White men love telling people what to do. But not just what to do, but how to feel, and what is right and wrong, and true and false, about one’s own experiences and existence. It’s sort of amazing, really.
As a Woman of Color, and one whose knowledge-base centers on multiculturalism, it is incredulous that when I talk about experiences, especially those regarding racism and sexism, (clueless) White men tend to crawl into the conversation to be the arbitrator of what is and isn’t racism or sexism. It’s laughable if you think about it: White men somehow know more about racism and sexism more than a Woman of Color? Hrm….No.
Is part of White privilege believing that one is the authority on all knowledge and experiences? Even when said knowledge and experience is about how others encounter and interact with the world around them? Add masculinity to that, and are the rest of us simply at the mercy of opinions that are embedded in identity-based superiority complexes when White men open their mouth to talk, with regard to experiences and identity? And notwithstanding that White men might exist as disadvantaged in other contexts of social identity – class, sexuality, ability, etc., it still seems to me that being White and male gives one a certain social position to deem one’s self an arbitrator of all social experiences.
Now before I get accused of racism, (which by the way is systematically not possible – and screw your dictionary definitions and read up for goodness sake) and prejudice – which is totally possible because hey, being human and all that – I want you to know that I don’t care about your accusations. For some reason, writing from the position of resisting stereotypes inflicted to me as a Black person, and then also a Black woman; and calling out racism and/or sexism, has become the new racism and/or sexism. No person of any intelligence and with knowledge of history and how hegemony operates regarding privilege, is distracted.
Anyway, because it seems that some White men are kind of confused in 2015 that the world around them is changing, and they are “feeling” a loss of societal power – even though in those two identities alone – they are the most privileged bodies in existence IN THE WORLD, I thought I’d help out with some tips:
1. Accept the reality that you have privilege. This isn’t a pie in the sky social theory – it is a real, observable fact. And we know this because we can measure it by looking at everything from the dynamics of hiring in organizational psychology, to looking at who is sitting in prison and for what crimes, to how we’d both be treated in the average department store.
2. Don’t ever cite Black people as pulling the “race card.” This mitigates the culture of global racism which affects every facet of life, and especially for those who live in the West. The only thing the “race card” has earned Black people globally, is a history of disenfranchisement and the resulting legacy that still renders many Black communities across the world in lower socioeconomic positions.
3. When a Woman of Color is having a racist, sexist, or racialized sexism experience – do not tell her it exists in her head. Know that she experiences the world very differently from you, and just because you do not have such an experience, it does not mean such experiences are not real.
4. Stop deflecting teaching moments in which you can better understand the insidiousness of racism by claiming that people are “too sensitive” or are “offended by everything,” or some other trite defense. Maybe rather than being defensive, actually listen with the intent to be open to changing, as to why an interaction may have been racist and/or sexist.
5. Do not say, “All lives matter,” as a response to “Black lives matter.” If you do, you are part of the problem. Also maybe don’t perform the most insane mental gymnastics possible to defend the violence inflicted on Black bodies. It’s a really humanly decent thing to not try to justify deaths of Black people.
6. Remember that women entirely do not belong to you, regardless of your social relationship to them. While you’re at it, put an end to your infantilization of White women in your constructs of them as “pure,” and in need of “your protection.” Many times, this has gotten Black people harmed and even killed. And do remember that Black women are women too. Sojourner Truth asked it, and we’re still asking too, “Ain’t I a woman?”
7. Know that the number of Black women you have or have not slept with, dated, been married to, are friends with, made casseroles for, etc. in discussions on race and racism is insignificant. We are not a shield for your active racism and sexism. Do not use as such.
8. Recognize that you don’t get cookies for finding “us” attractive. So when you say, “I’m attracted to Black girls,” as your opening line in any situation to a Black woman, it is a huge turn off. Stop. In that same vein, you also don’t get cookies for being decent humans and doing your level best not to be racist or sexist. (Nobody does.)
9. Also recognize that “we” do not need the validation of White men (and women) in constructing ideals about beauty. Sure, it is royally screwed up that features traditionally associated with Black women’s bodies are either deemed heinous, or fetishized, or only deemed beautiful on non-Black women, but know that your validation insofar as it legitimizes beauty for us, is inconsequential.
10. Finally, a few last tips that should make your life more enjoyable this year: If you don’t have anything nice to say about Serena Williams, don’t say anything at all. Stop using “chocolate” as your primary descriptor for Black people. And don’t ever put your hands in a Black woman’s hair without her permission. That’s just bad for your health.