Bewildered Part IIBrownFemiPower has a great post up continuing the discussion, Women of Color Morphing into Oppressor Status. It's a must read.
What gave me a kick in the pants was this:
Those white women who are our true allies have heard us and don’t need us to tell them “we don’t mean you as an individual.” They know that because they’ve shut up and listened to us and have recognized that we are empowered individuals and don’t “let” us do anything. They don’t “share” power (because that means that they can “unshare” power if they get mad at us)–they say, “you lead the way, and I’m going to be there to take the blows WITH YOU.”I know on at least a couple of occasions I have apologized to my readers and said, "I don't mean you". The sad part, for me, is that my white readers are already beyond that and I am stuck on it. You may not know it because I can get whipped up in a fury and sometimes write like I am righteous, and intelligent, and believe in myself; but there is always that thought that pops up in odd moments that says, am I really equal? I'm having a hard time right now thinking of a way to say what I want to say. I guess the best would be to tell a story.
I belonged to a Native American group many years ago, we weren't exclusive, if you weren't NA and just wanted to hang with us, no problem. There was a woman in the group who had NA ancestors many generations back and joined us to learn what she could about them and just generally about NA experiences. Now there were certain types who were not welcome, they many times came from this woman's background, which means they are so divorced from those ancestors that they were for all intents and purposes, white; anyhow, they came in looking to see if they could cash in on their gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr grandma's blood to get scholarships, or federal/state Indian trust money, or casino money etc. Or they wanted to learn just enough about our cultures so that they could "play Indian" which more often than not, meant coming up with some mishmash of many different tribes traditions and spirituality and calling that an "authentic" Native American lifestyle. She wasn't one of those. She listened to everyone's stories with great interest but also told her own. We all knew about her husband and kids, and when she changed jobs, and moved house. It was like any friend or neighbor who thinks you are interesting and you think she is interesting and you get along great. I don't know what got up her nose this one day, but we were sitting around discussing current problems on our reservations and things like unemployment came up. She gets a little huffy and chimes in, "Well why don't you just go get a job?" Now the others in the group just stopped talking to her, they knew they got slapped down, but I didn't. I tried to explain that it wasn't that easy and that alot of our reservations are out in the middle of nowhere and you need a car to go into town or maybe even get on a bus and completely leave your home. She didn't hear any of it. She said of course it's easy, you fill out applications and get a job! I tried one more time telling her that cars and gas cost money, that bus fare costs money, that clothes for an interview cost money, the extreme poverty means there is no money, and because of the distance to the nearest city you might be abandoning everything and everyone you know to go somewhere you know is hostile to you. And she dismissed it saying I was just making excuses. She really thought we were either too stupid to think of her simplistic answers ourselves, or too lazy to go and do it. I lost it and gave her hell over it, but her answer to that was that white people don't have to be our friends and listen to anything we say, and yet she did it all this time, and now I was being so rude and ungrateful when she was just trying to help.
I want to quote RMildred again from my last post:
But do you know what really fucking hurts, what really fucking tears my soul apart? when some guy pulls out some often subtle, but none the less substantial, bit of sexist or misogynistic bullshit casually without thinking about it. The only times in my life when I've truely felt degraded have been those times when some guy has basically declared that I, as a woman, am somehow inferior or stupid or weak or not quite fully human like those men show themselves not to be - and do it in such a sort of matter of fact way that a part of my brain actually has to notice that I am actually human because the misogyny has occurred so suddenly, and with such an unquestioning and unwavering sincerity of belief behind it, that I very nearly believe him.
That is what happened to me. I got quiet. I didn't know what to say. I had to stop and ask myself, am I really equal? Am I even human? At that moment in time, I didn't know anymore. Now these kinds of things have happened to me at other times but this one was especially painful because I had been friends with this woman for 2+ years. I didn't see it coming. She never said anything like that before, it was right out of left field. She had said ignorant things in the past, but got an explanation, learned and understood, and we just moved right along.
When I do those posts where I say to my white friends, "I don't mean you." part of it is genuine concern about hurting people. But part of it is fear. If I anger you, I know I can be told again that you don't have to be my friend, or listen to me, and that I should be grateful that you are and you do.
It takes a superhuman effort to love us, so those with white partners only did it as a political gesture. We don't deserve friendship, or empathy, or interest. We need to grovel and shower you with praise and overwhelming gratitude for making the effort. Sure, I'm being sarcastic now, but don't think that it's not in the back of my mind and I sometimes wonder if it's true. It's easier for you to be sure I'm equal and that I am human than it is for me.