Liberals use “unity” to systematically silence women of color. It’s time to be divisive
By Clelia Rodriguez
The persecution and hunt of non-white bodies is old news. Social media maps it up instantly with white liberals’ “I’m glad that’s not me or my family going through that,” or their almost gratifying pity. Each second, each moment, each hour, each day, each night, each week, each month, each year, each decade, each century, the remains of Black and brown cadavers rest in an untraceable archive. I try to consider if there will ever be an application or a software to measure our pain.
We are multi-tasking horror, terror, fear, and panic carried by a barometer designed by the same leaders who sign deals to manufacture weapons against us every day. It’s not a secret. We all know Big Brother is not only watching but also monitoring us. But there is a kind of indifference towards news of who gets slaughter in the name of national security. Chopping heads off brown bodies gets no more of their attention than their removed social media mapping. There is a missing white girl and it’s a national disaster. We have been obligated to accept complicity, so long as our garbage truck is on time every week.
I know many friends of color whose emotional health co-exists with daily exhaustion. They show up to work eliminating from their faces any diagnosis of the pain carried by the absence of humans in Human Rights. It’s not enough to watch cute little puppies as they scroll down Instagram once or twice a day. It’s not a matter of how many Happy Hour sessions they get during the week. Even those whose social media portray a life of no worries send off the kind of energy that we’re all in deep shit.
Then I come across white feminists and their “everything will be fine as long as we work together” crap, as if non-white people haven’t been massacred for being the non-humans in the “we are all one” Human Rights discourse written for them. Unless a white feminist tells me she’s willing to give up her seat, her microphone, her job, her status quo to pass it on to a non-white person, I ain’t buying it. Never have, actually.
Non-humans are on the ground across North America trying to communicate in any way they can with progressive folks whose favourite daily mottos are “I’m pro-Black/pro-Muslim/pro-migrant/pro-love/pro-choice” or whatever other “pro” comes to mind to make them feel good about themselves. But in El Salvador, I didn’t grow up with words like mobilizing, wokeness, activism or organizing. I scroll in my newsfeed and these words appear like popping balloons waiting to be blown up just by touching them. That’s how fragile they seem to me.
What a lot of these activists seek is to continue grabbing the microphone and pushing to the sidelines the voices that need to speak up. If they were to stop it would mean giving up the power they have. And the minute leaders of movements start bullying, quieting down, and diminishing the voices of women of color because it doesn’t happen to fit into the political strategy, that’s when privilege wins before the election even happens.
Many activists have adopted neoliberal strategies to “fight the system,” forgetting that speaking of and about anti-colonialism are not figures of speeches. If a white “ally” tells me to my face she is anti-bullying, works against racism, blah, blah, blah, my ears shut down. I see many of them guarding their power, and their words are useless. They are visible in organizations because white supremacy puts them there.
When they apply for a job that encourages women of color to submit applications because the majority of people who use the organization’s services are people of color, they don’t stop to think for a second that maybe they take up the space of someone who is more deserving to get it. The NGO world is full of examples like this one.
Truth is that many women of color in these “safe places” are consigned to humiliating duties and expectations in the name of the democratic processes. If our witch-like attitude is toned down when decision making happens, imagine what would happen afterwards? It seems like angry voices at protests are needed only when some leaders consider them valuable. At the table, when negotiations are happening, the volume of our vocal cords are off. I am not going to be waiting around until white people or white-run institutions decide it’s my turn or the turn of Black or Indigenous peoples to get the place we deserve. It’s not up to them to decide we’re humans with rights.
We are being systematized every single day to accept that, to remain silent and absorb the shock in our brown bodies, to seek out whatever self-care lifeline we can find in social media, to daydream about if our work can only be validated by whiteness, and to doubt the self-power that is with us. The spread of closeted and masked capitalists are mingling right under our noses. The majority of women who are constantly accused of being the shit disturbers, the hysterical, the ones with the potty-mouth, and the loud ones are part of a group of people who are wanted when boldness needs to be captured in a picture for propaganda. As long as our mouths are sealed when decision makings or negotiations are taking place, then everything is just fine.
In social environments where reputations for the most liked, the well-behaved, and the lady-like run high, the animated and loud personalities are subjected to the title of troublemakers. Many activists can, in public, claim to be inclusive yet many angry women of color are targeted as the ones who are obstructing the path to civility.
In order for this abuse of power to radically change, women of color have to trust their abilities to run with the decisions that affect their lives directly. I’ve known many who are blamed for dividing the struggle when unification is the target. So long as my plate is on the table and continues to be empty while others expect me to be the facade of the movement, I will not participate. I need to see beans, rice, and tortillas on my plate first.
Clelia O. Rodríguez is author of Decolonizing Academia: Poverty, Poverty and Oppression by Fernwood Publishing. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Hispanic Literary and Cultural Studies, Decolonizing Methodologies, and Human Rights. She’s worked in Ghana, Nepal, Jordan, Chile, the United States and Canada. She’s an activist and a mother. She is dedicated to conducting intersectional work in her pedagogy, teaching, and research. She has published in Latino Rebels, RacebaitR, Radical Teacher: A Socialist, Feminist, and Anti-Racist Journal of the Theory and Practice of Teaching, Postcolonial Studies, and Revista Iberoamericana. She’s the creator of an intergenerational teaching platform of stories from El Salvador, www.storiesfromelsalvador.com