Tag Archives: community

Post the Forty-Seventh or On Taking up Space

I went to a party the other night for a friend of a friend who was celebrating his first anniversary of being on T. I was in a room full of gender-varient queers with awesome music playing and lots of hotties to look at. Why, then, did I feel so alone in that space? These people, ostensibly, are my peers. They are my comrades-at-arms against cissexism and heteropatriarchy. What was the problem?

And then I realized that there were only 3 women of color (you know we were in a group the whole time) at the party, myself included, and no transwomen, brown or otherwise. The room was full of white transmen and queer women. And many of them live in JP, the same neighborhood that the party was held. A neighborhood that has been historically a community of mostly Black and Latin@ working class people. And yet here are all these white, upwardly mobile queers gentrifying (read: internal colonization) the hood and they didn’t even have the decency to have any sort of real diversity?

More to the point, this party was explicitly billed as a queer/trans party celebrating someone’s transmasculine identity. And while the party in and of itself isn’t bad (aside from my reaction to if being on of discomfort), you can invite who ever the eff you want to your party, I think that it says a lot about that general trends of what is visible in the queer/trans community. And that is that it is mostly white and mostly transmasculine.

And don’t give me that, “Oh we reached out to communities of color but they didn’t come! It’s their fault for not participating!” Because that is just bullshit. The reason why POC don’t show up for your event/party/campaign etc is because there is no space made for them. Why would anyone want to enter a space where their voices, histories and thoughts are ignored? Why would anyone want to enter a space where folks were committing microagressions left and right? Moreover, who would want to be in a space that has historically excluded them?

I think one of the things that the white queer/trans community fails to realize is that there are many communities held within the queer community. And as such, one can’t expect the queer experience to be universal or think that all queers want the same thing. I couldn’t care less if middle-upper class white gays get to marry. That’s just not salient to me. I do care about non-discrimination legislations (although not hate crimes legislation cause that shit doesn’t work and it just adds black and brown bodies to the PIC). I do care about affordable housing and access to healthcare and educational/job opportunities. These are the things that are important in my life.

But all the time, energy and money is spent trying to get marriage equality and why is that? Because it is the thing that effects white people the most. The folks who participate and run Gay, Inc (read: HRC) already have access to safe housing, healthcare, education etc. The single issue politics involved in advocating for marriage equality just alienating and frustrating because the purport to speak for the whole of the queer community when, in fact, they only speak for a small section of it.

And to add insult to injury, if one creates a space for black and brown queers only or focus on the accomplishments of queer people of color, white people get butt hurt and insist that they be included because it would be “racist” otherwise. They won’t make a space for us with them (and if they do it tokenizing) and when we do it for ourselves, they feel entitled to that space.

I write this so that my white sisters and brothers (and others with privileged identities like being able bodied, wealthy, male etc) will understand that they take up space by default and that their voices, histories, thoughts and opinions are given precedence over POC voices. I want my white allies to not only be anti-racist but to be aware of how they are taking up space. I want my white allies to be able to co-create room for POC voices.I want my queer/trans white allies to have the concerns of POC in the forefront of their minds while the plan campaigns.Most of all, I want my white allies to check other white people on their white privilege and tell them if they are taking up to much space so that a POC doesn’t have too. This is because it is not our responsibility to educate white folks on white privilege, which is often a very pain process for us, it is yours.

And I also want my fierce queer/trans people of color to come together and make space for ourselves. I want to see more transwomen of color coming together in sisterhood. I want to see transmen of color come together for brotherhood. And I want us all to come together to keep each other safe, supported, and loved. I want us to come out of the alienating space of white queerness that doesn’t have a critical analysis of race, which tokenizes us and keeps us separated, and unite so that we can create self-actualizing communities that feed us.

Communities that give us the strength to fight this battle called racism in america and win.

Advertisements

Post the Forty-Forth or On the True Nature of Racism

The other day, I got into a huge Facebook fight about the nature of racism. (As a side note, this shit seems to happen to me ALL the time. Although I must admit that I have a hard time letting things slide). To the white commenters, racism is individual. It is one person, regardless of color, hating another. One person in particular was complaining about being discriminated against because he was white. And oh those mean brown people, how could they do that? How could they be so mean? Don’t you know who I am?

I was struck, not the first time, the difficulty of talking about racism with white people. Especially white people who don’t recognize their privilege. I often get very frustrated, angry and hurt. Frustrated because they don’t understand where I am coming from, angry because it’s just another manifestation of racism and hurt because it reminds me how fucked the world is. Moreover, it seems that I have these conversations with people I consider friends and it hurts me to be so invalidated and ignored. Most of all, however, it hurts because they are often implying that I’m the racist for calling them out on the white privilege and that is the king of ironies.

The other thing that struck me was that there was a part of me that wanted to agree with them. There was a small voice in my head that said, “What if they are right? What if I’m the racist one?” I quickly called someone to talk about the experience and was brought back to myself in short order. It reemphasized for me, however, the importance of being surrounded by a strong community. For like the sea beating upon the shore, if I don’t have some sort of insulating and protecting factor, I will be washed away like so much flotsam. The medium of racism that all people of color exist in is caustic to our being and personhood and if we hang out in it unprotected by community, our identities, our-selves, are quickly washed of any definition. We become a round, indistinct blobs that have no purchase and no personality. And the result of that is a soul crushing alienation from our-selves. At least, that is my experience.

So, for the record, racism is a system of oppression (that is given power by white supremacy) that privileges people of European/white decent over Third World people/people of color/brown people. It is the marriage of prejudice and power. It is a complex system that manifests in ways as audacious as apartheid to as subtle as everyday interactions. Racism is the reason why the poverty rate for Black and Latin@s is more then half then that of their white counterparts. Racism is the reason why Black people make up 39.4% of the total prison population and yet make up only 12.6% of the total population in the United States. Racism is the reason why young people of color go to college less then their white counterparts.

But more then that, racism is the reason why people of color experience a deep alienation from themselves. Racism is the reason why we feel disaffected, dissatisfied and depressed. There is a reason why Black and Latin@ have elevated rates of depression over their white peers.  Racism is why we have the soul consuming anger that we constantly have to surpress because otherwise we get ostracized at best or jailed at worst. Racism is a daily reality for people of color. It is inescapable.

The other point I want to make is that racism can only go one way. This is because people of color don’t have the institutional power oppress white people. People of color can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to do so. Can they be prejudiced? Absolutely! But even then the context is different. When I say that I am tired of dealing with white people, I’m not saying that they are inferior to me or that I hate them or that I want to commit genocide on their people. What I am saying is that after centuries of being hated, called inferior etc, I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. And anyone who thinks that that is unreasonable needs to go take a long walk off a short pier. If we lived in a post-racist society then I would totally be in the wrong. If those power differentials didn’t exist, then I would need to revise my position.

But that is the thing; we DO NOT live in a post racist society.

Racism is still real, today. Ask anyone at the Rez if genocide is being committed. Ask anyone who as lived in low income communities for generations if colonization still isn’t happening today (read: gentrification). Ask anyone stopped by the police if Jim Crow is still alive. Ask any families separated by ICE if racism is still real.

So before you go complaining about how you are oppressed as a white person, remember that you will never have to worry about the things mentioned above. And you might not like it seeing all this. This might be painful. It’s hard to look in the mirror and see someone who is implicated in the death of generations of people. But trust me, it is better then the alternative.