It’s been a really strange week here in blog and social media land. The tension is so thick that you can almost cut it with a knife. As I have said before, our simple desire to be done with racial tensions in the US, seems to be creating more problems than it solves and for many of us talking about reality is so uncomfortable that we prefer to stick our heads in the sand, stay within our respective silos and chastise those who dare to speak out. At least that is the message I feel that I have received this week.
In the almost decade that I have been writing about race and difference, I have received my fair share of feedback from people who would prefer that I put a sock in it. Once I made a reader so mad that he sent a threatening letter to my editor that resulted in local law enforcement needing to be notified. Thankfully this week hasn’t been that bad, but I definitely have received some feedback that has made me stand back for a moment.
The first piece of feedback was from a reader of this space, who after reading my post Discomfort is not divisive, left this comment.
I’m not trying to be an ass here, and I’m prefacing this with that for clarity’s sake. I’m just trying to understand.
I keep seeing white women and women of color discussing this disconnect between white and black feminism, and I don’t really get it. I would like to, but so far, no one I’ve read really has a clear explanation. They just say, basically, “Things are different, and WOC are being excluded/silenced.”
Outside of reading and listening to personal accounts from people of color, I obviously can’t understand what it’s like to be one (and I’d argue that POC can’t understand what it’s like to be white, though I’ll concede that one is less desirable than the other because of society’s current condition–I realize that might be putting it lightly), let alone being a woman in that culture.
So what I’m wondering is what differences are there between the things white women and women of color are hoping feminism will achieve? And how, exactly, are white feminists excluding WOC from the conversation?
If you’ve explained this somewhere already, feel free to link me to it. I won’t be offended in the least. And I hope I haven’t offended you.
I admit that initially I wasn’t really certain what to say to this reader. It felt as if I were being asked to take 40 years of my own personal life experiences and synthesize and distill them down in a way that made sense for her. In many ways, that is what my blog is about, I share the good, the bad and the ugly. There are almost 1000 posts on this blog alone, talking about my life, the life of my kid’s and at times, the ways in which race affects us personally. However while I was grappling with what to say and how to say it without sounding like an asshole, several of my readers in the comment section, many of who are white women themselves responded to Rayne the commenter. I think they gave her a good foundation of where to look for information. I will also add that I feel that personally questions such as Rayne’s strike me as coming from that silo that I recently wrote about. When we are in our own personal world, surrounded by people just like us, we miss out on knowing what is actually happening to people who are different than us. We also take the approach of taking our own set of experiences and applying them to everyone which is never a good approach because we often end up making a lot of assumptions.
While I struggled with Rayne’s questions, I felt that Rayne came from a sincere place in wanting to know why things are different between women of color and white feminists. In the end, I can’t say that I have an answer that can easily be written in this space. Things are different because our playing field is not even, hell I am writing in this space (small platform, no pay, should I go on) and not for any feminist publications because most mainstream feminist publications rarely have any women of color actually writing at their publications. Needless to say, that lack of diversity frames many discussions and leaves many out.
Moving on this week, I had another exchange, this one on the BGIM Facebook page, which frankly has me scratching my head. A commenter by the name of Kelly left a comment in response to this article from Colorlines that I had shared. You can read the entire conversation here, but here are few key pieces from her.
“I am amazed at this article and how it completely misses the mark. There is never and will never be good dialogue because of articles like this. Just like the link that you posted today of the blog regarding not having “white friends” but how she was ridiculed for “being too white”….whites are accused of being racists constantly but race is simply not something my generation and younger focus on… But it seems to constantly be something those that accuse us of racism focus on…so who then are the true racists?”
“People mistake racism in the white community for what is truly socioeconomic-ism. It doesn’t matter what color the person is….it’s more what level of education they’ve had and if they are a productive member of society.
There are poor people of every race that are not educated and that are still productive members of society.
It’s those that are ignorant, disrespectful, with attitude, and couldn’t care less about being a productive member of society that I am referring to. And those types of people come in every color.
It’s those people that are referred to when using slang – White Trash/Redneck, Wetback, Kike, Nigger, etc…. I actually had a hard time typing those words by the way.
But people tend to never look at the ills that affect their own races. Education – or the lack thereof – is the greatest. The lack of respect – for oneself as much as for others – is a close second. And I would have to say that blaming others for their own problems is a close third. There are many other factors regarding ills in races but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
That being said, cultures are so different and some are their own worst enemy. The black culture is one that in my own personal opinion that continues racism more than any other. I’m sorry that you have experienced what you have with your family. But you are not alone in what you experienced.
It’s not white people that keep blacks down, why would whites need to when blacks keep themselves down more than we ever could? I’ll explain what I mean by this if you will answer some questions for me.
Please explain to me why it is so entrenched in black culture to be Democrats?”
“You sound like a very angry black girl in Maine. You don’t want honest dialogue in the least. What you want is someone to agree with whatever you say. “Your ilk” wants to constantly whine about your race. Well boo effen hoo…you are a black girl in – a country that has given black people every available opportunity…with education, jobs (even when more qualified people were wanting them), financial benefits, the list goes on and on. But blacks remain the poorest race in the US….the less educated race in the US…the most violent race in the US….etc… You don’t hear of Asians whining about race relations, you don’t hear of Middle Easterners whining about race relations…it’s only blacks….because years ago your ancestors were slaves….well guess what? Just about every race has experienced slavery at some point in history….With Women of every race being the worst. Honest dialogue means you might have to admit that your culture has some serious issues that needs to be addressed but instead of doing that it appears you’d prefer to sit and whine about how hard life is. Life is not fair for anybody…deal with it. The reason I recently liked your page was because I saw a friend of mine post here and I read what you were supposedly wanting… Not even close. I’ll unlike your page now because you are a fake. Your “body of work” just wants to perpetuate the race card and how things are so hard for blacks. Well only blacks can change that….but not with this type of “honest dialogue!” MY last comment on the matter!”
As you can see, Kelly is a scholar on what ails the Black community. Clearly, my 40 years as a Black woman in American who can only trace her roots back about 120 years thanks to slavery, along with my undergraduate degree that focused on African American studies is nothing more than a smokescreen for the fact that I am an ingrate who does not appreciate all that America has given me! So sorry Miss Anne, let me find my gratitude.
All jokes aside, and yes, I am having a laugh at this woman’s expense because frankly sometimes people need to be put on blast and laughed at. I think Kelly says a lot of things that more than a few white people think, starting with her earliest comment “but race is simply not something my generation and younger focus on”
That simple sentence to me sums up why race is still an issue, many of us are not thinking about it and some of us are forced to think about it. As long as I live in a world where my son driving a car is a tension filled experience because he could be pulled over by a cop and I could end up burying him rather than him burying me, race matters. When my son spent last fall on a predominantly white college campus in northern Wisconsin dealing with the fact that when he spoke out about his classmates dressing in Blackface for Halloween, he was deemed a troublemaker, race damn sure mattered. Especially because the young white women who thought it was cool to dress in blackface suddenly were scared when a 6’4 biracial kid called them out on their racist actions thus falling back on a very well-known racial deflection tool…white woman tears. Race matters when suddenly after years of working hard I am taken seriously in my professional life when powerful white men decide I am worthy thus now doors open for me. Why do I need a white man’s stamp of approval? Oh my, race matters. Race mattered 20 years ago when I showed up to see an apartment that an hour earlier was available but when I show up in the flesh as agreed upon, it is suddenly unavailable. Race mattered 15 years ago, when my husband was pulled over by the cops on a random check and the first words out of the cops’ mouth were who was I? Gee, just his wife, not the sex worker you implied that I was. Clearly I could go on, the fact is race matters, class matters too and as a class straddler, I live in my world and probably your world too and it is all so damn tiring.
So to Kelly and anyone else who has ever wondered, yes, I am angry. But I am also hopeful, hopeful that one day enough of us will pay attention to race and difference and get off our collective duffs to make some real change. In the meantime, I must go tell Sallie Mae, that she forgot that I had the black person privilege card and that I don’t owe that $120,000+ she says I owe her for my two degrees. My education was on the house, the house of America after all Kelly the reader said so!