Friday, May 15, 2009

Once Upon A Time I Was Clueless & Other Truths

I may not have the utensils (Universal Utensil Theory) right now to collect this second wave of intra-PoC conversations and writings into a PoC in SF Carnival. I wish I did. But I'm marshaling my strength to be able to host and support future hosts come the later half of 2009.

These conversations.... important conversations; Symposiums On Being, are tough as hell. PoC University doesn't give out gold stars or A's, just personal enlightenment and growth and sometimes as a booster, incredible bonds of friendship.

I am struck by how in depth we all are, how much we know. Because as the title says, Once Upon A Time I Was Clueless. A different culture in my childhood, with different problems and stresses and emotional and social manipulations and of course a child's innocence in yet deciphering the talk of grown ups.

But my cluelessness shed itself in layers. Every time I look back and think about it, I start three years ago and then leap back considerably to when I was thirteen and had my eyes opened to facts that I hadn't wanted to believe.

Did I want to believe the Korean Grocer had a reason to look at me suspiciously? No.

Did I want to believe my own anger at said Grocer, simmering under my skin and beneath my eyes, challenging and hot, seen and no doubt confusing on their end? No.

Did I want to truly feel my own anger at policemen hassling me as a thirteen year old child? No.

Did I want to feel my fear of them? Hell no.

Once Upon A Time I Was Clueless, because it hurt to be anything else. Not discomfort; Not guilt, as many white folk claim for themselves. IT HURT.

Realizing that those policemen saw me as less than human? That hurt.

Realizing that my neighbourhood had become the front lines of a cold war? That hurt.

Realizing I was picking up all sorts of survival tactics and theories and suspicions - that I was being warped? That I was casting aside others who were hurt, because the pain was so much we lashed out at each other? That hurt.

But pain is not an excuse not to grow and not to learn. Pain's expected. Growing pains are more than aches in bones. This is why I have no sympathy, no empathy, no civility towards those who haven't grown; who haven't looked and haven't seen and haven't bothered to know, learn and comprehend.

I will not treat them like children.

I will not coddle them.

The colour of their skin does not earn them soft pettings and gentle murmurings that everything will be alright.

It is amazing to me, that a group of able bodied and/or neurotypical individuals would want, what even those with mental disabilities don't - to be treated softly, with a "C'dear, they don't know any better. What can you expect?"

But I will not enable them to use White Privilege as some kind of claim against observing the ills and needs of the world.

Meanwhile, I suggest they stop displaying that attitude when those of us who've fought and climbed our way to emotional and mental maturity are having a conversation.

I don't care if they're startled that we have a voice, or that it is loud, or that we are obviously having an ongoing conversation with roots and history that they've never seen.

It's the ... "But what are you talking about???? What language is that?" It's the ignorance that makes me want to bend them all over a table and take to their tails with a fresh switch.

It's the arrogance to go through life and not know the history of words like lynch and uppity. This same arrogance that makes them believe that we are as ignorant as they and thus are using words (Racist, Racism, White Privilege) that we don't understand. It's the arrogance that assumes because ignorance is prized among their folk, that it must be prized among ours.

Such ignorance, combined with feelings of superiority (fostered over generations) lead to people who know nothing about nothing, but won't listen to anyone telling them anything, because they believe they are the experts.

And then when we actually get them to listen to us, to pay attention to our words? They hold this ignorance up like it's a crown jewel and not a stinking turd and demand, in the name of the shit, that we educate them.

Lazy Ass Mofuckers.

Wanting to climb up steps we carved ourselves, because they still want to be the expert and want to take the quickest path to get there.

And when we say - "Hell no, I'm not letting you copy off the sheet that is my LIFE!"

They threaten to stay in pigshit ignorance, like a two year old holding their breath until they turn blue and pass out. But we're supposed to care. As if we haven't had to live our lives, working around the fact that they don't know and don't do, jack squat.

For that, I'd pay attention to them long enough for the switch. For that I think their hides should be tanned pink, red and purple.

But I can't make Ignorance = Pain.

So aside from the odd total loss of temper, I focus on us. On community and strength, respect and forbearance, self teaching, personal seeking, knowledge sharing - the courses of the Symposium of Being PoC and Non White. Because there is so much more to learn and so much more to create.

Once Upon A Time I Was Clueless - but I didn't stay that way and I keep leaving that past further and further behind.

Note: Symposium Course - Staking Out My Stamping Ground (DeepaD)


  1. I am not a POC, but I have benefited from those of you who have been generous enough to spend your time and energy to be teachers and try to shake some of us white folks out of our ignorance. Over the course of RaceFail, I’ve had opportunites to see how my own ass is often dangling in the wind. It hurts to realize, but I think it is ultimately a good thing.

    I always find the white people insisting that POC need to "educate" them so ridiculous. It just seems so... rude. To me, it seems the equivalent of me being forced to wear a letter on my shirt indicating my status as a rape survivor and then having a TOTAL FUCKING STRANGER coming up and wanting to play 20 questions about the experience.

    It's also lazy. Yes, there are books out there and yes, it is easier to UNDERSTAND when you can hear a human voice telling you what it is like. What these folks don't seem to understand is that people aren’t books that you can open, absorb knowledge from, and then discard at leisure. If you listen, you will hear their stories. But it requires being an ACTUAL friend to a POC, which means connecting with them on some level. It requires listening more than you talk. It requires treating these revelations as the gift that they are and not throwing it back in the faces of those who choose to offer it to you. It requires holding your goddamned tongue from trying to compare how their experience is JUST LIKE yours because you are poor/disabled/female/whatever. Because it isn’t. At all.

    When I lived on the East Coast, one of my best friends was my neighbor Betsy. We became friends over a shared love of Jane Austen, bad horror films, and jalapeno-flavored anything. Over the course of the two years that we lived next to each other, I learned more and more about her life, as she revealed it to me in small dollops. Because I was her friend and that is what friends do. They talk about their pasts and their hopes and their dreams and what pisses them off. Because I listened to her and laughed with her and held her hand when she cried.

    Because I didn’t see her as nothing but a Latina that was supposed to educate me out of my white privilege and thereby give me a Valuable Life Experience. She was my friend and I loved her. So when she told me that her given name was really Esperanza, but she had always been called Betsy because her mother (also Latina) didn’t want her to seem too “ethnic” and therefore get treated like nothing but a dumb immigrant, I did not try to belittle or rationalize her experience away. I listened and when she changed the subject back to the card game we were playing, I didn’t press her for more details and demand that she educate me. I accepted and loved her as my friend. I still do, even if miles and years and babies have reduced our relationship to occasional phonecalls during naptimes.

    What kills me that most about all this clamouring for POC to educate the ignorant white masses is the fact that if these people could get over their self-righteous anger that someone dared to point out that they might have the deck stacked in their favor and step back and read for a minute, they would see that some POC are already doing exactly that. I read posts from you and deepad and bossymarmalade and others who ARE laying out their bruised hearts to try and teach or identify with others and I want to shake the ignorant bastards who keep whining, “Teach me! Teach me!” The learning is there! RIGHT THERE, YOU IGNORANT ASSES. I am grateful to all of you that have chosen to share what it means to be a POC with some of us. I am sorry that there are some of us that have thrown your gift in the mud.


  2. *claps*

    As always, your post was engaging, passionate, and intelligent. I learn more every time I come here, and I will continue to come here so long as you continue to write. Through this and other resources, I feel that I am becoming a better person overall, and less like the people you write about.

    I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be, but I hope to not make the mistakes I've made before, and that I will be able to stop myself in time from making mistakes I recognize.

    It still frustrates me to hear about the ignorance and stupidity faced by PoC, and how if one thing is okay, than another must be. One example I ran across this was my own little rant on how uncomfortable Resident Evil 5 made me in the beginning, and then the blatant and stupid racism that came later on in the game with the horrible spear-chucking black people in giant wooden masks.

    I had one comment on the post, that said that games should stop treating black people differently, and that "By treating them more positively than others, to me that's racist."

    Frankly, I don't think that killing ANYONE is good, but that this is a game, and I can tell the difference between games and fiction. However, there's this thing called context, and in the history of the world, there's many many MANY years of white, armed men going around, brutalizing PoC, and of movies and TV shows showing PoC to be nothing more than stupid, ignorant savages. RE5 did all of that, and had Sheva, the only constant PoC, as nothing more than assistance and cheesecake.

    She was also drawn Ed Benes Black.

    I guess my ultimate frustration with this example is that the counter argument is that it's just a game, similar to how it's just a comic, or just a TV show, why take it so seriously?

    Except that these things are STILL being done, that's the problem, but some would rather not see it, to point at Obama being President, say "Hey, we're not racist, we voted for him," instead of dealing with the problem and their own racism.

    So, er... yeah, not as smooth as it could have been, but still, an example of fail.