East Meets West
This post is different from those I've done before--instead of having something to say, I have something to ask.
Karen, a regular white reader of this blog, asked me a question in the comments to an earlier post about the presence of white people at explicitly non-white events. I replied in part that her question reminds me of a post I've been struggling with for awhile on one aspect of the same topic--the way white folks feel left out and even actively excluded from such events; the lack of white understanding about why such events occur; and why whites are sometimes not welcome at them. I haven't been able to boil down my thoughts on this topic's many facets yet to something concentrated enough for a blog post.
So, in the meantime, as I work on my post about why white folks feel entitled to attend such events and gatherings, I'm using this post to take up the suggestion of another regular reader, Just Me. We have a lot of different readers at this blog now, and he or she suggested asking readers about the other side of this topic: why do non-white people seek out non-white spaces, gatherings, and events? Also, when whites are less than welcome at such events, why is that?
The following might help spur your thoughts toward any reply you might leave in the comments.
The topic came up in an opinion column in the Kent State University's student newspaper, the Kent News, where columnist Beth Rankin wrote about her frustrating efforts to take part in events labeled something other than "white."
Here's part of Rankin's article:
While covering a fashion show for Uhuru magazine (I was the photo editor at the time), an angry black student hissed, "Why are you even here, anyway?" when I sat my photo gear next to him on a chair.
Weeks later, while covering a Black History Month talk by Malcolm X's daughter, a man behind me - who apparently was unhappy with my camera - yelled, "Get out of my way, white bitch."
Shortly after, while silently shooting another BUS event, I was called a white bitch again.
Shelley Blundell, a Kent journalism school graduate and native of South Africa, used to be a member of the Stark campus BUS chapter. But when she began attending Kent BUS events, she said she felt extremely unwelcome.
And after a controversial column on separation, Blundell said she received numerous e-mails from BUS members calling her, too, a "white bitch."
In 2005, after humor columnist Aman Ali wrote a satirical column called, "Black people need to start sharing," BUS made one phone call and the two days later, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and NAACP converged on campus, demanding Ali be fired. Some even pushed for his removal from the university.
Yes, Ali's column was inappropriate and the editor made a major mistake in running it, but when pressured, the editor folded like a card table and gave in to every single demand made by civil rights groups. Since then, the Stater has been very careful about BUS coverage, and when I told them I wanted to write this column, they were nervous. I can't blame them. BUS has showed its muscle numerous times over the years.
Now, this is not a column bashing BUS for past mistakes. This is a means to a dialog. I truly believe that BUS should embrace its non-black supporters, because there is power in numbers. We support your cause; now can we please be embraced the same way you embrace your black peers?
So this is what I say to you, current members and leaders of BUS: Tell me again. Tell me again what your goals are. I certainly hope they differ from those expressed to me in 2004.
Tell me what you are doing to reach out to non-black students who support your cause. As a straight girl, PRIDE!Kent has always welcomed me to their meetings and functions because they knew I supported their cause. I want to be able to attend BUS functions and feel the same love.
Racism is still a problem in this country, and it will never be solved if we continue to divide black from white. I have been called names and ostracized for the color of my skin, and I have been ridiculed for sharing my life with a man who is not white.
I am not a white bitch. I am a straight, white girl who will always do everything in her power to support the plight of all minorities.
I don't use the color of your skin against you, so please do not use mine against me.
Please, BUS: Tell me how you plan to use your powers for good. I want to hear your voice, and I want to become a united front in the fight against prejudice.
I am not a white bitch. I am not whitey. I am not a cracker. I am not the man.
And I never want to feel ostracized because of my race ever again. Don't you feel the same?
As Karen wrote in a comment on this blog about Beth's article,
The idea of people of similar hearts being the only categorization to live by, is an ideal one, but Beth goes to a black event where she's apparently not wanted, and doesn't see that people of color is a valid separation too...
So, a question from a white perspective to non-white ones, be they Af Am, Native Am, or Asian Am, or others--why, when the Civil Rights Movement ended de jure segregation, are these forms of segregation still valid?