September 8, 2017… Day 232
Yesterday I experienced something that was like this for me: I was reading a deliciously well-written essay on my phone, while standing at a busy bus stop, and then suddenly a friend of mine, who is a black man, was standing RIGHT in front of me, inside my personal bubble, nostrils flared, sort of sputtering, and I was just like “What happened?” But then his bus came and he walked away and got on the bus, making an angry dismissive gesture with his arms.
What HE experienced was that he received a bunch of racist guff at the bus stop, that I had no idea was happening because I was looking at my phone and tuning everything else out.
The next day he filled me in. He said that it was loud and prolonged and he could not BELIEVE that I didn’t pick up on any of it. He got out of a car next to the bus stop and some white guys started yelling at him that it was a “bus only” lane. He was like, “Yeah, but there are no buses here right now, so what’s your problem?” And everyone else was just standing around either looking at him blankly and/or joining in on giving him attitude. Meanwhile, a white uber driver came up and dropped off white uber passengers at the same exact place and the people still hassling my friend didn’t say anything to the uber people.
I apologized for being physically there but not THERE for him. After venting for a while longer, he said, “I mean, I know, I know, I’m the one who is the fish out of water here in Seattle, I’m supposed to adapt–” and I said, “No! What happened is bullshit and your feelings are valid!” I don’t know, that’s all I could think of to say. That, and I’d do better next time.
Shortly after that convo, I left for a weekend of “glamping” at a Girl Scouts campground with mostly white women, mostly from Seattle. It was a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts and I went with my book club. It’s a feminist group, and I thought maybe we’d talk about sexism out there. My head had been all abuzz about misogyny all week, maybe because everyone is working over time again to tell Hillary Clinton to sit down and shut up. And people on the left AND the right are starting to give Kamala Harris the Hillary Clinton treatment, just in case she gets any BIG IDEAS about 2020. And Betsy DeVos is making it easier to be a rapist on campus again. And sexism is everywhere in my every day life, confronting me and needling me.
But no. Once I was out in the woods with all of these liberal Seattle (pre-dominantly) white women, NO ONE was talking about sexism or Hillary Clinton, because all that anyone wanted to talk about was racism. If they did talk about feminism, it was painstakingly intersectional. Ta-nehisi Coates and Ijeoma Oluo were the names on everyone’s lips. DACA was a top concern. Everyone was onto themselves and their own latent prejudices. Everyone was trying to figure out what more they could do to fight racism. It felt strikingly different than similar pre-election gatherings would have been.
There’s still lots of room to criticize us white women as a demographic group. We have problems. We have blind spots and ways we’re obnoxious and entitled and clueless and privileged. We didn’t just stop being all those things. I’m not mad when black people talk about how white women voted Trump in and why white women are culpable. I’m just mad when white men pick that up from them and use it against us too. Which they do. All the time. Anything they can get their hands on, it seems.
Hillary Clinton’s book arrives in the mail on the 12th (I hope! It better!) and so does Katy Tur’s.