Sunday, June 10, 2007

Do Women of Color Matter To Denver Activists?

Brownfemipower asks some hard-hitting questions today about the role of women in struggle, and I found so many of her observations and experiences to be applicable to the Denver activist scene. BFP has taken a lot of heat from men of all races for her courageous stances in support of female liberation. Her post is specifically addressed to men of color, but every single one of us struggling for justice needs to hear, internalize, and prioritize these lessons.

In little more than a year from now, an enormous spotlight will be put on Denver organizers during the DNC. What will the face of the struggle here look like? Will all our efforts at multicultural alliance-making still foreground only white/male faces?

Don't we want something more than chest-beater, dick-dick contests that are only about men proving to other men that they are not women?

men of color, sexuality, liberation, female autonomy

First, to be brutalized is a very real thing. Not one woman of color denies that women in her particular community have been brutalized. But to use one part of our history as proof of the inherent evil of the white race does little more than position us as a tool to use in YOUR (i.e. MALE) battle against white structures of power. We are only good for the movement as long as we are submissively down cast, our fierce angry hearts silenced and cold in the name of liberation.

It also positions us as the eternal victims–the ones that can not fight shoulder to shoulder because we are “weak.” The fact that we could be brutalized in the manner we were proves it, right? Only weak people are raped–forced down on to their hands and knees, forced to accept physical penetration. And that is NOT what a man is, right? “Manly” violence is being arrested unjustly by the cops, being beaten, being shot in the streets, dying like a hero, pretending that a tragedy is a bit more bearable because a brother died like a warrior, on his feet and fighting.

Except, my brothers, we know you and your history as much as you know ours.

We know the little boy that was raped by priests until he killed himself with alcohol or drugs. We know the little boy that had his penis cut off because he whistled at a white woman. We know his father who had his own genitals ripped off and shoved in his mouth right before he was set on fire. We know how your (not work safe)painful history is appropriated (just like ours) by people that would do you harm and revel in it.

We know this about you, because we were there also being violated, also being terrorized, also forced to watch while you writhed, listen while you screamed. We also had to find ways to not fall apart when white mistresses took you for the night, and we cringe from the same embarrassment when our sexuality is used to animalize us.

We know this about you–and yet, how often do we all talk about it? How often do you lead discussions on it? How often do you lead the warrior chant at rallies “NO MORE RAPE”, scream about the evils of the rapist white man that sexually manipulated your brother?

We all know the answer to that.

And why don’t you all position yourselves as the sexualized victim of white men? Is it because you do not want to be defined by your violation? Is it because you don’t want to use the pain of your brother to make a political point? Is it because you don’t want to be a victim, like a woman?

Why do you think we want to be defined by ours? Why do you think it’s ok to make a political point with our pain? And why don’t you want to be like a woman? Is there something wrong with women?

By this time in the game, all of us know that “no means no.” We all know rape is wrong, we all know that hitting a woman is wrong–and yet even so– Men control the women in their communities in ways that are much subtler than rape–they may speak out aggressively against rape, but they also never seem to notice much that not one of the various organizations they have organized with has ever supported or stood in solidarity with lesbians of color. They may not have even noticed that there has never been an out lesbian at any of the protests/meetings/get togethers they’ve participated in.

They may stand in solidarity with all women of color who have been raped by white men, but they never seem to quite notice that women don’t stop being raped after “rape awareness week” is over. And they never seem to realize how “rape’ is consistently redefined to mean different things– if it’s done through emotional pressure (you won’t be a “real” chicana/native american/chinese woman/indian etc unless you do me) rather than physical violence, it’s not “rape”.

And they never seem to notice that all of their organizing centers race–a word that consistently defaults to “male.” Because when Tookie Williams is on death row or another man has been shot in the streets it’s always very clear the violence men experience promotes a sense of urgency, the violence women experience, it’s not as brutal, it’s not as intense, it’s not as in your face–it’s not as important.

The silence of women of color in “race based organizing” does not mean every thing’s ok–it means that we are shut up, hidden away, shoved into a corner, mocked into silence–it means that there are things we know better than to talk about in your presence.

Is that Ok? That half the population monitors itself and checks itself in your presence?

At the same time, it’s not like feminists of color have never spoken out either–we have and we do. It was other native women that buried Ana Mae, working together to dig the hole and perform the ceremony. Even as the men of AIM did what they could to distance themselves from Ana, most not even attending her funeral.

Could women’s voices ring any louder?
Read the rest...

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