To have a conversation about race is too singular. And to have a conversation about being a queer person of color? Oh, girl. That is an encyclopedia of conversations, stories, dialogues, whatever. And by encyclopedia, I mean the whole set.
At A-Camp, a large bunch of the writers of color from the website will be coming together in order to properly descend upon the campers with their wisdom and wit about race. Not really. But there will be a panel! When we sat down to talk about the topics, they kind of built into a laundry list. After all, what isn’t relevant? Race isn’t a “part” or a “component.” It’s the whole she-bang. (Get it?)
We wanted to sit down and share stories with you around this virtual campfire to somehow express one little piece of what it means to be queer and a person of color in this crazy, crazy world. Please take us as we are. And above all, please let us know about your own experiences! This is a conversation, after all.
That’s Not My Name
by Brittani Nichols
Labels and identity are funny creatures. As a person of color (and as a woman) I was slapped with a set of expectations from the day I was born. Every person I come in contact with has their own unique assortment of anticipations about who I am as a person based on these absolute and non-negotiable aspects of my identity. I would love to wake up every morning and choose to be a woman or choose to be black but I can’t and though it is something I’m saddled with, it’s also something I embrace, flaunt, and value. Though being gay doesn’t fall entirely outside of this scope, I’ve found I can craft my queer identity to be more nuanced with about half the effort. To embrace a title is to partially surrender some aspects of who you are as a person or at least willfully participate in the muting of certain qualities that don’t jump to mind when some titles are invoked.
“You describe yourself as preppy, right? You wear a lot of cardigans.” – a lady homo
I don’t truly identify as any of the many subcategories we use in the lesbian vernacular. My own paranoia about these titles, whether fed by my own insecurities or not, complicates a process which some may find freeing and exciting–and if you don’t believe that, you haven’t encountered the right high femme. Countless times after being asked “what am I?” has a discussion broken out about my qualifications. Am I a stud? A boi? A stemme? Butch? Sporty? A tweener? I have the same problem here that I do pretty much all the time. I’m weird and no one really knows what to do with me. I’m only bothered by these labels because there’s something I’m uncomfortable with. I don’t think it’s the perceived masculinity of being called butch, AG, or stud that causes it. Rather it’s the racially coded and oft painful stereotypes that accompany the terms.
“You don’t want to be butch. You want to be stud. Studs have swag.” – a gay lady
As is the case with a lot of things people don’t encounter in their own lives, you might pull from popular culture to draw a picture in your mind. And who’s the most popular stud in America? Snoop from The Wire? That’s not really the image I want popping up when people think of me. Studs are often aligned with black masculinity and I don’t like being called aggressive because it’s often paired with the word ‘too’. There are qualities I’ve worked hard as shit to become associated with that unfortunately aren’t popularly aligned with black masculinity and I feel like if I identified as stud, I’d be stripping myself of those things. If I could barely get people to respect me as an intellectual as straight mostly gender-conforming Brittani, getting people to believe a black stud lesbian could be knowledgeable on anything even remotely related to academia seems a daunting task that is teetering on impossible.
“You dress like a tweener but you have a boi attitude.” – a lesbian
I may refer to myself as a bro or stud or pretty much anything in a moment the same way I call myself gay, queer, or lesbian. I don’t necessarily object to being placed in these categories. I just don’t make a point of belonging to them. They all apply and yet none of them do. None of them quite fit but they’re not meant to capture every degree or detail and I don’t expect them to. But at least I get to choose. At least I get a say. There’s a power in saying, “Yes, I am a crunchy ass granola lesbian” but there’s also a power in saying, “No, I’m not a crunchy ass granola lesbian.” Will me saying that keep someone from filing me away in that box in their brain? Probably not. But it makes me feel a little better for whatever reason.
I’m everything and nothing and that’s one of the things about my queer identity I cherish because it’s something that I feel being black doesn’t afford me.
This Is An Essay About My Hair
by Carmen Rios
I got my hair cut on May 10, 2010. I wrote about it the night before on Tumblr:
the next time washington sees me i will not look like myself, and the last look from new jersey windows is going to be bright and big and voluminous and brave.
i was never brave.
Most people think a haircut is this thing you do. I feel like even now haircuts induce panic in me where they simply irritate everyone else. I think it’s probably because to most people, a haircut is a thing you do and to me, my hair is everything I am in this one thing.
For years I hated my hair so much that it was impossible not to kind of dislike myself. Ew. Being ten, and thirteen, and different is one of the most uncomfortable experiences to live through out of all of the experiences available in a lifetime. I applied gels, used ceramic irons, and searched through relaxers using trial-and-error testing. I distinctly remember the first time something actually worked as the first time I ever believed I was beautiful. It made my hair so different that I looked like someone else entirely. I was happy about that.
After that, though, different stuff started making me feel beautiful. I made these amazing friends during my first years of college, and that made me forget about whether or not I was beautiful, because I was satiated, full of love. I also kind of finally felt like I fit in with something and that made me feel beautiful. Eventually, there was a person who loved me (I’m 99% sure) and all these other people who cared deeply about me and I lived in this big, white house in Cleveland Park with them and I began growing my hair out, growing it and growing it, frizzy and natural and not straightened or altered. Eventually someone finally said the words to me: “your hair is just so cool.” It was Libby and I admired her and suddenly, I admired myself. I cancelled my hair appointment that summer and continued growing out the straightened strands so I could eventually cut it into an afro and only wear what was true me. I felt more beautiful than ever. Kind of like it would never go away. It hasn’t.
I grew up with pale skin and blue eyes and I saw my hair as this one obstacle, every morning, every day, in every photo, stopping me from being like everyone else. All of my friends had pale skin and blue eyes and shiny, long hair, and I just had this absent father and his one remaining piece, this mane, this untamable, unchangeable thing. And to think, I didn’t even appreciate it! Now I wake up every morning and I’m just so certainly not everyone else – the models, the magazine pictures, everything that used to terrorize me about my body and my hair and the way I dressed – that I figure fuck it, they don’t matter anymore. Suddenly I’m beautiful and wearing exactly what looks good on “my body type.” Suddenly I’m outside of all of it, free from all of it, living in silence in a world that never stops telling girls who they should be. Hell, there isn’t even an afro on my edition of The Sims. It’s because I live on the perimeter of everyone else’s imagination, and right outside of their boundaries of reality. I live in a completely different world than all of these other people. My own world. And suddenly I love being so utterly only Carmen Rios that I can’t help but love myself.
by Katrina Casino
I think I found out that I wasn’t white when I was about seven years old. I was growing up in New York City at that point, so I guess you could say I was surrounded by diversity, and I guess that you could evidence that as being true through the fact that I had no idea what diversity was. I didn’t know I wasn’t white because I didn’t know what whiteness was. I knew the guy who owned the corner store pronounced all his words differently than I did. I knew that the restaurant across the street sold tacos but that all of the workers were Japanese, and that there was something strange and maybe even comical about that, though I didn’t really know why. There was a girl named Jocelyn in my first-grade class. She was Chinese-American, and one day someone called me her name by accident. And someone else said, “Well you look like Jocelyn!” and someone else said “Are you related?” And although I didn’t have the words to say it at the time, I knew that racial innocence shit was over for me right then.
I wasn’t friends with any of the Asian kids; I stayed as far away from them as possible. I didn’t care if they were Japanese or Chinese or Korean and I was Filipino. I knew no one would bother to differentiate between us, so I would have to do it myself. I hated their silence, as well as my own. I wanted to be loud, to be anything but them. By the end of high school, I was so done. It had been 12 years since I realized I wasn’t white, and since then I had been mistaken for literally every Asian girl I had ever met. I was tired of my Asianness being dismissed as a fucking joke. I didn’t think I was different, I didn’t feel different, so why was everyone insisting that I was?
I graduated high school and went to a private university on the East Coast to study business. I was mistaken for an international student. I switched my major to sociology. I learned the academic language of inequality and injustice, but my classmates were so White and so Upper-Middle Class that every conversation we had just seemed distant and rhetorical, like we were analyzing literature. But I figured that’s what academia was, like you were just supposed to look at something, not relate to it.
I wished I had been given the language to express what I was feeling. I wish I knew that language existed so I could have searched for it; instead I meticulously perfected my white English, which would eventually turn on me. When I got older I would receive compliments on my fluency because, of course, no one who looks like me should be expected to speak English so well. And when I got catcalled on the street and didn’t respond, it wasn’t because I understood them perfectly. To them, it must have been because I didn’t understand them at all. So I hear “konichiwa” and “ni hao.” I never had the language to turn around and say, “Yo, that’s racist.”
Having POC conversations and creating POC spaces is important because without these conversations, we sometimes feel like we’re alone, that our experiences – both positive and negative – are individual rather than shared. It’s easy to misunderstand what we’re mad at. These conversations help us know who we are, what we should be proud of and the systems that work against us. We need to realize that stereotypes and violence hurt all of us and that the solution is not silence, but solidarity.
Writing About Race
by Whitney Pow
If you want to write about race, you have to make yourself vulnerable. You have to talk about the time that boy called you a “china doll” with a sneer at a swimming pool when you were eight. You have to talk about how you felt when your elementary school classmate’s grandma called you an “oriental girl” and couldn’t remember your name but could remember your white classmates’ names. You have to own all of the experiences you’ve had with race and racism and look at them, point blank, and figure out how to talk about them. Because talking about all of these memories, these pieces of your identity, the pieces that make you a person of color, is an important, angry, frustrating process. You look at everything you’ve ever experienced and maybe feel angry. Maybe furious. That’s okay. Write it down.
Writing about race involves taking down your defenses, and getting rid of the antagonistic voices in your head, nixing the part of you that tells you “people won’t think what I have to say is important.” You put your heart and brain and fragile identity on a table for people to look at and inspect, because people need to read about it — to identify with it, to think about it. You stand behind what you have to say about race, even when there is a seemingly endless number of racist comments tagged onto your articles by anonymous authors. Sometimes it gets so overwhelming you might have to shut off the computer for the evening and cry a little and maybe eat some dinner and take a nap.
But still you get back on it — you try to respond to the people who ask genuine questions, and you continue writing even when the anonymous commenters tell you you’re being “too sensitive” about race. You kind of want to punch these people in the face because how are you being too sensitive? You are talking about how racism is real and affects your life. You’ve felt that pit in your stomach for days after that white guy started speaking to you in broken English because he assumed you were foreign or a half-wit and you were too shocked at being treated like that to tell him off. You think about how your brother was yelled at by his soccer coach for not passing the ball to the coach’s daughter. “That’s not how you get girlfriends in America.” There are a thousand things that inform your identity and most of them are experiences that have told you that being treated as less than human is acceptable because of the color of your skin.
By speaking up, by being “too sensitive,” you are pushing back. You are being angry and feeling entitled to be angry. And it is important to fight back for all of your previous selves that experienced racism and felt ashamed of being a person of color. When you are writing about race, especially as a person of color, you put yourself in the line of fire. You’re asking people to look at your experiences and your identity, and people still trample on you. But there are the people who don’t: the people who pause and think about what you have to say, the people who comment and argue against the racist comments, the people who write you emails that thank you for being brave and writing what you wrote. It was their story, too.
For me, writing about race is the most difficult thing I’ll ever do. It is intensely exhausting. It is difficult. It is sometimes heartbreaking. But it is also liberating. It is empowering, it is standing up for myself and for the other people of color and women of color. It’s about fighting for our own self-worth and developing the vocabulary we use to fight against the oppression we experience every day. It’s about connecting with other people and women of color in knowing that what we have to say is terribly important. It’s about fighting for us.
It’s about fighting for me.
by Gabrielle Rivera
My queer identity has been shaped by white lesbian culture. That is just a fact. Give or take coming out to my also queer ‘Rican homegirl when I was 14, white girls have basically shown me the way of the gay. This has created a complex paradigm of queer code switching, adapting, assimilation and isolation – insert all of the big important gay words here. I’m going to isolate isolation because it’s used to it and because it’s been on my brain lately.
My real lesbian “growing up” phase began in college surrounded by a radass circle of white lesbians. They aided my development and awareness of things like contraceptive rights, Ani DiFranco, proper pronoun usage, fisting and other such things that all new lesbigays should totally be schooled on. It takes a village, ya’ll. Learning these things outside of ones ethnicity and in the confines of another forces one to exist as an insider and an outsider, even if no one makes you feel that way that’s kinda how it is. I’ve been the token Puerto Rican chick in so many lesbian circles and it’s been fine for the most part because people are people and lesbians are so good at loving others. I’ve had my issues but one of the most interesting issues is the one that other queer POC have with me and my “white tendencies”. It’s kinda like how you’re not supposed to touch the babies of certain animals because the moms will smell the human on them and eat them, yeah it’s kinda like that. Other POC can “smell the white” on me and sometimes it leaves a funny taste in their mouths. (That phrase has actually been said to me btw. Talk about almost smacking a bitch…) Apparently, golf shorts, Polo shirts and Tegan and Sara are for white lesbians only. This is not to say that all Caucasian homos like all of the same things or that all gay POCs have this attitude towards individuals like myself. This is based on sentiments I’ve experienced often enough over the years. It’s strange to be othered by minoritized people that look just like you.
I’ve also never really understood how certain tastes in music or the fact that I read books can make me less ethnic and more white. But when you’re the only butchy brown lesbian not wearing a Yankees fitted, voguing to Madonna and dating a white girl, motherfuckers want to strip you of your race card quick. These attitudes bother me less and less as I come into myself as a Rican queer. I know now there are others like me. QPOC that either grew up in all white neighborhoods, came out in predominantly white colleges like me and they can code switch with the best of them. I often meet these awesome chicas in predominately white spaces like Autostraddle or queer hipster parties in Brooklyn. Most of the time, it’s awesome! Like two unicorns meeting along a rainbow or it can kind of be like this:
Shit is complicated and this could easily turn into a book, or maybe a graphic novel. Yeah, a graphic novel is more my style anyway. This piece has no exact end, because I’m waiting for you to join in on it.
This post goes hand-in-hand with A-Camp’s Queer Women of Color Panel with Whitney, Carmen, Brittani, Gabby, and Katrina.
Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.
I can’t even this is too amazing guys, like BAM! this actually happened. AS wins all the awards yet again.
“If you want to write about race, you have to make yourself vulnerable”
Truth. Thanks for making yourselves vulnerable, great article
Thank you, ladies. It’s for pieces like this that I love Autostraddle
“I’m everything and nothing and that’s one of the things about my queer identity I cherish because it’s something that I feel being black doesn’t afford me.”
Brittani, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like this. And I can’t even begin to articulate why like you have here.
This whole post was so awesome to read.
This entire article is badass, and you are all amazing.
y’all, this is one of the best fucking things I’ve ever read on the internet. hands down. goddamn. I respect y’all so much–not just for facing the vulnerability of speaking about race that Whitney mentioned, but because you’re writing about this in such a real, honest, and thoughtful way.
Thank you so much. As mentioned in Whitney’s essay writing about something like this takes so much courage and I am in awe whenever someone stands up, despite the hatred they could get for doing it, and speaks anyway. I feel a lot of truth in all of this and I am always dizzy with gratitude whenever I can learn about someone else’s intersectional experiences.
Also, I especially enjoyed Isolation because the concepts detailed there echo the stuff I’ve seen some of my friends go through, and it can really make people feel like there’s absolutely no space for them anywhere.
This article made me feel like Autostraddle really understands me. These are all the things I think about, all the time.
And yet, being a White Jew and having just married into a Black family, I can’t even begin to formulate an essay I’d be comfortable posting on the internet. I respect the vulnerability on display here IMMENSELY.
so many good quotes so little time
This is just so perfect. All of it. Thank you from another Rican queer
Yes! Gabriella, Kelie, me too! Yeah queer Ricans!
These were all brilliant.
Carmen Rios (“This is an essay about my hair”): Thank you so much for sharing this! Soy Chicana, and I have a big ol’ salt-n-pepper afro (had white hair since I was 4 yrs old) that is both the bane of my existence and my only beauty. I know the feeling of being treated like a pariah for something as innocuous as having curly hair… on top of growing up an asexual genderqueer. It took me years to embrace the joy that is my mane and now I can’t live without it! There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get a look or a comment, and even if they’re not always positive words or glances, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having curly hair. Thank you for sharing your story. Your ‘fro is beautiful!
thank you. i love you!
“Having POC conversations and creating POC spaces is important because without these conversations, we sometimes feel like we’re alone, that our experiences – both positive and negative – are individual rather than shared. It’s easy to misunderstand what we’re mad at. These conversations help us know who we are, what we should be proud of and the systems that work against us. We need to realize that stereotypes and violence hurt all of us and that the solution is not silence, but solidarity.”
Thank you for putting this into words! Sometimes you’re just looking for someone to talk to, but they don’t understand – they can’t relate. And it’s not just ethnicity or your appearance as a POC, but there’s the cultural aspect that comes into play. I can’t seem to find any intersection of my culture and sexuality, and I’m left to process these things on my own. When I do reach out, I’m forced to adopt the ideas and attitudes of the predominant culture (white american in my case).
I really enjoyed this article and especially relate to Isolation. (That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy others, today I am just moved enough to post.)
I’m a gay Mohawk woman who is often accused of being too white because I’m a little educated, I grew up in the city so I do not have an accent like those on my reserve. I’ve been called an Apple a few times before. An Apple is somebody who is red on the outside and white on the inside, like the word Oreo in black culture. I wonder do Asians have a word like this? Twinkies maybe?
It is actually kind of funny that my people say I am too white because I’ve had white people ask if I’m sure I’m not black due to my taste in music and love of Caribbean cuisine.
One of my friends who is Vietnamese calls himself a banana, and another who is Indian calls himself a coconut…
and I would punch anyone else who called one of them something like that.
if you’re Asian, you’re called a banana. if you’re white but display asian tendencies (something as simple as taking shoes off indoors) you’re called an egg. i’m white but i live in japan and often am called an egg.
although obviously all these terms are ridiculous. i’m just a caucasian lady who feels weird if there’s carpet underneath my shoes.
In Australia we don’t really use the term ‘person of colour’. I find I don’t really understand what it means.
Obviously people of African, Asian, Indian and Indigenous descent fall under this umbrella term, and from my reading of american media south american and middle eastern people are people of colour too.
But I’m confused when it comes to Europeans, are greeks and italians and spaniards people of colour or white? I’m of mixed European heritage myself. Are olive skinned europeans white or coloured?
I tick ‘caucasian’ on official forms but I don’t necessarily feel white in the sense of identifying with white people whose ancestors lived in England. My lunchbox never had whitebread sandwiches in it, my dad has a funny european accent, no teacher ever could pronounce my name.
I have pretty pale skin so I don’t feel like I have a right to claim to be a person of colour – but I don’t really feel white like girls who are blond and have names like Jane and Sarah and whose mothers cut the crusts of their white bread peanut butter sandwiches are white.
Is there a word for people who are caucasian but who are not english and felt othered by having a name and a culture that was different from the white person norm?
This is exactly how I feel.
At the same time I think it’s important for us to realize that American society, at least, is very quick to sort us in to whiteness no matter how we feel inside or who we are culturally. In a way that’s an even bigger push for us all to work towards ending ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to race. As long as there is this false inequality we are all going to keep getting sorted in ways we don’t want.
Stop. Reading. My. Miiiiiind!
I have a friend who is Irish like *shakes hands* Irish. Born there moved to America and our relative cultural history of understanding America is fuck nuts crazy cool and educational. Knowing him changed my life on how *I* see what it means to give up your culture (when you can pass)to be “white.”
Everyone who really studied American history knows about the “No Irish” in employment discrimination. What people do not know is how did Irish people buy their whiteness (they paid for their whiteness same for Jewish Americans) is by using blackface (and general racism and colorism).
I could go on forever but this s not the place and time, lol.
Oh my god, message me sometime and we’ll go in to it more if you want. I think about this ALL THE TIME. It’s so complex and crazy.
Once we have a name for this, let us start a club. Like the original poster I am Australian of mixed European heritage. And I am very pale, like, paler than your average Scandinavian pale. So I think of myself as white but there’s a lot that leaves out. Am I white at the office when some old Anglo dude I’ve never seen before walks up to me and says “ciao bella” and attempts to hit on me using a mix of bad Italian and a eata-la-pizza accent? What is my race when I find out people where speculating behind my back whether I’m Jewish (surname, appearance) or Roman Catholic (appearance)? Am I white when people ask me if I come from Iran? I am clearly not a person of colour and I don’t want to encroach into poc space which has been so often invaded and co-opted by whites. At the same time I have experiences based on my background that many white people don’t but I don’t know where the space is for me to talk about that.
ugh ugh I just realised that the language of ‘paler than your average Scandinavian pale’ is also problematic. Sorry. I was speaking from the fact that when I lived in a Scandinavian country I was still as pale or paler than most people I met and saw wandering about.
What is a “Roman Catholic appearance”?? (just curious)
youguys. this is not the space to discuss the “complexities of whiteness”. it’s derailing the conversation.
we are white people, regardless of our mixedeuropeanbackgroundprejudiceagainsttheirishwhatever. we have white skin privilege and all the shit that comes with that.
Hence why I asked to be messaged outside of this conversation and why I already commented on receiving white privilege despite feeling separate from that culturally. Nothing to see here.
I think you are probably right that this isn’t the space, and for that I apologise to any people of colour who the discussion has bothered. What happened in my case is that the original commenter posted something that really spoke to my experiences and I jumped in in excitement because it’s so rare to hear anyone else voice these feelings.
It was fair for you to make the point that you did but I feel like way you phrased your comment was really dismissive. Ever been asked to stop using facilities for citizens because “you don’t look Australian”? Ever taken a national security classified job and had your loyalty to your country questioned because you aren’t Anglo something? Yeah I enjoy white privilege and I want to acknowledge and take responsibility for that. But I have also spent my life putting up with shit because of how I look, what my name is and where my family is from. I’m going to bow out of it here because I don’t want to derail any more but honestly to just call what we’re talking about “mixedeuropeanbackgroundprejudiceagainsttheirishwhatever” and “the complexities of whiteness” is also not ok.
If you have any interest in talking about it more after this maybe you could message me so I don’t take up more space in this forum.
i AM being dismissive. because i still don’t think this is the place for that conversation. what you’re talking about – not looking australian or any other shit you’ve had to put up with – is still a byproduct of racism which disproportionately affects POCs but definitely does affect all of us – just not in the way i feel you’re implying here. i am not dismissing the prejudice you may have experienced based on your name or your family, nor am i dismissing any other experience of oppression you may have had. but i think it’s important to recognize when and where these conversations take place. yes, you stated that the OP should contact you through a private message, but you did not say “because i think we’re derailing this post which should really be focusing on the experiences of POC”. cool that you identified with the original post. i still feel like the original post was out of line.
sorry, i got mixed up – i thought dizzy had said the bit about the private message. the rest of my comment stands but that part is in response to tiger gray’s comment.
None of us want to derail so how about we all be quiet and go to private message if you would like to continue talking about this, as has been mentioned?
oh good lord.
KPEE, they asked for people’s inputs, it’s not your business to butt in and tell people they don’t have a place in this conversation. if they feel they’ve had discrimination in their lives due to not being anglo-white or having a name that sounded that way, then they should be allowed to say something without you telling them off.
GET A CLUE. if you can’t see that kpee was right and that everyone who went off on tangent about being WHITE on a thread about PEOPLE OF COLOR then i don’t know what the fuck to say to you. kpee was TOTALLY correct and did the right thing by calling people out for derailing and taking attention away from the subject at hand. there should be spaces where people of color get to talk about their experiences, and where others LISTEN without trying to co-opt the conversation and try to make it about themselves.
look under “but that happens to me too”
Thank you, KPEE! This actually happens at every single anti-racist workshop or dialogue concerning race inclusive of non-POC (in different states) that I’ve ever been to…(and that’s a lot)
I genuinely wanted to know about European people of colour?
What is white and what is coloured when it comes to greeks and italians etc?
If I’m italian and have olive skin and dark hair and people can’t tell if I’m middle eastern or south american or european and I get treated like an “ethnic” does that make me a person of colour? Or not because I’m european and europeans are white?
I’m sorry for voicing this in the wrong space – I was really moved by what was written by the inspirational women of colour in the post, to the point where I actually cried reading it. I am only just finding words to describe the otherness I have felt my whole life but not had language to express.
hey you ought to be a member so I can message you.
THANK YOU KPEE. i didn’t want to be the one to say something yet again. this is not the place to derail and talk about different shades of whiteness.
But, but what about the “non-wonderbread” whitez?
again, this is not the thread to talk about it. this is about people of color, and it’s more then okay and completely justified for people of color to have a space and time where we are allowed to freely discuss our experiences. and i don’t know about you but i’ve read and encountered a lot about white people and the distinctions of whiteness and different white ethnicities in my lifetime. i’m not going to apologize for wanting a space where poc air their feelings and where other people use it as an opportunity to listen without co-opting the conversation.
and i also want to add an example for those who STILL might not get it, but i wouldn’t go on a thread talking about the issues that transwomen encounter and try and derail the conversation and make it about the issues that i encounter as a cisgendered woman. that would be insensitive to say the least.
I was not serious about that question, kind of like “what about the menz?” when talking about women’s issues.
But yea it was that or I was going to say about white people taking up space for poc to talk about the shades of whitness as “you want *this* too!!?”
But kpee, it is obviously not as simple as white skin privilege. Carmen writes about having pale skin and blue eyes and considers herself to be a woman of colour. Is it about hair privilege, too? Jk, I know it must have something to do with experiences. But for readers who are not from the States, the term is a little confusing. In Australia there are many Greeks, Italians, Maltese and Spanish people who would relate to the experiences of latino people of colour in the U.S. Also, in my multicultural community, I often find that “white” is mainly used to describe people of Anglo-Saxon heritage, so I am still getting my head around the way it is used in the U.S.
I don’t want to derail this thread, I just want to understand this complex term a little better.
As an Asian Asian, I have issues with the term “people of colour” because that describes everyone on my entire continent. Which just so happens to make up half the world’s population. I can somewhat justify its existence as an American term and it’s never really applied to me so I’m not particularly bothered by it, but my main problem with it is that my ethnic identity or anyone else’s should be standalone and not defined in terms of someone else’s.
I feel like this is something that is probably already discussed to the death elsewhere.
i don’t think the term person of color glosses over anyone’s ethnic identity. it’s a catch all term that denotes racial disntinctions (which are socially constructed, but still have real life consequences for people who are not white) in many western countries, and yes mainly united states.
I agree. I grew up Bangladeshi (a racial minority) in Malaysia, where Malays hold the same dominance as White folk in Western countries – more overtly so. I faced horrid racism growing up and get really angry when people dismiss this as “that’s not really racism” because no White people were involved. I appreciated this article, it’s really important to hear voices that can be related to, but at the same time let’s remember not to assume that American racial politics are the same or indicative of *world* racial politics.
— Coming here way after the article was posted, but this is a great discussion and my immediate reaction to Confused’s comment was relief… as another Australian, I’m in a bind where it’s brilliant and affirming and relatable to see these discussions taking place – but the discourse is very American.
It’s a thing. Like I’m friends with a few white queer kids who are doing their best to read up and get informed about these conversations – and then, what, they know all the details about *American* racial issues, but they’ve never heard of Manus Island? and they don’t know about the Stolen Generation? and they are just totally ignorant about local stories of Australian racism towards indigenous peoples? It makes me mad, I’m pretty incredulous at the whole situation. It just seems like such an irony that I have to despair, that our colonial bullshit extends into relying on imported American terms & discussions about issues of intersectionality and experiences of race, so that our own youth aren’t learning about the local situations.
And please don’t read me as anti-American here, it’s just a frustrating situation. A lot of things are pretty fundamental, you know, with how racist mindsets are ‘rationalised’ and how behaviours manifest. But the reality is, there’s a different situation here, with different cultural groups involved, and different historical-and-continuing systems of oppression. Similarly complex and bullshit situation; but a different actual situation. Different community. And listening to the American conversations about race is great, but it just doesn’t line up, precisely. So I just wanted to say, I get where you’re coming from, Confused.
Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. This is the best thing I have read on AS all year, maybe ever, but y’all always set the bar high. I want to say something more constructive, but sometimes you’re just at a loss. Each of these pieces is amazing, and I expect an AS anthology out sometime NOW. I’m just going to pretend I’m at A Camp instead of struggling through an educational system that doesn’t actually address these issues that you bring up here (on the site, but this post especially) or address things that really speak to me. This times 1000. Thanks.
best thing i’ve read…ever.
thanks AS, you guys rock.
i loved all of this so much. carmen, i relate to your hair story. i was just discussing with a friend how i couldn’t do the things with my hair that my peers were doing, the styles that were cool, even if they were douchey. i think this is why i latched on to AC slater with his mullet, because i wanted to be him so hard, and a curly ass mullet is one hair style i could rock, using the term “rock” here loosely.
coming from the south there was a severe lack in diversity in my gay group at times. this made me reflect on how that has affected me, and i thank you for that.
I apologize if this is not the place to talk about it, but one thing mentioned in the article and some comments really struck me : those of you who said you were accused of being “too white” or “not [ethnicity] enough” by other POCs because you are educated. Why?
I mean, I know that POCs don’t have access to education as easily as white people do, and learning in an environment in which you experience prejudice and discrimination every day must not be easy, and because of that some racist white people think that people of color are uneducated *because* of their ethnicity itself – like they can’t or don’t want to learn or are dumber because it’s in their genes or culture. But why would some POCs actually embrace this product of racism as part of their culture? I don’t get it.
I feel like it’s not my place to comment on this post because I’m white and I feel a bit like I’m “intruding”, so I apologize again if I shouldn’t have or if I said something offensive (though if I understand the american “one drop rule” correctly, according to it I’m actually not white despite my typical north-european looks). I also wanted to say that I really appreciated this article even though I can’t really relate to it on a personal level, I think that it’s important for us all as humans and especially for those on the privileged side on the fence to understand or at least know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. So, thank you.
Because of colonization. Because of assimilation. Because it’s the “queen’s english”…because white is the “dominant” culture…and the dominant culture is educated and has a list of values that are shoved down are throat that we POC actively try to resist even as far as to eat unhealthy food because eating healthy food is “white”.
This is a beautiful article. Thank you.
YES. Let’s talk about this. I’m supposed to be studying right now, but thinking about these texts and about race and racial stereotypes instead, which actually is sort of relevant to my essay about Skins. I’m analysing the first episode in 5th season “Franky” and intend to put my focus on the construction of femininity/masculinity and heteronormativity, but it’s so obvious that heteronormativity is linked to other power structures like a “white” normativity if you get what I mean. I think that if the experience of being a non-gender conformative person is highlighted in this episode, the experience of being a person of color is made invisible, only hinted at with the character Grace. When Grace tries to talk about her connection to black people and the history of slavery, she is told to “shut up Gracie” by Liv and Mini. And when she says “yes we can” (which I interpret as a reference to Obama, and the struggle for civil rights) in solidarity with Franky when Franky has her speech about just wanting to be herself, she is met with awkward silence. This makes me think that, to be accepted, Grace has to downplay parts of herself, and be “more white”. Yet, these two examples is all we get about this issue, and it seems to imply that race/racism is not a big deal, and isn’t something we should talk about. And that’s an idea that i meet a lot. Thank you to all the people who write about your experiences like they are important, because they are, even though there are forces that wish to downplay the importance of them. My opinion is that everybody should read “White” by Richard Dyer. I’ve not read the whole book, but what I read gave me a lot of insight.
Thank-you so much. For saying the things that I didn't know how.
And also, I related to the hair story. Like. When I was a kid, everybody was admiring me for my beautiful curly/wavy hair. Then I hit puberty and my hair became unruly, big, not the innocent curls that I had before. I stopped receiving compliments, advertisement taught me what was considered to be beautiful (and my hair never looked like those models hairs) and I suddenly realised that I was super-ugly (btw, I wasn’t). I live in Sweden, do you know the stereotype about swedes? How we’re all supposed to be blonde and blue-eyed? We aren’t all, but that is the norm, the thing that is considered the most normal, the most beautiful, the originally swedish. (puberty was when I started getting questions like “are you fully swedish/where do you come from?”) When I was a kid, I never thought about how racialised the beauty-norm is(I thought I was ugly), but it truly is. Think about a model. What image appears in your mind? A slim, tall, blonde girl. The idea that whiteness (and with whiteness comes blond straight hair) is better/more beautiful than everything else is so profoundly racist, and is something I’m so angry about. Like, people would say I’m white and not a person of color, my skin is light, and my eyes are blue. And I know that I have unfair privileges because I’m categorized as white. Yet, every step towards what is constructed as non-whiteness makes you less beautiful if you believe the normative idea about what beauty is. Which makes it apparent that the idea of what is beautiful is build upon racism and an ideology that white is better. It took a really long time to un-learn this bullshit, and stop yearning for straight hair. And I’m still angry because this bullshit kind of put me through hell, and made me doubt that I was worth anything at all. (which takes me to the bullshit idea that women are only worth what they look like, which is a whole another topic.) Nowadays, I love my curly hair even though from time to time I have answer questions I can’t answer about if I’m fully swedish or not. (Like, what is Swedish, are only blonde, light skinned blu-eyed swedes really Swedish?) Let’s keep talking about these topics, I feel they are incredibly important.
the absurd racist ignorance of the person who wrote the article on studs is disturbing but not even shocking. does that idiot know ANY studs in real life? and studs only live in atlanta, wear baggy pants, and are never bottoms? what the fuck?!? and even worse are the dumb ass commenters below making excuses for her stereotyping and telling people who actually call themselves studs to not feel insulted by this person’s mischaractarization of their INDENTITIES, to not to be so “p.c.”, and to not take it personally. i can’t.
anyway, this is such a fantastic article. and i can totally relate to gabriella with the code switching and isolation. in the past, i have found myself becoming someone else so that i come off less threatening and less likely to be stereotyped as the “angry black woman” in situations where it is advantageous to appear more docile (like work or school. but i find it’s become harder and harder to back down, and hide that i’m socially aware and not discuss issues like race in an honest and cogent way. as for being queer, like brittani i feel it’s mutable. since i’m very feminine, it is not something visceral like being black or woman, that automatically elicits a reaction and has instant meanings attached to it. i’m ambiavalent about the fact that i’m not an easily identifiable queer. sometimes it’s a relief because it’s hard enough going through life already being a black woman, and sometimes it sucks being invisible to the straight AND queer communities because i’m a femme.
We call them “bananas” in for Chinese people who act like white people.
Thanks for answering, I was always curious. (I originally posted as The Spaz before I just went ahead and signed up.)
this was amazing. thank you for writing.
Great piece Brittani – makes we want to send it to a few straight friends to give them a real look into MY head and to bring light to stereotypes of all types.
I have saved this to my Read It Later list because I know the rest of the articles are great.
ha I loved thisss :] as a fellow Boricua, I too can strongly relate to Carmen’s hair story! glad to know we’re not alone :]
all of you – this is beautifully written, heart-wrenching stuff. thank you so much.
I just wanted to say thanks, y’all, for being so open, honest, understanding and willing to share. This is beautiful. I’m black and queer (and grew up in a predominately white neighborhood, and went to predominately white schools all my life), and I often feel like nobody is willing to talk about or even see QPOCs. So again, thanks!
Hey guys back again with more feelings!
I really relate to Isolation because I grew up in the ‘burbs being the only poc in everything being seen as some “special token” which messed me up. It made it hard for me to relate to other poc because what was taught implicitly was “white is right.” After a couple of encounters of other poc putting me in check with my relative privileges I was over it and thank goodness for that. When I realized I was also queer/gay poc, it sent be back to that place again where the only people I could talk about it were my white gay/queer peers.
They were cool, I learned the lingo became fluent in it but again I still felt something was missing. It was not enough and then I went to Howard University and it all made sense again. Now I am totally, totally adjusted (and still over it)! But I will call out mofos who get out of place and expect for my peers to do the same for me because there are times I slip up.
Dealing with stereotypes and (queer) white people “trying” to denounce the wonderbread of whiteness has at times been interesting. I think this where I relate to the Isolation piece the most. Serious powerful beautiful things are happening in this AS post, this is just too sexy.
I thought this was an excellent read – thank you! Like others, I recognise a lot of the issues brought up. I am gay and half native american brought up in the UK in a white family. I think over here we have a looong way to go in terms of racial equality and tolerance. Day to day I encounter scenarios described above. Folk here really don’t think before they speak and it gets me so angry sometimes – the words people use…the assumptions….lack of respect…I could go on.
Most think I am Asian and are very surprised that I speak with a Scottish accent! I’ve been to USA and Canada a few times and met native/first nation people who are equally if not more suprised at my background….my accent!
Being a queer ethnic minority is some of the most confusing shit in the world. I’m Arab (half white, but I have no features from my white side so…) and there’s not really much of a niche for Arabs in American society… whether we’re ‘hard’ or ‘ghetto’ POC or ‘model minority’ POC or just ‘poor (or rich?) immigrants’ POC, we’re just kinda “foreign”.
and then there’s also the blurring lines of sexuality. If there’s no niche for Arabs, there’s definitely no niche for queer Arabs haha. Being queer just makes me so much “less arab” (as if I didnt have problems with my ethnic identity being questioned already because youdontwearhijab/youactblack/youactwhite/yourelightskinned/youdontspeakarabicwell/whatareyouanyway/youresoamericanized/etc)
“what the hell are you” hahahaha YES
Stories like these are so important. They’re needed in order to counter the people who will read stuff like this: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Tandt+Canada+socially+progressive+values+stretch+from+coast+coast/6537774/story.html and decide that hey, everything’s peachy, minorities should have nothing to complain about anymore.
Thank you, this tugged at my heart because I am also a queer person of color and I know what it’s like to face senseless racism and also to be expected to be a certain way for being a woman. All the stories shared are great.
This is a good piece. As someone who is mixed with many races under the sun (Black/White/Asian/Indian/Latino) I have always had many feelings about being a person of colour. Lately, those feelings have expanded to include being a person of colour IN the queer community.
I remember a few years ago I think I made a white co-worker realize a little bit of her white privilege when she made a negative comment about the type of person who would say a certain word – the fairly inocuous “bootylicious”. She then went on to state something which assumed that people who talk a certain way are uneducated or somehow lower class. I decided to inform her that I actually used that word regularly and spoke like that often. To which she responded that she didn’t know I used it and never heard me speak like that. So, of course, I had to let her know that I change the way I speak in a work environment (my workplace was mostly filled with older, white heterosexual males and actually mostly white people in general). I let her know that I was perfectly capable of, and in fact enjoyed, speaking in a manner that many people assume is speech reserved for the uneducated. However, I knew that mode of speech would not go over well at work. That’s when I think she realized that, barring curse words, in her work environment she never censored how she normally spoke. She had never had to code-switch in her life.
Oh wow, this was so beautiful. I’m so fortunate I got to attend the QPOC panel at Camp. I was so moved by all of your stories; it was really chilling to hear about your experiences, honestly. I don’t know how else to describe it. Reading this now after the fact gives me a big feeling of white-shame but I refuse to turn into one of those white girls sobbing on Gabby’s shoulders on “What do I do to fix my guilt”.
Thank you for letting yourselves be vulnerable to write these beautiful lyrics of your lives.
you are so articulate. i’m floored. did you go to school somewhere? and do you read things like books and have feelings?
Thank you all for sharing these stories. Here is one more – a fantastic piece written by my friend Kagure on her family’s stance that homosexuality is unafrican: http://holaafrica.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/a-little-longer-a-plea-for-full-existence/
thank you for this.
Just read this again and I’m floored again. Love this, and y’all, so much.