Rebecca Walker
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P.O.V's 6 QUESTIONS TO REBECCA WALKER
© PBS.org, 2002


     
 

P.O.V's 6 Questions

P.O.V. kicked off the discussion by asking Rebecca 6 initial questions, the same 6 we are asking all the featured guests.

P.O.V.: In your work, you consider the notion of 'borders.' What is a border to you?

Rebecca: A border is a line drawn in the earth or in the psyche that beckons to be crossed. A border is an invitation to wholeness, as it marks a place of separation, a wound in need of attention and repair. A border represents the illusion of separateness. A teacher once said, "When you look at the earth from space, do you see streets, cities, states, or countries? No. With the right perspective, there are no lines, there is no separation." There are no borders.

P.O.V.: What's an important border that you've crossed in your life?

Rebecca: As a mixed race person, I have often felt like a bridge between worlds, a walking frontier. For much of my life I felt pressured to respect and respond to the external borders, to choose which side of the fence I was on — the racial fence, the spiritual fence, the ideological fence. The day I stopped choosing sides and accepted and embraced all of my complex and complicated self was the day I became a real human being. I let the internal borders completely dissolve and began to see the external ones as illusions. That practice, of accepting and embracing all sides, even the parts I don't like, is a challenge I try to meet in small ways each day. Sometimes I fail, especially in these times of war and fear, but I know my goal.


P.O.V.: If you could erase any border in your world, what would it be?

Rebecca: I would erase the border between those who have access to safety, education, health care, and sexual and spiritual freedom and those who do not. I would erase the border between the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor. Is that too utopic?

P.O.V.: When and how are borders useful?

Rebecca: Um. To manipulate the earth's resources for the benefit of a few wealthy nations? I am not sure I can come up with a positive spin on borders. I do like the "border" between the body and the state, that's a helpful one. I think that it is very important that women, in particular, have the right to do what they want with their bodies without being regulated or penetrated or controlled by the state. So the right to sexual and reproductive freedom is something that has been won using the idea of a positive border of sorts. That has been useful.

P.O.V.: This episode of P.O.V.'s Borders concentrates on borders as a physical reality, in terms of people moving from one place to another and having to cross mental and literal borders to do that. What, in your experience, is the most contested border?

Rebecca: I have long felt uncomfortable with the border between the US and Mexico. The idea that one is US land and the other Mexican is just so arbitrary. Because you live on one side of a line you can't have access to what is on the other side of the line? And why is that only one way? We in the US have free access to Mexico and its resources but not vice versa? Thousands are killed or detained for trying to cross the line? It is insanity. Mexico is us and we are Mexico, I think we should reevaluate our relationship to allow for more freedom of movement between the countries and thus the cultures.

And back to the previous question, the border between women's bodies and the arms of the church and state is one that has been contested and will continue to be as our government gets more and more conservative and fundamentalist. We will need to defend this border, even though what this struggle really points to is how much needs to be healed in the relationship between male and female, masculine and the feminine, born and unborn.

P.O.V.: Expand our borders. What's a book, movie, piece of music, website, etc. that challenges or engages with the idea of 'borders' that we should know about but perhaps don't?

Rebecca: I love the work of Bill Viola, who often works at the boundary between the material and the nonmaterial. His huge floor to ceiling video installations, like my favorite of a man walking in real time into a fire, challenge the division between life and death, body and spirit. His work collapses that boundary somehow, and takes us through it experientially.

Both of my books are about border crossing, and so is the novel I am working on at the moment. I think those of us who try to imagine living in ways that are not defined by opposition to a bad Other, that have open borders, are planting the seeds for a peace that we will not see in our lifetime but which will flower once the cycles of war and domination are clearly seen as insane.


P.O.V.'s Borders visitors Questions


P.O.V.'s Borders visitors sent Rebecca these questions in response to her work and her answers to P.O.V.'s initial 6 Questions. Read on!

Question: Hello Rebecca. My question is, How do you, as a biracial person, contend with racism in the lesbian and greater queer community?

Rebecca: I find it disappointing, but no more or less than when I find it elsewhere.

Question: Here's a biggie: what are your visionary ideas for solving the issues/struggles you work on?

Rebecca: I believe that psychotherapy and spiritual awakening are major components of the new activism. People need to, individually, wake up and stop looking to groups of any kind to define and liberate them.

Question: I'm interested in your work with the Third Wave Foundation, of which I understand you are a co-founder. What is the Third Wave of feminism?

Rebecca: This would take a while to answer, but in the meantime, check out our website, and check out my first book, To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism.

Question: What do you think is different about being an activist today compared with the 60s and 70s? Do you think protesting and marching is still worthwhile today?

Rebecca: I think we need all forms of activism, and that is one of the main differences, that we recognize now that movement is happening on multiple fronts simultaneously and must. It isn't just the picket lines, or the marches on Washington, it's also the millions of meditators, the thousands of organic farmers, the writers who infiltrate curricula, etc. Change is not some linear, chronologically defined thing. It is constant, it is multi-pronged, it is diverse.

Question: Hi Rebecca: as a healthy, successful lesbian woman, what advice would you give to young lesbians struggling with race,class,etc. issues? What was important for your survival — in forming your queer identity.

Rebecca: I am bisexual, which means that I am attracted to people irrespective of their anatomy and gender socialization. Insisting on this freedom, in the face of all of the people who would rather I choose one or the other, has been super important to my survival. For young women exploring identity, I say read as much as you can, talk as much as you can, join together in safe spaces as much as you can. Isolation is dangerous, so work hard to find and make and cherish community.

Question: How did you come to write Black, White and Jewish? Did you write it for yourself?

Rebecca: I wrote it for myself and also for whoever else was drawn to it. I believe in an Indian, Hindu notion of art, that you never make art alone. The people who are wanting and needing and looking for what you have to say are coming toward your art at the same time you are making it and moving toward them. The magic happens when the work and the audience meet. But it is a moment that has been brewing below the surface for much longer than you think.

Question: As a younger person who is becoming recognized as an important thinker/writer/activist (one of fifty future leaders of America!!), what is it like to have two parents who were well-known in leftist, activist movements?

Rebecca: Great. I have always been inspired by my parents' activism and work. They are important models for me.

Question: I'm wondering what borders you think need to be crossed in personal relationships in order to build healthy communities?

Rebecca: I think we must learn to forgive one another and stop seeing ourselves as so separate and different and distinct from each other. We need to realize that the space between us is an illusion, quantum physics proves it.

Question: If they do a movie version of your book, who would you want to play you? Seriously, what are your hopes for your book.

Rebecca: I would love for the book to continue to be a part of the national and international discourse on race, class and culture. It was translated into Hebrew and I would love for it to travel to Europe, etc. A movie could be fun, though I would want a lot of control because it is so personal, and so far no one wants to give me that.

 

 

Rebecca Walker - All Rights Reserved 2007. http://www.rebeccawalker.com - Rebecca @ MySpace