Ask Ijeoma

Where I answer the questions you ask at ask.fm/ijeomaoluo.

Hi Ijeoma. I’m really confused over this whole Hulk Hogan issue. Can someone who is genuinely good say racist things and still not be a racist? Does he get an easy pass because everyone says he’s good? Am I hypocritical for feeling let down by him even though I have said other mean things too? *very

Nope. This is what I think a lot of people don’t understand about racism. Very few people are committed racists, very few people are committed sexists, very few people are committed anything. What we are, is a collection of actions and experiences and that means that we are different things at different times to different people. When Hulk Hogan went around shouting nigger, he was, in that moment, pretty damn racist. Nothing he did in the past and nothing he has done in the future will change that. It’s like if you walked up onto someone in the street and punched them in the face. At that moment, you’re violent. Even if you didn’t punch someone yesterday, and you don’t plan on punching someone tomorrow, today you’re violent. And even if you don’t punch anyone tomorrow, you’ll still be perceived as violent by the person you punched and they will likely flinch when they see you until you work to prove that you are sorry and don’t intend on punching them ever again. And you don’t get to decide when that person stops flinching, that’s all up to them.

I have a white male friend who is very educated on many social justice issues. He says very informed things about race/white privilege. But he has an INSANE blind spot RE feminism. He often talks about the “War on Boys” and questions whether rape culture exists. Any advice on how to discuss w/ him?

I would recommend sending him to the actual lived experiences of women who have suffered from the effects of patriarchy and rape culture. You could send him to the site I manage: I Believe You It’s Not Your Fault where hundreds of brave people of all genders talk about their experiences. You may also want to send him this great piece on the whole “man-hating” argument. We know that dude’s love charts, but I find that sending statistics and the like just doesn’t work, because every chart you have, they can find a chart that says the opposite. Lived experience is the best way to talk about the truth.

Hi Ijeoma, As a white-passing woman with a mother who identifies as brown/mixed race (she’s black passing but with white parents) How do I talk to people about colorism, since my mother is British, without it coming off like I’m trying to deny having experienced white privilege?

I’m trying to wrap my brain around this racial math equation you’ve given me and now I remember why I got a liberal arts degree. So you are “white passing” and your mother is “brown” but with white parents? Are they biological parents? I’m very confused. Anyway, to your question! When talking about colorism, it’s important to note when you are talking from personal experience, and when you are talking from the experiences of others. It’s also important to be aware of where you are on the ladder of privilege to make sure that your words do not negate or trivilialize the experiences of those further down on the ladder. For example, I am a light-skinned black woman. I’m very clearly black (regardless of what twitter may say) and have experienced a lot of anti-black racism in my life. I can speak to that experience. However, I have also experienced the privilege of being told that I have a “beautiful skin tone” and of being percieved as “friendlier” and “more intelligent” than darker skinned black people. I can speak for when our experiences overlap, but I can never speak for the experiences of dark-skinned black people that I will never experience. I do my best to promote voices of dark-skinned people in areas where my privilege gives me more access. This also means that if my light-skinned privilege is brought up in conversation, I cannot get defensive, and must acknowlege it as openly and honestly as possible, and work to fight that privilege whenever I encounter it. My mom, who is white, can certainly talk about raising black children and what she encountered and witnessed, but she will never be able to talk about what it’s like to be black, and she won’t be able to speak for us and our experiences (which she did not fully understand until we discussed it recently). I hope this helps.

People always say, “Don’t have kids you can’t afford.” Children need proper care, but “welfare queen” is a myth. Maybe their financial situation changed, maybe their partner disappeared. I am disabled and supported by SSI. Should I never be able to have kids, simply because they are state-funded?

There are some definite financial realities to having children. They are expensive, and having money and time to rear them can make parenting much easier and more likely to be successful. But you are an adult, and only you know if you can provide the basic stability and love that your child needs. And really, that’s all they need — it’s just sometimes easier to provide with money. Money itself can’t raise your kids and plenty of rich people are shitty parents.

When I had my first son I was 20 years old. I left an abusive marriage and raised my baby on my own. I took him to college with me and he graduated kindergarten the day before I got my bachelor’s. That year I made $17k. I was poor as fuck. But I dedicated my time and effort to my child and we were deliriously happy. I was raised on welfare, and in all honesty, the time it gave my mom to be there with us was worth all the bullshit shame she endured from others who can’t mind their own damn business. When she got off welfare like a “good person” and started working overtime to support us, everything fell apart and my brother and I had to raise ourselves.

If you can provide your child love and stability, you will be a good parent. Don’t let anyone else act like they can decide that for you.

What are your thoughts on transracial adoption?

I’ve actually talked about this before, but it’s a VERY complicated issue of which I have many thoughts. But I’m not a transracial adoptee, so I recommend reading the words of transracial adoptees to hear more about their experiences (as really their thoughts are the ones that count). I know many adoptees who have grown up happy and healthy and are grateful that a loving home was provided to them when they needed it. I know just as many more who felt ostracised from their heritage, alone in their communities, and othered in their families. A lot of people think that when they adopt a child they are giving a child an opportunity for a better life in their culture and community — but it’s actually the other way around: when you adopt a child of another race, you are given the opportunity to expand the community and culture of your family to that of the child. Take that responsibility seriously and work hard to expand to fully incorporate as much of that child’s heritage and community as you can.

Ijeoma I’m an aspiring writer but I often am scared of saying the wrong thing and getting dragged the way I’ve seen it happen with many people on social media. I genuinely feel I have lots to say especially regarding mental health issues but am paranoid to cause offence. How do I overcome this fear?

That fear is real, and what you are describing does happen. The only advice I can give is feel the fear, do what you can to write with honesty and integrity, and deal with what comes. You may just fuck up and get dragged. I’ve done it — it sucks a lot. But you can survive the dragging if you can set your ego aside and own up to where you fucked up. I’ve had to do it, and it took all my strength to say “ok, here is where I didn’t do it right and I hurt people and here is how I can make it right.” But I did it, and it was over a lot quicker than I thought it would be. The people who are most impacted from draggings are those who dig their heels in and refuse to look at what is honestly causing such a reaction from people. If we want to change the world, if we want to live honestly, we have to be willing to fuck up and get a little hurt along the way.