I’m not saying that racism isn’t a very relevant problem, because it is.
That isn’t the aim of this.
But how come feminism- which put race issues ahead of women’s own issues in its movement- and Slut Walks and Occupy Wall Street, etc. are all accused of having racist undertones?! I don’t think the founders of the Slut Walk were thinking “let’s protest to reclaim our bodies and stop victim blaming……….UNLESS THEY’RE BLACK LOLOLOLOLOLOL!” And I don’t think Occupy Protesters, in the development of their movement thought “Okay, so let’s protest against a plutocracy…..EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF BLACK PEOPLE BECAUSE HAHA FUCK THEM WHO CARES IF THEY’RE POOR!”
I understand that racism is an issue, but it isn’t present in every issue. Black people not getting involved is the issue, but it isn’t the issue of the movements themselves which end up being predominantly white-led. We need to, instead of being so quick to point the “racism” finger at worthwhile, beneficial movements, find a way to engage black people more and make them feel like they are more than welcome to come out and be part of a movement. I feel like THAT is the real problem, not racism of feminists, slut walkers, or ows protesters.
I understand that I will never understand what it feels like to be a minority race because I have never been one. I could be completely off-base here, but I honestly don’t think I am. I open this up for criticism and valid proof of opposing views to my opinion. This just comes from my white privilege, which by no means implies that I haven’t faced my own suffering or my own disadvantages being a female, college student, physically unwell, 20-year-old.
Okay, let’s talk about ways to make Black people feel more welcome and engaged.
Step #1: Don’t put scare quotes around “racism” and talk about it dismissively. You say up front that you don’t want to say that racism isn’t a real problem… okay, so why do you then turn around and say exactly that?
Step #2: Realize that the fact that the organizers of OWS and SW were not thinking about race is the problem that needs to be solved.
Step #3: Listen. When people of color come to you with their complaints, or air them out for the world to see, or simply air them out in a place where the world can see them, you have a choice. The correct choice would be to listen to them.
Now, if your goal is not to engage with people as equals and make sure they feel welcome and encourage them to participate in your movements, then this thing you’re doing here where you talk about “racism” and how the problem is them and all that… this is a brilliant thing to do if your goal is to alienate people and convince them to write you/your movements off and stay home. Brilliant.
If that’s not your goal, though, then your approach needs work.
Step #4: Realize that racism is endemic to our society, and realize what that means. Specifically, it means that racism is a part of every issue. Women’s issues? Women of color are women, so their issues are women’s issues. Does that sound glib? It’s also true. And it’s only the beginning.
Have you ever heard the word “intersectionality”? Think of it in math terms as the difference between multiplication and addition. You might think that someone who is disabled and Black, or a sex worker and Black, or poor and Black, has those social disadvantages added together. Nope. Where they intersect, they multiply. Anything that a cop (or politician or employer or bank officer) might disrespect about a person, anything that might make them see a person as being less like themselves, less like the model of citizen they’re supposed to be serving or protecting or employing, less human… the more of these categories apply, the more the effects are felt.
As a trans woman I can’t walk across a park at night without risking being hassled by cops who assume I’m there for sex work. But it’s just hassling. If I were a trans woman of color, I’d be taking my freedom and life in my hands.
You’re a twenty something white college girl. If you sit down on a sidewalk at a protest, you might get pepper sprayed in the face. If you weren’t white? You wouldn’t have to be at a protest to experience police brutality, and if it even made the news people would be wondering what you did to deserve it. And it might not be pepper spray you got shot with. If you got arrested as a twenty year old white girl, you might be processed and released and then you get to go home and blog about what fascist pigs the cops are and hey isn’t this America. Black people don’t have to ask if this is America. They know it is, and they know what that means for them.
We have a system that treats profit as an end unto itself, so corporations will screw everyone they can get away with screwing to the extent they can get away with screwing them. Does that sound unbiased? Of course it does. The corporation is an equal opportunity predator… oh, but guess what? We don’t live in a land of equal opportunity. So they can get away with more against certain sectors of the population.
Police will abuse their power? Of course they will. And guess who they’ll get away with abusing it against most often?
Politicians will put their personal interests above those of their constituents? Obviously this will happen. But even the most cynical and greedy ones will identify with certain of their constituents more than others.
If you can name an issue that race actually doesn’t affect, it can only mean you’re talking about a situation that’s already completely racially homogeneous, which means… well, race has already affected it.