As a white woman with a blog I say is about my humorous obsession with race relations, I have to be ready to listen and learn.
In the beginning months of WJSS, I was simply terrified about offending black people, and, I’m certain I have. Other times I know I’ve erred on the side of being politically correct so as not to offend. I hate conflict. I want everyone to think I’m a nice person. Even though I worried about being called racist or patronizing in my writings, I had this inner voice that said, “bring it on.” I wanted to have these dialogues. I wanted to be questioned and challenged and not be afraid. That would be how barriers got broken down, how we’d connect across color-lines and truly begin to understand and honor one another. Feedback and comments on the blog have helped with this. So does reading articles which deal with matters of race.
Warrell’s article is a look at a current trend of white women, some of whom are celebrities, like Pink and Chelsea Handler, to speak out or write books on their past sexual “slutty” escapades, treating them like a badge of feminist honor. Their stories usually end on how they’ve moved on from that to marriage and family. Warrell argues that women of color face being exoticized and possibly seen as less desirable in American society, and are not afforded the same privilege. In an article that Warrell links to within hers, Susan Brison’s, An Open Letter From Black Women To Slutwalk Organizers, some historical context was given–that of a complex past history including slavery, being considered others’ human property, and/or being viewed as one-dimensional hyper-sexual beings.
It seems if black women openly shared about their promiscuity they wouldn’t be able to redeem themselves in the eyes of society as pure, good women, who go on to be good wives, mothers and career women. Warrell notes that the media’s lack of television and movies portraying fully-dimensional black women exploring their sexual selves as in Sex and the City and Girls, doesn’t help any.
When I read the comments Warrell and some of her friends have endured who have dated outside of their race, including one white guy who picked up a chestnut off the ground, and showed it to his date, saying that it reminded him of her big black booty, well, it still has this surreal quality, like really, it’s 2013, and you person that I share the same race with, just said that..really?? I have to pause and take that in, and believe that, and become less and less amazed at all that still is being said. Being said from a place of ignorance, fear, and constructed ideas about race we’ve internalized and don’t realize how stupid or offensive we are being.
Warrell goes into much more depth in her article, which is definitely worth a read. And, while I learned about the black/white female issue of expressing sexual prowess, and it was important to me to read about it, I am now conscious that I’ve been learning a different, even more important lesson this past year while reading many articles on daily living with race as a factor, written by black people giving perspective through their eyes.
I’m learning to simply listen. Sounds easy, but I haven’t always found it to be that way. Even when I started reading Laura’s article, my inner voice was saying things like. “but, but…There’s always the buts. The defensive buts that say, but, I’m a cool white person. I’m not the white woman with the cushy job, who led the charmed life, and married the cute artsy or rich guy that you’re talking about.
You know, hey it’s me, Wendy Jane, of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake, who grew up comfortable, yeah, but I wasn’t one of those white girls who grew up in the suburbs and had only one black person who went to my school. I grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, and when I was in high school in the late 70’s the hallways were filled 50/50 with afros and feathered tresses.
I didn’t even know what white privilege meant at first when I started to hear it being used a couple of years ago. I thought it meant you were a rich white person who went to private school, and lived a cushy life, like the “fulfilled, easy-peasy lives as wives and mothers..” Warrell uses to describe some of the white women who have written books on their sexual pasts.
It’s like I want some kind of pass. But, it’s not about getting a pass. That’s not the point. A pass which cannot be given anyway, because I am not black. And because I am not black, I cannot know, in this case, what it is like to be a black woman and live with the perspective others place on you and your sexuality. I can’t say, oh, but you deserve to live out your sexuality any way you see fit, and screw anyone and their opinion of you. Warrell doesn’t mean for me to feel bad for being white. That’s wasn’t her agenda at all. That’s my own white Jewish gal guilt. In fact she calls for the equality for white and black women when it comes to sharing about their sexual experimentation.
Warrell simply wants me to hear what she has to say. It’s my job to hear her. It’s not my job to get defensive. It’s not my job to try and tell her about my woeful white woman experiences that I feel are similar to hers. It’s not my job to try and tell her I understand fully what it’s like to be a black woman who can’t share openly about her many flings out of fear of how that will reflect back on her. It is my job to listen, to believe, to be aware, to be educated.
That’s what I learned from Laura K. Warrell and Racialicious this week. What about you? What have you learned this week? I’d love to hear.
www.huffingtonpost.com, An Open Letter From Black Women To Slutwalk Organizers, Susan Brison, September 27, 2011