Follow the link chain with me for a minute while I lead you down the path that caused me to question whether or not I was a closet racist. Or something.
I was reading my wonderful friend Shari’s post about her experience at Blissdom. (No, this is not a post about Blissdom.) In this post, she mentioned a post that talked about the merits of a blogging conference that seemed to cater to an all white audience. (Actually, that post started talking about the possibility of a conference being faith based and somehow ended up talking about a conference being racially exclusive.)
Fast forward to a lot of comments from attendees and speakers indicating that they were neither racist nor white bread, so to speak. (My term, not theirs.)
One comment in particular from Megan at Velveteen Mind stood out to me:
“I’m a speaker at BlissDom and had no idea that there were no women of color on the speakers panel. I have no idea if any women of color are attending, either. Or lesbians. Or New Jersey Jews.
Which made me wonder if I even have any bloggers of color, etc., as editors or writers for my own magazine…
See, I’ve never checked. I have no idea of the color, sexual orientation, religious background, or affinity for gardening of any of my readers, twitter followers, etc. unless they talk about it. Most of us don’t post photos of ourselves. I’m not sure that other than having a white face that I’ve ever stated that I am white.”
I nodded my head in agreement with Megan and quickly decided that true acceptance comes from not even thinking about diversity. Right?
Then Kelly from MochaMomma knocked me on my intellectual ass, which she does on a regular basis, with her response:
“This is many many things. Political, personal, racial. And for the umpteenth time I’m going to put it out there for the very fact that it’s the lazy response of “Well, I don’t SEE color.” (emphasis mine) that gets my blood to boiling. When it cools I allow myself to feel the hurt that was really there in the first place.
Claiming that you didn’t know you were leaving people out? I call bullsh*t on that one.
The whole issue of exclusionary practice is news to most white, conservative people. (Note: I did NOT say “women”) When faced with a query like this the first reaction is defensiveness. It’s textbook. In fact, I’d be surprised if any other response came. (Though I’d be happy to hear, “Well, we reached out to WOC and didn’t get a good response.”) Then, the person who asks the question is made to EXPLAIN themselves.
This is a totally backwards way of working but the prevailing exclusionary view is that they didn’t even know they were being exclusive. (emphasis mine)”
I’m a white liberal, so you know when a black woman speaks up about race and exclusion that I have to stop and listen carefully. It’s in my DNA or something.
And that’s how I came to find myself taking stock of the people around me and how they’d gotten there. And wondering what that said about me and my core beliefs and the lessons I’d be passing on to my children.
I told you. White liberal. It’s what we do.
I don’t actively seek out diversity. If you asked me I’d tell you it’s because I don’t see color. I seek out friends and peers based on similar interests and intriguing personalities. But does that, as Kelly suggests, mean that I wind up being exclusionary by default?
No way, I told myself as I pondered my social consciousness. I have gay friends! In fact, I know a gay man AND a gay woman! And better still, my husband’s best friend is Mexican! And one of my good friends is Pakistani! And she’s married to an Indian!
And I’m two seconds away from telling you some of my best friends are black.
Jesus. When I start to look at my circle of friends that way, I feel like I’m gathering up token races and ethnicities to complete a set. All I need now is a Native American and I’ve got Yahtzee!
And now I’m utterly confused.
The last thing I want is to insulate myself or my kids from the diversity that this country – and the world as a whole – has to offer. There is real danger that grows from that kind of ignorance. And yet, I don’t want to begin befriending people because of the color of their skin and the cultural learning experience that they can provide to my family.
“Hello, yes, you there. You look ethnic. What are you doing for Sunday dinner? Me and my socially tolerant and diverse family would like to invite you over.”
Somehow I doubt that is what Kelly was suggesting.
But what’s the answer?
No. Seriously. This is the shit I think about. If we run the risk of not seeing color simply because there isn’t any color in our lives to see, is the solution to seek out opportunities to “diversify”? And if we do, doesn’t that type of ulterior motive sully both the seeker and the sought?
At the risk of opening a shitcan of worms, Oh Great Blogosphere, discuss.