[Note: this began as a comment to Scribe’s excellent Gender and power diary. It grew too big, hence my first post-DailyPie diary:]

Race and power. That was the first {‘X’ + Power = Fucked-up} equation I experienced on a personal level. It was an unexpected and extremely uncomfortable time, but I emerged with an understanding that couldn’t have happened if the women I encountered had responded “nicely” to sweet white liberal fuckheaded me.

I was a left-wing radical lesbian (because in those days one didn’t sleep with the enemy) feminist; white? yes; upper-middle-class? yes, but like so many others in the late 70’s to early 80’s, I assumed that downward mobility was all I needed to claim membership in the working class.

Like many of the cocky (pun intended) people at DailyPies, I was young, brilliant, and educated, and I thought my intentions were every bit as worthy as my words and deeds. I probably thought I was god’s-gift-to-the-oppressed-and-downtrodden, to be honest, and I sure as hell knew how to speak truth to power. What I didn’t realize until much later is that I had absolutely no idea how to interact with the powerless in any context other than ‘helping’ them.

I think I get a pretty accurate glimpse of how arrogant, ignorant, offensive, and damaging-to-the-overall-cause I was when I look at the recent behavior of Mr. MyPie himself.

Fortunately for me, women in the local Women of Color Collective saw right through my ignorance and called me on it. It turned out my intentions weren’t enough to win their gratitude(!), but they shared their wisdom with me nonetheless. Here is what I learned. I carry it with me to this day as a gift, given by amazing, wise, and kind-enough-to-kick-my-butt women. It plugs into every {X + Power = Fucked-up} equation I have ever encountered:

“Don’t EVER ask the oppressed to educate the oppressor. That is Off Our Backs! You want to know what we find offensive about your (fill in the blank: attitude, remarks, policy, pie ad, etc…)? Go educate yourself! Read what our (race, sexuality, class, gender) has written. Form a study group with other oppressors. You say your intentions aren’t oppressive so why don’t we give you a pass? You say you didn’t mean to provoke an angry response, so couldn’t we just lighten up? You ask, ‘aren’t we all really on the same side? Shouldn’t we stay focused on the bigger [hence more important] fight for (fill in the larger cause: women’s rights, democracy, economic justice)?’

“Nice try. Of course we have to fight for (blank). BUT. Listen. This is PART OF the fight for (blank). How? Come closer. If we’re going to fight it together you need to hear this and hear it good, and you need to understand it and teach the others to understand it and if they screw up it needs to be YOU who calls them on it BECAUSE we can’t go into battle with you if we have to watch our backs:

“If a Black woman tells you she’s offended, you HAVE TO BELIEVE HER. Are you a Black woman? No. YOU will NEVER be a Black woman, therefore YOU will NEVER be in a POSITION to ASSESS the RIGHTEOUSNESS or LEGITIMACY of her RESPONSE to you. Never. Period.

“You only get further into the oppressor’s role by insisting the offended person explain what was offensive and why. Get off our backs! The information that offense has been taken is ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM US. To demand an explanation just makes it that much clearer you hold yourself out as the arbiter another person’s experience, an experience that by definition you will never have.

“That’s like saying, ‘yeah, i kicked you, but i don’t see a bruise so you must be over sensitive. if you want me to stop kicking you you’ll have to bring me a goddamned x-ray. y’know, you’re really starting to piss me off with all this moaning and carrying on. cantcha just shut up about this supposed pain? you – YOU – are hurting the larger cause by being such a big baby. buck up and stop whining. Have some PIE, for cryin’ out loud.'”

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