One thing I have come to realize is something happened when I turned 50 last year. I realized that I had lived most of my life, a life full on many adventure, a front row seat to what might be called modern western Queer history. I was born in 1962 and benefited in my childhood in Santa Monica Ca. from many of the rights, education and history lessons learned and beginning to be taught in the public school system from the Civil Rights to Queer rights. I still am in touch with many of my childhood friends and we make up many tribes, with some overlap and some just wanting a just equitable world. I have carry many gifts of difference into my adulthood from those days from Grant school to the pool at Santa Monica College, the peir, ice rink and third ave before it had a Tiffany’s, But I digress. I want to tell a story about how and why it is important to know not just your story but others story, some might think I am looking to be the “good white ally” some might think, “wow insightful” others “could careless”, I care and one thing that has come through in the last few years especially from school is to make the invisible visible. It is easy to see the clan or call out the recent Islamaphobia stemming from Boston, what is harder to see is how I and other well intention white-folks participate without our knowledge in structural racism. The point of this story is to see how oppression is used as a tool in re-centering whiteness, I hope it helps folks think and question.
In 1986 me and two other Dykes went to get tested for HIV at the men’s health clinic, they did not want to test us as they did not seem to think we were at high risk, now mind you we are all white, my friend stated to the young white gay man, What part of sleeping with fags and shoot drugs is not high risk? Well all our lives change after the test came back, one of the two friends had Aids, A dyke. We mobilized, started the women and Aids task force, my positive friend was fundamental in starting Needle exchange in Seattle, we passed out safe sex packages to women in dyke bars who thought they were not at risk. I wrote a paper showing the stats on HIV and women in the US in 1987, showing the the highest number if HIV case was Black women between 15-25, a current stat as well, Indigenous women where not track by the cdc at the time, and a Dyke was considered a women who had not had sex with a man in 10 years. As with most thing the Queer community was very separate as was the organizing. Much of the resources went to white gay men and in that vain several other friends of mine started People of Color Against AIDS Network (was formed in 1987 for the express purpose of responding to an epidemic that was having and continues to have a devastating impact on communities of color in the United States and throughout the world. POCAAN began as a project of the American Friends Service Committee with a staff of one and a handful of community volunteers.Ms. P. Catlin Fullwood, whose background in the battered women’s movement made her an ideal advocate for under-served people of color, had the vision to launch POCAAN as a separate entity.In Seattle, in the spring of 1987, the founding group of POCAAN decided that, by whatever means, they needed to figure out how to alert our communities to the imminent threat of AIDS without creating havoc, chaos and persecution of those thought to be the “carriers’ of the disease.)The divide in who need and got services and who where the “experts” is a core problem in the non-profit industry and still is.
Fast forward to 2007, I have graduated from Mills with a BA in Ethnic Studies, I have done HIV out reach work in Rural Houston TXS, plus I did early work as stated above. I have returned to Seattle and I am looking for work. Now here is what I want to expose about not understanding structural racism and the savior mentality.I applied for an outreach position and in the interview by one white gay man and one white straight women I am asked this question after my ego has been stroke well about my background, how it seems I have all the skills needed for this position, they asks me how comfortable I feel working in communities of colour? Now mind you the issue here is “working” not hanging out. Now these two had no idea of my history in Seattle communities, and as funding gets tighter all agency’s write grants for specific populations,so finding a “qualified person to do the work” meant asking me if I with my “legitimate education” which of course gives me “authority” in communities of colour felt “comfortable” “teaching” to Folks of Colour HIV Prevention. Now that is how whiteness is re-centered under the Savior ideology, how my ego and wanting to do good can be used in structural racism. My response to the question was to ask how their relationship with POCAAN was, needless to say I did not get the job. That is not the point of this story, nor is it to say as white folks we should not take the job, But what we are required to do is see if we are being used against the very thing we say we are fighting against, racism, structural, institutional, and personal. Research community stories, if you understand there is racial inequity, do not let your Queerness be the tool of oppressing others.The “Good White Ally” means understand our part in how the system use us against the very thing we are fighting against. Folks of Colour and other marginalized groups do not need us teaching, they need us listening. This where the big word, intersectinality comes in handy and how to step up and step back, there is as James Baldwin states, A price for the ticket that is whiteness, What is the cost not to but the ticket? Blessings