Ah, yes, the ridiculous lengths to which White people go to avoid saying the word “Black.” Or, you know, mentioning race in general.
I don’t consider myself some type of expert on race, but I’m pretty keenly aware of how it operates in the U.S. at least and how convoluted a Chet and Susan will try to make it when they discuss it.
The latest example of this is when Chloë Grace Moretz was asked about the film The Miseducation of Cameron Post and its director, Desiree Akhavan, and her excitement about the film. I’ll cut her some slight slack in that she explains she is excited about the film because it is diving into other queer experiences that aren’t White and especially approaches the issue of conversion therapy from a non-White perspective.
This is important. It is important to point out that queer stories tend to cater to cis White gay men or and frankly no one else at all.
Where she loses me, however, is when she goes to great lengths to avoid mentioning that Akhavan is Iranian and instead calls her “a bisexual woman of diversity.” Not a bisexual woman of color (which, in my opinion, still skirts around her Iranian-American ID, but hey).
Bisexual woman of diversity.
If anything, Moretz could have just left it at “this film is pretty diverse.” That, while earning its own eye rolls due to the fact that “diverse” has become this catch-all buzzword for nothingness when White people really want you to know that they have done the bare minimum and there’s at least one White woman present and a Black dude on staff (LOL), would have been more appropriate than what she ended up saying.
Besides the phrase being so silly and illogical that I had to immediately turn it into my new Twitter name, it quickly became an example of how awkward White people get when discussing race. The venerable @_IAmRoyal humorously illustrated this phenomenon days prior in his tweet where he calls out the issue specifically as it pertains to Black people and other people of color.
white people: "look at that person of PoC!"
BP: "I'm… Bl-"
wp: "I know! You're a colored person of color, silly!"
BP: "…just call me Bla-"
wp: "N!GGRR OF COLOR?! IS TJAT WHAT YOU WANT?!?!?!"
— Da’Shaun | they/them (@DaShaunLH) August 3, 2018
As funny as it is, there is truth to the matter. Why exactly is it so awkward and clunky when the #FFFFFF crowd even so much as ponders the word Black? Or anything else having to do with race?
Well, there are several reasons for this, the first of them being:
1. White people like to pretend they are race-neutral by pretending there is no such thing.
Lots of very progressive White people think that the solution to resolving tensions around race is to pretend it does not exist or, worse, pretend they are just not aware of it. The former begets asininity, the latter invokes colorblindness and is as ineffective as it is illogical.
Of course, this could only be attempted if said group is assumed to be the default — which they are, according to White supremacy and racial hierarchy. And to be the default is to have everything and anything skewed in your direction and to your ultimate benefit — even discussions on race that can easily be derailed when you insert your intentional ignorance.
The only thing about that is, willful ignorance and colorblind rhetoric is hard to push when history exists and doesn’t support your ahistorical take.
But wait! There’s more:
2. White people have an interesting relationship with language and think everything language-wise is binary or has some binary equivalent.
It would be very easy for me to dive into the tendency of White folx to make really off-base false equivalencies when social/cultural discussions do not favor them or “make them look bad” (lol). Centrists did this recently with things like the alt-right and antifa…and everything else mainly.
Everything is either good or bad. There’s no in between, and it leaves room for all kinds of false equivalencies that are actually pretty disrespectful.
It’s pretty binary and backward thinking, but the binary part is what I’m really interested in. Queer and trans folx are pretty used to people reducing our identities to a binary or either being “one” or “the other” under Cis White Supremacist Patriarchy, but race isn’t immune from this attempt at incorrect framing — especially where the word “Black” is concerned.
Besides blaming their reservations when it comes to using the word on cultural and parental upbringing and political correctness (i.e. using “African American” even when it doesn’t make sense…like for a Black person who is, let’s say, from Germany), the tea is to a lot of them, acknowledging that there is something that exists that is Black means, according to binary thinking, that there has to be something that exists that is White.
And to acknowledge the latter would be to acknowledge that colorblind logic is flawed and that race does exist and why the fuck would they want to do that and disrupt their comfort and racial ignorance?
White people admitting ignorance? Good one!
And while race is much more complex than that, that is the kind of 101 thinking a lot of people are operating on. So rather than go through the time-consuming work of studying race beyond that point, they’d much rather continue to be awkward with it and make up identities like “bisexual woman of diversity” no matter how silly it makes them look or sound.
Which is disappointing, but expected.