Since the election, I've been very interested in and absorbed by the many ways this new President has impacted our thoughts, feelings, and worldviews. One thing I am most excited to see is privileged people waking up to the reality of injustice in America.
It started in my babywearing group on Facebook. I am more of a hobby baby-wearer, and by no means on the level of many of the women in this group for whom it is a lifestyle. I enjoy seeing the beautiful wraps, cool finishes, the cute carriers, and occasionally add one to my Pinterest board Wear all the Babies.
Recently, women of color started sharing their experiences about being discriminated against or otherwise treated in racist ways while babywearing. Naturally, some white women in the group took offense to these revelations and asked that they not talk about race and keep the group "just about babywearing." There was a lot of tone policing (as if asking nicely is going to end oppression). The thing these women fail to realize is that for people of color, race is not separate from anything they do, think, or experience. That is the failure of whiteness and white privilege - we do not see the water in which we swim. Our race is the default and therefore devoid of examination and self-reflection - and that needs to change.
For the next week, the hashtag #youcantignorethis sprung up. Many women shared their experiences of racism while babywearing. I found them brave, refreshing, and honest. The topic of cultural appropriation while babywearing came up as well, which was also fascinating to read. It's something I didn't realize, being new to babywearing (and also being white as can be) that babywearing has been colonized and columbused to death by companies and white people in general. From taking traditional indigenous and African patterns and re-naming them things like "tribal" to the co-opting of the entire practice itself - these women were calling it all out on the table. I reluctantly (it's really very pretty) went to my pin board and removed one such wrap by German company Didymos which was called "Indio" - a racist slur used against Zapotec Mesoamerican indigenous culture. (To learn more, read here.) The term, which I had never heard before may not mean much to me, but to the people who were harmed by it, it's very upsetting. We should respect that. Furthermore, the company has since renamed the wrap to "Prima" due to public outcry. I'm not sure if that means that it's okay to continue using it, but that is an area for further learning and development on my part. My gut feeling tells me that I want to avoid this company altogether if they want to profit off of indigenous cultures and use insensitive language in naming their wraps. I can't stomach companies profiting off of indigenous people at the same time that indigenous Americans are being oppressed in real life, as they always have been.
That whole experience taught me two things:
1) Educating people is a LOT of work. I saw women of color get fed up really quickly and get justifiably angry. I also saw white women step up and and do some educating as well and was moved to do some myself. I immediately got tired of repeating myself and literally copy/pasted the same thing over and over just to keep it moving. I actually had to take a break. But I am privileged to take a break. My mental exhaustion and frustration is a scintilla of the lived experience of people of color. I have a great respect for those who continue to do the free labor of educating people but I also respect those who choose self-care and bid them adieu for their own sanity.
2) Some people just don't get it. I saw a lot of defensiveness, resistance, and hurt feelings. Everything from "I'm not racist" to "Bringing up racism is what causes these problems - we are all one." If anything, they made it about them and denied WOC's actual experience in favor of their hurt at being called out (the phenomenon known as white women's tears). You know, the typical. Very few said "Wow I didn't know. I will try to better" or things like "I am listening and learning."
It made me reflect on my own racial identity development and how far I've come. I do have some (some) empathy for those who are simply ignorant, haven't been exposed to other viewpoints or haven't taken the time to examine their own privilege. Not everyone went to a liberal college with diversity workshops and leadership training. I am very lucky and grateful for these opportunities to unpack my privilege and dismantle my internalized white supremacy. I still make mistakes, I still screw up - but I am trying.
So that brings me to the point of this post. We need to do the work. Many are finally starting to do the work, thanks to this election. We white folks need to take responsibility for our part in keeping white supremacy alive. We didn't ask for this but people of color didn't ask for racism. Anti-racism work is only half the battle - the big one is within. It's examining everything you think you knew and turning it upside down. It's both listening AND believing people when they tell you there is a problem. It's trying not to make it about you, but to make it about how you can work to fix it. It's recognizing that the concept of whiteness is a lie (both my Irish and Italian ancestors were not considered "white") and that our subconscious worldview that whiteness as the end all be-all is what is holding us all back. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere - I do not enjoy living in a world where I have special unearned benefits and others have unearned hardships. The only way to empower others is to relinquish power, and the only one who can do the work is you.
If you are ready to start doing the work, don't expect a free education. Google is your friend. Start here with this awesome introductory post on Intersectional Feminism. Keep working at it and assume that the work may never end. But we sure will get a lot further a lot faster if you get on board.
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!