This Isn’t About JUST Race

We are six days out from the shock of the cheeto’s election. Things are starting to clarify how various social justice groups are going to begin to move forward. What I see happening will result in splintering, factions, and ineffective prevention of his hateful policies.

At the core of most discussions about the cheeto and his politics right now is race. The reason for this that I see is that Americans have never had an effective conversation about race and racism and it has fermented and grown and poisoned so many efforts. This is a core issue and it must be dealt with effectively. The thing is, we aren’t dealing with it effectively.

There are a few lines of argument that are not rising the the forefront of this discussion. I want to address a couple of them.

Feminism is Racist.

I have seen this issue come up over and over again on women’s political boards and with groups like Pantsuit Nation. And yes, mainstream feminism is racist and has been racist in its approach to women’s rights.

HOWEVER, many first wave feminists were involved in abolition. Many second wave feminists came out of the Civil Rights Movement. We have always had factions of feminism which see the critical intersection of race, gender, sexual orientation, class and religion. This is not to say, “But there are good feminists…” and then do nothing to address the racism in the movement.

I have taught politics and worked in the women’s movement for decades. When someone shouts “Feminism is Racist” the impact is real and drastic. Young women of color and queer women do not see the mainstream feminist movement as something they need. I have seen many WOC and queers say, “well, I don’t really need feminism. Feminists are racist.” The thing is, all women need feminism.

What would be more effective is when people start talking about a 29 cent pay gap is for us to yell in chorus, “For White Women!” We need to draw attention to the fact that Black women make closer to $0.65 cents on the white male dollar and Latina’s make closer to $0.49. We need to make the main stream feminist confront their racial blindness, not run from the movement.

We need to point out that when you go to the salon for your $25 mani/pedi special, the women doing your services are many times either working for less than minimum wage or are here as slave labor. Your choice as woman to go to a salon that employs women at illegal wage levels so you can get your cheap mani/pedi harms women way more than say, not getting around to writing your elected official about an issue. We need to educate ourselves about how our daily choices empower or harm other women. Which means recognizing class issues, racial issues, immigration issues….

We Must Deal with Racism First!

No. We must deal with racism, sexism. xenophobia and homophobia simultaneously. The thing is, the cheeto and his supporters have a policy list that isn’t just about attacking people based on race. It includes:

  • Stopping immigration from all Muslim nations;
  • Building a wall with Mexico;
  • Mass deportations;
  • Eliminating access to safe abortions;
  • Poisoning the planet, which dis-proportionally affects poor folks;
  • Eliminating funding to treat and prevent HIV and AIDS;
  • Funding “gay conversion” therapy;
  • Eliminating access to health care for many poor and middle class people;
  • Eliminating access to prescription birth control.

The attack on our rights and our community is not like a laser beam focused on any single group. We are in this together and must deal with our internal and inter-group bigotry immediately and completely.

I keep coming back to a quote from a woman who was attacked in a hate crime. Researchers asked her if she was attacked because she was a woman, a lesbian, or Black. She replied, “You know, when they were beating and raping me and calling me a ‘n***r bitch dyke'” I didn’t really get that they were making much of a distinction between those demographic characteristics.”

My Pain Hurts More Than Your Pain.

Oh, shut up. We can’t compare who has it worse. This is a conversation meant to shame whoever you are yelling at into silence and make them feel like their pain is somehow insignificant to whatever you are experiencing.

We all hurt. We all have been attacked. Our failure to recognize the pain of others is partly why we are in this mess. Yes, even some cheeto supporters feel pain. As much as I hate to give any sympathy to the devil, the cheeto brains feel like they have been harmed. We need to find a way to rationally address this issue.

In our different communities, the “I hurt more than you!” is rearing its ugly head. In several conversations with folks I thought were friends I got the, “You can’t possibly understand what it means to be under attack. You are White! You are protected.”

The thing is, as  a queer woman, rape survivor, with a Muslim sister and nephew, an immigrant brother in law, and a Black man I love more than life itself, who spent over a decade fighting for treatment, prevention and education in the HIV/AIDS epidemic I am effected deeply by hateful cheetos. I can’t say I am affected in the same way as a Black woman or a Hispanic woman. What I can say, is telling me there is no way I could possibly understand what it means to be targeted and claiming that somehow my Whiteness must protect me from things like rape nullifies my existence and I have to fight the need to say “Fuck you.” Attacking one group for “not feeling my pain” gets us nowhere.

Cheeto Hate is Everywhere

The hate is all encompassing. Our response has to match it.

This is a huge lift for our communities. Each of us is an intersection of multiple identities. Each of us is under attack in different ways by the cheeto and his supporters. You can’t fight for women without addressing your feelings about race and racism. You can’t fight for queers if you don’t look at your feelings of classism. You can’t fight for religious minorities if you don’t look at your xenophobia.

Yes, America has never addressed the racism of its chattel slavery system and the policy and social remains of that issue. But we have also never addressed our class-ism, our sexism, our xenophobia, our ablism… and on and on and on. To do this requires systematic thinking. We have to see many lines which intersect and make things complicated. It is hard.

If we don’t do this, if we say, “Well, we will deal with x issue first,” we will all go down with the ship.

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