Much of the personal growth I’ve made over the last couple of years has been related to speaking more honestly and directly. Whether it’s in conflict resolution, support for friends who are hurting, working with kids, or just having a real conversation, saying what I feel and calling what I see have been hugely important new skills for me.
It’s been all about separating what is happening from what I’m afraid might happen, getting over that internal shudder of anxiety, and trying as hard as I can to just plain say what I’m thinking.
Good job, me.
However, these confrontations I’ve learned to handle so well should include dealing with the conversational racism that pops up every once in a while when interacting with my family or my more hipster-y white friends. I’ve not held myself accountable to the same direct speech that I use interpersonally (or in many cases to speaking at all), or even when I encounter casual sexism.
Part of this is related to the types of learning I’ve done about racism–mostly I read books. I follow blogs like racialicious and angry black woman and share little antiracist youtube videos on facebook. Resources upon resources exist for learning how to conduct yourself as a person of privilege in conversations expressly about oppression — but I’ve only found Jay Smooth for advice on how to confront other white people about their racism. I’m actively trying to manipulate my patterns of activity to include more than just white people and to not shy away from conversations about race, but part of Being White means that like many others, my first acknowledgement of oppression came from intentional learning rather than from experience.
The other part is that–guess what!? I’m a white lady, both oppressed and oppressor, and turns out the oppressor part is a lot harder to disentangle from my daily life. (But I suspect it’s not only harder to confront racism than sexism because of my particular orientation to these axes, but also because current popular culture seems to be addressing sexism much more frequently and directly.)
Things I want for my birthday:
More Opportunities for Actual Conversations
I discovered meetup.com recently, and while there are heaps and heaps of meetups for feminist discussion or sustainability or community service, I found no groups for my area for people who want to talk about race (starting one). Like most white people, I have a whole lot of white friends who are really good at steering conversations away from race. I am also a little reticent to abuse the non-white friendships I do have for this: “Hey, you’re black. Speaking of which, let’s talk about racism now!”
More Specific Examples
Reading material about racism is overwhelmingly abstract and theoretical. Theory is not a bad thing–I love to get to the truths and connections at the very bottom of things– but I would love to see more authors/bloggers/commenters working through specific experiences and considering the possible reasons, reactions, and responses to casual racism when it arises.
It wasn’t very long ago that I was hearing little misogynist things in conversations all the time and not saying anything. I’m hoping this ends up being just like that, and that I’ll soon make the discovery that it’s not so hard after all (not that I’m a pro at patriarchy-smashing. but at least I say things sometimes) to take my Internet Activism and fold it in to my real life.
Stay tuned to watch the development happen in subsequent episodes of Confronting Casual Racism!