- When a person of color says that they hate white people, they hate white people as an institution (aka white supremacy/hegemony)
- When a woman says that they hate men, they hate men as an institution (aka male dominance/patriarchy)
- When a queer person says that they hate straight people, they hate straight people as an institution (aka heteronormativity)
- When a trans* person says that they hate cisgender people, they hate cisgender people as an institution (aka gender essentialism/rigid gender roles)
SO WHEN ANY OF THESE PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY HATE ANY OF THESE GROUPS, DON’T RESPOND WITH “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE/MEN/STRAIGHT/CIS PEOPLE ARE LIKE THAT”. WE KNOW THAT. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU PERSONALLY. IT’S ABOUT INSTITUTIONS AND THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY, AS INSTITUTIONS, OPPRESS US. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
The reality of minorities when spoken about honestly is considered slander by the majority. “Unity” and “compromise” usually means the the dilution of the minority’s ground and the compromise is never that because it is one-sided, just enough to where the majority feels comfortable.
“When I started doing my solo show one of my good friends, Martha, said to me, she’s like, ‘Kamau, you can’t end racism and make sexism worse.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean by that?’ And she went through my solo show and pointed out all the different parts of it that she felt were sexist. And that’s a good friend, a friend who will tell you that in a way that you can hear. And that was a real revelation for me is that you can’t sort of pick your issue over other people’s issue — that if you want to end the ignorance of something, you have to end all the ignorances or at least not make some of the ignorances worse.”
yeah, this was a good interview.
Unless you literally are them, you are not Savita Halappanavar. You are not Gaza. You are not Trayvon Martin. You are not, for that matter, Huskies or Hokies. It’s a weird thing to say, it’s extremely appropriative, and it does nothing but make it about you. It doesn’t feel like solidarity when people start doing that to your life, it feels like someone’s stolen your grief.
You’re wearing someone else’s tragedy like a costume. Don’t do it.
The “we are [x]” sentiment is something I identify with leftism—unions striking in support of labor in other industries and especially marginalized brown peoples linking their oppressions under white supremacy and imperialism. So Mexicans who live near in dangerous areas along the U.S. border might explicitly liken their situation to what’s happening to Palestinians. There are South Africans who talk about what’s happening in Gaza in terms of apartheid.
And those are just the more recent examples. The original Black Panther Party expressed solidarity with the Vietnamese people because black radicals saw the common sources (capitalism, white supremacy, etc.) of struggles for justice and equality around the world. Eldredge Cleaver wrote, “if the nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa are strong and free, the black man in America will be safe and secure and free to live in dignity and self-respect.”
This was an era when brown leftist activists worked hard to create coalitions among nonwhites by pointing out how the same basic structures and systems oppressed brown people all around the world. Coining and using specific phrases and labels to emphasize unity and solidarity was one way of accomplishing that. So terms like “women of color" emerged as a a political identity around which nonwhite women could rally, which could be used to increase their voice, resources, etc. And if you look at galleries of old leftist posters, it’s common to see slogans like, “Victory! Vietnam-Palestine" and "Laos: Their Struggle is Our Struggle" that explicitly link one resistance movement with another. The "we are [x]" phrase is something used by oppressed peoples to emphasize the commonality of their struggles against shared foes like western imperialism or white racism.
So in my view, that history makes it doubly problematic when a privileged person does the whole, “we are all Trayvon” or “we are all Savita” thing. It not only appropriates the tragedy and lived experience of that individual brown person, but it waters down the meaningfulness and power of the “we are [x]” assertion into a generic expression of sympathy. Even when you’re advocating for a progressive cause, that doesn’t mean you can forget about your privilege.
1) Say we are too “involved” or biased in regards to the subject, and claim that you are more “objective”.
This is frequently done to silence people who are trying to tell their own story. Academia is famous for this, but it happens outside academia as well. For example, who are the acknowledged “experts” about our cultures, religions, and lives? Why are there white upper-class men teaching Women’s studies, white upper-class women teaching African or Latin American studies, and white upper-class Christians or atheists teaching Islamic studies? Why does the media go to people outside the group they are speaking about to ask their opinion and views on a subject? The claim is that people of color and women are not “objective”. Especially in regards to religion, this is frequently thrown out there when discussing “Eastern” religions like Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism; we are viewed as too biased to speak about our own history, culture and beliefs.
2) Say we are ignorant of the subject, even though the subject is our own life, history, culture or religion, because we have dared to speak to our own story and question the way outsiders have portrayed it. This includes questioning our academic background (or lack of), our writing style/ability, and whether or not we cite “accepted” texts to prove our points.
So called “experts” are the most obvious examples of this, and this ties in with
number one above, but it is also enacted regularly by non-experts. The blogging world, for example, is full of people who think they know about something because they read it on-line or have a friend of a friend who experienced xyz, and then they use this as a means to say that this is the only version that is valid. Rarely are women of color allowed to speak to our own experience, to say that we were mistreated or discriminated against without someone else claiming that we are “reading too much into it”. Similarly, if we speak of the beauty and empowerment we have found in our own culture or religion, there is someone quick to dismiss it as an anomaly or us not knowing enough about where we come from to realize the intricate workings of oppression inherent in what we have stated we are not oppressed by.
3) Speak condescendingly towards us. Tell us we are too young or too old, naïve or bitter, and that we are angry or emotional, etc.
This is one of the most offensive things done by other women. We all recognize it when done by men, and we all rally around the anger and hurt that it causes then, but some of us experience it more frequently from our fellow women. Women of privilege regularly say these things to women of color as a way of silencing our questioning of their intentions, goals, and strategies. Rather than engaging why we are angry, we are dismissed for expressing deep emotion. Rather than accepting the opinions of a woman that differ, it is said that she is “old school” or “out of touch” or that she is too cynical because of past experience and therefore not giving the new guard a chance. Young women who come full of energy and new ideas are discouraged from changing the way things have been done and told that they are ignorant of the big picture. Act as though you are protecting us, mentoring us, looking out for our good – basically patting us on the head and telling us to pipe down.
4) Pull out your “credentials” to show that you have more support and legitimacy than we do.
This ties in with the idea of “experts” but goes one farther. If writing for a large feminist blog, the offending woman will say that the size of the blog is proof of her legitimacy. She will claim to have many followers, and her followers can’t be wrong, so she must be saying something right. She will point to a woman of color’s blog and say that it is small, or accuse her of the bad grammar, unprofessional writing, and “hating” to show that her blog and writing is more appropriate, thereby her ideas must also be more correct. If the white feminist has been published in magazines or has published books, she will point to these as further proof of her credentials and acceptance from the larger society, mocking the woman of color who has not attained this sort of approval even if the woman of color doesn’t want to be published.
5) Say we are hurting the cause of feminism, or that we aren’t really feminist at all.
This one is perhaps the most damaging of all. First, it presumes that we consider ourselves “feminist” at all and thereby implies that there is something wrong with us if we don’t. Then it attempts to define what feminism is, what counts as feminism, and tells us that we aren’t really part of it, while trying to shame us and discount anything we have to say because it is “not feminist”. It does not allow that feminism could have different forms and faces, but limits it to what serves the white woman and nothing more. If, as women, we cannot set our own goals, speak to our own needs, and create our own agenda, then how “feminist” are you? Ignoring us, pushing our concerns to the back, this is what is really hurting the “Movement”. It is arrogant for certain women to sit in judgment of other women and whether or not they should be allowed into the ranks or allowed to use a label. But then, that’s probably why so many women of color are throwing away the label of our own accord. We don’t want to be confined to your self-serving definition.
If I look up “carrot” in the dictionary, most people will acknowledge I do not know all there is to know about carrots and if I truly want to understand carrots, I should probably pick up a horticultural text book. We know that legal and medical terms are going to be, at best, simplistically represented and know we need to find a lawyer or a doctor if we want to know more. Anyone deciding to base their argument on, say, a philosophical concept or term using the dictionary is going to be laughed at at best, or automatically lose whatever argument they’re trying to make at least.
Yet the minute we move into a social justice framework, the ultimate authority changes. We don’t need lived experience, we don’t need experts who have examined centuries of social disparities and discrimination, we don’t need societal context. We don’t need sociology or history – no, we have THE DICTIONARY! That ultimate tome of oracular insight, the last word on any debate!
It’s patently ridiculous and you can see that by applying it to any other field of knowledge. But the privileged will continually trot out simplistic, twitter-style dictionary definitions as if they are the last word and the ultimate authority. No-one would drag out the dictionary to debate science with a scientist. But they’re more than willing to trot out a dictionary definition of racism over any sociological analysis. A dictionary is not the ultimate authority - they’re a rough guide for you to discover the simple meaning of words you’ve never heard before – not an ultimate definition of what the word means and all its contexts.
BERKELEY, Calif. — Hardly a stranger to political movements, this is a city that has championed free speech, no nukes, the antiwar movement and now: no sitting on the sidewalk. During years of economic downturn, cities across the country have reported rising vagrancy and rushed to pass laws banning aggressive panhandling, giving food away in public parks and even smelling foul. This bastion of populist politics is no exception. The City Council and mayor have put a measure on the November ballot that would ban sitting and lying on commercial sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the risk of a $75 citation. “These laws are an example of a startling national trend to criminalize homelessness,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy group. In a 2011 survey of 234 cities, the group found that 40 percent prohibited camping, 33 percent banned sitting and lying down in public places and 53 percent outlawed begging. Recent examples of laws intended to shoo off, keep out, or otherwise restrict the homeless are everywhere. In July, Newport Beach, Calif., a seaside city south of Los Angeles, instituted rules banning public library patrons who smell, park their shopping carts near entrances or sleep in the library. In April, Denver passed a law forbidding “urban camping.” In March, Philadelphia prohibited charities from distributing free food in public parks, a rule that was recently suspended after church groups sued the city. Other municipalities have removed park benches, closed public restrooms and banned sleeping in cars.
(Source: abbyjean, via )
vanboobsenstein asked you:
I’ve had a lot of thoughts recently about this. I have always self-identified as a feminist and not in the first wave, white feminist way, but like, intersectional (before I knew what that word even meant). It seems like lately declaring oneself a feminist is tantamount to confessing to being racist, transphobic and xenophobic. Like by talking about gender issues we are essentially saying they’re more important than other issues? I don’t know, but this frustrates me. What can we do about it?
First of all, the critiques of feminism by trans feminists, anti-racists, non-western women, and other progressive forces have pushed feminism to become more inclusive, more critical, more intersectional, less oppressive. That is undeniably a good thing. That work is far from over and feminists should remain receptive to constructive criticism.
However, I’m suspicious of people on the left who attack feminists for not mentioning racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, etc. every single time we talk about gender. Are these same people going after anti-racist activists for not talking about women’s issues enough? Or gay rights? Or ableism? I doubt it.
Like by talking about gender issues we are essentially saying they’re more important than other issues?
I think the problem is that there are some on the left who don’t think gender oppression is important enough to merit discussion on its own. They’re using the concept of intersectionality to beat up feminists for daring to treat sexism and misogyny as serious problems in their own right.
There’s a difference between criticizing a feminist for saying/doing something that is racist and using anti-racism to silence discussions of gender oppression.
What to do? Well, obviously we have to make sure our own house is in order. We have to be constantly educating ourselves, listening to marginalized voices in and outside feminism, and doing our best to challenge our privileges and biases. But feminists don’t have to apologize for talking about gender oppression as a serious problem because it is a serious problem.
P.S. I had to copy and paste vanboobsenstein’s ask and my answer into a new text post because my Ask box isn’t letting me publish responses directly. Argh.
It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bike commuters” and had only pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional” I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc. … ie. the black and Hispanic and Asian people… and she mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of biking” then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably have no choice” –
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor – but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something.
Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic, on why he refuses to vote for Barack Obama:
“I am not a purist. There is no such thing as a perfect political party, or a president who governs in accordance with one’s every ethical judgment. But some actions are so ruinous to human rights, so destructive…
Conor Friedersdorf is a right-leaning libertarian. He’s able to assess and criticize President Obama solely on the basis of his foreign policy record because Friedersdorf doesn’t care whether domestic social programs are drastically cut or not. He’s also a white cis man with a job. None of his rights or opportunities are up for debate.
Progressives, don’t be fooled by this conservative in liberal clothing—vote against Obama and you’re voting against the poor, against immigrants, against women, against minorities, against the middle class, against the elderly, against soldiers and veterans…against pretty much everyone except those (like Friedersdorf) who have the luxury to ignore the definite differences between Obama and Romney on domestic issues.
Pretty much every woman and minority I know is very careful about protecting their anonymity and privacy online. They do things like frequently change usernames, delete comments, ditch profiles, lie about personal details, or omit them altogether. They’re also very careful about arranging offline meetings in order to ensure safety.
It looks like this violentacrez guy is your typical straight, cis, white male. Did all that privilege just make him stupid? For most of his life, he has not had to worry about being disadvantaged, harassed, beaten up, or otherwise bothered for things beyond his control, like his gender or ethnicity. So he feels comfortable going to IRL meetings with other Redditors and mentioning all kinds of identifiable details about his hometown, job, family situation, etc.
Meanwhile, if a woman isn’t super vigilant about her personal safety and gets attacked or harassed, she had it coming. If a person doesn’t conform to gender norms, then anything bad that happens to them is their fault. If an ethnoracial minority is anything but perfect, then any racism they endure is justifiable.
There’s a double standard when it comes to personal responsibility. Oppressed folks are responsible for everything bad that happens to them, even if it’s beyond their personal control. But privileged folks think that they shouldn’t have to face any negative repercussions for their choices and actions.
some friendly reminders for national coming out day:
- it’s never okay to out someone without their consent
- seriously cut that shit out
- neither is it okay to force someone to come out
- not everyone can afford to be out whether it be safety concerns or whatever reason
- it’s not your place to decide when and how someone comes out
- or if someone’s reason(s) for not coming out are “valid” or not
I’ll add another