White POC & Other Ruminations On Self Serving AsshatsAs I said in my last post, I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts into a single coherent blog post. I've been thinking about several things and I don't know where to start, what is the priority? So I am just going to follow my thoughts where ever they might lead.
I've noticed that online recently many POC writers in general and WOC writers specifically are becoming demoralized and aren't as motivated as they once were. Many of us have or are taking a break, sometimes it's to get things done in the real world, but I also think there is a component of things happening on the internet that we have to absorb and make decisions for ourselves about. It's like we have to re-evaluate what our purpose is.
I'm probably going to misinterpret him, but I don't think he will mind, and he will correct me if I am wrong anyway. Once upon a time, Nezua asked me why I was so involved in the flamewars and online drama. At the time it puzzled me and I explained that it was just the place I found myself in growing and understanding things. I think he already knew I was spinning my wheels and was trying to give me a push forward, but I needed time to discover it for myself. He has a relevant quote in the comments here.
I think we have to accept that until we fight for human rights equally applied to all, we can't expect anything to get better, and we dont really have the right to single only ourselves out for rights. Seems simple. Like you, I am not interested in fighting for the status quo that props up one privileged class and type, but am for giving all people the power and autonomy and respect and chances that we all feel we should have.BlackAmazon writes a related post too, Truth Telling. I can't pull out the one good quote because I would end up just reposting the entire thing. Nezua's post is all good too (read it), but that one quote was a powerful punch I wanted for this post, BA's entire post is a powerful series of asskicking.
My mistake was thinking that white liberals who blog and especially white feminists were ignorant about the way society and culture affect people of color, if you explained it, then they would be more supportive of our ideas and causes. It took me awhile to see that unity and solidarity were only for their ideas and causes and that for the most part it is all about them. This is what both Nezua and BA are talking about in their posts and how they are rejecting those who are users for only their own goals. I'm not so dense that I didn't figure out long ago that this is true for a few, but I didn't want to see the bigger picture and how true it is for many.
This takes many forms but one of the hardest for us to work against is our white POC brothers and sisters. Sounds like an oxymoron, and I am a bit leery about bringing this up, I remember the Michael Steele campaign and how blacks were accused of hurling oreos at him (they didn't) but it was used to take the spotlight off of Steele and his anti-black agenda. Many black bloggers understand this because they face a backlash when they raise the house negro vs the field negro dichotomy. We are accused of being racist ourselves when we don't accept everyone with brown skin, including those who are harmful to us collectively and are as self-serving as many white people. But there are POC who will tell white people what they want to hear in order to get ahead, and there are POC who have been socialized and acculturated to believe in the all-American racist stereotypes. I know some personally. Is it really that hard to believe that a Native American who was raised in a white middle class neighborhood might absorb racist stereotypes about his/her people as well as other POC? That person might believe that the reason they got ahead was because of hard work, and not see that better schools in their middle class neighborhood helped, or that money and their parents white connections helped, and that person thinks white and acts white and is seen as "safe". This is the unfortunate person we hear about when white people want to contradict our truths with their "NDN, black, asian, latino etc friend" who thinks that racism isn't a problem and that we're just making a mountain out of a molehill. That person has faced racism, especially if they are clearly "different" looking, but might attribute it to those lazy drunken welfare/casino injuns over there who make a bad example and ruin it for the rest of "us" and make white people think "they're all like that". It's also what we are talking about when white people tell us "Not you. You're one of the good ones." They mean we are assimilated and they notice we are white POC, or as Archie Bunker says, "You're a credit to your race." A white POC will think this is a compliment, instead of seeing it as an extention of racism. On my own reservation, I can point out the lazy drunken welfare/casino NDN, they really are there, BUT I can also point out the MANY families who work hard at their jobs or at school, who are trying to raise their children to be honorable and have good values, and give them the best life they are able, those who don't drink at all, those who drink occasionally to celebrate, those who are great cooks, those who are wonderful friends and you can count on in a pinch, etc etc etc. In other words, most of us are "one of the good ones"! It's only a compliment when you believe the racist stereotypes, and when you accept the compliment you reinforce the racist stereotypes. When you accept the compliment you're basically saying, yes I am better than those people over there without acknowledging or knowing they are exactly like you, they are good people too.
The thing that makes me angry is that the bad parts of my reservation I have seen mirrored in white communities. Some youth do abuse alcohol and drugs, then they grow up and get responsible and raise families. A few never do and become alcoholics or drug addicts, just like the white person's grandpa or aunt that no one talks about. Some will engage in criminal behavior, break into houses or businesses, shoplift, drink and drive, etc. This is a very few young people and they grow out of it too. White people hide or ignore these exact same problems in their communities. The 19 yr old NDN who gets drunk on the weekend is a degenerate, but their own teen rolling in at 3am with beer on his breath? Kids will be kids is the public view, the private one is fear if they are drinking and driving or abusing it to the point of other dangerous behaviors or blackouts...which is the same way Native American parents feel about their kids.
Back to white POC, I think it's easy to see the conservative POC this way, but there are also liberal POC like this. Many of the most linked to and accepted POC in the liberal blogosphere are like this, the same goes for those POC who blog on mostly white blogs. There are exceptions, Steve Gilliard comes to mind. I think he is popular because he has a variety of viewpoints about issues that white people are interested in. He hasn't changed his writing to agree with white people, but he also does not concentrate his posts on mostly racial issues. That alone does make him "safer". Also Wampum, I don't think it will hurt MBW or EBW's feelings to say that alot of their popularity comes from the Koufax Awards. They have both mentioned it already themselves, that their readers spike during the awards, but only the usual suspects are commenting on their meatier threads.
I won't name names, because I am not interested in starting a new flame war. But these white POC bloggers tend to not write about racial issues but say things like, I am glad I can talk about anything, and not race, because my readers are colorblind. Psst, the only reason your readers are colorblind is because you do not talk about race. Or their racial posts boil down to, "Oh my, racism is bad and a problem, what do you (white folks) think?" And then bails from the conversation, does not give any direction or insight, because the white POC has none. They actually sound the same as clueless white liberals who want to start a discussion about race to make themselves sound like they care, but they haven't done the research, read and/or commented on POC blogs, or have actual relationships with POC in the real world, to know anything because they don't really care. These white POC don't care either, they got theirs and that's all that matters. But they know that their white fans are expecting something and have to throw them a shallow, cursory, post about race that makes everyone feel good and enlightened.
A real life example, one of these white POC interviewed a WOC writer who does write about race, and did something that would be expected of a racist white interviewer; ignored the real life circumstances to fit the WOC blogger into a racist stereotype. She was portrayed as a poor single mother (she's not) and her academic credentials were downplayed while inventing or playing up the pitiful needs-to-be-saved aspects. It's the white POC bloggers way of putting distance between themselves and other POC and telling the white readers, "I'm more like you. I'm one of the good ones. She's a stereotype, you can feel sorry for her but don't have to take her too seriously." That's the biggest problem I have with these white POC, their overwhelming need to undercut "the competition", to hide their own ignorance and internalized racism. The WOC blogger is still angry and feels betrayed about this, she does not want knowledge of this interview and the misinformation in it spread. So I will not say anymore about it except to say, it happened. If she decides to come forward and say more, I'll be there to support her, but that's up to her.
A more recent and disturbing trend is that as these white POC's profile is raised they feel pressure to write more on race, but because they know nothing, they have been stealing content from POC blogs and rewriting it to make it appear that it is their own research and words. You could excuse it and think that maybe these writers just coincidentally happened to pick the same subject matter if it happened only once, maybe even twice, but this has happened several times. It's also happening with a handful of white writers who want to appear plugged into the POC community. I personally would out these frauds and plagarists immediately if it was purely up to me, but there are a few problems with that. The ones they are stealing from are absolutely against online drama and flamewars, it's a distraction to the work they want to do, the information they want to disseminate, and the other goals they have for their blogs. They know that the frauds will fight tooth and nail and send their minions out to harrass them, and come up with their semantic battles and excuses, and that nothing real and important will get done while everyone is choosing sides. I hope at the very least this post will be taken as a warning that the thieves are on notice, we see what they are doing and they had better start giving credit where it is due. How hard is it to link to someone who inspires you or to quote them directly and ask your readers to go over and read and comment on those blogs? It's what I do with these same POC bloggers. I don't need to steal from them because I'm not here to impress racist white people with pretend knowledge. I write what I know and send people over to read other blogs when I don't.
I don't have a stat counter, so I am only guessing, but I would estimate that probably half my readers are POC and half are white. Not all white people don't give a damn, but considering how large the blogosphere is, it's a handful who are interested enough to read and comment on POC blogs which discuss racial issues. I've had discussions with other POC bloggers about how to raise our profile and the only answer we have come up with is to forget our own concerns and issues and talk about the things white people are interested in. Most of us can't and won't do that. All of us do have other things that we are interested in and concerned about and we do write about those larger issues, but race is too important to exclude, and it's too important to lie about or make palatable for white people to the point of being meaningless and comfortable.
I'd like to revisit this in other contexts and tie it all up, especially regarding the posts by Nezua and BlackAmazon. I'll see if I can't do it in the next day or two and not draw it out book length next time. LOL