WOTD: Whitewash

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IMG_6636 (Photo credit: Dan Nguyen @ New York City)

In classes about gender and sexuality we learn about “intersectionality” – the intersection of two or more things. For instance if we’re having a conversation about race or racism we may also have to consider the different experiences of a black heterosexual man and a black lesbian woman. A topic that often stems from this conversation, likely due to the issues of race, is “whitewashing.” Wikipedia defines as the biased presentation of data.

This was discussed in one of my classes recently in reference to the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots are often used to represent the visibility of the fight for equality. The moment that “started it all.” The problem is that people who were not present or people whose voices do not accurately represent what happened are speaking for the people who were there or the people who this conversation influences. There are a lot of great articles about this in reference to all the films and documentaries that have come out since Stonewall. I would recommend doing a google search for “whitewashing stonewall” or something similar. It may take a few reads to get the hang of why people are upset.

There came a point in my writing about these things that I realized you have to be careful when you’re talking about things that you 1) Haven’t witnessed or experienced yourself and 2) Could never witness or experience yourself. Are you letting the people speak for themselves or are you speaking for them? What is the intent? How could you let them speak for themselves? How does you speaking help or harm the efforts?

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