Talking Amongst Ourselves

Now something I’m sure most folks who are knowledgeable about anti-oppression politics and discuss them in their everyday life have seen is the attitude that you only hold those beliefs to be politically correct or to be argumentative about “the way things are”. I know when I’ve told people that “No, I talk about these things all the time because they effect my life everyday.” I’ve gotten disbelieving looks or right out accusation that I don’t discuss race when I’m with other People of Color, etc. Now anyone who knows me, has talked to me at a convention or has hung out with me for more than a few hours can tell you that’s bullshit but the attitude is always there, that thought that you only talk this way or feel this way because of the company you’re in or whatever other outside factors. First of all it’s straight out insulting to insinuate that I can’t form my own opinions or that my opinions are so ludicrous that there must be some outside force exerting pressure on me. Secondly it’s just untrue. 

Now the documentary U People which I’ve been desperate to see for months and is now up for free in it’s totality on Logo Online explores the conversation people have within their community. Hanifah Walidah a poet, rapper, actress and black lesbian was filming the video for her song Make A Move where she recreated a house party. Now black GLBT folks have a long history of house parties that stretches back for decades. It arose out of a number of factors but a major one was the racism they tended to encounter when they tried to enter GLBT watering holes and forming a vibrant community outside of that hostile environment. Since they couldn’t go to the limited number of GLBT bars/clubs at the time they made their own parties and clubs in each others houses. Some of the parties were exclusively for men or women and some were mixed. And this is not a tradition that has died out, it’s still alive and strong – moreso on the west coast than anywhere else but the legacy is all over.

Anyway, while Hanifah was filming this music video she heard the conversations that were happening all around her and decided that those were just as important as what was going to end up in the music video. She calls it an accidental documentary for just this reason but go and read about it in her own words at the website linked above.

But there it is: a group of 30 People of Color, mostly lesbian women and a couple of transfolk (I also believe there are two or three straight women who talk about being straight in a majority lesbian environment) talking amongst themselves. Talking about gender and the “definition” of woman, talking about coming out, talking about the intersection of race and gender, and all of it to each other, with each other, about each other. It shows not only the complexity and differences among the supposed monolithic horde of “you people” but is also a chronicle of community and the way we form it around ourselves.

Go check out U People even if you don’t think you’ll learn anything from it because it is a touching, smart and funny documentary that shows a segment of society so exceedingly overlooked by the mainstream.

Even leaving aside the personal connection I feel to this documentary despite not being a lesbian – because in so many ways these are the women I grew up around and connect with very well – it’s an amazing film. Now if only I could see black./womyn.:conversations sometime soon. 


5 responses to “Talking Amongst Ourselves

  1. I know exactly what you mean. Clearly people of color only use anti-oppression politics to be argumentative. It’s not like we have the intelligence to develop an awareness of the web of oppression(s) in which we and many others are caught, so why on earth would we discuss such matters amongst ourselves?

    Hell, I am MUCH MORE likely to talk about race with other people of color because they will actually *get it*, unlike (most) white folks who merely smile and nod in the hope that I’ll stop making them feel so uncomfortable.

    Great post! Looking forward to checking out that film.



  2. Elian Maricon-
    Exactly! I’m much more likely to bring up race and intersections of oppression when I feel that someone will understand, add something to the discussion and not do their best to invalidate or ignore my points. It’s NOT fun to be ignored in a large group or have certain people look away so that they don’t have to deal with the points your making.

    By the way I checked out your blog and read a few of the posts. Found it really interesting. Added it to my Blogroll, hope you don’t mind!

  3. Mind? Do I MIND?

    Are you kidding? I’m honored.

    Thank you.

  4. Thanks for this link. I would never have found it myself.

  5. Elian-
    You’re very welcome. I really appreciate the scrutiny/spotlight on Obama and his policies as I tend to be much more media and identity politics focused it’s good to hear less of the praise and more concrete facts on what he’s doing or not doing.

    No problem. It’s a really great documentary I hope you like it as much as I did!

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