Junot Diaz on Pigment Politics and Decolonial Love

I’m re-posting this excerpt from Junot Díaz, at the Facing Race 2012 conference in Baltimore 11/15/12 with some transcriptions I did.

On Pigmentation Politics – 6:45

“What was my process like in identifying my own systems of oppression? That’s actually a wonderful question and conversely difficult. … I think what’s interesting about that is how many of us are aware of the strange and agonizing systems that both invite us to tyrannize other people and that help to tyrannize us. I think for me, belonging to a family of 5 young immigrant kids of African descent, from a poor Caribbean family, the first step in this process was noticing how clearly and how nakedly privilege got distributed in my family across racial and gender lines. Which is to say my family was like a really fucking weird experiment in pigmentation politics. Where the bizarre fiction of eliding light with lovely really was practiced superbly well in my family. So that the lighter siblings of the five, [people] were always like ‘you guys are so beautiful, you guys are so nice, you guys are so amazing,’ and they even received less punishment than the rest of us who are considered more racialized. And then of course this gets complicated [by] gender was also, in my family we were split between brothers and sisters.

“And for me I think one of the first steps in this idea was both how I noticed this system very early on, but also how greedily I attempted to profit from it. Because it’s one thing to point out when somebody’s trying to put a foot in your ass, but usually most of us, while that’s happening we’re trying to put a foot in someone else’s ass. And I noticed that I was at the receiving end of this sort of stuff, but I was also really kind of gleefully practicing it. And I know the consequences of that in my family, 5 kids, each of us a year apart, really tearing each other up along those lines. A lot of the pain and the damage, a lot of the treachery, a lot of the cruelty, this followed us into our teenage days and became not only a source of tension, but when we got older a way that we began to talk to each other.

“And listen guys, when you’re that close in age and that close in family, if you grew up like we did where you stacking 3 kids to a bedroom, it forms part of your conversation, it’s hard to run from that, though people can. And I think the kind of ways that I hurt my little sister, the kind of ways I betrayed her, the kind of ways that I sort of projected a lot of racial and hetero-normative and masculine shit on her in a way that really hurt her, and the way that it kind of deformed her childhood. And both of us growing up with the consequences of that, her more forcefully and palpably but me more as someone who had spent a lot of time victimizing her. I think those are the roots of when I think about working and it becoming clear that one has to do a lot of internal work to really get anywhere in this world especially if one who’s really interested in racial justice of any form. I think usually most of the groundbreaking occurs inside of you, I think of that when I think of it. Yeah, it’s tough.”

On De-Colonial Love – 20:45

“What links most progressive people …to the most rabid right wing lunatic is how gleefully we exercise our privileges. The funny thing about our privileges is that we all have a blind spot around our privileges shaped exactly like us. Most of us will identify privileges that we know we could live without. So when it comes time to talk about our privileges we’ll throw shit down like it’s an ace and that shit is a three! I understand that. You grow up and you live a life where you feel like you haven’t had shit, the last thing you want to give up is the one thing, or the couple of things that you’ve really held on to.

“I’m telling you guys, we’re never going to fucking get anywhere—if you want to hear my apocalyptic proclamation which I would never repeat, but which I know you motherfuckers are going to tweet about—we are never going to get anywhere as long as our economies of attraction continue to resemble, more or less, the economy of attraction of white supremacy.

via Racialicious