At the coffee shop yesterday, I saw a friend of mine and we had a great talk. She's been going through fits with her Women's Studies classes. She said some of her classmates (all of them are white) started crying and calling her 'racist' because she wanted to talk about how the feminist movement has been dominated by white women who historically have failed to understand or take on issues concerning women of color; 'sisterhood,' so blithely spoken of in slogans and bumper stickers, in a very real way has not historically included sisters who were sistahs. This apparently made some of them cry. Good thing I wasn't there or I would have caused more trouble by laughing at them or saying 'white girl, please...'
As harsh as that may sound to some ears, I would've said it like that because, in my experience, the two most distasteful attributes of whiteness are 1) the overwhelming need to be the focus of EVERYTHING, ever endeavor, every discussion, every issue, every study (and conversely, being struck with an almost crippling anxiety when not at the center of all such endeavors) and 2) An overwhelming sense of entitlement such that one cannot grasp the concept of how white privilege works in such settings. I told my friend that I'd send her a copy of Chrystos' poem, "Those Tears," and that she should discreetly xerox copies and put them in everyone's mailbox. But that's just me.
I guess my disdain for 'those tears' comes (also) from the fact that typically the times when whites are excluded or marginalized because of their race in the mainstream, it's usually rare, a punctuated moment or series of moments when they don't feel like they belong or that their point of view is important. Being a woman of color, that's not a rare or isolated experience for me; that's my mode of being in the world, my daily experience, one that has been so ubiquitous, so commonplace as to be cliché. So no, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. That is not to say I don't have any; for those intrepid enough to confront their feelings in the context of our history and our current socio-cultural condition, I am happy to discuss some of the issues at stake. However to start crying because a POC states a historic fact of white privilege/racist exclusion? Puh-leez.
In the words of Christos: Give us our inch, & we'll hand you a hanky