Mia: Hello, I’m Mia McKenzie. I’m the creator of Black Girl Dangerous.
Janani: And I’m Janani, Assistant Editor of Black Girl Dangerous
Mia: And this QTPOC Chat. It is our little series where we get together and talk about stuff that’s important to us as queer and trans people of color, and hopefully is important or interesting to our readers and viewers and fans. So today we’re going to be talking bout racism within queer and trans people of color communities.
Janani: I think..how do I think about this? I think about this along many of the same lines I introduced in my article on ‘what’s wrong with the term person of color, or how it’s used’, right? I think much of it comes with the acknowledgement that racism in the United States, because it was built up on this intense system of settlement and colonization of Native peoples’ land and the enslavement of Black peoples, largely right? These are the largest racial systems that established the United States. That’s how racism systemically often tends to play out. And then when we say that the term person of color somehow encapsulates all our experiences it really doesn’t. I’ve been thinking about the ways, largely, as a South Asian person who’s a settler in this country, who’s also not a white settler in this country, who wasn’t part of the original settlement–what my relationship is to US systems of racism. And then thinking about the ways that because queer South Asian people are not a huge population in the US, or at least not a huge visible population in the US. There aren’t a lot of us. I feel like my queerness and especially my queer person of colorness has been mediate by a lot of other queer person of colorness in Black and brown communities. I think that sets me and other queer South Asians and other folks who don’t have explicit larger queer communities up for a lot of appropriation and a lot of fucked up shit that we do, whether that’s appropriating Black queer culture, or participating in things that aren’t really, things that are ‘for us’ but viewing our person of colorness as sort of this mixed bag from which we can just grab things.
Mia: Yeah. When we went to the beach the other day, at one point we were talking about–we were making some joke about a weather forecast that was a queer weather forecast that told you the weather in a really gay kind of way or whatever. We were making jokes like you know ‘gurl you don’t want to wear those shorts today’ or whatever. At that moment I sort of realized how much queerness is blackness, and the ways that we express queerness, that’s a Black vernacular. That’s a way that’s very very connected to Black culture, and the ways that queer culture has just sort of taken as it will from Black culture without a lot of acknowledgement of Black culture, just completely appropriated from it. And not only without acknowledgement of it, but without even respect for it. You can have the same person, like a Black woman in the inner city saying something or dressing in a particular way, having a certain way of expressing herself. You can take that exact same expression and put it on a white gay man and it’s so much more acceptable.
Janani: And marketable.
Mia: And marketable, exactly. And so for me a lot of the ways that I see racism in POC communities playing out is this sort of appropriation of blackness by everybody, and also the ways in which–what I think in many ways is the problem with the term ‘person of color’. It’s become this much more palatable umbrella term. Like POC isn’t Black. We’re all in there together somehow and what is the result is it’s a much more palatable thing. We’re ‘brown’. Brownness in that way is very very very different from blackness, you know? Or even from ‘Mexican-ness’. Or any particular thing. It’s just very…it’s kind of like taking people who fall into this model minority myth and then people who absolutely don’t, who are the most un-model minorities and then putting them all together. What results is way more on the side of the model. It’s just a way of sort of whitewashing–I don’t want to use exactly the term whitewashing, I don’t think that’s exactly what it is–but sort of a light-brownwashing. So it’s all more palatable. And you don’t have to think about the individual experiences of people in the group. Or different group experiences. I’m just fascinated and really frustrated with the ways in which that term is used to erase blackness in a lot of ways.
Janani: And also to erase antiblackness.
Mia: Right, exactly.
Janani: To talk about racism as if, yeah, like something that happens by white people against everyone else, which then doesn’t leave room for cross-racial stuff that happens and also erases the specificity of what different struggles have been against white supremacy. Not all of them have taken place in the United States. And there are different racial systems that are in place all over the world. And not all of them look like the US racial system. But because of imperialism we’re able to think of it that way.
Mia: Right. I mean I think there’s so many layers to it. I think in a POC community…I mean, there’s as much anti-black racism in queer community as anywhere else. Right? And then when you get into queer and trans* POC community, those things–they still exist, they’re still there. Even around particularly fetishism of Black trans men is a thing that happens so much. Black masculinity is fetishized so incredibly much in queer and trans people of color community. Things about desirability around who’s datable just within a POC community, who’s desirable, still absolutely feeds back into that, into anti-blackness and light skinned privilege and like–
Janani: Who’s the palatable brown person in this entire group.
Mia: Exactly. And I don’t think it’s talked about enough. It’s talked about actually very little. Because I think the ways in which we’re all sort of pushing back against whiteness all the time, which is necessary, but when we’re pushing back against whiteness, those other things get lost. Particularly I think I read something that you wrote, or maybe it was just a thing on your Facebook page, about the need to talk about even as there’s no such thing as reverse racism–you can’t be racist towards white people–POC can still be racist towards each other. It’s not only white people who can be racist. We can be racist towards each other too. And we are, a lot.
Janani: A lot.
Janani: Yeah. That’s all I got.
Mia: That’s all I got. I’m sure we’ll have more to say about this. If you guys have things you want to contribute. If you want to enter into a conversation about this on our Facebook page. If you want to send us a blurb or rant about your feelings on this, a short video about your feelings and experiences on racism within the QPOC community, please absolutely do. And we will see you next time.
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