Federal Policies Negatively Effecting Indigenous Food Sovereignty

By Hannah McCandless

From July 2017 to June 2018, I had the privilege of working as a fellow at the National Farm to School Network in Washington, D.C. During my time there, I learned about the federal policies and acts that are driving our federal food aid policies, such as The Farm Bill, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). In learning about these policies, I became familiar with the programming and grants that my organization used to support Native Communities in food production and consumption. 

In relation to that, last year, this blog published a piece about the Farm Bill’s effects on Native Communities, linked here. I encourage you to read that post in addition to this post as this is a multi-faceted problem. This post is focused first, on how displacement of Native Communities has adversely affected the long term health of Indigenous Communities and second, how SNAP and past federal food policies have affected the health of those communities. 

First, it is important to define food sovereignty. According to Devon Mihesuah, a researcher and coauthor of “Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health,” food sovereignty is defined as the “healthy and culturally appropriate food generated by a community that oversees the entire process, from production to trade to sustainability.” [1] It is important in understanding what this looks like in order to be able to understand how federal policies have negated Native people’s ability to feed themselves with their own autonomy. 

At the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in 2014, the issue of food rights were brought up by those in attendance. An issue they spoke of specifically was the phenomenon they called “nutrition transition.” Nutrition Transition can be defined as when Indigenous or Native Communities are forced to relocate to reservations by western forces, which caused them to change how they consume food. [2] One example of this would be to think about communities who previously ate bison and buffalo. When Europeans invaded native land, they killed several of those animals, forcing those communities to shift their eating habits. Later, when the US government began forcing Native Communities away from their original native lands, they were often moved to different temperate climates, changing the types of food they could produce. [3] This forced shift has created devastating effects on the health of Indigenous Communities. 

Since 1977, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations program has existed for people living too far away from SNAP approved grocery stores on their reservations. This is one of the alternatives to SNAP for qualifying Indigenous people. Though this program can be a helpful supplement to food sources, some 60% of Native Americans who are on it use the program as their number one resource for food, rather than a supplement. Comparatively, only 37% of Native Americans on SNAP benefits use that program as their number one source for food. The foods provided by these programs are primarily processed staples with long shelf lives, meaning that fresh fruits, vegetables, and unsalted meats are not a part of many Native American’s lives if they rely on these programs for sustenance. [4]

Before Europeans invaded and either destroyed people’s food sources or forced them to change, Indigenous Communities consumed foods such as “elk, white-tailed deer, turkeys, corn, squash, beans and bison.” Once Europeans invaded, they brought in animals such as cows, goats, and chickens, introducing poultry and dairy to the diets of native communities. [1] This initially shifted the diets of many Native Americans in a drastic way. Once federal food assistance programs began providing food to Native Communities, the rate of Native people with Type 2 Diabetes skyrocketed, and Native Americans became twice as likely to have diabetes compared to white Americans. Because SNAP benefits include the types of foods that are extremely salted in order to have a longer shelf life, the foods consumed created long term health issues. 

The ways in which the US federal and state governments have wronged Native Communities are innumerable, but the ways in which the federal food programs have affected their health are long lasting. Food sovereignty is just one of the rights that Native Communities are fighting for, and one that is complicated and multifaceted in its causes and solutions. I encourage you to find more information on this topic to better understand how to be an ally in creating local, state, and federal policy changes.


Resources


Notes

[1] INDIGENOUS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY EXAMINED IN NEW BOOK

[2] United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2014) 

[3] Native American Food   

[4] How Might Trump’s Food Box Plan Affect Health? Native Americans Know All Too Well


Hannah is a second year graduate student in the Women’s History Program at Sarah Lawrence College. Hannah is writing her thesis on Matilda Hamilton Fee and women in higher education administration in the south during the 19th century. 

Why We Should Be Anti-Celebrating Thanksgiving

By Sidney Wegener

Often, on the last Thursday of November, American families gather around the dinner table to eat and appreciate the blessings in their lives. For many, Thanksgiving is a favorite “holiday.” In the twenty-first century, it may be depicted as a happy family eating lots of food and soon rushing off for Black Friday sales. However, this picture is painted for those who have the money to afford a supermarket turkey, a home to gather in, and the privilege of blissfully living on stolen land. For hundreds of Native American nations and tribes, this holiday is a reminder of the genocide committed against them by European colonizers, which began almost four hundred years ago. A new tradition of anti-celebrating Thanksgiving is long overdue. Here’s why.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Not a Native American holiday. This means that participating in traditional American festivities constitutes a celebration of the English settler invasion of North America. European immigration directly resulted in the murder and rape of thousands upon thousands of Native people, pillaging their homes and resources, and eventually forcing them to live on, what are now known, as “reservations.” While you might be grateful for the food on your table, you may be forgetting how it got there. Twenty-first century American traditions of celebrating Thanksgiving and getting ready for Black Friday sales are ultimately due to a long chain of events caused by European settlers and white American corruption.

For nearly fifty years, the United American Indians of New England have mobilized a rally and day of mourning on November twenty-second. They explain the significance of this day by stating:

“Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.” (Native Hope)

Those of us who are not native to North America are generally unaware of the flip side of this Thanksgiving coin. Children in schools are taught that the pilgrims and the Native people met harmoniously and offered each other new resources and mutual support. Many even celebrate the idealized generosity of Native people by making paper headdresses and reenacting the romanticized relations. It is probably not appropriate to tell elementary-aged children about the numerous massacres which white immigrants waged against tribes such as the Pequot, or the disease epidemics which nearly wiped out whole native populations. However, teaching a false history is devastating to how the majority of American children understand Thanksgiving. These children grow up to be adults. Adults who buy supermarket turkeys, decorate their homes with pumpkins, and go Black Friday shopping. While not all families have the economic resources to participate in traditional American Thanksgiving celebrations, everyone has the capability to change the way they think about this national holiday. For many tribal nations within the United States, this is a day of solemn remembrance. 

This is Native American Heritage Month. November 23rd is Native American Heritage Day. And Thanksgiving, which falls on November 28th this year, is an opportunity to change the way that non-Native Americans honor the history of English settlers’ immigration and invasion of North America. Native Hope is an organization built upon preserving the pan-tribal histories, stories, and traditions, while spreading awareness of the misconceptions many Americans are taught. This organization suggests ways Native and non-Native people can celebrate (or anti-celebrate) Thanksgiving:

“We remember the generosity of the Wampanoag tribe to the helpless settlers.

We remember the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who lost their lives at the hands of colonialists and the genocide of whole tribes.

We remember the vibrant and powerful Native descendants, families, and communities that persist to this day throughout the culture and the country.

We remember people like Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland who just became the first Native American women elected to Congress.” (Native Hope).

I urge all Americans to take further steps to educate ourselves and seek out new ways in which we can honor a collective American history. Those who have the means to participate in American Thanksgiving traditions will hopefully consider ways in which they can anti-celebrate in awareness and spirit, without giving up the family time and food. If you are lacking inspiration or want more information, a few sources to get started are listed below.


Resources


Sidney is a first year Master’s Candidate studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Their academic interests include lesbianism and lesbian history in American from the 1920s to the 1930s. They are currently pursuing many different avenues for research in U.S. history pertaining to women’s and queer studies and looking forward to working on a thesis related to the linguistic and social evolution of female sexuality.

It’s Just NOT that Easy…

By Madison Filzer

Madison is a second year Master’s Candidate in the Women’s History program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her research interests include Civil Rights activism in Cleveland, Ohio, and Black women’s activism in the United States.

When someone tells us they are experiencing domestic violence or any type of abuse for that matter, many people are quick to ask the question, “Well, why don’t you just leave?” and I think we need to talk about that.

Let’s talk about the vast range of reasons why an individual might not be able to just pack up and leave their abusers. In my opinion, if we start the conversation with this in mind, then we force those who ask these questions to think about why it might not be realistic to chuck the deuces and bounce. Also, with a comprehensive understanding of why individuals can’t just leave, we can brainstorm ways to counteract the institutions and structures that place this undue burden on the survivor. 

I spent the majority of my undergraduate career working with agencies that provided services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, among many other things. Working with survivors from all walks of life made me start thinking of the “what ifs” when it came to domestic violence. It seemed as if the more time I spent thinking about the “what ifs,” the more I realized that those what-if situations were a reality for many individuals seeking out services from the organizations I worked with. Most statistics state that it takes, on average, seven attempts to leave an abuser before actually being able to end the circle of violence. Since seven seems to be the magic number, I want to propose seven random scenarios off the top of my head for readers to think about in regards to asking, or telling, a survivor to “just leave.” 

  1. What if you live with a physical disability and are dependent upon your abuser for mobility. How can you get up and walk away from your abuse if you’re unable to walk? By default, you cannot leave the vicinity of violence if you’re physically unable to move.
  2. What if you live in a community that has been traumatized by police brutality. Would you call the police if you’re stuck in a catch-22 between police violence and violence at the hands of your abuser? In this situation, who could you look to for protection?
  3. What if English is not your native language, but the 9-1-1 operator doesn’t speak your language? Who do you call? 
  4. What if you are hearing impaired or nonverbal? How do you communicate to anyone, let alone authorities, that you are in a violent situation? 
  5. What if you are financially dependent upon your abuser? If you leave, how will you afford to put a roof over your head or food on the table? 
  6. What if you’re married to your abuser and are dependent upon them for health insurance? If you leave, how will you get access to healthcare? 
  7. What if you’re undocumented? Do you call the police and risk deportation, or do you endure the violence? 

Now, these examples might seem far-fetched for some, but every one of these situations resonates with me. I can put a name, a face, a family, and a story to those “what if” situations because I know that is the reality for some. So when we talk about domestic violence we need to start with an understanding that not all people can “just leave.” 

Lydia’s Diaries: Uncovering Women’s History in the Archives

By Rebecca Hopman

“Topsy’s Journal. Strictly private!

So begins Lydia Olsson’s diary. Olsson was an early female student at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, and the five diaries now held by Augustana Special Collections document her life on campus. I encountered Olsson’s diaries in the archives nearly a decade ago, and reading them changed my path in life.

Five notebooks with different cover designs arrayed on a black background

Lydia Olsson’s diaries. Courtesy of Augustana Special Collections.

In the summer of 2010, I was a rising senior at Augustana College. Built near the banks of the Mississippi River, Augustana is a typical liberal arts college. And I was a typical liberal arts student. Majoring in history, English, and German, I planned to become an archivist, and was preparing to apply to library science graduate programs that fall. In the meantime, I worked in Augustana Special Collections, processing archives and exploring the stacks.

Over the summer I worked longer hours, and during my lunch breaks I liked to browse the collections for something interesting, like a cache of love letters or a salacious diary (being an archivist means you are basically a professional snoop, reading all those private documents people left behind). Augustana Special Collections is full of such things, given that it holds many of the personal and professional papers of students, faculty, and staff from throughout the school’s 160 years of history.

One day I was looking through the finding aid for the Olof Olsson family papers and came across a listing for “Diaries, 1892-1896.” Olsson was the third president of Augustana College, and these diaries were written by Lydia, his third child. Intrigued, I pulled the appropriate box out of the stacks and opened the first book.

Topsy’s Journal. Strictly private!

Journal kept by Lydia Olsson of 18.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles to-day. To-morrow may be dying.” [1]

“Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.” [2]

Black and white photograph of three young women and one young man

Lydia Olsson and her siblings, c. 1890s. Seated, left to right: Mia Olsson, Anna Olsson, Hannes Olsson. Standing: Lydia Olsson. Courtesy of Augustana Special Collections.

Topsy was Olsson’s nickname for herself, and, as I found by examining the rest of the diaries, she liked to begin each book with a couple of mottoes or quotes. Reading on, I was immersed in the daily life of a young woman attending Augustana College, just as I was doing 118 years later. She took a variety of courses, had a robust social life, and was close to her family. She joked about the young men on campus who were vying for the attention of their fairer classmates, thought seriously about the role of religion in her life, and contemplated her future.

Was at Sarah’s for supper and then we went to Chapel together. Mahnquist stared at us and smiled a long while, which made us nearly croak. I told Sarah I could see my picture in his greasy hair. Everybody has gone to bed and here I am sitting writing such nonsence. I am wicked! (January, 29, 1893) [3]

Mia and I were talking about marriages . . . Mia herself don’t want to marry, and I well, I truly havn’t made up my mind if I do or not. Some day when I get old and sensible I am going to think over every thing and see what conclusion I come to. The first question is: Do I? and will I ever regret it? The second: Who to? and do I love him with all my heart and soul, or is it a fancy. 3rd: Is this the one that Providence has picked out for me? 4: – Will we always love the same? (December 22, 1893)

The diaries resonated strongly with me, and I began to research what life was like for a young woman attending college in the 1890s. Looking deeper into the archives, I kept coming across letters and diaries written by the young women of Augustana. Their stories were a different kind of history, one that I hadn’t encountered in class. Forget kings and wars and important dates, these were ordinary people living ordinary lives. National and international events appeared on occasion, but they weren’t at the center of the narrative.

Mia was piling wood this morning, so Emil Lofgren went by and he helped her, so did I. Some went skating on the pond this morning. There don’t seem much to thank for now as Harrison didn’t become elected! (November 24, 1892) [4]

I consumed books and articles about life writing, learning that diaries, letters, and journals were often the only outlets for women’s writing. I checked out piles of published journals and correspondence written by women, from Virginia Woolf and Mary Boykin Chesnut to more obscure writers. Why hadn’t we read these sorts of sources in my history classes?

For the first time, I became interested in something I recognized as women’s history. It sounds odd to say that now, but at the time I didn’t know this was an area of study. Of course, I had learned about many fascinating women in class, but they were mostly queens or presidents’ wives or other notable women. And I encountered them in history textbooks, newspaper articles, political cartoons, and government documents. In rare cases I read a speech or a letter, but never anything that dwelled deeply on their private lives or how they experienced the world around them.

Black and white photograph of three women standing amongst bushes and trees

Lydia Olsson and her sisters, Mia and Anna Olsson. Courtesy of Augustana Special Collections.

Reading Lydia Olsson’s diaries changed my idea of what history could be, and of who I could learn about. While earning my master’s degree in library science and working as a librarian and archivist, I kept reading about women’s lives, becoming more committed to the idea of studying them in an academic program. It’s thanks to Olsson that I’m here at Sarah Lawrence College, fueling that spark her writing lit in me.

And hereby endeth this chapter. Hoping to sow better seed in the future I close and zeal my book. – Topsy­ – (January 16, 1893)

October is American Archives Month. Celebrate by exploring your local archives and special collections – you never know what you might find. Sarah Lawrence College students, faculty, and staff can learn more about the Sarah Lawrence College Archives on their website and Facebook page.


Resources


Notes

[1] The opening stanza of Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
[2] A quote from the German dramatist and poet Friedrich von Schiller.
[3] Olsson’s original spelling, grammar, and word choice are retained in these quotes.
[4] Olsson is referring to the 1892 United States presidential election between incumbent Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland.


Rebecca Hopman is a first-year student in the Women’s History graduate program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Project Archivist at the Sarah Lawrence College Archives and works as an editor for the Re/Visionist. Her research interests include the history of itinerant performers, gender dynamics in artistic communities, women’s life writing, and women’s collegiate experiences.

Domestic Violence Is Not Straight Violence

By Sidney Wegener

Sidney is a first year Master’s Candidate studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Their academic interests include lesbianism and lesbian history in American from the 1920’s to the 1930’s. They are currently pursuing many different avenues for research in U.S. history pertaining to women’s and queer studies and looking forward to working on a thesis related to the linguistic and social evolution of female sexuality.


Content warning: This article consists of narrative, rhetoric, and statistics that may be triggering for some readers as it discusses the queer experiences of domestic/sexual violence.


I sat and quietly listened, my heart pounding, while one of my close friends in high school told me about the fight she and her girlfriend had gotten into the night beforehand. I was doing my best not to stare at her bruised and swollen left eye. This was my first relatively close encounter with domestic violence. I remember, when I was younger, hearing about how sometimes “bad boyfriends or husbands beat their women.” However, all of the rhetoric I had ever heard, or read, about abusive partnerships consisted of a single story: men abusing women. I am writing this article for the purpose of displacing this narrative because domestic violence is not limited to cisgendered, heterosexual relationships.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides the following statistics on queer/trans relationship abuse:

  • 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have expereinced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
  • 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have expereinced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
  • Transgender victims are more likely to expereince intimate partner violence in public
  • LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black/African American
  • LGBTQ victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance (public assistance refers to state/government forms of support for individuals in need and/or disabled)

These are only a few statistics which counter the widespread presumption that domestic abuse occurs only among cisgendered/straight partnerships. While these statistics primarily address monogamous relationship dynamics, it is crucial to take into account the array of different genders, races, classes, and sexual orientations which experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence. Domestic and sexual violence can occur on seperate grounds as well as overlap with eachother. Domestic violence can also come in many different forms, not all of which are readily recognizable in queer relationships. For example, if one partner threatens to “out” their significant other as non-cisgendered or non-heterosexual, the act constitutes as one of abuse between intimate partners. In addition to this, misuse of pronouns in intimate partnerships also operates as a form of emotional/verbal abuse. Parallel to the assumption that domestic violence transpires only between couples consisting of a man and a woman, gender plays a critical role in how abuse (sexual, verbal, physical, financial, or otherwise) is defined, perceived, and treated by the victim’s loved ones and the public. 

LGBTQIA+ people who find themselves experiencing domestic or sexual violence face many more obstacles in finding support and protection from the party responsible for the abuse. Often, sexual violence or abuse that takes place between same-sex and/or transgender couples is taken even less seriously than that which occurs betweeen cisgender/heterosexual couples. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “In 2012, fewer than 5% of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought orders of protection”.  This statistic reflects that there are numerous reasons why queer/transgender victims do not report their experiences, often pertaining to anti-queer/trans legislature or lack of support. 

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month as well as LGBTQIA+ History Month, I found that this article is a particularly important one to write. In a world where systemic violence is inflicted upon LGBTQIA+ bodies daily, I would like to call attention to intimate partner violence which persists within our own community. Beyond that, it is crucial to disrupt the ongoing narrative that domestic abuse/sexual violence is a strictly cisgender/straight phenomenon. By bringing statistics on the realities of queer/trans relationship abuse and violence to light, I hope that cisgendered and straight allies can be more aware of and compassionate toward their queer/trans loved one’s expereinces. In addition to this, I would like to emphasize the importance of validating the violence experienced among members of the LGBTQIA+ community in all forms.

If you are located in a state that is anti-trans and/or anti-homosexual, lacking support from your community, or if you are unsure of whether or not you have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence; seeking help as an abuse victim, and member of the LGBTQIA+ community, involves facing many different obstacles. However, reporting the person responsible for the abuse and/or violence is a critical way in which victims can be validated and protected by community and law. Below are some resources for those who have experienced, are expereincing, or know someone who is a victim of queer domestic and/or sexual violence. Reach out, report, and support because Domestic Violence Awareness Month means standing up against intimate partner violence in all forms and for all people.

Statistics Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,  https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/domestic-violence-and-the-lgbtq-community

The Anti-Violence Project: serves people who are LGBTQ; Hotline 1-212-714-1141, Bilingual 24/7

FORGE: serves transgender and gender nonconforming survivors of domestic and sexual violence; provides referrals to local counselors, 1-414-559-2123

Northwest Network– serves LGBT survivors of abuse; can provide local referrals: 1-206-568-7777

Here is the Tell

By Kris Malone Grossman

Kris received their BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Women’s Spirituality at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where she is co-researching prismatic narrative standpoint and women’s embodied art practice.


Content warning: This piece discusses alcoholism, abuse, and violence.


In recent years some members and friends of A.A. have asked if it would be wise to update the language, idioms, and historical references in the book to present a more contemporary image for the Fellowship. However, because the book has helped so many alcoholics find recovery, there exists strong sentiment within the Fellowship against any change to it.

                                                —From the Introduction to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Its a miracle Im here to tell you this:

all those years I tried to be dead.

It hurts to say all this.

I need you. Talk to me.

How does my life remind you of your own?

                                                                        —Joan Larkin, from “A Qualification: Pat H.”

Shame: the unspoken, taking root. Uprooting, tap-rooting, tapping the soul, rooting in the bones. Perfidious tangled roots sinking down, primed to exhaust one’s stores. The unspoken, unspeaking—re-unspeaking, pushing the shame down, down, down, where, having no outlet, it serpentines through the body, lodging in cells, with its tendriling fingers that refuse to be stilled, an unchecked, shapeshifting entity casting itself about, thrashing against one’s heart: a silent cacophony. A cacophony: the voices of women in my family, “The day you were born was the worst day of my life—you ripped me to pieces, I almost died,” my great-grandmother to my grandmother, an oft-repeated, shaming refrain; my great-grandmother, forced, while pregnant, to sequester in her prairie town, lest someone spot her and be reminded: something shameful had occurred, was occurring, her womanbody an emblem of shame, invidious reminder of companion shame: townsmen practicing manifest destiny on women’s bodies as they had the land, “You ripped me to pieces” the foreboding leitmotif informing my grandmother’s girlhood, at nine, forced to bind her breasts, lest she and her girlbody shamefully arouse any men. Such manifest solicitousness, a nine-year-old’s solicitousness, a girl’s, a child’s, solicitousness, she, whose father, complicit in his silence, just like my mother’s father, the man my grandmother, who ripped apart her mother, would marry, because that’s what girls do, because that’s what you do: rip apart your mothers and marry silent men and keep equally silent in a perfectly silent, perpetual re-silencing. He’s a real quiet man, they say of the men in my family. Shame, silence, how, when the two wed, their union begets ever more shame. How shame lodged in my mother’s bones, carried down: generations, embodied memory. How shame coursed through her veins that, pre-Rowe and losing blood, hemorrhaged, Scarlet lettered, covert, ashamed, you ripped me to pieces, I almost died, she marries my father, a drinker, a Real Quiet Man,who was it who said, Silence is deafening?, a silence that suffused the house I grew up in, the street I grew up on, the street where a house alight with shameful ghosts will later collapse in on itself, a two-story house, a many-storied house, front corner room upstairs where boys took girls down, housecats traipsing nonchalantly past, past the stacks of smut rags dirty socks wet towels musky T-shirts lumped in the hall, the silence of addiction and shame and Real Quiet Men and Real Quiet Boys and Even Really And Ever So Much Quieter Girls; alcoholism, they say, is a family disease, one big unhappy family disease in its variegated unhappy ways. Silence, addiction, shame, you ripped me to pieces the day you were born. Infants, before they feed, often become so agitated by the scent of the breast they cannot suckle. Fists clenched, bodies taut, tensed, thrashing, the infant seeking, red-faced, screaming, for the breast. The milk lets down to the sound of her cries, the milk sprays, the milk wets her cheek, whetting her appetite. Milk surging so swiftly it gags the infant when she latches on. She screams again, outraged, repeats the pattern again and again. Insanity, some genius claimed, is doing the same thing over and over again expecting—expecting what? Sometimes you win. Sometimes, the infant wins. When she does, her fists slowly uncurl. Her body relaxes. The breast. The milk. What she’s been waiting for. Not for shaming not for binding: for nourishing. The infant suckles, the fists slowly uncurl. She suckles, soothed in her suckling. That with swagger my girlfriends and I boasted loudly, we sucked it up, outing the truth in bluster designed to silencetruth: another line, push it down; another fuck, push it down; another denial, push it down; what was happening to us, push it down; who was doing it, push it down. What was happening? We could only guess: guess from what we knew: what was happening to us, to each other, our mothers, our grandmothers: Real Quiet Men. Real Quiet Boys. Who kept each other’s company. A quiet sort of company. This is a family affair. This is family business. This is—Oh, come now! Boys will be boys. He was high, he was drunk, he was not in control, he was not in his right mind, he was needing an outlet, he was suffering, he was misunderstood, he was laid off, he was turned on, he was scared, he was having fun, he was, he was, he was. He was what? He needed what? He was not in control of what?

We were what. We were what was happening to us: our own quiet addictions, taking root alongside shame, twisting together like strands of DNA, an (un)coping mechanism. What was (re)happening to us: Real Quiet Boyfriends who, like the brothers and fathers and uncles and mothers’ boyfriends we knew, in keeping with our families of origin, in keeping with the tenet that alcoholism is a family disease, that alcoholism is a community disease, that addiction is our disease, we would be likely to partner with addicts, in our cases lovers who also knew that boys will be boys. Boyfriends, girlfriends, who, too, had been schooled in the cult of silence, who understood that we were astutely trained in its tacit curriculum: boys will be boys will be men will be boys.In the borrowed pickup. In the carpeted bedroom. In the wet grassy lawn at Fair Oaks Park. In the cemetery orange groves. In the swelter of a Sacramento Valley summer night. In the manure-smelling horse pastures. In the Safeway parking lot. In the knock-down, ho-hum everyday dirt road: pull out, pull down, peel out, pull off. Remaking the map, the map of California, the map of our bods. Shares that are violent or sexual in nature are better left for discussion outside the group. Admitted to God? To Him? Admitted what? The nature of our wrongs? Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of what? How despite this, we begin to tell. How the memories tell themselves, fold in on themselves, unfurl again. A single subdivision block. A cast of girls casting about, cast on the heap, giving over to go-fast and gone down. Carrying us, sweeping us, down. Lost at sea. Adrift on some sea. How not to tell. This is the tell. Here is the tell. Boyfriend, father, brother, lover: Where does one end and the other begin?

Bibliography

Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, last accessed September 1, 2019, https://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/twelve-steps-and-twelve-traditions

Larkin, Joan. A Long Sound. Penobscot, ME: Granite Press, 1986.

Hispanic Heritage and Making America Great

By Madison Filzer

Madison is a second year Master’s Candidate in the Women’s History program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her research interests include Civil Rights activism in Cleveland, Ohio and Black women’s activism in the United States.

Let me take you back to 1942, only a few years after the Great Depression, in the midst of World War II. In many ways, the United States was struggling on the homefront. With no one to work the jobs that were too low paying to sustain the American dream, there was no way to meet the demands of consumers. In a quick fix to the lack of able-bodied laborers here in the states, millions of migrant workers from Mexico were welcomed with open arms to ensure that our agriculture industry continued despite feeling the effects of war. At that moment, the Bracero Program was born. Bracero in this context, which literally translates to “laborer” in Spanish, meant one who works with their hands.

On August 4, 1942, the United States entered into the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement in order to sustain the large farm industry in the United States. Over the course of twenty-two years, it’s estimated that over two million Mexican immigrants signed contracts to work on American farms and railroads on a temporary basis for wages lower than Americans not fighting in the war were willing to work for. This program was later enacted into law as an amendment to the Migrant Labor Agreement of 1951. The extension of this agreement repeatedly brought Mexican workers back to the states to work in return for housing, low wages, and “humane treatment.” 

As one could imagine, the housing was poor, the job came with risks, and the workers were not treated humanely. But that isn’t why I wrote this piece … I want to talk about the immigration rhetoric we currently hear from the most recent occupant of the White House. The fact of the matter is that at one point, we were welcoming Latinx immigrants to the United States because we were in need of help. Now, only four decades later, there are people advocating for a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. By ignoring this history, we allow a false narrative of the “bad hombre” to be perpetuated. 

Yes, this was a bilateral deal that was beneficial to both parties in some way, but the logic that follows this history is the notion that there are jobs in America that Americans simply won’t do. We outsourced laborers to fill our needs and we still do. Imagine if every immigrant worker left right now … do we have enough people left to sustain the economy? I don’t know but I don’t think we want to find out. 

In case you didn’t know, September 15th through October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month, and I feel compelled to write this in honor of LatinX immigrant history. When I first heard of the Bracero Program a quick Google search returned few results. I feel like if more people knew about the program,  they would have the same questions about immigration that I have. How can we turn our backs on people in search of opportunity when that’s what brought European immigrants here? How would we sustain life as we know it in the United States without people willing to do the hard labor that others shy away from? I might not have the answers to any of the above questions, but as an aspiring historian who has ample access to historical resources, I felt obligated to share information that I believe has the power to change the way people look at immigration.