Some days ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled something like "Thanks, and some belts..." in which I said, among other things, that we had hired two "delightful, very young Filipino women," or some such thing. The two young women in question are Holly and Cherie, who really ARE delightful. They are also intensely proud of being people of Filipino extraction. This morning, I opened my e-mail and found a quite upsetting note from a woman (let's not name her) chastising me for using an ethnic label for my two delightful young women, observing that I must be white, and then adding, for good measure, that she was sure this did not reflect on my character -- which, of course, in her view, it did. So until I could resolve it, I got rid of the dread ethnic language. I then exchanged notes with the two people in question. They are indeed PROUD to be Filipino, proud that I mentioned their ethnicity, and so on, so I put it back into the blog entry.
But it is worth a little note, isn't it? It is no proof of anything that I am probably the only yarn-shop owner anywhere in the metro area who has been a card-carrying member of the NAACP for decades, even though I am indeed pink (a more accurate term than white). But there it is. I am. This is where the far left and the far right are in agreement these days -- on the one hand, the bare mention of racial or ethnic or gender distinctions suggests that some lunatic lefty is "playing the race card," and on the other hand, the same bare mention suggests that some lunatic righty is besmirching non-white people with what Justice Harlan once called a "badge of servitude." So we are unable to describe who and what we are in relation to one another??? I would have to say that I am a "Dutch-Jewish woman of Minnesota extraction" every time I say "African-American" or "Filipino"???
Both of these positions ignore the fact that in the mix , particularly among feminists, are people like me who think that we have an obligation to do things the hard way -- that is, to celebrate difference while insisting on equality and justice. For feminists, it's called cultural feminism -- there are all kinds of feminists (radical feminists, equal rights feminists, etc. etc.). We all know this is the hard way. It has been very hard in our civilization for people to notice differences -- all of the glorious ways in which we are different, live differently, and so on -- without instantly creating some kind of hierarchy. But the challenge has to be, not to chastise people for noticing our collective experiences, the RICHES that we possess as a group, or accusing someone of being racist because she mentions someone's ethnicity by name (!), but instead to create an EQUALITY BASED ON DIFFERENCE. Here, I am quoting my friend Joan Wallach Scott.
Let's try to avoid absolutism and venom of all kinds in our dealings with one another. svb