In December, a white woman entered our poet-of-color space.
The year before too, a different white woman entered our poet-of-color space and had the nerve to offer instruction to the whole group of poets.
Nothing is neutral and ahistorical.
This is problematic for an organization dedicated to poets of color who reserve our largest event of the year–The Watering Hole winter retreat–strictly for poets of color. I chalk it all up to a misreading of the event and space.
But still, I wonder why the question wasn’t posed. Why wouldn’t those women have said, “Hey, C-Money! (Read: That’s what my peeps call me in my head.) I’ve read The Watering Hole’s website and know your focus and don’t want to alter the space in a negative way. I’m white. Can I come?”
Is it too much to ask my permission before you come into my house?
My business partner Monifa Lemons and I have had white friends tell us flat out that they love what we’re doing, that they’d love to be a part of it, but that they would never venture into the space and become an altering presence. They told us this unprompted in moments when (unbeknownst to them) we needed to hear it and moments that (thanks to them) we could refer back to.
It surprises me, not that these women showed up, but that the question wasn’t asked. (Read: Why wouldn’t I, as a white woman, be entitled to enter this space? Why would you believe that my presence complicates things? I’m wonderful! You can ask my _____ [enter race here] friend. Am I being unfair?)