Down With ‘All Men’ And ‘All White’ Speaker Panels By Cheryl Roberts

9 Jun

I’m so over speaker panel-line ups being about white people and men (of all colours).

It’s been some time now that I’ve been dissing all white and all men panels. Such panel line-ups appear at seminars, conferences, conversations which a critical thinking society like ours, hosts and engages participants with thought prowess of the panelists.

But really now. At this juncture of powerful, sharp, relevant thinkers being of all genders, sexualities and colours, how do organisers and hosts still manage to set up an all male panel or all white panel?

What makes such organizers/hosts still want to present panels of speakers whom are all men or all white? Is it because men and whites have more public profiles? Are the organisers not all too aware who the significant and relevant people are in our society?

There are far too many significant, interesting and pivotal women contributors, of all colours, in our South African society to fill up conference/seminar/conversation panels.

There’s been much opinion circulating about the whiteness of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, where the audience was mostly white and the panel line-ups mostly white-dominated. This is not the only forum which has this whiteness association.

Why are we against all white panel line-ups and all- men panelists? It’s because most of the time, these panelists are not the thinkers of the society black women and feminists demand. Most times the white people and men represent their middle class selves. Their writing and research interests and such people have no linkage with grassroots resistance.  How do you expect conscious black women and feminists to listen to all white panelists when most of them are yet to acknowledge white racism and privilege?  And just how do you expect conscious black women to listen to an all men speaker panel when the mean just about always remember to include women, in just about one or two sentences.

It says a lot about your consciousness when your organization or forum, tertiary institution, government department, hosts a public discussion involving speakers and audience and the panelists are either all white or all men.

There are no acceptable excuses when this is done like ‘this was hurriedly put together’, ‘speakers/panelists weren’t available’, ‘we are not racist; we are not sexist’.

The era of hosting talks/seminars/discussion involving only white people as speakers and only men as panelists is long over. In fact it’s buried; should never be repeated.

So I’m calling out all those who host and organise such talks and forums. You must question your speaker and panelist line-up and representation. We are changing South Africa radically and only white and only men panelists are way past their sell by date.

I don’t want to waste my precious energy on calling out every panel when I come across them or see invitations demonstrating them. This bog is my opinion about such only white people and only men panel forums.

The same goes for discussions in the Cape Town and surrounding areas. How do you explain hosting a seminar series in Cape Town about women and feminism and not one of the speakers/discussants are ‘black African’.  I know that in such circumstances, people would not identify as being ‘coloured’, but as being black. Fair enough with your identity. But can we allow ‘coloured’ women to speak for all black women, especially in Cape Town?

Speakers and panelists must also not agree to be part of discussions/ presentations that have only white people on the panel or only men.

If you have a powerful, socially aware, strong, revolutionary consciousness, you would never agree to be part of such forums.

Down with representative forums of only men speakers and only white people panelists! Your time is up!

 

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