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Racism, Privilege, and Blog Comments

Many of you have likely seen, or even participated in, the comments sh*tstorm happening on Jessica Yee's post on Native appropriation from earlier this week. If you haven't, trust us that things have blown up over there, and not in a great way. We are working on a response to this blow up, as well as a change in our comments policy and perhaps an upping of our comment moderation (your input would be helpful here). As you may know, we aren't used to getting tons of comments here – most of our posts average about 15 comments or less – so we haven't felt the need to moderate with an iron fist in the past. Unfortunately, an iron fist would've likely helped in this case.

For now, we'd like to direct your attention to a great post by Thea Lim from our friends at Racialicious that responds to many of the comments Jessica's post has received. An excerpt:

Racialicious considers Bitch a friend – all year Racialicious bloggers will be guesting at the Bitch blog. But when Jessica sent out an email to the team with a link to said Bitch post and its comments, we shuddered a long, sad, collective sigh. This kind of blowback is so depressingly standard, and calls immediately to mind the dozens of times we've received these types of responses when we've asked for ourselves, our cultures and our experiences to be respected.

Here is a longer excerpt:

::

The resistance Jessica got is so standard that we can categorise it into three, typical responses that entitled folks make when called out for their privilege. So here, organised for your reading ease, are some of those soul-scorching comments, and my rebuttals to their nonsense.

1. Why are you so angry? Don't you know that no one will listen to your cause if you're angry?

…Her defensive, hostile and generally angry tone does no service to the Indigenous community nor to her own self-claimed authorty as the arbiter of all things Native. Many of her points (Native women were the first to acknowledge that periods aren't gross?) fail to recognize that these same concepts are fairly universal and are held by the early peoples of pretty much every continent- including Europe. She needs to take a breath and get over herself…

It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.

if you dont like the ignorance people have of you then fix it! teach them the right way! dont get all huffy and upset and tell them to go away!

Note that the second comment suggests that Jessica should take a nicer tone if she wants to accomplish her agenda – without even knowing (or I guess, caring) what the agenda is.

This kind of hey-let-me-help-you-achieve-your-goal-by-suggesting-you-be-more-radio-friendly response totally misunderstands (and appears disinterested) in the anti-racist project, because it assumes that anti-racism is all about convincing white people to be nice to people of colour. In other words, it assumes that anti-racism revolves around white folks. Like everything else in the world.

Anti-racism and people of colour organizing is not about being friendly, being appealing, or educating white folks. While individual anti-racist activists may take those tacks to achieve their goals, the point of anti-racism is to be for people of colour.

Anti-racism is about carving out a space for people of colour; decolonising and reappropriating the spaces which have been taken from us by racism. So sometimes people put Mohawk stickers on their laptops (or wear yellow pride t-shirts or support black music) because that is a way for them to affirm to themselves who they are, within a dominant culture that tries to ignore and erase their pride in their own cultures.

While I personally often take a gentler approach to anti-racism (often because I have internalised messages that as a woman of colour I should not be pushy) I have many times over been inspired and moved by Jessica's power and fearlessness at calling people out on their shit.

2. Why don't you lighten up and get over it?

Oh please. This is like saying its not cool to eat pizza unless you're Italian. Or only the French can drink champagne. Learn to share your heritage. Stop holding on so tightly. My ancestors weren't even around before the 1900's. They didn't kill your ancestors. Get over it.

…But should racial sensitivity move all the way over to never watching a John Wayne movie ever again and seeing Italians poorly portray a "First People" (Bitch needs to check their AP style book *snotty wink*). Or a bunch of star fucking hipsters in headdresses coked out of their little American panties? It just seems like trite and really insecure whistle blowing.

…Health disparaties and poverty are worth more of everyone's attention than hippie fashion trends or things that annoy you about white people…

As a pop culture website, we get this response so often that we even have a policy to speak to it:

8. Don't respond to a post or comment by saying "why don't you focus on some real issues like the war/starving children in Africa/police brutality/etc." Newsflash: this is a blog about race and pop culture. If you're not interested in discussing the intersection of those two things, please go elsewhere.

Incidentally Bitch is also a pop culture site, so it kinda makes sense that Jessica talk about hipsters there. Bitch readers come to Bitch to talk about feminism and pop culture, but they don't want to talk about racism and pop culture?

The "get over it" defense is not hard to take down as soon as you realise that by "it" the commenter is referring to colonisation and genocide, the legacy of which continues to beset Native communities in the form of poverty, environmental racism, and health disparities (to recap some of the things Jessica mentioned in the original post).

The whole "but that happened 100 years ago!" defense is similarly dense: a brief look at who is poor and who is marginalised in the richest countries in the world should quiet that one down…though it often doesn't. There's no accounting for pigheadedness.

And beyond this? Racism manifests itself in a million different ways, from massive structural inequalities, to the accessories of that fashionable person on the subway next to you. And sometimes it is easier for folks to understand and tackle the small things; for me, it was a long journey to the admission that racism exists and impacts my daily life. Talking about pop culture was a baby step that I could take; it was also something that was familiar and accessible when I didn't really understand the academic language of postcolonial theory, or couldn't imagine that words like "double marginalization" "diaspora" or even "immigrant" could apply to me.

It's bossy to tell people which incidences of racism they should be discussing, and it also denies the insidious nature of racism. There's no global limit on how many racist topics we can discuss. If our bandwidth has room, we're going to decontruct it.

3. Why is this my fault? My family didn't do anything. And anyways, I'm poor/female/an immigrant (insert other identity) so that neutralises my white privilege – I don't have any.

…Am I immediately part of the problem because I was born into it? You assume I don't care or involved myself in Native rights and politics because I'm white? How easy it is for all you to dismiss the few uber-defensive Caucasians claiming, "What, I'm automatically racist because I'm [white]?" without reconsidering the allegation. Throwing around blame is not a solution…

…[from a commenter who identifies as a white immigrant] Though we fare better than many others…it's been a long struggle, especially since my parents' accents are much too thick for most American-born citizens to understand and has made jobs difficult to land. We are working class and could not even afford state university. Anyway, I wanted to say that it is interesting how homogenized white people are in this country. Our personal heritage is ignored, a Scottish redheaded regarded no differently than a deeply olive-skinned Sicillian, in the United States.

…my ancestors came from Ireland, i am only a few generations off the boat. and when the Irish came to America, they were looked at the same way that assholes look at immigrants today. by other white people…being poor pretty much cancels out all the benefits of white privilege, except for the whole thing about being "color blind." i'm trying to be more aware of this stuff…but here's the thing- my ancestors didn't kill your ancestors, and i don't really see what benefits i am reaping (other than the one i mentioned earlier)…

No matter what, denying that you have privilege because of other things going on in your life, shows that you have not really engaged with what it means to have privilege.

...

To anyone who ever asks why Racialicious is run solely by people of colour, or keeps such a death grip on the comments section, or runs content almost solely by people of colour – well, your answer is in the sample comments above, which in their own way are all saying: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP. Even if they were written by well-intentioned people who did not intend to shut Jessica up, that is what they ultimately communicate.

::

The rest of Thea's post can be read here.

We want to thank the folks at Racialicious for jumping in (and for agreeing to blog for us in the first place), and we are taking steps to deal with situations like these in the future. Please let us know if you have any suggestions, but please DO NOT use this comment space to continue the arguments from Jessica's original post, or to leave comments that in any way fall into the three categories mentioned above. Seriously.

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Comments

48 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Thank you, thank you, thank

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for speaking out against racism. Too often the feminist movement is not nearly racially conscious enough. Thank you for always making the effort here at Bitch to tackle racism in all its forms.

Comments on the internet suck. Thanks for denouncing and deconstructing what's going on here.

From an Indigenous Woman who Supports Bitch

Thank you for addressing the vitriol, racism, and hatred directed towards Jessica. As an Indigenous woman who lives in Portland and is a monthly supporter of B*Word Media, after seeing the explosion on Jessica's post I didn't feel safe participating in Bitch's space. I was upset, I ranted all day and took solace in Racialicious, as I do most days when mainstream feminist spaces (virtual or not) leave me feeling no better than an average day trying to defend my existence as an Indian in Portland. This post has renewed my faith in Bitch and I will show that support by my continued monetary support.

@Jessica:

Your post hit home and gave me words to expressed my anger on a daily basis here in Portland, OR. I see all those examples "fashion" multiple times a day, from university, to the market, or just riding the light rail home. I love your work and often look to you and your work with Native Youth regarding sexuality and gender in my own work with my fellow Native youth here in Oregon. You are inspiration for Indigenous people all over the world. Gunalchéesh from a Tlingit in Portland.

I found the pizza comment

I found the pizza comment especially frustrating.

Wearing items of clothing that hold special religious significance is NOT the same as Americanizing food dishes from other countries that hold no real significance other than being a symbol of national pride. It's a fucking food item.

Ugh.

I chose not to participate in commenting on that thread because I know that with stuff like that, people don't listen.

I frequently read Racialicious and I totally understand why they need to moderate their comments so heavily. It does really disappoint me, though, that readers at Bitch online get so defensive when it comes to race issues.

I myself have come to learn that there are issues far beyond me, and to really just listen to others.

food hygiene

Would you trust food prepared with bare hands not being washed regularly with proper antimicrobial soaps? Would you trust a nurse taking care of patients with bare and not deeply sanitized hands?I doubt it.  
Would you trust food prepared with bare hands not being washed regularly with proper antimicrobial soaps? Would you trust a nurse taking care of patients with bare and not deeply sanitized hands?I doubt it.  
food hygiene

Ugh.

Thanks so much for this post. The defensiveness and anger present in all of the comments you posted are things that I'm met with every day in my teaching, and while I try to understand that I'm often the first person my students have encountered who has challenged their privilege (myself still trying to recognize my own privilege as a white woman), it is so unfair that those who don't like what you say can yell/belittle/mock angrily what you claim, all while telling you to be nice, don't be so angry, shut up and take it. Jessica's post raised many important questions that made me think about my own position in this complicated society in new, and very challenging, ways, and I'm glad she does not intend to "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP" any time soon. Thanks again, Bitch, for challenging us.

Thanks for the post, but I still have a question

Thank you for posting this followup, I feel that engaging racial/gender/heterosexual/etc. privilege is so important. Although I do have a question regarding Jessica's original post. I'm not sure if this is the right place to post it for a response and I didn't dare wade into the clusterfuck over at the original post, so here it goes. Regarding dress, is there are way to incorporate symbols typically associated with indigenous people into fashion in a non-offensive way? I'm not talking about costuming, but can someone wear feathers on a headband, for example, without causing offense?

That particular example, no,

That particular example, no, don't do it. First, there are over 500 native tribes and while some are similar to others, many are totally different. So if you did that around me (and I was ignorant about the other tribes), it wouldn't phase me. We did wear feathers in a different sort of headdress than the plains tribes, but the significance was that it was only decorative. BUT...in some other tribes you only wear feathers that you have earned, and generally speaking most of these feathers are eagle feathers or sometimes feathers from other birds painted to look like eagle feathers and those are sacred to some tribes. (And if they are real eagle feathers they are endangered and illegal for you to own sez your own gov't.)

thanks

Thanks for the reply. It seems that fashion regularly incorporated different cultures into trends and I always end up wondering where the line between referencing/appreciating and appropriating is. Although I suppose that could just reflect my ignorance and maybe it's all appropriation. Anyhow, thanks for the clarification I wouldn't want to inadvertently offend .

Well I think many of the

Well I think many of the commenters misunderstood Jessica because I don't think she was saying that no white person can ever use/wear something native inspired. She was saying that if you are going to do that, then just do a little research and find out the significance. Some things are spiritually or culturally significant, and therefore you should probably think twice about using them as fashion or home decor etc, others are utilitarian. My people make some of the best canoes out there, and think it's a fantastic way to travel. Wabanaki craftspeople would love your business if you plan on hiking/canoeing through Maine or New Brunswick. Though, we don't consider white people buying and using non-Wabanaki canoes as cultural appropriation, it's more like adaptation. They are lighter, swifter, and more maneuverable than, say, a row boat, so it makes sense for anyone to use them, the same way that many things we use that are made by white people are utilitarian adaptation.

The other thing we would stress is buy native made items. Unfortunately, you aren't entirely safe from cultural appropriation there since we have a bad habit of appropriating from each other, but considering the poverty on most reservations we would consider that a mitigating circumstance that at least you're helping an Indian while you're annoying another. (And yes, I laughed as I typed that.) We are also tricksters. There are those on my rez who like to make and sell those little dreamcatchers that white people hang on the rearview mirror in their vehicles. Dreamcatchers aren't from my nation/tribe, so yeah, appropriation...but we do it because it cracks us up, dreamcatchers are supposed to be hung over your bed. They catch nightmares (bad dreams), so we joke, "What are these white people hanging them in their cars for? They all proud they fall asleep at the wheel??? Well at least you can see them coming and steer clear of them."

Anyway, we do appreciate those who do not buy culturally appropriated items and instead go to the rez (or online but please take care you are buying from a real native craftperson and not a white person who dreamed he had a spirit guide named Tonto who told him he was native in a past life) and buy a painting, or sculpture, or piece of jewelry, or basket, etc. You can please yourself and your love of native culture while also supporting native people.

Bingo

"My people make some of the best canoes out there, and think it's a fantastic way to travel. Wabanaki craftspeople would love your business if you plan on hiking/canoeing through Maine or New Brunswick. Though, we don't consider white people buying and using non-Wabanaki canoes as cultural appropriation, it's more like adaptation. They are lighter, swifter, and more maneuverable than, say, a row boat, so it makes sense for anyone to use them, the same way that many things we use that are made by white people are utilitarian adaptation."

Exactly. That's what I understood about her post. She's not talking about people who, say, use a canoe, but people who dress up as native people, and in turn, are mocking them.

Just a question, how do you know a retailer online is authentic?

I think there's a fine line.

Thank you!

Thank you so much for addressing this. I couldn't believe the types of comments being posted to Jessica's original post.

In terms of suggestions... I seem to remember similar issues happening to the posts about disability that were featured awhile ago. I would recommend checking in with them, and with folks at Racialicious, to see how they handle moderation as I find both sites well done.

Good responses, Bitch and

Good responses, Bitch and Racialicious! Look forward to the longer response from the Bitch folks...

I'm shocked by the crude ignorance and hostility of those posts for another reason: most of the comments to the Bitch blogs -- whether here or on Facebook --are super-smart, polite and engaged at an amazingly high level by blog comment standards. In fact, I've never encountered such great commenters, especially blogging on feminist issues, which usually bring out the hostile douchebags in droves. It's been one of the many awesome things to me about guest-blogging here. I assumed you all must work really hard to moderate them aggressively.

SO, it is really a testament to our country's backwardness on race, and especially on indigenous issues, that the atmosphere would break down so egregiously around Jessica's posts. As a fellow writer here I offer total sympathy and solidarity to Jessica, as I know what a bummer it is to be confronted with so much electronic excrement after you've worked hard to write something thoughtful. But also, big thanks to Bitch for addressing the situation swiftly and for working so hard to keep this blog a safe and smart space.

Btw, I'm all for the "iron fist" when it comes to website comments: it's usually the only way to have a sane, intelligent discussion. Making a dumbass comment on a blog is not an inalienable human right. Anyone who would cry "censorship" over aggressive blog moderation has simply not had much experience in this medium.

What do they do about MRAs

What do they do about MRAs on feminist sites? I mean seriously, this isn't that hard and several of the commenters definitely are racisms version of the men's rights activist: the WRA - white rights activist. On every feminist site, an MRA shows up, and the mods and commenters might toy with him for a short while..."poor baby, what about teh MENZ???" but if he continues to throw his weight around, he is told to "STFU, read and learn, if you can't do that...go away, you aren't welcome." and eventually he might be banned from commenting. What is wrong with doing this to the WRAs who show up?

Sadly, the worst WRA I had to deal with on that thread claims she is a WOC, just not native. Those of us who know a bit about privilege/oppression and how it works, know that we all are steeped in racism, all of us. That means we will internalize some racism about ourselves and our people, and will pick up and believe racist ideas about other peoples. For that reason, when women of another race or ethnicity are speaking about issues particular to them, I tend to shut up and simply read what they are saying, especially if it goes totally against what I have believed in the past, or is something I have never even thought about.

Anyway, I do want to express my disappointment, anger, and frustration with the moderation on that thread. You made this place unsafe for native women to speak about their issues, their truths, and their lives. It was more important for you to worry about the comfort of your white (and white identified) commenters, it was more important to give them free rein to shut us up, talk over us, and drown us in their white woman's tears.

Thank you

Thanks everyone for your input. We are working on a more established comment moderation policy and could definitely use suggestions from our readers.

@Taija, thank you for your support. You should come by our office on Alberta Street and say hi so that we can thank you in person!

@Anonymous, I think you're right that some of the hostility and ignorance that occurred on Jessica's post is similar to that of a few of the TCDC posts, and we will most certainly be in touch with them as well as other past bloggers to get their ideas.

@Liza, you're right that we don't typically have that sort of comment environment here at the Bitch blogs, which is why we are now trying to implement something that will help to prevent it from happening again in the future. Thanks for weighing in here as another Bitch blogger!

@Donna, thank you for your insights. We are so sorry that the space turned unsafe-feeling for you and others, but we certainly didn't mean to worry about the comfort of our white commenters over our commenters of color. I think, honestly, we were taken by surprise at the comments and simply did not act quickly enough.

We would love to hear your thoughts (and this goes for the rest of you as well) as to what effective comment moderation looks like to you. (As I said, we are somewhat new to strict comment moderation since we typically don't deal with a high volume of comments.) Does it mean deleting comments from certain people? Weighing in and reminding people of our comments policy? Turning the comments off on a thread that becomes hostile? Asking the author to write a follow-up post? Disallowing comments on certain posts altogether?

We are in touch with some of our friends from other websites on this topic to get their advice, but of course everyone here, actual Bitch blog readers, are the people we want to participate in this space, so your advice and input are much appreciated.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I'm skeptical, but I want to

I'm skeptical, but I want to explain why. I don't simply want to lash out in anger, and try to guilt trip you, or just be an ass. This type of thing happens far too often to WOC in feminist spaces. We get the same excuses (and always the one about intent), but nothing really changes. It happens again and again, over and over. Wait, no, it's not even just the internet, it happens to us in the real world too. Whenever we befriend a white person, if a racial issue crops up between us and another white person, that so-called white friend suddenly pretends she didn't hear what was said, or is just so surprised/shocked by what happened she doesn't know what to do (recognize that one?), or chooses to side with the other white person.

I want you to watch a video over at youtube. It's about 8 minutes long. In the video a black woman is shopping at a boutique in SoHo and the sales woman and security are BLATANTLY racist towards her. The ones who are most likely to jump in and defend her are other POC, the white people pretend they don't see whats going on, or are simply shocked and don't know what to do (yeah, right, but they keep right on shopping), or they side with the white person ("I bet she used the race card"), or it's not their business and they don't care.

There are only two instances where white women have a different reaction. The first, a white woman does everything in her power to deny what she is hearing until she can no longer deny it, and then all she does is break down into a puddle of white woman tears. Those mean people made her witness racism! They busted her post-racial color-blind bubble! But she didn't do a damned thing about it, did she?

The second is the reason I can't watch that video anymore. I'll explain later. A white woman defends the black woman (and her white friend is kind of along for the ride). She stays and protests the entire time, and only leaves when the black woman leaves. I really appreciated that part, she stayed and witnessed it all, she loudly protests what they are doing to her, and only leaves with the black woman, possibly protecting her from some trumped up charges. Her actions are what finally pricks the consciences of the other white people and many leave the store with them. See, POC don't know racism, so white people need other white people to tell them when something racist is happening, or they don't give a damn what POC think, but care very much what other white people think. (Which is why I accused you of worrying about the comfort of other white people.)

How much you want to bet that every one of those white people would say they are anti-racist? "But I don't use racial slurs!" Swell, thanks for nothing.

The only anti-racist was that last woman. I know most POC will go our entire lives without meeting someone like her. We go through racism every day of our lives and all the "anti-racists" around us always have the excuse that they're just suprised by racism and so of course they can't be expected to do anything about it. Considering how many white people I know who insist, INSIST, that they are anti-racist, witnessing white people stepping in without any prompting, like this woman did, should be a common occurence. It is so unusual that I always cry when I watch that lady in action, that's why I can't watch that video anymore. It hurts knowing that she is probably one in ten thousand.

Yeah, I know they said she was one in a hundred. I say they got damn lucky she was in the store that day, otherwise they wouldn't have had any white person who would actually defend that black woman at all, just one in a hundred who will shed a tear when they have to witness racism.

Donna said: "You made this

Donna said: "You made this place unsafe for native women." And you replied: "We are so sorry that the space turned unsafe-feeling for you and others." Which, although I'm sure you didn't intend it, sounds a bit patronizing. Donna didn't say the thread was "unsafe-feeling," she said it was unsafe. What YOU said makes it sound like you think Donna and the rest of us CHOSE to be all sensitive and feel unsafe. No, the thread was really, truly, actually not a safe zone for some people-- specifically, many Native women. Also, the thread didn't TURN unsafe of its own accord. Your lack of moderation of hateful comments made it that way. Acknowledging that isn't denying that Bitch mods were maybe overwhelmed, or unsure of what to say, or busy walking the dog-- It's just saying that, whatever your *intentions* were, the lack of moderation caused that particular clusterfuck. And, me personally, I'm not sure I understand how every single writer on an internet weblog could be completely perplexed on what to do in the face of mean, racist, de-railing internet comments. Yes, I understand that you don't normally get that many comments, but wouldn't that be a red flag in and of itself for someone to ask, "Hey, what's going on here? What should we do?" And since you keep saying Bitch isn't used to that many comments, why would you leave the OP to handle it all by herself? Even if you didn't want to delete the comments, why not at least leave your OWN comments supporting Jessica, your colleague? And these questions feel almost rhetorical because this is such a TEXTBOOK situation for majority-white feminist blogs: good samaritans (usually members of the group being attacked) jump in and do the brunt work of responding and defending while the bloggers who ACTUALLY WORK HERE are somewhere off-stage, presumably hand-wringing their way to a solution.

And, just to be clear, I'm not in any way here to give you guys tips on moderating or to help you make this blog a safer space. I'm only responding as a voice of support to the people attacked in that thread. And because I'm too annoyed to not say anything at all.

Thank you for posting this

Thank you for posting this in response to Jessica's original post.

I still cannot understand what exactly caused the uproar. I thought Jessica's post was poignant, reasonable, and not offensive.

What offended me were the comments. There were very few comments that failed to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Even threads that started out innocently were soon riddled with "SHUT UP" and "STOP TALKING." These were left by people who were offended Jessica's article and by people who supported Jessica's article. Maybe this is my overly-sensitive self talking, but I think that telling someone to "shut up" is never the answer. Shaming those people by saying "Well, I've experienced XYZ hardship in my life, too!" or "You just can't understand!" is never helpful. It's hurtful, and this attitude promotes an unsafe environment where people become very defensive.

I'm sure it's difficult to figure out the "right" thing to do in such a situation. I don't think policing comments would be a bad thing. My only concern would be how comments are policed. Should the community have a say in the policing when it was this very community making an unsafe environment? Where's the line between naivety and blatant/unquestioning ignorance? I realize that, by definition, there is no difference, but I think in theory there is a difference, and I hope that's clear in my previous sentence.

Again, thank you for trying to make this a safer place. And Jessica? Thank you.

Ahhhh...how "fair and

Ahhhh...how "fair and evenhanded" of you. I think we should tell feminists when MRAs show up they need to be fair and evenhanded with them. They shouldn't tell them to shut up or that men can't understand what living with sexism is like. That's just mean and gets us nowhere, right?

Another thing white feminists are good at, being fair and evenhanded with racists when they attack WOC. We need more spaces on that BINGO card for this, and surprised by racism so they don't know what to do, and white woman's tears.

You know how you can tell where that line is? If you tell someone they are showing their ass, they cover their ass, or they keep sticking it in your face. We had lots of that, and you didn't mind because they were sticking it in native women's faces instead of yours.

I apologize if my post

I apologize if my post offended you. I truly did not intend to marginalize your, or anyone else's, emotions and anger.

And I did mind.

Thank you, Samantha. I don't

Thank you, Samantha. I don't like being an asshole, really and truly, but I reached saturation point and KA-BLAM!

I do want you and others to understand. Think of this, what if a well meaning male run (or dominated) liberal website brought in a feminist guest blogger and the men on the site said things like, "Get over it" "I'm not like that! Not all men are sexist!" "Come on! Complaining about sexism on that tv show? Don't you have more important things to worry about?" "*some whining ridiculously surreal argument that twists what the feminist wrote and makes it about something she never said*" and the men running the blog did nothing to stop this. What if you were one of the few commenters trying to explain to the naive and having to deal with the willfully ignorant at the same time? Would you reach saturation point or just leave and not go back? Or would you feel like being fair and evenhanded in that situation?

Yeah, it's been like that here.

You're absolutely NOT being

You're absolutely NOT being an asshole.

It feels wrong to say "I get it" or "I understand" because, obviously, I can't truly comprehend what it's been like to be one of those few people on the board getting nailed with derogatory comments. However, I can relate it to my own experiences, and you're completely correct. I would have tried to come at the situation with an evenhanded attitude, but I would have reached a saturation point. It's easy to have an evenhanded attitude when there's a level playing field. There wasn't one here. Which is, of course, the point.

Thanks again, everyone

Thanks again everyone for continuing to voice your concerns here. @Donna and @Shelby, you're right: My tone was unintentionally patronizing and I apologize. You felt unsafe because the space was unsafe, and I am truly sorry for the role I played in that.

As the web editor here, I just want you to know that I am working on this stuff and am really listening to what you have to say. You're right; my feeling like I didn't know what to do isn't a valid excuse, but that is exactly why I appreciate the dialogue happening now – so that in the future if a similar situation arises I will be able to handle it much better.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

notes on my own privilege

I just want to say a couple of things, hopefully briefly to not detract from the original topic.

About a month ago I read that Newsweek article on contemporary feminism that caused a lot of controversy since it included absolutely no mention of WOC and featured only white women in the photo. I admit that the first time I read the article I was like "sweet! yay for feminism" and did not even notice the omission. Then I read some of the fallout and thought for a moment, "jeez, they should just be happy that feminism got such good mainstream press at all" but then, after reading about Newsweek's offensively ignorant response to their omission, I had kind of a moment...while reading some blog comments, actually. I think it was on Jezebel, I don't remember, but one commenter said something about white women that was along the lines of "they think that the whole world is promised to them [because of their privilege] and then they get out there and realize they don't have everything" and said something about Barbie princesses. I felt super uncomfortable, partly because I was offended by the princess jab... but mostly because the commenter basically spoke to my own blindness as a white feminist. Suddenly I saw my own frustrations in a different light-- for example, the fact as a UCLA graduate the only jobs I can seem to get tend to be shitty and gendered (coffeeshop, babysitting, housecleaning)... but I had not yet to that point ever realized that the fact I might even be able to get those jobs at all is partly because I am a generally pleasant, thin white girl.

I don't want to risk sounding "ta-da! now i am cured of my ignorance and deserve a pat on the back from POC." I also admit that I did not wade *too* deeply into the clusterfuck of comments at Jessica's post. Lastly, I don't want to sound like I'm making the lived reality of POC all of a sudden "FOR" my white enlightenment. I guess what I am trying to say is, I'm sorry I did not see my privilege sooner, and thank you to Jessica and to commenters like Donna and others for calling us out on our blindness. Seeing this whole debacle pan out has been challenging and disturbing, because it has made us confront racism head-on, when, as Donna's video illustrates, it's easier to just not deal with it. I hope that we can come out on the other side as stronger fighters against racism, while still being able to admit that not everything has to be "for" us, or that our privileged vantage points make us fallible as allies. I use "we" and "us" because I hope others on the blog agree.

Thanks for listening-- I hope that wasn't too sloppy.

p.s. The only coverage of the Newsweek controversy on Bitch blogs was in a post by Jessica... I would like to see Bitch integrate more discussion of the intersections of anti-racism and feminism more thoroughly into its programming in the future.

Me too!

Jaymee, thank-you for that comment. I am in pretty much the exact same position as you are right now, and I'm still trying to figure the whole thing out.

I was following Resist Racism when that story came out about a white woman named Beth Rankin who wrote about meeting resistance when she tried to join an all-black anti-racist group on her campus. And when I first read it, I identified with Ms Rankin, because she has all the idealism about people just working together that I had in my college years. While the commenters on Resist Racism were all shocked at Beth's audacity, I found myself wondering what the appropriate action would have been for Ms Rankin to take when she wanted to join a cause she believed in. The response seems to be (the discussion is still going on) that the only option for white people entering these spaces is to sit down and shut up. I think that many of the commenters perceive white people who are interested in combatting racism as wanting praise for being there and congratulations for being so enlightened -- i.e., that we are so unaware of our own privilege that we expect it to pertain in spaces created by PoC to discuss race. Which I think is an unfair accusation, although I'm not sure yet.

I don't feel like I'm asserting my privilege if I speak up to ask a question (again, I might be wrong about that). I know some PoC feel that if I ask them to engage with me, I am making them responsible for my own work in overcoming my racism. Like I am appropriating the space and making it about helping poor white women with their racism, which is actually very offensive (so I won't comment on Resist Racism anymore ;-). But I do have questions, many of which are probably stupid, and it would be nice to have a space to work in. Clearly it can't be a space made specifically for PoC, but I feel like a bunch of white people trying to figure these issues out in a white vacuum is not only bound to fail, it's how we all got into this trouble in the first place. I'm disappointed that I haven't found a place where beginner's ignorance is tolerated, and at the same time I'm aware that I'm not entitled to such a space, which leaves me confused, as I said.

So, while I admit I'm guilty of occupying the "But I'm doing it respectfully!" square on the race appropriation bingo card, I'd hate to see the discussion shut down for those of us who are too unenlightened to hang with the masters. If comment moderation must be done, I hope it is only used to excise truly hateful comments, not for genuine questions from people who are struggling to understand. And, since uncovering these issues can provoke potentially hurtful responses in people who are still coming to understand the depths of their own privilege, I am loathe to cut anyone but the most obvious trolls out (I disagree with Shelby that we can't tell the difference between ignorance and malice).

I think the takeaway here is that more discussion about race is needed and wanted in our community. It would be great if this site became the place we all could go to to participate in that discussion. *fingers crossed*

Finally, I recognize, respect, and appreciate Jessica Yee for the work she has done here. I'm deeply grateful for her insights. I know it shouldn't be her job to point out these problems, and when PoC or disabled person or anyone in the know takes the time to share her or his experiences, it's a valuable opportunity for the rest of us.

"If comment moderation must

"If comment moderation must be done, I hope it is only used to excise truly hateful comments, not for genuine questions from people who are struggling to understand. And, since uncovering these issues can provoke potentially hurtful responses in people who are still coming to understand the depths of their own privilege, I am loathe to cut anyone but the most obvious trolls out (I disagree with Shelby that we can't tell the difference between ignorance and malice)."

Hi @cafe21, I hear your frustration. But I don't think you've quite "gotten" what an ally is. When I volunteer in a community that's not my own (not even talking about racial differences, just a neighborhood or group I'm not a part of) I go to the people already organizing and ask, "What do you need?" And then I do that thing if it's something I'm able/willing to do. Sometimes they'll tell me it would be best for me NOT to help-- to turn around and leave. That's what happened after the earthquake in Haiti. A lot of the students in the Black community at my school wanted to immediately get together and GO. Just GO and figure shit out later. But then Haitian organizers tried their best to tell the global community just SEND MONEY cuz if you're not trained in disaster relief you'll be in the way. So that's what we did. The point is, when you organize in a community not your own you are there for THEM and NOT to be noble. And if they tell you your presence HURTS them, then you need to respect that. I would never, for example, question why a trans women of color group didn't welcome me, a cis woman of color, with open arms. Why should they trust me or feel safe around me? And that's what I think a lot white allies don't get-- we've MET friendly white people before and still been betrayed. We've loved them, had children with them, ARE the children of them but we know none of that protects us from white racism. Some people, like my dad, might never EVER trust a white person as long as they live and HE HAS THEIR RIGHT. And as an ally YOU have to respect the trauma we've gone through at the hands of white people with good intentions (perfect example, i can't even call it parody cuz it's ACTUALLY like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azE3i1h8lP0&feature=related).
And this is why I don't think it's anyone's "duty" to give commenters the benefit of the doubt. The question isn't whether or not you can tell the difference between ignorance and malice-- it's that it DOES NOT MATTER. The effects are the same for me. They are hurtful and literally affect my health and thus the health of the NEXT generation, my children (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INc1a6u8yP4). And that's something I think white allies forget: THESE ARE OUR LIVES. This is not theory, this is not ideological branding, this is us organizing to SURVIVE. Period. So I understand you want more space as a novice anti-racist to ask questions, but remember the EFFECTS your unintended racism will have on the people who are JUST TRYING TO LIVE and *own* that responsibility.

Benefit of the doubt

@Shelby: I understand what you're saying, and of course you're right.

I think I do understand about how as an ally and not a member, I need to go home when I'm not welcome, but of course I still don't understand because "Go home because you're white" still sounds a tiny bit wrong to me (like I said, I'm working on it). But is this forum a place where I am an ally and not a member?

To me, it seems like your argument leads to an absolute intolerance of mistakes. Some of us (me, for example), in our own work to understand, are going to say stupid things or ask stupid questions that indicate only our inexperience, and not hatred in our hearts. I understand that in a space that is primarily intended as a safe space for PoC, mistaken understandings may not be tolerated. But what about a space like this that is intended for everyone? I honestly don't think that most of us here are capable of participating in a conversation about race at the level that you expect. I object to the implication that we can't try to talk about it anyway.

Even as I type this, I am aware that it is probably a comment that you would have moderated out of the discussion, and that if I look back on it in a year or however long it takes, I will cringe at my own naivite. I guess that I'm hoping the conversation continues anyway (fingers crossed that you will reply) because I really do want to learn! Honestly! [And speaking of homework, thanks for the link to the video, which was universally horrific. ;-) ]

As another very novice

As another very novice (white) anti-racist, I am learning to appreciate the moderator-deleted comment. Ideally, we consider what we say well enough that no moderator has to delete our comments. But in the event that this self-censorship fails (as it will) this virtual slap-in-the-face has the advantages of (1) telling you you're very, very wrong, while (2) protecting anyone who hasn't seen your comment yet and keeping the space safe(r). It further confers on you the benefits of (1) time and space to work out what was wrong with what you thought and said, and (2) the responsibility to figure it out yourself, which I think might lead to better understanding, since you are absolutely required to engage completely and think hard in this scenario.

So I'm definitely advocating the use of comment-deleting by Bitch, and not just in extreme cases. Not as a sole strategy, of course. But as one tool.

Moderation

Thanks for your input, Anon, we're definitely going to step up moderation involvement in the future. Look for a new commenting and moderation policy this week.

Kjerstin Johnson
Web Content Manager

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

Guest Blogger Support in Comments

I have been loving Jessica's series here.

From my own experience as a guest blogger, my experience overall was positive, but I can say that I personally felt (and I can't speak for everyone from the Transcontinental Disability Choir, only myself) that when we tried to speak about ableism and pop-culture that we got a similarly nasty (thought not nearly as huge) backlash. I felt that we were left alone to deal with any fallout of that, and when things got hostile we had to fight it ourselves.

One thing that I would like to see (though I am keenly aware that Bitch probably does not have the budget for it, correct me if I am wrong) is more interaction from the regular bloggers or some kind of moderator showing support for the guest bloggers in comments, by way of letting commenters know that their treatment of guest bloggers is expected to be in a certain manner. When I have guest blogged other places this is commonplace, to have the full support of the regular staff, and anyone who whips out the Tone Argument at me, or makes personal attacks at me is promptly shown the virtual door. It helps someone who is unfamiliar with the community to sort out the trolls from the people who are trying to engage in good faith but are maybe having trouble.

It is time consuming, but for a site where guest blogging is such a huge and enjoyable part of life as usual, I think it would be a huge part of preventing a pile on like this from happening again. Some people might have crumbled under that kind of vitriol (myself included). Thankfully, Jessica Yee seems to be nigh indomitable.

You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don't find easy, or learn an awful lot very fast, which is what I tried to do. ~ Jane Fonda

I totally agree with

I totally agree with OuyangDan's suggestion above, re: supporting the guest bloggers.

The flavor of the comments on the Transcontinental Disability Choir posts and Jessica Yee's post illustrate an important challenge for Bitch. This challenge is posed by liberal white women among your readership, particularly those of us who are not living with a disability and who are cisgendered (to disclose- I am part of this group). As Donna pointed out very astutely above, liberal white women often identify as anti-racist and (to generalize) we are okay at identifying certain oppressive themes in pop culture, dominant historical and political narratives, and in the things said by our family members or "conservatives."

Where we have a problem is in identifying our own oppressive actions and assumptions- and by extension calling out behaviors in others that we engage in ourselves. The other problem is becoming mired in our own guilt about receiving unearned privileges that we never reach the point of figuring out what we can do to act against racism.

It's not the job of a guest-blogger, particularly a POC, to help us white women along in our racial identity development. But unfortunately, Ms. Yee has been on the receiving end of an existential crisis of the "I'm not racist!" variety. The same thing happened with the Transcontinental Disability Choir's suggestion that we stop using ableist language like "crazy" or "lame." Too many Bitch readers who use those words everyday reacted by getting upset, rather than by taking the opportunity to critique their own actions and change them.

That's where the editorial board of Bitch can come in, as OuyangDan suggested. When your readers run into this problem: support the guest blogger; call the commenter out; and challenge her (or him) to critique her assumptions and actions. If people do have good intentions but are having trouble engaging in this important self-critique, maybe certain Bitch editors can give them a push.

You can do it!

Certainly my experiences in

Certainly my experiences in guest posting with the TCDC were such that dealing with comments made me seriously ill from stress. Not only would I have to deal with people coming at me here, they'd come over to my personal blog (not FWD, but my journal) and have a go at me there, or start sending me emails. The whole experience was pretty terrible, but I think s.e. smith expressed the bulk of the problems in her closing post, hello-goodbye: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-transcontinental-disability-choir-hell...

"The response to some of our posts was pretty explosive, and highlighted a great deal of the disconnect between disability rights and feminism. The very idea that disability rights should be addressed in a feminist venue seems deeply troubling to many people; the Bitch editors were even told on Facebook that they shouldn't have hosted us, and one commenter threatened to cancel her subscription because of us."

Frankly, the entire experience of blogging at Bitch was a big contribution to why I rarely critique pop culture anymore, and have asked the people I blog with not to pass along stuff about pop culture to me. I know s.e. is writing stuff on her personal blog about Glee and kindly not cross-posting, and I suspect that's because of my inability to deal with any more fall out after what happened with our Glee posts on Bitch.

It makes me sad that another horrible experience of intersectional discussions has happened. I'm glad you're talking about doing something about that. As we said in our email follow-up to the guest posting experience, I think just having something one can do abusive comments other than flag them as spam would be very helpful.

OMG Anna, I read through

OMG Anna, I read through some of those posts/comments yesterday and today and it was amazing how the pushback was so similar. I'm telling you the white TAB cis middle class het feminist simply can't stand not having center stage. How dare us lowlifes expect a chance to be heard! I wish I had been online when you and the rest of the transcontinental disability choir were here. I definitely would have added my voice to all of yours and tried to help you to handle the haters.

Anyway, it's me. Donna from the Silence of Our Friends sending you LOVE!

In reading through the

In reading through the comments, the only truly offensive and "unsafe" comment that I saw was this:

"If I hear/read one more white person say get over it, I may just be driven to an act of violence against the next white person that crosses my path....GO EAT DUNG! YOu stupid uneducated genocidal freak!"

Perhaps comments like this should be moderated.

Yeah, not cool.

Telling someone to "eat dung" or you might get violent is definitely not cool, even though the commenter's frustration at being told to "get over it" is definitely not cool either. Perhaps both comments should be moderated.

We're (hopefully) going to implement a system soon that allows readers to flag comments they find inappropriate, like the particular thread you mention here.

Thanks for the input!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Guest Blogger Support

Ouyang and krudd,

Thanks for your ideas! You are absolutely right that guest bloggers need our (the folks at Bitch) support, and as the web editor here I want to better support everyone. Ouyang is right that we don't have a great budget for it (most of us have one if not two other jobs in addition to working part-time for Bitch), but I'm sure there is a way to improve our guest-blogger support using the resources that we do have. Your suggestions of improving our comments policy to include treatment of guest bloggers as well as jumping in more quickly in comment threads are both good ones that I will be implementing ASAP.

Thank you so much for participating here and giving us your feedback!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Kelsey, I agree that

Kelsey,
I agree that OuyangDan's suggestion is needed. Other times when I have seen these kinds of things blow up on the internet I've made that suggestion too. (I don't know how many times I have said this about Feministing alone, FFS!)

Moderating comments doesn't have to be "censorship", but sometimes someone needs to come in and steer the conversation away from those who are derailing. I've seen moderation on Feministe like that. I was also thinking that so many of these derailing comments are the same stuff we see again and again, (which is why BINGO cards are created,) that maybe it would help for the mods and bloggers here to have some prepared "stock answers". I'm thinking that one of the stock answers should be a link to "Derailing for Dummies" or Nezua's "Wite Magik Attax" and it would be great if everyone here with mod powers got acquainted with those concepts so that they could be prepared when they see it happening.

And from that video clip I posted you see that sometimes white people need other white people to tell them something is racist before they will believe it or do the right thing. I hate Hate HATE this, but it's a reality, and that's why we need white mods and commenters to step in when there is a flamewar brewing.

Here is an example of stock answers, mix and match as needed, and hopefully others will jump in and give you more (I think many of these can be adapted for other situations with a little tweaking, like ableism, transphobia, classism, ageism, homophobia etc):
I don't like the direction I see this conversation is taking. Jessica was asked to guest blog for us because we respect her writing, and as our guest we expect our commenters to show her that same respect. Respectful disagreement is welcome, dismissing her opinions about HER OWN LIFE AND EXPERIENCES in favor of your conjecture, and racist assumptions that western culture has fed you from infancy, is NOT.

Do not twist the meaning of what she wrote into what you think she wrote. In other words, if you have a problem with something that you think she said, re-read her actual words first, and be sure you understood her meaning. If you are still unsure, instead of putting your interpretation of her words into her mouth, ASK what she meant. You may explain your interpretation, but give her the chance to tell you that you are correct/incorrect before going off half-cocked over imaginary insults.

Do not ask people of color to hold your hand and teach you everything about racism. Take some initiative to find out the basics on your own using google, the library, reading blogs written by POC, befriending POC and getting to know them the way you do all other friends. You will be respected for asking specific questions but ridiculed, and considered disrespectful, and racist, if you can not be bothered to do the bare minimum research for yourself. Time is as valuable to people of color as it is to you, they are not your free research assistants.

Think twice before offering simplistic solutions to POC on the subject of racism. POC aren't stupid and they have been considering these problem their entire lives, if you aren't aware that they are already implementing your solution, it's either because they are, but in places you haven't looked, or it doesn't work.

People of color live with racism every day. They are expert at spotting racism since they are the targets of it. If a person of color tells you that something is racist, avoid the knee jerk reaction to deny and defend yourself or other white people. Do not tell them they are mean or whine about intent. POC know that racism is institutional and everywhere, most racism is simple ignorance, not malicious. This means that POC already know that you didn't mean to cause pain, therefore it's a waste of time debating/determining that you are not a bad person. The important thing is to change the ideas and behaviors so that it doesn't keep happening. Remember, your momentary discomfort at being called out is nothing compared to the racism directed towards POC daily. Do not privilege your hurt feelings. Being called a racist is NOT worse than being the actual target of racism, but if you think it is, that is racist.

Great ideas!

Donna,

Thanks so much. I love the idea of having some stock answers at the ready, since you are totally right that a lot of the comments repeat patterns over and over – the ones you included here are great.

I really appreciate your input in this situation. I know we've messed up in the comments section here by erring on the side of doing nothing in the past, but we don't want that trend to continue. What's the point of having a feminist blog if POC (or any group) don't feel safe participating?

Thank you again, sincerely. We are communicating with some folks from other blogs (Racialicious being one) and getting their advice on how they moderate forums as well, and I really hope we can get this comments section turned around and make it a place where everyone can participate.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Donna this is so

Donna this is so well-written and well-articulated. This comment answers several questions that I have had and also expresses well views that I hold.

One caveat that I would add is that calling someone racist CAN be as harmful of a shaming/silencing technique as telling someone to "get over it" or marginalizing their experiences. It's an insidious attack, because how do you prove that you're not racist? You really can't. It's analogous to calling someone a communist in the 1950s-once the accusation is out there everything you do and say can be twisted against you. It can become an ad hominem politicized attack, and inevitably the accused will be scrambling all over themselves to protest that they can't be racist because "my father marched in the Civil Rights movement/I have plenty of black friends/my ex-boyfriend was black"; statements that all may be true but will come across as condescending and impede any meaningful dialogue.

I am not saying that misappropriation of the term racist is exclusive to POC. Whites can certainly use the term as a silencing tool against other whites or even POC, particularly in the context of "Oh you disagree with the economic policies of President Obama/Colin Powell/Condoleeza Rice? Well you must be racist." Yes, racism should be called out, but not in a way that makes people afraid to express their own experiences or ask questions or engage in meaningful dialogue.

I agree with your point that "The important thing is to change the ideas and behaviors so that it doesn't keep happening." To that end, I think the best way to address these ideas/behaviors when they occur is by saying "that statement/idea/behavior is offensive, and this is why: ____." I try to take this approach when educating people who behave offensively, and am certainly open to being educated in this manner myself. When a person clearly has good intentions it is better to educate than attack.

Shannon, your comment

Shannon, your comment literally does every single racist thing Donna listed up above. Like, to the point where I'm wondering if you're trying to engage or just trolling. And see that's the problem with intent, isn't it? I can't tell the difference between a racist action made with "good" intent or a racist action made out of malice. So I just worry about defending myself against the racist actions. And I will defend myself however i see fit. You say, "When a person clearly has good intentions it is better to educate than attack" as if you think your opinion, not only matters to me, but is THE REAL ABSOLUTE TRUTH of how to deal with racism. And I find that hilarious. Because after all this, there's still an implicit assumption that we are here for *you* No, no: Everything I do is for MY survival and the survival of those in my communities (however I chose to define that.) My goal is not to educate white people and convert them to my brand of Anti-Racism-- your enlightenment or projected feelings of being "attacked" are absolutely irrelevant to my end goal: staying alive. I enjoy dialogue and writing so I often use those things as tools. But please know, sometimes my, our, self-preservation requires us to fight and, yes, *attack* whatever is threatening us.

I honestly don't think she's

I honestly don't think she's trolling. I just think she's never had to face these kinds of issues before.

I remember when I "didn't get it." And I humbled myself and learned for myself. Although it did help when I could talk to someone. However, people can and should educate themselves. We pretty much all have that ability.

And the funny thing (well not funny, per say) is that Jessica's post WAS educating people. And as we can all see, sometimes people hear or read things they don't want to. I'm not excusing anyone's comments. But it is a first step towards greater understanding.

@Donna, your efforts in

@Donna, your efforts in educating others, here and elsewhere, are nothing short of heroic. You rock my world.

Do not twist the meaning of

Do not twist the meaning of what she wrote into what you think she wrote. In other words, if you have a problem with something that you think she said, re-read her actual words first, and be sure you understood her meaning. If you are still unsure, instead of putting your interpretation of her words into her mouth, ASK what she meant. You may explain your interpretation, but give her the chance to tell you that you are correct/incorrect before going off half-cocked over imaginary insults.This topic is so interesting ...so I'll probably use it as the essay help..
Do not ask people of color to hold your hand and teach you everything about racism. Take some initiative to find out the basics on your own using google, the library, reading blogs written by POC, befriending POC and getting to know them the way you do all other friends. You will be respected for asking specific questions but ridiculed, and considered disrespectful, and racist, if you can not be bothered to do the bare minimum research for yourself. Time is as valuable to people of color as it is to you, they are not your free research assistants.

Thanks and further thoughts

First of all I want to say thank you to everyone for your support of my post. I've been at the United Nations all this week for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues so it's rather ironic that this has been happening online since in person I've seen all the reasons and more why I'm even more not sorry for what I wrote from the thousands of Indigenous peoples around the world I've met and worked with this week who are facing the real shit that the post is based off of.

Some further thoughts I wanted to offer are that this is a continuation of deeply rooted myriad of issues that are happening.The reactions in this post are pretty common in both other posts that I've written on BITCH (see the "niqab ban" one for instance) as well as the the blogosphere in general. It's bad enough that in person we get a whole range of anti-choice, racist, homophobic, sex negative oppressive zealots to deal with since we work in very rural and remote communities with extremist right-wing strong holds - but online in a supposedly "feminist" space it continues. I don't read the comments when my stuff is on say CBC or the Guardian UK since I know better not to - but when it's on BITCH I thought initially it would be great to read but not so much anymore. And not so much anymore in the larger pictures of things do I think it's a good idea to be putting myself out there in the mainstream feminist world because this is one out of dozens of things that have occurred online and in person from so-called "feminist" allies.

I'm constantly evaluating whether it's worth it and why I write at all since I'm not even a writer - I'm a boring old Executive Director who gets to work with phenomenal people and communities that fuel the passion some of my posts come from. But I'll be damned if I let the shit that's been spewing on here to detract from what's happening out there - especially from many people and communities who either can't, don't, and won't read any blogs at all or ever.

One of the things that has troubled me most about the response to my post is that it's as if race and culture exist in separate silos away from feminism - and I think one of the places that comes from is where we think feminism begins. To me the question isn't "why don't we respond to racism the same way we respond to sexism?" It's "why isn't anti-racism PART of feminism?"

A "feminist" response to pop culture is an anti-racist response and appropriately addresses things that come up - because in my feminism we are way beyond feminism just being about "women's things". If I had posted something about rape and someone responded saying "get over it" I have no doubt that comment would be taken off immediately. But what about the rape of my culture as an Indigenous person? Why is this a blurry or fine line? When is anti-racism truly going to be part of feminism - or really, when are we going to actualize anti-racist feminism?

...but when it's on BITCH I

...but when it's on BITCH I thought initially it would be great to read but not so much anymore. And not so much anymore in the larger pictures of things do I think it's a good idea to be putting myself out there in the mainstream feminist world because this is one out of dozens of things that have occurred online and in person from so-called "feminist" allies.

Oh I am totally with you on this. I wasted my time yesterday to try to write patient responses and educational comments only to see that the ones who need to read them, didn't and won't. I wake up to see our lives, traditions, beliefs compared to the sacredness of Sesame Street and the fool doesn't even know how the US crams American culture down the throats of every other nation in the world.

But the icing on the cake was this gem:
And if anything, the First Nations population is a drain on Canadian financial resources as long as the corrupt band council system stays in place.

It's amazing to find one so proud of their vast cluelessness, no? This corrupt band system...was forced on us. We had our own systems of government that worked perfectly well for us for centuries. It's a corrupt Canadian system. And with my people the treaties set forth where are boundaries were, and what was owed to us. But still we had squatters setting up home on our lands and coming in and chopping down our trees for their own use and to sell. So I'm not even talking about ~~~all of Canada~~~, I'm only talking about what we were promised as reservation land. They got everything else and can't even leave the little we have left alone. We were nomadic, we followed the seasons, and were down by the shore to collect bird eggs, and up by the streams for fishing, and out in the woods for hunting, and even has locations for planting a few crops. But they wanted us in one spot so as not to bother their people and promised to help us create our own farms. But every year it just happened that the seed arrived too late to get a good crop, and what we did harvest, they allowed us to sell...at a low price they set.

And we did try to become economically viable, we were setting up a forestry project, when suddenly Canada decided it was so important that their government give permission for what could be cut and how much, scrapping that plan. They didn't seem to mind as long as it was white people coming on our land cutting as much as they wanted, only when we wanted to harvest our own trees.

There was another little lesson we learned, when we were herded onto the reservations, my people had a handful of them mostly along the St John River, our name for ourselves is Wolastoqiyik, this means the people of the beautiful river, the St John River is Wolastoq. We traveled to the other reserves to visit with relatives, and see if opportunities were any better, and sometimes to live with relatives and friends who had a little more and when we were desperate. One of our reserves was very small and had a hard time having enough food to survive during winters, the people who lived there would go to the larger reserves during winter for this reason. One time they came back to find their reserve overrun with white people. We lost that reserve. It the reason that for generations people on my rez could not leave to try to find work in the city, they feared the whites would overrun it and what little we had left would be lost. So we suffered through the hunger, and shared what we had, and survived.

When I lived with my mother on the rez we lived in a home that was condemned. Looking at it in the front, it leaned to the right side, the whole house. In the kitchen there was a hole in the floor you could see down into the dirt basement. There were no doors, not just the bedrooms, but the bathroom too. We hung a sheet for some privacy. I was afraid going down the stairs that they would fall apart and I would break my neck.

So yeah, tell us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps after you took the bootstraps and the boots. Tell us we're a drain on you. Tell us to get over it. FUCK YOU.

With regard to a comment

With regard to a comment moderation policy - I was really disheartened, but amazed to see how resilient some the racist commenters were in the face of peer feedback that they might be acting a racist way. It was as though telling them that they were being racist or privileged empowered them more, really got their ire up. Not to mention that Jessica's second post (the bingo card post), which seemed to draw this reaction in an even more vehement way. Is that just pure derailing or are people really that ignorant? Where did these people come from that they don't recognize these types of responses - like those on the Bingo card - as old, tired and really frustrating?

This really throws a wrench into the idea that such people should be treated with kindness. In reality, the way this has all unfolded demonstrates why that doesn't work. Unless these people are just now awaking from some sort of coma, by making such comments, they are demonstrating a pre-existing reluctance to learn. How much energy can you realistically put into teaching people who don't want to learn? It’s time to lay some ground rules as discussed by others, and also...can these ground rules please address this whole mellow dramatic, self-pitying and often privileged idea that to have your whack-ass racist, intellectually flaccid comments deleted is censorship?

ouch

Just a humble and respectful "ouch" towards the original blogger and those coming from the same perspective. If anything good can come of this clusterf***, it's that at least a good discussion(?) has come of it.

piss me off why don't ya!

At this point, how can self-identified feminists even begin to dissect/critique gender without also looking at 'race', class etc. These are all interlocking identities in systems of oppression. I was disgusted by the response to Jessica's article...