Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Token Negress Alert

I wrote a guest post for Menstrual Poetry, so I'll get you started and you can finish reading it there.

I would like to discuss something that I have come to refer to as the token Negro, or in the case of feminism the token Negress.  All social movements have one thing in common; they must present a diverse progressive image publicly even if the hierarchy of the organization does not actually reflect a fair distribution of power.  Ironically it is the least oppressed group - whiteness, that has become the face of oppression.  Whether it is gay rights, fat acceptance, disability rights or feminism, you can guarantee the closer you get to a leadership position the whiter the faces become.

Maintenance of the power structure requires a token Negress,  unless you can call on a black person, or a POC to play the role of the “diversity being” the obviousness of the exclusion is difficult to hide. What we see over and over again is the same pet blacks who have learned to speak the language of submission repeatedly being created as experts and given the authority to speak on behalf of POC by white people.  Think that about for a moment…permission to speak on behalf of POC by white people.

This puts WOC in an untenable position.  On one hand working towards social justice does provide its own reward; however continually being devalued is a constant reminder of exactly how racist society is.  We have become accustomed to having  our ideas shot down only to have them rephrased by a white person and immediately praised. We must walk a delicate balance between maintaining the little power we have and hiding from view the truth of our emotions and thoughts.  Even speaking bluntly is often enough to illicit the charge that we are angry.  Whiteness only wants us to be present for long enough to make the coffee and  smile pretty for the camera. Say cheese everyone.

Finish reading here

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