So I've been reading a lot of blogs about racism lately. I haven't yet formulated anything terribly coherent to say, but I thought I'd give at least a bit of a try.
Part of the reason that I'm largely incoherent on this topic right now is because I hadn't thought terribly deeply about racism, white privilege, institutional oppresion, etc. until I hit college. Apparently a lot of people don't; I don't feel very bad about it either (though maybe I should) because, well, I'm only twenty, and as no one ever really bothered to talk very much about racism to me when I was a kid, it didn't really occur to me to think about it in high school. It wasn't until I started reading a lot of feminist and gay rights blogs that I sort of blundered across the racism blogs. (I completely missed racefail_09, because I'm honestly not very involved in the LJ fandom community; I stalk a few authors in large fandoms, but the only ones I really participate in are the teeny little ones where everyone knows everyone, like Wodehouse or Master and Commander.)
A little bit of background about myself, because this is a public post and while most of my friends know me, a lot of you won't: I am (in case you haven't guessed already) white. Mostly German, Norwegian, and French, for those of you who care; most of my family's been in North America for several centuries. I think the latest immigrant came over a little after the American Civil War, but most of my family had been here before then in either Louisiana, Quebec, or the Midwest. (There is lots of military service in my family history. Lots.) But I digress.
I am also, in no particular order, a cisgendered female, a Zen Buddhist, and a lesbian. I grew up in Seattle, for the most part in a rich, mostly white neighborhood just next to a neighborhood with three Jewish temples, two of them Orthodox, and went to Catholic school for thirteen years. I go to college at a tiny liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. And finally, I'm a biology major who will probably wind up in botany.
And, relatively recently, to bring it back to my point (I have a tendency to wander around), I have started to become a lot more aware of issues surrounding racism.
I've looked at male privilege and straight privilege in quite a bit of depth before, but while these issues certainly have their similarities to racism, they are ultimately different issues. Yes, I have experienced prejudice based on being female, and have at times been desperately grateful that I'm not an obvious lesbian at a glance, but as I mentioned, I've been doing a lot of reading, and I believe that by now I at least partly comprehend that my experiences have little to nothing to do with institutionalized racism.
Women's rights need to be addressed. Gay rights need to be addressed. But not in forums specifically for people of color. That is called derailing! I have learned this by reading some truly cringeworthy comments and the well-deserved smackdowns for it!
However, I find myself a bit paralyzed now. I can accept that if PoC want their own space, I stay the hell out and shut the hell up. Even though it's not very analogous, I think about it as I would think about a Christian prayer group wanting to come hang out where I'm doing zazen; okay, fine, they have good intentions, I'd be glad to talk to them later but could they maybe not come and use my Zen space where I'm currently trying to do Zen? (actually, now that I think about it, that may be a better analogy than I originally thought it was. Huh.)
But when it comes to racism discussions where I am involved and, hell, even allowed to participate...what do I do? I don't want to derail; derailing is bad! And I really, really don't want to talk over anyone.
Except, at this time, with the reading I've done so far, the only role I can see for myself is to be quiet and nod in such discussions. Which, okay, if that's what I'm needed to do, then I'll do it wholeheartedly. But I don't know if that's contributing or not, and I want to contribute. I want to help. I just really, really don't want to muck things up further.
I know that sometimes I will fuck up. I am a human being, and humans fuck up on an alarmingly regular basis. What I'm trying to find is a way for me to throw in and do my bit, because I feel like I'm not doing enough.
The answer I see right now is, "More reading!" And I will be doing that; I will be doing a lot of that, and it's entirely possible I'll stumble across something tomorrow and feel kind of dumb about writing this post.
I just...I don't know, wanted to make my intentions clear or something? Hell, I have no idea. But writing things out tends to help me think, and I've written this much. So, uh, I guess I'll post it and see what happens.