posted by ellephanta
In response to this eloquent, wonderful post by missmsian!
I have played all three roles (expert, token, snitch) as a racial minority in a room full of ignorant people and their buttsniffers before, but now I’m devoted to playing an aggressive snitch. It always feels disgusting after you’ve played either the expert or the token and there were occasions when, after having sniffed the butts of some white people who’s “figured everything out”, I would burst into tears back in my room without being able to explain why exactly. Now I know it’s the feeling of repulsion towards oneself that comes from whoring out one’s selfhood to serve somebody else’s purpose. Much of my first year in undergrad was spent in a struggle through this.
But once I’ve figured some stuff out, I quit my post as an expert or a token. It’s really hard on a person’s dignity to play those two, and in comparison, playing an aggressive snitch, though the role warrants you the reputation of being rude or mean or bitchy or whatever, is the easiest on the spirit. Calling on bullshit with focus, once you get into the habit of it, is a lot more satisfying than trying to act like you represent the entire race of your “people” or whatever the hell they want you to do.
However, I don’t associate at all with people who would push me into any of these roles anymore. Also, if you make really good friends, the friends you meet through those friends are likely to be good too, and I find that I have had to deal with this shit less and less.
But when I do encounter this shit for whatever reason, I declare loudly that there is no way I can be friendly about it. (I apologize about the foul language, but I just hate to call it a “situation” or a “conversation” or even “stuff” because I care about words, and those words are good words that I refuse to associate with the shit that sometimes goes on at these social gatherings.) I tell them straight that they may not use me to jerk off and that I don’t “respect” their “viewpoint”, because it’s not a viewpoint, it’s just shit.
I literally say these things out loud to those that try to pigeonhole me into these roles, trying with all their might to be right and superintelligent with some help from a racial minority to fill in for their lack of perspective outside of their own, to nod along with them. I don’t even do it privately by going “hi, can I talk to you in private?” anymore. I have tried that before and discovered that one can easily evade a real conversation in privacy by saying stuff like “well, I didn’t mean to offend you, but I’m sorry I did, I didn’t realize that you were a delicate little flower that can’t take a joke,” and then asking “are we good? I hope you know that I’m a good person and that I mean well,” and walk away from it thinking “I took a criticism well today! I must be an open-minded person!”
So when I’m calling people out, I make sure that the audience is still there and what I’m calling them on has happened in the last five minutes. I want to be a snitch while it’s hot. I want them to feel the humiliation of being called on their bullshit and be punished socially for it. It doesn’t matter what political stance, opinion, awareness, etc. the audience has, because if I’m being honest, none of that should affect what I say to point out the absurdities of the “conversation” we are having.
Unsurprisingly, there is an element of surprise when I set out to call them on it. When their bullshit is pointed out and condemned, especially in front of an audience, it gets surreal for them. Wait, “Miss Minority Perspective”, hold on – I don’t understand – you are speaking up? Inconceivable!
Thoroughly humiliating them for trying to use me as a prop for some “theory” they have on race or crime or culture or psychology or whatever, prevents further encounters with them in the future, which is actually awesome. Once I actually told a guy who was talking about the permissibility of “positive” jokes about race along the lines of “Azns are good at math yay” and tried to bring me, the only racial minority there in a room full of white people, “into the conversation” to “offer a perspective” (a euphemism for “tell this people oh yeah, I find those jokes about my race funny because they are positive! so that they notice how bright I am”) in these exact words: “Sorry, but I can’t let you use me as a dildo.” I proceeded to explain to him as one would to a child who doesn’t know better how my race is not a joke, etc. and then I have never had to talk to him again after that, which was really damn pleasant. It was like a breath of fresh air to never again listen to him lecture people on something he doesn’t know anything about.
Oh but wait, Celine, don’t you think you should have an “honest dialogue” with people you don’t agree with? To that, I say: I don’t “disagree” with them. I refuse to “disagree” with them because, how do you “disagree” with ignorance? “I disagree with ignorance” just sounds ridiculous. It’s not a real opinion and there is no real dialogue here. It’s just dangerous idiocy.
Secondly, let’s put it in perspective: Alas, I do not know or interact with 99.9% of the global population anyway. I can only hang out with people within my reach, and the rest of the people I may enjoy the presence of, I have no access to. This frees me from the need to hang out with people I do not want to be. Also, I may die at any moment. Life is short and I happen to want to derive as much joy and happiness from my short life as possible. So I have absolutely no obligation or desire to talk to people that are interested in using the already marginalized minorities in the room like a blowup doll for the end of some quasi-intellectual orgasm. (Though, if they are Stephen Harper or someone influential or whatever who can actually do something about some things, I may against all my inclination take my time to talk to him and give him my all but that’s neither here nor there, because our prime minister probably doesn’t want to talk to me.)
The only kind of real dialogue about race between someone ignorant about the racialized experience and someone who lives it is one that involves a lot of listening. It involves real honesty and an authentic desire to figure this whole mess out, to make the world we all share a more tolerable place so that we can be happier together. Just because you decide to call an interaction “a dialogue”, it doesn’t make it so. I find that it’s harder than you think to have a real dialogue. But like learning to ride a bicycle, you try it and when you fall, you pick up and then try it again.
I haven’t come up with a rulebook or anything, but I think one thing is for sure: In a real dialogue, nobody tries to use each other to claim the superiority of one’s own experience. It’s not a battle with guns and bombs thrown at each other. The desire to exploit the other doesn’t belong in it.
As a result of my lifestyle as an aggressive snitch, I sure have my share of enemies but on the other hand, I have no shortage of sane friends, and I actually think I owe that to my very conscious refusal to deal with bullshit (it didn’t come naturally to me like it does to some people and I have to sometimes fight my laziness and order myself: “You can’t let this shit continue”), how comfortable I feel in my own skin as a result, how much I love and respect myself, etc. which comes from refusing to feed interactions in which I feel like a symbol or a “point” or a prop, rather than a person. I know some people are capable of being friends with people with fucked-up politics, but I’m not. The very sight of great ignorance mixed with great arrogance makes me want to vomit. I realize that this visceral reaction to bigotry is a hardness and a flaw, but anyway my life is a blast and relatively bullshit-free and I have yet to encounter what I would consider a negative consequence of this lifestyle.
I know in the first paragraph I callously called those who play a token and an expert buttsniffers, and I sincerely apologize for that. Often I am just harsher on those that do, because I was once doing all that stuff, sometimes even actively. I am humbled again and again by how hard it is to be a good and strong person, and how bad I am at it. So I don’t want to blame those of us that sniff butts and it is no one’s responsibility to correct the wrongs except their own, but I am nonetheless angry when somebody says “well, my other Azn friend said…”
I used to respond to that with “well, your other Azn friend is a buttsniffer,” but more and more I realize that I should instead say “identifying as a racial minority doesn’t make you anti-racist, just as a white dude who is actually committed to anti-racism isn’t racist by default. And also, here you are, doing it again, treating your friend like a token and an expert.” And so I try to say that instead. I’m learning. It’s a process.