"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Of Race and Gender - A Slightly Different Perspective

I'm 55 years old. I'm White, Jewish, from an upper-middle class background. My partner is 43, Black, having grown up Christian and converted to Judiasm many years ago, also upper-middle class in background. Over the 4 1/2 years we've been together I've slowly learned a little of what being Black is to my partner and how different her life experiences are in some ways.

She isn't "every Black person" which is important, while being Black is extremely important to her.

For B - being Black - is almost always more important to her than being female. White People see her Blackness and respond to it much more than her being Female. She sees significant differences in White and Black Feminist (Women). Separatism seems much less prevalent to B. Having a child-free world is much less likely, though one may personally not have children.

(There is an Afro-Centric upper-middle class world which B doesn't identify with. IF she did, she'd not be with me - a White Man.)

Often there is a feeling that as a Black Person she doesn't want to identify as different from other Black people. Men and Children are important. When seeing another Black Person in a predominantly White environment usually both people will acknowledge the other Black Person's presence. This is, of course, "foreign" to me in a sense, though I can understand a part of it.

Translating and "passing" are also important. Having a "responsibility" to be "normal" among White people and in a sense being responsible for their feelings when together is a burden I don't face. Translating is a Survival Skill. I have no survival skills.

I will never (emotionally) understand the importance of hair in the life of B and many Black women. Natural hair vs. extenders, straight verses kinky hair and many other issues are foreign to my life experiences. Perhaps my numbers aren't exactly right, but I think that roughly 13% of USians are Black and they spend approximately 70% of the total monies spent on hair products.

For B there are issues being around certain "White" environments while it is far less important in other circumstances. Where she feels "power" issues or snobbery it is significant.

Having two bi-racial sons is very important to B. Her sons face potential pressures that she won't face being Female. (Other pressures she has felt being female of course). Her sons aren't "Ghetto" and will be trampled in some predominantly Black environments while facing issues of not being White. Fortunately their worlds are frequently very diverse!

In understanding or trying to understand it is important to recognize how rude treatment or being ignored can sometimes be seen as blatant racism, however frequently situations are far more ambiguous. Is the other person having a bad day or seeing a White Friend and reacting to their friend rather than to Race, Gender, body size or being assertive.

I'm only a "beginner" where it comes to understanding racism in many ways. I remember my 19 year old son asking me questions related to B's Blackness - and "how Black people are" when he first met her. Life isn't so simple! We each are individuals.

I hope that some of this is Helpful! Thanks!
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