Opinion: Why I Confronted White Progressive Figures For Racism In Their Commentary


Anoa J Changa with Nina Turner
Anoa J Changa with Nina Turner
by Anoa J Changa   June 23, 2017
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Update: A previous version of this piece stated that a video by Debbie had been deleted. Information provided at the time indicated the video had been deleted or otherwise hidden from public viewing. As an adult it is important we reflect and acknowledge errors as they arise, and not simply deflect from the initial mistake made. This has been amended accordingly. 

However, the content of this video and level of deflection of real concerns continues to speak for itself. Identity politics and other reductionist notions of racism cannot be used as a defense when critique toward behavior and refusal to accept accountability is raised.

 

The situation involving me and two other independent media commentators is not an issue of “different languages.” It is not about a coordinated attack to “take them down.” It is a clear example of adventures in whiteness, entitlement, and privilege. We cannot bridge gaps while also disregarding the facts and the unwillingness to apologize for the original offense.

“You will be happy to hear that because of you I will stay away from black people!” – Claudia Stauber

In the past few days, Claudia Stauber of Cabin Talk and Debbie Lusignan aka “Sane Progressive” have continued to post commentary and videos that do not address the facts of the issues that caused this situation. Several of these videos have been since deleted after the live streams occurred.

Last weekend, the duo were among attendees at The United National Antiwar Coalition Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Speakers included Ajamu Baraka, Brian Becker, Glen Ford, and Lamont Lilly.

The call to action stated expressly that:
“There must be an alternative to the neoliberalism of the Democrats and the nationalist-populism of Trump. We need an independent movement to address both the economic needs of poor and working people and the escalating attacks on the Black community, immigrants, women, unions, LGBTQ folks, refugees, Muslims, the physically and mentally challenged, youth, students, the elderly, Mother Earth – all of us. And we need to END THE WARS that are promoted by both major parties, from the ongoing wars in the Middle East and Northern Africa waged during the Obama years to the threats against Iran and North Korea coming from the new administration.”

The three-day conference included a 90-minute workshop in Room B14. That workshop was on the schedule. It was sponsored by the Black Alliance for Peace, and it was open to all people of African descent at the conference. This session is where our story begins. According to a video made after the conference, on June 20, Claudia was initially interested in learning more about the perspective and what the workshop was about. At the beginning of her video, she notes that she didn’t even pay attention to the African descent part.

Did you watch the video? If you did, you likely noticed that Claudia was permitted to attend but that she was upset that she could not live-stream. While she starts off in her video discussing wanting to learn, she says later that she was upset she could not report. She and Debbie live-streamed most, if not all, of the event.

This is about Claudia being mad that someone told her “NO”. It is not about racism.
This initial video is HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC for three major reasons:

  1. Claudia did not talk to anyone at the conference about the sessions. She does not know why a black woman was allowed to stream and she was not. She never tried to air her grievance with people who were there who could have explained the situation to her. But even if she had, one person being allowed to do something in a closed space is not a valid reason to go charging off to the internet to cry racism.
  2. Claudia levied a serious accusation because she as an individual was denied the opportunity to do something, and she makes false comparisons to racism while not even understanding it — by her own admission. She has said she does not have time to learn about racism. Since she does not understand it, she should not be comparing anything to it. But instead of trying to learn, she has chosen to air her grievance publicly as an independent content creator to her audience.
  3. Claudia tries to excuse her behavior because she grew up poor and is not from this country. First off, racism is not simply an American issue. And second, no one is taking away Claudia’s background and upbringing. Again if she knew anything about her history, she would know that struggles have long been tied together. For someone to profess ignorance on a subject but to be so adamant that it happened is a serious issue.

Upon seeing the video, I and others were appalled by the comments both on FB and YouTube with a majority-white audience upset that this white woman had faced racism at a peace event by black activists. All they knew was that Claudia’s feelings were hurt. So I and others responded and pushed back on the narrative.

I also tagged Claudia in linking to several articles and even a book that discussed black spaces and why colorblindness is a problem. In justifying her qualifications to discuss racism — despite her saying she doesn’t have time to learn about racism and that she doesn’t understand racism — she continues to flaunt her book chapter on Black Lives Matter. Writing a chapter on a phenomenon, as we have seen with many articles and social media postings by others, does not begin to demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand. If it did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Claudia blocked me and others and put out a live video, which she later tried to delete. At no point does she take responsibility for her initial video or try to understand why accusing other activists of racism was wrong. She has been doubling and tripling down on her message that people just hate her because she’s white. It’s a trope, and it’s sad. This is the type of mentality black people and others of color have been fighting for generations. This is the same type of behavior we denounced when it came from Hillary Clinton and her followers, but in this case, the deflection of valid criticism is cast as racist. Claudia made a public video as a public figure and made unfounded allegations rooted deeply in racial ignorance. She has made no attempt to correct her inflammatory public commentary.

On Wednesday, Jacqueline Luqman and I had a nearly two-hour discussion of this issue, putting it in the greater context of racism in America and our organizing efforts in progressive movement spaces. Last night, Jacqueline made this video after Debbie and Claudia repeatedly attempted to keep spinning this issue away from the facts.

Debbie Lusignan

At some point, like a good friend, Debbie the “Sane Progressive” decided to step in and support her friend. Instead of talking to her friend about the problems with the very public video alleging racism, Debbie stepped in it herself with her own belittling and incoherent video tirade about political divisiveness and identity politics.

Yesterday she did another live video, this time claiming to be about bridging divides. Here’s the thing: Neither Claudia nor Debbie will own up to the initial issue. How can a divide be bridged if they are not even trying to accept any responsibility? Claudia then tried to tag in Niko House and Tim Black, as if the black men can come and protect her. The levels of hubris and insanity in this entire debacle are astounding.

However, the fact still remains that on June 20, Claudia Stauber posted a video alleging that a workshop (in a space seeking to lift up marginalized voices) was racist because she could not stream and share the internal conversation with her followers. Subsequently, Debbie and Claudia have doubled down, denied responsibility, and continue to deflect with comments about peace and love. There is nothing peaceful and loving about alleging that black activists who are organizing for justice are racist. There is nothing peaceful and loving about gaslighting and saying that because of me, one black person, you will never talk to or deal with any other black people ever again. There is nothing peaceful and loving about acknowledging ignorance of a subject that is deeply intrinsic to the issue you are professing to discuss but aren’t willing to learn and understand.

This is not about racism.

This is about voyeurism and childlike petulance when being told no. This is not about hating white people or hating Claudia because she is white. This is about accountability. When people put forth accusations as Claudia did in her June 20 video, they need to be held accountable, particularly when they’re people who hold themselves out as voices of the progressive movement and independent media.

This is also about the countless white progressives and liberals who think this type of mentality and commentary is okay because — for some reason — they are entitled to every space available. No one is taking the time to understand why organizers even felt the need to have a black-led space, or what the purpose of such spaces even is. The funny/sad part is that Claudia and Debbie have proven why sometimes people of color chose to be among themselves.

Claudia broke a trust.

She was allowed to be in a space that was not envisioned for her, and instead of recognizing and reflecting on what she learned in that 90 minutes, she could not see past the fact that she wasn’t allowed to stream. And suddenly, not being able to do what she wanted when she wanted meant the situation was racist and we all just hate her because she’s white.

To those who say “but Claudia is so sweet” or “you should be patient,” I am giving Claudia the same consideration she gave the organizers of the conference and leaders of the workshop. This is a public personality who made public statements, with a cadre of followers who chimed in. We have a segment of people even within our progressive spaces who believe that if white people are not present in everything that is done, all the time as watchful overseers, it is racism and must be stopped. This is a huge problem. We have a lot of work to do. A good first step is for people close to Debbie and Claudia who understand about anti-racism work and racial justice to get them to stop making these videos without a better understanding. Explain to them the history of white women, tears, and false accusations.

Sorry didn’t save Rosewood or stop Emmett Till from being murdered, but it could start a chapter in understanding for both women and those who follow them.


A Few Quick Articles for Background Reading:
Colorblindness
White Feminist Tears
White Feminists Addressing Their Own Racism
Anti-Racism Work in The Peace Movement

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About Anoa J Changa 1 Article
─ She's an activist who focuses on politics, social commentary, and news through the perspective of critique and authenticity. You will find her other works at ProgressiveArmy.com and on TheWayWithAnoa.com

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4 Comments Posted

  1. This is a disingenious article. Anoa likes starting shit, look at her TL on twitter. But when anybody calls her out on it, she hides behind her black woman identity. You cant shame pepople into submission — you have to have diolgue and debate.

    What Clauidia said didnt offened me, but i also don’t agree with the point she made.

    I side with Debbie and Claudia any day over these fauxgressives like Anoa.

  2. I learned quite a bit during 2016 about our fellow Progressives but was on the fence and was not 100% convinced that White Fragility and White Privilege existed among our ranks… The situation in this article and the comments have made me a full believer that our movement is no exception. I hate admitting this now. This is all very sad and unbelievable at the same time. I met worked with Claudia a few times and no one could have ever convinced me that she was like this and that she has so much to learn on this subject. Only Claudia could have convinced me that she is like this and she did exactly that by her own admission and videos.

    Someone needs to reach out to her and unfortunately, by her own admission that someone will have to be a white person. I cannot hardly even believe this is happening.

    The arrogance of both Debbie and Claudia has become very divisive on this topic and put everyone’s progressive movement years back.

  3. I get, condone, and fully support the idea and the value of closed sessions for groups that are the subject of discrimination and marginalization. That said, an inevitable fallout of such groups is that some otherwise sympathetic people are not going to get it. I support efforts to assist them in getting it. Indeed, I support pointed efforts to assist them in getting when that is appropriate. What I think is counterproductive is calling this behavior racist.

    I commend the more judicious use of what is one of the most charged terms of our times. Racial discrimination disables people’s life possibilities — in the most serious cases resulting in their death. Trading charges of racism with other progressives only diminishes our efforts to call out life-altering race-based abuses all too prevalent today.

    Tl;dr — Do we really have to keep calling each other racists?

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