Sunday, February 5, 2012

Congratulations For Creating a Token

Okay, so I am still pissed off and want to address a few more things before moving on.  It's no secret that over the years I have had a few online altercations, with different people over various issues. Over the years, White feminist women have engaged in a common rebuttal that I would like to address. Whenever there is a disagreement, the stock phrase has become even WOC don't agree, and you don't speak for all WOC.  Sometimes, it's a case of there are WOC in our group and you are erasing them with your charges of racism, or there are WOC in our group, and you are not acknowledging their existence.

Here's the deal, if you have to run behind the skirts of a WOC to base your defense, you have effectively turned them into your token darky.  Just because you can find one or even many WOC to take your side, does not mean that what you did, or said is not racist.  It's like declaring something isn't racist because your best Black friend said so. Having WOC in your group, does not necessarily make it a safe space for all WOC to engage, or give you some kind of inclusive street cred for you to wave around.

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  I know it's shocking, but it's time that someone told you.  All WOC, though we share the oppression of race and gender, do not think a like. We are individuals and this means that we are capable of disagreeing with one another and frequently do.  Having WOC in your group does not mean that it is not a hostile place or harmful.  Did Condoleezza Rice make George Bush's administration Black friendly?  Should I agree with everything that she did in her term in office because she is a Black woman?  Finally, does Condoleezza represent all Black women because of her race?

I am not going to go through the name calling, because I know that the guilty parties are well aware of who they are.  I bring this up because I am sick to death of seeing it as a defense, and the racist nature of it disgusts me. Turning the POC in your group into a defense mechanism, is tokenism and it shows that you have no real respect for who they are as people. Your argument either has merit, or it doesn't.

The second most frequent response I get is the charge that I hate White women.  I often chuckle when this happens, because nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout history, White women have been given a pass on their racist actions. It's quite true that because of patriarchy their ability to make systemic changes has been limited, but that should not stand as a reason to ignore the various ways in which White women work to maintain their White privilege. I am in the business of talking about systemic isms and that means no one gets a pass.  Pointing out that a White woman has done or said something racist, or discussing the ways in which they can be racist, eg., White women's tears, or purse clutching, is not a declaration of hatred, but a statement of truth.  I see no reason to ignore something that actively oppresses me, simply because the action came from a White woman.

To blog one needs a very thick skin, and I think this is especially true in the social justice blogosphere, with the mob like mentality of many of its participants.  There seems to be this pervasive belief that group think is necessary for participation. This is absolutely counter to who I am and what I believe in. Mistakes require one to prostrate oneself and at any moment. A mistake you made years ago will be thrown into your face, as though your worst day is representative of who you are as a person.  None of you are Jesus for me to beg eternal salvation from. The level of perfection demanded is ridiculous.  This is especially true because decolonizing one's mind is a lifetime journey.  In many ways, it reminds of the way we treated convicted criminals.  We stigmatize them, refuse to hire them, and then have the nerve to complain about the recidivism rate. I'm not saying that we as marginalized people are required to accept an apology, or that we are responsible for own oppression, but what I am saying is that living in glasses houses, as though each of us not guilty of oppressing someone, in some way, is counter productive.


I am not the same person as I was when I was 12, I changed again in my 20's, and again in my 30's, and I highly suspect that each decade of life that I am granted will bring new lessons and a better understanding of the world around me.  One of the things that bothers me about the blogosphere is that there is very little room for redemption. If we don't believe in the possibility of change, why are we even talking and fighting to raise awareness? 

It seems to me that many have tried to define this space for me.  Some believe that it a feminist blog, in spite of the fact that it is called Womanist Musings, and still others believe that it is a woman's space.  The moment I decided to open my space to guest bloggers, it ceased to be solely a woman's space.  When I think of this blog, I think of it as a space for marginalized people.  That means it is open to anyone who faces some form of ism to speak about how said ism harms them.   There have been several male identified people who have been regular guest posters here, and that is something you don't see on a space that is designed specifically for women.  Yes, these male identified people do have male privilege, but that does not negate the fact that they do exist as marginalized people.  I am not one who buys into the notion that gender is the primary oppression.

Finally, I would like to address the fact that some believe that this space is unsafe because I swear.  I actually find this laughable. Years ago, every second word on Feministing was fuck this, fuck you, and fuck off and this was considered transgressive, because good little White girls aren't supposed to swear.  When I swear, I become the angry aggressive Black woman who threatens the safety of others. I have had email after email exhorting me not to swear, because apparently my point is made so much more clear without expletives and it offends people's delicate fee fees. If I happen to swear at someone, they feel threatened.  What is this but another racist tone exercise?  When I believe something forcefully, I am going to speak my mind, and this is especially true if it is happening in my own space. I know damn well that the reason my speech is as highly disciplined as it is, is because of my race. I am well aware that many would reject this because in their color blind world, they believe that they are beyond such characterizations, but the truth of the matter is that race is always omnipresent in any interaction that involves a person of colour. I don't have to disagree with you nicely and I am entitled to my rage just like anyone else.  If I want to run around screaming, I wish a mother fucker would, that's my damn business. Swearing doesn't make my point any less valid and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. To say that you feel unsafe because I swore, or even swore at you is laughable. Do you leave the house wrapped in bubble wrap as well?  How the fuck do you function in the real world, if the word Fuck totally throws you off your groove?

The issues raised in this post have been brewing in my mind for quite sometime.  I know damn well the blogosphere is filled with personal grudges, backstabbing and anger.  The ironic thing about all of this, is that each time a blow up happens, the oppressors gather in their corners and clap their hands with glee, because they recognize that us tearing each other apart means that we are not focused on them. It's great entertainment for them.  When someone fucks up, call them the hell out, shit call me out, but if your reason for doing so is because you have an axe to grind, then you are not serving your issue at all.  Showing up out of the blue when you never read this space to chastise me and then appearing again only when I fuck up is about disciplining me, not engaging me. 

Okay, rant done, and thanks for your patience.

The title of this post came from Danny, of Danny's Corner, in our five hour convo last night.