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Some things on race in the US November 5, 2008

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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Normally, I try to stay away from talking about race because I believe the conversation should be controlled by those without the privilege and my job is to listen, follow and support them, but there’s a lot being said right now about the state of race in the US. So, I’m going to break that rule, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that and call me out where I stray. I’m speaking here only for myself and only to those who also acknowledge having white privilege.

I don’t live in a post-racial US just because Obama won.

Until the prison industrial complex stops targeting and abusing people of color, I’m still in a racist country.Until we the privileged figure out how to pay reparations or enact policies that amount to the effects of reparations, I’m still in a racist country. Until it’s not a headline when a person of color wins an election, I’m still in a racist country.

Voting for “the black guy” this once doesn’t let me off the hook for the responsibility I have as a white person to fix the fucked up state of race in this nation. Being born white in the US is like some one accidentally leaving their wallet with a million dollars in it in the passenger seat of you car. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t steal the wallet or personally cause the situation; those aren’t valid excuses. And I’m not some kind of fucking hero for doing every possible goddamn thing within my power to return their wallet; it’s my responsibility. I’ve been handed this giant fuckload of privilege and my responsibility is to A.) not actively use it, B.) never forget that I have it, C.) work to make things right so that I no longer have it. Privilege is zero sum: If I have it, some one else doesn’t. The only way to fix that is to make sure no one has it, BUT that doesn’t mean fixing it will look “fair.” It’s gonna take a lot to set things right in this country. It’s their million dollars in their wallet and so the act of me trying to return the million dollars is not taking away my million dollars; it was never mine in the first place.

And I apologize for the othering use of the words “they” and “them.” But my intent is to other myself, to single myself out as having white privilege. It’s my job to solve things, my responsibility. So, I’m going to try to only address others who acknowledge having white privilege* when I speak on race and to only listen when people of color talk to me about it. When I say “I” and “them” in this context, I mean “I” the privileged white person who got out of black neighborhood that most of my friends didn’t, on scholarships that wouldn’t have been given to people of color, and stayed out of jail when others would not have been able to. So here I am holding the wallet that doesn’t belong to me. That doesn’t make it the rightful owner’s problem, it’s my problem, my responsibility.

My responsibility doesn’t end with this election.

I don’t blame people of color for Prop 8

Again, when it comes to blame and intersectionality, I’m on the wrong side of this to be blaming anybody. Period. Maybe it would be different if I was a queer person of color, but I’m not, so I can’t say. Not only is it not my place to be pointing fingers in the direction of other communities on matters of discrimination, but it’s not productive. Artificially dividing LGB vs. POC isn’t going to get anyone progress. The scapegoating of an oppressed group should feel all too familiar to queers to turn around and do it ourselves. I fucking blame the mormons (mostly white) and evangelicals (mostly white) and the Knights of Columbus (mostly white) and the Catholics (mostly white) and McCain (call for unity my ass!) and Newt Gingrich and the Republicans (mostly white).

See the pattern?

* those who “acknowledge having white privilege” as opposed to assuming that some one has it because they appear white to me; that’s not for me to say

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