by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
I’ve been grappling with the question of whether conversations about marginalized peoples are valuable if the conversations take place without the participation of said people.
Recently, I observed as a comment thread sparked by Sammy Sosa’s skin bleaching, which could have been a nuanced discussion of the impact of racism and Eurocentric beauty standards on people of color, jump the tracks. The discussion was a textbook study in derailing, with a mostly white commentariat minimizing the effects of race bias on self image; turning the discussion to beauty standards in the majority culture; and denying the lived experiences of the few people of color in the thread. The experience left me frustrated and angry and I found myself wishing that the conversation, which lacked strong participation from the very people most effected by the issues discussed, had never happened.
That wish–the wish that this group of mostly white people had not indulged a conversation about race and its effects in America–feels wrong for someone who considers herself an advocate of anti-racism. I feel strongly that people of color should not be the only ones discussing of race, racism and race bias. But can valuable conversations about race happen without us–without our unique points of view as historically marginalized groups? My gut instinct is to say they cannot. But how does that work? White folks, we want you to talk about race, but only if a certain percentage of brown folks are on hand to ensure the conversation doesn’t go sideways. Read the Post It’s not a valuable discussion on race until the POC show up