I’m Just Not Impressed

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Archive for the ‘Definitions’ Category

The never ending cycle of white privilage.

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(Originally posted on LiveJournal in March 2009. But it seems, sadly, continually relevant.)

Hi. My name is Em…

and I am racist.

I say that without a sense of irony and with some small sense of shame. It is primarily passive racism at this point, but I benefit from the color of my skin in innumerable ways every day. And if you are reading this, and you are white, so do you. And you have been trained by our society not to see it and to embrace it and to benefit – every day – from the fact that you are not a person of color.

I am racist. I don’t like it. I hate it. But every fucking day I struggle with myself. I fail at being an anti-racist ally every fucking day. But I keep trying. And I learn. I’m not saying this because I want someone to give me a cookie and a pat on the back for trying not to be an asshole. I’m saying it because we can all learn together if we want to, but first we have to see our prejudice for what it really is. We have to own it. We have to admit to ourselves the way that we react to people of different races and not try to explain it away as something other than an instantaneous value judgement based primarily on the color of someone’s skin.

There has been a ton of fail around these here internets lately – RaceFail, if you will. It is bleeding over – as it should – into other venues I frequent (and if you frequent them too, then a lot of this might look a little familiar, but it needs to be said). It makes people uncomfortable. Fact is, it’s not nice to be confronted with our own privilege. It’s not nice to think that we as white people might be racist. It’s a lot easier to talk about racial prejudice, and privilege. It’s lot easier to not push ourselves out of our comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable, and it sucks, and it burns and if we are even the slightest bit concerned with social justice, it can make our entire selfhood squirm to call our race based prejudice by its actual name. RACISM.

But here’s the thing.
It’s not about us. It’s not about the white people.

It’s not about how our feelings get hurt when people call us out for saying stupid shit.
It’s not about how an innocent comment (or chapter or essay or statement) was misconstrued.
It’s not about how hard it is to be sensitive to other people’s cultural sensitivities.
It’s not about how it stings and burns and makes us want to rage when someone suggests that we are, in fact, racist.
It’s not about us white folks.

At its root it’s about systematic racism and how generations of racial oppression have created a system in which what a white person says is valued more highly than what a person of color says. It’s about how generations of passive lack of resistance have benefited white people at the expense of people of color. It’s about using the language of oppression to cast white people we don’t like into the role of racial other when there is no other target, or to make the case that we’re not racist, we’re classist. It’s about white being the default and non-white being “special interest.” It’s about not having to bear scrutiny for our entire race when we fuck up.

It is not about how uncomfortable we feel. If it hurts to be called a racist, too damn bad. If it hurts that much, do what you can to help create a world that is less racist. It’s our fault as a race, not peoples of color. We can listen. We can speak up. We can see to it that we learn and that we don’t leave anti-racist work to people of color. We can call out our friends.

We can own up to our own racism.

Written by emandink

August 19, 2014 at 7:48 am

The Divided Fifty States.

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A lot of people have been talking about the “divide” in the U.S. lately.  On one side are the Glen Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, the Pat Buchanans. The teabaggers, the birthers, the folks who desperately need a Political Theory class so that they can learn the difference between socialism, communism, National Socialism, fascism and why it is hypocritical to protest against government spending and against inadequate government services at the same time. On the other side are the rest of us.

But that’s not the only divide. In discussions of feminism and rape culture and kyriarchy, it is abundantly clear that there is another deep chasm, between those who think she deserved it and those of us who don’t. Between those of us who think that women are objectified and those of us who think its their right to objectify us. Between those of us who think that the victims of rapists are the real victims and those who think the rapists are the real victims.

The discussion of the false rape allegations at Hofstra taking place at The Sexist today is a glaring example of this divide. And like so many such discussions, it makes me want to throw up a little because the differences in the way we view the world are so fucking obvious that I start to wonder if anything can make a difference and if we ever really can be “United”. Because despite what Buchanan thinks, we never really were.

Written by emandink

September 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

The third sign of the simacrulum.

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Or: meta, within meta, within meta. Or:in which I blog about blogging.

I think every blogger, deep down, must wish to actually develop a following – a community of people who care about what they write and who not only view the blogger as helping them learn something but who, through their participation help the writer learn as well.

Note the shift in terms there, since I’m not at all sure it’s limited to blogging. Here, in 2009, anyone who has access to the internet can grab a soapbox. It may be tiny, it may be huge, it may be one voice pitching into the void, or it may be a community.

Maintaining community is hard. I know this as a moderator in forums where I have no direct responsibility for providing content, but “merely” keep my eyes open for trolls or unsafe comments or inappropriate posts.

Maintaining a blog – at least one that is more than a personal journal – with thoughtful, researched content and original ideas and supporting links – is also hard work. Really, I had no idea what it would take to regularly post here – and clearly I do not. I constantly have ideas in my head for posts I want to make; I have a whole series about my trip to India, for example, that I’ve wanted to write about for almost three months. Just this past week, I’ve thought about at least half a dozen things that would make interesting posts, but I just don’t have the time or the energy or the focus.

This is not my life. It is not what I do. I spend hours every day working at a job that I enjoy and that pays me well and I am immensely thankful for that.

This also means that I am immensely thankful for those people who do have the time to build and maintain the communities that give me hope and inspiration and the feeling that this all might be worth something. I’m thinking mostly right now of Shakesville, and the gigantic effort that Melissa and her contributors must put into making that place what it is. And it is a place. It may be virtual, but it is still real.

And the same goes for at least a dozen other sites where I pop in from time to time and my tweeps and readers and, hell, I have to get to the “real” job, so if you think this is about you, then it probably is. But I want you to know, this is no less “real” to me and I don’t think it ever could be again.

Thank you.

Written by emandink

June 10, 2009 at 8:05 am

The Invisible Human

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Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Read all about it and see more posts here.

Imagine if you will a person. This person takes four different very expensive pills which are not covered by zir health insurance every night. Zie has taken something, ranging from the current four supplements to a variety of toxic psychoactive prescription drugs, every day for more than five years. Some of these medications have caused zir to spiral into horrible depression. Some have caused weight loss. Others, weight gain. Zie is likely going to be adding two more drugs to zir current regimen soon, because the four pills zie already takes – which are some of the last possibilities to permit zir to function normally – no longer effectively block the pain zie would otherwise have to live with almost every day.

Is this person disabled?

Does it matter if zie can hold a job?
Does the type of job matter?
Does it matter if zie would be unable to hold the job zie is trained for without the aid of daily medication?
Does it matter if zie can walk/hear/see/function mentally at a high level?
Does it matter that you would never know that this person was in pain if zie didn’t tell you?
Does it matter that this person has experienced pain daily for the past two weeks?
Does it matter if zie is married? Has children?
Does it matter if this person would need pain meds virtually every day, absent zir nightly cocktail of pills?
Does it matter whether the pain meds are prescription or OTC?
Does it matter whether the pain meds effect mental functioning in some way?
Does it matter whether zie can be unable to speak or find appropriate words when the pain is severe?
Does it matter whether other people have worse conditions?
Does it matter whether this person thinks zie is disabled?
Does it matter if this person is a he or a she?

Does it matter if this person is me?

I am at a loss, I confess.
Seriously. I have no idea whether I should consider myself disabled. I do know fellow migraineurs who have fought hard for legal acknowledgement as disabled when their stasis migraines have made it physically impossible for them to function normally. Clearly, I am not at that point. My knee-jerk reaction is to say, no, of course I’m not disabled. All of my problems, from my severe nearsightedness to my almost daily migraines can be reasonably controlled by modern medicine.

When we talk about invisible disabilities, do we even see ourselves?

I’ve discussed one type of invisibility in my most recent posts here – the invisibility and infantilism of people with disabilities in discussions of sexuality, focused through the lens of past experience as the partner of a person with a visible physical disability. Because of that narrow focus, I was thinking primarily of issues faced by people with visible mobility limiting disabilities. Ignoring, as I did so, not just the experience of people with other visible and invisible disabilities, but really, my own.

It has only been recently that I’ve come to even consider myself as living with long term chronic pain, because for the most part, that pain is managed, and it is not nearly as persistent and severe as many people I know. I fear that I’m somehow infringing on their right to acknowledgement of their pain – pain which regularly, severely limits their mobility, their ability to function, their very existence and interaction with the world.

It makes my migraines seem inconsequential.
But I’m not really sure that matters.
And really, what a privilege it is to be able to choose. To decide whether I want to identify myself as disabled. To get to decide for myself how I want to present my identity to the world.

But that doesn’t change how every “it’s just a headache” or “have you taken an aspirin” or “you should try x medication that worked so well for me/my mother-in-law/this random person on House” chips away at my feelings of control, self worth, very being. Because it’s not just a headache. Sobbing in frustration for not being able to the most basic sunny weekend activities with my sun is not “just” a headache. Cancelling or reworking plans because I can’t get out of bed without falling over is not “just” a headache. Losing my temper with my loved ones because they are too loud/bright/alive for me to handle is not “just” a headache. This is how I and many many others live.

Just because you cannot see us, doesn’t mean we are not there.

Written by emandink

May 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Hand in glove…

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So, I just found out about Write to Marry Day while reading Shakesville, which is a blog I clearly should have been reading for ages, but there you go.

Anyway.  Gay marriage.  Some might wonder why a woman in a monogamous heterosexual marriage even cares that much about the right of women to marry other women and men to marry other men.  After all, I can do what I want to do, clearly.

But, of course, nothing ever is, nor should it be that simple.  First off, marriage – I never thought I would get married.  Well, yes, when I was little I’m sure I did, but I don’t really remember having the stereotypical little-girl-fluffy-white-dress sort of fantasies that supposedly all little wannabe princesses have as wee bairns.  From a pretty early age I figured I would be the happy old maiden aunt who could be really awesomely cool with my step-siblings kids and then could go off to my fantastic artsy loft apartment with my fantastic artsy friends.  I was about 15 I think when women started appearing in the relationship part of those fantasies with almost the same regularity as men.  So, wonderful marriage to a man aside, I also know that but for the chance of meeting him before I met a wonderful woman, I could be directly affected.

But I still partake of and engage in and have oodles of heterosexual privilege, regardless of which onscreen personalities make me short of breath and there is something that smacks of simple platitudes for someone so publicly heterosexual to try to empathize with the situation of couples who have wanted what I have for decades.

Which brings me to another thought, which is about the term “marriage” itself.  Now there is a train of thought – which I’ve flirted with from time to time myself – which is the idea of “why not just civil unions?”   And in theory, I could support the idea of marriage as a solely religious term and civil union as the term for what we now think of as a civil marriage ceremony but for the fact is that words have power and meaning beyond what the dictionary definition might be.

“Marriage” as a concept in U.S. culture is loaded with social meaning that transcends the religious meaning for many people. I understand that the religious aspect of being “joined before god” is very important to many religions and that the concept of mated partnership is a vital part of many world religions. And while the concept of marriage may have begun as a religious ceremony (something which I doubt, personally, but I don’t have enough background in ancient cultures to really know for sure), as soon as it became something recognized and enforced by the state, it ceased to be something purely religious.

The importance of my marriage – of being joined to my husband as family, with all of the legal and social recognitions – is not remotely lessened to me because the ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace in a secular castle. My commitment to my husband of 11 years is not less because we do not believe that we were joined by “god”.

I’m completely fine with marriage meaning different things to different people – and goodness knows, I completely understand why some people do not want to be married/otherwise-legally-unioned because of what the term means to them. But I don’t want to cede the term “marriage” to bigots.

I remember a rousing debate engagement twelve years ago when we announced our engagement in an on line community that my husband and I frequented at the time in which someone I had considered something of a good friend had an extraordinarily difficult time understanding why I would want to enter into a legally binding socially endorsed relationship like a marriage, particularly at my then relatively tender age.

It’s because marriage has meaning.  A marriage becomes something larger than just the individuals involved.  And there is absolutely no justification I can think of for why any adult who wants to should not be able to marry any other adult who wishes to enter into that relationship.

I can think of a multitude of legal reasons why not acknowledging same sex marriages is a violation of the U.S. Constitution – starting with the Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit clauses.  But really, what it comes down to is basic human rights – the right of people to love whomever they love and to freely enter into whatever relationships meet their needs.

Written by emandink

October 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Was I born in a small town?

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Backtracking a bit, to things that were hot talk last week but that continue to intrigue me.  Consider this part of an ongoing series about what certain terms and phrases mean.  See also elitism and feminism.

Today we’re going to talk about Sarah Palin’s small town values.  One part of this is, of course, “what are small town values?“, which TDS has handled much more aptly than I, but I’m also curious about what even qualifies as a “small town” which could have such values.

Web analysis varies – less than 10,000 people? 5,000-15,000?  Does Park City, Utah, population roughly 8,000, have the same values as Hope, Arkansas, population roughly 10,500?  Which has more “small town” cred?  Why?  Why should it matter?

Who can claim STVs?  Only people who currently live in a town of less than 10,000 people?  How about college towns where the permanent residents number in the 10k range where the population doubles between September and May?  Does it matter whether the students vote locally or absentee?  Can you have small town values if you grew up in a small town, but move to a city?  How about just a town of 20,000 in a conservative county?  What if you were born and raised in New York or San Francisco or Boston or (OMG) Washington, DC (which a lot of people like to characterize as nothing but an overgrown small town that thinks its something because we have a lot of marble buildings) and then move to a town of 7,000 people to get away from it all?  If I live in a suburb of 3000 people (I don’t.  It’s 18k+ as of the 2000 census, which is still smaller than I anticipated.) but work in a city of 10 million, can I have small town values?  Only between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.?

It matters, of course, because here we have one of only two seriously electable political parties/presidential tickets playing identity politics of the worst kind – vote for us, say the Republicans – not because we have policies that are going to actually help you pay your mortgage and put food on the table – but because we are like you, just with designer clothing and high paying jobs. 

It’s easy as one of those damn liberal elitists to automatically equate these so-called small town values as essentially being what we call small mindedness or ignorance.  But it’s really not that simple.  Small-town vs. big-city, Red State vs. Blue State – what these phrases are is code for differs, but in the end, it’s just more us vs. them, which completely ignores that for better or for worse, we’re all in this together.

Ooh, purple!

Ooh, purple!

The point of this election should be what is best for the majority of Americans wherever the hell we live.  It should be about improving the US’s stature in world affairs.  It should be about a better life for all Americans, from the CEO worried about falling stock prices to the Ivy League professor worried about tenure to the factory worker worried about layoffs to the family facing forclosure and homelessness.  It shouldn’t matter where our ancesters came from or what our middle name is or what color our skin is – this election is about all of us and what we want the Unites States to be.

Written by emandink

September 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm

The Thinking Reed

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So, in having a conversation this morning about Cindy McCain’s $300,000 outfit for a convention in which her husband and his supporters ranted about elitism, I had a bit of a “You keep using that word” moment. The Republican leadership do not seem to be opposed to “practice of or belief in rule by an elite” – that’s who they represent, after all. Nor can I truly believe that they have no “consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group”.

Then I realized – late to the party, probably – that elitism = intellectualism to this crowd. Which still sort of baffled me, at which point I remembered a conversation my first semester of college with a friend from high school in which she threw “You and your friends are so intellectual” at me like it was the most insulting thing she chould have said to me. Whereas she had a better high school GPA and ACT score than I had and showed no sign of changing that in college, she completely acknowledged that she had no interest in settling down with a carafe of cheap wine and bummed cigarettes for an in depth discussion of whether Kierkegaard was superior to Hagel. While I was firmly of the “hell is other people” crowd and had directed Sartre’s No Exitfor drama class the year before, she was firmly of the “hell is other people who want me to think while I drink” crowd. She did fabulously in school, got a job right out and as far as I know is wonderfully happy. If her politics are anything like what they were when she was avoiding any sort of political discussion with her radical roommate, then she is voting McCain-Palin.

Now, I certainly understood what she meant, in that I know what the words mean and what she was trying to convey. She didn’t want to think about what she had learned after she learned it. She wanted to use it, but she got no rush out of dissecting it. She didn’t like the process of struggling with a concept or not knowing what to think about something. She didn’t like engaging in discussions of the meaning of things. She was secure in her God and in her calling and that was enough for her.

Watching the wealthy, successful republicans, many of whom, I’m sure, attended the same east coast Ivy League schools they deride Obama for attending – and discussing it and chewing it over and analyzing it (of course) – I suddenly put two and two together. What they are talking about and what roomie was talking about are the same phenomena – the issue is not being successful, or even thinking that you are better than others for being successful – that after all is the American Dream.

The issue is actually thinking about what it means to be successful and questioning the status quo. There is also a classism element here – the Republicans are trying to turn that on the Dems, I think – i.e., you have to be well off and cushy to have the luxury of thinking, not doing. But that’s where I think that the ‘Pubs are wrong – they are selling the American people short by assuming that intellectual = advanced education. What they don’t realize is that “east cost intelligentsia” (of which I am one, let’s be honest) don’t own the market on reading and thinking and discussing. A lot of people sell this short, not just the Republicans. It is a mistake to assume that someone needs a college degree to think critically. It is a mistake to assume that someone must work in an office to be interested in politics. The great thing about thinking is that it can be free.  The catch is lowering the cost.

Written by emandink

September 5, 2008 at 3:58 pm