Damn it, I'm racist.

Okay, so to set the stage for this post. This was a week ago when the white woman Rachel Dolezal was caught for lying about being black. Mega. And then all the facebook feeds get filled with commentary and opinions. But what I kept seeing was people asking the same question. If a transgendered person can change their gender why can’t someone be transracial? Gender is fluid, so why isn’t race? So I asked it. I got some hate, I got schooled, but fuck, someone’s gotta ask the dumb questions so the rest of us can understand why this woman was being eviscerated publically. I got off the facebook thread of doom and wrote an email to my friend Carmen.


Hi Carmen,

Wow, that Facebook thread got intense. I’m always struggling in these positions with wanting to ask questions and afraid of sounding like a fuck head.

What I’m really curious about is this: If a transgendered man feels they are a women from birth, why don’t people accept race fluidity too. For me, this article nails my question.

 New York Times

Because women are born with lifetimes of oppression and violence and fear too, why is that not taken into account? When a man wants to identify as woman, he gets to. And he gets the cover of a magazine and we (the public) are learning to support the transition (in general) in mainstream media anyway.

But when a woman gets her masters, creates community, fights for a cause and dedicates her life to her beliefs she gets called crazy and racist.

So, for you, as a woman AND a person who doesn’t identify as white … can you give me some education about this. 

What’s the difference between the transgendered fight and the race fight.

I guess I feel like gender (women) and race (non white people) have similar oppressions and struggles and histories of abuse and why are we not coming together instead of saying “my need for change of identity counts, yours doesn’t.” to me this is the “your wrong, I’m right” position which only breeds more of a divide. It doesn’t change anything and it keeps us  living in a patriarchal system.

What can I do to hear what is being said and understand why it’s being said?

Any useful tools for me here?

I love and respect you deeply and I’ll understand if you’re probably too busy for this shit.

xo Em

emelia


Hey Emelia!

Of course I have time for you! I deeply respect your ability to ask questions in public that may make you look ignorant. Seriously. That takes balls. Or shall I say ovaries.

Okay. As you can imagine, the whole race thing is very complex. I don’t have any answers to your super legitimate questions, because I agree there’s so much grey area. But perhaps we can start with this:

The concept of race was invented only a few hundred years ago by white colonial Europe in order to subjugate black Africans, indigenous people from the Americas, Asians, hell, anybody who wasn’t European. This is where white supremacy first began. Why did they do this? Because white colonial Europe was enslaving and/or committing genocide against these people so that they could pillage their labour and resources.  In order to get away with this, they had to convince themselves that those races were inferior. This is how white supremacy began and it is still prevalent today, everywhere you look, and very much alive and well in the theatre community, where the vast majority of the work being produced, directed, and performed is by middle class white people (in a city where fifty per cent of the population is not white). That may sound harsh, but that is my opinion.

Also we must remember that in Canada whenever we talk about race we are talking within the context of genocide: there are still 80,000 First Nations people walking around today who are residential school survivors.  I dare say that we must NEVER forget that when we talk about race in Canada we are talking within the context of GENOCIDE.

To me, that is different than the gender thing. Why? Caitlyn Jenner (I hate her by the way, because she’s a republican and I hate republicans on principle) was born a woman in a man’s body. Okay. I buy that (and I love the article you shared here on the email, I’d read it before and agree with it one hundred percent). At this point in history (remember: GENOCIDE in the VERY RECENT PAST) to say that you are born black in a white body is something ONLY a privileged white person can act on. Can perform. Can do BLACK FACE. Because that is what that woman in Spokane is doing: black face. A black person, a Latina like me, a visibly indigenous person CANNOT do white face. Cannot get away with it. Why? Because we do not have that privilege. I have NEVER had the opportunity to play a “white” woman on any stage here in Vancouver, for example. EVER.

Okay.  This is just the tip of the ice berg in our conversation. But let me say this: I agree with you. In a utopia, it should be like you say. But we are far from a utopia. We are in a country where 80,000 survivors of genocide walk amongst us.

Have you seen 12 Years a Slave? I’m assuming you have. The white woman slave owner has NOTHING in common with the young black female slave who is raped and brutalized. NOTHING.

Please forgive me if I have come across as condescending. That is most certainly not my intent. My main point is that the woman in Spokane could have done everything she did as a white woman ALLY. She didn’t need to deceive the public to get good work done.

I love you too.

Carmen

ap_carmen_aguirre

So, for all you out there still kinda confused but also not wanting to be dumb. Hey! I did your homework for you.

Here are some links that I found interesting and useful.

The New York Times

Honey Mahogany

The Guardian Article

Slate Article