Monday, April 12, 2010

Race Fail 2010 - Part 62132154534

I was going to post this in comments on the latest Race Fail Opus on Jezebel, but it looks like they closed the comments. Is someone over there finally realising that they need to moderate this shit? Because it was a fucking mess, what with all the whining about how white women feel so excluded from conversations about racism (yeah, let that one sink in for a minute) because WOC are just so mean to them. Apparently "that thing you said was racist" is the same thing as "STFU white lady, you don't get to speak". You know, if you're a whiny, entitled, overreacting idiot.


I have to admit that as a young, na├»ve college student I too was confused when I first encountered the notion that WOC feel excluded from mainstream feminism. I didn’t understand why. The thought was upsetting. I didn’t get it.

Then I started to pay attention to what happens when WOC try to speak in feminist spaces, and to observe the consistency with which white women try to re-center themselves and make the conversation about their hurt feelings, and the racist bingo that ensues when WOC object to that pattern. I observed the way in which even the mostly gently worded pointing out of racism is interpreted as a violent attack (seriously, fellow white ladies, you need to calm the fuck down - someone telling you you're wrong on the Internet is not equivalent to them beating you up, and I have to wonder why you only seem to have these panicked little freakouts when it's black people telling you that you're being a jackass).

So now I get it, what I didn't get back then about why WOC feel like mainstream feminism isn't exactly welcoming them with open arms and taking their concerns seriously. Sigh. Suggestion to my white sisters – any time you feel the urge to tell a WOC that you just can’t listen to her until she moderates her tone because she’s making you feel attacked? You’re being an asshole, and you should probably shut up for a while until you can get some perspective. You know how pissed off you get when men tell you that you’re being hysterical castrating bitch and they just can’t take you seriously until you put things in a way they find more congenial? Maybe you should stop and think about how infuriating that is before you turn around and do the same damn thing to other people. Racist (and sexist, and heterosexist, and so on) systems need to be examined and critiqued in order for changes to be made, and if that makes you feel uncomfortable, well, too bad. It’s not personal…unless you respond by throwing a fit about how awful it makes you feel that WOC feel marginalized, at which point now it is about you, because you’re being an asshole and that makes you part of the problem in a very direct sort of way. You know the song We Shall Overcome? You are now the thing that needs to be overcome, as a direct result of the choice you just made to respond with defensive attempts to maintain your role as the most important person in the (virtual) room rather than with empathy. Congratulations, you win the "how to kill feminism in 10 easy steps" prize.

I’ve read through all the comments on that post and haven’t been able to find any examples of the “all white people STFU” thing that a lot of white people claim is happening. What I see is people being called out for making dumb, offensive comments and then trying to derail the conversation into a discussion about how having racism pointed out makes white women feel bad. It’s worth noting that there were plenty of white women participating in that conversation without being told to STFU, so, those who insist that their race is the only reason they’re being called out, well, clearly they are incorrect. Are they even reading the things people are saying to them? Because it’s not “STFU white lady”, it’s mostly “that specific thing you said was really dumb and here’s why”.

Most commenters on Jezebel are pretty good at spotting when a man is speaking from the “my privilege is being challenged, man the barricades” perspective, so I’m not sure why so many people seem to find it so hard to take that same sort of critical thinking and apply it to race issues. In theory that should be a fairly easy logical leap to take, but a whole lot of people don't seem to be able to make it. Or maybe they just don't want to.

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