Privilege Praxis

December 3, 2008

Prop 8 Response, Privilege, and What Have You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — quiteneil @ 3:36 am

I know I’m behind the times blogging about this, but Dan Savage’s comments along with the generally terribly racist response that went unchecked over at a reposted letter at the Bilerico Project have frustrated me beyond words. I was reading over bell hooks’s Teaching Community tonight at work, and I wanted to pull out this section from it.

Often the white women I have encountered who are most passionate in their will to be anti-racist, who carry their commitment from theory to practice, are gay women. Interviewing them I heard again and again that discrimination against them on the basis of sexuality helped bridge their understanding of the pain of race-based discrimination. Rather than assuming that this pain was identical to the pain they experienced, they accepted the “bridge” as merely a base to walk across, allowing them to learn from people of color the nature of our experience in the social context of white supremacy.

Many white gay people are unable to bridge the gap. They remain unable to look at the way in which whiteness and white power give them access to privilege to the role of dominator. They refuse to see the ways discrimination can impact on our consciousness differently even though the forms it takes are the same. Often gay white people look down on black people because they percieve us to be more homophobic or less sexually progressive. These stereotyped assumptions are rooted in white-supremacist thinking, which deems white folks to be always more sophisticated and complex than people of color. White gay women and men who are fundamentally anti-racist do not need to use the notion that they are intellectually superior or to legitimize their fear of us.

ETA: Renee from Womanist Musings has a post up at Feministe about pearl clutchers that speaks to this really well, too. I think that a lot of response to Prop 8 from white people has very much been a pearl clutching response, almost in the worst way–“Of course we aren’t privileged–we’re gay! Why don’t you understand!” while repeating the same racist blather that keeps them from seeing their own privilege.

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