I used to talk about fat stuff a lot. Sometimes I still do.
Yesterday, I sat down to write an entry explaining why I haven’t been as vocal about fat politics for the last little while, especially in this space. I saved the draft and left it, because I felt like I shouldn’t have to justify the number of conversations I have in person or how writing on the same topic over and over again started to make me feel like I didn’t have anything fresh to say. I left that post and now I am glad. Because today I want to say to other fat people: black lives must matter to us. Black lives matter.
I wanted to mention that post sitting in draft because it is a marker of my desire to communicate to you, my fat friends and fat community, how much I love you and respect you. And I write this post with just as much love and respect for our community. I want to speak particularly to the white fat people in the house for this one.
The founding principle of fat acceptance is a simple one.
Our community saves lives. It is a radical space built around the radical notion that, as the incomparable Glenn Marla has said:
There is no wrong way to have a body.
That statement might as well be the foundational statement, the core theory of radical fat acceptance; it is the distillation of what we fight against when we reject compulsory diet culture, when we attempt to explode the beauty paradigm instead of just slightly expanding it, when we demand the dignity and respect owed to every human being AS a human being.
Fat acceptance must be intersectional in order to be radical.
But right now, fat black people are having to defend their humanity to other fat people – particularly white people – within fat communities. I’ve seen it in a couple of places (including this article by Ashleigh Shackelford) over the last few days, and I would be remiss if I did not speak up and lend my support to the fat black people who are having to say this:
If you claim any involvement in body positivity – from the least radical interpretation of that to the most fat liberationist perspective – and you are not invested in #blacklivesmatter then you are supporting white supremacy and racism. As a bonus, you are undermining the cause of fat acceptance.
I am most assuredly not the Queen of Fat Acceptance, so it is not like I can kick anyone out of the movement. I am not coming for your fat badge. But fat activism is a movement meant to serve and support ALL fat people and if you are involved without actively working toward dismantling your own racism, the movement is suffering.
(If your response is, “But I just want to talk about fatness,” then you are incredibly privileged. Fat, black women are stereotyped in different ways than fat, white women. Fat, black men are demonized in ways fat, white men don’t experience. This is why intersectionality is important.)
Everyone is racist. That is not an excuse.
That’s true for me, too. I’m not sitting outside of all of this. Just as we are all stewing in the constant social messaging – some of which is very subtle – about how terrible it is to be fat, we are all stewing in the constant social messaging of racism and white supremacy.
In response, we must do the work of unlearning our own assumptions, our own habits. We must do the work of learning to recognize what we wouldn’t have even stopped to consider before. We must do the work to acknowledge that black lives must matter to us.
This may be uncomfortable to confront. That’s okay. The alternative is willful ignorance of how we participate in and perpetuate oppression.
The Tone Argument remains bullshit.
Perhaps your response is that #blacklivesmatter is just too violent, too aggressive, too messy. Perhaps your response is that you value all lives.
Those defenses are knee-jerk reactions that ignore and protect racist stances.
Listen, I’m not saying anything new when I say that no one has ever achieved liberation by asking politely for it. If you require black people to remain CIVIL while asking you to stop murdering them in the streets, then you really need to reevaluate your harm analysis. Your discomfort does not trump the value of black lives.
The #AllLivesMatter response comes from a) people who value theoretical ideals over the reality of what is happening in the world and b) people who are not from the United States. If your beef with the movement is the specificity of the wording, then again I think you need to reevaluate your harm analysis.
This is not a theoretical exercise.
We are not in a classroom, examining a hypothetical situation. We are failing our community when we fail to recognize that black lives must matter to us as a movement. If we believe that every body is worth of dignity and care then that must include action taken to support anti-racist work.
Black lives must matter to fat people. #BlackLivesMatter period.