The Silence of Our Friends

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Silence of Our Friends

As most of you know, I had taken a partially involuntary but somewhat needed blog break to try to get a handle on my out of control life. It's still out of control, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. The runaway train is on an incline and slowing down just before the edge of the cliff! (I'm such a drama queen; truly more dramatic, and more queenly than SylbiaKitteh, if you ask me. But no, I'm but a shadow to the true drama queen of all drama queens...BlackAmazon!)

Anyway, so now I'm back, and trying to catch up a bit. Then I make the mistake of reading the blog at Bitch Magazine, where Jessica Yee has made the mistake of accepting a guest blogging stint. Oh Gawd! Jessica wrote a snarky post about hippy/hipster cultural appropriation, and the white folks got angry and defensive. How dare she spoil their fun at playing Indian dress up! And of course there was no moderation, so it was a privilege and entitlement festival. I did the best I could to give Jessica some back-up, but it took a lot out of me. After days and days of this bullshit I was alternating between shaking with rage and crying from the futility of it all.

I wish I could say this is something new, but it's old, so very old. It's always the same thing with these so called liberal white feminists. What always gets to me is the silence of our friends. I wouldn't have named my blog that if it wasn't the one thing that hurts the most. Every time, these liberal whites who claim to be anti-racist suddenly are no where to be found when they are needed. When push comes to shove, they side with the power, they side with whiteness. They do one of three things:
---If they say anything it's, "Stop making a fuss." or "Get over it." They have to hush us, because we're making their white friends uncomfortable. And the comfort of the white people always comes before anti-racism.
---Or they completely ignore it, they pretend they didn't see what is happening. You won't see the white feminists discussing this at Feministing, Pandagon, or Feministe. Nope, no one from those blogs saw what was happening at BitchBlog.
---Or they are just so surprised and shocked when racism happens they don't know what to do! This was the excuse that the moderators at BitchBlog used. It's funny how they know what to do when a sexist troll comes along, but racist trolls? Gosh! It's too difficult to tell them, you can stop or you can leave.

When I first got online, I thought maybe these people are so sheltered they don't recognize racism. I don't believe that anymore. They know what's going on and they are sitting back debating whether they want to side with the powerless. And they decide that no, they won't get involved, they don't want to upset the important (white) people. No biggie, the brown folks are used to white people riding roughshod all over them anyway.

Watch it in action. I want you to watch a video over at youtube. It's about 8 minutes long. In the video a black woman is shopping at a boutique in SoHo and the sales woman and security are BLATANTLY racist towards her. The ones who are most likely to jump in and defend her are other POC, the white people pretend they don't see whats going on, or are simply shocked and don't know what to do (yeah, right, but they keep right on shopping), or they side with the white person ("I bet she used the race card"), or it's not their business.

There are only two instances where white women have a different reaction. The first, a white woman does everything in her power to deny what she is hearing, until she can no longer deny it, and then all she does is break down into a puddle of white woman tears. Those mean people made her witness racism! They busted her post-racial color-blind bubble! But she didn't do a damned thing about it, did she?

The second, a white woman defends the black woman (and her white friend is kind of along for the ride). She stayed and witnessed it all, she loudly protests what they are doing to her, only leaves with the black woman, so, as far as she knows, protecting her from some trumped up charges. Her actions are what finally pricks the consciences of the other white people and many leave the store with them. See, POC don't know racism, so white people need other white people to tell them when something racist is happening, or they don't give a damn what POC think, but care very much what other white people think.

How much you want to bet that every one of those white people would say they are anti-racist? This is SoHo, artsy liberal hipster country.

The only anti-racist was that last woman. I know most POC will go our entire lives without meeting someone like her. We go through racism every day of our lives and all the "anti-racists" around us always have the excuse that they're just surprised by racism and so of course they can't be expected to do anything about it. Considering how many white people I know who insist, INSIST, that they are anti-racist, witnessing white people stepping in without any prompting, like this woman did, should be a common occurrence. It is so unusual that I always cry when I watch that lady in action. I can't watch that video. It hurts knowing that what should be a normal reaction is damn near a miracle.

That ABC News crew got damn lucky she was in the store that day, otherwise they wouldn't have had any white person who would actually defend the black woman at all, just one in a hundred who will shed a tear when they have to witness racism.

This is what is meant by "the silence of our friends", this is the same thing that white liberal feminists do to us all the time. But they can't understand why we don't want anything to do with them or their "feminism". Watch, watch the next time there is a racist flare up in the blogosphere. At the blog it's happening at, there will be mostly WOC defending each other, a small minority of white women also speaking up, the blog owners and or moderators will do nothing, or flail uselessly late in the game, or worse defend their white friends. Oh and at least a couple white liberal men will do their white knight act, come charging in to help the defenseless frail white women from the brutish WOC. And the other big feminist blogs? Twiddling their thumbs and studiously avoiding seeing or saying anything just like most of those white shoppers in the video. Their "intersectionality" consists of pretending they care about us, for appearance sake, white people are all about appearances, but actually fighting against racism? HAHAHAHAHA You have got to be kidding!

22 comment(s):

I hadn't seen the Bitch thread until now, but the moderator's response has me so enraged.

"Please email us with suggestions for how to make this a safer space--"

NO. Again? What? No! It's like even when things have irrevocably gone to hell and cost people like you and Jessica and Shelby and Juan and so many others there so much, EVEN STILL--

"Here, Native people, before you all leave to go take care of yourselves and recoup from this mess, would you first mind telling me how to fix it?"

I mean?!--Here's an ancient sacred instrument known as the banhammer, toots. It's not perfect but it'd be a start!

I didn't mean to get so hung up on that. I'm sorry. There's so much else here and, once again, Donna, I'm grateful for every time you're able to get online and lay it out so clearly. I agree with you that it's not a comprehension problem. I wanted to think it was, obviously, and it is true that white privilege lets you go potentially all your life without having a clue, but the clue bus in feminist circles has gone around and around and around, and you see how often we get on it? Yeah, not often at all.

Well, now for reblogging. Thank heavens I've blocked the people who are a little too prone to CRYING at me.

By Anonymous ilyka, at 4/30/2010 2:35 AM  

I completely agree with all of this, Donna. That thread was just AWFUL. And I left a comment in support of Jessica, but I did not have the energy to respond to the annoying, petulant white-person foot stomping present in many of the comments. Which is ridiculous, on some level, but part of it, for me, was "REALLY, people, really? On a *feminist* website, no less?"

It all makes me wish that I didn't have so many pain/fatigue issues so that I could be out there fighting the good fight, like you so bravely did in that thread.

By Blogger annaham, at 4/30/2010 7:58 AM  

OMFG, that Bitch thread.

"Sure, maybe BAD THINGS happened to indigenous people A LONG TIME AGO, or so I vaguely remember reading in third grade... I couldn't be bothered to educate myself, y'see, because I was soooooo busy.... but don't you agree that EVERY DAMN CONVERSATION needs to be about Nice White Irish Ladies' feelings getting butthurt? I mean, that's really what every conversation about oppression should really FOCUS on, DON'T YOU THINK? What? No? WHY DO YOU HATE DIALOGUE SO MUCH?"

ilyka, lolling at "ancient sacred instrument known as the banhammer."

(Incidentally, this is my first comment here, but I lurked before the hiatus. I'm so glad The Silence of Our Friends is back! Yay!!)

By Anonymous Sarah MB, at 4/30/2010 10:10 AM  

Echoing Ilyka that the moderator response was predictable and despicable. "We love the vigorous debate going on here" (or something to that effect).

Yeah, because a pile-on is always sign that somehow, somewhere, a white person is being EDUCATED. And that's what's important.

By Blogger seitzk, at 4/30/2010 4:20 PM  

I almost didn’t comment on this, because I’m terrified of putting my foot in my mouth AGAIN. That being said, reading this post, I got the impression that you (and others) feel like you fought a losing battle on the thread in question, and didn’t do anyone a lick of good. I want to tell you that you did me a world of good.

As a white, privileged contributor to that thread, I want to say two things:
(1) I’m sorry.
(2) Thank you, you helped me so much.

(Stop reading now if that’s enough. The point of this next is not to make excuses, but to explain how grateful I am. Please don’t feel obligated to read it, and please stop and save me from further embarrassment if it gets too whiny, and please, please delete if it if it’s offensive.)

I’m 23, I grew up in a place so white that I know people who are adults who have never met a POC. I am new to feminism (a couple of weeks reading blogs). I stumbled across Ms. Yee’s post completely by accident, and it was the first time I’d read or heard the phrases “cultural appropriation” and “white privilege” in a frame of mind where I could hear them and think - “what the hell is that?” (I’m sure I’d heard them before, I was just oblivious.) I read up on it and (I’m embarrassed to admit this) I got really defensive and sort of pissed off, and totally thought a bunch of privileged nonsense, and to my shame, posted some of it (anonymously). One of my posts in particular, I felt really good and righteous about, because it didn’t disparage POC (I thought), but did show I wasn’t racist (I thought), and did show some POC how they could be more sympathetic to me (I thought). You might know which post I mean, because you responded to it. And your response was so kind, and showed such good faith (even though I didn’t deserve it, and even though you might not have believed it), that I was shocked into actually thinking about it, and actually listening to what you, Ms. Yee, and so many others said.

In addition to sort of shattering my world (in a good bad way), this brought me closer to my dad. I brought up racism in a conversation with my dad (and I was scared to, because he’s never talked to me about racism in 23 years, and he likes Westerns). I showed him two of the books I’d started reading, some of the blogs I’d found, and laid the whole thread out for him to see. It was a revelation: we talked about how privilege helps us, personally, and our family and friends and way of life, until 3 am. Right before I went to bed, he told me, “If there’s any justice in the world, we’re going to hell. It’s a problem because we’re all complicit. The only way to not be complicit, really, is to start throwing bombs – but in reality, we’re not ready to do that. So we’re part of the problem.”

And all of that, world shattering, personal experience, extremely uncomfortable personal growth (I hope), is why I feel like I owe you, specifically, and Ms. Yee and the contributors to the thread generally, a personal debt of gratitude. I also recognize that “thanks” and “sorry” aren’t very meaningful, but I will keep reading, and keep trying to find a median I can live with between throwing bombs and doing nothing. I know in the past I was one of the women who kept shopping and tried to ignore what was going on. I’d like to be a defender in the future, and I hope I have the strength of character to be one. I’m really sorry about the thread. Thank you so, so much.

By Anonymous Fred Smith, at 4/30/2010 7:04 PM  

Hi Donna,

I've missed you.

This is a great post. I don't have much else to say, but I'm glad you're around, and I missed you.


By Blogger Anna, at 4/30/2010 8:04 PM  

Is it okay if I give this post a Signal Boost at my blog?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/15/2010 2:10 PM  

Sure, I certainly don't mind. I'm just surprised that someone is still reading here. Thank you for that!

By Blogger Donna, at 11/15/2010 2:34 PM  

nice work i shud start reading ur articles..m new so it will help me thankuuu fr writing such a nice blog

By Blogger Hïmánshu, at 3/20/2011 7:00 AM  

Some anonymous coward keeps trying to leave her racist rants on my blog... Anonymous coward, go chit chat on some white power blog where you belong.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/02/2011 12:14 AM  

“Fear makes strangers of people who would otherwise be your friend.” It is sadly ironic that this post is racist and makes generalizations about "whites". If you put people into a box or a category you have set them up to fail. There are angry, mean people out there of every race and of every colour but the same can be said that there are beautiful souls amongst us of every race and colour. It is important to stop this vicious cycle. Would it also help persuade you if you knew this came from an African American, though it shouldn't matter.

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