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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]

One of my livejournal friends regularly posts things about race issues. I like to read them, but they usually just make me sad. (This post may well upset her, and I probably should just shut up. Here's hoping I don't just upset folks, as that's not my goal at all.)

Priviledge -- whether you're talking race, sex, non-transgressiveness, what have you -- is a very real thing. It's everywhere. Hardly anyone sees it.

I regularly see white women who have a real, gut-level understanding of male priviledge but who don't seem to even see white priviledge.

I've met a few black men who were all about the white priviledge thing, and didn't seem to have a clue about male priviledge.

Damn near every white man I've ever met is either completely unaware of their own priviledge, or they take rutheless advantage of it. Sometimes both.

All anecdotal, of course. There are exceptions to every rule, and I'm sure that you, dear reader, are one of them. Great. It's irrelevant to my point.

My point is mostly that people suck, and that I probably should try to do something about it. I don't, though. I am not an activist and probably never will be. I talk to people sometimes, and I do my best not to abuse the priviledge I'm all too aware that I am stuck with, but I'll probably never make a big stink. So I'm part of the problem myself, I'm sure.

Of course, there isn't anything I can do about my white priviledge. I can't give it up -- society doesn't work that way. I can't break it down, because I don't have the power to do so. At best, I can be fine with changes that lessen white priviledge; I can not try to stop those changes.

But the whole thing just makes me depressed. Depression isn't an emotion that fosters action; in fact, it usually fosters inaction.

Of course, at this point, I'm also just waiting for our current administration in the U.S. to get to the point that they come for me. I firmly believe it'll happen. I wish I felt there was something I could do about it, but I don't. I suspect that by the time I feel like I need to try to leave it'll probably be too late.

People suck.

I say we nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

No misanthropy here.

Current Mood: apatheticapathetic

I recently had someone tell me that I had to "give up my white privilege" before I could participate in discussions about racism. That offended me; it smacked of reverse racism and, as you say, there is no way I can "give up my white privilege".

When I raised the question as to how I was supposed to give up my "white privilege" I was given only smartass responses, which, to me, supports the reverse racism interpretation. I now have no idea what I, as a white person, am supposed to do toward ending racism.

I am not the enemy; please don't treat me as though I am.

Two things:

1) There is no such thing as "reverse racism". There's just racism. "Reverse racism" is a neoconservative term that is IMHO harmful for a wide variety of reasons.

2) Seriously, no sarcasm intended: But see, you are the enemy, and the best part is that there is no way you cannot be. That's what institutionalized priviledge is all about. The best you can do is to be a relatively benign enemy. It's stuff like that that gets me so depressed about it all.

I refuse to accept that interpretation of the world. Anyone whose worldview requires treating a majority of the community in which one lives as irredeemable enemies has problems.

I can't even conceive of not believing in the possibility of human change. If we don't believe that people can change then this world is completely hopeless and doomed.

And I can't bring myself to believe that.

See, I tend to end up in the "hopeless and doomed" camp most of the time.

I don't think you realize that just by being able to see injustice (be it racial, gender-biased or sexist) you are far ahead of the majority in this game.

You understand and recognize.

And you are willing to go out on a limb and call people on their 'asshatedness' (is that word? LOL), even if they are close to you.

You don't have to march or sing "we shall overcome" or write books and essays to be an activist. What you do - that IS being an activist. That, to me, is so much more important than big showy numbers and speeches and books.

There are a lot of people who talk the big talk in front of an audience, but when it comes down to their day to day lives and confronting the -isms of the people they work with and love, they do nothing.

You put it on the line where it counts most.

*hugs you and sends you kisses*

Thanks. I needed that.

I will admit that what I got out of the two essays is mostly, "You're always the enemy, no matter what you do, so fuck off." Which is a damn good point...but it's not a happy thought.

Kil Ja Kim comes down hard, but she does believe that well-meaning people can make a difference. She just isn't one to stroke egos about it.

I don't think she feels that well-meaning whites should totally 'fuck off', but that the hypocrisy should 'fuck off' ... those usual liberal expectation of accolades for doing right by other human beings needs to stop, i.e. White anti-racism activists should do it because they truly believe it's the right thing, not because they think it's trendy, or kewl, or will make them look good.

It's sort of like Iraq, how so many Americans want the people of Iraq to bend over backwards in gratitude for 'what we are doing for them', you know? That's not going to happen. So you either do it because you truly feel it's right and you want to ... but don't do in a search for thankfulness because it isn't going to happen.

Does that make sense?

It does...but I think that's just a gentler way to say what I was saying. (And her rant is definitely directed at the hypocrisy and doesn't leave room for someone like me. Which I'm not complaining about, mind you...I completely agree with her, but like I said, it's not a happy thought.)

People wanting the Iraqis to be grateful are just another reason we should nuke the site from orbit. *halfhearted grin*

Yeah, that's pretty much the message I got, too. And I'm really sorry about it. I try to treat people as individuals, both in my private life and when I teach. I tend not to be especially race-conscious, and have literally no idea of the racial breakdown of my students; it goes along with being really stupid about guessing people's ages, too; I'm oblivious to a lot of that stuff.

So I try not to be racist myself. I try not to facilitate racism. I know that I benefit from white priviledge, and I regret that. And I'm sorry that that stuff's not really enough, but it's what I can do.

Sometimes don't you just want to shake the entire planet until it's collective teeth rattle?
If you're ever in the mood for an interesting (but lord is it ever dry reading) social theory, "Spiral Dynamics" gave me a way to hold my current frustration with how things are going in this culture at the moment with a more hopeful future view. It posits that we're in a "growing pains" type of space evolutionarily, and that's why it's such a mess currently.

You know what's really rich? Pretty much *nobody* seems to notice that they have "not a fuckin' tranny" privilege. :)