October 9th, 2010


Costing me more than just an eye

It's not just an unexplained asthma attack, you guys. The insomnia has been worse for the last month or so, and most nights now I go to bed and have to spend an hour or three loosening the stress knot that feels like it's got me in a vise from throat to stomach. And, I just realized (while trying to unravel the stress tonight) -- this happened to me the last time I made a personal post too, trying to get at what it's like to be someone like me. And it happened the time before, too. And it happened when I posted Apsara; I think that was the first time lj was a factor.

In part the reason is the epic failers, like the two "not-racist" white men who accused me of being unreasonable about 2-3 posts before they started making legal threats. But if it was just them, I'd be able to deal with it, because they are far enough over the line that I can see where the line was.

But I'm afraid the problem is also a lot of the rest of you -- my friends, who have no idea you're stepping on my toes with your privilege and are probably appalled to hear it. And the problem is me, too, for not realizing what's going on till much later, for being so damn assimilated still that I smile and say "No that's fine" and convince myself that it's fine, or at least no big deal until it's built up and I'm having sleepless nights and being unable to breathe*.

Here's what I think is going on in all these cases. I make a post that tries to say, "This is what it's like for me". It covers issues of [identity/culture/ethnicity/racism/mindfuckery/Othering] -- and of course since pretty much everyone here has experience with Othering, and identity issues, and such, I get a lot of responses that go "I know just what you mean, I had XYZ experiences".

Some of these aren't a problem -- they're the ones that come from people who actually had analogous experiences, including the bit where, y'know, being of a different ethnicity from others was a factor. But most of them -- and never from POC, you guys -- are taking the general similarity, sweeping the race parts under the carpet, and going "YEAH ME TOO".

-- And I am torn. Any given such response isn't harmful -- and comparing narratives is a really important way of understanding one another, and I don't want to silence that. But these responses end up mostly sounding like "O right that reminds me of ME", and the aspects of my experience that aren't shared get ignored.

And some people go from this to claiming that all Othering is just the same, and I just don't even. Because, well, NO.

What this is, in effect, is another form of erasure. I am interested in you guys, but when I try to share something about myself and your response is to talk about yourselves, the net effect is to communicate that yep, I do not matter, but ain't it great that I created an opportunity to talk about you?
And I tend to smile and shut up, faced with that.

(This isn't the only way in which I am feeling erased by some of the comment threads in my lj, ftr. I have wondered more than once if some comment-threads would have happened in either a white person's lj or the lj of someone more clueful about privilege & boundaries, in an analogous situation. But those are one-offs and this one's a pattern.)

The other thing that's really stressing me out is this: when I don't respond, that makes me complicit. I am letting you (and me) think all's well, because I am in fact that conflict avoidant, and because I'm really well socialized into ignoring my own boundaries. Not because it's actually all well when person after person assumes I have made a post about bullying rather than about socially condoned racism, and the race stuff is ignorable. (Or, some months earlier, that I made a post about any kind of cultural betweenness, rather than about, y'know, my kind, and the race stuff was ignorable.)**

-- But how could you tell that? Certainly not from my response. So. Is my silence making it harder for some of you to realize that the POC who are more clueful about this stuff than I am, and actually call people on it, are right?

Probably, right, so I need to stop. Just so we're clear, I'm not calling any of you out. If anything I'm calling myself out; I need to find a way to talk about this. And first, to see it in time, and shake off the role of nerdy sidekick.

But I think the first step is to say out loud: there are great places to talk about stuff that doesn't actually engage with my posts (and with the fact that I exist); that place is not my comment threads. It has been silencing me.


FTR, I am probably never going back to respond to those comment threads. I have to take that much care of my body. And, ftr, I may not respond to comments to this post. Nothing personal, just, utter lack of spoons + insomnia + triggery.


* I don't normally have stress-triggered asthma, but stress seems to make me more sensitive to all other triggers.

** Been thinking about implicit/unconscious racism (surprise!) and I'm thinking there are at least three sorts of patterning: what-privilege-I'm-just-better-than-you, why-are-you-so-mean, and you-don't-really-exist. I think I'm better at noticing and calling out the first two, because I've been socialized to accept the third at face value.