I’ve been strangely ambivalent about the #PghBlog4Justice project and unable to put my finger on why. I’ve been part of more than a dozen different blog events over the past years and typically enjoy a group think approach to a topic.
Maybe its because to my knowledge there are no people of color participating? I don’t know that for sure, but that’s my general impression. Now I do believe that as white folks, we need to have these conversations with other white folks as a critical tool to addressing racial justice (or redressing racial injustice.) But I’m not convinced that white Pittsburgh bloggers have adequately grappled with racism. I realize that’s going to make some folks pretty unhappy, but that’s rarely stopped me before.**
And that’s a problem. It is a problem called white supremacy and it is the reason Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman walks free. White supremacy exists. White privilege exists. And it is embedded in the laws like Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine, it is embedded in our legal and judicial system. It is embedded in the media and politics and schools and so forth.
White supremacy benefits me because I am white. That seems so obvious, but … we always say but. But I’m not a racist. But I treat everyone fairly. But I didn’t ask to be born white. But I have black friends, date black people, go to a multicultural church. White supremacy is not an opinion and white privilege is not a choice.
I am a lesbian and a woman and a person with a disability. All of those things put me squarely in second-class citizenship status in our society. But being white “cushions the blow” so to speak. And that means its wrong to suggest that the impact of homophobia and sexism and ableism as I experience them is the same thing as racism. I can say that clearly we don’t all get along, that institutionalized “isms” are incredibly difficult to navigate (or survive) and that institutional privilege thrives when those without privilege argue about it, right?
I don’t understand why my friends and family and neighbors and colleagues think its okay to use the word nigger, but I also really don’t understand why they think its okay to talk about crack whores, welfare queens, and Section 8 residents as if those terms aren’t code for “poor black women.” And I really don’t want to try to understand because I’m tired and I want to talk about my own stuff. I want to talk about why I don’t really have many black friends. I want to talk about why I’m not at a Black Pride event (yet) or why I haven’t joined New Voices Pittsburgh. I want to talk about what holds me back and how I challenge it and make it better.
When I “covered” the press conference and the sit-in last week, I stood for awhile with the other media folks. They trickled away as the sit-in started, but I stayed. I didn’t sit with the attendees and didn’t really think of myself as a participant. I sat on the other side of the room and I observed. I tried to understand what was happening and what it might all mean. But I also took advantage of the fact that when the white male media and the white male staffers gathered, I could stand next to them and listen. It was a very lonely day even though I was surrounded by people who were perfectly pleasant to me.
In my heart, I wanted to go sit with the protestors and be part of their discussion circle. I wanted to be there, not listening to white privilege conversations that sort of disgusted me really. But I didn’t make the move to the group and I don’t yet know why. I stayed as long as I could and then I went home. To my house in a predominantly black neighborhood. I saw the young man on house arrest sitting on his stoop, bored out of his mind – I’ve yet to figure how that’s going to get him on a better path. I saw the couple down the street planting flowers. My neighbors came out to adjust their parking cones (sigh) and said hello.
I don’t know any of their last names and I’ve never been invited to their homes. We stand on the street during crisis or occasional visits and we chat. But we aren’t friends or really neighborly. There’s a huge barrier and its not going to be overcome by blogging or lecturing my brother-in-law for using “the n word.”
Frankly, I don’t know how its going to be overcome. I could make a resolution here to take action, but I won’t. I know that I won’t. I can just be honest about my lived experience. And my experience is that the murder of Trayvon Martin and the ensuing dialogue has stirred up something painful and powerful in my heart. I could stuff it back down and focus on other social justice issues to do my part. I could provide you with an analysis of systemic racism. I could rant.
But I don’t know what to do. Maybe blogging for justice – for me – means blogging about how tired I am and how sad I am and how talking about the truth of white supremacy is basically exhausting & humiliating. That’s the best I have right now.
But – please – don’t expect me to help you understand that white privilege exists. If you can’t see it, I don’t have anything to offer you right now. I highly suggest reading the post by Jodi Hirsh I clearly have my own issues to work through.
I realize this post isn’t quite what blogging for justice is supposed to be about. But in my very biased opinion – writing a post without using the term “white privilege” or “white supremacy” is pointless. If we can’t be honest about that fact – THE fact that TrayvonPgh is making – is this project about creating justice or just finding a way to to express ourselves?
I simply don’t know.