a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

The Problem Isn’t Jen Caron…

Posted on: January 30, 2014

…or whatever her name is.

As an FYI I don’t think we should grab our pitch forks and burn her at the stake. And I promise not to make any jabs.

A few days ago the internets exploded when a self-described “skinny white girl” posted her inner most feelings about a “heavy black woman” at yoga. Since then, there have been brilliant responses, all of them are hilarious. You can read them here, here, here and here.

Of course, there have been serious responses as well, many of them addressing the issues of race, racism and privilege.

Yes, Jen has a lot of soul searching to do. I would suggest she find her way to an ashram to find her inner peace, but I’m not sure that she’d be able to focus on herself with all of the other bodies around her. (Okay, maybe that was a jab.)

I’m also not going to bash Jen, because I sort of feel sorry for her. I’m not even going to complain about xoJane (because I already said my piece to the editor who gave the piece the green light.) Though I have to say I was shocked that a black woman read that piece of trash and put it on the site.

The problem isn’t xoJane or Jen or the editor, per se. The problem is unchecked privilege, micro-aggression and the horrible, yet increasingly common, appropriation of people of color.

I have a confession.

I shy away from the word “feminist.” And I’m not quite sure why.

I went to an all-girls preparatory  high school with a famous person. And it was in those four years that I found my voice. I have distinct memories of our strong-minded teachers imploring us to feel confident in not only who we were as students, but who were as women. One teacher, in particular, always scolded us for answering questions with questions. She’d ask, “Who was the first president of the United States?” and someone would answer, “George Washington?”

That inflection that creeps into the voices of girls around puberty. That slight change in pitch that tells the world that we’re not confident, that we don’t know, that we need approval when we clearly know the answer.

So when I got to college I sat in the front row, I asked a lot of questions and when I was called upon I answered with a firm period at the end of my sentences. Even when the answer was wrong, or if I was unsure I’d trained myself to avoid the raise of pitch that turns an answer from assertive to passive.

Still, the word feminist didn’t speak to me; the women who were feminists around me where white women and the face of feminism was the face of white women. The face of the feminist movement in the 70s was always white. And while I have no problem with white women, I am after all marrying a lovely white lady, I think it was society’s not-so-subtle reminder of whiteness as (feminist, lesbian, beauty, normal, perfect) that prevented me from grabbing the word feminist and slapping it on my T-shirt.

Over the summer the Internet’s head exploded with the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and Creator, Mikki Kendal had to defend herself for sharing her truth all over social media. As I watched and listened to her on Huffington Post Live I realized why I never claimed the word feminist. It clearly wasn’t a word I could claim.

I won’t bore anyone with how I identify or my personal feelings about race and racism (because G-d knows I’ve written about it a lot). Let me just say, people who think that America is post racial are fucking stupid. Or they’re a white person with unchecked privilege, or WPWUP.

Only a WPWUP can write an essay about how it feels for her to see a black woman in yoga.

Only a WPWUP can strip away said black woman in yoga’s identity making her anonymous, only skin color and body type.

So, it seems that the feminist Interwebs forgot the lessons of #solidarityisforwhitewomen.  It seems that all of the self-reflection that came out of the best hashtag in Twitter (in my humble opinion) has been lost in the thick, frozen tundra of this year’s polar vortex.

Perhaps that’s what caused Jen’s misguided rant.

I don’t speak for all black folks, but here’s what I do know:

Black folks don’t need you to interpret how we’re feeling about yoga, about life, about Black History Month, about the President.

Black folks don’t need your sympathy.

Black folks don’t really care what you’re thinking. We especially don’t care what you’re thinking about us in yoga. We do care when you follow us around stores so stop doing that.

Black folks are just like you, except black so. Yeah. We’re just human beings living our lives the same as you.

Perhaps instead of sending sharing your personal problems with race and privilege with entire world, perhaps take a moment to reflect on privilege and what it is to walk through the world without being questioned. Reflect on the fact that you can always blend in (unless you’re on the 2 train, but that was another post). Reflect on the fact that you can open a magazine and see a face that looks like yours. Reflect on the fact that you can buy any card for your friend or mother or brother at Hallmark. Reflect on the fact that you never have to teach your children to be smarter, more articulate, more aware of their surroundings. Reflect on the injustice that is inflicted on others simply based on the color of their skin, the shape of their bodies, their ability, etc., etc., etc.

Reflect first, write later.

So the problem isn’t just Jen, though it is in this case. The problem isn’t just xoJane, though in this case it was. The real problem is the world in which we live and while writing a funny post was easy, getting to the real solutions of race, racism and prejudice in the U.S, well, a little harder.

1 Response to "The Problem Isn’t Jen Caron…"

I’m going to say this here as a lover and respecter of all races, genders, and orientations:

I wish all members of a minority would think the way you do.

I wish Jen would realize she actually just felt badly for a person different than her who seemed uncomfortable and it had nothing to so with the fact that she was black and overweight.

I wish she would have thought before she submitted.

I wish a black woman hasn’t cussed me out for admiring her scarf too long on the train and inserted race.

I wish another hadn’t informed me that she knows she’s black, but she can actually read the debit machine screen when, from my experience, no person can figure it out quickly enough and had to ask anyway, regardless of race.

I wish my father in law, when he was delivering culligan water in an all-black neighborhood in California, hadn’t been consoled by the man he was delivering water to that if he just didn’t look at anyone while he was there he wouldn’t ‘have anything to worry about.’

I wish I knew what to do or say in these awkward situations where race never crossed my mind, but I’m accused of racism anyway.

I wish we could all just get along. For real.

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