So today in class we had an interesting discussion about virginity and sexual purity before marriage. This class is a women's health class, and the people in it tend to not be very well educated on intersectionality, in particular race and gender identity. The whole conversation and movie clip we watched kept urking me. This conversation was about white, middle-to-upper class heterosexual women, straight up.
Once we began discussing the video and purity in general, folks were looking at it from a one-sided perspective. One quote really rang in my head, "If they had sex they would put a black stain on their purity."
While I think the person who said it didn't mean for it to have racial implications, but it sure as hell did. Purity is looked as being symbolized as white, clean, and wholesome (I.E. a white wedding dress), and anything not pure is seen as dark, dirty, and cheap.
How does this tie into race? Well those who are thought of to be pure in our society are middle to upper class white heterosexual folks, often times Christians. Lower-class individuals, non-Christian, non-hetero, or people of color fit into that "other" category, the dirty, cheap, and promiscuous sector of society. Women of color are looked at as being jezebels, willing to sleep with anyone. History of slavery in this country has shaped sentiments of people of color and their worth in society.
Looking back at that student's quote, it's clear. If you're white, you're pure, otherwise you are the unwanted stain and you don't belong. The same sentiment is prevalent in the common phrase "The black sheep" referencing the weird, abnormal, deviant person of a certain group. The color choice of the sheep in this phrase isn't just about sheep, it's about the acceptance of people of color within mainstream society and its values. I'm willing to bet there are just as many black sheep as white sheep wandering around out there, but white is default, it's always default. What we're doing is otherizing anyone who isn't white, forming segregated communities with little understanding.
I have a hunch that part of the reason women of color, especially those occupying lower-classes, are victims of more rape and sexual abuse due to the fact that men think they can't say no to sex, their race screams sexual promiscuity. This keeps those pretty little white girls "pure" while the boys can still have their experience. It's a disgusting cycle that needs to stop.
We need to stop looking at purity as being symbolized by whiteness. If you have a black granite counter-top, it's going to be dirty if it has white baking powder on it. When we choose to symbolize such strong moral convictions that are prevalent in society by color, we're further perpetuating systematic racism. Things aren't black and white, and there's not one perspective that should be seen as better than another. We need to start being more aware of these cultural norms that are intertwined and embedded into our lives so that we can stop using them, and start changing them.
Peace, Love, and Equality,