06/14/2012

White privilege is white cisgender radical feminists being more concerned about serial killers  and porn than about the violence of the prison-industrial complex and the police state.

I hate using the word radscum, but sometimes if the shoe fits, I’m gonna throw it back atcha.

apropos of: arguing about feminisms on the internet (comic to follow) with what has felt like a voice from back in time! <<insert spooky theremin howl here.

from the team (spoiler alert: just me) who brought you yelling your white privilege is showing! as a means of shutting down racist fucks. (haven’t done this yet, but i’m gonna if i gotta)

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None shall pass

05/29/2012

a thing i have begun doing fairly recently (within the last year or so) is explaining my background in a way that both acknowledges my mixed race heritage and (more importantly, i feel) acknowledges that i experience “hella white privilege.” a conversation with W. recently made me want to better explore my motivations for revealing* my identity in this matter.

so let’s go back in time for a bit. as a child i tried to come up with words for what i am so that it would make better sense to the uninitiated. chicano came closest, but i find most non-Californians don’t know the word–or have negative associations with it. colloquialisms about race become loaded quickly. finally in my teens i settled on using “humorous”** adaptations like whitezican and mexi-fry. i hoped the implicit sarcasm of these words would both acknowledge the complexity of race (just because it’s a social construct doesn’t mean it doesn’t deeply affect peoples lives, y’all) and ward off racist bullshit. if i served as a visible representation of the “other” so feared and hated by white folks, maybe they would let go of the racism they harbored, not tell that beaner joke, or look at someone with browner skin than both of ours more closely, as a human being rather than a grievance. i know you’re wondering, “well, did it work?” yes and no, but mostly: no. the effect was so low as to be mostly imperceptible, and if anything at times my attempt at humor appeared to open up the floodgates for other peoples’ racist jokes: anti-racist fail, anyone?

what did work, what does work, is to hold people accountable: name the behavior, state the narrative, explain how it makes you feel. sometimes my background comes into play in those explanations, as in, “…it particularly makes me feel that way because racism is not just abstract to me–it is something that affects my family deeply, and that has repercussions in my own life/personal politic,” but i find that’s not always necessary. accountability feels like the most effective tool i have in working against individual acts that perpetuate white supremacy, but i will be the first to confess it’s all a work in progress. there are times when i swallow my tongue out of fear or anxiety. and i am still theorizing on how to fight against the broader ways in which oppression plays out, tho i feel like prison abolition is an important part (and oh god, how to do that?)

what are my other motivations for identifying myself as mixed race when i could otherwise “pass”? i feel like when people make assumptions about my race , they are whitewashing the complex legacy of colonialism, even tho it still affects my life and the lives of my family members on the daily. we are divided by the border, U.S. policy, institutional violence, white imperialism, and other legacies of violence. it is not as simple narratives about skin, although brownness is still treated as unequal to whiteness in the world. i want people (white and otherwise) to understand that i am both an “us” and a “them”, and that the fact that i feel the need to say anything like that is part of why the social construct of race is so shitty.

is it effective to essentially other myself in order to make this experience more visible? well dude, i dunno. how shall we gauge for efficacy, a scale of 1 to 10? the range of frequency with which i have to choose between holding someone accountable or weathering their racist shit? i don’t know. all i know is, fighting white supremacy culture is important–and i am deeply invested in doing so, despite or because of the ways in which it terrifies and challenges me. i will remain vigilant. i will remain critical. i will remain accountable. i will remain engaged, with a constant eye for new tools and sharpening existing ones.

More reading:

 

*vs. “passing,” a term i find super loaded and assumptive, but also pretty well explains my experience if i don’t speak up.

**oh, how my sense of humor has changed over time. geez. i am still embarrassed about this! don’t ever call me those names. evarrr.

trigger warning for racist jokes and the craptitude of white supremacy culture.

de nada

I have very mixed feelings about this meme.

dear A:

let me proffer you my more immediate reaction when you posted the above.

it was Thanksgiving and we were all a little bit drunk. one of my best friends in the entire world (one i claim as brother, not blood but chosen) is laid back on the couch, tossing their head back emphatically as they speak.

do i even remember what they said? i don’t. not the whole thing, but the part that still triggers me a little.

“‘chu,” i can’t even remember the sentence it was strung in, and oh, that put-on accent, the el campesino mock-up, the one no white person should ever put on because it grazes so close to the n-word or lynching jokes.

how could they ever really get it?

i don’t even know if i could even explain, because in my privilege and my place of hiding i laughed uneasily and said, “ugh, stop it! you sound like one of my uncles!”

what i didn’t explain was, you sound like one of my uncles as he dismisses those other Mexicans, the ones we are supposed to be better than, the ones who replaced the Japanese as strawberry-pickers when they were interned into camps, the ones whose backs (and those of other undocumented laborers) carry the weight of this agrarian soon-to-be wasteland, tilling the earth to waste with forced abundance that doesn’t even get distributed but rots in silos like so many dollars in a Swiss bank account (so much waste, waste, waste). the ones whose lives are not even legitimized by the state to live in the US, despite USians’ dependency on their bodies for sustenance (blood, sweat, and toil, toil, toil).

every once in a while i replay this failure of mine to speak up, think of it as the mark of my privilege, passing as white most of the time except when i deem it the right time to call it.

race always comes to the table at Thanksgiving, it’s never forgotten. i keep my family’s many-hued faces in my pocket, rub them like a stone that pricks me with so much hidden.

sometimes i think that the real plague that wiped out so many lives was not smallpox but whitewashing, passing quietly shame that bleeds forgetfulness, pretend we’re better than them because we pass, achieved some measure of economic privilege beyond that of our peers born to other lives with different choices, or because our subset of the family tree has married into legitimacy in the eyes of the state. shame that kills me softly. it’s not true, but it feels sometimes, it feels.

i must do better next time, that’s all. no more blankets of convenience, no more letting  us to ignorance or carelessness.

-RD

This this this

10/15/2011

Marita Isabel on white privilege:

When I think of privilege, I think of choice. White folks have so many choices. Systems have been built in the U.S.A. around the dominant and normative white culture. Everything from public and private education to hiring procedures at corporate and even non-profit offices are built around customs of white communities. Success in the U.S.A. is most often based on individual wealth, climbing the corporate ladder, becoming good at what you do as an individual. And because the systems favor white folks and the culture and practices they are accustomed to, white folks have the advantage in becoming “successful”. Some may argue that there is Affirmative Action, specific scholarships and grants for people of color and that those policies actually benefit POCs. But why were those measures even necessary? Because there was a disparity in the numbers of white folks and POCs who were able to naturally access academic institutions and jobs.

[…]

So if you’re white and reading this, you might ask: What do I do about this? My response is simple. Be aware of it. Educate yourself. Talk to other white folks about how they are responsible with their white privilege. Read articles. Books. Write your own experiences down. Be accountable and take ownership of unearned privilege. Try your hardest not to take for granted all the ways in which society reflects you, all the choices you have laid out in front of you because of your skin color. Try to remember that the way you know how to achieve success is not the only way. And that the path to “success” is not so clear and obstacle-free for your POC coworkers and classmates.