All posts by mara.ahmed

How the Karen Meme Confronts History of White Womanhood

many times, it has been pointed out to me how patriarchy is older and deeper than racism. case in point? (1) black men got the vote before women did and (2) we’ve had a black male president but still feel nervous about a woman president.

this line of reasoning makes me cringe. to start with, what came first is not a cogent argument and oppression olympics are meaningless. also, the absorption of POCs into systems that are designed to crush them, is not progress but in fact a shoring up of the legitimacy and power of said regimes.

in the same way, women and LGBTQI folx joining the american military is not an achievement when the entire purpose of the military is to establish empire – use extreme violence to maintain unjust structures that kill and rob the most vulnerable, the poorest, the most disadvantaged.

how can such a world order help women, POCs and queer people? it is no coincidence that we are seeing the same hierarchies, policing and violence right here in the US.

this is a good article about the historical context within which to locate present day ‘karens’. in time magazine, no less.

Cady Lang: The historical narrative of white women’s victimhood goes back to myths that were constructed during the era of American slavery. Black slaves were posited as sexual threats to the white women, the wives of slave owners; in reality, slave masters were the ones raping their slaves. This ideology, however, perpetuated the idea that white women, who represented the good and the moral in American society, needed to be protected by white men at all costs, thus justifying racial violence towards Black men or anyone that posed a threat to their power. This narrative that was the overarching theme of Birth of a Nation, the 1915 film that was the first movie to be shown at the White House, and is often cited as the inspiration for the rebirth of the KKK.

“If we’re thinking about this in a historical context where white women are given the power over Black men, that their word will be valued over a Black man, that makes it particularly dangerous and that’s the problem,” says Dr. Apryl Williams, an assistant professor in communications and media at the University of Michigan.

“White women are positioned as the virtue of society because they hold that position as the mother, as the keepers of virtuosity, all these ideologies that we associate with white motherhood and white women in particular, their certain role in society gives them power and when you couple that with this racist history, where white women are afraid of black men and black men are hypersexualized and seen as dangerous, then that’s really a volatile combination.”

Williams says the exposure is challenging this position. “That’s part of what people aren’t seeing is that white women do have this power and they’re exercising that power when they call or threaten to call the police.” More here.

my review: au revoir les enfants

saw ‘au revoir les enfants’ for the third time and loved it even more. there is a simplicity and natural rhythm to it that’s incredibly difficult to orchestrate and capture on film. it’s unaffected.

there is a universality to the film. although it’s semi-autobiographical (louis malle went to a boarding school during the german occupation of france in the second world war), the film at its core is about difference. how it seduces and threatens, how it must be rooted out and disappeared, how it’s delineated and construed by power.

there is also an important socio-economic subtext to the story. the rich are so easily beautiful. even children seem to sense it.

the scene at the end, when children are picked out of a school assembly (their names read from a list), and asked to separate from the group and go stand against a wall, is a clear comment on the arbitrariness of who is deemed valuable or not, who ends up on the right side of the state or not, how easy it is to cross that liminal space, and how war intensifies the good vs evil binary. without intrusive music or sentimentality, ‘au revoir les enfants’ moves deeply. on hbo max and youtube.

Israel should face economic sanctions – CNN

i have no respect for christiane amanpour, in spite of the accent and eastern last name. to frame a discussion about the illegal annexation of west bank territory (and the decades long brutal occupation of palestine) by using talking points from tzipi livni, jared kushner and the trump administration is not just lazy journalism, it’s obscene. surely amanpour has read a book or two about palestine. maybe she’s been there, without being on an isareli government tour? she’s supposed to be a ‘veteran journalist.’ incredibly impressed by dianna buttu who maintains her sang-froid in the face of the same old, tired, meaningless script (why do palestinians blow every chance they get at peace) and keeps reiterating the need for economic sanctions. i know this is only cnn, but still.
watch interview here.

Change the Name

Repost from @culturestrike:

We’re joining the call to support our Native American communities & demand complete divestment from using depictions of indigenous people as mascots.

Culture, identity, and existence are not costumes. Native communities have been calling for this change for decades and it’s about time that the world finally listened! @r_dsk_ns & the @nfl do not get a pass in this battle for equality and justice.

#TheTimeIsNow #ChangeTheName

Palestinian Scholar Noura Erakat: Israeli Forces Killed My Cousin on His Sister’s Wedding Day

Noura Erakat: This is not about one bad Israeli soldier, just as it’s not about one bad cop ever. This is a system. It is an apartheid system. It is a settler colonial system that enshrines Jewish Israeli supremacy as a matter of law and policy on an international scale. And it is one that marks Palestinians for removal, exile or death. And it is done with the full, unequivocal, diplomatic, financial, military support of the United States and with the complicity of the international community.
So it bears upon us to respond in this moment by supporting the Palestinian call for freedom, by doing the little that we can by engaging in boycott, divestment and sanctions for Ahmed, for Razan, for Iyad, to oppose the annexation, to oppose apartheid, to fight for freedom. More here.

two part interview with instruments of memory

Repost from Instruments of Memory

“Inspired by the words in ‘Snowmen’, a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, This Heirloom explores notions of identity by recreating Mara Ahmed’s family history using photographs of her ancestors and juxtaposing them against South Asian architectural details. The vivid and colorful montages contrast with black and white images of Ahmed’s parents, Nilofar Rashid and Saleem Murtza, her maternal grandfather, Rashid Ahmad Qureshi, her maternal great grandfather, Adbul Majeed Qureshi, and her paternal grandmother, Niaz Fatima. By placing her subjects on the wrong side of the India-Pakistan border, Ahmed defies the dividing lines that separated territories more than seventy years ago.”
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Learn more in @mara__ahmed Mara Ahmed’s two-part interview (see comments)
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#instrumentsofmemory#womeninthearts#conversationswithwomeninthearts#artist#filmmakers#activist#filmmaker#MaraAhmed#ThisHeirloom#ThePartition

Embroidered Dreams by Mara Ahmed

#BLm and support for Palestine

trying to avoid rants and engage in conversation, as that’s the world we want to build, the world we must prefigure, where everyone has worth and dignity and our relationships are dynamic and balanced.

so just pointing out, with respect, that one cannot support BLM without supporting their very clear stance on palestine (read their statement on palestine and israel). one cannot admire angela davis without acknowledging her support for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions – a palestinian-led movement for equality and justice). one cannot fight settler colonialism and racism in one context while ignoring settler colonialism and racism in another.

if people don’t know about palestine, now is a good time to learn. while we’re resisting police brutality and asking for this racist institution to be defunded, learn about ‘deadly exchange’ whereby american law enforcement is trained in israel with israeli police, military and the shin bet. look up jewish voice for peace’s work on this. the knee-on-the neck, for example, is a well-known staple of israel’s occupation of palestine.
if u need books or resources, let me know. the more we know, the better poised we will be for this fight.

The Injured Body gets a grant

Friends, I am excited to share that The Injured Body: A Film about Racism in America is now fiscally sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television (see below) and that we recently got a grant from First Unitarian Church of Rochester for post-production. We are also updating our website (will share soon). There is still a lot of work to do, but we are moving forward. More here.

Calida Rawles: water as visual language

From CulturedMag.com:

“It was about five years ago when water entered my life,” says Los Angeles-based painter Calida Rawles. Pregnant with her third daughter, she began swimming. “It started as exercise, and then it became almost like a therapy. I learned how to really swim as an adult. My breathing became more meditative. I felt so much better in the water.”

Soon after, she embarked on creating the body of work for which she has subsequently become celebrated: gorgeous, photorealistic paintings of black figures immersed in turquoise waters.

Rawles says she feels that her compositions are, above all, celebratory. “In my culture, seeing black bodies in water is special.” While for her personally, swimming might be a tool for self-care—a means of escaping both the immediate demands of family life and, more broadly, the pressures of contemporary black life in America—black bodies have not historically been associated with swimming pools. There are complex reasons why—even today, sixty-four percent of African American children are not able to swim—and these are rooted in racial segregation, Jim Crow laws and economic disparity. A painting such as Little Swimmer (2016), showing a young black girl surging beneath the surface of the water, is therefore a vision of hope and freedom.