University News

Blogger talks inequality, privilege

Mia McKenzie discussed how race and sexual orientation influence identity and relationships

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Renowned author and creator of the blog Black Girl Dangerous Mia McKenzie interwove comedic descriptions and personal anecdotes with discussion of serious topics including racism in America and growing up as a queer child in a packed Metcalf Auditorium lecture Wednesday night.

“You guys seem cool — you’re already laughing,” she said soon after the talk began.

McKenzie described her life by first listing everything from her childhood she said made her gay, including an experience at church camp,  where she first experienced what it was like to reject someone.

The girl was “several shades darker” than herself, and McKenzie rejected her because she had been taught that darker individuals are less attractive, she said. McKenzie met her rejected romantic prospect several years later, only to see just how beautiful the girl had become and realize how foolish her childhood misconceptions about skin color and attractiveness had been, she said.

McKenzie said some parts of the media showed a different reality to her growing up, portraying untraditional male figures like Sinbad, Prince and Michael Jackson, who would still gain female attention.

These experiences planted “a seed that would later grow into a really, really queer tree,” she said.

She also spoke about her experiences as a black woman. She said she has encountered degrading comments like, “Your hair is so cool — can I touch it?”

McKenzie asked a white volunteer from the audience to come up and repeat this to her. She responded with witty comebacks, eliciting cheers from the audience.

“To be a black girl in the world is to be dismissed,” she said.

Her self-esteem faltered between ages 10 and 14, she said, but she had a supportive family. “I never forgot I was smart, gifted,” she said.

Speaking about oppression is difficult because “it’s all been said already,” she said. “Still, so many people don’t seem to get it.”

“There is no such thing as reverse racism,” she said. Racism is a system of oppression that limits the rights of life based on race, she said, adding that white people are not subject to any such limits due to racism.

To illustrate her point, she listed ways in which people of color — whom she called POC — could be racist, which included stealing white people’s land, enslaving them and wiping out their traditions.

“Break their espresso machines,” she added, an example met with laughter.

“White privilege is real, and every white person has it,” she said. People are neither visually surprised when white people are smart nor are they followed around in a store to make sure they do not steal anything, she said.

It is not the responsibility of people of color to educate white people about race, she said, adding that nothing can ever be said that will change the “lackadaisically ignorant.”

During a question and answer session, one student asked McKenzie to talk about the best and worst pieces of advice she had ever received, without identifying which was which.

One piece of advice was to never change yourself to fit what other people want of you, she said, and the other was to change yourself to fit what other people want of you, an answer met with laughter from the audience.

Another student asked how to handle a committed relationship with an individual who does not understand terms such as “white privilege.”

McKenzie urged the student to engage in dialogue as much as she could but to “know your limits.” If the person remains ignorant, the relationship may not be worthwhile, she said.

A student asked about the role of racism among POCs in response to an incident McKenzie mentioned about an Asian woman who was amazed she could write so well.

McKenzie responded that while she is accustomed to using the term POC, “I’m not POC. I’m black.” Being black is a very different experience than being South Asian, she said.

“It was fantastic — I love her,” said Ivy Alphonse-Leja ’14, an audience member who said she has been reading Black Girl Dangerous for a year and half.

“You know what I love — when people don’t see race,” McKenzie said sarcastically.

 

A previous version of this article did not specify the context of a quote from Black Girl Dangerous creator Mia McKenzie. Though McKenzie said, “You know what I love — when people don’t see race,” her words were meant ironically.

  • John Doe

    As a white male, I have been told I was privileged, and it made me feel badly about myself. does that mean I am one of the cool, outsiders?

    • What?

      You felt bad because someone made you acknowledge your privilege?

  • Jordan Shaw

    “This article is written in response to the BDH’s factually inaccurate and spotty coverage of the event, “Black Girl Dangerous: Activist and Blogger”, that occurred last Wednesday, Nov 20th, in Metcalf… Moving forward, I ask that the BDH ensure that adequate background research is done on all of its reports and that the rigorous editorial standards of the BDH be met so reporting on events be factually correct. ”

    http://bluestockingsmag.com/2013/11/29/black-girl-dangerous-comes-to-brown-blogger-activist-and-author-mia-mckenzie-shares-her-writings-and-thoughts-on-being-dangerous/

    • The More You Know…

      Welcome to news media! Publications aren’t to serve your interests but theirs. When ray kelly protestors thought that their demonstration was good because it got media attention they mistakenly thought the media was their “friend.”

      Like then, get past the naivete and people will take you more seriously.