So a recent text exchange about white privilege and racism with a potential date (a person of color) made me have a bunch of feels. This is my attempt at parsing them.
Explaining why white supremacy exists to a person of color feels like I’m splainin’ their oppression to them. But he kept blaming racism on mental capacity or ability. I needed to say something about the ableism he was displaying.
He was “not all white people”-ing me and saying “you can have white privilege and not be racist”. Except you can’t have one without the other, white privilege exists because of racism.
I know how frustrating it is having this conversation with a White person. So how does one manage to talk to a person whose facing similar bigotries as you without coming off as condescending? How do you strike that balance of not compromising your message but also wanting to educate them? Personally I’m not a fan of educating White people. My writing is intended for people who are well versed in Social Justice and for people like me so they know they are not alone. This blog serves as a sort of journal and I do not have the desire to explain my existence to someone more privileged than I.
But when faced with a person of color who isn’t well versed in these things, I feel there’s a moral imperative to educate them. Because bigotry isn’t simply “just how the system is”. It isn’t some phenomenon without an explanation. Obviously you’re not going to pick a random person off the street and rant at them but if you’re speaking to someone and they mention the bigotry they face and wonder out loud why it’s happening, it’s a little hard not to want to want to grab them by the collar and just spill your guts about how and why The Man is keeping us all down. I don’t need to reach white people, I need to reach others like me. There is strength in numbers.
Someone who doesn’t understand why bigotry exists but is willing to learn is obviously not the issue. What makes this an issue for me is when faced with someone like Potential Date. Apart from the ableism, his responses smacked of complacency. He wasn’t interested in attacking the root cause of the bigotry. It may be easier to be ableist but it doesn’t do anything to combat the oppression we face. What it does is further stigmatize people who are mentally ill or who have cognitive disabilities.
Potential Date isn’t disabled so he won’t understand why ableism is an issue, at least not right away. Not without someone to explain it to him. So I’m back to my dilemma. I don’t want to waste time educating someone with able privilege but then he’s also a person of color. I feel like he needs to understand. I feel he should understand because he’s faced racism. So, naively, I wish he could just get it. He’s straight and cis and that adds more layers of privilege.
So then I guess the real issue is how do you talk to someone who has privileges over you, but who isn’t at the very top of the racial hierarchy? And if they’re open to talking about it, how do you do it in a way it won’t alienate them? Because I feel that conversation can end up making the other person feel like they’re being talked down to.
As I’m writing this, I have a million thoughts running through my mind. For example, if the text exchange had been about sexism, transmisogyny or homophobia I probably wouldn’t bother to educate him. Because in those cases he’s privileged. But then again, I can’t just separate my transness or queerness, or the fact that I present as “female” from the racial oppression I face. These things do not occur in a vacuum. I’m interested in hearing your take. Is this all just an exercise in futility?
This is why dating advice that says to go out and just meet people in meat space doesn’t work. As a loud feminist and sjw is so fucking tricky and most times impossible to meet someone in the wild who is like-minded. Which is why online dating is the way to go for me.