Revisiting the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program & Safety

Now I still fully support the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program (WBEOU) and am not turning in Y-Chromosome Reserve card but I was remiss in not analyzing the intersections in this program and how they could affect me if it were not women run and focused and how it can still affect me even being women run and focused.  

Let’s put forth a scenario, now most SF cons are very white. Even at WisCon (which I love, don’t get me wrong) among about 1,000 attendees approx. 50 are People of Color (these are from my own observations not an official number), that’s 5% of the total attendees. So odds are that if I see a woman being followed or bothered by a creepy guy they’ll both be white. Now if I, as a black man of size, approach this situation and try in intervene there are a number of complications that can arise.

#1 The white woman might feel she’s safer with the creepy white man than the large black man

#2 The man could get very confrontational and physical thinking he’s protecting the white woman from a rampaging black man

#3 Others outside the situation could misconstrue what’s happening when they look at it through the eyes of their own prejudices.

All three of these can lead to the authorities being called and exactly how would my story stand up in this situation? When it’s my voice against one or two white people, now I’m not discounting that the woman may stand up for me but I’m not counting on it either. Now I feel this is especially important to bring up regarding WisCon because it’s coming up soon and because there was an incident last year where “Niggers!” was yelled from a passing car as a friend and I walked down the street in Madison.  No othjer passerby on the street acted like they were surprised or angered or that anything unusual had happened (Note: Almost everyone at the Con itself who heard about this though was horrified on our behalf and supportive of our feelings).

This has understandably colored a lot of my perceptions of Madison, WI and makes me even more wary of the possibility of involving the authorities in that area. I have a healthy fear of the police as most POC do considering the relationship between POC and the police and the constant knowledge that any interaction with police could very well lead to a story like the one linked.

Now if it’s a member of WBEOU asks for my support in a situation that’s gotten out of control I’m happy to provide it but I do think we need to keep in mind the safety of everyone involved. And realize that should the authorities become involved (because the harasser could very well make up his own story and involve the police himself) that women’s complaints to the police in situations of harassment are often written off (and I’ve already talked about the interactions between POC and the police). We have to keep in mind at all times that we are working within a system where doing the right thing can lead to disbelief of your story and punishment from the authorities that are supposed to protect us. The white male harasser is often more “believable” to the authorities because they see themselves in him, and us well were just a bunch of b*tch*s and n*gg*rs.

And this doesn’t even take into account the scenario where the woman being harassed is a WOC. Most WOC can tell you about various instances were the police either hauled them in instead of their harasser or where the police were the harassers themselves.  Like a comedienne once said “Black women when were in trouble we call our cousins instead of the police because you call the police you have a good chance of ending up in jail. You end up in jail and you’re the one who called them!”

Just some things to keep in mind.




2 responses to “Revisiting the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program & Safety

  1. Well said. And important.

  2. Laura Valentine

    Naamen — not that the Project is organized, exactly, but I have been trying to get some anti-racist dialog going in the livejournal community

    because although I can’t do anything about what the police in a particular city are going to do, I hope that at least people participating in the project can be aware of some of the racial issues & figure out ways to not make this the White Women Back Other White Women Up Project. & having informative posts like yours about some of the issues is really helpful, to point people to to help them get educated about how the Project could be made of Epic Racist Fail on certain issues if participants aren’t aware of them.

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