tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Because I'm a glutton for punishment

I sent an email to the mods of that community, because they say they are approachable.


I've been mulling over this for a few days and I think I've come to a point where I can approach this issue without anger. I remember reading in a recent post that the mods of ontd_feminsim are approachable, so now I'm approaching you regarding the post about American privilege. I have two issues with the way things went in that post.

The first is to do with the way POC in that post were dismissing (or so it seemed to me) the idea that simply being from the US affords privilege. The argument was based around the point on the list that says "Assuming your cultural norms are universal.", and the fact that cultural norms are not universal within the US. As POC, those people's experience of cultural norms is very different from that of white people, and the commentors felt that this discrimination excludes them from the group that has American privilege.

My problem with this argument is that it's the same argument many privileged people use to deny their privilege - a person with white privilege does not get a 'get out of jail free' card on that privilege because of socioeconomic disadvantage or discrimination from other groups of white people, and a man does not get to deny his male privilege on grounds of race. A male POC may not have white privilege but he still has male privilege and he would never get away with denying that. So I don't see why American POC get to deny having American privilege based on the fact that they don't have white privilege, because they are not the same thing.

The second issue is with the way I was treated in the thread that culminated in a mod warning. The warning stemmed from my use of a Maori word in common NZ use as an example of the way in which expected knowledge of US culture and terminology is not reciprocated, and a reference to imprisonment of Maori men as another. This was considered to be appropriation and I was warned for it.

I understand that in the US model of race relations, such use would be appropriation. However, New Zealand is not the US - biculturalism is mandated here under the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori is an official language, all children learn te reo and some tikanga in school, and aspects of Maori culture are a part of civic life by law. A person cannot grow up in New Zealand without Maori culture becoming part of who they are. Don't get me wrong, white privilege exists here as it does everywhere else, but there's a big difference between government-mandated biculturalism and appropriation. Being white here does not exclude a person from attending Maori-run schools (kohanga reo), almost everyone has spent time on marae, and knowledge of and participation in Maori cultural activities such as powhiri are expected as part of New Zealand life. By the way, I'm using Maori words here so that anyone who's interested can look these things up.

So what happened in that thread was that people imposed the US model of race relations on me with no knowledge of the way things are in my culture. At one point there was even an American telling me that I was wrong about how things are here because their friend in Australia says.. at which point I stopped listening. Australia is 4 hours in a plane away across an ocean, yet this person felt that their friend's experience in their own country had more clout with regard to New Zealand culture than my own which is based here, and that gave them as a US citizen the right to tell me I was wrong about my own culture.

I can understand that people who are accustomed to seeing the use of indigenous language by white people as appropriation would take offence to my use of Maori words. But aren't we supposed to educate ourselves before making judgements? And to see WOC in that thread using the American privilege they were so vehemently denying they had, to act as if US cultural norms for race relations are universal, to then impose those norms on me in a thread where I was trying to express the way in which NZ is affected by that privilege, was.. I don't even have a word for how that felt. The fact that three of the people doing that were moderators of the community, and that one gave me an official warning for expressing my culture because it doesn't fit the US norm for race relations, caused me to withdraw from the community because I felt completely silenced by the very privilege I was attempting to speak against.

I am writing this in the hope that it will help with understanding how that thread became so heated, and why I did not just sit down and shut up when people started to tell me my experience was not valid. And at risk of sounding like a wanker, I really think some of the people who spoke in that thread need to take a look at the way in which being from the US does privilege them, and learn to accept that with grace the way the rest of us are expected to.

I have no expectation of a reply to this, I just felt I had to say my piece now I've calmed down enough to make it relatively coherent.

Cheers, Wendy"

Sorry Happy, I just couldn't pull out 'acerbic and witty' for this. ;-/

I am fully expecting to get told I'm wrong and to sit down and shut up again.

This in lieu of actual content. I had a nice, relaxed weekend hanging out with Dr Wheel. I also nearly finished the main part of the weaving that will become my first made article. I'm almost done knitting because I'm almost out of usable wool. Whatever shall I do next?

There will be pics when the bag's done. At the moment it's still fabric on the loom.
Tags: bored with this yet?, more ranting, yes i've been stewing
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