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09 October 2010 @ 07:11 am
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*.

So.
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.
 
 
Current Mood: exhaustedinsomniac
 
 
 
Jhafantasyecho on October 9th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
*HUGS* Shweta, I don't know if you're under any obligation to sit down and educate every. single. clueless. friend who leaves a clueless comment on your posts, all the time. Especially if it's stressing you out. It's not fair to you, and your commentariat should be able to accept that.

I don't think you're the only one to take cluelessness at face value and get angry only after (I'm similar, but for very different reasons), and it seems to me that if your friends really wanted to learn to actually be friends and not privilege-wavers, they'd pay attention to what you're actually saying.
shweta_narayan: mangatarshweta_narayan on October 9th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
hugsback!

I think my friends want to be actually friends, or, well, we wouldn't be friends any more (thus the growing list of ex-friends); but when I don't figure it out till months later, maybe there are other reasons they don't too...
(no subject) - fantasyecho on October 9th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
calizencalizen on October 9th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
Since I am probably in the group of those giving you the stress asthma, I apologize. From what I know of psychology, humans will try to connect to other humans by saying "I know how you feel. This is what happened to me." But you are responding here as an individual, and as an individual who is using LJ to express herself. It may be that this is where the process stops, or it may be that through the expressing you will find yourself going into other paths.

I will therefore refrain from expressing any commonality in this quest and wish you only well on your journey.
Anne: Paris rosetxanne on October 9th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
1) This is probably going to come out wrong (i.e. all about me) but: if I have been one of those people, I apologize with all my heart. It's yet another evil aspect of privilege, that I can't be sure that I haven't done it. I become aware of one kind of misbehavior and begin to improve, and then I find another tentacle. Thank you for making me aware of this one.

2) Thank you for spending your energy on this. I'm sure it wasn't an easy post to write.

3) Asthma. We hates it, precious.
Naominaomikritzer on October 9th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Ditto to all of this.
(no subject) - lutin on October 9th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
it's a great life, if you don't weakenmatociquala on October 9th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

You are brave, and I am sorry if I have hurt you.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: hoodie on vikingbeastthewronghands on October 9th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
If I've ever contributed to your silencing, I am deeply sorry. Your voice is important, and should be heard. I'll do my best to be a mindful and supportive friend.

The boundary between not having a duty to educate the clueless and feeling complicit in the effects of cluelessness seems really thorny and difficult.
A Wandering Hobbitredbird on October 9th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
I am sorry if I contributed to this, and (if you're reading this) I hope you feel somewhat better soon.
azn_jack_fiend: Asia the Invincible (armor)azn_jack_fiend on October 9th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
I want this comment to be supportive, not dismissive, but to get my point across I have to be kind of blunt.

I think what you're experiencing is pretty natural and basically unavoidable. If you're talking about race, as a POC, in an overwhelmingly white space, it's gonna happen. You either have to get used to it, get a thicker skin, or stop doing it. It sucks, but there you are,

I sort of do a combination, myself. I recognize and accept the fact that as of now, LJ is a white-dominated space. I save serious discussions of racial identity for POC-dominated spaces. I vent when I feel like it on LJ, but I've often just frozen comments afterwards.

White people often alternate between guilt and resentment about their racial identity (I don't think either is healthy) and they unavoidably bring their own white-related issues into it. I would strongly suggest not seeking any sort of racial emotional validation from an audience of predominantly white people. Whether they support you or not, the dynamic is simply not healthy.

I don't even think white people are especially selfish or stupid. It's a human-being thing. Not knowing anything about your identity other than that you're POC like me, and just using hypotheticals.... If you had a friend who was gay, and you were straight, and they really needed support, wouldn't you think, at some point, "this person needs to join a support group of their peers for primary validation, because my support, even if well-intentioned, could be potentially misguided?" Or if you were cis and they were trans, or... I could go on down a list.

Anyway, that's my approach to it, I hope it's useful, and if it's not, sorry.
shweta_narayan: authorpic1shweta_narayan on October 9th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this.

Part of my posting "out loud" is because I've been doing most of the venting/semicoherent thoughts in other media, and only with other POC who I know pretty well. The posts I make here are more attempts to make bridges and thus be part of making change -- not looking for validation, but I needed to admit that the emotional cost is more than I can handle in this case.

But that's only part; you helped me realize I haven't been feeling like I "get" to post in POC-specific communities, because of that internalized between-ness (which probably comes from being told by relatives in India that I didn't get to have an opinion, being an outsider.) So I've been implicitly assuming that my lj was the only online place where I was "allowed" to talk about these things, and that's simply wrong.
(no subject) - azn_jack_fiend on October 9th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
zwol on October 9th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
I hope I haven't done this in your recent posts, but I'm pretty sure I have done it at least once in our acquaintance, and for this I apologize.

Also I want to say, please don't ever feel obliged to respond to anything I say, even - especially - if I'm being clueless.
cherie: dandelionnalathilion on October 9th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
I am sorry if any of my comments have further wounded you.

aries_jordan: Celestinaaries_jordan on October 9th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
We privileged tend to be narcissistic. "If it's not about ME PERSONALLY then it's not important." For example, I am about to agree with you that asthma has a lot to do with suppressed rage and stress, in my experience.

I hope to Whomever that you feel better SOON.
Trinkertrinker on October 9th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for the ways that my tab-privilege (able-bodied) has lead to Shweta-erasing digressions in your space. Thank you for the ways you've shared your precious time with the LJsphere.
Lenora Roselenora_rose on October 9th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
I think some of it is also the natural habit of seizing on one thread of a conversation and running with it, or studying that aspect. But yes, too much of it is trying to find a commonality and therefore trampling all over your personal story. And I *know* I've done it once, and I have probably done it more, and I'm sorry for both.
Lenora Rose: Gryphonlenora_rose on October 9th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
And even that response sounds too much about me, when what "I'm sorry" means is, you are an incredible, brave person, and I feel that every time you open up, and I wish so much it didn't hurt for you to try. You do not deserve to have those trying to be clueful friends hurt you with cluelessness.
ex_kaz_maho on October 9th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
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.

I'm glad you said this, and truly sorry you have been silenced on this subject until now.
ex_kaz_maho on October 9th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Also, I just wanted to add that sometimes it's more important that we simply listen, rather than always scrambling to find some common ground between us and the speaker. It's a very human thing to want to do, I know that... but it can also be seriously damaging, as you've now found out. :(

*hugs*
yeloson on October 9th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Take your space.

Consider having some filters for talking to only some of your friends for certain things- a lot of my flist does this. Which isn't to say you'll never talk to the other friends about an issue, but maybe you need time and space to work it out before having to also deal with other folks' issues and possible cluelessness.

Especially when it comes to minimizing, even when couched in "sympathetic" terms. I've seen a lot of situations where the problem is that privileged folks react in ways that are ultimately about damping down any feelings people are having about being hurt, angry, etc. and whether someone is telling you to STFU or gently shushing you with "It'll be alright, I understand" the feeling is still a hand clamping over your mouth.

Which is also why some posts I do are comments off- because it needs to be said and I don't feel like dealing with other people's issues on top of it.
shweta_narayan: authorpic1shweta_narayan on October 9th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
All really helpful thoughts, thank you.
Though, in order to make a relevant filter, first off I have to update my flist in a major way, which I've been avoidant of for.. several reasons.
(no subject) - pantryslut on October 10th, 2010 06:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on October 10th, 2010 06:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - graeco_celt on October 10th, 2010 08:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - graeco_celt on October 10th, 2010 08:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Dichroicdichroic on October 9th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Last time, I called *myself* out. (I need a rueful emoticon here but can't figure out how to do that.)

I know I do tend to respond too often by putting stuff in context of my own experiences. On the other hand, some of that comes out as "I have just enough taste of this to see how much worse it could get", which is at least a revealing of privilege.

Your Kali post was very helpful, by the way - I knew Greer's post was pretty awful but hadn't plumbed the full depths.. You made me see that while I may not believe in Kali, I do believe in Shweta, not to mention nearly a sixth of the world's population, and that if appropriating people's customs lightly is nasty, appropriating their gods is heinous.
Dichroicdichroic on October 9th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
Also, I should have said *first* that I am sorry about the asthma and I wish you didn't have to choose between your health and speaking out - or rather, between trying to deal with your health as best you can and doing whatever you want to do.