Category Archives: racism
How I Give Thanks
The Black Square Stays Because I Am Not Okay
My dear white folks who are uncomfortable because I have not changed my user pic to that of a rainbow flag over the last week:
I didn’t change my user pic because I am not over the deaths of the 9 Black people killed in Charleston. I am not over the churches that were burned while I was growing up. I am not over the churches burning now. I need you to know, I am not okay right now, and Black people do not have to be okay either.
I’m not over Rekia Boyd. I’m not over Michael Brown. I’m not over Vonderrit Myers. I’m not over Aiyanna Jones. I’m not over Jack Jacquez, Jr. I’m not over Tanesha Anderson. I’m not over Jessie Hernandez. I am not over Islan Nettles. I am not over Eric Garner. I am not over Tamir Rice. Or Ty Underwood. Or Michelle Vash Payne. Or Yvette Smith.
I am so glad that gay and queer folks can get married, but it’s still legal to discriminate against gay and queer folks in many areas, including in employment, business and healthcare. Trans women, especially trans women of color still die more than anyone else. The Confederate flag coming down doesn’t mean racism goes away, but it does make it harder to see. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it goes away.
I am happy for the progress we have made but I am not over the deaths of so many people in so little time. It is not okay to expect people to just get over a massacre that took place at a monument just two weeks ago. If you don’t know that 8 churches have burned in the last two weeks, you should know.
You can’t just sing some songs and have this go away. You can’t quickly absolve yourself of the ways you have benefited from White Supremacy. You can’t do this work quickly, and you should not try to do it quickly.
So I’m not posting the LGBT rainbow flag. I’m not posting the Trans flag. I’m not posting the gender queer flag (even though it is my favorite of the flags). I am keeping this little black square where my face goes to remind you that many people are in mourning right now. If it is uncomfortable for you to be reminded, imagine how uncomfortable it is for the families of those who have died.
#BlackLivesMatter #BlackTransLivesMatter #BlackQueerLivesMatter #BlackGayLivesMatter
Decentering Whiteness in Activism
Somewhere around tumblr, there are posts arguing that the “A” in LGBTQIA should stand for ally, and not asexual. Over the years, I have seen people who identify as asexual mocked and discriminated against for their lack of sexual desire. The clamoring for inclusion of the term “ally” in the ever growing list of letters has always made me very uncomfortable. I have written about my discomfort with the word in the past. In short, being an ally very rarely entails the risk that simply existing as a marginalized person brings. An ally can always leave. An ally can always withdraw. An ally can choose to stop supporting a cause or go find a different group of people supporting that cause. A marginalized person cannot stop being Black, Brown, trans, a woman, or whatever it is that causes them to be marginalized. For this reason, I am very cautious of any male identified person who labels themselves a “feminist,” and yet does not use their platform to uplift women, but instead uses it to silence women who question why they have been granted a position as gatekeeper of feminism.
Last week, Coloradans for Justice, along with other groups, had organized a protest. The protest turned into a large, unplanned march. We marched in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. The march was largely successful, and sparked another smaller protest the next day.
After the first march, organizers of the previous night’s event were alerted to something that disturbed many of the protesters who were out Tuesday night. When protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” frequently, they heard the chant changed to “All Lives Matter.”
I was at the back of the group and we were chanting “Black Lives Matter,” but this was a large protest. I believe the many people who came forward to say they heard “All Lives Matter” and questioned the need for White allies to change the chant, especially at such a crucial protest centered on the lives of Black people, and the worth of their lives. In addition, I have since seen people admit to changing the chant and have even been told by one protester that another instructed them TO CHANGE THEIR PROTEST SIGN to “All Lives Matter.”
This sparked an intense discussion on the event page the day after the protest, when the second protest was being planned. Many Black posters gave reasons for how they felt changing the chant to “All Lives Matter” erases their blackness. Many White posters defended their choice to chant “All Lives Matter” for many, many reasons, in spite of being told in many ways by other protesters of many races that changing that particular chant in that particular way erases Black people, and indeed, the purpose of the protest.
Denver is a very diverse city and frequently when Coloradans for Justice has held an event, Kenny Wiley, one of our organizers, will say “Black lives matter, Brown lives matter.” This is because there are many cases of police brutality experienced by the Latino population. I’ve always felt this was a good way to acknowledge the oppression and injustice faced by the Latino community as well as the Black community. I’ve never felt the need for Kenny to throw in a “All Lives Matter” to appease White supporters.
While there are certainly White victims of police brutality, there are far more Black and Brown victims. We have seen time and time again that even holding something that appears to be a weapon is enough to justify the death of a Black or Brown person. Holding a toy sword. Holding a toy gun. Holding a toy gun in the toy gun aisle of Wal-Mart. Doing these things while also NOT BEING WHITE is enough to get you killed and your killers will go home and sleep well that night. Not only that, but the mainstream media will jump to the defense of the police officer/s who shot you while your family has yet to see your body.
If you’re going to use the word “ally” and you’re going to show up to protest in solidarity with a group of marginalized, oppressed people, you need to be prepared to take a seat. Usually it’s a backseat. This should not be an issue. While your presence, the visibility of your skin and gender, can be a powerful statement, your words may not be needed. You are able to send a message just by showing up. This is also something a marginalized person cannot do. When marginalized groups show up to protest, the media is quick to say they are rioting, while when White people actually riot, it is called terms like “spirited.” Oppressed people destroy symbols of oppression. Non-oppressed people fuck shit up over a sports team’s victory or loss.
Decentering whiteness and working to dismantle White supremacy takes a lot of work, and to be honest, a lot of that work is learning to be silent or how to amplify the voice of the person you are supporting. It doesn’t mean your opinions aren’t valid, but they simply may not be needed at that moment. Save those opinions and speeches for when you are talking to another non-marginalized person who doesn’t believe what oppressed people are saying. Your words have power. Your words have merit. Use them when they are needed. White people, especially men, are used to being heard. We are used to having our opinions be given equal weight simply because it is a White person saying it. We do not realize this is a part of White privilege. A big part of White privilege is the ability to be ignorant that you have privilege. People of color are used to having to shout, and even then, have their voices ignored. White people who are unaware or still fighting awareness of privilege do not believe that people of color have to fight, because they, as a White person, do not have to fight. Please believe me, people of color have to fight.
I’m going to give an example of a time when I chose to stay silent in order to decenter my whiteness. I’m not doing this for activist cred, I am doing this to give White people an example of how to really support a person of color whose voice needs to be heard:
I was at the last Denver Sheriff’s Department reform meeting. These meetings are run on a tight schedule. Statements and questions are kept to under 2 minutes, and they only allow a certain number of people to speak at all. I had raised my hand and was in line to ask my question. Frankly, I already knew the answer to my question, but I wanted to get them to say it out loud. Two other people were set to follow me. A White man, and a young Black man.
The moderator announced that only the first two of us would be able to ask our questions, that they did not have time for the third person. Of course, this meant that a young Black man would not get to ask his question. I saw the young man’s shoulders slump. It was obvious he was very disappointed. When the moderator turned to me, I said “I’m actually going to pass, because I would like this young man to get to speak, because I feel what he has to say needs to be heard.”The White man in line also elected not to ask his question, in favor of the young Black man speaking. We had each given up our time in order to give a young Black man an opportunity to speak. By doing this, and not demanding we be heard, we decentered Whiteness from that conversation.
It was the right thing to do. The young man spoke of his mistreatment at the hands of the Denver police force, both as a young teen and as a young man. What he had to say went beyond what the other man and I had to say.
I didn’t know that young man, but I had a feeling in my gut that if three White people had been in line, all three of us would have gotten to ask our questions. Indeed, the look on the moderator’s face when two White people declined to ask our questions so that a Black man could be heard, was priceless.
After the forum, I talked with the other man who had elected to not ask his question so the young Black man could be heard. He was also an organizer who has done work against racism in his community in North Denver. I wasn’t surprised to hear this because it is always unusual when you see a White person step back to give a Black person a chance to speak.
If I am talking to other White people, I should talk about dismantling White supremacy and the need to decenter whiteness. I can talk about the centuries of structural oppression that has resulted in such high numbers of incarcerated and dead Black and Brown people in the United States. I don’t need to talk to people of color about their lived experience of oppression. If I am in a group where people of color are discussing race, I have already been given a gift. I have been given an opportunity to learn. They don’t need to learn about me. Generally, when this happens, it is because I am with people of color who know I will not insert myself into their discussion. As a White person in a Black or Brown space, I need to be aware that I am here to learn, and generally have little to teach.
What if you have questions? First, ask yourself, “Could I Google this?” if the answer is yes, don’t ask the question. This is especially important in online discussions because asking for an explanation while someone is already giving information can derail the conversation. If someone quoted someone and you didn’t catch the name and would like to read some of their work, then ask after the conversation has ended and if that person is open to questions. If the conversation was deep and the person you want to ask seems troubled or needs space, respect that. Their need for space is more important than your need for a quote at that moment.
I don’t call myself an ally. I will say “I support this cause,” and then do my best by showing up as often as possible and doing what needs to be done. A lot of my work with Coloradans for Justice is clerical and supportive. I get permit paperwork done. I make Facebook events. I write emails. I write press releases. I canvass. I bring snacks and I make sure the amp is charged and the bullhorns have batteries. I make protest signs with generic sayings for people who want to hold a sign. I bring supplies for people who want to make a sign. I take pictures and video, and then upload it. I tweet. All of these things are things that need to be done in order for protest events to be peaceful and effective. All of these roles are activist actions. This is a part of my activism, and I find it rewarding to see people holding my signs, making signs, showing up and knowing it’s because I talked to them online or in the street. All of this is a huge reward, even if it is not a public reward. It is all the reward I need.
When we are talking about Ferguson, we often say “this is a movement, not a moment.” In order for the movement to be maintained, there need to be more White people willing to take a backseat. To do the clerical and supportive work. To bring the activist cookies. There are a ton of things White people can do to further this movement, including talking to other White people. Black and Brown people do not need to hear about how oppressed they are and how much White supremacy sucks from White people. I promise you, they already know.
Just Keep Walking and Why I Stop
Trigger Warning: Racism. Domestic Violence. Violence Against Women
My friends who know me, know I stop. I stop for hurting people. I stop for hungry people. I usually don’t have cash or change to hand out but I almost always have some food in my bag. It’s what I can do. I’ll tell you if you need to go to a hospital or doctor or not. One of these days, stopping might get me in trouble, but I’ll probably keep doing it.
It embarrasses my friends.
It embarrasses my husband.
It embarrasses my family.
I keep stopping because I take the role of the nurse in the community seriously. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a nurse. You shouldn’t be shocked. And don’t go #notallnurses on me because we all know there are different kinds of nurses.
I feel guilty about what I’m about to write. I’ve felt guilty for a long time, even though I was a young child when this happened. But I want to speak out about this culture White people have created and what has been adopted. Because ignoring violence against women, especially Black women, is a huge piece of White supremacy that needs to come apart.
It was a sunny day. I don’t remember what time of year. It was in East Nashville. Somewhere along Eastland Ave. We used to live on Benjamin St. I went to Cora Howe Elementary. I think we might have been coming
I don’t remember where we were going but I was walking with my mother. There was an apartment building nearby that had a reputation. Most of East Nashville had a reputation at that point.
A Black woman came running out of the building, screaming for help. A man ran out after her and tackled her, beating her on the ground. I wanted to run to the payphone and call 911. I told my mother we needed to help. She held me harder and said “Just keep walking.”
Now.. was my mother afraid for her own safety? Probably. Was she afraid for our safety? Probably. But could she have knocked on a door or done SOMETHING? Yes. My mother worked for the Metro Nashville Police Department for years. She wasn’t a police officer, but her call would have brought half a squad. I’ve seen it happen.
And she didn’t. She walked us to the car, she got in, and she never looked back. We lived close by. She could have driven home and called for help and never identified herself to the abuser. She didn’t.
I remember that woman. I remember she had long, natural hair. I remember this because the guy used her hair as a weapon. It was how he stopped her before he tackled her. I remember her screaming in our direction, because we were the only people out there. But I don’t know what happened to her.
I also remember my mother and step-father(s) abusing me and my sister.. I remember when we tried to get help because our parents had threatened us with beatings if my sister failed a test. My sister, suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia, failed the test. My sister is INCREDIBLY smart. She’s just dyslexic. But when we went to the Kroger on Gallatin Rd, that had a giant “Safe Place” sign in the window, we weren’t helped. The police jumped to help one of their own. My sister and I were taken to a counselor, we were never allowed to speak without our parents present, and we were told if we persisted with our complaint, we would be split up, pulled from our school (the only haven we had), and how selfish we were to accuse our parents of these behaviors. I remember how we went to subsequent “therapy” appointments after that, where the therapist called us lazy and told us we had to do more to help our mother. Our abuser. Again, we were not allowed to speak without our parents present.
So now I stop. I call 911 if it’s needed. I help. If I need to, I’ll scream my head off to draw attention to what’s happening. You don’t get to abuse someone near me and feel that’s it’s okay because no one stops. I’m going to stop. If I can’t stop you myself, I’m going to get someone who can. I couldn’t stop when I was a little girl, but I can stop now.
Making rules for yourself and standards for the people you associate with IS NOT easy. It doesn’t even really get easier. But it does lead to a more fulfilled and honest life. I’m not done learning, changing and growing. But learning to stop was one of my earliest rules for myself as an adult, and it’s a good place to start.
National Moment of Silence: Denver
We will be gathering at Civic Center Park in Denver on the Broadway side at 5:00 PM August 14th.
The History of Breastfeeding Among Black Women – What White Nurses Need to Know
If you are a nurse, particularly a white nurse, working in postpartum or NICU and teaching new parents how to breastfeed, it is vital that you understand the history of breastfeeding among Black women. Up until late in the last century, Black women were still employed as wet nurses for White families. This robs a Black woman’s own child of nutrition. It also explains why many Black women have a negative connotation with breastfeeding. Rather than blindly push forward with lactation education, nurses need to work to further develop cultural competence and understand why Black women may choose not to breastfeed, and why their relatives may encourage them NOT to breastfeed.
Ultimately, breastfeeding should be the choice of the individual involved, not the choice of a nurse or family members surrounding the new parent.
@FeministaJones made a series of tweets regarding the history of breastfeeding and black women, as well as the history of how Black nurses were treated in homes. It is hard to read, but necessary to learn. I storified the tweets yesterday, but am also placing them here so that I can quickly point to them.
On Black Women and Breastfeeding
In her #WomensHistoryMonth discussion, @FeministaJones discusses the history of Black women and forced breastfeeding of White children in the United States, up to modern times, pinpointing reasons for low levels of support among Black men for breastfeeding among Black women today.
If were going to talk about #WomensHistoryMonth, can we tell all of the stories, please?
#WomensHistoryMonth Black Nannies after Civil War … http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-african-american-nanny-in-early.html … You’re welcome. pic.twitter.com/WRM1BP91iI
Check out the link in that last tweet. Jarring images of the history of Black women as caretakers of White children
“Recent study, 54% of black mothers breast-fed their infants from birth, compared with 74% of white mothers and 80% of Hispanic mothers”
One has to wonder where the suffrage movement would have gone without Black nannies at home raising their children while they marched…
RT @followmissbliss: @FeministaJones And for those who still don’t get it, there’s this… pic.twitter.com/qO7uSheBaW #WomensHistoryMonth
@FeministaJones breast feeding my son was a trigger 4 my grandmother. I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset but now.. that pic #tears
As well you should RT @thetrudz: @FeministaJones I feel…rage.
The only acceptable feeling when shown images like those, IMO, is rage.
Maybe I can spark enough rage to incite a revolution…
When I discussed the idea that Black women, esp in the 60s and 70s were largely anti-breastfeeding bc of being forced to nurse White babies
People suggested I was too militant and talking crazy but… I’m right.
There was, on the part of many Black women, an outright rejection of breastfeeding bc of what it meant to them historically.
Racism kept many of us from giving our children the nourishment they needed from us. Let that wash over you.
We were forced to give milk produced for our own children to the children of our owners, forced to neglect the needs of our babies
Then we were blamed when our babies got sick or died and called “bad mothers”.
The connection btwn Black American women and breastfeeding has not always been positive and BF advocates have to know this.
So when I see WW, esp, coming down on BW for not breastfeeding, I cringe… it’s clear they’re not employing culture competence
I say barely half of Black women breastfeed, after several tweets talking about why (including historical violence) and then…
When BW were working and out of the home 16+ hours a day or barely allowed to go home to their children at all, how were they to nurse?
BW had few choices but to NOT breastfeed and supplement their babies’ diets with whatever was available.
And yet… BW have been perpetually vilified as being “bad mothers” when they’ve been forced into these conditions
@FeministaJones So would their relationships with their children, esp. from having to nurse & nurture White children at expense of their own
Re: #LRT, but BW were called “bad mothers”! Without acknowledging how much mother-child connection was sacrificed for work
Only in the last 20 years or so have we seen a significant cultural shift among Black women to nurse their own children, thankfully.
Because, real talk…? Sistas in the 50s, 60s, and 70s weren’t nursing, in large part bc they worked so hard and so long away from home.
And the stigma of BFing was “thats for them White babies”, which we can see how it came from resentment of forced nursing of White babies
@FeministaJones I see that as yet another form of economic violence. Formula isn’t free but we couldnt nurse cuz we had to work so much.
Let your mind wrap around one woman demanding that another woman take the milk she is producing for HER own baby and give it to hers
Breastfeeding, in the mid-late 20th century, was somewhat of a privilege for those who could afford to be around their babies
How can we demonize economically disadvantaged women for NOT breastfeeding at a time before pumping, packaging, etc?
That was passed down through generations and only in the last one, w/advances in BF support tools, are we seeing more BW embrace BFing
My mother and all of her sisters formula fed. No one breastfed. My mom asked “What formula you plan on using?”
Cultural competence means not assuming a new Black mom is automatically taking the “Duh of course I’m breastfeeding” approach
It means understanding that our historical connection to breastfeeding is one of oppression, violence, and denial of “womanhood”
“From 2000–2008, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding went up from 47.4% to 58.9% for blacks” http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/breastfeeding-trends.htm …
Like I said, this is a relatively new cultural shift and it’s important to unpack and respect the negative connections to BFing
@FeministaJones My aunt was a “wet nurse” in the 80s in the south. When people act like this stuff is archaic…it’s not.
@FeministaJones That’s why I am always so wary of white women organizing and educating BW on BFing. They gotta do the knowledge!
Not just for Black women, for Black men as well. So yeah… we gotta unpack this stuff.
#WomensHistoryMonth The story of the Negro Nurse (an oft-overlooked figure in American history) http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/negnurse/negnurse.html …
“It’s a small indignity [..] no white person at the South ever thinks of addressing any negro man or woman as Mr., or Mrs., or Miss”
” It is a favorite practice of young white sports about town–and they are not always young, either–to stop some colored nurse +
” inquire the name of the “sweet little baby,” talk baby talk to the child, fondle it, kiss it, make love to it, etc., etc.+
“and in nine of ten cases every such white man will wind up by making love to the colored nurse and seeking an appointment with her.”
So remember when I said that not standing up to defend Black women is a behavior learned and socialized into BM?
And how, historically, when Blk men stood up to defend Blk women, they faced violence, imprisonment, or death?
If every time you tried to defend a Black women, you were on the receiving end of violence, what might you do, eventually? Stop.
“If their fathers, brothers, or husbands seek to redress their wrongs the guiltless negroes will be severely punished, if not killed” Oh
When I hear “Black women ain’t worth it…” talk, at the end, I hear the unspoken laments abt the repercussion for making us “worth it”
It gets passed on… it’s self-preservation…it has to be unlearned
If we loop Black men into the BF discussion, we have to ask how many are supportive of BFing and the economic implications for them
We have to think about how maternity leave affects Blk families where the men are struggling to find work. That’s loss of wages…
And if women feel they have to hurry and get back to work, they might not opt for BFing if formula feeding is easier.
Reading the nurse narrative, I wouldn’t be surprised if BFing was a trigger for Blk men back then too, in light of the WM “advances”
I wonder if any BM discouraged BW from BFing bc it reminded them of maybe what their own moms went thru as wet nurses for WW
Hard to think of breastfeeding as violence against women, but for Black women in America, the history shows it has been.
!! RT @Alivada: @FeministaJones keeps periods at bay too …in an era pre bc …so if partner was wet nurse, couldn’t parent themselves
If BW were forced to keep lactating for wet nurse purposes, the impact on their own fertility/reproduction would likely be great.
Dealing With White Guilt
Today, thanks to Meniere’s Disease, I am confined to my bed. My husband is here to help me and I’m going to be okay, if not miserable.
By now, most of us have already read the piece of clickbait that was Jen Caron’s: It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Class and I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It. (Clicking these links will not up their page counts). This piece was wrong in so many ways. Most likely, the unnamed black woman (because they are always unnamed, see Eve Ensler’s article on “Congo Stigmata“).
Now, I’ve been told repeatedly that white privilege does not exist. This argument pales because I see it on a daily basis. Getting served first. The extreme politeness of POC towards me when I’m at the grocery store. Often, I want to to stop and say “I’m not one of THOSE white people, please just act normally.”
But I don’t. There are reasons for this.
I use my white privilege when it is helpful to me or my friends. Indeed, when I helped @Suey_Park with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, I had several people accusing me of abuse of white privilege, even though AAA has a policy dealing with gifting accounts instantly. Many people assumed that because I was white, I was able to do things a person of color would be unable to do. In that circumstance, my knowledge of AAA’s policies was what was useful. I had learned about them while working in Customer Service.
Honestly, I wasn’t using white privilege at that moment.
Times I have used white privilege? When I’ve seen a POC being treated poorly at the hands of white customer service agents. When I see a POC being treated poorly by another nurse. When I’ve seen a Hispanic person clearly struggling with a language barrier who needed help with translation. My college education is a form of privilege. I am determined to use it where ever I can to pull people up, not to bring people down. This is how I use my white privilege.
There are other times White Privilege has benefited me without my intent, so many circumstances I will never know. Other times, I become aware of it as it is happening, and I try to stop it. When I see a white person invoking their privilege, I try to say something about it, if I am able. I do not have Male Privilege, and I am aware there are times when speaking out could cost me my job, and I really need my job.
But how did I become aware of this privilege? Slowly, very slowly. I was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, very close to the projects, and until I went to a private high school on scholarship and my mother scraping by, I went to schools where white people were a minority. Still, I had white privilege.. I wasn’t aware of it, but I was given opportunities black people were not. Classes for the gifted. Extra time with teachers.
I am smart. In some situations, such as memory and language, I have been called “scary smart.” Still, this didn’t earn me additional time with teachers. Indeed, I should have been okay if left alone. So why did I receive so much attention from white teachers in a mostly black classroom? White privilege.
Still, it was years before I learned about white privilege. I credit @judeinlondon with so many things, and through reading her tweets, I learned about white privilege . I also saw Jude say over and over that it was not her responsibility to educate. I googled. I learned some more. I was horrified. All this time, when I thought what had been achieved on my own merit was probably influenced by white privilege. Was I even equally qualified for my job? (After a great deal of thought and introspection and looking over the lives I have saved, I believe I am completely qualified and very good at my job).
Then I did an Ancestry.com search on my family. It wasn’t particularly easy, but eventually I came upon what I didn’t want to see. My distance descendants were slave owners. While I had been told, repeatedly, I was descended from Native Americans, I couldn’t find written proof of this (I have been told by Native Americans I have distinct Lakota features, but I do not know how distant the relationship is). There are several pictures of Native women owned by my family, and I have been told they were my great great great grandmothers, but there is little proof. Definitely not enough proof to claim discrimination due to my ancestry, as many white people do.
The facts, staring right at me, were sickening. I am the descendent of slave owners, which means, like many white Americans, I am unknowingly complicit in the horrible treatment of African Americans and other people of color. I closed the program. I was nauseated. I opened Twitter. I needed to talk to someone. But who? Who would be the right person to talk to? I was very close to tears. I felt sick. But I remembered the words of so many black women, that it was not their job to comfort me, and I decided to respect that. I had never harmed them, but by asking for forgiveness for crimes I personally did not commit, I could become a vehicle of harm.
I closed my computer.
Discovering white privilege and distant relationship with slave owners is painful, but it is not the duty of black people, particularly black women, to comfort us. @TheTrudz has spoken out many times on Twitter about the tendency of white people to seek out comfort and forgiveness from black people when the first pangs of white guilt hit our hearts. This morning, we had this exchange:
Trudy has made herself very accessible online, and paid a heavy price for it. Here is my point: It is not the job of black people to comfort us. For the most part, they do not want to comfort us. The desire of white people to have forgiveness from black people from things done hundreds of years ago does not require white people to “prostrate” themselves to black people. What it really indicates is a desire to have the love and attention of the “Mammy” figure.
@TheTrudz has suggested this article: 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors That Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial, or Defensiveness. She also has multiple articles at her blog, Gradient Lair that are very useful. I have never read an article by @TheTrudz and not learned something valuable. She also suggested this reading: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Tatum. It contains step by step instructions. I have started reading this book and found it powerful. Unfortunately, my tablet is dead and I’m waiting for it to completely charge.
Mammy is long gone. Yes, black women can be incredibly nurturing and kind. So can all women, should they choose to do so. But black women are no longer obliged to give us comfort. To expect comfort for your white guilt from black women or other women of culture IS AN ABUSE OF YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE. This is why I don’t just come out and say “I’m not one of those white people.” Instead, I use a different tactic. If there is someone I want to be friends with, I gently approach them and over time they will see I’m not one of “those” white people, and if they are willing, and like me back, friendship will grow on it’s own. There is no need to force it.
Still, I see people, hundreds a day, coming into the mentions of my black friends on Twitter, demanding education. They refuse to read links, valuable links, that could educate them. They will only take education from a black person, THIS black person, as a matter of fact. THIS IS AN ABUSE OF YOUR PRIVILEGE SO OBVIOUS SARAH PALIN CAN SEE IT FROM HER HOUSE. If she weren’t so blind to white privilege herself.
So here is my proposal. If you are feeling a big dose of white guilt, come talk to me. You can reach me at @grimalkinrn on Twitter, and I will be happy to talk about your feelings. These feelings are a part of growth. They are valid, and they are necessary. What is not necessary is burdening women (or men) of color with your feelings. If you need privacy, you can email me at email@example.com or DM me on Twitter (though you will need to let me know you need me to follow you back ). Needless to say, trolls will be blocked.
If white people talk to one another about our white privilege and white guilt, we will be better prepared to use our white privilege to the advantage of others, and not just ourselves.
The Difference Between “Cutting Down” and “Calling Out”
I’ve been very public about my feelings regarding Ani DiFranco, her “Righteous Retreat,” its cancellation and her short apology she made earlier this week. I have been going through my own process while I try to decide if DiFranco’s apology was sincere, if she is living her words, and if I can continue to support her label.
Tonight, at the New Orleans House of Blues, DiFranco made the comment “”It’s an upside down world, when your sisters cut you down and Fox News defends you.”
It’s making the rounds and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another apology from DiFranco in another couple of days. Maybe the quote is out of context, but it’s hard to imagine what context it could be in that didn’t involve some sort of self righteous anger. It’s a sign of the times. A decade ago, a statement like this would have gone unnoticed. Thanks to social media, it is everywhere.
I am a white woman. I have a lot of interracial friends. This doesn’t mean I don’t screw up. I am very lucky to have friends who will call me out when I say something racist. It’s not always gentle, but it is always needed, and when I look beyond my initial shock, I always learn something. I try never to make that mistake again.
Ani DiFranco didn’t get “cut down.” She got called out. Fans of all backgrounds called to her and asked that she cancel the retreat and apologize. When she cancelled the retreat and offered and explanation but not an apology, we continued to tell her, Ani, it’s not enough. Finally, she issued a short apology, stating she was “digging deeper.”
Getting “cut down,” “dragged,” and other terms are when people put you down without reason. Without caring about you.
Getting called out is different. When you say or do something racist and your friends of a different race call you out on it, they are taking the time to offer you education. It’s not their job to educate you, but if someone is taking the time to do it, you should appreciate it and reciprocate by trying to learn the lesson they are trying to teach you. Getting called out can hurt, sure, it can hurt like hell, but we have to ask, do I hurt because I’ve been wronged or do I hurt because my ego is wounded?
Ani DiFranco is many things. A songwriter, an activist, a feminist. She has this image of a kind, crunchy, kick ass artist. I don’t believe she is a racist at heart but I do believe a person who is not a racist can do racist things. This is when the people who love you call you on your shit.
I’ve talked about white privilege and the fact that while white people may not be aware of its existence, they sure as hell get mad when people refuse to extend it. I think DiFranco is unaware of the amount of privilege she is currently demanding.
I don’t know Ani personally, though like many of her fans, I have always felt a connection through music. This connection is why I’m writing tonight. I know she’ll never see this, but I feel the need to write about my feelings. This entire week has been a process of learning to let go of someone I always saw as a role model. I know she’s not perfect. It’s not a lack of perfection that is making me angry. It’s the clear abuse of privilege. DiFranco has a lot of privilege, built from years of hard work, and I think she believes she deserves to be sheltered.
DiFranco may have apologized, but she appears angry. Statements like the one from tonight make it seem like she personally thinks she did nothing wrong. From her statement tonight about living in an “upside down world,” she is not taking the change in her status very well. DiFranco has always been someone who has managed to not do racist things in the public arena. That changed. She made a mistake. I feel like a lot of us wanted to forgive that mistake, but we cannot accept her apology if she is not going to live her apology. She could have said “I fucked up, I was wrong. I could tell I was wrong because Fox News was defending me but my own sisters weren’t.” There are a lot of things DiFranco could have said, but what she did say tonight shows me she is not living her words.
It’s not enough to apologize when you are called out. You have to make a conscious effort to change the behavior that got you called out in the first place. Perhaps DiFranco needs more time to change, but for now, the effort she has made is simply not enough.