When I hang out in my communities of “alternative sexuality” (read: folks that tend to identify as kinky, queer and/or non-monogamous), I see a sea of White. Not white as in contrast to the black of the leather, or the rainbow of gayness. No, I see lots and lots of Caucasian folks. And folks, this is a problem.
While I certainly don’t know each person’s racial identity, and I’m sure there are some people who may be read as White, and are not, the majority of people who are within the queer, kink and non-monogamous (or poly) communities are not People of Color. There are a slew of reasons as to this disparity, and occasionally, I’ll hear the lack of POCs brought up for a hot second…and then never hear about it again, unless something happens that brings it back to the conversation.
Why are communities that focus on alternative, other, or marginalized sexualities so overwhelmingly White? Well, first of all, there is that whole lovely White privilege bit. Our society is designed for, and for the most part, run by White people. As White folks (myself included), we are afforded a privilege based on the perceived color of our skin that means people don’t usually look at us and make snap judgments about how we are going to talk, our education level, our employment status, whether we use government assistance programs, whether we are in a gang, etc. While yes, we may have other marginalized identities, our most visible identity in most cases is our racial identity, and it acts as a flag for us to be in the “in” group or not.
Then there is the issue of cultural competency when People of Color do join our communities. The number of unintentional racists things I have heard while out and about in our communities is beyond ridiculous. Assuming that Asian women in the kink community of course want to play Geisha like roles. Intensive conversations around the word “slave” to assume Black folks that we’re not being racist. Treating the one or two POCs who show up like quota; “oh, our community is SO diverse – we have two People of Color who regularly attend our events!” Worse yet is the Ostrich with its head in the sand; “we’re colorblind and don’t see color. Race doesn’t matter in our community.” Way to ask people to check their identities at the door.
Some people are afraid to engage in M/s relationships with folks of color, especially Black folks. They are concerned that if they use the term Master with a Black person, or punish them, that they are some how reliving the oppression and slavery of the plantations. This is a great conversation to have, but one that rarely happens. Rather, many Black submissives or slave identified people have a hell of a time finding anyone to play with, because rather than own their shit and talk about the inherent racism in our society, many of the dominant identified folk just shy away.
So what do we do? How do we make our communities more welcoming to People of Color? How do we recognize our White privilege, check it at the door, and create safer spaces? What do we as communities need to do to become more culturally competent? And how do we facilitate conversations around race instead of pretending it doesn’t exist?
There are no easy answers, but these is most definitely a heck of a lot of work to be done. Let’s grab this horse by the reins, and get starting on diversifying our communities, and not just by saying we have one queer/kinky/poly Latina who happens to show up on a monthly basis.