Wednesday, August 13, 2008

To continue.

To continue from yesterday I'd like to talk about situations that make it difficult for me to feel a sense of solidarity.

Note: These are not all things exclusive to or entirely related to Fat Acceptance but come from 31 years on the planet and a lot of interaction with my fellow humans.

Declarations of color blindness in terms of racial issues, might be a lovely idea in theory but has no place in my existence. the fact is that every time i hear someone extolling their virtuous color blindedness here is what i feel. If racial issues are brought up and you respond with vehement declarations of how little color matters to you, clearly you are for whatever reason uncomfortable.

Or that your perception of how important racial issues affect people is off, you don't care or you don't care to know. I hear that you don't know and don't care to hear where I am coming from.

On a deeper level when this is tossed around I as a person of color feel slighted and invisible. If we are supposed to feel some measure of solidarity how can I when a huge part of what I bring to the table you are blind to?

I do not now nor have I ever had the privilege to ignore the color of my skin. Whether that's because I might be the only black face in a crowd, or because I am being harassed in a store, or cruised by the police while I'm waiting for a bus in a very white neighborhood.

I live daily with these things and it doesn't matter to you? You reject that the color of my skin could have an impact on the experience I am bringing? Is it safe to assume that if you do claim to be color blind at some level you disbelieve that the color of my skin or your own skin for that matter has had a wallop of an impact in how you've been able to live your life?

Next, and I really hate to be saying this again but, if you are not a person of color you probably don't get it. Telling me that an experience isn't a valid thing to talk about because you've never experienced it is a fucked up thing. Quite honestly, chances are that no matter how liberal, sensitive and civilized you might claim to be, you don't get it. And as a number of people have said time and again, the best course of action is to acknowledge and own that you don't get it.

Then the hard part.

Don't waste your time defending yourself. Don't try to convince me that your ignorance isn't really your fault and that I am a big ole meanyhead for pointing out your ignorance, etc etc.

Just shut up and listen.

listen knowing that as I mentioned, you will probably not get it. That's not to say empathy isn't welcome.

Further, I don't want an apology unless you perpetrated an actual wrong. If you said something fucked up, feel free to apologize. Other than that skip it.

Just listen.

Other things I'd appreciate people giving some thought.

Being the only or one of few people of color in any situation is a hard thing. It can be frustrating, painful, and tiring. There is a fine line you have to walk because on one hand you want to present yourself well but on the other you just want to be who you are.

And that my fine feathered friends is a shitload of pressure.

Not to mention irritating to have to remind people that you are not the Empress/Emperor of all (insert minority here) and no you can't speak to a monolith of experience because that's not how it works.

Any movement that seeks diversity is in peril of ignoring and ultimately marginalizing the people who make up that diverse group. But it can be avoided.

Be mindful that your experience and the things that have created you are going to be different than mine or another persons. This difference is not something to feel guilty about, apologize for, fear or try to suppress because it might make you nervous.

It just is what it is.

Like so many other things in life, it might be easier to want to lump in one group of people together under a monolithic flag because they might share some superficial commonalities. However it does a disservice to you and the people you might be trying to speak to.

These things aren't easy to digest and aren't easy but it is necessary if you want to foster a diverse group of people getting together for a common cause.

That's it for today.

My head still really hurts and I don't feel good. My hour and fifty five minute commute did me no good.

Homo Out.



DavitaCuttita said...

I really, really loved this post. It was all well said. I think this should just be mailed to every man, woman and child.

jj said...

Hour and 55 minute commute? Harsh. Anyway, I have always wondered how it must feel to be the one of the only black person in a crowd of whitefolks. I figured it must take a certain amount of letting things slide, etc. Good post. I think that these things need to be said, maybe on a national level, judging from the news, etc.

nuckingfutz said...

Regarding this:

I live daily with these things and it doesn't matter to you? You reject that the color of my skin could have an impact on the experience I am bringing? Is it safe to assume that if you do claim to be color blind at some level you disbelieve that the color of my skin or your own skin for that matter has had a wallop of an impact in how you've been able to live your life?

While I'm sure there are SOME people that take that attitude, as a person who USED to call herself "colorblind", I feel the need to give you another view on the term.

When I did say it (and no, I don't say it anymore; my ignorance has gone), that's not at all what I meant. When I would say that I was colorblind, what I would mean was that I saw a PERSON first, a person OF COLOR second. A person's skin color made no difference to me in dealing with that person AS A PERSON. I made judgements based on attitudes and personalities, not the color of someone's skin. But I never meant that it was unimportant in the larger sense of the word. And I know I'm not the only one. I have been lucky in that the people I have chosen to surround myself with hold much of the same attitudes and ideas as I do.

But like I said, I don't use that particular phrase anymore. I never realized (because none of my POC friends ever called me out on it; I truly wish they had) until having more interweb contact with POC how insulting that word is (and I wholeheartedly apologize for being such an ignoramus). I just wanted to point out that some of us that have said that, didn't mean what you thought they meant.

I'm sure there are some assholes out there that DO mean that. But not all of us. Some of us are just ignorant. (Not that ignorant is good, but I'd rather be ignorant than an asshole, any day.)

(And while I totally admit I'm so white I practically glow in the dark [and therefore am obviously NOT a POC], for anyone to say to ANYONE else that their experience isn't a valid thing to talk about simply because they've never experienced it for themselves truly IS fucked up. That's the BEST reason to talk about it!)

Lindsay said...

I don't recall if i ever really used the term color-blind with regards to racial issues. I know that i was aware of it in that context, and perhaps did use it once or twice. The thing that made me stop using it, though? Was dating a photographer who was literally color-blind.

I want to be careful to not make any assumptions or stick my feet too far into my mouth here, so please let me know if i'm being a doofus with this next bit. I want to do that "put it into my own words to make sure i understand" thing.

Basically, when someone uses the term "color-blind", it implies that they do not see a person's color at all.

A white person might think that this is a good thing: "race" is rarely a term applied to white people, so much so that it's almost implied that white folks are "non-racial". So to a white person, "color-blind" comes across as the ability to look at a person without making assumptions about them based on their race.

However, from a POC point of view, race means something very different. It's a part of the identity that cannot be erased. So perhaps from that viewpoint, hearing someone say that they are color-blind is invalidating. It means that they are not seeing the things that make a POC life-experience very different from a white person's life-experience. The "color" in question isn't just the hue of the skin, but a defining characteristic of who they are, where they came from, and what their life is like.

So if that's the case (and i haven't mucked it up too badly), then the question becomes: is it a matter of "good idea, bad phrasing"? Or is the concept behind the well-intentioned meaning still faulty?

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