NegusWhoRead
Politics & Race
Dear White People Who Deny Racism: Take Notes From A Misogynist

Yesterday, in the same room, I saw a White woman wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt, and I met a man who introduced himself as a “straight, cisgender activist for LGBTQ rights.”

I had to get the fuck out of there.

I dislike a lot of things. I don’t like when people refer to me, or to themselves as an “activist.” The concept of “White allies” makes my blood boil.

It’s not that I object when others work towards goals of freedom and equality–because I don’t. I realize there were many White and  Jewish people who fought alongside Black people during the struggle for civil rights. It’s just that when people take a second to pat themselves on the back for the minimal effort of doing the right thing, it raises a red flag for me. Whenever anyone outside of a movement wraps themselves in an identity of said movement, it automatically comes off as disingenuous and pandering when you label yourself an “ally.” As if your straightness or your safety-pin wearing whiteness is a more valuable asset than the rest of the brown bodies stacked up against oppression.

But none of this bothers me more than when I hear a man refer to himself as a “male feminist.” As soon as I hear that term, I tilt my head back and look at the sky–not out of disgust–but because I want to make sure I don’t choke on my own vomit. Every guy I ever met who called himself a feminist was either:

a. A rapey conniver who managed to tamp down his creep factor so he could use his “feminist ideals” as a tool to surround himself with like-minded women he could holla at.

or

b. Crazy

To be fair, I’ve only met one crazy “male feminist.” The rest of them were just the rapey type. As a matter of fact, even the crazy one (who–after an article I wrote criticizing men who were mad about Black feminists boycotting Birth of A Nation–left a rambling message on my phone asking why I didn’t write more stories about women who lied to men about being the father of their children) may have been a little bit rapey too. I’m trying to be objective here.

My point is this: The efforts of Male feminists, white allies and straight gay rights activist are welcomed, and probably needed. What bothers me is that they never seem able to shut the fuck up about it and do the work. They want you to recognize immediately, upon meeting them that they’re not like the other White people. They’re not the same as the other straight people. They’re different. They care. They want the credit. They want the absolution.

How do I know this?

Because I am a misogynist.

See how easy that was, white people? Straight people?

Whenever Y.P. Pull enter any discussion about race they immediately put their defensive privilege on display by loudly proclaiming, “I’m not racist.” If you need an example, scrub your way through any Donald Trump interview where he is asked about his racism. Notice how he immediately lowers his voice, squints his eyes, cocks his head a sympathetic seventeen degrees and murmurs in a voice wet with sympathy and puppy-dog pandering “I’m the least racist person you know.”

How the fuck does he know who I know? Shit, I have a White friend who went with me to a The Deele concert and still ranks Kurtis Blow as the best rapper of all time. I sat in a hotel room with four white people smoking weed while we shot an entire bottle of Jameson down our throats until we got so drunk I could barely walk, and not one of them said anything racist the entire night. I know some not-racist white people, and trust me, Donald Trump is not in the top 102,018 of them.

Plus–and here is the ultimate lesson, Y.P. Pull–you don’t get a say. The ultimate judge of whether or not something is racist, objectionable or hurtful, is the person to whom that thing is committed against. You can’t tell me what is and is not racist any more than I can punch you in the stomach and tell you “stop crying, that didn’t hurt.” How do I know all of this?

Because I am a misogynist.

I admit it. I am. I don’t want to be. I know, as a man I live in a world that is largely patriarchal, to the detriment of women. Because I have lived in this society and my brain has been fed by a social order constructed by men it would be stupid of me to think some of that hasn’t seeped into my head. I benefit, in part, from sexism and even not acknowledging the fact that I benefit from it, is kind of sexist in and of itself. Like, there was a time I wouldn’t date a woman with kids from more than one man, but hung out with dudes who left trails of babies sprinkled in their wake. Like thinking White people shouldn’t sing the part of the song that had the word “nigga” in it, but being cool when they said “bitch” and “hoe” (you know that’s Black women they’re talking about, right?) Like knowing they would say “nigga” if I wasn’t around. Like failing to understand why some women don’t like the term “female.” Like–I’ve never been asked if I had children on a job interview, but I didn’t think it was a hostile act when women faced it. Like me feeling it’s cool to say “bitch” and “hoe”– when women aren’ around.

That level of obliviousness is the same lack of self awareness that leads Donald Trump to mouth the words that he is the least racist person you know. Even though he is just that audacious, I don’t think he’s trying to bamboozle the question-asker into accepting his non-racism just because he said it. I honestly believe he doesn’t feel he’s racist.

Just like people the Y. P. Pull who voted for Trump. They don’t believe they are racist. They think they get to decide. In their minds and hearts, if they didn’t vote out of hate or malice for Mexicans, Muslims or people of color, then it can’t be racist.  They don’t think it’s racist to laugh at their friends’ nigger jokes. They don’t want Mexicans deported, Muslims investigated or homosexuals incarcerated, but they’re cool with having their country led by the guys who threatened to deport Mexicans, investigate Muslims and jail gays who get married. They don’t understand that their willingness to overlook racism for their own personal benefit is an act of racism. Its like knowing your neighbor beats his wife, but you don’t call the police because he gives you a ride to work every morning. Even I wouldn’t do that…

And I am a misogynist.

Ultimately, I know I am learning. I know I can’t erase the privilege afforded to me as a man, but I also know that when I recognize, or when a woman points out something I did, said or wrote might be problematic, my resistance is stupid. I should listen and consider their argument on its merit. It is possible that they could be wrong, but it is not for me to decide. What I will not do is point out how they are wrong as I view it from my male perspective, because “some of my best friends are women,”  I “spent a lot of time in the women community,”  and “I say it all the time to a woman at work and it doesn’t bother her.” It doesn’t matter if I grew up in a female neighborhood, surrounded by women . I no longer use the word “female” because I know women don’t like the word. Ultimately as a man who has spent 0% of my life as a woman, I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. 

I also won’t use my privilege to shout from the rooftops how much of a feminist I am and remind women how much I am “down” with them. I wish there was more gender and sex equality, but I am not going to start introducing myself as an “ally to women,” a “Black, male feminista,” or a “straight, cisgender female rights activist” (although that is partly because I just found out what the fuck cisgender even means.)

You know what I’m gonna do instead?

Better.

Then I’m gonna shut the fuck up and listen.

White people, take note.

About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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