Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Policing Of WOC

Blogging is something I clearly love to do.  I actually devote quite a bit of my free time to editing and writing posts for  Womanist Musings.  When I hit the publish button, it is always with the best of intentions, but often times my efforts are met with discipline and control.

When I talk about race or white privilege I am often called a racist.  The key here is the accusation is not that I said or did something racist, but that I am a racist.  When I speak about the racial appropriation of the blacks civil rights movement, or the fallacious blame the black meme for Prop 8, I am called homophobic.  Finally when I speak about unearned male privilege I am a misandrist.  All I need is a few more labels and I can be the seven faces of Eve.

Each time I am called one of the names, my accuser gives an account of my failings.  I am either living in the past, not seeing clearly, or base my opinions on irrational hatred.  It seems that no matter how well thought out my argument is there is always some huge gaping fault when it challenges any kind of privilege.  If I wasn't so racist/homophobic/man hating I would be able to see the truth that my accusers have laid out before me. One of my personal favourites is that I am creating an issue where none actually exists.  Yep the hysterical female argument.

Blogging is at times a thankless craft, and those that engage in it from a marginalized position are often targets of hatful attacks.  It is an attempt to silence anyone that steps outside of the status quo. 

On one hand having an engaged comment section is important to a blogger because it allows for a conversation, an exchange of ideas it you will; however if a commenter is not engaging in good faith, which often happens on blogs written or maintained by WOC the medium becomes one of oppression rather than one in which free dialog is of the utmost importance.

One of the wonderful thing about blogs, is that for the price of a computer and internet connection, those who normally would have been inconsequential in terms of social and or political discourse are afforded the opportunity to give voice to their concerns.  Unlike traditional forms of media where expression and relevance are largely controlled by the white elite, blogging provides a platform for people of colour to express themselves freely.

It is this very freedom that is an anathema to those that seek to maintain their privilege.  Enter the helpful hint commentary, which is usually along the lines of if you had expressed yourself like this, your message would be more palatable. While the person giving the advice may legitimately believe that they are engaging in good faith what they do not see is that this is once again an attempt to control the medium and the message.  

Bodies of colour are routinely required to perform their race to the satisfaction of whiteness.  When we decide to take the step of demanding our voices/issues or concerns become a priority the silencing attempts occur with the force of a tsunami.  When we stay in our own sphere publishing the kind of nonsense that BET regularly does, there is little threat perceived; and therefore little to no discipline applied. 

I read every comment left on this blog and I must say that even though I do not respond to each individually, I am often astounded by that audacity of whiteness.  Imagine entering someone's home and then informing this person that you are in control. This is exactly the kind of privilege in action behaviour that occurs time and time again, yet these same people would cry foul if an MRA attempted to behave in the same manner.   Blackness or colour is only good when it is being used as a tool to uphold white hegemony.

In an earlier post I spoke about the need for an exchange of idea between white women and WOC and I still whole heartedly believe in the necessity of this conversation.  I simply believe that as a proviso to these conversations, one should be aware that silencing, or attempting to control the space of another does not constitute conversation.  Accusatory statements that label another when they are disagreement, rather than a specific commentary on the issue at hand, constitutes silencing behaviour.  Attempting to delegitimize the emotional damage by declaring that something isn't racist is counter productive to a good debate.

Yeah we need to talk, but some people need to check their privilege at the door. I don't have time to waste on educating you in basic human decency, nor do I want to hear the same bullshit that I can see on the news, or on my local street corner.  Now I have some hard truths to say, and they might just sting the sensibilities, but we cannot move on until we deal with some of the bad blood from the past. 

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