Friday, March 23, 2012

E Tu Brute?

Well then.

It's been a hell of a few days and I am left shaking my head.

My homies, especially my White homies in particular let me tell you. This is the sort of thing I weather no matter what activism type thing I get involved with.

Every. Single. One.

I have been involved with in one way or another, social justice for a very long time. Let's call it about 20 years starting with writing letters to politicians and school officials to skipping school to protest to volunteering, to being a peer teacher, soup kitchens, groups etc.

Honestly, whether it's been about bodies, sex, fatness, sex work, education, kids this happens.

I have in my life spent days in tears because I have such a long standing deep seated desire to make the world better and sometimes I feel like I can't do it because frankly things like this happen and it hurts.

When I was younger I would have folded. I would have eaten the racism, I would have been the nice Black lady who maybe let out a little mousy squeak about racism.

Not so much anymore.

So let me do one last thing for a while and speak to White People Directly.

If I say to you that something you've said or done makes me uncomfortable due to X racism issue I am not calling you a racist.

99% of the time a lot of other people who will say this to you are also not calling you personally a racist.

Let me put it this way. If I Shannon Barber say hey, buddy you laughed at the sunshine I drew and it was a pretty mean thing to do. Could you please not do that again because it hurt my feelings/was mean?

Am I saying that you buddy are the cruelest meanest person? Am I saying I hate you?


If you invite me to a party and I ask you details about the party and maybe something about it makes me uncomfortable and I ask you more questions am I being mean?


If at that point I say hey buddy, I don't think being around people setting the furniture on fire is a safe enviornment for me so I am not coming- am I being mean?


If I do come to the party and people are making me feel uncomfortable, is it evil of me to excuse myself? Or stand up for myself? Even if they "don't mean it that way"?


If at that party I say hey buddy, could you talk to your friends they are hurting my feelings/making me feel uncomfortable/doing things that hurt me is that unreasonable?

Not really.

Here's the thing and it's going to hurt to hear.

99% of the every day racism that happens in my life I have no way of protecting myself from. I don't have the choice to ignore how people treat me. I don't have the choice of not thinking about it or adjusting my behavior accordingly.

When people I thought were allies to me and people like me are clearly not. It hurts more because I respect my allies and care for them and it fucking hurts.

I take shit personally.

I'm not talking about theories. I'm not talking about institutional racism. I'm talking about the kind of language that breaks my heart. That makes me feel like an intruder in a given space. Language that makes it clear that I am not welcome based on the fact that I will never separate my Blackness from the rest of my life because I can't.

For all of you colorblind people let me explain.

I can't ignore my color.

I can't ignore it when I'm alone at night and carloads of White men ride past in cars screaming "YOU DIRTY BLACK BITCH". I can't ignore it when grown ass White men stare me down while they complain to each other about civil rights, MLK day and "them" generally fucking everything up.

I can't ignore it when I go into a drug store and ask if they have a Covergirl pressed powder compact in Soft Sable and I'm told that " some people steal it."

I can't ignore it when my various inboxes are full of gems like: "DIE NIGGER", rape threats, people wishing that I would stop being such an uppity darkie bitch. No, those aren't grabbed out of air they are copied and pasted.

I can't ignore it when I have to go through my youtube videos and remove things like: "Niggers have the ugliest hair" "nigger bitch can't even make a video".

I can't ignore it when you tell me that it doesn't matter if I am uncomfortable with a project, part of a movement or statement because it's more important than my race.

When you tell me that you have it worse, you tell me you don't understand what I'm saying.

You tell me that regardless of the myriad people saying that oppression are intersected and that comparing them this way is bad for everyone, that what I have to say is irrelevant and unimportant.

It hurts worse when it comes from people I think are trying to come from a good place.

It hurts worse when I have been almost begging not for action but just for five goddamn minutes of silence and listening. I don't want anyone to radically change their outlook. Just listen.

And you say no.

Over and over.

You can't say that I am welcome out of one side of your mouth and out of the other declare that my observations or questions can't be heard, really heard and considered, because you don't believe in privilege or you don't want to think about it because you honestly don't have to.

You can't say I'm welcome when you show no inclination to pay attention to anything I might contribute because talking about racism and intersectionality is fucking hard and makes you feel icky.

So here's the thing FA.

I am not leaving. I'm not going to be quiet.

I'm not going to engage with the things that hurt me so if what you need are resources about how to talk to, be decent to, include etc POC I am not the drone you're looking for.

Not because I don't care as I said yesterday but because it hurts me too much. I care too much, I also care for myself too much.

Here is what I will do.

I will tell you what to do.

  • Don't run in all ass and elbows. If a conversation about racism is causing you to get defensive and want to prove how not racist you are, the most effective thing you can do is be quiet. Listen to what's being said and understand that though you might be mentioned, likely it's not just about you. 
  • Understand that most POC are not going to want to do Racism 101 every blog post, or in every comment. If you want to show how not racist you are, take some responsibility and use the google machine. Understand the reason for this is that we do it every day of our lives much of the time. It is unreasonable and a very demanding position to think that every person of color wants to give everyone nice easy lessons about racism all the time. 
  • If you want to engage with POC, don't start off swinging for the fences. The first way to give POC reason to be uncomfortable and suspicious is to start shouting BUT I AM NOT A RACIST, ALL WHITE PEOPLE AREN'T RACIST.  It's off putting and tells us that you are not reading or listening.
  • Understand that the very basic level of dealing with your privilege is this. When you are about to tell someone like me that privilege doesn't matter as much as we think it does stop. Ask yourself a simple question, in this situation what am I trying to prove? Am I trying to show that I'm the worst off? Am I trying to be the saddest victim? Am I trying to commiserate? It's really fucking hard. It's hard to be that honest with yourself and your motives. If you are trying to commiserate understand that trying to out big dick each other when it comes to oppression is about as useful as smoking a penny. 
  • Oppression all suck. They do. Embrace the fact that we experience oppressions in different ways based on many intersecting factors including but not limited to ability, race, body size, appearance, socio economic status, nationality, languages we speak, gender, etc. If we are talking about an oppression we have in common and my experience is different from yours, that doesn't negate anything. It's not bad it's just different.
Lastly, please if you can do none of these things or you feel that they are unreasonable, speaking for myself and my little sandbox leave me alone.

If you have a modicum of care for me as a human being, as in you give the tiniest of fucks about my mental health leave me alone. 

Don't bring all that to my yard because it hurts me.

Now I think I'm done with this. Let's say if you have to holler, do it in this post and then we're done and I'm back to ugly, not giving a fuck and I have some posts planned about more fat things.

Homo Out.



Veronica said...

"I can't ignore it when my various inboxes are full of gems like: "DIE NIGGER", rape threats, people wishing that I would stop being such an uppity darkie bitch. No, those aren't grabbed out of air they are copied and pasted." Oh gods, that is awful! I mean ... wow, that is horrible! I'm genuinly sorry people have put you through that!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. Sending you love.

wriggles said...

I really hope you can gain some sense of catharsis and peace right now.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to say in return except that I have listened and am taking your words to heart; and that I wish you well.

Nicole said...

Thanks for writing this and doing what you're doing. Like Anonymous said above - listening and taking the words to heart.

Kristen said...

Keep on rocking and rolling. This speaks right exactly directly spot on to The Point.

Thank you for writing it.

Anonymous said...

*hug* (It's all I have to give.)

Anonymous said...

Hey, thank you for posting this.

I'm listening quietly and thinking about what you said. It matters.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

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