Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Writing While marginalized - Pt. 3
How do other folks who are members of historically marginalized groups, and who write about race and gender and sexuality, wrestle with writing for mainstream spaces? Do they? Should we? Are there topics writers will not or should not discuss outside of a "safe space"? Are there story ideas writers reserve for "of color" or GLBT spaces?
I asked some smart, writerly, social justice-minded folks to weigh in. And I'll be sharing their thinking all this week. Today, New Black Woman.
NEW BLACK WOMAN
At first, I really didn’t know what to make of The Washington Post's [series on black women]. While I wanted to applaud them for even taking an interest in black women and proving to the world that we are indeed just like every other group of women out there, the cynical side of me felt they were just practicing the "othering" of black women. That cynical side believes [the newspaper] felt their privilege granted them the authority to explain why black women are the way we are. This entire series plays into the notion that black women are part of a mysterious subhuman culture that warrants a series of articles and scientific polls to introduce us to America.
In my early 20s, I would have been okay with the idea that the voice of a marginalized person would add perspective to mainstream media outlets, groups, etc. Now that I’m in my late 20s and have been out in the working world for 5+ years, I have to agree with Sparky. There are just some conversations marginalized groups of people can’t have with mainstream society. I can’t tell you all how many times when, in a mixed-race/gender/sexuality company, people of color and GLBTQ folks have had to stop while white, cisgendered, straight folks give us their sob stories of their own oppression based on their political/religious beliefs in an attempt to identify with our oppression. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been around white, so-called enlightened feminists who use their privilege to center discussions on race and gender around them and their oppression under patriarchy.
I’ll share one story that may or may not be related to the topic at hand, but it made me think. A white female co-worker feigned ignorance and said she didn’t understand colorism in the black community. She asked me to explain where it came from. Wanting to avoid a full-blown confrontation, I caught myself dancing around the issue and briefly mentioned slavery, [how black people with lighter skin and "whiter" features were historically treated more favorably in society], etc.
I feel like I’m asked to play the token go-to person on black people by white folks, I find myself responding in a delicate matter because the truth often is painful for white people to hear, thus leading them to shut down and act indignant when it comes to the pervasive racism embedded in whiteness. I have to also agree with Sparky in that there are some times that the mainstream has no place in our discussions. No matter how aware one is of their privilege, there are just some issues they will never grasp, thus they’ll never understand some aspects of being part of a marginalized body.
Tomorrow: Christopher MacDonald Dennis
Read Pt. 1
Read Pt. 2