Living in the Pacific Northwest as a white person has been interesting to say the least. We have so many quirks here (like wearing socks and sandals) but one of my least favorite things is how white people like myself deal with race. I grew up here and my family never really talked about race – living in an overwhelmingly white community and having mostly white friends meant that race was never something I had to really think about too much. The northwest is considered a ‘progressive’ place and because of that, I never learned about all the insidious ways racism existed in the region.
I wrote on Monday that I haven’t been able to stop reading what’s been going and honestly, that hasn’t changed. There’s still so much that’s going on and so much that’s come out just in the last couple days. I wanted to share more articles and videos to really continue putting everything in context but to also just show how horrifying things are right now.
Over the weekend, I was glued to the screen to my phone, watching the events violently unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia and trying to understand both what’s happening in real time and the context for it all. It’s difficult for so many reasons to really keep up and understand what’s been going on but here’s a brief timeline of what happened on Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville.
Despite being an avid lover of ghost stories and haunted houses, I’m not much of a horror movie fan. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to this film genre – I saw the film Quarantine and barely slept for a few days and there were some episodes of the show Supernatural that freaked me out if I watched them too late at night. But when the film Get Out came out with wild praises, I was intrigued by and ultimately loved the film.
I’ve been wondering over the past few days if I could have done more in the last few months regarding the election. I’ve felt guilt and some sort of responsibility for not being more involved because the answer is that yes, I could have done a lot more. I could and should have had more conversations with people, especially about Trump’s racist, misogynist, xenophobic platform.
In the past two days, people have blamed third party voters (particularly in swing states), low turnout rates, the electoral college, the gutted Voter’s Right Act, strict and inaccessible voter ID laws, and more. Honestly, I see it as a combination as all of the above and more.
democracy is this cool system where you yell at people online for 6 months and then people in Ohio and Florida pick the president
— Albro (@bromanconsul) 14 June 2016
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about tokenism, diversity for the sake of appearance, and the making of one experience into a universal story. Watching shows that have more than the Hollywood typical cast of straight cis white people is often a breath of fresh air and it’s even better when the characters aren’t cringeworthy stereotypes of their identities or last longer than an episode or two. Code Switch’s recent podcast episode talks about some of these issues, especially in the context of something called rep sweats.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own whiteness, complicity in oppressive systems, and desire to be seen as the perfect ally. I’m obsessed with being seen as a good white person and I hate having my faults publicly pointed out by someone else, which is a whole lot of shit that I need to work through for myself and without dumping on the people of color in my life. So right now, I’m going to start that process here as a way to really confront my own faults, dig deeper into my own white pain, and find a way in which to move forward.
When you hear, ‘black lives matter,’ don’t instinctively respond that all lives matter, as if one statement negates the other. Instead, try to understand why people of color might be compelled to remind the world that their lives have value.
When others share their reality, don’t immediately dismiss them because their reality is dissimilar to yours, or because their reality makes you uncomfortable and forces you to see things you prefer to ignore.
Avoid creating a hierarchy of human suffering as if compassion were a finite resource. Don’t assume that if one person says, ‘These are the ways I am marginalized,’ they are suggesting you know nothing of pain and want.
Roxane Gay, Of Lions and Men: Mourning Samuel DuBose and Cecil the Lion (July 2015)
I really want to address whiteness as a (socially constructed) racial group and as a privileged position within the world because it’s something that we as white people need to be addressing in the context of race relations and racism. Ignoring our whiteness and our complicit nature in white supremacy does nothing but feed our own ignorant bliss that all is well in the world (when it really isn’t). We as a group need to be acknowledging our whiteness and how that fits into the larger narrative.
— joey mogul (@JoeyMogul) June 28, 2015
— Sarah Cantaloupe (@SarahCantaloupe) June 28, 2015
— Amaris Moore (@Amaris_Moore) June 28, 2015
We are reaching the end of Pride month within the United States (and in some other countries as well), with this weekend being the last Pride weekend of 2015. Celebrations in New York City and Seattle have been going on all weekend long but it’s so important to remember in the midst of celebrating this past week’s SCOTUS marriage decision, that there is still a huge pile of stuff to fight for.
Additionally: There was a #BlackOutPride action that disrupted the Chicago Pride Parade today, calling for the end of the constant erasure within the queer community. A few weeks ago, a similar action was done at the Boston Pride Parade, in which activists stopped the parade for 11 minutes in protest.
— YK Hong (@ykhong) June 28, 2015
I’ve been writing SO much about the issue of erasure and single issue focus over the past few weeks but the fact of the matter is that this is such an important thing for the LGBTQ+ community to be addressing. And to be honest, the reason I keep writing and keep addressing all of these things over and over again is because I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important or to forget the most marginalized.
Looking at incidents like Jennicet Gutiérrez getting booed and jeered by fellow queer people or marriage seemingly being the most mainstream queer issue is incredibly upsetting because rather than fight for all, it seems to be the case that the most privileged in the queer community (white, middle/upper class, cis, etc) are just fighting for themselves and the issues that pertain to them. (Of course this doesn’t mean that every single fairly privileged person is terrible and focuses on narrow issues. But that’s another point for another day.)
— Jorge J Rodriguez V (@JJRodV) June 28, 2015
Pride was started by queer people of color and it’s roots come from a police riot that condemned the legislation and oppression of the entire queer community. Flash forward 45 years since the first march and 46 years since the Stonewall Inn Riots, it seems like Pride has moved away from it’s revolutionary roots and from focusing on intersectionality issues.
You can keep your respectability. I want freedom and justice. — Fr. Shay (@anarchistrev) June 27, 2015
Of course, this is all based on my own experiences but I do think it’s important that we as a community step up to the challenges that still face many within our chosen family. We should be spending less time on respectability politics (because that will not save us) and more time on liberation for us all. We (this time we meaning white people) should be loudly proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter because we have helped create and benefited from a society that devalues black life.
We (again, meaning white people) should be supporting black people (and especially black women) in the fight for liberation. We need to use our privilege and our position within society to fight for liberation for all – for people of color, for the working class, for immigrants, for mothers and fathers and families who bury their loved ones too soon, for those with different abilities.
Keep your eyes open… https://t.co/DANIOu9Irt
— Liberal Conformist (@prisonculture) June 27, 2015
And all of this ties back to Pride because the queer community needs to stop throwing the more marginalized people under the bus as a way to assimilate into the larger mainstream society. We need to work for all, not just some. We need to remember that some of the most influential work has been done by trans women of color and we need to not forget and erase the work done by people of color in our own queer history.