This is the frame. This is the setup. This is something that has been on my mind for so long. This is me getting over my fear. I’m going to write about race, and racism, and where I fail, and where I succeed. (and then we’re going to talk about sexism a little bit too) I’m going to ask for help, and forgiveness and I want to make it clear from the start that if I fuck up, and say something offensive, that I want you to tell me. I want to learn. I long to learn more, to be better, to always work towards getting it right, even if there is no such thing as perfection.
Late one night when I was still recovering from surgery, still sleeping on the couch, likely high on liquid percoset, there was a discussion on Twitter, started by Danielle, including Karen, and others. It was something I see recurring in Danielle’s writing, about race and the lack of women of color in the blogosphere. It is something I think it important, very important, but that I don’t ever write about. I just read and nod my head and retweet. I’m over simplifying this a little to shorten it up, but it was a very inspiring discussion. One that lead to this, and this and I am sure some other fabulous writing. It ended with some very real encouragement and promises from people to be more honest in talking about race. To get over our fear about writing about it and speak out for what is right, and just and fair. I said I would as well, after I wasn’t high on percoset.
Two years ago at BlogHer I attended the Voices of the Year session and heard Faiqa speak. It changed me. Her writing changes me. It makes me think. I love it.
Three years ago at BlogHer I sat in a session about women of color in blogging. It was a Room of your Own session. I went because the woman who first introduced me to blogging on a larger scale was speaking. Through that session I became more familiar with Kelly, Heather, and via Kelly, Karen. I stood up in that session and in the most public way I ever had, stated that my community was a diverse one, and I wanted to see that reflected in what I saw in advertising and online. Then I went home and tried to make that a reality in the bloggers I read. I added a number of bloggers of color to my feed. I added more writers on Twitter. I make a point of reading them even when I’m busy, and even when it is hard to read, because I always learn something.
Eight years ago we moved in to our house. We made a conscience decision to live in the city of Minneapolis, and we made a knowledgable decision about where in Minneapolis we lived. It was driven by affordability and by my desire to make sure that if/when I had kids, they would grow up in an environment that was more diverse than the one I grew up in. There were considerations for safety, and while we live in the inner city, we also don’t live where I feel unsafe. Our little block is a great representation of our neighborhood. There is an Asian family, a mixed race couple, a latino family, a black single dad, some white families, and I think at least one gay couple. There are empty nesters, people with teens, people with small kids. It leans towards more white, but that is just our block, not every block by us is that way. The schools, the broader neighborhood, are very diverse.
Sixteen years ago I moved out of Minnesota, to suburban Washington DC. Two years later I moved to New York City. New York City is about as far from small town Minnesota as you can get in the states. At least as far as diversity goes. I was shy however, ever the introvert, and I didn’t make as many connections as I wanted to with people that were not like me. I let fear of being wrong, of being ignorent, of just talking to people, get the better of me.
I grew up in a small town. I grew up in virtually all white town. My parents knew this. My mom was from a small town, but had pushed the boundaries of her familiarity the first chance she got. My dad grew up in rural Wisconsin and suburban Chicago. He too pushed the boundaries. He traveled extensively and had lived coastally. My parents did the best that they could with the limits of where we lived. I was exposed to different cultures as much as they could. I still think they did a great job with where we were and their limited means.
I know that I am biased. (we all are in some way) I know that even with everything I do to push those boundaries of my comfort zone that there will always be more to do. Always.
I am a woman who works in a male dominated field, and in a male dominated industry. I have been marginalized for being a woman, for being a working mother. I have been marginalized for being dark haired in a town of blondes. I have been, and will be, marginalized for being fat. I have been marginalized for being who I am.
During the civil rights movement in the 1960′s parts of the Jewish community stood side by side with the African American community in fighting for equality. They were fresh from the wounds caused by WW2 and understood why it was so important. This is an important lesson. To remember where we came from and fight for the next step for the next group.
We, as women, as mothers, as those who have been marginalized for our gender, our sexual orientation, our jobs, should understand why it is still important to fight stereotypes, and hatred, and racism, no matter where we live, no matter what we look like.
This is the frame. This is the beginning.