a response to white fat activism from People of Color in the fat justice movement
Flying by the seat of your pants, when it comes to addressing the real concerns and questions around diversity and inclusion of POC in fat activist spaces or campaigns, will no longer be good enough.
- POC in the fat justice movement deserve thoughtful and clear discussions around not just the intention of diversity and inclusion in the work you wish to do, but also the actual impact of the work within communities of color.
- POC in the fat justice movement demand and deserve that white fat activists build authentic collaborations with communities of color and work as allies.
- POC in the fat justice movement demand and deserve allies showing up to the table of our campaigns and work, rather than constantly being told they have made a place for us at theirs.
- POC in the fat justice movement clarify that our allies will practice doing the work of learning about the histories and impacts of colonization and oppression on POC, seek other allies to learn from and with, be open to dialogue, taking feedback, and allowing people's firsthand experiences of racism to be the final and authoritative voice on the subject of impact to communities of color.
- POC in the fat justice movement offer that through the work of authentic inclusivity, singular vision will become shared vision. Coalition will happen. Bridges will be mended and built.
I support wholeheartedly the baseline value of not being a racist arse, and of working fat activism through inclusively, critically, reflexively, consciously and ethically. I appreciate that this statement has been produced constructively and with hope that this can happen.
In addition, I have two small reservations about the statement. There appears to be a universalising of identity by people who are diverse in some ways but not others, for example in terms of nationality, it is common for people in the US to speak for the whole world, and this is problematic. Perhaps a stronger statement would include alliances with people in other places. I also think that it would be helpful to bear in mind that the 'fat justice movement' is multiple and often ambiguous, rather than a fixed entity; there are many movements, and broad demands will need to be contextualised each time. For example, bringing a critical and anti-racist consciousness to the activism that involves a conversation with a friend in one time and place is going to be different to that which entails mobilising communities for a specific goal in another.
The NOLOSE statement isn't the first time that fat and queer people of colour have offered critiques of the movement, Tara Shuai's A Different Kind of Fat Rant: People of Color and the Fat Acceptance Movement from 2008 named areas of fat activism where there is endemic racism. I hope that in speaking up, NOLOSE and Shuai will encourage people to adopt more critical and conscious approaches to fat activism. I fear that it might be a long time until many fat activists, especially white people, are able to do that. I am afraid that people of colour will be forced to continue to do the hard work of consciousness raising, which is clearly unacceptable.
Meanwhile, I am grateful for Shuai's rant, and the NOLOSE statement, I think they are brave things to do in a context where critical viewpoints within the movement are not always welcome or forthcoming. I don't know why so many fat activists seem resistant or unable to engage critically and reflexively with what they do, but I see this happening a lot. Why is anti-racist practice and critical reflexivity treated like an afterthought, if at all? Do people leave their brains and consciences behind when they do fat activism? It seems that way. How could it be different? Perhaps through disseminating work that demonstrates there are many different ways of doing fat activism, including methods that foreground self-reflexivity and anti-racism? Through engaging with critical awareness more generally? Let's talk about this.