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Privilege and being a “woc” part 1

December 5, 2010

WOC is a term that allegedly addresses a group of women who suffer race based discrimination and oppression.  I will tell you that  I have yet to see the benefits of using those three letters to address a group made up of WAY more than three race/ethnicity groups.  It’s a term white women get to use for all of us women who aren’t white, a term I have seen many a white woman use to refer to everybody but black women (and also as a cover for their inability to just say black, at times) and then when/if you say: “there is no woc representation here, there is nothing ever written here about the issues woc face and nothing about woc oppression” they can cite the 3 posts they’ve written on women in Iraq or Iran or any nation other than the US (and too many of these white women are US citizens to have NOTHING critical to say on the treatment of black women in their backyards), none of which is critical of racism in any way.  It’s not ever really about these white women wanting to write about those women/girls in Iraq and Iran either, its more so about co-opting and giving the appearance of being non-racist and anti-racist, please note that there is a difference.  Just because you aren’t a racist doesn’t mean that you are anti-racism, especially if you consort with racists and laugh at their jokes and enjoy their company.

I had a conversation recently with a Latina friend about class and privilege and what it means being a “woc.”  I had her in agreement with all that I had to say until I made the ever important distinction between the groups that are “represented” by the woc title.  I had the NERVE to say that Latina women are placed higher on the racist hierarchy than black women.  It was a shocking revelation to her, and to be fair she is a very sweet young naive woman whom I do really care about however she thinks that privilege is an issue of class and not of race/gender/sexual orientation (she’s hetero, not that it needed to be said I feel it’s obvious that she is hetero.) However, I have noticed this tendency with Latinas and I have noticed that white women like to have their tokens on hand to do their dirty work.

I understand that hearing something new and learning that you are preferred/privileged over anyone is difficult to hear.  Those of us who do strive to be good, decent, caring ppl actually care about this stuff.  One’s first urging may be to close your ears and run like the dickens (as my Latina friend did… she blocked me and ran off as if we haven’t been friends for 10 years…) and while I understand that, I discourage it.  Unpacking privilege is a process and it’s not an easy one.  It is extremely difficult to try to train your mind to go against shit that you have KNOWN TO BE TRUE for years and years. It’s difficult to go against societal/familial expectations, and one’s own view of one self, but anyone truly claiming to be an ally or claiming to be both non-racist and anti-racism will be willing to do the actual work.

The problem is, privilege blinds and whether your privilege is white/male/hetero/class/shade (I’m still working on how to accurately describe shadeism and the way in which both whites and non-whites use it so bear with me)  it is privilege nonetheless and it is YOUR responsibility to check it and to not abuse it.  It is not the responsibility of the people whom you have the capacity/ability to oppress to step around your lil feelings and ignore the way that you inviziblize us, whether you be white or Latina or “mixed race”  (bullshit description, we’re all friggin “mixed race” by that standard) or other wise.

I feel hurt that someone I have known for 10 years has somehow developed the idea that we are all the same and all face the same and all equal because we’re all not white and female.  I’m not surprised though, it’s the attitude of the privileged.  It’s easier for privileged oppressor classes to dismiss the notion of privilege, most often dismissed off hand as a derail by racist white women (just check the white blogs you can see this type of bs on most if not all of them in some way or another.) It’s easier to just assume that privilege isn’t all that serious or doesn’t exist than it is to reframe your way of thinking so that it lines up with reality.  Who knows, once your thinking matches REALITY ya just might have to stop treating all those pesky non-white women like your personal assistants. You might actually have some integrity and credit the black women you steal from, and your heart might even grow two sizes that day and render you capable of shedding a lifetime of racist othering in the name of expediency.

9 Comments
  1. Gemma permalink
    December 5, 2010 7:04 pm

    Great post! I took a class in college called “race in hollywood” which was really about black men in hollywood. Every time conversation in the mostly white class became about what it was like to be black in the time period of the movie we were discussing, the teacher (white) would turn to me (Persian) like I somehow had any fucking clue what it was like to be black in 1920 just because i’m not white. He was a big fan of the term “people of color.”

    To me the term WOC totally erases the different kinds of racism that non-white women experience. It’s an easy way for whites to say “people lower on the totem pole than me”.

    • December 5, 2010 7:13 pm

      Good point Gemma. The term WOC does completely erase the different types of racism and discrimination that non-white women experience! Some women might not take issue with being made into another ‘soup group’ by whites/males, but I do. I used to use the term to refer to myself and others ALL. THE. TIME until I realized, thanks to a post written by Margie, that it does erase my experiences as a black woman, furthermore it makes it nearly impossible for us to get away from that what with other non-white women policing us all the time and trying to make it seem as if we are all in fact equals just because we are all non-white and female. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      It’s an easy way for whites to say “people lower on the totem pole than me”.

      Narf!

  2. December 5, 2010 7:14 pm

    oops, Kitty already got it. Well now the links are up there either way. 🙂

  3. December 5, 2010 7:15 pm

    When I was thinking about what I should focus on in my third part of “Do you even have a black friend,” I was considering, “Your non-white non-black friend does not count as a black friend.” I’ve notice white people (men and women) who are partnered with non-white-non-black people tend to get cocky and/or take the position that they are above racism because their partner is a non-white, as if that makes them anti-racist.

  4. December 5, 2010 7:45 pm

    It was an assumption really. Just a really good guess since Margie is having trouble with her internet. lol

    Good point on part 3!!! I cannot tell you how many white folks think that simply partnering with a non-white woman makes them not racist or capable of racism. I had a math teacher that was married to a black woman and he laughed in my face when I called him racist for working harder with the white students than the black students. He then brought his trophy black wife to the school to introduce me to her and their half-breed son. I was nice enough to her and then turned to him and said sticking your white dick in a black woman doesn’t automatically make you non-racist! and I walked away. Mind you I was in 7th grade so I was about 13 maybe, he and she were both surprised and he turned 3 different shades of red lol. It’s true though!

    yep… was always a hellion, they had my mother’s # on speed dial. I cannot tell you all the white kids and males whose mothers they should’ve been calling but some how standing up for myself and standing up agains the erasure of my truth and of black female oppression always warrents correction. Kinda like my latina friend.

  5. Pseudoadrienne permalink
    December 5, 2010 11:37 pm

    Way to hit the nail on the head Soulsis. White people– especially the “hipster” liberals– love to absolve themselves from having to take responsibility for the damage their white-privilege causes. Many white “feminists” can’t be bothered to critically analyze their racist malfeasance against Black women, feminists, lesbians, and separatists, because that’s one of the luxuries of having a privilege…you’re permitted to be willfully clueless about what your shitty behavior is doing to other people. And then deny it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read passages by Black female authors who stated that there are a lot of white “feminists”–past and present– who simply want “equality” with white men and so they can use it to lord over Black women. Of course I’ve done more than fair share of horribly racist things to Black women. As I’ve told you before Soulsis I was a Maureen Peal of sorts while growing; using my light-skinned privilege to feel superior and not caring what kind of damage and pain it caused Black women and girls. I might have left the delusional white-dominated Third Wave feminist blogosphere behind because I couldn’t stand their whiteness-loving, heterocentric, comfortably middle-class funfeminist bullshit anymore, but that didn’t stop me from saying racist things here on AROOO earlier this year and on my short-lived blog. It’s definitely an ongoing process to overcome the racist, whiteness-loving privilege one has been instilled with since their birth. Saying sorry isn’t enough.

    • December 6, 2010 12:12 am

      Well PA that’s just the thing, white folks and white-identified folks, and latinas, and asians, and anyone who isn’t a black woman can do as they so please because its their privilege to do so. So all of you can ignore me, try to silence me, say hateful racist shit about my sisters, block me on facebook when I assert my truth as valid, whatever and it’s your privilege to do but it is also within my ability to defend myself (something else I learned from Margie) and I had goddamn well better do. Unchecked privilege= murder of someone’s soul/spirit and we are seeing it happen to black women at the hands of dbr black men, at the hands of racist white men, at the hands of racist white supremacists who claim feminism, at the hands of everyone who isn’t a black female (and sometimes at their hand too.)

      It isn’t enough to say sorry… if I hit you with my car (I don’t have one or drive btw lol) and said sorry it wouldn’t prevent you from calling the police or suing me and that is your right to do so. But black women using our right to defend ourselves is always dismissed or marginalized as an attack on kind white lady or kind latina or whomever the white identified person is and we are policed and brutalized online and offline. These people higher up than us black women know that black women have the least resources available to us. We’re not like trannies with a lifetime of being a hetero white male behind us to finance our lives and issues. We are not like white women who either can use daddy’s money or hubby’s money to sue the people who harm and discriminate against us and we are the easiest target because of it.

      I think it’s extremely telling that my ex-latina friend (I refuse to continue friendship with a woman who holds racist views and oppressive views about my sisters) thought nothing of telling me it was “othering” and “oppressive” of me to say that latinas and black women aren’t the same and that latinas are higher up the racist hierarchy than black women… and also thought nothing of blocking me (dismissal) when I said that basing my reality and lived experiences on her own and invalidating them because they don’t match her own is othering and oppressive. It’s telling of privilege, arrogance and a general hatred for black women and our truth because it pokes holes in what you (read:privileged/oppressor class) want us to accept as truth, what “truth” is most comfortable and cozy for you.

      And I warned you about that blog… I warned you that it’s primary white female readership would make it more difficult for you to see the forrest for the trees. I did question why you thought you could present a space that was safe for black women (as you stated as a goal in your opening post) when you had just been so ugly to me about your privilege and ignorance shortly before starting it, and I even stated such to you. I appreciate you owning that and acknowledging that you knew all along that this was possible and that you weren’t yet conscious enough about your own privilege to refrain from saying racist things anywhere, least of all on your own forum where you run the show.

      apology accepted.

  6. December 9, 2010 2:23 pm

    “It isn’t enough to say sorry… if I hit you with my car (I don’t have one or drive btw lol) and said sorry it wouldn’t prevent you from calling the police or suing me and that is your right to do so. But black women using our right to defend ourselves is always dismissed or marginalized as an attack on kind white lady or kind latina or whomever the white identified person is and we are policed and brutalized online and offline. These people higher up than us black women know that black women have the least resources available to us. We’re not like trannies with a lifetime of being a hetero white male behind us to finance our lives and issues. We are not like white women who either can use daddy’s money or hubby’s money to sue the people who harm and discriminate against us and we are the easiest target because of it.”

    This is really sagacious, I’ve just finished reading the two entries that you’ve linked to here and as previously mentioned these posts have given me a *lot* to think about in terms of my own white privilege and racist remarks (I remember/was reminded on the post Margaret made on the term “WOC” and my really, really ridiculous, inconsiderate, blind, racist comment I made which totally missed the point of the post) and associations both online and in real life.

    Pseudoadrienne mentioned above, it’s an on-going process and erasing and ignoring the experiences and lives of black womyn through my own racist ignorance, language and/or actions (whether intentional or not) or others is not going to create any kind of positive outcome except for the white males in charge and the white male identified women who collude and side with them.

    But reading these entries intensely a few times over and the comments, that particular statement just gave me a kind of light bulb moment, don’t want to clutter up this thread so much, but I will keep reading forward through the posts I’ve missed and refrain from making too many comments (especially if they turn out half as ridiculous as I suspect this one might.)

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