This statement and others like it have been directed towards me throughout my adult life. I have been called a tool of the patriarchy, an extremist, and yes, someone who hates minorities. Having said that, this post isn’t about me being a victim to hateful comments or discrimination. In fact, it is the opposite.
I am not a victim. I am not oppressed by white supremacy or the patriarchy. My failures or hardships are not the result of nationwide systematic racism. The rise of identity politics seeks to make me a victim, one that can never be saved because of who I am.
Identity politics is defined as “politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group.”
At first glance identity politics doesn’t seem bad, nonetheless people tend to forget the last part of the definition. Claiming to be a part of a specific group does not automatically grant anyone special authority outside of that group. We are all given equal inalienable rights; we should all be seen as human and given fair treatment. If one comes from a different or even problematic culture, they are to be treated with respect.
I’m not saying that fair treatment is always given or that discrimination doesn’t exist. Boxing ourselves into an infinite number of identities and checking our “privilege” does nothing but make us hyper aware of our differences. Continue reading “Identity Politics”→
As many know, America has a dark side to its history. What is supposed to be the Land of the Free has at times been a country where freedom of choice is denied.
Imagine this, you’re in the hospital after spending hours in labor and are given strong drugs to reduce the pain. The nurse says you’ll need a C-section, but first you need to sign some papers. She won’t tell you what they’re for, only that if you don’t sign them, your baby will die. Even though you are in pain and can’t even read the English, you sign them and they put you under for the C-section.
Months later you’re with your baby boy and happy to start your new life. Then you get the call, you discover were sterilized. During the C-section the doctors also gave you a tubal ligation and whether you wanted or not, you cannot have more kids. This is the reality for many women, most who are in poverty or are immigrants, around the world, even in the United States. Continue reading “No Choice”→
This past week something happened to a friend of mine who I’ll call Lucy*. (Names are changed for privacy.) I was speed-walking to class when I ran into Lucy pushing her children in a stroller and crying. Not just silent crying but sobbing.
She told me that someone had said just said a hurtful comment to her, and I immediately became angry. My friend is a recent immigrant to this country and her English is not the best, but she is the sweetest and most hard-working person. I quickly assumed that some stranger had made a racist comment. Although this is not considered a hate crime it is harassment and I at least wanted to see the person who I thought hurt my friend in case some other incident happens.
This past June I was getting off my bus at the Greyhound Station in Boise, Idaho, to get my bag. The employee asked which bag was mine, I pointed, and he handed it to me, and as I was walking away a commotion began. The employee was sharing the handle of the bag begrudgingly with its rightful owner, a black man. The employee began shouting that the man was stealing the bag. The man protested that in fact, it was his bag and he could prove it if the employee would just release his property. The employee began thrashing the bag violently to get it away from the man while screaming that he was being harassed. After much struggle, with the man’s shirt torn off his body and one of his shoes strewn across the ground, the employee called the police. The police showed up to the scene and separately asked the men what had happened. Later the employee went back to work and the man was arrested with his bag, and his shirt was thrown away.
I recorded on video the altercation that happened between the two men. I also wrote a witness statement and recorded a witness statement with the police. When I asked them, why the man was being arrested and the employee was free to go back to work they told me that it was due to a company policy technicality that the man apparently did not follow. He apparently did not have a check-in tag on his luggage. Therefore, it seemed, as though the ‘unidentified’ bag was being stolen. But, I didn’t have a tag on my luggage, and neither did other white passengers who didn’t get asked or have a second glance given to us when taking our bags.
When I watched that man be driven away in the cop car, hand cuffed and behind bars, I was frustrated. I was frustrated with the police for handling the situation poorly and giving the white guy the benefit of the doubt. I was frustrated because I knew that if that man had been white he would have been given his bag without a tag, and without a problem. I was frustrated because even though I told the truth and did the best to do the right thing, I was powerless.
Passing is about performance. Passing is about presentation. Passing is about appearance and external markers of identity. Because most of the world only knows each of us through how we look, and we never get to explain our inner nuances to them, then they only see us for what we are the outside. They make assumptions for what our outward selves signify for our inner selves. Our identity and beliefs are assumed from a quick glance. Usually people think of gender or race with the topic of passing, but passing can involve a huge range of personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, disability or ability, job occupation, level of education, intelligence, economic class, and social status. Passing can signify any personal characteristic of identity.
So if feminism is supposed to be a movement of solidarity, why then is there still such a division amongst women? We are quick to recall Susan B. Anthony and Rosie the Riveter when we think of feminism, but often forget about Audre Lorde, Dolores Huerta, and Julia de Burgos. As a Latina, I have fought the struggles of both sexism and racism and feel that it is important to recognize that the two are very much interrelated. If as feminists we are going to fight for equality, it should be equality for all people– not just that of white women.
Being a woman of color, it has been difficult to “pick a side,” so to speak, when defending my rights as a woman and as a Latina. It is disheartening to me when I see and experience division between each of the movements. I’ll admit I was even a little discouraged at signing up to write for this blog when I went to the first meeting and was surrounded by all white females. I chose to stay to represent my underrepresented race, and am proud that I did. Continue reading “On Being a Non-White Feminist”→