xenologer: (human monsters)
POC, feel free to skip this. I am dead certain you already know it all. White people, I am going to explain why sometimes POC don't want us in their spaces, and why it seems like sometimes people dismiss our valuable insights about racism just because we're white.

My white cousins both distant and kin: If you don't know what white privilege is or that it is empirically demonstrably a real thing, go hit Google and come back.

Speaking as a white person, I emphatically do not see the point of white-led anti-racist spaces. I really don't. We have a lot of power, yes, and that can make us useful, but given our typical error rate (bc of white privilege) when it comes to not being callous and evil? I certainly wouldn't trust an organization run by us. It is a known bug of people who do not have to survive systemic racism that we are prone to errors in all estimates on the subject. It's not our fault but it's a thing. Just a known bug. I want to be effective, though, and that means I want to take my marching orders from people whose error rate RE: racism is better than my own.

It's just being pragmatic. Find the best people for every job. People who have to be aware of racism to survive are more reliable guides for anti-racist movements.

(Obviously none of the POC reading this need my validation here because my approval and endorsement is like the least relevant thing imaginable when it comes to combating white supremacy, but in case any of you feel it would be tactically useful to whip out Your White Friend Who Agrees, I volunteer as tribute.)

Every time POC mention not wanting to be in white-led spaces, though, white folks descend into total emotional crisis mode. For white men, this frequently turns into "well I was gonna ally but fine I guess I'll just have to join the Klan since you don't want me." For white ladies, the "nothing I do is good enough" learned helplessness blubbering waterworks start. What they both want is the same, though. They want to outsource their emotional labor onto POC, who are conveniently findable in anti-racist spaces. On a fundamental level, they want survival struggles to pause because a white person had a feeling. In what world is white emotional fragility more important than everybody else's survival? Oh right. In white supremacy.

Even beyond why that is crappy for ethical reasons, from a purely tactical perspective it makes us a bad investment.

White people in the grip of white fragility pity party meltdowns are exactly why white-led or even just white-saturated spaces are less efficient. So much energy wasted! We are adults and we can do our own personal work before we show up to make our own selves ready. White people who mean well still show up and go, "Aha! I found the people who will comfort and complete me." A gathering of POC fighting for their survival isn't a pack of idle servants waiting to be given purpose, but I see a lot of that mentality from white folks in anti-racist spaces.

Given that, I'm not at all surprised that our very presence is itself a red flag for many POC. We are more likely than anyone else to drain energy (emotional, time, motivation, etc) rather than adding it, and at that rate it actually is better for movement efficiency to not indulge us at all unless we prove we've invested our own energy in ourselves and won't be demanding it from the movement.

Even so, I've never felt unwelcome in an anti-racist space. The bar for "good enough" white behavior is tragically low, and just because 1 in 100 POC may say "nope we have basic standards so meet them or GTFO" doesn't mean we aren't still getting nurtured and eased 99% of the time. A mere 99% is nothing to throw a tantrum over.

For any white people reading this and really wanting to do the personal work it takes to become ready to at least not be a drain? Here's some reading that may help you hone your pattern-matching enough to spot our problem behavior.

On Emotional Labor

Brute Reason: Emotional Labor: What It Is and How To Do It (despite focus on gender, has many applications to interpersonal relationships in general)

Follow-up to the first Brute Reason post: A Vacation from Emotional Labor (you need to understand why people might refuse to do emotional labor)

The Toast: "Where’s My Cut?": On Unpaid Emotional Labor (specifically about gender dynamics, but applicable on other power gradients)

On White Fragility

Here's a pdf about white fragility by Robin DiAngelo that is fourteen pages of solid academic goodness.

Alternet: Why White People Freak Out When They're Called Out About Race

Good Men Project (also by DiAngelo!): White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism

Good Men Project: White Women’s Tears and the Men Who Love Them

OnBeing.org: Transforming White Fragility Into Courageous Imperfection

Reductress: http://reductress.com/post/i-dont-have-white-fragility-okay-get-off-my-back/ (this is satire so please make sure you do not ever sound like this)
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