Friday, February 12, 2016

Racism & Privilege and the "Drive By" Racist Meangirl

In crafting the intersectional feminist anthology that I'm working on, my writing partners & I are committed to finding writers from communities not always well represented in indie publishing, or anthologies, or just about any literary scene. So we wrote a call for submissions that stated exactly what we were hoping for, being specific about welcoming womanist and racially intersectional feminism in addition to GLBT and disabled stories.

A lot has happened during the process, including getting somewhere near 500+ submissions from all over the world. The anthology we're putting out (anthologies, actually, since we committed to doing two after I saw how many we had gotten) is amazing. Potentially award winning. And I say that not as a result of my writing but as a result of the response we got.

But what also happened was that yesterday, a now former Facebook friend decided to attack me. It was kind of out of the blue, and surprised me because said former friend would likely, if you asked her, consider herself pretty progressive. Certainly not a racist.

But she said my acknowledgement of my own personal privilege (because of which I can afford to front the money on an indie publishing venture and pay the writers with actual cash, not "exposure," which we all know is BS) was me being desperate to "hang out at the rap kids table." That I was trying too hard. That if I wanted to really help "them" I should donate money or something (to a nebulous "them" and not the people I actually do help in several ways every single day.)

I won't write a long bit about how I grew up really underprivileged, how I score every time on that "how privileged are you" quiz that goes around in a range you wouldn't believe. With a single mom, a deadbeat dad, and times being homeless, I get to check a lot of boxes. But I've grown up, and through my husband & my business ventures, done pretty well. And so I've reached a place where I can, as Kevin Spacey said, send the elevator back down.


I also spent more than 10 years studying women's & minority literature and social culture in college, received a PhD and read countless hours of theory on race and privilege in our society. Including the Marxism from which my former friend was throwing darts at me. In that study, I hoped to teach at a college level and help expose students to amazing literature and history that they might not have heard. I am not teaching at college, but I'm still trying to use those studies, and that's where all of my experience, training, and love of writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison have sent me.

The racism implicit in the former friend's assumption that people of color equate to "kids at the rap table" and that I was trying to fit in with my coolness by talking about things better left to them... it just blew me away. It is not just people of color who should be addressing the race problems in this country. We ALL need to be talking about it. All the time. Because people are dying on the street and in jail cells. Indigenous women are disappearing at an alarming rate and people don't talk about it. Trans women and men are murdered and there has been a defense used of "I was worried because they were trans" that has been considered a fair defense!

It's not just the communities who are being oppressed who should do this work. And to imply that I am just trying to be cooler by doing so, or that I'm somehow desperate for attention.... I've thought about it all day and night, how to respond to that. I want people to know this: it's not okay to write a check to some "them" organization and get your feel goods because you're doing some kind of "social justice" by sending an occasional tax deduction towards charity. Stop turning it into an us and "Them." Because when YOU, yes you, nameless former friend, do that, you're continuing the hatred and vile rhetoric that let people like some of our current presidential candidates thrive.

So yes. I will continue the work I'm doing. It's not just being aware of a somewhat troubling trend on Facebook to only show me white "suggested friends" and all that the realization implies about how algorithms are set up for how we are "similar." Social networking might not be changing the world (although I would argue with that, a lot, but just not here). But doing things like sponsoring a charity that is out to end Violence Against Women world wide? And PAYING writers for their work? Writers who don't have a ton of venues already directed at them? All of that is social justice.


And I would rather sit at that table than with the Mean Girls every. single. day. 

3 comments:

  1. Brava. I think what your doing has more value and merit than most of the bs rhetoric tossed around like limp leftover lip service out there. Be strong and let the mean girls walk on by, no one here cares what they think anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Karen Corum said it perfectly. You're amazing, Kim, and I am incredibly grateful for your efforts to keep writers writing along with all the other injustices you take under your wing. You talk the talk, walk the walk, and write the right.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your former friend attacked you because the power of your involvement and efforts threatens to expose her mask of token effort.

    I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.
    -Pablo Casals-

    Thanks for all you do
    -Dave

    ReplyDelete