Stepping Up: calling white allies
“You don’t really want Black folks, you are just looking for yourself with a little color to it”. – Bernice Johnson Reagon
I read the quote above in a Race Revolt zine last night and thought “I can’t honestly say that’s not true of how I have been thinking”.
Over the years I have been involved in various conversations about how the bi scene is a space in which white people are very much in the majority. It hasn’t always been obvious that any conversations have been taking place at all nevermind managing to do anything about it. We talk about inclusion but I don’t think we’re managing to actually do much about it.
OK, so what have I done so far?
I’ve talked about race a bit at various activists weekends, online and with friends. I’ve also not talked about race a lot more because I’ve been too scared to. I’m white I should shut up about race cos what would I know? Sometimes I’m not sure what is and isn’t racist/racist-overtones, I struggle to articulate the whys behind things which I feel uncomfortable and worry I’m just being oversensitive or looking for things to be picky about. How can I challenge something I can’t articulate? What if I get it wrong? What if I’m not just stupid but actually offensive?
What can I realistically achieve?
I’m still scared and might still be getting it wrong, but I am increasingly realising that saying nothing leaves people of colour to start and have all the visible conversations about race. I don’t think that is fair or that our fears should stop us taking responsibility as a community.
I’d like to see us as a community doing something actually practical and more importantly when we do that remembering not to just look for ourselves with extra added colour.
So, a start. This year I am coordinating the BiCon 2011 workshops or sessions as we’re calling them. I would like to hear from people who would be willing to talk to me about possibilities and practicalities of you facilitating, attending and running some sessions that we could design together at BiCon 2011 about race and ethnicity.
We’ll have some resources from other people doing white ally work and encourage you to bring your ideas along too!
My BiCon email is [email protected]
I have already very happily accepted an offer of “Bis of Colour” session; which when run by different facilitators at BiCon 2010, was a valuable, safe and validating space for the bis of colour who attended. I am also very interested in the idea of more sessions along these lines for BiCon 2011.
Natalya – Co-teamleader and Sessions programmer for BiCon 2011.