Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Racism IS Rape: A Mantra

Okay so I have to take a break from Stuff White People Do. I credit that blog with helping me begin to unpack a whole world of trauma and internalized racism that I had left untouched for most of my life. I still value that forum. But it's time to take a break from it as soon as I see people elevating the metaphorical Rape of Black people by Racism over the feelings of actual POC survivors of Rape and Assault, in this case a person (me) who was in fact targeted for Rape and Assault precisely because I was POC.

I write this on the heels of a very ugly argument/debate/debacle about how it's important not to conflate the clueless things likely to be said by White people on SWPD with Rape (my argument)... against OMG How dare you invalidate another WOC's experience of Racism as Rape?? (practically everybody else's comment to me or about what I said).

I confess I behaved hurtfully when I flipped the fuck out on said WOC, saying to her if she honestly feels that violated by the comments at SWPD why the hell does she even go there? I said this out of anger, but also under the impression that she indeed was comparing WP's participaton on that site with Rape. She later clarified that that was NOT what she meant at all, that she meant Racism itself is Rape, not the comments. I get that now. But she clarified this only after instructing me, rather dismissively, to re-read her post, saying she will never apologize for saying that and that I'm attacking her for feeling what she feels and how dare I presume she's never been raped. (I don't recall presuming that last one, but okay).

I'll post her initial comment, which she made in response to a White commenter's troubling statement about zir intent in participating on the blog. Emphasis and parentheses are mine:

"I'd rather inadvertently hurt and offend while going in the right direction than hurt and offend while not doing anything at all." <-- [White Person at SWPD] I wonder how you would feel if a man said..
I'd rather inadvertently rape and hit a woman whilst learning about sexism and misogyny than rape and hit a woman whilst not learning about them at all.

This is why many black people have faced the fact that many white people do not see us as human beings with feelings & emotions ...

You actually do not care about hurting us, your concern even when trying to be anti racist is still ALL about you

The thing is... I agree with her overall premise. Racism IS Rape in many ways. And too many WP claim to be trying to unlearn their racism, but really are just repeating a dehumanizing pattern of racial abuse.

And now that you bring up Rape, thanks, its also worth emphasizing that Racism often means getting Raped, not just figuratively but LITERALLY when you're POC.

I disagreed with the figurative use of Rape here due to the larger context of the conversation about WP commenting on SWPD. In that context her comment took on a whole other meaning that was frankly triggering for me. I took it to mean that she felt that any comments by WP that were insensitive might be considered the equivalent of rape (the blog comments being the potential source of "hurt" and "offense" mentioned by the WP commenter). And thus, that I, also a POC, might experience White commenters as potential rapists too.

To date nobody has bothered to tell me WHY it was unreasonable for me to assume that her sudden introduction of a Rape Analogy did apply to the larger conversation about what WP were doing to POC's on the blog.

I don't know why I'm surprised tho. In this society, the feelings of actual victims of Rape and Violence are rarely prioritized over the feelings of those who find Rape and Violence useful as "powerful" and "enlightening" metaphors. The Kerry Stewart Rape Analogy comes to mind.

Funny but on Renee's blog comments I actually sympathized with how Kerry Stewart came to make the analogy. But I still found it problematic and I can totally understand WHY so many people flipped out on her and demanded she apologize.

Even in balls-to the-wall discussion of Racism and its brutal realities for People of Color, it is far easier for people to talk about things that are LIKE Rape, than it is to talk about the actual Rape and Racialized/sexualized Violence marginalized bodies face everyday.

Reading the WOC's previous comment in isolation, one wouldn't necessarily take umbrage with the rape comparison. But this comment didn't happen in isolation. I explained to this WOC in painstaking detail what I had taken from her comment in context, why I had taken it that way, and its implications for me as a POC survivor, and, by extension, for other readers who may have taken it the same way and might also be survivors.

A few days and one or two White People dogpiling on to cause drama and derail later, suddenly my point about being unnecessarily triggered by her analogy has been lost altogether.

Is asking people to be careful with suddenly introducing rape analogies into a conversation completely unreasonable?

Since nobody ever bothered to explain WHY my reading the comment as applicable to what was actually happening on that blog was an insane thing to do, I don't know WHAT to take away from this experience. Other than "Thou shalt not harsh the righteous anger of thy fellow POC's with criticism of any kind!

All the same the Racism AS Rape thesis has its merits. I can see clear examples of that in my own experiences with racialized gender violence. To wit here is just ONE example from my own life. TRIGGER WARNING:

At 18 years old, and about a little over a year into hormonal transition, I was pulled over by a White Police officer after having gotten lost in a semi-rural area of my home state. This is a nightmare for EVERY trans person in early transition. Especially for a BLACK transperson who is legally between genders. The officer said he had stopped me for two reasons. 1) He wanted to see "What kind of Nigger that was. Was that a man or a woman??" and 2) He wanted to find out "what a nigger was doing driving a mercedes around HERE." Here being the run down, all-white town he'd stopped me in.

He made me exit the car and show my ID. Either intrigued or dissatisfied with the Sex: M designation on my license, he made me lean over the hood of my car and spread my legs while he proceeded to SLOWLY frisk me, paying special attention to my breasts and crotch. All the while he grinded his pelvis into my ass in an unmistakebly sexual way, while saying "I'm not gonna hurt you, princess." Then he let me go with a "warning"...

Now was that Racism? Did that experience approach being Raped? Um... DUh.

So is it any wonder why I might balk at making unsupported comparisons to THAT kind of violation and worse?

Of course this was an example I might have used in the conversation to illustrate the connection between Rape and Racism and why I don't dig it as a metaphor. I don't mind discussing certain incidents of violence I've experienced (some I definitely do). As long as I feel safe and in control of it in conversation with my audience, I'm good. But in the context of the SWPD forum, and its traditional hostility to intersectionality of any kind, it is unsafe for me to bring shit like this up over there. I'm vulnerable as a POC to begin with, and I'm even more unsafe as a transperson commenting at a cis-centered blog. The effect has been that I can rarely explain the full impact of racism in my life because I'm forced to censor myself to race-only oppressions and traumas. Even when I experience Racism simultaneously with other forms of oppressive violence. Such as getting pulled over for DWB by a white cop and then his fondling and dryhumping me over the hood of my own car.

So it's time to take a break because apparently its HIGH STAKES over at SWPD and my objection to certain discourse will be perceived as nothing but cynical debate and derail.

Perhaps I'm just one of those hypersensitive POC's we all hear about. The kind who take everything in the worst possible way and makes it all about them, woe is me.


EDITORS NOTE: Someone finally did address my reading of the conversational context as incorrect. And she was genuinely respectful about it too! I appreciate her taking the time. Not sure I agree with her yet, as I'd need to re-read the whole thread, and at this point I'm tired and inclined to just let it go. But it was nice to finally be heard and addressed directly.

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