What does a politics of inclusion REALLY look like?

The politics of feminism are so complicated. As we continue to define and re-define what feminism “looks like” for a new generation of women, communication and alliance building is more important than ever. The assault against feminism continues from the outside and we are forced to be defined by opposing forces. As we all know, feminism isn’t just one thing, it is many things, depending on where it is happening and who you ask.
So where do women of color go? How are they included? I have recently been asked to be on a lot of panels and of course as I am wanting to expand my career and meet as many cool people as possible, I have taken the opportunities. But almost all of them have been because I am a feminist blogger of color. Of course I do think that it is important to include voices of color, and I love conferences and being on panels with amazing people, I have some really intense thoughts that I am trying to figure out.
First of all, if the inclusion of people of color is SO necessary to change content, what does that mean? That people of color bring certain thoughts and white feminists bring other (racist) ones? I also recognize that people of color DO bring alternative experiences, but everyone brings different experiences. You just can’t generalize, right?
Also, if I am ONLY included because I am a voice of color, why is that? Is it to make people feel less bad for the overwhelming over-representation of white voices in publishing, panels, conferences and blogs etc.? Isn’t that a type of objectification as well?
This is a really challenging post to write. I do think that my contributions to writing as a woman of color are important. I believe that we have to continue to fight for the inclusion of voices of color and I appreciate the recognition on behalf of progressive folks to insist on the actual physical representation of women of color.
But I have also been feeling like women of color are over objectified in progressive spaces, because it is our race (as it is embodied) that makes us so important to be there. A type of hyper-objectification, but it still re-centers white-ness. We are still by and for white people.
I don’t think this is anyone’s fault necessarily, I think it is the structure of identity politics and of feminism. The politics of exclusion that haunted previous definitions of feminism, continue to harm us, continue to reproduce themselves and it is up to us to be very very observant.
I am still noticing overall that voices of color are left at the margins and called upon when we need *diversity.* I can almost never escape my performed role as a woman of color. Does that make my opinion on issues that affect all women’s lives (or about music, food and other things) less valid? Am I forever tied to the embodiment of my race?
The reality is I have a lot of really good relationships with white feminists (and people) where we talk about race and it is much more than just the inclusion of my voice, but an integration of all my talents to the content and production of the work (like feministing!). And there are some women of color that I don’t work so well with. And then of course the people of color I am on the same page with. They all hold special and meaningful places and in different ways.
But in some spaces I still don’t want to ruffle feathers and bring up the race question to disrupt otherwise seemingly well intentioned things. Moments that seem race-less, that seem neutral, but race is still functioning in really integral ways.
So many questions, but quite frankly my feeling is that conversations about racism need to grow up and include all the multiple ways we interact whether they be reproducing hierarchies or transgresssing historical problems. Maybe we need a new vocabulary, I don’t know.
Thoughts?

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30 Comments

  1. Sappho
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I think it sucks to be called upon only as a symbol, not for your own personal achievements, contributions, or knowledge. It’s denigrating and, as always, white-male centered, but in a new way, in a “called upon to perform for the head honchos” way.
    On the other hand, I think, or hope, that maybe the requests for symbolic representation kind of works as a stepping stone to a time in some dreamy future when women and women of color are not ‘acknowledged as equals’ but when it would not occur to anyone to think otherwise. That somehow once we aggressively put more women and people of color in a variety of leadership positions, even as symbols, (as dehumanizing as that is), that that will slowly and progressively normalize their presence there. I guess this is the standard argument for affirmative action I’m making. I still believe it. But maybe you’re right about changing the vocabulary.
    I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately because of Hillary Clinton, because I’ve been arguing fiercely that it’s really important to have a woman president, and that the symbolic value of that possibility far outweighs, for me, the fact that as a radical I think her politics are much too conservative. Because I think Hillary is smart and politically weathered and will be able to lead, and that even if she’s not wearing her feminism on her sleeve, that that will be an enormous stride for feminism. You could certainly make similar arguments about Barack Obama. But mainly the argument I’m fighting is my young, progressive, and egalitarian white male friends, who say they want to vote based on the issues, and deny to me that to do so
    is to pretend that discrimination is over and to perpetuate the normality of society ruled by men.
    Anyway, I guess that’s a far off tangent, but I’m curious what other people have been thinking on this issue as well.

  2. sweetastic
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Samhita– thanks for this post. As a woman of color myself, yes– there is always a “race factor” that factors into every action we make. If we women of color do something out of the ordinary, will people think it’s because we as an individual are different, or just think, “oh, she’s a woman of color, that’s what they do”?
    I think the only slow, organic way of solving this is to get people enough exposure to women of color that comments from that person are no longer seen as related to the race, but to the person.

  3. the frog queen
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Very interesting points Sappho!
    I guess all I wanted to say was that I don’t understand race issues. They confuse me. I just plain don’t get why its such a big deal and it actually makes me mad when people bother to talk about something that seem so petty to me.
    That said, I recognize the hurdles people face in different locations, society, work environments, etc. because of racial issues, yet my life encounters so little racial tension on a day to day basis that to me racism is a myth simply because it’s only something I hear about.
    I live in Canada’s Capital city. ottawa is a very diverse cultured city with one of the largest mid-eastern population in North America. So it’s not like I spend my day walking and talking to white people. But the simple fact is, I just don’t see displays of racism.
    Anyway, what I meant to say was, I find it hard to relate to articles like this.

  4. Posted April 4, 2007 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    IMO, the best way to fight against this is to ask for a WOC buddy. Seriously. Being the only sucks. I’ve been there too many times and I now refuse to be a part of an org if I’m the only WOC. I still get involved in projects where I end up being the only, but being a part of a very close working group that will discuss race issues means I need to have someone else to throw to.
    People of color do have different perspectives. White feminists aren’t racist, but do have different views. SES also plays a part. Am I on a panel because I’m Latina or from a working class background? Both? Neither?
    It’s a crappy position to be in and sadly it happens too often.

  5. sophie
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I think you are very right to point out that race (like gender) still constrains and informs our interactions. I notice that there is a tendency among some progressives to deny this. But their inability to face the truth is all the more reason why it has to be said (over and over).
    It seems to me that, so long as you continue to voice the reality of race, you should not feel akwards about participating in fora as something of a token. If you simply showed up and allowed yourself to be a part of the (partially false) picture of race neutrality, that would be kind of a bummer. But if you use your appearance to challenge that picture, you’re doing an important thing.
    (And it will be interesting to see who asks you back.)

  6. EG
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Well, but frog queen, that’s what privilege is: the ability to stay ignorant about the institutionalized oppression that affects others. Men aren’t forced to come face to face with street harrassment or sexual violence every day the way women are; if they want to, they can stay cocooned in a world in which gender isn’t a category of oppression, because for them, it isn’t. But just because I don’t experience something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
    The fact that other people continue to bring up the importance of something that seems so “petty” to you should suggest that it is a big deal in people’s lives. Listening when non-white people talk about race is one of the ways white people can learn how and why it’s a big deal, and how and why race affects people’s lives–including white people’s.
    Samhita, what you wrote made me think of an essay Barbara Ehrenreich wrote over twenty years ago about being a female columnist/journalist, and how she was always being called upon to write about women’s issues, no-one ever assigned her to write about economic policy, despite her proven background in the field. It sounds like you’re experiencing a similar thing with race: how do you talk about issues affecting all women and all feminists when by virtue of your race, what comes out of your mouth is going to be immediately assumed to be important only in terms of the race you’re being called on to “speak for.”
    On the other hand, there is the pressure/burden of not wanting to always have to be the one to point out, as you say, the ways that race is functioning when the conversation is ostensibly “race-less.”
    I obviously have no answers or deep thoughts, or I wouldn’t be reiterating what you said, but I wonder if one of the ways to approach the problem would be for women of color to run the spaces in question. In my admittedly limited experience that centers more around businesses than anything else, when a place is black-run, the clientele can be fully integrated without the assumption of whiteness as the norm. (I know you’re not black, but the example I’m thinking of was black-run.) But how to achieve that? I don’t know.

  7. Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Wow. Thanks, Samhita, for just diving into this one. I’ve been thinking about this a TON lately, with the WAM!Conference just over. As a white woman who runs the sort of events you’re addressing, I struggle with this a lot.
    The thing is, as an organization currently and historically run by mostly white women (we’re working on that, too, but institutional change is… glacial), if we just put our Call for Proposals out and picked from whomever sent them back, we would be hearing from mostly white women. Why? Because many, many women of color would just look at us and be unsure if their voices were welcome or valued or if they’d be the only ones in the room, and they wouldn’t bother — it wouldn’t be worth the risk. I don’t blame them a bit.
    But it matters to me, personally, to us as an organization and to us as a movement whether or not women of color are meaningfully included. I don’t think that’s because white women necessarily bring *racist* thoughts & experiences — I think it’s because white women are necessarily speaking from a place of race privilege, and so we often don’t know as much as we should about some important shit that we all need to address, not so we can feel good, but because we’re trying to dismantle a system that uses race and gender (and class and sexual & gender identities and abilities, etc.) to keep power centralized in the hands of the few. And if we’re going to succeed, we’re going to have to all do it together. It’s not like we’re going to have gender liberation without demolishing the structures of racism. It’s just… not going to work that way.
    But also, because of the sorts of oppression you, Samhita face that I, Jaclyn, don’t, and also because our cultural backgrounds are different, you’ve probably developed different ways of approaching problems and obstacles than I have. And we’re also going to need everybody’s different creativity if we’re ever going to get anywhere.
    Does this sound completely kumbaya? I know you probably have already heard this all a million times, and it’s hard to talk about any of this without falling into cliche. I want women of color at the table not just to *signify* diversity, but to actually contribute to a meaningfully diverse conversation. I want *everybody* at the damn table, because this shit is all of our problems. Now it happens (and this post is long enough so I won’t expound here on why) that we’ve succeeded in a lot of other areas of diversity — women of many ages, class backgrounds, sexual & gender identities, etc. are all over WAM!. And we’re moving toward diversity of profession, with activists, academics, media professionals, all coming together (though we still need badly to reach more folks working for corporate media outlets). Race is not the only “diversity” factor we care about, but is one of the ones we have to work the hardest and most consciously on.
    What do we do? Well, we put it right out there in our Call for Proposals that sessions featuring at least 50% women of color will get weighted consideration, and we follow through on that in our deliberations. (For the record, we also give weight to sessions including mostly younger and/or older women, and some other factors as well.) We make sure to work with the women of color who *are* fans of the Conference, soliciting their opinions, asking them to join committees, etc. (The committee thing raises the whole issue of inclusion and uneven burden and tokenism all over again, to be sure.) We make personal phone calls and overtures to women of color organizations and individuals whose work we admire to solicit their proposals. We make sure that we have keynoters of color. We just think about it and make an extra effort at every level we can identify.
    And yeah, some of these efforts feel like tokenism or symbolism sometimes. For me, too. But we also work hard to check ourselves on that. Race *is* a factor in deciding who speaks at WAM!. But it’s not by far the only factor, ever. If you or anyone else is presenting at one of our programs, it’s because we seriously think you have something important to say on the topic at hand, the expertise to back it up, and hopefully an engaging presentation style. We’re a little obsessive about these things, actually.
    I hope this doesn’t sound defensive. I never know if we’re doing the right things. At the moment I just feel like what we’re doing, however imperfect, still produces a better result than not making these efforts, and I don’t know what else to do. I’d like for us to do more, actually. Still trying to figure that out, in collaboration with as many smart committed folks we can find. And very grateful for this space where we can discuss it.

  8. the frog queen
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    sorry EG. I don’t mean to offend. But I read a lot about racial issues and its hard for it to completely materialize as reality if it doesn’t come close to you. I dunno. The whole racism thing makes me squeemish anyway. As a white gal sometimes I feel like I’m a bad person for being white. It’s weird. Strange feeling that I can’t quite figure out.

  9. sophie
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    frog queen,
    I think your point about feeling bad really gets to heart of it; thanks for your candor.
    I think a lot of folks would feel like bad people if they had to acknowledge racism, so they tend not to want to do that.
    I would say — don’t feel bad. You didn’t create this reality. You didn’t even ask to be white. And we’re all just slogging through every day: mistakes will be made.
    I am white. I acknowledge privilege but I don’t feel guilt. I’ve made mistakes and been insensitive in my life, but I keep trying.

  10. EG
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t offended; I mean, I wasn’t thrilled about the word “petty,” but I wasn’t much offended. I was just trying to explain why, as white women, we absolutely cannot rely on our own experiences to judge the importance of race.
    I do think it’s strange to feel bad or feel guilty for being white; although friends of mine have sometimes mentioned it, I don’t think it’s a response I’ve had. I don’t expect men to feel guilty for being men, but I do expect them to be aware of their privilege, to sit down and shut up and listen to women when we talk about gender, and to use their powers for good rather than evil.
    I try to do that about race; I don’t know if I succeed. I’m not an activist, it’s not in me. I am a teacher, and I try to go out of my way to talk about the roles race and racism play in the literature that I’m teaching, to include literature by non-white writers, and to be aware of the racial dynamics of my classroom, to do my best, for example, to relieve the burden of the only black student in the room by bringing up race myself, so she doesn’t feel like it’s on her to do so. I also try to shut up and let her talk when she does feel like it, without stepping on her points.
    But that’s not about guilt, or feeling bad. I can’t control that I’m white, and that I was born into a society that’s systemically, institutionally racist, and so certain benefits accrue to me. It’s about, for lack of a less sappy word, justice.

  11. the frog queen
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Sophia, I think that guilt is what I’m feeling. Thanks for the insight.

  12. jane
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    As a devout reader of Angry Black Bitch’s blog, I can tell you, without reservation, that there is inherent value in diversity. Now do I read ABB to alleviate my white guilt? Fuck no! I read the blog for it’s insight and sense of humor. And by “sense of humor”, I mean be prepared to piss yourself. Read her latest entry on Paula Zahn if you’re uninitiated. But her voice, which is very strong and distinctive, is a product of her experience and her race. And that part of her identity is something to celebrate, not something that should be homogenized.
    Now I think that Samhita’s personal thoughts bring up an important issue that’s often raised in the affirmative action context. And that is the stigma that some argue follows the affirmative action recipient, causing that person to doubt him or herself, or in Samhita’s case, question what purpose she serves. And to that I respond: an important one. A diversity of perspectives is critical, and some one has to represent.

  13. roymacIII
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    frog queen: I think that EG sort of hit the nail on the head. As a guy, my experience with sexism is coming from a very different place than it is for the women on here. I’ve never had someone discriminate against me because of my sex. I’ve never been targeted for harassment because I have a penis. In my day to day life, the fact that I’m a guy is a non-issue. It’s something that other people are probably aware of, but it’s not something that people make me aware of. That’s the sort of thing that it’s taken me a lot of work to understand. The ways that sexism in our society has created a situation where I can move through my day to day life without ever being made aware of my sex and without ever having to think of myself in terms of my sex- to think of myself as “me� and not “male me� (or “white me�).
    Many of the feelings you’re having about race and racism sound similar to the feelings that some men have about sex and sexism. Since many men are never forced to think of themselves (ourselves) in terms of sex, it can be easy to think that there’s not a problem. “I don’t see itâ€? they think to themselves, and it’s true- they don’t. That is part of the problem, though- that ability to move through life and not see it.
    I’ve never felt guilty just for being a man, or for being white (I feel guilty about a lot of other things, but, perhaps surprisingly, those two things aren’t on the list). I do have to try very hard, sometimes, to recognize what it means for me to be male, though. It’s taken me a long time to get to the place that I’m at now, and I feel like I’m still working on it. It was difficult, and sometimes scary, to move from a place where my sex didn’t even occur to me, to a place where I try to be aware of it, and the implications on how people treat me, or how I treat people as a result. It’s hard to be objective, and to try to see the privilege that I have, by virtue of being a man.
    I think that it’s completely worth it, though. I think it’s a lot easier to understand where other people are coming from when you’re able to understand what your own lack of awareness about something like race or sex or gender says. Realizing that, as men, we’re able to go through our days without even considering the fact that we are men, and that many women do not have that ability… it’s eye opening. I think that the same thing is true of race, too.
    Which is all to say that the fact that we, as individuals, may not have personal experience with a particular problem should not lead us to conclude that the problem is insignificant or nonexistent.

  14. Samhita
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Woah, thanks to all of you for putting so much into these comments. Like I said I had a really hard time writing this post.
    Jaclyn-I think you do an amazing job at WAM and I appreciate the invite and don’t think that I am asked just because I am a woman of color.
    I am looking more at these bigger structures that force us into these supposed categories of women of color , white women etc. The tired language of last generations identity politics, I think bogs us down so that women of color do feel tokenized in a lot of circumstances. And I think white women are put in a position where they feel *bad* and should include voices of color.
    All of these things end up re-centering whiteness as the normative position. We need to attack that center. And as you mention, we need to dismantle all interlocking systems.
    Unfortunately what you say is right and if you were not pushing to get women of color onto the panels, they wouldn’t be there.
    We should talk! You are amazing btw, I am glad we met and had I got to watch you drink a whole bottle of tequila.

  15. legallyblondeez
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    During law school I outlined an entire book about white feminist guilt and how it actually prevents white women from being allies to women of color. I didn’t write the book, but I’m continually revising that outline because, of course, my awareness keeps changing.
    I think the guilt comes from a selfish space–not that it’s terrible, but that a feeling of guilt assumes that it’s all about you and not about how society treats you versus a woman of color. Unless you are doing something that reinforces white privilege (and you may be, but that’s an analysis that has to wait until after you can recognize the privilege in the first place), it’s not about you at all. So it’s much easier to see the privilege and the effect that race has on all of us when you let go the personal feelings–guilt, anger, “but not me”–and just observe for a while.
    That’s a continual process, of course, and one that’s facilitated by having women of color speak as experts on feminist topics that don’t necessarily relate to race on the surface, and recognizing women of color as having valuable qualifications aside from their skin color, in addition to addressing the intersections of feminism and white privilege head on.
    Samhita, while I’m sure it’s important to organizers that you can represent women of color, I’m just as sure that they wouldn’t ask you unless you were also a tireless activist generally. I know we ask you to do more work in representing multiple identities, but we thank you and need women of color to keep doing that work.

  16. Posted April 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Samhita, awesome post.
    My two cents as a white feminist is that I think it’s really, really important that feminists of color speak up and keep us from becoming too white-centric in our focus. It’s a valid criticism of historical feminism that it has been white-woman focused (e.g., we’re the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action), and the constant reminders to look outside our own little boxes is absolutely essential. As roymac noted, it’s identical to our struggle to get men to take notice of gender inequality.
    I’m white, and so I don’t always “see” race the way that a person of color does. It’s important for him or her to remind me that there’s another dimension to the problem when I’m too obtuse to divine it on my own. I also think we need to get over our fear of words like “racism,” etc. I sometimes describe myself as a “recovering racist” — meaning, not that I’ve ever been an active racist, and not that I’m a bad person, but that I was raised in a society that gives me invisible privileges because I am white, and that because of that upbringing I don’t automatically see or understand that privilege. I grew up not noticing race any more seriously than I notice hair color, while simultaneously internalizing invisible biases and stereotypes. As an aside, this is why “colorblindness” is not an ideal worth aspiring to — we need to INCREASE awareness, not decrease it.
    I’m getting rambly. My point is just that, while being white doesn’t make us bad people, it does mean that if we’re going to get a complete picture of the oppression our nonwhite sisters have to go up against, we’re gonna need a heaping dose of empathy and a lot of education from these women. I, for one, am glad that people like Samhita have the patience to educate me.

  17. sophie
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    l.b.,
    I see your point about guilt, but I don’t think I agree. I see it more as a a question of upbringing. I was raised in an irish catholic family, and guilt pretty much had its own place at our dinner table. I think my mom was proud of our catholic guilt, in a way.
    At any rate, I agree with you that the real point is simply to GET OVER IT.

  18. sophie
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    l.b.,
    I see your point about guilt, but I don’t think I agree. I see it more as a a question of upbringing. I was raised in an irish catholic family, and guilt pretty much had its own place at our dinner table. I think my mom was proud of our catholic guilt, in a way.
    At any rate, I agree with you that the real point is simply to GET OVER IT.

  19. donna darko
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    whites shouldn’t get on the defensive in discussions about racism because it’s usually not about them. it’s about a systemic, institutional problem, racism, and it’s more useful to just listen and learn which is what i say to men about feminism too. de-centering whiteness is important. i forget which standpoint theorist said that in any discussion, treat everyone as an equal, man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, trans, cisgendered and pivot the center when you talk to that person. therefore there are no hierarchies when people continuously pivot the center. as far as feminism or life in general if you’re in the united states, realize 33% of your audience is not white if you’re talking and 33% of people are not white if you’re thinking about americans. the more people de-center whiteness and integrate their actions and thinking, the more people will feel welcome and it’s kumbaya.

  20. donna darko
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if one of the ways to approach the problem would be for women of color to run the spaces in question. In my admittedly limited experience that centers more around businesses than anything else, when a place is black-run, the clientele can be fully integrated without the assumption of whiteness as the norm. (I know you’re not black, but the example I’m thinking of was black-run.) But how to achieve that? I don’t know.
    Women of color should have power in and over women’s organizations about a third of the time.

  21. roro80
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I love this site. What an awesome post, as well as great comments that seem to be getting everyone thinking. Being the “token� anything is such a mixed bag: it affords so many opportunities that may not have been available, but there’s always that hint of doubt as to whether you really belong. I struggled throughout grad school with the idea that while many of my friends were going into debt paying for school, I got a free ride because of my gender and preferred course of study. I took the fellowship, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities it opened up for me, but I’ll never know if I would have made the cut if I weren’t a woman.

  22. erika
    Posted April 4, 2007 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    What is important is for whites not to sit around and feel guilty–but to use these emotions to fuel activism. It is more than Get over it, it is get over it and work to change the system. What matters is what one does with the feelings of white guilt, use them to build, not burn, bridges.

  23. Posted April 4, 2007 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Instead of trying to figure out how to include this or that group, why not include everyone? And I mean EVERYONE.
    These people propose just such a thing:
    http://www.metagovernment.org

  24. Posted April 5, 2007 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. Talking about race has become such a difficult thing in our society that I think a lot of people just completely avoid it, because it is almost impossible to not get hated on by somebody. (Better to pretend it is a non-issue than get branded a racist).
    I am deeply interested in race issues (and class issues, but I KNOW more about the class issues!) and frequently get shut down if I so much as bring the subject up, with anyone less close than husband or best friend.
    Why is everyone so scared to talk about something that is right under our noses?
    I WANT to hear about WOC experiences! Keep it coming so we can ALL know more!

  25. Posted April 5, 2007 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Really interesting post and comments – thanks Samhita for starting this conversation.
    The fact that you started it just illustrates that you, as a woman of (embodied) color, have unique experiences and so therefore can bring unique perspectives and conversations to the table. That is valuable for all feminists – and I see how it can be and feel like tokenism and white-centering – but you can also see from this online conversation that not only are white people being educated but women of color are saying, “yeah, me too” and are finding a lot of solidarity.
    Also, I know some white feminists who refuse to be on panels that are all white and just as a side note, I think it’s important for white feminists to make those demands.

  26. nausicaa
    Posted April 5, 2007 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Jessica was virulently attacked here for using the image of a white woman on the cover of her book. I think that as long as that kind of attack goes on, how in the world can you blame white feminists for bending over backwards to make sure that they have at least some people of color at their public events?
    At the same time, if I were a woman of color, I’d guess I’d get mighty sick of feeling like a token. My advice to you would be to simply enjoy the relative advantage you have as a woman of color in terms of getting invited more places, but just go ahead and do whatever work you want to do. At its heart, this kind of affirmative action is not meant to make you a race representative, but rather to give you the boost up that the majority has (i.e., white privilege) in order to allow you to do *whatever you want to do.*

  27. Posted April 5, 2007 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    peace
    first off, sami, thanks for taking it to the helm… it’s incredible that, in this day and age, even in progressive spaces, that you have to write with so many caveats and apologies just for bringing up race…
    but never mind that… i also want to praise up frog queen’s honesty… it’s really hard for us white folks to come forward and say, “race makes me uncomfortable” or “my experience tells me race isn’t a problem” or other things that we often shy away from because we don’t want to be labeled ignorant or reactionary or whatever…
    but if they’re there, we need to address them.
    on that note, while i think it’s hot that folks are laying on the praises for sami and woc’s like her, i think it’s important, too, to recognize that women of color are not in progressive spaces to tell white people what racial dynamics are…
    phrases like kmtberry’s last sentence (and i think what you wrote is awesome – because people work with a lot of fear around race when what we really need is courage – i just think this sentence sums up a problem nicely) is indicative of how us white folks are trained to take too passive a role in critically addressing race.
    we’ve got to take that up, too… we’ve got to run head-on (like that weird commercial) into our obliviousness and challenge ourselves. we can’t just sit and listen to people of color break stuff down for us… because, as the privileged group, we can fall too easily into only allowing pocs in progressive spaces to talk about race, which silences their voices on, well, just about everything else…
    that kind of thinking (a) removes our agency as white people to liberate ourselves from the binds of racism and (b) restrains people of color from addressing what they want to talk about rather than what we want to listen to them about.
    oh, yeah, and law fairy, i like that – ‘recovering racist’… makes me want to start a chapter of RA or something…
    finally, i think several folks here are on the right tip – sami, you wouldn’t be where you are but for the hard work and love and struggle you’ve put into… just don’t overcompensate by drinking half a bottle of tequila (jaclyn, keep an eye on my sister)
    speaking of rambling…
    heights and blessings

  28. mercuria
    Posted April 5, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    At its heart, this kind of affirmative action is not meant to make you a race representative, but rather to give you the boost up that the majority has (i.e., white privilege) in order to allow you to do *whatever you want to do.*
    Yeah, that’s definitely true. But it doesn’t dismiss those feelings. In high school, I was a National Hispanic Merit Finalist. Had my picture taken for the paper with the National Merit Finalists, when a fellow nerd reminded me that I was only a Hispanic finalist–he knew the criteria for us was lower than Merit Finalists, all of whom were white at my school. And it’s true I didn’t meet the M.F criteria. I knew the guy, knew he was WAY more likely to give a ‘your not as smart as meeeee’ jab instead of a race jab. But still, you know?
    It’s just a difficult place to be. I want the white people I’m around to know that their experiences are different from mine because of race, when applicable. But I don’t always bring it up, because it’s exhausting. But it is the good work. I vacillate a lot on whether I like representin or not.

  29. Posted April 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    mercuria,
    as i’m sure you can see from the comments here, whatever you do to bring up race is well appreciated…
    however, you make a good point with “I don’t always bring it up, because it’s exhausting.” Discussing race is intellectual, political and emotional labor – work.
    To get back to what I think the topic is, the more white people put people of color on the spot for being people of color, the more they have to work to educate us rather than us doing that work ourselves.
    Further, this labor detracts from whatever work they may have entered into the discourse with the intention of doing in the first place.
    heights

  30. dhsredhead
    Posted April 5, 2007 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    I think white people may invite people of ‘color’ to events out of curiosity…to see how people who were raised in the mists of racism and other discrimination that white people do not face have different or striking similar life experiences. In a way it is racist to assume a person of a different race has a different viewpoint or experience. In another way it validates the idea that racism and other “isms” still exist in our society and culture.

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