Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Women's History Month blog carnival: Letter from a blogsister

Hi Tami--

I know my behind is late with this, but I honestly had to realize that the 2008 election really didn't change anything intrinsically for me.  I watched many feminists of color (FoCs) walk away from the feminism that sustained them because one too many white feminists made it abundantly clear that WoCs and our issues weren't "real" feminism.

I watched that fallout be met by WoCs who couldn't be bothered with feminism because they saw it as a "white girl thing" greet the defecting WoCs with a chorus of "I told you so." Then with hugs and hammers, ready to re/build their own spaces to converse.

I watched the white feminists who lost the respect of those feminists of color get defensive, then confused, then olive-branch offering, then tentatively meeting partway by some FoCs, then huddling. The question fueling these reactions: "What the hell happened?"

I watched "sisterhood" once again become a hollow word. (This happened in the Feminist Second Wave, too. Quite a few feminists of color "read" Robin Morgan's Sisterhood Is Powerful anthology as meaningless because no women of color were in it, which they said, was indicative of the movement in general--who gets the mic, who gets the book contracts, who gets to dictate what is feminism in the media. Sounds familiar, right?) 

I watched. And I hugged.

And I still call myself a feminist.  Because, at the core of it, I still believe that my Black female self deserves to exist and express my very humanity on this earth, especially in a society that tells me otherwise. Out of that, I believe that my Black female self being able to do this is linked with everyone else being able to do the same. 

But what this linkage means is coalescing and collaborating with folks, meaning we work together for a common goal of people being able to live in a just world, without, to borrow a phrase from a song, -Ism Schisms. What it doesnt mean is my needing to be everyone's "sister" or even "sistah" beforehand to accomplish this.

What the linkage means is understanding that people are going to tackle this activism in their own way: some will march in the streets, some will sign a petition, some will write a blog post, some will donate money. What it doesn't mean is thinking people need to declare to agree all the way down with my agenda before I consider them down enough to do the work.

What the linkage means is I don't need to judge any of this work as "radical" or "revolutionary." Because common sense and common courtesy are neither one of these.  Because, that's what feminism is to me--common sense and common courtesy.  An ethic of civility.  Especially in a society that tells me otherwise.

AJ Plaid writes at the brilliant blog, The Cruel Secretary. She is also a contributor to Racialicious.

"Have the last 64 days been a relatively colorblind time?"

What, Ann Compton? This reminds me of all those times that I have met someone who wants to appear all egalitarian and unbiased and unfazed by my black self, but then reaches to find random "black" topics to discuss with me, clearly illustrating that my race is top of mind. (My favorite such conversation, at a work dinner eons ago: "Hey, have you seen that new show '24?' Yeah, they have a black president on there. I thought that was really interesting...that they have a black president." Okay...)

Ann Compton's question seemed the equivalent to one of those eye-rolling conversations. (You can tell the Prez thinks so, too. Just look at his face as she's asking it.) When every citizen is talking about the economy, wondering if they can keep their homes, wondering if they will keep their jobs, wondering if they can send the kids to college, wondering if they can retire, Compton stands before POTUS and all the world and basically says, "You're black...and the president. Yeah, I think that's really interesting."

Worse than the subject matter of the question is the fact that it was vague and unanswerable. How can President Obama know how other world leaders perceive him? And, is it me, or was there an assumption in Compton's question that other world leaders are not "of color."

Ann Compton, Chuck Todd, Ed Henry--the ineptitude of the corp at last night's presser was maddening and Obama's deft and intelligent handling of the event made participating journalists look even more deficient in comparison. Sweet fancy Moses! Having a smartypants president sure highlights the failures of the modern Fourth Estate.


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