On White Supremacist Liberals Who Claim To Be Sympathetic Allies To The Movement

You’re not.
When this guy did not think before he spoke:

Malalai Joya was coming to Food For Thought Books in Amherst tonight.

I went with a (brown) friend of mine. We sat down and after saying hello to some old activist friends in the group were immediately approached by a middle aged white woman who started asking questions about who we were. I know her type  and tried to ignore her, but my friend with less experience in these settings (read: surrounded by rich old white activists) kindly answered all her questions. We got an important business phone call that I tried to answer, and this woman touched my back and leaned over to us asking, “Well how old are you?” and suggesting we become a non-profit and all types of other ‘helpful’ ideas to offer us hapless brown youth on organizing. No boundaries. This woman was a “Genocide Scholar” and wanted to know if since we were organizing a decolonization rally we were both ‘american indians’.
Hungry for our talent, she had no tact or regard and continued offering up suggestions and interrupting our conversations. I left and ignored her until the presentation began. I did not come to speak to her, I came to listen to Malalai Joya.

Malalai started the presentation (which was all organized by rad white people, fyi to all of you who are going to try to crucify me after reading this) with a few words on the state of Afghanistan now, the role of the US troops, and Justice.

She began a slideshow, which had several gruesome pictures of girls as young as 4 who have been raped, of bodies mutilated by US soldiers, of women attacked with phosphorous. She spoke of the power of social media and said with twitter and facebook we have the power of the world in our pocket. She listed several books we should read to learn more about the situation in Afghanistan, including her own book.She ended the presentation with links to her facebook and twitter and her email address, and showed the trailer of a movie they are making about her work. She gave us names of groups in Afghanistan we can support and their contact information. She gave us literally dozens of ways we can take action to work in our communities and with people of Afghanistan to create change since doing so will not result in us getting massacred.

The floor was opened up for Q and A.
Some good questions were raised about drones and solidarity with Iran and Pakistan. A woman from Pakistan got up to speak about her own experience, and how students from Pakistan are refusing to study in the US because there is so much rage at the ongoing slaughter from drone strikes.

Several good points were raised, and then a few people sort of timidly and helplessly asked, ‘but what can I do?’
Literally the most self centered question I can fathom at such a juncture! This woman traveled across the world to share her story and gave an hour long talk on the history of the situation and how women are getting murdered for trying to go to school, and there’s nothing that crosses your mind that you can do to create a little awareness?
This happens at every presentation I have attended, and usually reroutes the direction of the conversation from anything useful to ignorant white people who obviously did not listen or learn anything at all from the workshop. Since no one calls out this privileged BS, I occasionally address it.

The spot for the last question was given to a middle aged white lady.

She said:

“Well… seeing the horrible things you’ve lived through..” and then she began to cry. My first instinct was to laugh but I got upset quickly because she continued, “I mean, what can we do in our communities to change the situation? What can we actually do?”

I didn’t want to get upset. But really?
How does this always happen? Get creative, here. Were you not just listening to the exact same two hour presentation with actual email addresses, web sites, activist group names, books, poets, and films you could probably access from your library, home laptop or inevitable smartphone?

I turned towards where she was sitting and said, “She just listed several resources. You are not facing death threats if you speak the truth. Write an article. Put something on your facebook. Talk to your community. She has said dozens of things we could do to affect change for the people of Aghanistan.”

Malalai also answered the question and referenced my answer saying pretty much the exact same thing only a bit nicer.

The session ended and I went up to talk to Malalai and thank her. She kissed me on the cheek and I left so other people could say hello. I turned to the friend I came with to talk to her about networking with a few of the people who had spoken and the woman who raised the question approached me angrily.

“Hi, I understand you’re upset but you don’t know anything about me. And for you to..”

I interrupted her, “No. If you listened to any part of the presentation you would understand things you could do.”

“Right, but you should listen to..”

“No. I’m not interested and I’m walking away.” I said. She huffed and walked away.

I tried to put it out of my mind and began talking to other people in the crowd.

An Asian girl walked past me and said, “White feminist Shut DOWN! Nice.” I thanked her and invited her to our next event.

I turned around and a brown man laughed and said, “These people don’t listen. And you know, with all of the words it gets lost in translation and takes up time…” I talked to him for a few moments and invited him to our event. Another person thanked me and I went to give the girl from Pakistan our information and thank her for sharing her story.

I put away a few cushions and went back to ask for a photo with Malalai, the (white) organizer (who had no complaints about my comments) offered to take the photo for me, thanked me for my work and gave me her contact information so we could work together in the future.

I felt human again and excited to come back and look at the scores of new resources I had obtained to figure out how to organize something about Malalai. I had some internal monologue happening already for the article I was going to write.

On the way out of the store I apologized to the incredible (also white) organizer for comments another trillion year old white feminist had made when after he worked for a half hour to set up the projector; {There had been some problems with the computer and this man turned to the crowd and asked if anyone knew anything about MacPro and this activist yelled multiple times, “Ask Jeff!” No one in the crowd said a word, and Jeff stayed silent in the background. He repeated the question and turned to Jeff to ask if he knew anything about computers when he finally said yes. The organizer walked away to do something else (probably useful) when she yelled out, “See, they never listen to the women!” a bunch of older white feminists laughed and he walked away, clearly angry that all his years of fighting for human rights and women’s rights and equality and his staying late to MAKE SURE THE PRESENTATION HAPPENED and his work FACILITATING THE SPACE was put to shame because he was a man, and this activist was a privileged white feminist but he said nothing.}

I turned to find my friend and leave, excited to talk about the presentation we had just experienced. I found her talking to one of the white friends who met us at the space when I saw that they were engaged in deep conversation.

My stomach dropped a little bit and I already knew they were talking about the comments I made to this ignorant woman.

I asked if they were ready to go and we headed outside.

I got outside ready to hang out with my lady friends and look at photos and plan our next meeting when the white friend, in a totally nonchalant way said, “So Vanessa, what did you think about that woman?”

We were in a circle, me, my brown friend and our two mutual white friends.

I did not want to talk about it.
I did not want to talk about it.
I did not want to talk about it.

This ignorant woman who can go home and cry to the loving arms of an America that coddles white women like they are precious jewels, delicate as fucking rose blossoms and the crystal wings of a newly hatched butterfly has spaces for people to listen to her feelings.

This woman did not say to me, “Hey Vanessa, why were you so upset?” or, “Hey Vanessa, how are you feeling about what happened?” Because my feelings did not even enter her mind once.
Because I am not a white woman.

This woman’s tears she could relate to and she felt nervous and guilty and confused because maybe if she had cried that would have been her. Because maybe now this complete stranger will feel isolated. Because this stranger’s entire privileged white princess existence and burdens and fucking white guilt are somehow my responsibility and concern.

Since I value(d) this woman as a human being I answered her question even though I viewed it as rude and a total waste of time.

If you can imagine, this turned quickly into an argument with this woman calmly countering every sentence I tried to say instead of actually listening to anything at all. She had no real anger or pain about the situation, and therefore no reason to feel attached to her heroic defense of the defenseless. This woman has safe spaces to talk. This woman was not concerned about what happened, and did not recognize, value, or understand any of my own emotions.

I was upset. I was not talking calmly and the conversation turned – another white friend came to listen and she said I was attacking her.
I tried to stay calm and explain that this woman’s white guilt was not my prerogative or my problem.

She waved her arm strongly in the air and shouted, “Well I’m a white girl, I do feel white guilt.” She went on to say that I don’t know if this woman stayed through the whole presentation and heard of the resources offered up, that I don’t know this woman’s background. And on and on and on.

Not. Once. Wondering. About. My. Feelings.

I got a bit upset and gestured with my hands while I was talking as I sometimes do.

She waved her hands around mocking me, “Well freak out then.”

I am only a caricature of a person to her. A stereotypical angry black woman.
My reactions, my anger, my feelings, my response were all wrong. She had no interest in listening or opening up or learning. She was actually mentally incapable of understanding the point in anything I was saying. She reminded me and everyone else of that with this one racist gesture.

I continued nicely trying to leave, again not cussing her out or doing anything to invalidate her humanity.

“Well this is how I process and you’re attacking me and not listening so maybe we shouldn’t talk about this ever again then.”

I said maybe we shouldn’t actually talk about anything ever again since she was incapable of understanding the big picture.

I tried to leave.

My friend suggested we all get together at my house.
I did not even disagree. I did not say that this ignorant white supremacist who has no recognition of her own privilege was de-humanizing my very existence and shutting down any chance of any of my words having a valid point.

“If it’s a waste of your time stop talking to me then.” She said. I said alright, and that we should all leave and were welcome to come to my house.

She turned to our friend who was in the middle and said, “Nah I’m going to do my own thing tonight, I just need to process this.”

This put my friend in a fucked up position because this woman is staying at her house for the week and she didn’t want to abandon her. My friend had to come to my house to pick up items for an exhibit we are working on. This was something we scheduled previously. This second white Woman’s emotions redirected everything – again.

Malalai Joya walked out and smiled at us, “Goodnight,” she said, “I will miss you.” and gave us the peace sign.

The woman kept talking and I tried to explain that this white girl in all of her cushy privilege was just fine. That she was probably right now crying into someone’s arms saying how mean I was to her, and it didn’t hardly matter because instead of talking about Malalai Joya we wasted all this time fighting over this stranger. Instead of asking about my feelings when I am their friend, we were all so collectively concerned about this woman’s potential alienation.
She said something else and reiterated that she just needed to be alone – forcing my friend to coddle her, and then said, “Well have a good night” in that bullshit passive aggressive white whining winning feminist voice and I started to walk away and said, “Whatever. Cuz you’re a rich white fucking lesbian. Deal with it.”

Some time later my brown friend came over to check on me and nicely admonish me, saying that now they probably would never talk to me again and don’t see the value of my work. She hugged me and apologized but this woman was waiting for a ride to her house and she had to go get her.
I should have never gotten into the conversation in the first place.
But I did.

Ultimately her hurt feelings for one moment are ultimately more important, more valid, more real, and more relatable than my own.

In our argument, when I said that the white woman did not have to face death for writing a facebook status update and could get creative and send a message to the local paper, this woman replied that I did not face death either and what was I doing?

So look.

If you do not understand racism, privilege and oppression I do not have a reason to talk to you. I do not need to associate with you. You are not my friend. You are not an ally to people of color. I will continue to stand up for and put people of color first.
If this makes you uncomfortable, deal with it.
It is not my job to coddle you, and I do not have any interest at all in wasting a second of my precious time to help you unravel your tightly locked up white guilt. It is a serious waste of my time, especially when you have actually no interest or capacity to listen to people of color and treat us like human beings.
It is not my job to educate you on your racism and privilege. You do that.

The system as set up is not interested in my own mental health, and I am the one looking out for myself.

Please do not waste my time pretending to be a friend or an ally. I do not desire your company in the slightest.
If this is something that offends you – kindly never speak to me again.

Peace Out

Vanessa

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