Blac(k)ademic has written a post that has generated a lot of discussion regarding the frustration some women of color bloggers feel towards many white liberal bloggers. I have been thinking about my treatment of race on this blog since the beginning, but particularly so during the last week after this post garnered some criticism from a commenter at the end of the thread.
I figure this may be a good time for some transparency as to how I think about discussions of race, or the lack thereof, on this blog or during my roaming about the blogosphere. This post is not meant to be an apology, an admission, an excuse, or a justification of anything; it is simply a description of how I think.
1) Since the beginning of this blog, I have been conscious that American feminism sometimes seems to be the exclusive province of upper-middle class white women -- women like me.
2) Nonetheless, I frequently write about my personal experience. I try to be very clear that my personal experiences are not representative of all women. For example, I feel that I have reaped enormous benefits from feminism, but I am always careful to note that feminist gains have not necessarily reached women outside of my demographic. I don't claim to speak for all women, although I enjoy explaining fundamentals of feminism to non-feminists.
3) I am well aware of all the topics I don't write about in-depth. I don't write too often about issues facing people with disabilities, gay people, poor people, religious minorities, prisoners, men, children, sex workers, people of color, people from other cultures than mine, people from other countries than the U.S., or a whole host of other issues and people who deserve attention. These are all issues that I care about. I write about some of these issues occasionally. But this blog cannot be all things to all people. I try to strike a balance between writing about those things I know best and reminding readers that there is a wide world out there to explore.
4) I don't feel guilty about being white. I neither created nor contributed to the evil racial history or the current racial tensions in this country. I have seen a lot of white guilt and it has always struck me as incredibly damaging and counter-productive. As Blac(k)ademic said, ". . . feeling guilty doesn't create solidarity." Her observation reminds me of a portion of The Brothers Karamazov in which one character developed a loathing of another character because he had wronged her in the past; he hated her because the memory of what he had done to her made him feel guilty. I think that sense of guilt is what makes a lot of white people uncomfortable and self-conscious when talking about racial issues, or even uncomfortable interacting with people of other races!
5) Just because I don't feel guilty however, does not mean that I am oblivious to the fact that being white has made my life easier in many ways. I can pretty much go anywhere in this society and take it for granted that I fit in. That is not necessarily so for people of different races than mine, people with disabilities, people who are gay, and so on.
6) In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens talked about how important it is for one's soul "to walk abroad." I think it is crucial to explore how other people experience the world. I think it is important to try to learn what experiences are universal versus what experiences are functions of one's particular ethnicity, sex, or other characteristics. The blogosphere is one potentially powerful means of getting one's soul to "walk abroad." If I think race relations are peachy in this country, there are plenty of blogs that say otherwise. If I think that it is a no-brainer that every woman should be attracted to the feminist movement, there are plenty of conservative Christian bloggers who think the opposite. If I am inclined to think that all Muslims are potential terrorists, the Muslim bloggers out there will set me straight. (I should point out that "walking abroad" also involves actually making an effort to do something about problems other people face. The learning about the problems is a lot easier than the doing something part!)
7) My personal interests in "walking abroad" on the internet are in exploring conservative Christian blogs and the African femosphere, by which I am trying to regain some of my long lost knowledge of African issues and politics, and catch up on what's been going on in sub-Saharan Africa over the last twenty years since I left. But I don't want to fall into the trap of adding blogs to my blogroll just to try to create a rainbow effect. Most of the blogs in my blogroll under "pro-feminist links" or "lefty links" are people who found their way here, rather than people I sought out (with some exceptions, like Pandagon, and Hugh Schwyzer, and Feministing, whom I've been reading all along). Other than my intentional exploration of the African femosphere (which has been slowgoing due to lack of time), I haven't made any effort to include particular types of people on my blogroll. I just add people who come to my attention for one reason or another and who produce quality blogs.
8) When I talk about feminism, I have not shied away from making comparisons or using terminology from the long history of slavery and civil rights abuses against black people in America. In doing so, I am not implying that the issues facing women like me are the same as or equivalent to the issues facing American slaves in the nineteenth century, or those who suffered in the Jim Crow south. I am merely making analogies that I hope can illuminate a particular issue. Racism and sexism have gone underground in this country, such that people who might openly voice racist or sexist views find more subtle ways of doing so. Making an analogy to some of the very worst arguments or abuses that have occurred in the past is a way of flushing out some of the insidious but hidden biases occurring in the present.