On Safe Spaces for White People

Life after the Orange Menace (OM) has been…interesting. The response from white women have been especially revealing. It’s almost like they only just realized how very fucked up this nation is and are desperately trying to figure out what to do.

Hence, the rise of, “Safe spaces for white people,” to work through racism in the shadow of the OM. I know what y’all are thinking…I bitch when privileged folks don’t do anything, then I bitch because I don’t like the efforts privileged folks are making.

That is true, this is America and my right to bitch is my right! Deal with it.

I’ve received two invitation to “heal whiteness” in as many weeks. These “workshops” challenge participants to examine the meaning of whiteness and white privilege while resolving the guilt and shame of white supremacy.

Sounds good right? White people need to do this type of work, post-haste.

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However, in the case of this particular workshop, it is neither run by or even using content created by people of color. At least not directly. However, for $200 you can get to the business of working through personal biases in “safe” (ie white only) spaces. Without any help (or interruption) from actual marginalized people.

This is like asking the fox to guard the hen-house.

Like, asking police to investigate their own brutality.

Where are the checks and balances?

Why do white people need safe space to work through the trauma they are inflicting (consciously or not) onto black people?

When a friend of mine reached out to the organizers they refused to engage. Her questions were not aggressive, they simply asked about the need for “safe space” while doing this work and how they planned to assess progress if there were no people of color to defer to:

Is your assertion that white people are strong enough to be racist, but not strong enough to talk about the racism that they do?

You have acknowledged that the ethics of doing this work might be challenged on the basis of your whiteness and the fact that you are charging money, my question is more essential. What are you healing? What part of white people has been traumatized and by whom?

Is your assertion that if white people receive healing, they will become nonviolent? What evidence/criteria are you using to measure this?

Does this healing work translate to patriarchy/sexism? Can men become nonviolent by these methods?

These are valid, legitimate questions that were left unanswered. Which makes me questions the validity of this entire endeavor.

I’d argue that the world is overflowing with safe white spaces and there is no need for these retreats either way. Every time one turns on the TV, sits down to watch a movie, or read, whiteness is centered in almost all of it constantly. The world has been made a safe space for white people.

 

The truth is, this well-intentioned effort looks like nothing more than a self-centered, self-congratulatory cash grab. I see you.

For the record, oppressed groups don’t have the privilege of “safe space” to learn about their oppression.

1,094 Bias-Related Incidents in the Month Following the Election – Southern Poverty Law Center

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Working to dismantle white supremacist systems is grueling and uncomfortable. It requires drifting further and further from our comfort zones into truly diverse spaces. Mistakes will be made and we will be checked for those mistakes. Sometimes, without any care for our personal feelings because, the truth is, my personal feelings are not more critical than actual people, facing actual dangers.

It took me rejecting a lifetime of dogma and replacing it with new, more accurate information to get this. I am still unpacking a lot of internalized misogynoir, sexism, and yes, white supremacist attitudes. I learned to shut the fuck up long enough to listen and learn from groups of people more oppressed than me.

Anything, I know about anti-racism work, any awareness I’ve gathered, any understanding I have found, has come to me by the grace of black voices, almost always women, willing to document, write about, and explain their oppression.

As a woman of color, who has experienced my fair share of racism, I still benefit from a hell of a lot of privilege. Acknowledging my privileges keep me safe and then using them to center marginalized people is how I redistribute my power. AMPLIFYING BLACK WOMEN means I am centering them, not myself in this movement. A movement they birthed.

My pantsuit nation post is filled to the brim with indignant people asking why Safety Pin Box owners think they should profit from their advocacy. Meanwhile, white women, a demographic which already enjoys an abundance of safe spaces and opportunities, to choose from, are lining their pockets with profits from these “white healing spaces.” Without being asked where the profits are going or why they deem themselves worthy of profiting from their advocacy in the first place.

So basically, fuck your double standard.

White women should be supporting safe spaces for oppressed groups, instead of self-segregating for profit. White women should be working, daily, to turn themselves into safe spaces by first and foremost, centering vulnerable groups in their social justice efforts. White women should be paying black women for the educational content necessary to make these workshops effective.

Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, white women need to learn how to play the best supporting role, not the lead, in this fight for liberation. Anything less is uncivilized and narcissistic as fuck.

The Transgender Community Deserves Unconditional Love 

Love is not a privilege, it is a basic, fundamental, and critical right. Every single one of us is deserving. Love requires only that you let it be. That you ask nothing more of it, that you expect nothing in return. Love by virtue of it’s grace is without condition. It just is, you either do or do not, you either will or will not. When you make it conditional you minimize it and turn it into something else, something selfish. That’s not to say that if you love someone or something harmful you should accept it. You can love unconditionally and you can put conditions on how you expect and deserve to be treated.

Our only requirement on this planet, in my humble opinion is that we treat others the way we ourselves expect to be treated. That’s it, all the other stuff we do to each other, making comparisons and judgments, setting impossible expectations for each other, that comes from our own ideas about how love “should work.”

I understand life requires certain conditions in order to set appropriate boundaries. It is my firm belief, however, that love is boundless and liberating when we do it “right”. Unconditional love is a super power that every person can tap into but there are some rules…

  1. Save judgments for God, the Fashion Police, and actual judges.
  2. Never withhold compassion or empathy.
  3. Be generous with your love.
  4. Be honest and kind.
  5. Learn to see, then accept, then celebrate differences.
  6. Love yourself and others the way you wish to be loved in return.
  7. Seek to uplift, never tear down.
  8. Have faith in yourself and humanity.
  9. Never expect others to think, react, behave, or live like you.
  10. Learn to live and let live, no matter what, no matter who, no matter how (if this confuses you, see commandment #1)

I suppose you could apply this to any single relationship in your life, whether professional, platonic, or romantic. However, I want us to apply these commandments to complete strangers, people we don’t know and may never know. In fact, send that kind of love to people in the Transgender community especially Trans People of Color. A community in danger because they are being seen as unworthy of love, safety, protection under the law.

  • 19% of people have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a family member because of their transgender identity or gender non‐conformity. Of those cases:
    • 65% had attempted suicide, compared to 32% of those who had not been abused
    • 48% experienced homelessness, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (9%)
    • 47% reported drinking or using drugs to cope with mistreatment, compared to 19% of those who had not been abused
    • 29% had engaged in sex work, a rate four times higher than those who were not abused (7%)
  • 29% of transgender and gender non‐conforming people reported being harassed or treated disrespectfully by police officers
    • Transgender people of color reported much higher rates. Source.

I wish that I could put my heart inside everyone else, so they could see the divine light in themselves. At the end of the day, I only have my words. I can’t really teach you how to love but until then #6 is going to have to do, I promise to keep loving you the way I want you to love me in return and maybe, eventually, everyone I love will love like me.

If you want to do more than love and accept the transgender community unconditionally, you can step up and advocate for them too. To learn more visit The National Center for Transgender Equality.

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