It happened, as it so often does, that I was reading an article a friend posted on Facebook, which linked to another story, which referenced another piece, which led to me reading the following article on RH Reality Check by assistant editor Regina Mahone: Eve Ensler Is Wrong That for Women and Trayvon Martin, ‘Our Struggles Are One’
I just learned Mahone lives in the neighborhood next over from me. I’ve probably seen her around the neighborhood(s) and not known she was a journalist, a feminist, or any other shared or common identification or experience. I’m a white woman and, from her photo on the site, Mahone appears to be a woman of color.
I am the first to admit I don’t have m/any close relationships with women of color. I’ve dated a few black women, I have one close friend who is Latina, I know and associate with a lot of queers of color in the NYC activist and arts communities, but that’s a quantitative familiarity of association, not qualitative depth of knowing and feeling.
I think about racism and racial justice a lot. I live in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where my neighbors are longtime residents of mostly Latin heritage with some other ethnicities thrown in the mix, mostly at the Southern part of the neighborhood bordering on Bed-Stuy. I’m well aware I’m an interloper, class-wise and in terms of skin color privilege. I understand that the recent neighborhood changes – the new upmarket bars, cafes and restaurants (and vintage stores!) – are mostly the function of white people, artists and hipsters, colonizing this area. And now, with young white heterosexual couples with babies, toddlers and dogs (all at once) invading the area, rents here have skyrocketed to the point the New York Times declared Bushwick too expensive and called out Ridgewood, Queens (where Regina Mahone lives) as the next neighborhood in the boroughs to be colonized and cannibalized, by a predominance of white New Yorkers.
There’s not much race/ethnic mixing here for the most part. I rarely see people originally from this neighborhood at the hipster watering holes. I do see several young lesbian couples of color around the nabe who are quite open about their queerness and involve themselves in extremely intense displays of public affection in a way my girlfriend (also white) and I would never dream of and have been afraid to do all our queer lives. And, we are especially afraid to be “too queer” in this neighborhood. Of course everyone on the block knows we’re dykes – we “look” like lesbians. The Latino kids in our building try to articulate it: “Are you two best friends who live together?” one asks us. Another little boy says to me, “You’re a woman, but you have short hair,” trying, I think, to make sense of something he perhaps doesn’t often see in his personal cultural milieu: androgynous women with crew cut-type hair
I posted Regina Mahone’s article about Eve Ensler, from July of this year, with a note that I was questioning humanity because of the comments, a lot of which were about men of color, the racism of white women, and how it’s inevitable that all white women cross the street whenever they see men of color in hoodies ahead of them. But, the comment that sent me over the edge, and made me share the article, was a comment from woman who exclaimed how could anyone question Eve Ensler’s commitment to and communion with people of color when she does work with sexually victimized women in the Congo.
White women have been “working” with women of color in allegedly woman-affirming, feminist-oriented capacities for a while now. But, it hasn’t changed the fact of white feminist racism and racist collusion.
I’m 50, so I know best the herstory of second wave white feminism. Some very committed black lesbians stayed the course for a very long time in the white women-focused feminist movement. Now younger black feminists are challenging the same “movement” that has to this day been dismissive of women of color and their specific concerns not only around white feminist’s continued racism, but also about brown-skinned women’s cultural and community issues, including those of men of color, and including the stereotyping/profiling of Black men as scary and violent.
This morning I saw the following comment posted on a different friend’s Facebook page: “Can we put Chris Brown and George Zimmerman in a locked room together for a few hours. Hopefully neither one will make it out,” with a link to this article: Chris Brown Gets Booted Out Of Anger Management Rehab After Throwing Rock Through Mom’s Car Window.
There were snarky remarks from other white women. I remarked that I was compelled not to make a snarky comment because it seems problematic for me as a white woman to comment on the aggression/violence of two public men of color.
I’m not willing to indulge in that (or any other) racist trope lightheartedly. What I can do, rather than resort to snark, is, as Mahone suggested, continue to examine my institutional racism as a white person in America and bring that discussion to the table.