Friday, December 19, 2008

Social Justice and Racial Invisibility

I have a voice and I have determined to use it for good.  With it I speak my truth and affirm not only my humanity but those that are daily forgotten.  I am not alone in this, daily millions across the globe struggle in the cause of justice, unrewarded and unrecognized while daring to say or perform the truth.  One does not engage in social activism for the cookie, but for the belief that justice is a cause worth fighting for

Believing in the humanity of all makes me a complex woman.  There are times when I must battle my own privilege to see the oppression of others and there are times when I just STFU & L, because I am out of my depth but still wish to work as an ally.  As someone who actively seeks to learn something new each day I interact with a myriad of people.  One startling fact keeps coming to my attention, no matter what the social justice movement, fat acceptance, feminism, gay rights, little people, disability, gay rights, transgender  etc and etc black people are located squarely at the bottom of the hierarchy of power; furthermore black women specifically are almost voiceless.

We are voiceless though we are women, lesbians, fat, disabled, little people, transwomen etc and etc.  No matter what the social justice movement the recreation of the larger society is built over and over again.  We are told to eliminate race from the analysis and focus on the issue at hand.  White members of these groups can understand what it is to be marginalized by society but they simply cannot envision how complex life becomes when it intersects with race.

A black little person, or a black transwoman will have separate and unique issues that a white little person or transwoman will face.  Over sixty percent of the transwomen that have been killed have been of colour and when there is such a one sided statistic clearly race is an issue. Within the trans community it is the WOC that are stereotyped as prostitutes and treated as exotic others available for the sexual satisfaction of others.

Look at the leaders of these so-called justice movements and you will find one thing in common, they are overwhelmingly white.  It is as though they seek to regain power that the larger society has denied them due to difference by repressing those within their communities that are of colour.  White privilege must have an outlet to be reified.  In many cases these leaders have an even more familiar face, they are white and male.  MMM now where have I seen that leadership  pattern before?  Oh yes within the very society that they are trying to teach to accept difference.

No movement can be a true movement for justice until it considers the reality of the lived experience of all of its members.  To break down social construction what is needed is a concerted effort to employ intersectionality.  This does not dilute a movement, rather it makes it possible to widen the circle of allies.   It is not a competition to declare a winner in the "most oppressed" category, and who really wants that award? 

I am tired of asking where are the black people?  Where are the people that look like me and understand my experience.  Where are the people that can effectively relate to me their experiences in a language that is culturally familiar?  To the different leaderships we are only useful when we are filing, making coffee, doing menial work, or our vote is needed (think prop 8). 

We are continually reminded that white leadership will make the issue seem more sympathetic.  More sympathetic to whom I ask, and white people is the answer. It is our blood that is overwhelmingly being spilt, and it is our bodies that are overwhelmingly being beaten.  The movement for justice begins and ends with our liberation.

I am tired of asking where the hell where they, these movements that claim to work in the cause of justice.  Where were they when Brandon McClelland was killed?  Why were the faces in the crowd mostly black?  Where were they on the fight to put an end to Shirley Q Liquor?  Why was that just a case of comedy when it was offensive to every single black woman cisgendered  or transgendered that ever walked the planet?  Where were they when Tarika Wilson was shot to death, wasn't she a woman too?  When we can be used like Anita Hill to prove something, suddenly our womanhood is remembered. How many times do we have to ask this question? How many times do we need to beg for inclusion in a movement that supposedly represents us?

We need not be led around like farm animals that are paraded out for a vote and the  shoved back into a barn to await our next unhappy outing.  Find your voice and demand that these movements stand by the principles they claim to advocate. If whiteness can look out for whiteness, people of colour can advocate to for an end to injustice that creates us all as second class citizens.  When we go missing it doesn't show up on CNN, but let a white woman going missing, or have violence done against her and the media cannot stop saying her name. Every person of colour man, woman, child  means something.  Every single one of us matters. 

To stand by the racist assumption that one form of marginalization out weighs the racism that people of colour face is aiding and abetting whiteness in its attempt to maintain a racial hegemony on power.  If women can fight to take back the night we can fight to back our lives.  We can fight to decide what will be a priority.  If we must fund our own projects then so be it.  Enough with allowing whiteness to set the agenda as they have made it more than clear, their suffering is what matters most in this world.  If you are going to bleed make it count for something.


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