Contrary to popular opinion, communities of color have not sat about for the last few years wringing our hands wondering how we can get those white folks to pay more attention to us. Our communities are flourishing and full of intellectual diversity. Most of the more progressive/radical bloggers are blogging about grassroots social justice issues that directly affect their communities. I almost never read mainstream news sources any more — I link through my favorite bloggers of color to find out what’s going on with people of color who live in Greece, Mexico, Australia and the U.S. I read comments to find out what other people of color are thinking about events. Through the “colored” blogging community, I have become more connected to other people like me than I have probably ever been in my life.
Which is not to say there are no problems. I’ve seen significant tensions between heterosexual bloggers of color and queers, rich or more well off bloggers and not so rich or poverty stricken bloggers, male and female bloggers, trans bloggers and cis bloggers, Latin@, Black, Asian, Arab, Indian etc bloggers. I could go on and on. Every type of fight between bloggers of color has happened, which exposes exactly how much work our communities have to do with each other.
So when we have so much work to do between ourselves and within our own communities, there better be a very good reason to attend a mostly white conference that is expensive as hell, largely has no interest in anything bloggers of color are doing outside of the conference, has gone to some lengths to even kick bloggers of color out of their community, and pretty much means almost the opposite of what bloggers of color mean when it says “create change”.
But as of today, I have not read or heard a single reason for white bloggers’ interest in “diversity” or “inclusion” that was not in some way connected to “We don’t want to look like we’re just a bunch of old white guys. It’s not like that. We swear. We mean well and all want the same thing. We need to work together.”
But the first thing almost every blogger of color I read (and granted, I’m in the more progressive/radical community) would say to this argument is, “We want the same thing? Who knew?”
And white folks don't limit themselves to assuming that “we all want the same thing”. Some of the more popular assumptions are as follows:
1. Bloggers of color means “black”.
2. Bloggers of color are poor.
3. Bloggers of color hold mostly menial labor jobs (hence the lack of time or willingness to do something “educated” like blog).
4. Bloggers of color haven’t been educated at elite universities.
5. Bloggers of color don’t have their own thriving communities.
6. Bloggers of color didn’t create those communities as a direct result of the neglect and/or outright racism of white bloggers.
7. Bloggers of color are standing outside the Doors of the Elite and staring balefully through the windows, longing with all our hearts to be invited in.
8. Bloggers of color need white folks.
9. Bloggers of color don’t have a very real existing and standing critique of white leftists and their organizing strategies.
10. Bloggers of color have not made the deliberate choice to not be involved in the organizing efforts of white led/centered groups.
What many white folks haven’t figured out yet is that their very assumptions and speculations are what's wrong with “inclusivity”. The assumptions and speculations white folks have about everything from what action needs to be taken, to who are the actual people they are working with, hides the reality of a particular situation to the point that white people often aren’t aware that they are the only person in the room.
The part about -assumptions- is particularly key. This in particular:
But if “inclusivity” is only important in theory when building the most important part of any organization (the base), why on earth would inclusivity naturally flow out of something where it didn’t exist to begin with?
This is a great point. It ties back into the basic problem of, lookit guys, we're talking about -structural- change. That means the macro society and it also means looking at the micro structuring of the -relationships-, the dynamics of institutions you're/we're a part of -right now.- It doesn't just mean "by the time it's codified into law."
And what you don't realize, sometimes, till you try to change 'em: organizations take on a life of their own that's more than the sum of their individual parts.
Which, yep, could go for something even as relatively new as Yearly Kos. How's the thing set up? Who's running it? What exactly were you trying to accomplish with it?
I know that Lorde quote has been done to death and often misused, so I apologize for using a "house" analogy, but: it's a lot easier to change something at the foundation stage than after you've already constructed the whole building and moved in and everything. Yeah, you can look at it after it's done and go, y'know, maybe it wasn't such a hot idea to put that right at the edge of that cliff over looking the ocean, what with soil erosion and the increased likelihood of tidal waves and all. And, oh yeah: asbestos. Oopsie. But, what the hell, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere -right this second.- Just, maybe some occasional guests and neighbors are starting to complain about this, that, and the other thing (your sweage runs right back down the hill and into the backyards of the people who built sensibly but less glamorously at the base of the cliff, say). And there was a little blurb in the paper about how overdevelopment is ruining the beauty and natural wildlife of the cliffside, plus haha, stupid people forgot the last time they tried to build right there....
but, see, you already sank millions of dollars into this little endeavor, you LIVE there, nothing terrible has happened (to you) yet; and dammit, it LOOKS terrific. Maybe if we just reroute the plumbing lines; but hell, even that's a lot more trouble than making a lot of pretty words about how we Value Our Neighborhood, want to know how we can be Better Neighbors, please drop it in this suggestion box, and finally, O.K., here's a crappy fence for you lot that's butt-ugly and doesn't really solve the sewage runoff problem, but it'll actually keep us from SEEING you being inundated by our sewage. Meanwhile--uh-oh, seismic shifts or bunnies or something mean that the whole place keeps slanting oddly,and yesterday half the living room abruptly caved in, and WHY O WHY DOES NO ONE CARE OR HAVE SYMPATHY, HUH?...
(anyone who's looking at this and opening their mouth to object about the logistical nonsequiters and metaphorical excesses in that analogy: bite me. xox)
Sudy, who btw has also just posted a letter to white feminists that's another damn good read, comments (back at bfp's post):
(in response to another commenter)
White folks must recognize they’ve had it all wrong — they are the problem. It is they who must change, not people of color."
Yeah, that's gonna work. Change, white people, change!!!
Which, well: yes, there is that. (also feel free to insert: Change, men, change! Change, straight people, change! Change, rich people, change! Change, US-ians, change!...) On the other hand: hell, you could say the same thing about the whole damn human race, say, from the perspective of y'know, nuclear weapons global warming oil crunch tipping point yadda yadda we're really maybe about to wipe our whole sorry selves off the map. At a certain point it becomes about, "no, it's not 'change in order to please some stranger and assuage some vague guilty feelings.' It's, CHANGE OR DIE, because the current model is NOT WORKING."
Of course, even if it really is so dire that the house is about to crumble right nto the sea--and let's face it, it's also human nature to get cynical after one too many Chicken Littlesque The House Is Falling! and it actually doesn't--
--but even so, we don't want to change. We don't -like- change. As Sudy astutely notes in her letter:
“The possibility of change is so fearful that most will stay with what is familiar to them, even if it is hell. The unknown is that daunting.”
...and again, really, read the whole damn thing, please.
On a related note, also see: Nanette's killer post at Feministe last week, "The Benefit of the Doubt" and this post of Black Amazon's, "Of Myths and Monsters."