"BIPOC" Is Not A Safeword

Historically speaking, there’s power in numbers. Movements tend to see change when the message reaches the widest audience possible and solidarity begets strength in times of crisis. That being said, more does not always equal stronger. Consider a movement like a pitcher of sweet tea. If you start adding water to fill the pitcher the taste gets diluted. Sure you’re serving the tea to more people, but eventually, you’ve added so much water than it’s not even tea anymore. That is the danger of “BIPOC”.

Over the last 100 years, many movements have incorporated multiple demographics. Some have even understood the need and space for intersectionality, yet none have ever achieved intersectional results. Black men received rights before Black women. White women received voting rights before their more melanated counterparts. Same with Native-American women. Same with Asian women, etc.

Trans-people are still fighting for equality and visibility even though the gays and lesbians have experienced incredible progress over the last 30 years. And why is that? Is it because social justice and equity are complicated issues, so reducing them to easy-to-swallw words does no favors for the cause? Yes.

Is it because intersectionality teaches us that every demographic experiences their own existence and we’d be foolish to compare or equate any two? Yes. Is it because people are inherently selfish and so by lumping people with varying access to power risks the success for the least among them? Yes. But mainly, it’s because the rights of many do not outweigh the rights of the few and this is not about you.

For years, black people have been telling you to see them. Hear them. Hold space for them. Yet still, somebody on the internet thought it would be a good idea to lump Black people’s fight in with the very people who stand to oppress them. In a world of two races, the majority of the people in “People of Color”, are categorized with White people. Sure, intellectually speaking we can do backflips around ethnicity and culture, but I still said what I said.

Asian people have not had the same experience in America that Latinx people have had. Latinx people have not had the same experience that Black people have had. And God knows, Black people have not had the same experience as Indigenous people. Their land was stolen. Our bodies were stolen. We have different grievances, which means that the debt that is owed is different. Equity is not a one-size-fits-all and neither is “this work." The notion that this moment calls for all People of Color to “stand together” is rooted in White Supremacy and Privilege. How? Because someone in a different situation has decided that their cause was not being heard so they jumped on the Black bandwagon, changed some shit around, and now they want to ride this rising tide all the way to the top.

You people just All-Lives-Mattered the moment.

The story of Black people is one that is incomparable to anything else. The debt that is owed from America to the descendants of slaves is not only real and vast, but it is specific. To muddy the waters of the Black plight and Black demands is inaccurate, inequitable, and disrespectful. But it’s also dangerous. It puts Black lives on the line and creates more cracks for future generations to fall through. Understanding that “BIPOC” did not arise from malice, the solution isn’t anger, it’s honesty.

And honestly, if you don’t see the danger in this bullshit subgroup then you shouldn’t be doing this work and you definitely shouldn’t be speaking for other peoplebecause you don’t understand the point. By lumping 3+ identities together you have increased the weight of the ask by 300% and decreased the likelihood of Black success. You’ve made it three times harder to see progress but only for the people at the bottom. Black people. So if you really want to help. Say our name and only our name. Use your adjacency to whiteness to lift us up, capitalize the B, and honor our necessary path. Step outside yourself and fight for the people who built this country and stand least likely to benefit from its “great promise."

And if you can’t see past yourself to center the true narrative, then let go of our bootstraps and get out the way.