Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

September 18, 2016

"Five Things White People Can Do to Make Their Poly Communities More Welcoming for People of Color"

The crowds you see at poly-community gatherings are not altogether as white as they used to be, but they're still a lot more so than the general population.

Kevin Patterson.
Interview on Talk Like a Man Project.
This is true even though a recent study of consensual nonmonogamy (CNM), which drew on a massive database of Americans, found remarkably similar rates of CNM relationship agreements at some time in people's lives across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race.

So the poly movement is racially isolated, to the movement's detriment. Theories abound.

Kevin Patterson is a Philadelphia Black & Poly activist who founded and runs the Poly Role Models project and frequently presents at poly cons. He recently discussed the topic in depth on the Poly in the Cities podcast, Episode 49: The Intersection of Race and Polyamory with Kevin Patterson. Listen from that page.

From an interview elsewhere:

From the inside, I’m often required to shrink because I know how threatening the world can be when you look how I look. I’ve got to tone down my natural strength and avoid attention because… from the outside, that strength is often perceived as dangerous, emotional, and unstable. There are studies that say white people subconsciously believe black men to feel less pain....

At the same time, as a person who engages with a lot of romantic and sexual partners, I have to be equally wary. I occasionally encounter non-black women who are less interested in me and more attracted to the collection of stereotypes they believe me to represent. Part of that package includes the concept of black men being hypermasculine and hypersexual. Staying vigilant against being placed in that box is exhausting.

Sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, who has studied the poly movement for years, posted a writeup prompted by the podcast. She's in an interracial marriage herself, and she tells us that it "has encouraged me to think more deeply about white privilege and recognize it on a much more immediate, less theoretical level."

Five Things White People Can Do to Make Their Poly Communities More Welcoming for People of Color

By Elisabeth Sheff

...Turns out white folks in the poly community routinely try to tell Kevin Patterson about his experience as a Black person: When Kevin names race in conversations with some poly folks and event or group organizers, it all too often turns into an adversarial interaction instead of a collaborative discussion.

...When the liberal white people are too afraid to talk about race, the only white people who will speak of it out loud are the white supremacists, which makes racism seem all the more fringe. In truth, racism is everywhere, deeply embedded in the social structures and institutions of the US.

How can you avoid being one of those white people who argue as if they know POC’s experience better than the POC do? How can you be an ally instead of part of the problem? Try these five not so simple steps, and keep practicing because it can be challenging....

Set your defensiveness aside — Discussion of race and white privilege do not have to be about white people and our egos. Evidence that you are becoming defensive includes a desire to rebut your conversation partner so strong that it distracts you from hearing what they are saying. If you are searching for flaws in your opponent’s argument, it means you are not truly open to what they are saying because you are not listening. You can be an ally even if you have been an “inactive beneficiary”* of the white privilege surrounding you, as long as you can set aside your need to “win the conversation.”*

Listen — This means more than just keeping your own mouth shut. This means really listening to and thinking about what the other person is saying, rather than formulating your rebuttal. If you are not sure what to say or how to say it, listen for a while and clarify your thoughts. If you are tempted to interrupt... take a deep breath and keep your mouth closed. This can be difficult for white folks who have always been very verbal and used to people listening to them.

Educate Yourself — Do not expect people of color to educate you about racism — that is exhausting for them and inappropriate for you. There are books, websites, podcasts, and You Tube presentations on white privilege.... Take some self-responsibility for your education and start expanding your envelope. Tim Wise is a great place to start. If you are in Atlanta, come to the Sex Down South Conference and see my presentation on Thursday October 13....

Acknowledge White Privilege — Out loud, every time you can, with your family, friends, grocers, neighbors, and strangers on the street. To successfully acknowledge the (very blatant, once you start looking for it) evidence of white privilege in your social environment, you have to recognize it yourself.

[And my favorite,] Learn to Tolerate Racial Discomfort — Race is uncomfortable in the US, and white people have been able to shift that discomfort on to people of color for far too long. It is going to be profoundly uncomfortable for white people to talk about race — and that is OK, we should still do it with open hearts and open minds. People of color have been beyond uncomfortable with the effects of racism, and is past time for white people to share that load of social discomfort and change. Take a deep breath and use your relationship skills to work on your relationship with race.

Her whole post (September 12, 2016).




Blogger Blake Cash said...

The general population is 9% Black. Most of the poly meetups I have attended are at least 9% Black, but rarely more than 20%.

It would be condescending, if not racist, for me to blog about what Black people should do about anything, the fact you fail to see the inherent racism in telling an entire race what to do speaks directly why you feel you need to.

Racism exists. Not all white people are racist, but those on the edge are more likely to move towards racist positions after being told about their experience by someone who doesn't know it. Take your own advice and substitute "People without color" or whatever term you prefer or "POC" and black for white in "How can you avoid being one of those white people who argue as if they know POC’s experience better than the POC do? How can you be an ally instead of part of the problem? "

September 18, 2016 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Allie said...

Kevin brought up a point about your 9% (which is over 12, according to Google): in a community like Philadelphia, with a much more equal percentage in race, you're still seeing that 9%. That is a problem.

As for the rest of what you said...I'm not even going to bother with that crap.

September 18, 2016 11:29 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Blake Cash: Instead of being defensive may I suggest that you open yourself to hearing the experience of other people whose reality is different from your own. White people have an extremely hard time seeing their own privilege and an even harder time imagining what life is really like for black people.

Nearly all white people are racist to some degree. They may not WANT to be, but white culture is deeply steeped in racism and it is extremely difficult for most white people to perceive the depth of that racism. A lot of white people will never admit that racism exists at all.

September 18, 2016 11:43 AM  
Blogger Bhramari Devi Dasi said...

What's with the "CNM"? Is that a new Sheff-ism too? (The very same person who labels herself an "expert" on polyamory, yet marginalizes - as in totally ignores - a large section of the poly community?) It's "ENM"...Ethical Non-Monogamy.

September 18, 2016 12:21 PM  
Blogger Bhramari Devi Dasi said...

Also...none of what is shared here is new. What's expressed in the article are the very same basics for shedding light on white privilege in the general population as well. Important?.....yes......actually critical. But as a poly activist, educator and organizer, I was hoping for something more concrete than what we already know.

September 18, 2016 12:23 PM  
Blogger Brian M said...

Sure Bhramari, but calling out white privilege in the "open-minded" community 0f polyamory is super important in itself. We must look no farther than the *very first* comment: the condescending, effacing, #alllivesmatter false equivalency that makes racism so hard to talk about. You seem to indicate that you have access to more advanced practices for dealing with racism in our community; perhaps you could move the conversation forward by acknowledging the work of others and using the opportunity to share you relevant experience, rather than snipe from the sidelines. I'm sure there are more advanced discussions for of this happening for the more sophisticated among us, but lots of white folks haven't cleared level 1 on this crap.

Thanks, Alan, for keeping the fire lit here in our little utopia. And thank you Kevin for patiently putting up with all the crap in a way that remains true to yourself and brings others along to a place of understanding. I bet it can be a very energy-intensive way to live.

September 18, 2016 3:06 PM  
Blogger Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio said...

When people of color are marginalized, a whole bunch of other kinds of non-dominant people are marginalized too, including by origin, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration status, age, and marital status and more. In a close network community, these compound marginalization make the air difficult to breathe, and often stand in the way of the safe development of healthy love polyamorous relationships among individuals across marginalized groups. This can result in further marginalization and exclusion and/or in excessive policing of the boundaries of the "poly" community by insiders inadvertently defending their centrality and privilege. I ve made many analytical observations of this. Hope this helps. Thanks for listening!

September 18, 2016 3:08 PM  
Blogger Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio said...

Another approach would be considering that people who are marginalized are people who are used to suffering, and that this suffering, when experienced with dignity, is often the wellspring of compassion and collaboration among those on whom unwanted pain is inflicted, and that this shared disenfranchised experience makes these people more inclined, more prepared and willing to share resources, includig resources of love. If we start from this premise, as some researchers of color who work on poly issues do, then we would have to wonder why poly communities aren t actually attracting all kinds of people of color and other marginalized groups, to the point that people without color would be the small group. How many times have we made the brave diverse person who approaches the poly community feel awkward, shamed, dagerous, stupid, just because they look, think, behave, connect differently from the settlers who ve estalished the group? How very few times have we actually been genuinely interested in cherishing the opportunity to learn more about the actual experiene of being part of those communities suffering from multiple discriminations?

September 18, 2016 3:32 PM  

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