Often the first comment we get from white people and specifically white adoptive parents isn’t an expression of solidarity. It isn’t a thoughtful mention of some community action they were involved in and how that affected them. They don’t talk about their own anti-racist actions. They aren’t outraged by the things that we report.
No, the first thing they have to say is about how racist I am.
This is what compels them to post. This is what makes them angry. Not a word on black men who are tasered until they die. Nothing about the treatment of immigrants. Not in response to calls for justice for Filipino war veterans. Not about any of the everyday racism faced by people of color. Not even about the deportation of adoptees.
No, the issue that drives them is the “racism” of people of color. Because that is the pressing issue facing all of us today.
How am I supposed to take your assurances–that you are anti-racist, that you’re interested in listening, that you want to learn–when the first thing you feel compelled to address is that of the “racism” of people of color? Because when the two are spoken in the same breath, I feel like the attempt to establish your anti-racist credentials ring false.
How should I be convinced that your assurances are true? When your protestations of your anti-racism are removed, I cannot distinguish your words from those of other racist white people. I haven’t seen any demonstrations of your anti-racist commitment.
R101 #13 reads “People of color are not responsible for the education of white people.” In the same fashion, we are not responsible for providing you with palatable words. I blog because I have something to say, because I like to make connections with like-minded people and because I like to engage in thoughtful discourse about race. I blog because I like having the freedom to speak my mind. I do not blog for white people and I specifically do not blog for white adoptive parents.
I have these types of experience in the real world as well as the virtual world. White people who have heard me speak about racism come to me to vent their anger about “racism” by people of color.
In the real world, if I have this type of encounter with some Well Intentioned White Person™, I might just walk away. Maybe this is an error, because I know white people sometimes interpret my lack of response as assent.
In the real world, I encounter a number of white adoptive parents with children of color. And I think the fact that I walk away is a measure of our inequality.
But other times I do in fact “go there.” And it hasn’t been a pleasant experience, because even though I try very hard to be gentle and palatable and not that Angry Person of Color, the defensiveness makes white people angry. Angry at me.
I am especially exasperated by white parents of children of color because undoubtedly they replicate their privilege in their conversations with their children. But what they don’t recognize is the wedge that they drive between us is the same wedge they drive between their children.
You know, I never thought it had to be explained, but sometimes being a person of color in a white-dominated society is tiring. And enraging. And upsetting. And part of the way people of color experience racism is by denial of racism, or by discounting of racism, or by the red herringization of racism.
Sometimes I say, “I hate it when white people …” and I know that my white friends and allies know that I am talking about the systemic nature of racism and the privilege of whiteness. They know that I mean “some white people” and not “all white people.” They know I am talking about specific instances and not broad generalizations. In a way, it’s a type of shorthand, speech among people who understand each other’s background. Anti-allies want none of it. Instead of addressing the issue, they want to address my “racism” or the way I speak or the way I convey myself.
And sometimes when I respond to white people with children of color, it isn’t because I believe I need to be their educator. Although I will admit to being guilty of having assumed that role at times, often with disastrous results. But I tell them because I cannot imagine that they do not recognize how the ways in which they discount people of color affects their children.
I see white parents pull their children close to them around me. I see the way their children look at me as if they themselves are white and I am the other. I see the way white people who enter the POC community marginalize people of color by reenacting privilege in a space that should be sanctuary.
When some day your children say, “I hate it when white people,” will you immediately jump to say “All white people are not like that!” or “You’re so angry; I can’t hear you,” or “Your statement is really racist against white people”?
I think that you might, and sadly I know that you do. And you might not even realize that you’re hammering that wedge. Because you never thought about that first thing.