Tag Archives: racism

Whitewashed Veins (Assimilation is a Violent Process)

My skin is white
White like an eraser
An eraser that wiped the brown from my skin
The skin of my cousins
The skin of my grandmother
Like the eraser that wiped her name
From her husband’s life
Her name is Maria, his wife
She is not named Mary
But that’s all he’s ever called her

She dressed in white dresses as a little girl
White dresses that erased the accent from her mouth
Erased the Spanish from her lips
Erased her native tongue
From her mother and my mother and me
So, now, when people say spic
I forget they mean me

My blood has been whitewashed
But I am not clean
My love is not wrangled by gender, color, or creed
But I married a white man
So marriage is okay for me

I don’t know my mother’s mother’s tongue
Her parents swept it under the rug
To keep their babies fed
In hopes they’d be free to tred

They succeeded
I’m so scrubbed
They don’t know me
‘Cause it won’t show on me
I walk in camouflaged skin
It’s all I’ve ever lived in

I lie awake at night
Wondering who I might have been
Wondering how much danger
I would have been in
If my genes showed a bit more melanin

My skin is white
White like an eraser
An eraser that wipes away my history
Until it is a mystery

Society: Decoded

I have been watching a YouTube show called Decoded for several months now. I really appreciate the information and how it is presented. Franchesca Ramsay released a new video today which I want to share here. I am also going to share links to some of my favorite videos from her.

Why Aren’t All Protestors Treated Like the Oregon Militia? | Video
8 Comebacks for Transphobic Relatives Over the Holidays | Video
Everything You Know About Thanksgiving is WRONG | Video
7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation DEBUNKED! | Video
White People Whitesplain Whitesplaining | Video
Do #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter? | Video
Should ALL Native American Mascots be BANNED? | Video

 

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” -Gandhi

I have a friend. Most of you know him. He is one of my true friends, internet or no. We disagree about some things. He made a post about some of them. When my reply hit 1,000 words I figured I should probably make it a post instead. These issues are complicated and multifaceted and I appreciate talking about them at length. I hope that this post will lead me and others to encounters with new ideas and a more focused worldview.

The friend is Vance and his post is here. My reply follows.
brain-exchange
My friend, you have been brutally honest with your criticisms, so I shall be brutally honest with my reply. I know you are frustrated and I can empathize. To be honest, you made me laugh even as I (strongly) disagreed with you. Which I think is maybe what you were going for.

You’ve missed the point (from my angle) –almost entirely…not altogether, but almost. 

There probably is some small, vocal subset that does blame you for things that you haven’t done, but most advocates for social equality are not so illogical.

Where gender is concerned, you said:

I’m told that men shouldn’t be involved in the gender debate, that they should just listen quietly and be educated. Fair enough: quiet listening is necessary to education, and speech before learning leads only to Fox and Friends. But there is a time for quiet listening, and there is a time for taking what one has learned and getting into the conversation, respectfully but actively. Otherwise, there isn’t much point in learning in the first place.

We have talked about gender inequities before and, given the content of those times, I think this is at least partly influenced by those talks. I say ‘talks’ because they were not conversations or exchanges. You said your piece, I said mine, repeat, and close the browser. I think we talked at each other. For me, it felt as though you had your opinions and that my challenge to those opinions insulted you. I hoped my comments would be a starting point. Instead, they became the final destination. I take at least part of the blame for that. No doubt I could have spoken better.
And yet, I cannot bring myself to take much blame.

You see, I’ve run into this situation too many times to count. The situation: Men, usually calling themselves feminists, talking about equality. By talking about equality, I mean talking over me or shrugging off the conversation when we get to a divergence. Again and again and again. You speak of listening with the intent of being educated, but if our few attempts at exchanges are anything to judge by, you may have never truly listened.

I don’t want to leave men out of the conversation. I know some feminists do, but I don’t. Still, men need to recognize that there are things that they just cannot know. And, yes, especially white men. When you are so used to the world listening to your voice and orienting itself to you, even a minute shift can be jarring for reasons not immediately understood. It is hard to adjust to and accept. Yet, if we are to improve as a society the skill must be learned by those in power. Even those with power they didn’t ask for.

There are things that men need to say about gender equality and I want them said. Here’s the thing though: they already are. Men have the platforms, they have the respect, they have the confidence. When a man stumbles upon a space (almost certainly online since there are very few such places in meatspace) in which his voice is not placed on a pedestal, it seems to him as though some indignity has taken place when in reality the limelight is only being shared for the first time.

I have seen only a handful of men actually listen consistently. I don’t know any of them personally. On occasion? Sure, I’ve seen it myself–but never consistently.
So, a man routinely listening to feminists about feminism and then speaking to them with respect and understanding? Surely it happens, but I have never witnessed it. Not really. It’s so exceedingly rare.
Can you imagine the pain of every man in your life failing to listen to you so often that the mere fact that some man, somewhere might not seems like a fantasy? It hurts.
Your post? It made me laugh. And, Vance, that laughter hurt.

It hurts to see a woman say something about feminism and then to see a man to say something similar. Especially online. Seems like that should be a good thing, right? So why isn’t it? Because the woman gets degraded almost exclusively with a few encouraging comments here and there. Meanwhile, the man gets lauded with maybe a few degrading comments. The comments that degrade him? Words referring to women and their anatomy. Because to be a woman or to be like a woman or to have female anatomy is degrading. It is literally an insult to be female. Is it any wonder that some have tried to make being a male insulting? They’re trying to even the score. They’re striving for justice. Anyway…
The man will endure a few of these insults and he will be a hero for having done so. The woman will quietly shut down or change the subject or turn off the comments and sludge on while being lambasted as a censor. If she trudges on and consents to the comments, she will be threatened with rape and death.
She will say something. A man will say the same thing. The cycle will continue. It will continue to hurt. By all means, speak out, but never mistake your words for experience.

My husband gets aggravated every time my eight year points out that the world around her defaults to whiteness and maleness. He thinks I’ve jaded her too soon. I thank all that is good in this world when she does this. She knows that the world is not all white and all male and she refuses to accept the defaults society gives her. Society will change because of girls like her and in spite of the men that will talk over and around her.

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Where race is concerned, you said:

I’m told that Black Lives Matter. And they most certainly do. But I’m also told that this is a claim that must exist in isolation; that to suggest, as a member of the white community, that my life also matters, that indeed all lives matter, is an act of imperialism and violence. I am told by those speaking out for their own worth and meaning as people that if I do the same, I am worthless and meaningless. Meanwhile, on many levels, the whole argument misses its own point, given that we are prosecuting it as a multitude of refugees stands helpless and homeless at our borders, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens stand helpless and homeless on our street corners, and all the rest of us stand idly by demanding more attention for ourselves.

I’m white. Well, as far as society is concerned and let’s face it, race is all but just a social construct.
Where to begin? I’ll say this: I still cringe when I see ads for black only dating sites. They make me think about how we’re still separating ourselves. I feel the same way when I see Christian Mingle ads. But then I remember that I met some of my best friends at a group specifically for non-believing families and that I feel most comfortable on internet forums for women. We’re humans living in a society that has not reached peak equality and understanding. We categorize and label. Sometimes we just need to share a basic level of understanding with other people and that is okay–we will move on as society does.

The last few years have been quite an evolution in how I see race. I knew of prejudice. I knew of racism. I knew Jim Crow was not that long ago. But I didn’t know how bad our issues of segregation continue to be. I didn’t know how ingrained racism continues to be. I didn’t appreciate the absolute failure of our society to recognize its own failings on behalf of people of color. I am white, but two of my great-grandparents are from Mexico. My great-grandfather forced the accent from his voice and dressed his girls in pastel dresses to fit into White America. My grandmother married a white man. My father is a white man. I never learned a word of Spanish at home and all that is left of that part of my heritage are some astounding recipes.

I carry within me the desecration of a race and the race that did the desecrating. At this point, most of us do. No, we are not responsible for the actions of our forefathers. But we are responsible for recognizing the privilege that society bestows upon us today.

Of course all lives matter, but that is not the point. The point is that we have an epidemic of black bodies being beaten and killed. The point is that we have a history of black bodies being split and sold and beaten and killed. The point is that some of us still haven’t admitted the problem. This point is that we have not made amends.

Refugees matter. The homeless matter. The hungry matter. The poor matter. The abused matter. All lives matter–yes, yes, yes. But every person must pick their battles.One person cannot fight all injustices and actually get anywhere. There isn’t time. So each person chooses what is most important to them and tries to make some difference. So, yes, all lives matter. But also, Black Lives Matter. That’s the point.

You said:

I refuse to accept this. I will not play this game nor will I acquiesce to these rules, any more than anyone should give in to the arbitrariness of socially-imposed classes and categorizations. Justice is never about taking dominance away from one voice and giving it exclusively to another. Justice can only come about by way of dialogue; it must involve both the wronged and the perceived wrong-er.

Anyone that is suggesting taking dominance away from one group and giving it to another is probably not worth listening to. It’s about taking dominance out of the equation. I do not think that we need justice. Justice is blind and thus blinds all. We need compassion, empathy, and understanding. We have to meet society where society is at. Society needs #BlackLivesMatter. Society needs feminism. If you think otherwise, just read the comments. (Lewis’ Law can be applied to more than feminism.) Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter may logically be a false dichotomy, but it is a societal fact.

social_media_conversationI do not doubt that you have worthy contributions to make. I do doubt that you have honestly listened to what has been said on these matters in the past. I just can’t imagine that your post came from a place of understanding.

Like it or not, you are white and male. In this universe, on this planet, that means that for those reasons alone you are endowed with powers and privilege. It is incredibly difficult to appreciate that fact. I get it. I’m part of a few minority groups and a few dominant groups. I have medium code-switching abilities. Recognizing the ways in which society attempts to hold me back is hard. Recognizing the ways society privileges me is harder.

It is incredibly difficult to get someone to realize their privilege, even harder to get them to do something about it. Some will be persuaded by grief and empathy, others by compassion or sadness, and many by anger. Even you.
Of course, some go too far in anger and some do more harm than good. We are human, that is our wont.

I do not want you to apologize for things you have not done. I do want your best actions and words. I do want you as my ally. But you have to listen. We have to hear each other. I don’t know if I deciphered your post and heard you as you meant to be listened to. I don’t know if my words are arranged in a way that will allow you to understand me as I mean to be understood. I hope you reply. I hope we keep talking. I don’t want justice–it’s too late for that. We humans have lived too long, we’ve hurt too much. I want equality.

Blooming Society Sunday

A bloom is a small idea of how to improve our world.
Tend the garden of humanity with me by blogging with your own idea on any Sunday.
If you do, feel free to pingback here so we can keep the conversation going.

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Today’s Bloom: Let People Speak for Themselves

If you read my recent post, you know that I was discouraged by a study I learned about that turned out to be falsified. The study claimed that when people who opposed same-sex marriage spoke to queer canvassers about their lives and why they opposed marriage equality, their stance was likely to become more liberal and stay that way in the long term. Not only that, they were likely to change the minds of others they knew who shared their previous opinion. Furthermore, the personalized method was also said to be effective when canvassers who had an abortion spoke to anti-abortion voters.

The study was largely falsified and the stories behind the results were almost entirely fabricated. The study was a sham, but what about the idea behind it? Is the key to lasting empathetic change polite personal conversations between conservatives and the people whose rights they oppose? It’s so simple. It certainly can’t hurt, right?

I don’t know how large a change can be wrought from a short conversation between strangers. If a significant change of mind is experienced, I don’t know how long it might last. I do know that humans don’t like to be proven wrong. Even when facing direct evidence of our wrongness, we tend to dig in our heels twice as deep.

As someone looking to affect lasting social improvement, I am loathe to dismiss a possible solution, especially one so straight-forward. I do what I can to speak out and up — to improve the world by filtering my experiences and relating the lessons learned to others. Yet, speaking is only one part of the empathy equation. Listening is the other.

There have been many issues that I have wanted to speak about, but have held my tongue instead. I make this choice when I know others will speak better than I can. It is time to listen when others’ experiences are relevant and mine are lacking. Many times, I have no experiences to distill at all. I do a lot of listening, but I don’t think I have done enough to boost the signals of the voices I turn to.

This means more retweets and shares and reblogs, but it also means deferring to others more eloquently and regularly offline. Humans digest stories more readily than statistics. Co-opting narratives does little to help anyone. We must help each other be heard, rather than yearning to be the loudest.

Two videos that explore today’s bloom:

“We were put there because we have cultivated legitimacy.” -Hank Green

Almost one year ago, I published a post about ageism as it relates to politics. A week and a half ago, I was reminded how this issue is evolving and how far we still have to go. On January 22nd, President Obama gave his State of the Union address for the year. Most media and social outlets thought it was a good speech, agree with the content or not. Personally, I was super pleased to hear him mention transgender individuals. If you didn’t catch the address, here are some highlights. You can also catch it in its entirety on YouTube. If you go that route, odds are pretty good that this video will show up in the sidebar:

If you’ve hung around here for a while, you may recognize Hank as one half of the Vlogbrothers whose videos I sometimes include in posts. He and two other YouTubers (GloZell Green and Bethany Mota) were given the opportunity to spend about 12 minutes each interviewing President Obama right after the SotU. Though this isn’t the first time that the President has been interviewed by YouTubers, it is the first time he has done so in person. And the media was not happy.

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Yep. They weren’t happy at all.
Hank took the opportunity to say exactly why he thought that was in an article he published on Medium, along with a follow-up about the difference between media and journalism. He and GloZell also discussed the issue with PBS News Hour over Twitter. I would suggest reading all of it, but here are a few gems:

“Legacy media accuses young people of being apathetic while actively attempting to remove them from the discussion.”

“Legacy media isn’t mocking us because we aren’t a legitimate source of information; they’re mocking us because they’re terrified.”

“YouTube already is Mainstream Media…which is why I’ve stopped using the phrase Mainstream Media.”

“The news is losing an entire generation.”

“I think sub-consciously they understand the really terrifying thing here. Glozell and Bethany and I weren’t put in a chair next to President Obama because we have cultivated an audience. We were put there because we have cultivated legitimacy.”

This is the same thing I was talking about last year. So many media outlets were doing all they could to undermine and belittle them. Those that did did so by tapping into ageism, cultivating technophobia, and heaping on a side portion of racism and sexism. It’s not acceptable, it’s not okay, and it was absolutely expected. I knew it would happen from the moment I heard YouTube’s announcement. I’m not surprised and that’s the problem.

This criticism was coming from the same outlets that were reporting around the clock on Deflategate. It’s not that I have a problem with sports stories being on the news. Billions of people care about what is happening in the sports world. Give it a segment, put it on the screen scroll, report it endlessly on one of the over 40 stations exclusively dedicated to sports. But don’t report it hour after hour on 24-hour news stations and expect me to take you seriously when you denounce content creators asking about immigration, war, legislation, Cuba, bullying, and other issues that affect more than just who wins a game.

I look forward to when those in their 20s and 30s now take over the traditional media platforms. I hope they won’t make the same mistakes. In the meantime, I will get my news from sources I trust and enjoy the snark of Generations X and Y.

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