So far, I've been following RaceFail passively, via summaries and linked posts provided by friends more actively engaged in it that I am. Other than leaving a few comments of support, I haven't said anything much, thinking that I should devote most of my time to school right now and that mine wasn't a voice that needed to be heard. Recently, though, some of you
have pointed out that for those of us who are white, remaining disengaged from this discussion or choosing to watch without participating is a choice enabled by our privilege. This was a point I'd failed to really consider, one I'm grateful you made, and since then I've been thinking about what I had to say that I felt might be worth someone's time in reading.
The first thing I want to say, I'm saying as a person who is queer; who is culturally, spiritually, and ethnically Jewish; who doesn't occupy gendered space in the usual ways; and who grew up in the United States in an affluent liberal family with cultural capital to spare. This is something I want to say to other people who are white, or who occupy white social space, while also having experienced marginalization for other aspects of our identities. What I want to say is aimed, essentially, at other people whose experiences are like mine, and it is this:
I do not believe our experiences of marginalization qualify us to understand the racism experienced by people of color. I believe that stating that those experiences are the same, in degree or in kind, co-opts the struggles of people of color while revealing profound naivete about what their struggles are like. I believe that we must learn to listen to people of color talk about their marginalization, oppression, or anger without jumping to our own defense or excusing ourselves based on our own marginalization. We must learn how to engage in conversations where people of color speak about themselves and their experiences, to interrogate our own feelings of discomfort, and to recognize and step back from impulses to make those conversations about us. I am not saying that our experiences are not relevant or should not be shared. I am saying we must learn to pause and consider whether it is the right time and place, and what our motives are for wishing to share them. I do not always do these things well; I am working to do better.
The second thing I wish to say is as a person who writes and who makes that writing available in public forums. What I want to say is not aimed at anyone but myself, ( and so I will cut it, but I want to say it here anyway so that I can find it again and hold myself to it, and the short version is: I believe I need to do better. )
If you are considering commenting on this post, I want you to know that my responses may be slow, but I will respond. If discussion arises, I will actively follow comments to ensure that the discussion remains a safe space (as I understand it), and I will moderate without delay should the tone of the discussion render participation unsafe. While I don't generally bring up RL on this journal, I have made a number of statements that stem from my own experiences, and I know that those of you who share similar experiences may well disagree with my beliefs. I will willingly engage in discussion of what my experiences are and how they have informed my beliefs.
Anything else, inquire within.