Wednesday, July 27, 2016

IOU one IUD: Demanding Reproductive Justice

Photo Cred: Diego Delso Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA-4.0

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes, 9 seconds.

Dr.- Okay And, what's going on with the Mirena that you're concerned about?

Clair- So, um I've had it for about three years

D- Right

C- And after not having a period-

D- Right

C- for most of those three years-

D- Yeah

C- last month I got a period.

D- Okay

C- and Not spotting, it was like a-

D- Okay.

C- full period.

D- Okay, yup

C- So, I was concerned that perhaps the hormones in the IUD had begun to wear off.

D- Uh-huh. Right.

C- Um, so, I wanted to replace it with a different IUD. Um, before I was thinking about just changing it to the new Mirena. But I would prefer to get the Skyla-

D- Now, now why do you think it's not working? Or why do you- Just because you got your period?

C- Um, I think I was just worried about that possibility.

D- Yeah, right right right.

C- And because it had been three years, I mean, I know they're technically good for five-

D- They're good for 7 actually. I mean, we tell people change them at five, but they can last up to seven years.

C- Right, so I guess that was my only concern.

D- Right. It's working as well today as it was when you had it first put in for contraception.

C-Well, I don't know if I'm pregnant yet, but...

D- Yeah

C- Um, I mean that- it's just a concern,

D- Yeah

C- is that if I were to become pregnant with an IUD, which I know is a possibility that that would- that would be-

D- Right, but it's no more of a possibility today than it would have been when you had it put in.

Friend- Did you tell him about the strings though?

C- Oh, I also don't have a string. So um, the nurse practitioner yesterday said that we should do, a ultrasound.

D- That's right.

C- So that we could see whether or not it was actually still in.

D- That's true, absolutely. So did she order that?

C- I have no idea. She said that-

D- Well, no you would have scheduled it if she ordered it. Right?

C- Okay, I guess so.

D- Yeah. So she didn't order that.

C- I guess not.

D- [chuckles] Okay, it would've been helpful if she had ordered that because you would've been all set at least to make sure the IUD is still in place.

C- She called me yesterday about it.

D- At least to see about why you're not getting your period- why you're getting your period.

C- Yeah, she called me yesterday at like maybe 4 o'clock so perhaps it was just too late for her to schedule it or too close. But I'm more than happy to schedule-

D- Well, she examined you right?

C- No, she called me over the phone. Um-

D- Well, how does she know the string wasn't there? You- 'cause you told her that?

C- I can't remember what it was, yeah-

F- Yes, she did.

D- Oh, so it's not that she examined you and said "I don't see the string", you just can't feel the string.

C- Yeah, that's corr-

D- Okay, alright. Okay. So, we can check for the string and see if I see it. I don't know if I will or not.

C- Okay.

D- If we don't see it then we'll get you an ultrasound to see that the IUD is still there.

C- Mm hmm.

D- I mean, that's a valid concern.

C- Mm hmm.

D- But if the IUD is there, then it's working fine. There's no reason to replace it with the same IUD essentially. I mean the Skyla is just a smaller vers- slightly smaller version of Mirena.

C- Mm hmm.

D- It's only good for three years.

C- Mm hmm.

D- The amount of progesterone in your bloodstream is pretty similar maybe a little bit less.

C- Mm hmm.

D- In fact, if you have a little bit less progesterone in your bloodstream now because that IUD is three years old, it's gonna be equal- the amount of progesterone you have in your bloodstream from the new skyla versus a three year old Mirena. It'll prolly be about the same.

C- Yeah

D- So, y'know, it won't make any difference.

C- Okay.

D- And then the Skyla will only last for three more years. So if you have this Mirena that's still there, you get two more years on Mirena.

C- Mm hmm.

D- You only get one more year after getting a new Skyla. I mean it doesn't make any sense.
Now if you didn't like the Mirena because of some hormonal side effect, then I can replace it with a copper IUD. That would make sense.

C- Um, I have had a copper IUD.

D- Okay.

C- I had it for a year. It gave me really heavy and very painful periods.

D- Okay yeah.

C- I was bleeding a matter of ounces.

D- Right.

C- Because I had- I have a [menstrual] cup so I was able to measure how much flow there was.

D- Uh huh.

C- So, I would prefer not to go back to that. The Mirena has been fine, um. I spoke with my husband about our reproductive choices-

D- Sure, sure.

C- and when we would like to have children.

D- Right.

C- I'm 26 now, we just got married and at 29 we're talking about having kids

D- Okay.

C- So, the three year mark is actually kind of when we're talking about having children anyway.

D- Right.

C- So I think that that was part of the reason why I was okay with getting an IUD that will expire in three years because I'll be planning to remove it at that point anyway.
The lower dose hormone- I understand that it is supposed to be a negligible difference. However, I also know that the Skyla is supposed to, in theory, have your periods come back, or that there's a less of a chance that you will not have a period.

D- Right

C- So, that difference being noted. I think that the hormones in the Mirena um, because I have mood disorders I am sort of trying to selectively take out anything that could be making that worse and I think that potentially getting a lower dose, um-

D- It won't end up being a lower dose in your bloodstream though.

C- Okay.

D- It'll end up being about the same.

C- Is there a reason, given all of the context that I'm trying to portray now, is there a reason why I cannot be given the Skyla?

D- There's not a reason, but it's actually a waste of resources. I mean, you have an IUD that's perfectly good and you're gonna take it out and replace it with a very similar IUD. For no good, really really good solid reason. So it's kind of a waste of reproductive resources. Of contraceptive resources.

C- Okay.

D- That's the way I look at it. So... I mean, I'll do it, but I'm not excited about it. I'm not happy about it because it's a waste...If there's a medical reason, then that makes sense. But I don't really, I'm not hearing a strong medical reason

C- Okay.

D- But, that being said, I mean, I'll do it, but I'm not- I'm not happy about it.

F- Can I ask a question?

D- Yes.

F- Just out of curiosity. So, if Clair's plan was to think about having children in three years, and she kept the Mirena in, then would you suggest she get a new IUD put in for one year and then removed?

D- You could do that, or you could actually- it's good for seven- so if you told me I was gonna get- you wanna be pregnant let's say in say three years, you could leave it in for an extra year.

F- Okay.

D- It'd be fine. As long as you were definitely planning on that.

C- Okay.

D- But...I'm not gonna y'know I'm not arguing with you. I mean, I'll do it if you want me to.

C- Um, I don't wanna make you do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Um, I think that's unfair to both of us. Is there a different practitioner in the office who might be amenable to the procedure?

D- Um, you could make an appointment with them and they may be.

C- Okay.

D- Absolutely, yeah. That's fine.
While you're here- I mean, it's no hard feelings I'm not- Do you want me to check and see if I can see the string?

C- That's probably a good idea.

D- Yeah, I think it is a good idea. since you end up...If I don't see the string, then we should order an ultrasound and check it out. Okay?

C- Sure.

v   v   v   

The day before this appointment, I received a call from YOUR nurse practitioner. She said "the doctor [which I can only presume means you] had some concerns about why you wanted to change from the Mirena to the Skyla."
I explained that my period had returned and she said that was a valid reason, and that you could likely give me a new Mirena, but not the Skyla. I also mentioned that I do not have a visible string, which was confirmed by my old gynecologist. But that was about three years ago, so I forgot that detail while you were grilling me in our patient-doctor consultation.

I told my husband and two female friends about this call. All three of us who are women found this to be odd, but my husband quickly replied "brand loyalty. I guarantee when you go in there, they'll have Mirena propaganda all over the office". I was stunned by my own naivete but sadly less stunned when I walked into your office and found he was right [about the propaganda anyway].

I understand now that Mirena, Skyla, and another BC, Essure, are all produced by the company Bayer. I expect my friends with an intimate understanding of the health care system will have something to say on this point, but for now, it looks like we can rule out brand loyalty.

My reasons for wanting a new IUD:

(Are not really your business, but I'll humor you anyway)

I want one.

It's not really your place to tell me that my request is a waste. Especially when admittedly, you don't have a good reason *not* to give me a replacement. You are speculating that this IUD is working the same as it was the day I got it. I have to trust the IUD because that's why I got it, of course. But I sure as hell don't need to trust my reproductive health to someone who bases his analysis of my choice on projected, estimated numbers rather than facts. Being pregnant calls for something a little more serious than "guestimates" and I really don't care if I'm being paranoid because I'd rather be paranoid than pregnant. Plus, pregnancy is a HUGE "waste" of resources, if you really wanna talk about that.

I have clinical depression.

I am desperate to improve my mood in whatever way I can. I am in therapy and on medication, and that isn't helping. My therapist suggested that perhaps the hormones in the IUD are making it more difficult to control my mood (albeit slightly). This is why I want to try an IUD which is marketed as a lower hormone dose than the Mirena.

I'm moving.

I am moving back to Missouri which, if you haven't heard, isn't quite as progressive on providing reproductive care to women as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
I will soon not have insurance and would like to get a new IUD at this time so I can have 3-5 years of coverage on a new IUD instead of keeping one which I got before I even worked at the job where I am now.
Speaking of which, you seem really sure that the Mirena is good for seven years (even though the manufacturer recommends patients take it out after five) so why doesn't any "extra time" apply to Skyla?

Since you seem to think the difference in hormones is so negligible, wouldn't it follow that the Skyla can also be used beyond its recommended date of three years and perhaps even be kept for five? If, by your logic, I can keep the IUD in for longer than recommended, then couldn't I get more than one additional year of protection from the Skyla?

The Skyla would give me three years of the recommended level of coverage for contraception, whereas the Mirena (if it's going to last until I want kids) would have to be in for one "lottery year" in which its effectiveness very well may be minimized. Though you seem comfortable with this, it's not a gamble I'm willing to take, thanks.

Which brings me to my next point...

I want to be pregnant in the next three years (but not before then)

Since I am hoping to get a new IUD soon, but I plan to have kids within the next five years, I didn't want to get another Mirena and "waste" a device that would be good for much longer than I needed it. Hence the request for a 3yr Skyla.
I really do try to be mindful of consumption, so it's not really helpful to have you try to patronize me out of getting a new device.

I don't have a string.

This isn't a huge issue on it's own, but I will say that it isn't ideal that I can't do string checks to make sure my IUD is still properly in place. Now, every time I have any kind of issue, you all order an ultrasound. I had one last year at your office because you couldn't find my string and now I'm having another one. I'm taking up an appointment slot, taking time off of work, using up the technician's time, and then using even more of it while they analyze the results.
Again, I feel *that* is a real waste of resources which might be resolved by having a properly placed, monitorable IUD with a string.

Photo Source

Now, before this turns into a huge back-and-forth like that woman who wanted a neck tattoo and the artist who refused her, it should be noted that, although there is an art to medicine, my ability to avoid pregnancy and to do it in the way which I feel is most beneficial to me and my body is not about me commissioning an artist, it's about protecting my reproductive health and safety.
If he doesn't want to take into consideration that a person's health should be paramount to whether or not a piece of plastic has completely reached its expiration date, then I question his right to serve in his current position.

That's probably what bothers me most; he is doing this to other patients. There are patients who have less experience, who are perhaps less informed, or who are simply intimidated by questioning a doctor (and perhaps particularly a male doctor) who may have left feeling belittled and disempowered by this practitioner, and that infuriates me.

And it's not just this guy. This is happening in OB/GYN offices all over the place. I know this firstly because I've experienced this attitude in many different offices, but also because I spoke with two women who are a little older than I am and who subsequently have more experience than I could have with these kinds of doctors. Neither of them seemed surprised by his terrible bedside manner, nor his disdain for my request. In fact, they both seemed to see this as standard practice, "Oh, yeah. As much as it sucks, they're not gonna replace your IUD unless something is really wrong with it".
In part, I see the validity of that argument. My IUD hasn't punctured my uterus, it hasn't completely come out of my body, it hasn't caused an ectopic pregnancy, so there's no urgent need to get that thing out of there. Sure. But why does it have to be the case that the only time my uterus' needs are given credence by doctors is when I'm dying or hemorrhaging? Why is it that preventative care for women's health is only allowable when doctors (or men in general) find it appropriate?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Guest Post: On Disability and the Violence Against Rinaldo and Charles Kinsey

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 57 seconds.
cw: discussion of police violence, violence against disabled people, ableism (and disclaimer: autism is a spectrum. not all autistic folks are cognitively disabled.)

i'm sorry i keep posting about this. i can't sleep. i keep crying and i need to talk about it. i'm really struggling with this ‪#‎CharlesKinsey‬ video and the implications of it. i shouldn't have watched it, but the autistic man Kinsey was taking care of is so similar to my brother in size, physicality & mannerisms, and his diagnosis. my brother is nonverbal, cognitively disabled, and autistic. my brother does not use sign language. he doesn't type. he doesn't really use PECS. his communication all happens through his body, not language. he is very, very big. i've seen him handcuffed. i've seen him followed by hospital security. i've seen nurses struggle to help him and run from the room crying because they're so uncomfortable with him. i've seen him restrained. it's all extremely terrifying and hard for me to talk about, but nobody else talks about it, so here i go.

if you don't know, a significantly cognitively disabled autistic 23-year-old man named Rinaldo walked away from his group home and was in the street. he was playing with a toy truck, probably moving in a way that is different from normative bodies (possibly hand flapping, jumping, making sounds that aren't words, running or walking erratically). a "concerned neighbor" saw him and called the police, saying there was a man brandishing a gun and threatening to kill himself.

police came & luckily a caretaker from Rinaldo's home was there to explain-- Charles Kinsey, a black man. Still, despite laying on the ground with his arms up and miraculously keeping Rinaldo calm and collected, Kinsey got shot at 3 times by a police officer and was struck in the leg.

but i am so, so, SO thankful Charles Kinsey was there (and lived through it), because it's entirely possible Rinaldo would be dead otherwise given that he was pretty upset. something i really hope doesn't get erased in this discussion, something people who insist "‪#‎alllivesmatter‬" should address. up to half of all police killings happen to disabled folks. the reality is, someone like my brother, someone like Rinaldo, has a life expectancy of 40 years. people ask 'where are all the old autistic people' like it's proof that vaccines or pollution cause autism, but the reality is, having a significant cognitive disability drastically reduces their life expectancy. they will probably not die from old age but due to lack of resources for these folks when they're adults (especially after their parents pass away), poor treatment in the healthcare industry, and violence at the hands of law enforcement.

here's what i need people to know. what i don't really talk about because it's so hard for me, it breaks my heart, i can't even type this without getting my stupid keyboard all wet and snotty.

i love my brother but it took me until my mid-twenties and being challenged at a lot of angles by remarkably patient parents, friends, professors, and folks online to acknowledge i wasn't viewing him the same way i view people who can communicate and express their agency and identity through language. i felt sorry for him. i didn't know how to bond with him for most of my life. i resented him. i bought into the "autism is so sad" shit. i think about it now and i am so ashamed of myself, and the lengths i went to deny it even in my own head. i say this to be transparent and as a disclaimer for why i'm not putting up with anybody's "the only disability in life is a bad attitude" bullshit.

i don't always use the right terms and i know people disagree with the use of 'cognitively disabled' but it's the
term i'm choosing right now. i mess up the labels. i understand that-- both of my brothers and my dad are autistic, all with different abilities and disabilities, and the two who are verbal don't agree on cure rhetoric or labeling language. i'm saying that to acknowledge the conversation is complex & often painful for autistic people.

but people ask me questions like, "who would want to have sex with someone like that" when i talk about the prevalence of sexual abuse against people like my brother, people like Rinaldo.

and people ask me, "do you ever wish your brother had been aborted?"

i need nearly everybody i know to acknowledge: you don't see cognitively disabled people, and if you do, you don't see their lives as holding the same value as a person who isn't disabled. you don't recognize their agency. you don't advocate for them in your intersectional work. you are uncomfortable with the deviant ways they behave or express themselves. you feel sorry for them, you imagine your mind locked in a body like that, unable to escape, refusing to acknowledge that a mind that works differently than yours is still a good, loved, worthy mind. you avert your eyes on the VERY rare occasion that you see a nonverbal cognitively disabled person in public. at best, your share inspirational stories in which a cognitively disabled person isn't being treated like shit and you say "wow, this person is a hero." and yeah, sometimes seeing a healthy and happy cognitively disabled person who isn't the victim of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse is enough for me to tear up because nine times out of ten that's what i'm reading in the paper but that shouldn't be the norm.

it's really easy for people to deny my brother's humanity because people like my brother are completely erased from social and political spheres. he exists in his home and in his special school, safely tucked away from the neurotypical kids. his body is not welcome in public. his disability is not welcome in public. he makes people uncomfortable. he disrupts standard or "acceptable" communicative behaviors. he screams sometimes. he jumps around. he runs off. he makes strange faces. he doesn't always listen when you say "stop" and he definitely would not understand a police officer's command to get down, or to drop something like his favorite toy guitar, or to put his hands up.

but i want to be very, very clear.

my brother isn't seen in public spaces because *we* make them inaccessible.

but guess what? it isn't my brother's responsibility to adhere to acceptable social norms. it isn't. *you* need to get over the discomfort you feel when you encounter a life who experiences and processes the world differently from you.

it isn't my brother's responsibility to not jump or stim so he can stay in a hotel. it isn't his responsibility to walk in straight line and keep his voice down. it isn't his responsibility to eat with a fucking fork so YOU don't feel weirded out. my own brother and dad couldn't come to my wedding because airplanes and significant cognitive disabilities are a fucking death sentence.

people love to give my parents advice about the right ways to advocate for and take care of my brother, but my brother's experience is unique and the reality is, *his life is ALWAYS in danger because ablebodied people do not see cognitively disabled people.*

there is no media representation, and on the rare occasion there is, it's extremely problematic. friends of mine still say 'retard' and 'fucktard' and 'hurr durr' and jokingly diagnose people with autism. there is limited legal protection for him. there is hardly any police training for dealing with significant cognitive disabilities. very little acknowledgement in even the most critical spaces. even within the neurodiverse movement, these conversations are seldom had. i'm completely sick of it. my brother's life is in danger, his life expectancy is less than half of yours, because we don't want to talk about or acknowledge him-- and it's easy as hell, because my brother is never going to tweet, use a hashtag, post about his experience on facebook. his narrative isn't one we share with each other online or include in our academic scholarship.

so. please consider this. when you see a man playing with a toy truck in the road and his body moves differently than you're used to seeing, ask yourself, is it possible this person is disabled? am i wearing my FUCKING GLASSES? would calling the police on this person actually be helpful? would telling the police this man is threatening suicide when he obviously isn't be at all helpful?

again, THANK GOD Charles Kinsey was there and able to keep Rinaldo calm. If it was my brother, it's entirely possible he would have stood up and run and been shot without question.

i can't be quiet about this. i know this kind of stuff pisses off some of my autistic friends who want caretakers and family to stay the hell out of it & not acknowledge the "severity" of some folks (& i do take issue with that language, but the spectrum is not a monolithic experience) in comparison to neurotypical people, but again, 1) you don't know my diagnosis or mental health situation, and 2) if nobody is advocating for and acknowledging Rinaldo (or my brother) in this discussion, we're failing some of our most vulnerable people who are condemned to live on the margins because we don't know how to talk about or to them. and i'm not going to be quiet about it.

don't call police on disabled people. don't call police period, unless there is an imminent threat to you. you could get somebody killed.

[Some names changed or removed for anonymity]

Saturday, July 16, 2016

By No Means: Avoiding Insidious Racism

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 3 seconds.


My husband and I spend a lot of time talking about race and how it affects us both. He, a haitian american and visibly black. I, a white-passing woman from ten minutes outside of Ferguson, MO.

When it first happened- when the media and white America first decided it happened- I was already living in Boston, watching wide eyed as news reports and tweets and status updates flooded my timelines and my thoughts with stories of the injustice.

An armed cop, an unarmed, black, young man. Six bullets, and more than four hours on the scalding asphalt of the road underneath them.

When I say I watched everything, I do mean that literally.
I was in-between jobs at the time, and had taken two weeks off to "relax, reset, recharge". I had no idea I'd spend my free time during that period scrutinizing every news report I could find for inconsistencies and prejudicial language, for character assassination peppering each broadcast. I even recorded some of the more important broadcasts on my phone so that if Facebook deleted it, I could repost and ensure the truth was known. 
I was monitoring TV like the FCC and I frequently stayed awake for hours into the night because I wanted to be sure I was up to date on all the newest information. Since I couldn't march with my friends and community in Ferguson, I took this on as my "work" to make sure the truth could be told, even if it was horrific.

I ache to be there and I fear for the people who are.


Dousing myself in gruesome information and others' emotions, I am able to avoid processing much of the shock, helplessness, anxiety, and confusion I feel. Survival; whatever works.
I watch helplessly as my already racially segregated city has its frail bonds torn apart by ideology and tear gas. Stores are (infamously) looted. A QuickTrip gas station associated with the event in August is completely torched.
My white cousin posts messages via Facebook confirming that her husband (who works at QuickTrip) is safe and has made it home unscathed by the chaos from those protests.

The police respond by bringing in forces decked in riot gear and line local streets with armored cars.
My friends post Black Lives Matter articles and upcoming events with calls to action and opportunities for peaceful resistance. They post pictures of themselves with their hands up, shouting "Don't shoot!"
The same day, another white cousin posts a picture of a sign on a browning Missouri lawn saying "You Loot; I shoot!". They don't realize they are talking to me.

Growing up, my father was obsessed with history, especially the civil war. In all of the many documentaries I sat through with him, distinctly I remember each made note of how the war pitted brother against brother as one would choose the Confederacy over the Union or vice versa. I always wondered how that could be, how values could vary so wildly within one home. Unfortunately, I became intimately aware of this process of division after it smothered my once-close relationship with my white sister.


I start my new job where I am one of two "people of color", and one could argue we are both white-passing. Apparently I don't pass as well as I think because my boss and then-CEO seems to be on a personal witch hunt to figure out "what" I am, as he asks me about this on multiple occasions.

I walk past one of the three T.V.'s in the lobby, all vividly flashing with images and scrolling banners regarding a potential indictment, over to my desk where one of the senior partners is speaking with aforementioned CEO about the case: "What was he supposed to do? I mean, he charged at him like some kind of monster."
I clack away on my keyboard pretending not to hear them, an eyebrow raise sneaking its way onto my face.

After work, I facilitate weekly meetings for women of color in Boston. I also spend about seven hours a week reading for and facilitating a three hour class for women called "Femsex". The long hours start to wear on me and my partner expresses concern about me taking on too much

Months later, after we all realized the indictment had never had any potential at all, protesters flood the streets, cardboard signs the only things discernable in the sea of people visible from the TV station helicopters.
Another secretary ponders loudly to us all: "Why are they even protesting?"
"I think they're protesting about the police" another replies.
"Well, I think it's dumb. I just don't see why they need to protest."
I look at my computer screen and try to unforrow my brow and unpurse my lips- let my mouth be as loose and careless as that of my colleague.

I quit.

I pull out of all activities, even the ones I care about. I quit facilitating first, then quit my job, then Femsex ends (as it's 16 weeks long).

I take nearly three weeks off this time, so fatigued from the long work days and the silent, but mutual disdain that had hung between myself and the other secretaries by the end of my tenure there.
This time happens to fall over Christmas break and I spend most it trying to quiet my guilt about my new inability to peel myself out of my bed, or even leave my apartment.


Two months after the non-indictment, protesters chained themselves to concrete barrels spanning across a major highway in Boston, blocking traffic for miles.
I'm sitting in a work-related onboarding meeting and my new supervisor is late.
The administrator facilitating the meeting asks us to forgive the lateness of our boss as she's stuck in traffic due to "the protest".
Another new employee asks quizzically, "What are they protesting?". 
It is nearly six months since the demonstrations first started.

Countless videos and news of further police injustice have surfaced during this time as well. Men who can't breathe, men shopping at Walmart, boys with toy guns, women with broken tail lights. They all have two things in common: they are black and they are dead.

The thought that Bryant is vulnerable to these same types of injustices lies as quietly as alligator eyes, just under the surface of my reality. So to combat the threat of a nervous breakdown, I love him even more fiercely, more publicly. 
"He is loved and he is a person!"
Yet the fact remains: his personhood could be violated in public and by a public servant at any time, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

The only thing dangerous about my husband is that killer smile. 

How could anyone see him as a legitimate threat? 
Powerful, yes, but dangerous?
But powerful black men have always been marked "dangerous".


My mother (who is white) called me last night to apologize. She was sorry that as a white-passing black woman, I have to carry this weight- the grief for those we had lost, the anxiety and fear for those still alive in our community.
She apologized for not calling sooner because she didn’t know what to say.
And then she apologized because I look so much like her.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Segregation Vs. Congregation

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 43 seconds.

"What you experience is not just in your head; 

I experience it too".

The following is an exchange between a white friend of mine who genuinely wanted an answer to the question of why some spaces are billed as being exclusive to one race or another. I answered her question and she thought it was helpful, so I'm posting here:

Q: I realize this question may seem naive/ignorant... But why can't we all support each other instead of just those that are our race? Shouldn't a support group/protest/rally/vigil be open to all of those who have been touched by the event and/or movement? I'm literally asking because I'm a middle class white girl who desperately wants to understand and help promote change and acceptance and I don't know how.

A: [...]some other groups of people of color have a history of colorism and discrimination against the darker skinned members of any community/black people in general.
Having a space be exclusive to black people is a rare opportunity for people who look like one another and share many of the same grievances to get together and validate one another's feelings by saying, "What you experience is not just in your head; I experience it too". In that moment, not having to explain racial dynamics allows more space and time in the discussion for personal healing from racial trauma, or organizing or any other action the group wants to work on efficiently.
This can cause a derailment of the healing process in the conversation and again shifts the work onto the people of color to convince their white counterparts that they are, in fact, experiencing systematic oppression rather than "unfortunate" isolated incidents.

Also, these discussions often inherently rely on principals of understanding different layers of privilege (wealth, class, race, gender, etc), some of which white people are not fully prepared to accept for a multitude of reasons.

Tl;dr- Allowing other groups of people, especially white people, into POC spaces creates more emotional work for brown people and detracts from the precious little time they have to discuss these matters in the first place.