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anti-racism

DOES COLOR FUCKING MATTER?

I have been witness to the insistence from folks that because their European ancestors some thousand years ago were considered the "niggers of Europe," they share my racist history of colonization. I have had a number of cohorts say in all seriousness and without a hint of reality, "I understand your struggle, Sister! I understand because I share your oppression."

Did I mention that the only people who have said these things to me are white skinned and therefore privy to all of the privilege entitled and contained thereof?
Ever see color? Color in regard to one's skin?

I ask because throughout my lifetime, I have heard many, many times from folks who I am in regular contact with that they do not see color. Their opinion is that we all live in the same world, and if everyone would just "not see color," then gosh darnit, this ding dang world would be a grand ol' place to be. Because, they say, color does not matter.

Something else that I have been witness to is the insistence from folks that because their European ancestors some thousand years ago were considered the "niggers of Europe," they share my racist history of colonization. With this, I have had a number of cohorts say in all seriousness and without a hint of reality, "I understand your struggle, Sister! I understand because I share your oppression."

Did I mention that the only people who have said these things to me are white skinned and therefore privy to all of the privilege entitled and contained thereof?

"When those who serve defer to the authority of the experience of the oppressed, social change is possible."

I have taken this quote from fellow journalist Bonnie Tinker. While her statement speaks specifically to the experience of battered women and the need to create and support a movement that includes the leadership of victims and survivors of domestic violence, I am significantly moved by her statement. I am moved because this statement contains in its few words the message that all too often falls deaf on the ears of the white radical and Progressive Left.

A months ago I spoke at a pre-May Day event in Portland. Aimed at promoting community building, communication and solidarity within the Portland radical community, the gathering was overwhelmingly white, young, and included groups active in protecting the environment, supporting prisoners, publishers of alternative media, as well as organizations whose activism focused on anti-fascist and anti-racist struggles.

As usual, I was one of maybe two other people of color to attend the gathering of about 100. I touched on this when it became my time to speak. I began by thanking the other attendees for their work and then asked why it was that, when attending events organized by the radical Left, I always find myself asking, "Why am I the only person of color here?"

I then addressed one of the anti-racist organizations in attendance. "The folks whose oppression that you work to eradicate why aren't they here? Do they know about your work and that you would be here tonight?"

I was met with blanks stares.

I continued to talk about the need for interracial and intercultural dialog within the radical left, or more specifically the white radical left. I also said that in order to make real change possible, it is imperative that this dialog occurs as a first step in forming coalitions with radical people of color.

I have many, many times been asked by white social justice activists to explain how to best organize in Black/Latino/Asian/indigenous communities of color. My answer to this is, if you even have to ask this question, you've got no business in even attempting to organize in communities of color.

I remember attending a gathering about 15 years ago that had been called by Indigenous elders who were fighting to preserve sacred sites on Indian land. A young blond haired, blue eyed dread locked man asked one of the elders how he could best assist in the sacred site struggle. The elder answered, "Well, if you find that you absolutely have to be part of our struggle, I guess I would advise that you just show up, keep your mouth shut and listen."

What I would add to this is, that as much as we all would like to believe that we all live in the same world, the fact of the matter is that we do not. As a colonized Chicana, I awaken every day and wonder in what form I will have to experience racism. Will it come in the form of cultural assumption? Will it arrive in the form of unfounded suspicion based on racist stereotypes? Or, will it be a blatant and direct attack based solely on the color of my skin?

We do not all live in the same world. Unless you are, because of your skin color, the target of the 500-year-old undemocratic white supremacist oppression enacted by the 500-year-old dominant social structure, you DO NOT share my oppression. If you have white skin, you are privileged. And, please make no mistake, please understand; I do see color.

And, it fucking matters.

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