On Self Care and Why I Limit the Time I Spend With Dominant Culture Groups

BeachPress is an awesome idea that someone came up with last year, to get a bunch of WordPress developers together at the beach for a few days and work and socialize together.

I remember when I heard about it last year, I had the following reaction over a 5 second period:

Seconds 1–3: That sounds so cool!

Seconds 3–5: Do I really want to live in a house with a bunch of strange dudes/ white people I don’t know, for a week? No. Sigh.

I’ve been watching the tweets from BeachPress 2014 and it seems like everyone’s having an awesome time. And there are a few WordPress folks there who’s work I respect a ton and who seem like great people and who I would definitely love to meet someday. And there are actual women developers this year, as opposed to women attending as the spouses of male devs, which is great.

Still, the risks[1] [2]for me, still would not outweigh the probable rewards in this case.

I tweeted a version of these thoughts, and the result was a demonstration of exactly the kind of behavior that has led me to limit time spent with any large group of white people.

Behold:

http://storify.com/kronda/why-i-don-t-want-to-go-to-beachpress

In the aftermath of all this, I saw these thoughtful tweets from Matt (who attended BeachPress this year):

He lost me here, and I wrote back with the following:

I have noticed a sea change in my attitude about engaging with dominant culture members on issues of privilege and social justice. I think young, eager, passionate, optimistic 20’s and 30’s me was much more willing to engage on an individual level because A) I’m extroverted by nature and enjoy talking to people and B) I trended toward giving people the benefit of the doubt and giving their intentions more weight than the harm they caused with their ignorance.

But post 40, cynical, tired, wife-with-two-cats-in-the-middle-of-moving-and-trying-to-grow-a-business me has run out of fucks to give about centering the feelings of the oppressor. I’m much more focused on trying to keep myself sane, happy and productive. Which is why running into clueless white people on Twitter can so easily devolve into a rant.

I really don’t care if the other person ends up liking me, joining my cause, or if their feelings are hurt because they said something they shouldn’t have and got called out. I have zero room in my person circle for white people who think ‘reverse racism’ is a thing, for men who think ‘reverse sexism’ is a thing or anyone else who hasn’t gotten past the 101 level in issues of power and privilege. It’s too exhausting and harmful to my well being.

Again, I don’t agree. Oppressed and marginalized people have plenty of empathy. Figuring out the ways and needs of the oppressor is how we’ve survived all these years. It’s a necessity. Saying that the ’empathy’ should be equal is dismissing that fact that dominant cultures have a LOT OF CATCHING UP TO DO. And even well-meaning people tend to default back to centering their needs over the harm they do by being ignorant. And anyway, you know intent is not magic, right?

If you want to see an extreme example of this, go read Mia McKenzie’s article about white teachers and then read what happened in the aftermath:

http://storify.com/kronda/the-reaction-to-white-teachers-i-wish-i-never-had

I have now spent almost three hours of my morning writing this post. I’m kinda pissed at myself for doing it, but I also think it could help some people, and more importantly, getting these thoughts out of my head will allow me to move on with my day without being distracted and upset.

Things I could have been doing instead of writing this post:

  • Answering work email
  • Redesigning my business website
  • Writing business proposals
  • Working on client sites

The cost of taking the time to do this is both personal and monetary. It is literally taking time away from my work. I do it when I feel I have to for my own mental health. My friend and well-known Portland activist Kathleen Saadat told me recently:

You are being asked to teach. Consider opening a school, doing some workshops and CHARGING for the work of teaching. People do not know how painfully exhausting it is to talk about racism, to try and get folks to understand what it is like to listen to people patronize you, defend themselves, ask for your blessing and miss the point entirely. My experience is that some folks think they already know what you are talking about-but don’t, others simply want you to exempt them from the category of racist, some want to get on your (personal) good side without having to examine themselves and hold an honest conversation. The ones that really want to know what you have to teach will listen non-defensively, and ask relevant questions while constantly examining their own feelings and behaviors. Bless you Kronda.

I don’t have time to open a school, but Marissa Jenae Johnson and Leslie Mac did and you should go check out Safety Pin Box if you want to pay Black women to educate you about how to be a good ally accomplice.

And if you learned something from this and want to give back, here’s my PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/kronda

In closing, I’d like to give a grateful shout out to my white and men friends who DON’T fill up my timeline with this kind of BS. I see you quietly faving tweets, apologizing when you screw up, trying to do better, and trying to share what you learn with other people. I see you, and I appreciate it.

Thank you.


  1. And by ‘risk’ I mean simply the high likely hood of annoyance at any clueless BS that would preclude being able to just relax and enjoy myself in a safe environment. A group of men/white people, is, by definition, not a safe environment.  ↩
  2. In this context, a ‘safe’ environment is a gathering of people made up of people at least aware enough of their privilege & biases to be called out on something and not make things worse by blathering on about ‘intent,’ mansplaining, or other such behavior.  ↩

11 Comments


  1. Kronda:

    You fight battles I never have to fight, and do work I never have to do. I’m amazed you keep as cool as you do frankly.

    I recall that I first met you at the Bike Hugger WebVisions Mobile Social 2010, which was pretty nearly all white men except for Natalie Ramsland IIRC. Your voice on racism, sexism, homophobia and other social issues in the last four+ years has been the one that’s prompted me to examine my own privilege, and social justice/inclusiveness/equality issues (& my complicity therein) in my own life.

    If you hadn’t attended that Mobile Social I wouldn’t have met you, and my life would be poorer for it.

    Reply

  2. An insightful read. Sorry this cost so much but I think it is well worth the effort you put in. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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