Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

So, I mentioned that when my friend Nikki decided to try online dating, she attempted to pressure me into it, as well. Although I didn't give in, I did find an ad I liked by a lesbian seeking friends, not anything romantic or sexual. She indicated that she was interested in social issues and was looking for friends who are, as well. I wrote her, and things were cool for a while--better than cool, in fact. The only thing was I could tell she wasn't very internet-happy like I am, i.e. her e-mail responses took too long for impatient ole me.

So then after we got over the little introduction stuff, we got into writing about social issues a little more. I found out she was white, which...big surprise (sarcasm), but that was fine. Once again, I figured from what she had to say about race that she would at least be open to what I had to say about it. Once again, I was wrong. Or so it seems, but I think I was wrong because it's been about a week since I've heard from her, which she usually takes two or so days to get back to me, not a week. I've learned my lesson from last time, so I will not be apologizing, feeling bad about expressing my honest opinion or writing her again without her writing me. If she doesn't want to talk to me after what I wrote, that's fine. I will no longer let people make me feel bad for my social viewpoints and my willingness to say the tough stuff, things that some people don't want to hear.

What did I write? I basically said similar things as I did to LA Girl, only in a lot better fashion, I feel. I gave brief overviews of my views on blacks vs gays, competition among minority groups (including women), femmes, white guilt and prioritizing identities. Basically, I wrote to her very concisely the same things I write in this blog. I said that I believe black people's problem with homosexuality, though the same as white people's problem with it, has an added layer that makes their problem with homosexuality more about race. Why would blacks, including black GLBTQs, want to help/support people who treat them the same way as white heterosexuals do, people who don't want to help with or support racial issues but expect such help/support from blacks on gay issues? Why help put white gays back at nearly 100% white privilege while blacks remain America's whipping board?

And I asked, in response to her writing about feeling guilt when she started to understand racism better, why, and pointed out that white guilt is not usually enough for most white people to want to do work that will better the lives of blacks. Nor is just realizing you have privilege on any level vs another group whenever you think about the fact that helping them might very well hurt you or fail to benefit you, which is what made me tell my theory about blacks vs gays and competition among various non-white male groups.

She wrote some things about how she noticed gender inequities growing up, and I responded that I basically didn't. To me, blacks grow up in a sexist "culture" that results in us being more accepting of or finding normal certain manifestations of sexism. Sure, American culture is sexist. But we have cultures within cultures, and I firmly believe that the lower you go down the racial hierarchy the more sexist the cultures become...which, if you think about it, relates to my theory about competition among non-white males. Everyone's looking for someone to feel better than, and minority men more than white men probably miss the days in which, no matter what they experienced throughout the day and no matter how bad that white boss made them feel, at least they could always come home and feel better than their wife or girlfriend. If nowhere else, minority men reigned supreme at home. The thing about it is Jews could feel better than Asians, who could feel better than Latinos, who could feel better than blacks. Black men couldn't feel better than anyone but black women, which increased their dependency on the necessity of keeping black women beneath them via sexist behaviors and beliefs.

But I digress somewhat. In addition to mentioning that blacks grow up in a sexist culture, I pointed out that we are trained to focus on race, not gender, as black women. I could say so much about that, but that is probably best left for another post. Either way, I think a lot of us can't help but prioritize race above other identities, and I think I mentioned that, as well.

As far as femmes--and this is mainly what made me think she might be open to what I had to say--she said she realized that she could hide her sexual orientation because she is femme but minorities can't hide their race. This is a point that a lot of white gay people seem to take offense to, so I was kind of impressed when I read that from her. I think white gays take that as people trying to say gays don't experience discrimination because no one even knows they're gay, or it's their fault that they experience discrimination since they tell people their sexual orientation. In response, I mentioned that I've learned that femmes experience issues others are unaware of and maybe a couple other things.

What I find interesting about the people who keep having problems with these ideas I express is that they have all been white women thus far. My impression of white women is they are people who sometimes attempt to situate themselves as people who relate to the black plight because they are women, kind of like many gay people attempt to do. So with these people being women and gay, yet feeling so strongly about what I have to say that they lose interest in associating with me...frankly, I expected that more from white men, who, theoretically, are the farthest away from understanding anything a black woman has to say about the world or her life. With white lesbians, at least we essentially have two identities in common. And still, for all their self-defined liberal views, it seems like there's really only one identity they want to count. We're supposed to talk about how we're similar, not how we're different, and yet that's somehow supposed to lead to changes in society?

Which reminds me. She described herself as being one to confront racism, sexism, homophobia if she hears it. I basically responded I think that's a mistake. I mean, I understand why someone would do it. But it's why I speak/write with a negative connotation about political correctness, or, at least, how political correctness manifests itself, i.e. causing silence. I believe that if you respond to an -ism, you should respond not in a way that will rip someone a new one, but in a way that results in knowledge...building blocks, if you will. To me, the first step in solving -isms is knowing exactly what those -isms are. I think one of our major problems is we assume we know. But the assumption is always the big things and not the smaller things that are way more common, i.e. we think about "nigger," "faggot," rape, sexual harassment, glass ceilings, hanging people from trees or beating people to death for having a certain identity, but we ignore the way more common stuff that is, to me, way more problematic. If it's subtle or said behind closed doors, we have to foster an environment where we get people to admit these things so that we first of all know they exist.

So when I tell white people my theories about why white people support Barack Obama, why blacks seem more homophobic, why every gay person does not have to come out, why so many black women I know don't really get as passionate about gender issues, etc...what I'm trying to do is put problems on the table that we, as a society, ignore. And I'm fully aware that because we're used to taking the easy way out when problems are so intricate, complex and nearly impossible to answer, I'm fully aware that saying these things result in my being considered racist, a self-loathing closet case, a Benedict Arnold to women and whatever else these white women who end up ignoring me after I speak my mind consider me to be. I say it's their loss as "caring liberals." They're the ones out there wanting to solve problems that they don't completely understand. And as much as we hate what some people have to say, being able to understand their thinking and where they are coming from even if you don't agree with changing the world. Admitting that you are a bigot, like everyone else, and saying all the ways in which you priceless. For people who believe that we can end racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and every other -ism in America...there's no other way to do it other than knowing every single ignorance that goes into creating those hierarchies, so that you can figure out exactly what you have to combat and how. This I explained to this woman, as well.

I'm not much for providing solutions. I'm another one who likes to point out problems. But every now and then, I ask myself what I can do right now, even before becoming a civil rights attorney. I mentioned in another post that I don't know what Asians and Latinos experience in America. And it just so happens that I'm having serious difficulty coming up with a class schedule for the fall. As of right now, I only have two classes when I need about four or five. Of course, I'm still trying to get into the class about queers of color, and that's looking feasible. So one more class, and not one interesting in the law school. I can take at least two more classes outside the law school, so the task is to find a class that will help me learn something about Asian and/or Latino culture.

To be honest, the idea of taking an Asian class is uncomfortable. In college, I wanted to take Japanese. And then I got to thinking...hmmm, I'd probably be the only black person in that class. Heck, nearly everyone would likely be Asian. Same thoughts arising in this situation. And for some reason, that is scarier than the thought of being the only black person in a class full of whites. I am certain I wouldn't be the only black or non-Latino in a class about Latinos simply because our school doesn't have enough Latinos for that. Even so, that would be more tolerable than a class full of Asians or whites, to be perfectly honest, just because I feel as if I'd stand out less in that kind of class and possibly be more accepted in that kind of class. However, I feel I'd benefit more from a class about Asian Americans since I completely cannot imagine what they go through.

So, this will be the steps I take to ensure that I am not like these white lesbians I've written about. And to go back to my surprise at their reactions to me...I've only ever spoken to one white male--a gay white male--about my theories, and he gets them. I wouldn't say he agrees--only because much of what I say is absolutely the first time he's ever heard it, and I think he's someone like me who needs to go back and think about what is said before forming an opinion--but he finds what I have to say interesting and he listens. Best of all, we're still friends after I say what I have to say. That's really all I ask for. And the thought has crossed my mind that the difference could be that I've told him my theories in person vs e-mails as I did with LA Girl and the latest e-mail buddy disaster. There are some things that are easier to take if they are vocally expressed, depending on how they are said. Who knows--I just know that this time I'm moving on rather quickly. You win some, you lose some.