I'm posting tonight because I can see already that some of what I've been doing has the potential to go to a place that emphasizes processing rather than constructive political action. Trust me, I am the Queen of the Process, but this is an opportunity to break with the more-of-the-same white feminist response ("hey, let's do an antiracist reading group!") and really get ourselves together to support domestic workers' movements and other struggles (HB 87 work, national anti-racist coalition groups like U.S. for All of Us) that offer concrete and meaningful, accountable work to be done in support of communities of color (which, white is also a color, but it dominates). In other words: respectful personal work done IN SUPPORT OF structural anti-racist work, not in the place of it.
Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful that people are engaging the conversation! In no way do I assume that folks who have connected with me are not also working or that talking/processing is not important--it is crucial to break our patterns and find support. Just wanted to offer my thoughts toward some future directions (which is also a way to support existing expertise).
Also--I got a few backchanneled comments from folks about the last line in my piece (see the very first post on this blog), which calls out white Southern women to speak up, specifically to "help me understand better the context and milieu that could allow this cycle to continue". Both questioners seemed to be asking what possible good that could do, since context is no excuse and one of the trends of white womanhood is a pathological rationalization of one's racist behavior. Which, hell, yes, I get that and there is no version of history in which the damage done by Stockett's representations is ok.
I asked partly because I become incoherent when I read shit like this:
and I hope/assume/pray there are some anti-racist Southern women who could help me understand better the giant WTF of this kind of thing? In the same way that I might be better able to explain the f'ed-up-ness of the segregation in some Northern cities.
But the root reason for my calling out Southern white women was really these two things:
I was going for a piece that would generate accountability among white feminists and therefore really hoped to see someone who grew up in the specific culture/dynamic represented in the book step up to the challenge of a critique and/or self-examination.
As a fledging activist, also, I believe that deep psychological and cultural change comes about most meaningfully when we can understand the deepest roots of our dysfunction. This is a dangerous tactic because it so often has led to insincere, half-completed, and deeply abusive reproductions of the interpersonal dynamics in which we become agents of oppression. So I don't have an answer here but thought I'd offer that expanded explanation in case it crossed anyone else's mind.
In respectful and accountable ways, we must be willing to talk and hold each other accountable for times when we rationalize, give in to fear, and otherwise slip back into the fantasies and traps we have laid for ourselves and/or walked into blindly. And take action.
(The biggest thing here is for me to look also at my own behavior. I am aware of all the many, many times I've stepped in crap over and over, sometimes with the same people. Ugh. I could well be stepping in it right now. So, just bear that in mind too: I do not pretend to be any kind of genius or expert, just someone doing my damndest to do my work.)
Thanks, as always, to the folks who have enabled me to write this piece.