"Not the Father: When Community Elders Erase Race from Polyamory"
Last week I posted about an interview with Oberon Zell-Ravenheart on his life in the polyamory movement, his role in the word's origin and its initial spread in the hippie and Neo-Pagan worlds, and his hurt reaction to an unexpected dust-up with New York polyfolks. The interview was by Leon Feingold, who Oberon perhaps did not know is on poor terms with New York poly leaders. It reopened wounds that had seemed to be resolved.
Apparently Oberon, who's in his late 70s and on a walkabout around the Americas, was invited to a large, private poly party in New York while passing through. A friend of his argued online that he (the friend) should be allowed to publicize the party because "the Father of Polyamory" would be there. Oberon has not called himself that and insists he never would. But others in the thread apparently thought it was Oberon's own boast and called him out for gross world-cultural ignorance and white blindness; multi-partnering with the knowledge and consent of all has an ancient history in cultures around the world. Oberon defended himself but, IMO, became blunderingly reactive and exposed blindnesses like those being denounced; others then called him on that, and down it went.
Eventually the argument got resolved on the thread. But a couple weeks later Feingold published his interview with Oberon, and the wounds were reopened. I, unfortunately, worsened things by naively directing attention to the interview.
Kevin Patterson has just published an essay on Medium about the larger problems of cultural obtuseness that were at the root of the blowup. He calls me out too, and fact is, I do need to improve my perceptions about these things. I damn well don't want to be the clueless ally who messes up. Kevin's essay is guest-hosted by Eve Rickert in her column on Medium.
Not the Father: When Community Elders Erase Race from Polyamory
This is a guest post by Kevin Patterson, curator of Poly Role Models, author of Love’s Not Color Blind and co-author of For Hire, discussing a recent kerfuffle among polyamorous activists and what it means for the safety of people of colour in our scenes.
(Daytime TV host Maury Povich)
Every few years or so, someone tries to steal cornrows. To be clear, what I mean is: every few years, white folks try to colonize the hairstyle known as cornrows. ...Some fair-skinned public figure appears in cornrows, or some stylist claims discovery of an identical hairstyle, and celebrity media applauds them as a tastemaker and a trendsetter. ...
...So when the white celebrity of the day is given credit for popularizing a look that’s long been a standard in Black culture, without facing any of the social stigma involved, there’s a notable reaction. ... One of the most difficult parts of having these conversations is being spoken over and disregarded by folks who don’t understand or won’t accept their privileged place in that conversation.
Recently, some notable names in both local and nationwide polyamory circles had a dustup that turned into exactly this sort of dialogue. ...
Read on (October 29, 2018).