Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Place of Whiteness

You're looking at the front page of AVEN. Here, an issue of AVENues is displayed, bearing a photo from one of our San Francisco meetups. Everyone in the picture is white. Maybe this is accurate to the demographic of some areas (Ely, Minnesota perhaps), but not in the Bay Area, where stats on Wikipedia claim that white people are 58.1% of the population. Siggy's post made a similar observation. While making her documentary on asexuality, Angela asked me something along the lines of, "where are the asexuals of color?" Granted, our meetups are rarely 100% white. However, they are probably 80-90% white, which doesn't match up with the actual demographic of the Bay Area.

I was/am worried that this round of the blog carnival wouldn't contain many posts by asexuals of color. But if you consider the fact that only a tiny proportion of the ace community will participate in this blog carnival...and then think about the fact that most of the people who are currently active in the asexual community are white...that result becomes highly likely. I wasn't sure how to get around this. It's a conundrum, because while I would like to see the asexual movement become less white (by the addition of POCs, not by kicking out white people), I am coming from a place of whiteness, as are most of the people who are visible in our community. I don't want to tokenize people or try to speak to experiences that I can't understand. If certain asexuals of color don't feel comfortable with aspects of the ace community, or like it isn't speaking to them, I would probably not be the one to discern those aspects.

Maybe we need some kind of "asexual diversity task force", but of course it would be ridiculous if the group was full of white people. I strongly believe in "nothing about us, without us", a slogan from the disability rights movement. So I don't want to talk about people without them, which I feel like I'm already approaching too closely here. But, I think it's important to make this community a place where everyone can feel included and where intersectionality is widely understood. Can the asexual community more accurately reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the actual world?

One possible issue is that our reliance on the internet medium probably leads to the increased invisibility of POCs in our community. Since whiteness is seen as the "default" race (this is a crucial aspect of hegemony), people online are probably assumed to be white until stated otherwise. This is a problem since out asexuals of color are a small enough group as it is. Also, look at the characters and celebrities that are described as asexual. They're all white, aren't they? (Although an exception might be on the horizon-- some people are saying that Patterson Joseph, a black actor, might be playing the next incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor Who.) And last, but importantly, asexuals of color in media appearances are few, if they appear at all.

12 comments:

grasexuality said...

You know, for this particular blog carnival topic, I'm thinking it might be better to extend the deadline until July 1st. Everyone and their mother has some thoughts on coming out, but trying to get a more diverse racial/ethnic representation is a lot harder. Especially if you consider that some of the people one might contact to try to get them involved in the project live in different countries, and the time zone difference can make it rather difficult to set something up sometimes!

Ily said...

@grasexuality: That's a good idea. What I might do is make the round-up post on June 1st as planned, but keep hosting guest posts and adding new posts to the list as they happen.

phaseolus said...

I've been brainstorming a post for this carnival, but haven't actually gotten around to writing one.

It's really a difficult topic, because I don't have anything to compare against. I know my experience, as a "non-white" person, but I don't know that of someone from a different background. Without that knowledge, I can't tell whether my experience is different from others' experiences. I'm also male, so I don't know if my experience might be different due to my (assigned) gender.

Sure, I can read about it online, but what's real and what's fake? What's commonplace and what's rare? Is anything rare if everyone's different?

There's just a lot of factors to consider. I'm not complaining, though. I enjoy thinking about these topics. Transcribing those thoughts into electrons and magnetic particles is the hard part.

I'm also procrastinating, but that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

Let me start off with a caveat - I am just one person with one person's experiences, but as a POC who questions herself I think I have a little place to speak from.

The 'POC community' might be one of the hardest to be vocally asexual - which I think could contribute to the statistics you're seeing. I'm half-black and I've noticed that in almost every situation how people relate to each other is sexual, and primarily heterosexual at that. The idea that someone may not feel that or may be unable to relate the same way doesn't even seem to be a possibility.

I honestly wouldn't feel comfortable talking about my own confusion with any of my black friends. They're all in various stages of their own sexual exploration, but I don't think any of them would understand my own feeling of being separate from all that.

In essence, because of the visible lack of acceptance from most of the POC community towards any 'non-normative' orientations, even people who would be considered by the community to be asexual might not 1) know that that's an option for themselves or their feelings, or 2) feel comfortable coming forward to connect with others.

Ily said...

@phaseolus: I hope you'll get some comments on your post that'll help you know how similar or different your experience may be from others. You're right in that it's hard to know what exactly stems from various aspects of our identity.

@Anonymous: Thanks for sharing your observations, and that does sound like a difficult situation to be in. It's hard when people are stuck in "everyone is heterosexual" mode. And can be slow to change.

Eli said...

I'm black, but (and this is terrible) I have never ever thought about it...mattering. Every once in a while someone will mention some topic that they think I can give an answer on for the race, or some issue they're affected and angered by, and I always have to shrug. I can't decide whether I'm the luckiest girl in the world or incredibly blind. Anyway, I think I'll mull this over, and see if I can think of a blog post for you! With the huge "I've always thought race didn't matter to my life" caveat, of course.

Sciatrix said...

I for one would be very happy to see the deadline extended, because I have about half a post and my thoughts are sort of... muddled and I want to discuss it more before posting, and also this is one where I would be terrified of doing it wrong. And at the same time I want very much to contribute and make it clear how important I think this discussion is for our community to have.

And I would like to see more people contribute to this one, too.

Ily said...

@Eli: It's not terrible; it's your experience. And people shouldn't make you answer questions "for the race". That kind of thing never works out well. If you write a post, we won't assume you're representing all black people everywhere, promise :)

@Sciatrix: Yeah, I'm going to do what I mentioned above. Post the round-up today, but add more posts as they come (and when I do add more posts, I'll write a note informing people of that). I'd be happy to talk about any muddled thoughts with you! (As would, I'm sure, your readers.)

Anonymous said...

I'm Indian but I have to brainstorm a lot for this Carnival lol.

Ily said...

@Anon: Like I said, the deadline is being extended (although the rest of the carnival is still continuing as planned), so take your time :)

Scott said...

I know this is super late to be commenting, but I've wanted to comment for the longest time. I just don't know what to say.

I'm fairly new in recognizing my asexuality...maybe 6 months, and hadn't heard of it before then. But, I do know that it describes me exactly.

I'm Miccosukee (American Indian) and my work centers around indigneous issues and I feel I should have something to add and I want to add something to this disucssion. But, I'm not out as asexual to anyone and know nobody in my real life that is asexual.

I'm not even sure how my own Miccosukee culture (there is no "American Indian" culture btw) would view this. I think the biggest issue culturally would be one of balance...is an asexual person out of balance? There's no issue of balance with Two Spirits (LGBT) because there is still sex/desire/feelings, etc.

I don't even know how to process this from a cultural standpoint. I wonder if there are others out there from other American Indian communities. My community is ~600 people, so statistically I'm guessing I'm the only asexual, thought it's possible there is another/more.

Anyway, I guess the biggest issue for me is the fact that I don't know how to process it culturally...and really, who would I speak to to try?

Lurk a lot, don't think I've ever posted...thanks for your blog.

Ily said...

@Scott: I'm glad that you did post. In 600 people, there would probably be at least 6 asexuals, but it's true...the likelihood of identifying those people might be pretty low. If you wanted to write something for the carnival, maybe some other American Indians would respond?