What Makes Me Minorly Afraid

I have been thinking about the women of color/people of color bloggers and their dissatisfaction with the big bloggers, along with the general feelings of discontent some women of color bloggers feel with the big feminist bloggers.

And I was telling the Professor this afternoon that what worries me is that, again, as a somewhat insider, it’s hard for me to tell something–and it’s something I suspect.

It seems to me that, often times, people of color seem to assume that if we white people weren’t such racists, we’d stop being such assholes to them.

What if that’s not true?

What if, to some degree, we’re just assholes to each other?

Do you see what I’m saying?

Let’s say that I’m a racist asshole blogger and then something happens, some charming and funny person finally gets through to me and I suddenly get that brown and black people are not ruining everything.  I am converted.  I am no longer a racist asshole.  I might have some work to do, but I’m not going to go around intentionally hurting folks any more.

This is a best case scenario and I must say, probably the story that most of us tell ourselves about who we are as progressives.

But here’s my suspicion.  Say instead that we are, in general, just assholes.  And the ways that white people are assholes to each other is a.) not always readily obvious to non-whites and b.) so ingrained in us as just the way we treat each other that it’s no longer always readily obvious to us (see, for instance, my Pretty, Pretty Princess post in which it took me how many comments in to realize I was just reframing the virgin/whore thingy and blaming the “whores”?  Pretty asshole on my part.)?

In this case, you could have an encounter in which a WOC blogger says to a big mainstream feminist blogger, “Hey, when you talk about how important it is for women of any age to be able to get sterilized without any hassle, do you not see how this can create more problems for those of us in communities where we’re often sterilized as a matter of course?  We don’t need the sterilization of twenty-somethings to be thought of as routine.  We need it to be thought of as abhorrent” (to use an example that Mag brings up often, that hits home for me).  And the mainstream white feminist blogger says something that dismisses the WOC blogger’s concerns, like, say, “I appreciate your concerns, but the world is too full of people anyway, why should feminists waste their time helping women add to the problem?”

You can see right away where this goes wrong.  The WOC blogger sees “add to the problem” and assumes, rightly, that there’s some notion of the addition of brown people to the world as adding to some problem.

The MWFB thinks that she would have told anyone, regardless of her color, to buzz off if she were yammering on about how we need to fight for women to be able to have more children.

Here’s my fear.  That both are right.  The MWFB is being racist; the WOC is absolutely right about that.  But, even if race were removed from the equation, the MWFB would not have acted any different.

In other words, she’s a racist and an asshole.  And WOC and their allies can shout until they are hoarse about how racist MWFB are, but that’s only part of the problem, I think.

And I want to make clear: this is not WOC’s problem.  If they perceive something as racist asshole behavior, they have every right to call us on it and expect us, if we truly want to be their allies in social justice and reform, to change.

This is our problem.  If someone says, “Hey, you’re treating me like shit, you racist.” and we think, “Hey, we’d treat anyone like shit in this circumstance, regardless of race; we’re not racist.” we’re still admitting that we’re treating people like shit.

That’s ours to deal with, right there. 

And that’s what I fear the POC bloggers are butting their heads against–not just racism in the white feminist blogosphere, but our complete denial of our asshole behavior towards others regardless of race.