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Although we have met in real life, you and I have gotten acquainted through Facebook, which it seems is where all true friendships go to die. We have not spoken in years, but respond every now and again to each other’s post. But we are “friends” in only the way that modern 21st century folks can be.

I link to a blog post which calls out White feminism and their behavior towards Michele Obama. You reply and preface your statement with a comment about your Native American ancestry to, I suppose, establish your non-White authority—which only adds to your White authority, so you have all bases covered now.  You disagree with the author stating that White women have been in a power struggle with White men, because you say White women rank “below” all men and then you go on to boil the conversation down to “feminist bickering.”

You are, you admit, “ignorant” of feminism, but you are adamant that until men treat all women as equals nothing will change.

Others chime in to express their disagreement. Some point out the history of Black men and White women and the threat of rape. Some mention class. Others discuss patriarchy. It’s a lively, but interesting discussion.

You respond a few times, mostly stating that “the fight shouldn’t be against other women.” In other words Black women you should start fighting the real enemy: men, not White women. You do not see this as your argument, but those who have a history of feminism have seen it many many times before. You see, when suggesting that groups get along to oppose only the most dominate group, the minority group’s voice is always drowned out. Their priories are ignored. Minority women know this because they have been asked to do this too often in the past.

Someone expresses the frustration that your ideology is part of the problem and you get indignant, angry. You write, delete and rewrite a comment stating that you have been insulted. You, quite frankly, make this entire conversation about yourself. It’s about your feelings, your hurt at seeing the struggles of White women diminished, your pain at being associated with those oppressive White women, despite your Native roots that you so desperately cling to.

Seeing that this is getting out of hand, I quickly, but carefully explain the history of feminism to you, although you could not be bothered to research yourself. I do the heavy lifting for you, which I have often done. But, hey, we’re “friends,” right? I say: “White feminist have always asked Black and other minority women to “stop fighting against them,” or to toe the line. Of course we should all just be fighting against misogyny. Let’s just ignore racism, and more importantly, let’s just ignore the racism that White women themselves often perpetrate against minority women.”

You get it. For a moment.

Then your indignation makes you angry. Are you that White woman? You need to know. You comment, then email me demanding for me to come clean, to absolve you of the connection to the dreaded White woman who has done all of those terrible things.

You tell me that you are not responsible for the way that I have misinterpreted your words, and yet you want to make me responsible for the way that you have misinterpreted mine.

You are a smart woman. MA. PhD. M.D. All of the important initials behind your name, you carry them proudly. You’ve earned them. You’ve fought for every single one.  And so you believe that I have committed an “ecological fallacy” every time I call Whites racist simply because they are White, not understanding that I see racism as a system. That I, unlike you, have studied this. I’ve lived it. That I understand that although individuals can be racist, it is the systemic structures of racism that oppress groups of people. Systems, as we were talking here, such as feminism, which has too often ignored and even endorsed racism against Black women and minority peoples.

But now I cannot be bothered. I have done this before. Many many times, in fact. I do this monthly, weekly, daily sometimes. I am often “that” friend. The Black friend. The woman. The Black woman to whom many of my White acquaintances request I absolve them of history’s past, asked to bear the guilt that they feel, told that I’m mean or angry or bitter if I refuse.

So I respond, without responding:



I believe the meme is cute, non-aggressive, and expresses my own frustration with you and your demands of me. (Of course, you probably did not notice that I never made any demands of you. I did not expect you to justify my own ideologies. I am not privileged enough to expect this.)

You get angry. You unfriend me. Then you take to your FB page. You call yourself a “cracker” to gain sympathy, although that’s a term I never used. You misquote me (whether deliberate or not, I’m not sure), but you invoke the equivalent of online White women’s tears. Your tears, you believe, are true. They are clear, pure, genuine.

Mine do not exist.

You get your sympathy. The White men (and women) come to comfort you. Of course in comforting you, they disparage me. There cannot be one without the other. They express their disappointment in me.  You see, I am not the person they wish I was, that they want me to be. I am not quiet, do not acquiescent, cannot be submissive. I am not that Black woman. The Black woman they would have me be.

In the mist of it all the message is lost. The sisterhood that you sought is quickly thrown aside in favor of that familiar connection with the dominant status quo.  My behavior, you believe, is representative of my hypocrisy.  I didn’t toe the line because I had my own thoughts and ideas that did not fit in line with yours. That makes me a hypocrite.

To you your anger is justified. Mine does not exist.

It doesn’t exist because I’ve done this before. I’ll do it again in the near future. Probably this month, week, or even tomorrow. While you, you can go on and believe that that mean Black woman will never be happy until she understands that White crackers are just a “little salty” sometimes, if never really hurtful.

My pain, you see, is invisible. 

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
glowing_fish
Dec. 9th, 2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
Serious question: why are you still on Facebook?

A few weeks ago, I had a disagreement on Facebook over something even sillier--- about a Buzzfeed article. And then I realized that Facebook was eating my time and trying to put anything on it more serious than a weather report or picture of a cat led to misunderstandings. So I deactivated.

I know that doesn't do much about the bigger issue of racism. But I think sometimes "the medium is the message" and mediums like Facebook encourage simplistic, reactive and unempathetic thinking.
glowing_fish
Dec. 9th, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
I just reread what I wrote and realized that "even sillier" sounds wrong. But that is kind of an example of my point--- I am writing this on my phone, and I don't think about word choice on this tiny screen the way I would if I was in front of a computer. Ease of communication is a double-edged sword.
marlowe1
Dec. 9th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Hell. I just got called out on Facebook for trying to tear the horror writing community apart in the same way that the SFWA is tearing itself apart.

For saying that a terrible micro-press is terrible (ugly covers, listing "not charging the writers" as one of the benefits, etc.) I got the collective hate of the small press horror writer and publisher community (ok, they also brought up old fights like when I said that I wasn't sorry that Gary Brandner was dead since he was a racist sexist POS who hadn't done anything substantial since The Howling)

Facebook is fun sometimes.
glowing_fish
Dec. 9th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
For me, Facebook isn't even fun to troll anymore.
danaseilhan
Dec. 10th, 2013 06:16 am (UTC)
I can't speak for Chesya but personally, though I've seen quite a bit of the type of f?!kery she's writing about, I also see a lot of awesome people, and witness awesome things being done. I use the "unfollow" function liberally when I think the conversation will get stupid and I usually unfriend egregious repeat offenders. Cuts down on the time wastage.
Jes Phillips
Dec. 9th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
Great Post. As a white person, and a feminist, I consider one of my most important jobs as a (hopeful) ally to POC is to remind other white people that we do not get to decide where racism is happening. The privileged class doesn't get to determine where the oppression is occurring. Men don't get to decide where sexism exists. Rich people don't get to decide where classism exists. White people don't get to decide where racism exists. We live in a society where it is impossible for white people to experience racism, and as such white people need to let those with experience in experiencing racism determine where it has occurred and then take their word for it and support them in the ways they ask us to.

It's pretty clear that the race problem in feminism is still enormous, even in the Third Wave feminists are often totally blind to it. Thanks for pointing it out, and for writing this post. I think it is a really wonderfully clear example of the process through which the voices of women of color are silenced by other women. And thank you for the link to the White Women's Tears--never read that before, it is fascinating.

I hope your future is filled with less bullshit!
xo
Jes (a friend of of of your fb friends who posted a link to this)

marlowe1
Dec. 9th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
One small caveat to that truth is that the system of racism, sexism and classism is in place regardless so if men, white people and rich people recognize it and work against it then they should be praised (but not too much). Men, white people and rich people are less likely to notice their privilege and the systems that create it - assuming that it's something in the realm of other people - like that KKK guy in 1965 - that has nothing to do with them.

Also, bestowing the right to recognize class discrimination, racism and sexism exclusively on the people most effected often leads to that one token person who doesn't think that it's a big deal - who then gets propped up in arguments. If those racists really did have that Best Friend who is Black, then that black best friend was the guy who didn't think that racism was an issue and ended up inadvertently speaking for all black people (at least in the eyes of their white friends).
pjvj
Dec. 9th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
One small caveat to that truth is that the system of racism, sexism and classism is in place regardless so if men, white people and rich people recognize it and work against it then they should be praised (but not too much).

I wholeheartedly disagree. I don't need or desire "praise" for working against institutionalized privilege. I certainly don't do it for such and while others may or may not seek praise putting a "should" on being praised smacks of the ridiculous. Who exactly should be doing the praising? The ones oppressed by privilege? "You are SO awesome for not treating me like shit." Wow. I just cannot fathom the idea of social justice work done for praise.

netmouse
Dec. 10th, 2013 04:23 am (UTC)
I think it is valuable for people in positions of privilege to praise others in positions of privilege who recognize their privileges and work to undermine them and/or lessen the negative impacts on others of the systems that have given them privilege. Not to give cookies to the people doing the social justice work, but to hold them up as an example to others who have not yet realized this work needs to be done, or how to do it.

Should the ones oppressed be doing the praising? Not so much. (Not that I think they shouldn't, either - they should do what they want, per their personal relationship to the situation. But praise/cookies shouldn't be expected from them.)
pjvj
Dec. 10th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC)
Clearly we disagree. Let my actions be the example without getting props from others in positions of power. Privileged people patting each other on the back for acting on their belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people makes me cringe. That should be a given (acting on one's beliefs), not a praise worthy event.
danaseilhan
Dec. 10th, 2013 06:18 am (UTC)
I can see where you're coming from. It's the same notion as praising a child for doing what the child is supposed to be doing anyway--studies are finding that doesn't work very well in the long run.

Perhaps it is more useful for people in a position of privilege to call out bad behavior in other persons of privilege. I am seeing a lot more of that happening, and I'm glad.
pjvj
Dec. 10th, 2013 02:26 pm (UTC)
I always felt weird when people would praise my kids for having good manners. No. Living in community requires certain agreements and being marginally polite in social situations is one of them. Don't praise them for decent behaviour. Praise them for curing cancer. <---hyperbole, I love thee.
netmouse
Dec. 10th, 2013 11:22 am (UTC)
Clearly we're talking at angles to one another. I'm not thinking about praising someone to their face and patting them on the back--that should be unnecessary, I agree.

I was thinking of the value of telling other people about existing social justice work in a complementary way, to provide positive examples as well as social pressure on those in positions of power and privilege who are not working toward justice, especially those who appear to be unintentionally obstructionist, out of ignorance/lack of awareness or understanding.

Telling people how not to act can result in an impasse unless you can also say, "here, this is a progressive thing to do," and provide a path of action. This is not something oppressed people should provide for us--we need to be critical of ourselves, study the history and commentary, generate options. But critical community self-examination should identify positive role models and behaviors as well as negative ones and well-meaning attempts that fail or misfire.

We should not be so afraid of giving each other cookies that we fail to share with each other an awareness of examples of right action by other people. That's all I'm saying.
pjvj
Dec. 10th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
Clearly we're talking at angles to one another. I'm not thinking about praising someone to their face and patting them on the back--that should be unnecessary, I agree.

Indeed we were talking about two different things. Conversation, education, and examples of how-to-do (or not to do) are always worthy things.

was thinking of the value of telling other people about existing social justice work in a complementary way, to provide positive examples as well as social pressure on those in positions of power and privilege who are not working toward justice, especially those who appear to be unintentionally obstructionist, out of ignorance/lack of awareness or understanding.

We should not be so afraid of giving each other cookies that we fail to share with each other an awareness of examples of right action by other people. That's all I'm saying.


I have found that my most effective examples of how not to behave come from myself (in every situation, not just privilege) so I tend to speak with "I" sentences. It is possible to point to others doing social justice work for mitigating privilege as examples of right behaviour, but since actions based on privilege start as an insidious ever running tape in the back of one's head it really needs to start there - with the erroneous thinking pattern, and I cannot point to that in others seeing as how I am not in their head.

I remember very clearly the first time I became aware of my white privilege. Thirty years ago I was unaware of the term privilege so I called it the only term I knew, "racist thinking". I was walking along and a black man was approaching and I pulled my purse closer to my body. I noticed myself do it as I did it and realized why I had done it and I felt like a complete jerk and I felt ashamed. Did the man notice? I feel certain he did. Which doubled my jerk and shame feeling. I hadn't even known that was in me until this happened and after many times telling off my dad when he'd stereotype black people I wondered, "How could I have acted like ... like him? I was appalled.

Being in my 20's I was sure that since I had become aware of my subconscious racist thinking pattern the seed was now gone and I'd never again behave as society told me I should around POC. (I say society told me because news shows, articles, and TV shows portrayed most POC as criminals and if not criminals then exceptions to their race. Thinking of MLK here as portrayed as an exception. People out and about in society fed the racism with their words, too.) What I found was that it was deep in my head and erasure wasn't instant. Erasure meant thinking even more about it as I purposefully changed my thought pattern when it would crop up. Changing the words and phrases that at times felt "planted" there by others and reforming my base beliefs about POC and humanity in general.

It was a long and repetitive process. It required diligence. And honestly, taking that type of moral inventory over an extended period of time made me feel like shit. I had to just live through that part to get to the other side that was mostly purged of instant reactions and thoughts based on my privilege. This type of personal work is hard and talking about it can be even harder, but IME people respond better to hearing it from me about me than if I use another person as an example.

I'm not saying never use other people as an example. I am saying that since privilege actions and reactions start in one's head it is best not to talk to others about what went on inside of a 3rd party's head. In all areas of my life and as part of living as my authentic self it is a requirement for me to do the personal work before telling others to do it. And then I have examples galore without looking outside of me for them.
pjvj
Dec. 10th, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC)
All of that reply above ^^ boils down to I believe that eradicating the effects of privilege in the community as a whole has a first step of teaching people to become self-aware. I start there and use myself as an example of a way to approach that self awareness.
Jes Phillips
Dec. 9th, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
As to your second paragraph I think POC have pretty clearly emphasized that none of them speaks for their entire subset and to please not ask them asinine questions like
1. "So what do black/hispanic/Asian people think about....?"
2. Is it racist when I....?

It really isn't that sophisticated of a point and shouldn't be that hard to grasp.

Now for your first point, as to whether people with privilege should be praised for merely observing it or working to dismantle it. No, sorry. Some things just fall under the header of "Being a Decent Human Being" and maybe you get a little fist bump for rejoining the cause of social evolution but other than that...just get to work, man.
fjm
Dec. 9th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
Excellent post.

I'm white. I learned long ago that only I am responsible for policing my own behaviour and that I need to be constantly aware that my reactions are a function of a complex matrix of race, class and gender that I cannot pretend I exist separately from.

And to comment on something else below; god forbid I ask for praise for try to create social justice.
netmouse
Dec. 10th, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
Thanks for this. All very well put.
jamiam
Jan. 11th, 2014 09:30 pm (UTC)
I sometimes wonder what feminism would look like if upper- and middle-class white women stepped aside and let everyone else lead. I have difficulty believing our concerns would really suffer the lack of prioritization we subject everyone else's to.

Although we have met in real life, you and I have gotten acquainted through Facebook, which it seems is where all true friendships go to die.

So far I have lost one Facebook friend because of gay marriage, one because of fat-shaming, two because Israel bombed the crap out of Palestine, and one because France decided to ban Muslim women's right to hijab. And that's after extreme filtering of my Facebook posts. I'm grotesquely filtering myself in order to preserve the peace, and that makes me wonder if those friendships were real or not? They seemed so at the time. And I'm certainly hurt when I think about having lost them.
tommy50702
Nov. 5th, 2014 02:24 pm (UTC)
I just watched a trailer of a movie called Dear White People.
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