging a war between ourselves when

L: It’s them who put us on their hit list,

B: We’ve been burned mercilessly, lynched ceremoniously, ostracized inhumanely, beaten brutally,  lacerated, mutilated, segregated, bluntly hated

R: By many

L: By all

B: By you


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