I’m telling myself all this too because I can get caught in the same trap. And forgive me for rambling — I’ve been having a very long work week, then I have another one next week. But I just wanted to say something about this.
You know, the trap where you’re trying to explain to a white person what racism is, confront them on something racist they did that hurt you, or just trying to explain your point. It happens on Tumblr…well, this is pretty much the Tumblr experience for me and most PoC I follow.
We can get caught in this trap because we’re taught that we should have absolutely no boundaries or limits when it comes to white people.
When white people jump into a conversation, whitesplaining away or just being general invasive assholes, sometimes, you feel like you have to explain things to them and try to prove things for them. Even when they very obviously invade our boundaries. It might not even be so obvious at first, but when you look back on it, white people leap over our boundaries a lot, try to bend them, or just pretend they’re not there, even though EVERY HUMAN BEING has basic boundaries.
They cross our emotional boundaries by discounting, ignoring, or criticizing our feelings (“How could you feel that way?” “You shouldn’t be angry!” “I can’t read your posts when you sound angry.”)
Our intellectual boundaries by trying to “get into our heads” and discount or steal what we think (“How can you think that way?” “You’re wrong! WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!” “*insert ableist slur here*” “You just hate white people, do you?”)
Our social boundaries by telling us with whom we should associate (“Why not give white people a chance? Why not trust us?” “Why don’t you like *white person who did something racist*? They’re actually really good people!” “But that person is ALWAYS so mean! Why do you associate with them?!”)
Our time boundaries by making us waste our time trying to explain things to them when we could be doing productive things, having fun with each other, or just mindlessly reblogging food, and clothes I want to wear, and
fictional people I want to marry
And there might be others I can’t think of. There are actually a hell of a lot of kinds boundaries we have a right to establish.
But despite how many of our boundaries white people cross, we can STILL try to explain away our experiences to try to make them understand.
But here’s the thing: If they REALLY wanted to understand, then they wouldn’t have tried to cross boundaries to begin with. They would have at least made an attempt to follow them — knowing that we are individual, complex human beings with our own thoughts and emotions. They would know that there are lines they shouldn’t cross, and if they cross them, then they shouldn’t be so shocked when we respond in anger. If they cross them on accident, then they would learn not to do that shit.
The harsh truth is, most white people don’t want to learn from us. They really don’t. All they want to do is shut us up and will try to cross our boundaries without us knowing to do so. The ones who do want to learn don’t do this shit, especially repeatedly. They wouldn’t covertly abuse us. They wouldn’t try to gaslight. They wouldn’t try to turn the tables or manipulate the discussion.
But don’t think I’m saying white people are all inherently evil and they can never learn. They CAN learn. They can open their eyes, use their own critical thinking skills, and learn. There are plenty of resources for them to use, and they are not helpless against their own racism. They can unlearn if they really wanted to. With those, they usually do pretty good following our boundaries, realizing we have some. I normally don’t mind a white person asking me a question if they are respecting my boundaries doing so.
Honestly, I don’t get why people assume I think white people are hopeless and they’ll never learn — do you know how much hope a person needs to have to believe that people can unlearn shit on their own and transform themselves into genuinely better people without anybody holding their hand in the process? But anyway…
We PoC have every single right to establish our own boundaries and tell whoever crosses them to go fuck themselves. This is hard to do because we were taught we should have no boundaries. You might even feel guilty establishing them and enforcing them, but it gets easier the more you do it.
My personal resistance started when I started to establish my own boundaries. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m getting there. If white people discounted my feelings, I try not to defend my feelings or my right to express them, and I just continue TALKING IN ALL CAPS without letting them interrupt me. If they discounted my mind or tried to steal what I thought, then I would know they really don’t care what I thought, and wasting my mind on them is useless. So, I try to end the conversation there. If they criticize me for being choosy about with whom I associate, I remind them that it’s MY life and MY friends, not theirs, and they should go and get their own. And I try not to waste my time arguing with racists so much. If they don’t get it, I walk away and move on.
It’s FUCKING HARD to do, even though we have every single right to our boundaries, especially living in a racist society.