What does a politics of inclusion REALLY look like?

By Samhita Mukhopadhyay Apr 04, 2007

The politics of feminism are so complicated. As we continue to define and re-define what feminism "looks like" for a new generation of women, communication and alliance building is more important than ever. The assault against feminism continues from the outside and we are forced to be defined by opposing forces. As we all know, feminism isn’t just one thing, it is many things, depending on where it is happening and who you ask. So where do women of color go? How are they included? I have recently been asked to be on a lot of panels and of course as I am wanting to expand my career and meet as many cool people as possible, I have taken the opportunities. But almost all of them have been because I am a feminist blogger of color. Of course I do think that it is important to include voices of color, and I love conferences and being on panels with amazing people, I have some really intense thoughts that I am trying to figure out. First of all, if the inclusion of people of color is SO necessary to change content, what does that mean? That people of color bring certain thoughts and white feminists bring other (racist) ones? I also recognize that people of color DO bring alternative experiences, but everyone brings different experiences. You just can’t generalize, right? Also, if I am ONLY included because I am a voice of color, why is that? Is it to make people feel less bad for the overwhelming over-representation of white voices in publishing, panels, conferences and blogs etc.? Isn’t that a type of objectification as well? This is a really challenging post to write. I do think that my contributions to writing as a woman of color are important. I believe that we have to continue to fight for the inclusion of voices of color and I appreciate the recognition on behalf of progressive folks to insist on the actual physical representation of women of color. But I have also been feeling like women of color are over objectified in progressive spaces, because it is our race (as it is embodied) that makes us so important to be there. A type of hyper-objectification, but it still re-centers white-ness. We are still by and for white people. I don’t think this is anyone’s fault necessarily, I think it is the structure of identity politics and of feminism. The politics of exclusion that haunted previous definitions of feminism, continue to harm us, continue to reproduce themselves and it is up to us to be very very observant. I am still noticing overall that voices of color are left at the margins and called upon when we need *diversity.* I can almost never escape my performed role as a woman of color. Does that make my opinion on issues that affect all women’s lives (or about music, food and other things) less valid? Am I forever tied to the embodiment of my race? The reality is I have a lot of really good relationships with white feminists (and people) where we talk about race and it is much more than just the inclusion of my voice, but an integration of all my talents to the content and production of the work (like feministing!). And there are some women of color that I don’t work so well with. And then of course the people of color I am on the same page with. They all hold special and meaningful places and in different ways. But in some spaces I still don’t want to ruffle feathers and bring up the race question to disrupt otherwise seemingly well intentioned things. Moments that seem race-less, that seem neutral, but race is still functioning in really integral ways. So many questions, but quite frankly my feeling is that conversations about racism need to grow up and include all the multiple ways we interact whether they be reproducing hierarchies or transgresssing historical problems. Maybe we need a new vocabulary, I don’t know.