Those tears

of a white woman who came to the group for Women of Color
her grief cut us into guilt while we clutched the straw
of this tiny square inch we have which we need
so desperately when we need so much more
We talked her into leaving
which took 10 minutes of our precious 60
Those legion white Lesbians whose feelings are hurt
because we have a Lesbians of Color Potluck
once a month for 2 hours
without them
Those tears of the straight woman
because we kicked out her boyfriend at the Lesbians only
poetry reading where no microphone was provided
& the room was much too small for all of us
shouting that we were imperialists
though I had spent 8 minutes trying to explain
to her that an oppressed people
cannot oppress their oppressor
She ignored me
charged into the room weeping & storming
taking up 9 minutes of our precious tiny square inch
Ah those tears
which could be jails, graves, rapists, thieves, thugs
those tears which are so puffed up with inappropriate grief
Those women who are used to having their tears work
rage at us
when they don’t
We are not real Feminists they say
We do not love women
I yell back with a wet face
_Where are our jobs? Our apartments?_
_Our voices in parliament or congress?_
_Where is our safety from beatings, from murder?_
_You cannot even respect us to allow us_
_60 uninterrupted minutes for ourselves_

Your tears are chains
Feminism is the right of each woman
to claim her own life her own time
her own interrupted 60 hours
60 days
60 years
No matter how sensitive you are
if you are white
you are
No matter how sensitive you are
if you are a man
you are
We who are not allowed to speak have the right
to define our terms our turf
These facts are not debatable
Give us our inch
& we’ll hand you a hanky


30 thoughts on “Those tears

  1. Yes, powerful. I’ve seen my fellow whites wrinkle their brows many times in naive consternation at the desire, basically, of all the black kids to sit together in the cafeteria. It’s a weird kind of white anger, isn’t it? I think you capture it well here, as well as explaining a lot about why whites should back off in these instances.

  2. Macon, the question could be framed as, “Why are all the whites sitting together?”

    On the lighter side, I went to a private white prep school and once when it was time to divide up into laboratory groups the two other mixed/non-white girls and I almost became group for no particular reason. Then one girl says, “Wait a second, we can’t do this, they’ll say all the minorities are clustering together,” so we laughed and joined other groups. I’ve seen older blacks explicitly not sit with black friends for the stated purpose of not wanting whites to think that they’re all sitting together because they’re black.

  3. Gawd. That’s kinda sad, panracial. The (white) “bluest eye” that Toni Morrison wrote about is really watching over things, isn’t it?

  4. Exactly, macon. The bluest eye is about watching over things and analyzing them within its own framework. The bluest eye sees three brown girls working on a science experiment together and assumes it must be because they’re all brown. And (off topic) nothing is scarier to some white people that the fact that there are things their gaze can’t see and therefore don’t know about that might pop up in their existence at any point- for example, Jeremiah Wright or the fact that Tyler Perry could become really rich and successful completely off their radar — the realization that the blue eye isn’t an all seeing eye freaks many white people out. This is followed by the impulse to destroy what cannot be monitored – i.e. the forbidding of drumming during slavery since since owners knew slaves could communicate that way or the condemnation of Jeremiah Wright.

  5. Well, I’m White and I don’t have any problem with a Women of Colour only meeting – provided it’s being held on their own dime.

  6. Anybody who wants to hold a “women of colour only” group should be free to do so. But they should be prepared to pay for it out of their own pockets, not through our tax money by, for instance, using a space at a public university (again, unless they’re paying to rent that space with their own money). Same thing should go for Whites only groups. Hold your own meetings, but not with my tax dollars.

  7. I don’t see anything wrong with POC, etc. using public property for their stuff… However, I think whites should get the same right to turn away POC in the same way. We all have cultural differences and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to associate with only them if you feel it’s going to improve your life.

    However, I think the article smacks of a severe misundertanding of government and society. There seems to be a heavy leftist resentment that’s misplaced with indignation related to sex and color.

  8. Emilia, it’s fine for people of color to hold “women of color only” group meetings through in places paid for through public tax money because people of color have already given disproportionately to this country. They have paid for those spaces with blood beaten out of their ancestors during slavery, blood shed by Navajo code talkers and black GIs who came back to countries that still treated them as second class citizens, and centuries of sytemic abuses. Because society disproportionately burdened certain peoples — justice means that society makes provisions for those peoples.

    For the same reason, it is not ok for whites to use space in those ways — whites have already used up their centuries worth of taking all tax dollars for white-only purposes. Furthermore, whiteness is not a culture. Irish is a culture. German is a culture. Basque is a culture. Whiteness is a system of power that was created because white indentured servants and black indentured servants had a habit of getting together and revolting against their oppresors. Whiteness was offered to poor whites as a way to make them identify with their oppressors instead of their fellow oppressed, and whiteness remains a power-construct. Furthermore, there is something wrong with not wanting to associate with people when its based on racism.

    Karma – what misunderstandings do you see in the poem?

    Some links are beneficial here: quote:

    †the fallacious flip- The reflex some people have to invert an example regarding racial issues to show how it is unfair that POC are claiming things (rights) or saying things (self empowerment in the face of oppressive and derisive societal memes) or afraid of things (contact with police, store security guards, speaking boldly in defense of their People) or “assuming” things (like when you walk past cars and hear doors locking, or are in a conversation suddenly rife with the same old racist arguments always leveled at you). It is a wholly invalid framing, because it assumes that all ethnicities have the same history in this land, the same power, the same struggle to claim personhood, the same assumptions leveled on them. In this light, The Fallacious Flip is nothing but more oppression and privileged (un)thinking; an attempt to shut down the POC from gaining equality. quote (from a white author):

    Anti-racist activist Tim Wise wages a lonely battle against the delusions of Euro-Americans, many of whom believe they are the victims of “reverse racism” and some of whom advocate the formation of white student unions, white history courses and clubs, and other such nonsense. Facts of history and present realities of power do not enter into the logic of these sons and daughters of white privilege in America, who believe they are, somehow, oppressed.

    It seems like every week I get an e-mail from someone demanding to know why there’s no White History Month, or White Entertainment Television, or why whites aren’t allowed to have organizations to defend “our” interests, the way people of color are, without being thought of as racists.

    After all, groups representing persons of color were created to address the unique disempowerment experienced by those groups’ members. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans have been systematically denied opportunities in the U.S. solely because of their group membership. Their “race” was the basis for housing discrimination, restrictions on educational opportunities, exclusion from jobs, and other forms of mistreatment. Whites have never been the targets of institutional oppression in the U.S., as whites, such that organizing as whites would have made sense. Sure, whites have been marginalized on the basis of ethnicity – the Irish, for example, or Italians, or Jews – and have long organized around ethnicity as a support system, for job networking, educational benefits, or other purposes. But as whites, persons of European descent have been the dominant group. So to organize on that basis, would be to come together for the purpose of providing collective support for one’s existing domination and hegemony. It would be like corporate management forming a union to protect its interests from workers; or like the upper-caste in India, forming a Brahmin support group to protect itself from the Dalits, at the other end of the caste spectrum.

  9. I’m Canadian, so maybe I’m coming at this with a different perspective. In Canada I think the only group that has some moral claim for special treatment is Aboriginals (i.e. Indians and Inuits). I don’t think other minorities (by the way, here we consider Aboriginals a group apart from other visible minorities) have a similar basis for any such claim. Sure, many other visible minorities were treated badly in Canada, Chinese, Japanese, etc., but so were many White groups, like Ukrainians, Irish, and so on. OK, I might say in the US African Americans and Natives as well have some claim to be granted tax-funded privileges, like holding an all-Black or all-Native meeting, but to include every minority group under such an umbrella doesn’t make sense. Same goes with issues like affirmative action: I am not totally against affirmative action for American Blacks (I think it’s an issue at least worth discussing), but to say every person of colour is entitled to the same is a different story.

    What strikes me as ironic that the idea that people “of colour” are going to band together in some sort of interracial love fest is pretty well limited to the leftist fringe and, ironically, the White Supremacists. Leftist people of colour think that minorities will naturally come together in a battle against the White oppressor. White Supremacists on the other hand say that people of colour are plotting together to destroy the White race. Well, guess what? People of colour often don’t like each other any more than they do Whites, and sometimes they like each other even less. Case in point: a Chinese friend of mine whose family isn’t thrilled she’s dating a White man but who would disown her if she ever went out with a Black man.

    So let POC have their own tax-funded meetings… and let them just bask in their delusions.

  10. Note: by POC I don’t mean every non-White individual on Earth. I mean the radical ones like those who hold POC-only meetings (along with their White supporters). I will also state openly that the White Supremacists are equally delusional.

  11. I don’t know exactly who you’re calling a POC — for example, Irish Americans could have one time been considered a minority but they aren’t people of color. I do think that people societies have singled out for abuse should be singled out for justice. I don’t know where you got the inaccurate idea that POC’s can’t work together, but whether you’re talking about blacks fighting for Hispanic farm workers or Asians participating in the Civil Rights movement, POC’s have a long history of teamwork. To the extent POC tend not to get along – its usually due buying into the myths created by white supremacy about the different groups. You don’t have to be radical to hold an all POC meeting, and that situation isn’t analagous to white supremacy, because – once more, POCs have reasons for banding together that are reactions to disenfranchisement — not plots to disenfranchise others.

    By the way, I’m four races — your isolated example of your Chinese friend doesn’t mean anything. Isolated or repeated incidents don’t prove universalism. People marry cross-racially, with the blessings of their families, all the time.

  12. I’m not saying that people of colour can’t work together – I’m just saying that they don’t necessarily bond together, just as not all Whites group together in some great White Brotherhood. Forget about my Chinese friend: I did find a study in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology showing that in general Asians (should check about other groups) are more accepting of marriages with Whites than with other minorities.

    About people of colour not getting along because they are buying into White Supremacist myths, yes, that may be true at times but by no means always. For example, stereotypes about Asian women among Whites is that they – Asian women – are sexually conservative. Well, at least the mail order bride industry exploits that myth. However, here is a quote from a “woman of colour,” a Saudi woman quoted in the book Princess about a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, who didn’t mind that her son was raping his Asian maids because in her view, Asian women didn’t care who they slept with. Quite a different view from the White Supremacist view of Asian women. So no, not all stereotypes of minorities among other minorities can be attributed to White Supremacists.

  13. The Princess series is highly suspect as being fraud so I wouldn’t use that as a reference. For the middle east, Barbara Namri Aziz, Jasmine and Stars, Guests of the Sheik, Honeymoon in Purdah, and Neither East Nor West are better bets.

  14. OK, I won’t take Princess at face value, and I shouldn’t base my statement on one anecdote. But just speaking of Arab-Filipino relations, the fact that many Filipina domestic workers in the Middle East are treated by their female employers like Black slavewomen in the Old South were by their White mistresses certainly dispels the notion that women “of colour” necessarily bond with one another. Look, I’m not saying that people of colour can’t bond together. It’s just that they don’t necessarily do so (ex. Idi Amin expelling the Asians from Uganda).

  15. I’m not saying that POC’s always bond, but I was speaking about POC’s in a US framework first. Idi Amin is neocolonial — which goes back to the white supremacy/internalized colonialism thing. In fact, one resulf of colonialism is that the colonized suffer from divide and conquer strategies of white supremacists. For example, whites encourage Native Americans who started out offering haven to black slaves to start turning them in so that blacks and Natives wouldn’t unite against whites.

  16. Yes, but Saudi Arabia and many other parts of the Middle East were never under European colonial rule – and the migration of Filipinos there is a more recent phenomenon. So you can’t say that Middle Easterners got their ideas of Asian women being supposedly “loose” is a result of Western propaganda.

  17. Alright, if you want to go by the US, if you want I can give you the reference to the study showing that Asians (and I believe other “people of colour,” though I would have to confirm this) are more open to marriage with Whites than with other minority groups. This is quantitative as opposed to anecdotal evidence, so you can’t accuse of using anecdotal evidence here. Would you like me to find it and give you the reference?

  18. Emilia Liz,

    We normally don’t allow people to indulge in repetitive spew over here. We’re not too fond of people who go hunting around the internet to post the same old tired opinions over and over. And while we’re glad you have a Chinese friend (because everybody needs one to prove they aren’t racist if they can’t get a black friend, except of course if you yourself are Chinese, in which case a Chinese friend is completely unnecessary), we typically don’t encourage ventriloquy either.

    So you can speak for white supremacists, if you consider yourself one. But you cannot speak for people of color. In any event, it must be scary to know that POC who feel a kinship with each other aren’t just some “leftist fringe.”

  19. Emilia Liz, you have no business talking for people of colour. Your comments about the supposed parallel racism in Canada’s history show your ignorance about the history of non-white peoples in this country, or indeed, anything about our present-day lives.

    Your examples (Asians marry whites, so it shows they don’t get along with other POC! Asians are mail-order brides so it means they’re not really sexually conservative!) are also extraordinarily useless. You clearly don’t understand the multiple issues going on with both of these situations.

    Also, I wonder what your insistence that POC “don’t necessarily” band together is doing for you. Why are you so invested in equating solidarity among POC with white supremacy? Why is solidarity among POC so threatening to you?

  20. Since there is misinformation here, I just wanted to correct it. Section 15(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states clearly states that equality under the government does “not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

    As such, public funds can and SHOULD be used to allow racialized groups to meet. It’s not done enough, in my opinion.

    To the author, Chrystos,

    It’s a beautiful poem. Thank you for posting it.

  21. Sad indeed, safe spaces should be respected… I also think it’s sad when people question the necessity of Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride celebrations~ the same allies invited to the events are the ones who question the need… :>(

    except for the last line where is said “give us our inch”
    …they never give. we always take.

  23. Chrystos wow: I feel from you so much, frustration commands out of the page at these violations of your patience and your boundaries. poet your voice is so clear, I wish you and everyone needing this space sixty years and more of uninterrupted scope to define your own turf and terms and boundaries, I wish i could jump into your poem and your past with whatever it takes, a clipboard and some logic or a bouncer and a velvet rope, to ward off this spoilt child tantrum bullshit from your safe space. Sorry that this shit happens. I’m a pale myself, and I facepalm with shame at the incidents where my colour of people answer back to this sort of soul share and recalibration of a humanitarian transgression, with backchat and quibbling little bitty points… just shut up, fellow white. You’re being a dick. – It’s not nice feeling lumped in the same group as that kind of outlook and painted by the same brush. Maybe that’s what the Canadian was finding threatening as it’s new. It doesn’t happen to us often. Not until it’s pointed out do you realise that all the actor lineups of films, the police in the uniforms with their biases, the billboard pics and ads, the politician lineups, the businessman’s faces in the business news, the history books… all a Truman show of only people like you. If you grow up white in that it’s like a blind spot because everyone looks like a mirror of you. It doesn’t reflect reality at all. There’s not even prevalent black history teaching in the states, where it’s not just about civil rights but the academies in Mali in the 1600s, irrigation inventions in Kenya, Egyptian nubian dynasties. The glaring omission is as creepy as having no postfertile women on tv. Is that why so many white people don’t empathise or aren’t listening, because they just haven’t engaged with or listened deeply to a POC where they are coming from? Women have a pay gap, but POC have an entire history of stolen forced-labour repayment due. A debt beats a pay gap. Aboriginal ‘indians’ (the cheek) get special treatment hey, well great, but it’s their land not yours. Not ours. I am stumped when I hear fellow inheriters of colonised stolen opportunities, raging about things they can’t get into based on actual criteria not on being singled out. I want to say go volunteer with an international organisation for experiencers of torture. learn some humility and honour and then come back and dare to interrupt your fellow human with a quibble over canada and internationalising your personal poem to speak for all people everywhere. Panracial your beautiful calm diplomatics inspire me to improve.
    Chrystos keep writing and being you bigger: you are a powerful force for good x may your inches become miles

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