We Read Salon So You Don’t Have To.
The popular, far-left-leaning website Salon has, over the past several days, published writing as varied as the women’s studies courses at liberal arts colleges. Consider one article—a celebration of 10 movies that featured oral sex performed on a woman. Another is a motorcycle diary of sorts by a writer named Eric Lutz, who recounts his tales of traveling through red states. In over 4,000 words (most journalists would kill for 1,000 words in a major publication—at TAS, the author of this blog post often prays for 700), Lutz describes bumper stickers, invokes the names of the Koch brothers, and psychologizes grandly about the motivations of anyone who dares vote (R) in an election.
But the most remarkable article was a woman’s lament about not being labeled a black lesbian.
In “Passing for white and straight: How my looks hide my identity”, a writer talks about how sad it is that people don’t realize that she is neither white nor straight, and presumes that they would give a damn if they knew. The author—pen name Koa Beck—warns of the privilege she refers to as “passing,” or not being perceived as the race and sexuality by which one actually identifies. Beck’s story is reminiscent of a movie from the late 50’s, Imitation of Life, albeit told in a less compelling and graceful manner. With chagrin she refers to instances from her youth, where “White parents of school friends would never fail to comment on how I was ‘striking’”—a complement which offends her, in hindsight. She recalls the watershed moment when a hospital administrator marked off her ethnicity as white—“and without asking me.” She cites this as an example of her “passing,” but it’s probably because her skin is as white as the background of the Word document on which I wrote this blog post (take a look at her photo in the article).
She believes statistics which suggest white people are predisposed to give inferior service to blacks: “I’m hyper-aware that when a bank, a company or any public office hears the sound of my voice…they assume that they’re talking to a white woman, and therefore give me better service”—emphasis mine. Talk about assumptions. Here’s another one: “White and straight co-workers, employers and acquaintances don’t outwardly shun me when they find out I’m of color or queer (due to the city I live in).” Or maybe it’s because they assume that she’s a nice person who doesn’t spend every waking moment questioning their motivations?
Eventually you end up pitying Beck and her obsession with race:
Due to my passing, I have the W.E.B. Du Bois-patented “double consciousness” for the opportunities that have been placed before me, scholastic and professional, from generally white and hetero establishments that look at me and always see their own. Is it the presumed commonality that garnered me those interviews? Those smiles? Those callbacks? Those firm handshakes?
Her writing conjures up an image of her lying awake at night, brooding over daily interactions and questioning their intent. Did he smile at me because he thought I was white and straight? she probably wonders. What did she mean by “I love your curly hair”?
She’s also annoyed that people don’t mistake her for the raging lesbian that she insists she is. “Even though I was out from a relatively young age, the high heels and dresses made acquaintances ask about ‘boyfriends,’” writes Beck. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality can be determined without either a declaration from the individual or a glimpse at who that person chooses for intercourse. How dare people assume that she might date men!
“My privilege in passing,” she warns, “reflects a racism and heterosexism that continues to flourish, despite romantic notions that racial mixing and gay marriage will create a utopian future free of prejudices.” Perhaps she could craft a labeling patch for her sleeve, seeing as the confusion about her identity disgusts her so much. Or even a bumper sticker—I’m a black lesbian, damnit!—might suffice.
Salon, not content with just gazing at its navel to contemplate its color, attaches a hyperlink in the race article to “3 ways the super-rich suck wealth from the rest of us,” just in case you’ve forgotten where they stand on the issues.