Monday, April 18, 2011

White Critique and Glass Houses

Stained Glass Coat of Arms, Montacute Housephoto © 2006 bixentro | more info (via: Wylio)


On Friday I posted a piece by Daisy entitled What can white women do? To be honest, because my fibro was flaring the better part of the last few days, I did not stay on top of it as I should have.  When I read through the comments, I saw one recurring theme and that was self proclaimed White allies speaking out to refer to her attempts as paternalistic.  I know that there were other POC on that thread that agreed with this position as well.  I don't assume to speak for others or declare them wrong, and so I will simply state that my feelings about this piece were different.

What Daisy wrote was very important because we have been talking a lot about White female privilege, without White women coming forward to suggest the ways in which they could combat their various privileges.  As a POC, I refuse to make suggestions because it is not my responsibility to dismantle White supremacy, because I did not create it.  Part of taking ownership for a history of wrongs is figuring out how to combat racism in one's own life.

I was quite shocked to see White allies stand up and quote chapter and versus from the good ally handbook, without risking a damn thing themselves.  I don't mean to speak for Daisy, but I believe the point of what she wrote was to challenge others to look for ways in their daily life to examine their White privilege.  It is not enough to say I believe in the equality of all people, without acting on it in real and fundamental ways.

Nothing any ally does will ever be perfect, because decolonizing one's mind is a lifetime journey -- that said, it takes courage to risk what Daisy did writing that post. From the very beginning it was always going to be faulty because she is a White woman, but what I saw was that people used it as an opportunity to pretend that their glass houses did not exist.  Even as White women charged the pedestal to call out paternalism and racism, they failed to acknowledge the ways in which they have personally engaged in the very same acts.  Getting caught up in what someone else is doing is a great way to obscure the many failures that you have personally had.

It takes far more courage to look at yourself, than it does to go on the attack against another ally.  This is something I have learned over the last years during my various trans fails.  Now I openly say that I am cissexist and am on a journey to decolonize my mind.  Each time I write the aforementioned sentence, it hurts me, but I know that whatever pain I feel, it is nothing in comparison to the hurt that I have caused.  So I must ask, while the White allies were slinging arrows, where was their courage?  You know damn well that even as you critiqued what you viewed as racist behaviour, that you have engaged in racism yourself.  Daisy is not the only guilty White woman.

I would also be remiss if I did not point out that not a single person in the comment thread had the courage to list the actions that they participated in to combat racism.  It was far too easy to just join the pile on, claiming to feel uncomfortable without risking anything yourself.  Did you think that your attempts at activism were so perfect that they did not need calling out, or were you afraid to take the same risk that Daisy did? 

I will not allow this post to turn into another referendum on what Daisy wrote and therefore, I challenge White women to do exactly what she did.  Use this thread to talk about the ways in which you combat your privilege on a daily basis.  Talk about why these acts are important to you and why you believe that this amounts to activism in your daily life.  Let's see what you have to say for yourself when you aren't pointing out someone else's failures.  Do you have the courage to stand up to the same scrutiny that you were quick to place Daisy under.  I guarantee, a glass house is a very difficult place to live.