Once again, I’m in the midst of a busy week. I’m pretty sure I can start all my blogs with that sentence! I’ve been meaning to blog for days but just haven’t found the time. I’ve been prompted by an article I read yesterday which I sent to Ghanainan Friend (thanks for the blog title, btw!). I knew it would be right up her street, being a pro-Black, pro-women no-nonsense kinda gal. She sent me a squealy email message this morning IN CAPITALS, (such was her excitement and identification with the words in the piece) saying;
“Surely this is blog material??’
So I’ll share it with you. The piece was written by Kim Foster who is the Founder and Editor of For Harriet, a on-line magazine with the tagline ‘celebrating the fullness of black womanhood’.
Note that the italics in that sentence are directly from the tagline and not myself.
The piece is called On the Politics of Inclusion and Protecting the Sanctity of Black Women’s Spaces; already a provocative title. I have been enjoying For Harriet. Although it is written from the African-American perspective, many of the articles resonate, as a woman and as a Black woman. I love the humour that I find in some of the articles and they are frequently a discussion piece with one friend of the other.
So. A couple of things sprang to mind when I read and reread this article. Firstly, in starting this blog, I am in my own way fighting to reclaim my space. A space that is sometimes unfamiliar and partially obscured due to the history of my ancestors. It resonated because I took a while to start this blog even though my journey started a while ago. The reasons for the procrastination are many but probably the most significant one was the concern with how others (and by others I mean non-Black friends and colleagues) will perceive what I write and what I say. I could say more but this extract says it all;
When we create movements, sites or spaces or choose to have these discussions, we’re pursuing a project to throw off centuries of baggage that have been heaped on our shoulders. We are reclaiming and refashioning our identities in our own terms. We have to do this work because we are living in a society that tells us we are not enough. That we should be silent and ashamed. It’s just not in our best interest of black women to pat the well-intentioned on the back and pretend like all of our issues are the same.
My interpretation is that Kim is responding to those who feel that the issues represented in For Harriet are not exclusive to Black women and therefore minimise that experience by claiming that is it universal. And then there are those who feel that they can relate because they understand the issues, often taking a ‘seat at the table’ when one hasn’t even been offered.
Our experiences are not the same. And whilst I welcome robust and vigorous debate, I also reserve the right to speak out on issues that are exclusive to me without having to justify or appease others. And no matter how ‘down’ you are, please do not equate that with first-hand experience. Not only is that offensive, it also becomes part of a system that seeks to silence or minimise more relevant voices.
So the decision I made was to write firstly and foremost for myself, as this is about my personal journey. Along the way, I may cause offence and will cross that bridge when I come to it.
Which brings me neatly on to the other thing that sprang to mind. The politics of inclusion are also the politics of exclusion. And this is a tricky area. When you are claiming exclusive rights to your experience as……(fill in the blank), what happens when YOU are the person being excluded??
Well, I think that depends of the context and the reasons for that exclusion. And that is so much of what this is (some of which comes under the banner of intersectionality) is about context.
More on this in my next blog.