Last night, several Black women that I follow on Twitter were in some sort of debate with a White heterosexual South African man who suggested that Black women in America know nothing about oppression or suffering. He even tweeted me that. At that point, I knew that he was being obtuse or wilfully ignorant, so I ended the conversation with him. He continued it with others.
So…we’re just going to pretend that how we got here in the first place nor all of the things that occurred since the founding of this country nor all of the things that occur now do not exist? Who has time for nuance? After several tweets, I could see that this guy views Americans as Mitt Romneys and Warren Buffetts. He even made references to Big Macs when trying to insult Americans. Because we all have them. Naturally. In our pockets. Right now.
He views all Americans as the same and part of a 300 million strong army forcing imperialism around the world. Sure, America as a superpower and military forces imperialism around the world. I can understand his anger with that. Many Americans are angry at that. But…how does this negate the cultural hierarchy, overt racism, institutionalized racism, microaggressions, classism, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, ableism, sizeism, and socioeconomic warfare that occurs domestically? He really spoke to every single Black woman he tweeted as if we are Mitt Romney or Wall Street. I’ve not encountered such wilful ignorance in a long time. (To be clear, the Black women he spoke to recognize first world privilege today, but even so it does not negate the experiences we have here as Black women or our history. All first world experiences aren’t created equal. Further, the benefits that White people in South Africa enjoy [and persecutions and peril that they avoid], even after the RECENT end to apartheid are still numerous. White privilege is alive and well all over that continent, not only that country.)
Then, this afternoon, a White couple I used to follow on Twitter started policing my language concerning street harassment. I mentioned how I deal with 25-75 harassment incidents a week (primarily by Black men). This is not hyperbole. Since I’ve moved back to South Florida in 2011, this is reality. It was a reality before I left in late 2009. It’s been a reality since I was around 12 years old, and the only break from it was when I was in undergrad in the late 90s living on/near campus and when I lived in California in Silicon Valley recently. I had 2-3 incidents in over a year there versus a single hour/day in Florida. Just this past Friday, I was sitting alone on an outdoor patio at a restaurant and had 5 different men harass me in a matter of 45 minutes. So you can see, the weekly numbers are not hard to reach.
Earlier, a Black man on Twitter mentioned how it annoys him when women view men as enemies, and I used my experience with street harassment as an example to somewhat reply to why some women may have this view. Men don’t live the lives that women do, whether these men are staunch feminists or the worst patriarchal misogynists on earth. Thus, ultimately, a man can empathize with me, fight against it with me, ignore it or actually engage in it himself. He STILL will NEVER live it.
Male privilege and homophobia makes heterosexual men not street harass other men in a sexual way. This was my point. This couple decided to read these tweets as me suggesting that all men harass and all men don’t care to support women. They’ve read my tweets before, seen me speak with male feminists and know that I know some men do support women and of course some do not harass. All of this prior evidence was thrown out of the door, despite following me on Twitter for years.
I still could not figure out why I, a Black woman speaking about street harassment by Black men, was having my language policed by a White couple. I am used to Black men wanting me silenced on this topic because of the perception that it makes them “look bad.” And, even after I explained what the tweets meant to the couple, something that I did NOT have to do, (as I am not here to teach Whites about any form of bigotry, as they are not from Mars and live in the same society that I do; their experience with it may differ but their supposed lack of knowledge on it is not my responsibility) they still chose to be obtuse.
Since the 2008 election, my good social media experiences with White people have been with either really great conscious, privilege-aware, intersectionality-aware, feminist, pro-LGBT, critical thinking White people (admittedly they are few, but they rock) or just more superficial and business-oriented relationships with White people (they are more plenty and are fine as well). These experiences are great.
However, my bad social media experiences with White people have been one of the three: 1) Whites asserting that my experiences are invalid because I did not use the language/tone that they approve of (White privilege and semantic warfare at play) or somehow their own experiences are “worse” (the false claim of racism being a two-way street). 2) Whites asserting that I am the one who is racist (or other “ist”) because I dared to mention racism. 3) Whites asserting that I am the one making racism (or other “isms”) occur because I spoke of it already happening in the past. All three are ridiculous and all three are way too common.
And then, as I am being silenced or worse, I am the one accused of “hatred.”
As I tweeted:
Notice how when you don’t have racial, gender, sexuality or class privilege in a situation, you’re victimized yet you’re accused of “hate.”— Trudy (@thetrudz) October 2, 2012
This is a tactic of the privileged to silence and dehumanize you simultaneously. Stop the complaints AND make YOU the “monster” who “hates.”— Trudy (@thetrudz) October 2, 2012
Not accepting abuse or silencing when speaking of that abuse does not mean that I even hate the abuser, let alone those who do not want me speaking the truth. I don’t hate any individual. I do hate the ideologies and institutions that oppress people and then the action of people pretending that neither of these exist.