Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Woman is NOT the Nigger of the World

Today, Latoya Peterson over at Racialicious posted a picture of a young, smiling white woman at the recent Slutwalk NYC event holding up a sign that quoted one of John Lennon's songs. It read, "Woman is the Nigger of the World".


Wow! That picture is...alarming. There are some people whose words tend to crop up in certain environments. A few days ago, some friends and I were laughing about how almost every event that occurs at a stadium in an HBCU starts with "Lift Every Voice". And we spent the next half hour or so listing songs by people of color that could also be perfect for use as a "Black National Anthem".

Lennon seems to be one of those folks that white activists seem to almost instinctively turn to for inspiration. It's cliché to use some of his quotes, but I'm practically a professional at the (over)use of cliché. Unfortunately, the problem with looking to Lennon to find inspiration is that it's really easy to wind up with a situation like the one in that Slutwalk NYC photo.

I can't feel a bit sympathetic toward that hateful person who carried the sign. However, I can see how easy it is for that to happen. White young adults grow up witnessing white self-proclaimed activists waxing nostalgically whenever Lennon is mentioned. He is someone that hipsters can glorify when they want to feel as if they're on the side of the oppressed.

He's one of them. He not someone they'll perceive as threatening or scary. He's a capitalist who sacrificed nothing while holding himself up as some kind of role model. He's a rich white man who went out and got himself an Asian wife and then proceeded to use his relationship with her as a buffer between him and anyone who would challenge his racism. "Woman is the Nigger of the World" is an excellent example of this. Even though he was the one who sang this song, he repeatedly made sure to note that he and Ono wrote the song together.



I just love the way the white interviewer describes criticism of Lennon's racism as "hassling" and how Lennon proudly ignores the people of color who pointed out why this song is disgustingly bigoted. What a class act!

Unfortunately (for people from marginalized communities), it is fairly safe to say that there are no whites among this group who are willing to have honest conversations with white young adults about why pushing Lennon on movements or actions that are supposed to be inclusive is aggressive and oppressive. When they hear and see so very many folks who call themselves "progressive" or "revolutionary-minded" or "feminist" glorifying this particular white man who did nothing for anyone other than himself, is it any wonder that they also follow in his footsteps by oppressing people of color?

If she had created a sign with one of his other quotes, we can be certain that none of the white people around her would have even given her a disapproving look. After all, even the use of this quote on a sign didn't motivate a single white white person in that crowd of hundreds to insist that she stop waving it around and taking pictures with it. Because white people keep acting like Lennon was some kind of friend to the disenfranchised, people of color wind up having to see stuff like this on a regular basis when they try to work with activist groups that are predominantly white.

I keep waiting to see if there will be any white people who claim to be allies of people of color who are willing to say that enough is enough and that whites need to stop pushing Lennon and his words on those who he aggressively oppressed and marginalized. So far, the best we get is the occasional white person who will say that some of Lennon's words are easy to misunderstand.

2 comments:

Elizabeth McClung said...

I was surprised by a white woman holding a sign with that word. Now I find that she got it from a guy, and so a white guy used this phrase in a song, so she is taking the words of a white guy about not just herself but the appropriate use of this word? It seems she has little words of her own (though a big marker and lots of vim or whatever it is that people get imbued with which then turns into being offensive to a lot of other people - myself included).

When suffregettes chained themselves to the white house, and were imprisoned and starved themselves, the stood up themselves, acted themselves and did not need to appropriate to be seen as radical. True equality is always radical (says a person in a country which didn't give all 'Ethnics' the vote until 1956 and who just had a police officer (male) tell her today that if I was 'sweeter' and then took pride in how TB is making a comeback because his first response to a 2 year rapid degenerative disease was....HIV - where are you commuting from exactly, I wanted to offer him a condom and tell him that no, actually, you CAN protect yourself).

Sorry - distraction rant.

I know enough to know that I don't have the experience of others that hollywood seems to make a buck off showing us have it worse (which is probably why I get the BBC stuff like Moses Jones on Ethopians in London, or South 55, on Racism in Birmingham.

I would say that white need to stop pushing Lennon - but I wasn't aware Lennon wrote this or much of what Lennon did, as I kind of followed Buffy St. Marie and getting cities where aboriginal women can't be killed for years without notice and aboriginal men can't be locked up without evidence.

aftergadget said...

Wow, had never heard of that song/phrase. When I saw that picture, I went, "Ugh!" and felt my stomach flop over. I can't believe nobody confronted her!

Thank you for the wake-up call on Lennon. I wish I had not needed it.