White women inserting themselves in conversations they weren't invited, can be problematic
What a mouth full of a title, right? I wasn't sure what to even call this piece so bear with me, important things are coming. Yesterday I was in a familiar place. A place where I watched a woman in the social media sphere ask specifically for the experiences of women of color, but instead I saw a sea of white women pipping up and answering the question. They not only answered the question, essentially speaking over women of color voices, they were also actively scoffing at, and attempting to silence women of color voices in the comments.
This is something that happens quite frequently, in real life, but especially on social media. In this instance, the woman in question was asking women of color if it was appropriate to ask women of color "where they're from." Nearly every woman of color that responded said to please not ask people that because it can come across as offensive, but their voices were drowned out by white women telling this other white woman "if people get offended its their problem" and "I think it's appropriate because you're curious." Don't get me wrong, there were several white women and men that spoke up and told them absolutely not, and it wasn't their place to give this type of advice, but there were only a handful.
When the women of color, like myself spoke up in protest, we were told we were being "too sensitive." One particular person told me I "just want to feel special." It was bizarre to be told what my experiences were from people who had never walked in my shoes. It was so strange to see so many people speaking over women of color who were saying the exact opposite of what they were deeming appropriate. But what was even more strange is that it wasn't strange that they answered a question specifically asked to women of color.
The most staunch offenders were white women who had Black or biracial children, not because they were commenting more frequently, but because they used their proximity to Blackness to speak in a space that wasn't for them, and felt justified and angry when called out. "I answered because I have Black kids, so I know" they said. "My husband is Black," they typed. "My kids are half Mexican, I know their experiences and they don't mind," they surmised. One after one, I saw not only white women insert themselves, but white women who have close proximity to people of color inject themselves in a conversation to provide inappropriate advice because they assumed they understood the experience of people of color due to their closeness to it.
Your proximity to people of color does not make you an expert on the experience. Ever. You cannot know what it's like to live as a person of color in America, because you are not a person of color in America. You cannot give advice in the affirmative to something that wasn't asked of you. Silencing and speaking over people of color in a conversation that wasn't meant for you is problematic. It's problematic, not just because of the silencing, but because of the actual damage you are doing to others in your desire to be heard.
When you give advice from a place of your experience as a white woman in the world as the expert on the experience of people of color, you're likely steering the white folks attempting to learn in the wrong direction. In my experience, this is often the case. A chorus of white people exclaiming something isn't problematic, while ignoring the people of color who are shouting back that it is, is only continuing the circular history with racism and micro-aggressions. When it comes to conversations that were specifically started as a call for answers from people of color, if you don't fit the bill, it's best to sit it out. It's also a good time to read the comments in an effort to understand what folks of color are saying to evaluate how your opinion may differ, then reflect.
Love y'all like cake,