POC ZINE PROJECT — Hi, I am a first-gen Armenian-American and I identify as a West Asian/ POC. I am working on a Zine to try to identify the undefined racial/ethnic/cultural Armenian/American identity. However, as an Armenian I am stuck in-between being "white" and brown and therefore don't know if I will be accepted in the POC community. I am visibly not white and my struggles are not either. I want a community where I can seek solidarity w/ people like me but I am alienated from POC and white communities.
Hi, I am a first-gen Armenian-American and I identify as a West Asian/ POC. I am working on a Zine to try to identify the undefined racial/ethnic/cultural Armenian/American identity. However, as an Armenian I am stuck in-between being "white" and brown and therefore don't know if I will be accepted in the POC community. I am visibly not white and my struggles are not either. I want a community where I can seek solidarity w/ people like me but I am alienated from POC and white communities. — Asked by Anonymous

Hi Anon,

Thank you for writing. My name is Daniela Capistrano and I’m the founder of the POC Zine Project. I am addressing you personally because I want to thank you for sharing your story and for taking on the zine project you described. We would love to help you in any way that we can.

Please send us an email at poczineproject@gmail.com and we can discuss ways to support your project.

You have raised a point that others have brought to our attention online and at our tour events, which is that POC identity and related communities can be defined in very different ways, depending on factors like:

- geography

- shared histories/lack of shared histories

- gender

- level of education/level of access to education

You have not stated where you are located. I would like to know more about your efforts to engage with POC-led movements and formal/informal groups and how people responded to you.

As someone who identifies as POC but also has skin privilege (people often confuse me for Italian or Jewish), I can (in my own way) relate to  this comment you made:

As an Armenian I am stuck in-between being ‘white’ and brown and therefore don’t know if I will be accepted in the POC community.

I can relate to this statement because there was a time in my teens where I wasn’t sure where I fit in. The POC folk I interacted with at the time had different interests from me. I felt stifled and frustrated. However, I’m thankful I was able to determine that one group of POC doesn’t speak for all people of color.

There isn’t one monolithic POC community that you need to worry about being accepted by. You don’t need to pick one group to affiliate yourself with. You can, and should, support and draw strength from as many POC as you can.

As POC, many of us often (unintentionally even) project our own internalized racism and identity issues onto other POC. I don’t know you, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with your situation. But I do know that internalized racism did play a huge role in how long it took for me to create my own POC community that was affirming and inspiring.

If you don’t feel like you have a POC community you can relate to, create one. 

Your self-care should be paramount. If you’re feeling isolated, you took a great step by contacting us to function as a sounding board for you. I understand your choice to be anonymous and will not take it personally if you don’t ever email me.

But, if you do, I can share some local options and also online resources that might resonate with you.

There is no “right” or “official” way to “be” a person of color. If you are read as a person of color and identify as a person of color, then that is YOUR experience and it is valid. You have a right to seek community and to feel affirmed.

Don’t let a few bad apples who alienated you keep you from the gift of being an active part of POC communities.

One thing that might be problematic is what you mentioned at the end of your comment: 

I want a community where I can seek solidarity w/ people like me but I am alienated from POC and white communities.

Since you didn’t provide additional context, I can only speculate on the few possible factors that informed this statement:

- You would like to be a part of an Armenian-American community, but are having trouble finding a group of people who identify as Armenian-American in the ways that you do to feel affiliated with/affirmed by

- You have already tried to be involved in POC events and groups in your hometown but felt alienated by x actions that resulted in you feeling left out or erased

- You are seeking “solidarity” out of a need to affirm your ethnic heritage

If any of those things apply, I sincerely hope you are able to find other Armenian-American folks to connect with locally and online. There are many ways to go about this.

I don’t know what you already tried or exactly what you are looking for, but all your language points to a person who is determined to find a place where they feel like they belong.

I encourage you to - in the process of finding an Armenian-American group/s to feel affirmed by - consider the value of participating in a broad range of POC groups/events.

Solidarity in POC communities is critical to our liberation and to dismantling institutional racism. I am not going to tell you what this should look like for you, because that wouldn’t be appropriate.

Instead, I’m going to give you a few glimpses into my own process and hopefully that is helpful in some way:

Practicing Solidarity Strategies Every Day = Very Easy Way To Find - And Be Accepted By - MULTIPLE POC Communities

I am not Black. I am Chicana. My partner is Black and I have many Black friends/collaborators, as well as a few Black people in my living family tree (as well as back up in the roots) ;).

Does this mean I only go to events for Chican@s/Latin@s? No.

Does this mean I think that I have a right to identify as Black, or to think that all Black spaces are/should be open to me? No.

I address opportunities and conflicts on a case by case basis.

Solidarity for me (in relation to the struggles and aspirations of Black people worldwide), and as part of my process to affirm my partner, is to support Black(and folks of varying backgrounds from the African diaspora) groups/movements in the following ways:

* With my physical presence at events where it is appropriate for me to be there (I don’t ask to attend Black-only events that are intended to be private and affirming experiences for Black-identified people).

* By donating my time and funds to support Black-led events

* By making it a priority to involve Black folks in POC Zine Project initiatives

I lose nothing by standing in solidarity with my Black brothers, sisters and allies. I gain so much by making myself available in the ways that I can.

I apply this solidarity strategy to multiple communities of color I interact with. Just last fall, I volunteered my time with CAAV, bringing them food to distribute to Sandy victims in NYC.

CAAAV works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City.  

Am I Asian? No. Did I feel like I didn’t have a right to support CAAV because I’m not Asian? No! Did CAAV reject my support because I’m not Asian? No, of course not!

Since then and moving forward, I will always feel comfortable attending CAAV events and supporting their efforts in any way that I can. I don’t have to Asian to understand what they are doing. I don’t have to be Asian to feel like I can be a part of their community in ways that make sense for me. 

You said ”.. therefore I don’t know if I will be accepted in the POC community.

I can guarantee you that if you are practicing solidarity strategies with POC groups of any background, and supporting their efforts, you will DEFINITELY feel accepted. It is rare for people to reject love and support.

I encourage you to think about whether or not you feel like you can only feel “authentic” solidarity with other Armenian-Americans and how structures built on the back of White Supremacy and Institutional racism MIGHT (only you know) be warping your view about what your level of comfort is when you’re around other POC who aren’t exactly like you.

… I think my world would be much smaller if I ONLY associated with Chican@s/Latin@s, as it would make intersectional analysis of our overlapping struggles as POC very difficult to process.

Again, POC community is not this monolithic member-based organization where everyone follows the same rules. We all have similar goals, but we also have conflicts, as POC, with each other, for reasons informed by geography, class, gender, etc.

In your journey to gain affirmation and support from POC communities, consider your own role in affirming and supporting other POC. If you are not giving anything back, then it’s no suprise that you feel “alienated” which can often be confused with “feeling left out.”

Again, I don’t know you or what your experience has been like. I can only go by what you shared. But I hope you will consider how much personal power you possess and how you can use it to create and participate in your ideal POC community.

We hope to hear from you soon!

I’m thrilled about your zine idea and would love to help you find a distro and promote its release, at the very least. Depending on the content, we can also discuss tabling with it during our tour.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Here are some responses from our Facebook community:

Spectra Speaks said: Queer Women of Color Media Wire - QWOC Media Wire publishes so much commentary about nationality/ethnicity/non-western ideologies about identity. You are so totally welcome to submit there! I also agree with commenter above — I never fit either, and though it’s hard sometimes, my voice and writing affirms that other people don’t have to either.http://www.qwocmediawire.com/

And this:

Evan Pivazyan said: Armenian Anon, who are you? -A fellow Armenian-American who knows exactly what you’re talking about and wants to talk about it.

And this, which just came through our Tumblr right now: 

Armenian Anon— I am also a first gen queer Armenian-American and I 100% feel everything you wrote about! I am so shocked to hear somebody else articulating what you’ve wrote; it’s like a revelation! Get in contact with me on my blog! I’m mad interested in the zine you’re working on too. (Dear POC Zine Project: sorry for using you as a go-between)

You are not alone.

Thank you again for having the courage to reach out and good luck finding the community that works for you.

Warmly,

Daniela Capistrano

Founder, POC Zine Project

17 notes

Show

  1. jarodrosello said: I know you’re not writing to me, but it sure feels that way. This is why I like following you on Tumblr.
  2. ollietbeast said: I wasn’t the person who asked this question, but am in a similar boat. I really appreciate your thoughtful response and insight. Thank you!!
  3. poczineproject posted this