Edited by Gina Badger and Nasrin Himada
Invisible labour is biting one’s tongue. Invisible labour is caring when no one else does. Invisible labour is taking the time to explain. Invisible labour is arriving early and prepping the room. Invisible labour is sweeping the floor. Invisible labour happens behind the curtain. Invisible labour is hand-processing the film. Invisible labour is tracking the changes. Invisible labour is making sure the commas are consistent. Invisible labour is the artist’s side-hustle. Invisible labour is taking it. Invisible labour is not taking it. Invisible labour is indigestion. Invisible labour is insomnia. Invisible labour is therapy sessions. Invisible labour is feeling alone. Invisible labour is finding each other. Invisible labour is diversity committee work. Invisible labour is writing to the organizers. Invisible labour is explaining why you are saying no. Invisible labour is making sure this doesn’t sound too angry. Invisible labour is always applying and never being selected. Invisible labour is remembering. Invisible labour is reminding. Invisible labour is relating. Invisible labour is meeting expectations. Invisible labour is reading the cues. Invisible labour is translation. Invisible labour is knowing when not to. Invisible labour is knowing when you can’t not.
GB: What’s evident right away is that invisible labour is mandated within white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy according to structural identity factors such as race, class, gender, and sexuality. The trouble with invisibility is that within capitalism, if labour isn’t valued it isn’t waged fairly, or waged at all. This threatens the survival of those of us who are expected to perform this labour. It’s crucial to remember that it is only invisible to those who are its beneficiaries — not seeing it comes from privilege.During Michèle Pearson Clarke’s remarks following a screening Jason and Shirley (2015), she observed that “It is easier to understand the gains that we get from our privileges, to understand the things that are present in our lives because we occupy a particular class position or we have a certain skin colour. But it is much more difficult to understand the ways that our privileges make certain things absent in our lives, and to accept that those things can remain invisible to us.” While Michèle was describing the racialized and class-based power dynamic between Shirley Clarke and Jason Holliday during the making of the film Portrait of Jason (1967), this immediately took on meaning for me in relation to identity, power, and labour. Thanks to Michèle for sharing her notes with me.As a queer femme, I feel the demands of these power dynamics in my professional and personal relationships. However, my whiteness, my class status, and my level of education protect me from many of the worst abuses, and in fact often position me as a beneficiary. In this context, is my duty and obligationDuring Zoe Todd’s talk, “Fish pluralities, refraction and decolonization in amiskwaciwâskahikan,” she described her duties and obligations to the land as a Métis person who is often a guest on other people’s territories. This is a model that white settlers would do well to take up also with respect to our responsibilities as treaty people, and, more broadly, as people who have inherited a responsibility to dismantle white supremacy.to not only see the invisible labour of others,During a MICE editorial committee meeting in preparation for this issue, Onyeka Igwe questioned what theoretical goal follows from exploring invisible labour. Calling it “invisible” implies that invisibility is a problem and that perhaps the solution is to make it visible. What comes next once it has been rendered visible?but to learn to labour-with in the production of spaces that do not reproduce or affirm whiteness. Duty and obligation are dirty words in an individualistic culture that values choice and freedom over all else, but to me they come from love.At the launch of the last Scapegoat issue she edited, Nasrin Himada read aloud her editorial, in which she describes her process of dislodging whiteness from the spaces in which she works as “an act of love itself.” As a white editor collaborating with Nasrin on this issue, I endeavoured to co-create a space that could counter the violence of white supremacy in how it exploits the invisible labour of BIPOCs. Thank you to Nasrin for calling me always further into this work, both as my co-editor and as my steadfast friend.They come from a care for place and history, and acting out of duty and obligation teaches humility. This begins with knowing that my whiteness is one of the primary ways I embody history,From Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda’s foreword to their book, The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.and with recognizing my own body as a site of reckoning. As an editor, my labour and identity are often invisible, buried behind the mundane authority of a publication’s masthead. Becoming visible — bringing my own body and its histories into play — in this editorial can, I hope, make a contribution toward being accountable in this work.Thanks to the members of the MICE Collective. As members of the editorial committee, Parastoo Anoushahpour, Onyeka Igwe, and Yaniya Lee contributed invaluably to the ideas here. Founding members Scott Miller Berry, Jesse Cumming, Amy Fung, and cheyanne turions, I am proud to have worked with you on the creation of this platform. My thanks also, to Yaniya, cheyanne, and Leila Timmins, for your sharp readership of this editorial in its early stages, and to Aliya Pabani, for your thoughtfulness in talking it out with me along the way.
NH: Inspired by transformative justice advocacy, I think interrogating our own ways of benefitting from privilege is part of how we work toward causing less harm. To cultivate care, love, and trust — in how we be together — is work. Invisible labour, for me, as a person of colour who is often misread as white, is conditioned by simultaneously feeling the effects of anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab racism, and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and knowing that at times, in certain spaces, I pass as white. So, I feel that my obligations and responsibilities lie in how I labour toward the dismantling of white supremacy in the work that I do and in the spaces that I am in, or in the spaces that I create.My dear friend, and incredible writer and translator, Jen Hofer, expressed this concern of navigating the relationship between white privilege and oppression in an interview I conducted for the journal Scapegoat Journal, Issue 09. Hofer articulated so clearly the ways in which she confronts the relationship between privilege and oppression as someone who also gets read as white: “I’ve thought a lot about what it means to have the white privilege I have and do not want. I’d prefer if those twin systems of privilege and oppression didn’t exist, and given that I’d like to work in any way I can, in everything I do, to dismantle those systems I also have to recognize that as much as I don’t want to have these benefits, I benefit from an unjust system based in white supremacy. In terms of thinking about the ways that I take up space and don’t take up space when I enter a particular experience, it’s become very important to me to do work that uses the privilege that I have— the education that I’ve received, the ways that I have been encouraged to be articulate and to be a fearless speaker and willing to talk back to authority—to use those privileges to open up spaces for conversations that might not otherwise have been possible.” (81)In this sense, to “labour-with”Gina Badger brought this term to my attention as we were writing this editorial together, that to labour is not to labour alone, and that in collaboration we learn through struggle. I want to thank Gina for being present with me, and for opening up space to do the hard work that is required of us to do when shit gets real.means to labour with discomfort, to labour with “deconstruct[ing] colonial prejudices, biases and beliefs.”This quote is taken from Zoe Todd’s blog post entitled “Your friends with white privilige might not be coming with you.”Often, in working with white people, I feel a certain sense of obligation to take on the emotional labour of explaining and bridging the ways in which difference plays out in working relationships, as colleagues. Not only do I have to deal with the emotions that I experience when confronted with a situation where I need to speak up, but I also have to do damage control and deal with the consequences. Then, consequently, I am left feeling angry, sad, and exhausted. I spend energy working through what I have just experienced, working these feelings out, while my colleague gets to go on with their day. My body is consistently learning “how to handle poison,” preparing to face yet another instance where I need to work through pain.