Wednesday, September 20, 2006

5th Erase Racism Blog Carnival Now Up

The 5th Erase Racism Blog Carnival is up over at Black Looks. This is the first time the carnival has been hosted outside of the United States. Huzzah! And a nod to those who were in a position to make this choice. Greetings to our African sisters and all the new voices who are heard at this excellent presentation. Long live the international blogosphere!!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A European-American Sets Me Straight (2)

"I find it very sad," Ms White went on in an email to which I began responding in an earlier post, "that you, as a white person, have chosen the path of self-loathing and self-hatred in order to sacrifice yourself at the altar of an ill-fated agenda."

Now, as those of you who read this blog regularly know, I choose to avoid referring to myself as a "White" person. I find the construct of "Whiteness" to be misleading. It implies that "Whiteness" is natural and acceptable, rather than socially-constructed and ignominious. So as soon as she addresses me as a "White" person, we're already talking two completely different languages.

Then, of course, she asserts that I am suffering from "self-loathing" and "self-hatred." This is rather like a German Nazi in 1941 castigating a German who doesn't believe in using death camps for not loving their "race." Excuse me? It would appear that Ms White is saying that I need to hate and persecute others in order to love myself. Which sounds really, really sick. In fact, it seems to me that if I can't love myself fully, embracing all that is me, while celebrating all that is represented by all other life on earth (including other humans), then perhaps I've missed the point about being alive period. Those who must destroy and degenerate others to feel acceptable manifest in a most obvious way their own sense of inadequacy. This is why they really must attack. They know no other way to feel beautiful. Even though they are. Which is a shame, particularly considering what has had to happen to them to bring them to that conclusion and especially since no one but they themselves can break the chains of their mental slavery.

One can only imagine what she means by "an ill-fated agenda." What might she possibly think my "agenda" could be? To place people of color in domination over European-Americans (as if I wanted to go from one system of oppression to another)? To take away all her goodies and give them to people living in storm drains in Haiti (not a bad idea, really, but hardly my "agenda")? Why do I have to have an "agenda" at all? What if I just hold these truths to be self-evident: that all humans have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What if I just value truth, peace, and freedom for all peoples? What if I just espouse principles such as "honesty," "openmindedness" to reality (as opposed to mindlessly following the party line), and "willingness" to grow spiritually and be useful? What if I really believe that what goes around, comes around? Lots of people say they believe that, but you can tell by examining their lives, attitudes, and behaviors that they do not. Ms White, for example, who continues:

"To offer one self (sic) up in this manner is not only tragic but humiliating. Those who advocate this line of thinking for white people are not only self-serving but truly racist."

Here I become befuddled. "To offer oneself up" would seem to me to be the antithesis of anything "self-serving." Admittedly, a bank robber seeking 15 minutes of fame by engaging in a police shoot-out might be said to be simultaneously "offering herself up" and "self-serving." But how would I be typifying that kind of go-for-broke insanity? I am writing about what's in the best interests of the human race rather than what appears superficially to be in the best interests of one minority group (European-Americans and "White" people in general being a distinct minority in the overall world population). And, certainly, the human race does, in fact, include me, yes. But Ms White calls what I'm doing "tragic" and "humiliating." She appears to see my assumption that all humans are ipso facto deserving of basic human rights and considerations somehow degrading to herself as a "White" person. If I follow her thinking, she would seem to suggest that seeing "White" as superior and more deserving of privilege is not only appropriate, but altruistic (the opposite of "self-serving"). "Huh...?" you might grunt. That's right. According to Ms White, "White" people who see and treat people of color as inferior must be actually just accepting them as they are and looking out for them.

This is not a new idea. Europeans who first constructed the concept of "race" did so for capitalistic reasons--they smelled money and they wanted it. But they understood that in order to stand the test of time, the concept would have to be couched in protective coloration, if you will. Such as religious acceptability (people of color would be better off as "Christians" than as anything else). Or "scientific" "research" (in publications supported by and provided to those with the power to define, "finding" people of color to have smaller brains or a "culture of poverty"). Or morality (people of color need "White" people to "take care of" them, just as women need men to "take care of" them--skip that people of color have been taking care of "White" folks for centuries and women have been taking care of men for milennia).

Since I fly in the face of this type of reasoning, Ms White sees me as a threat to the paradigm into which we've all been born, a world view that people who look like me are superior and therefore should rightly dominate everyone else. If this is a tragic and humiliating stance for me to take, in her opinion, then I stand tragically and humiliated with all those others she would reduce summarily as being less deserving of life's joys than she is herself. The unfortunate reality, of course, is that people who think like Ms White are typically joyless, rather than happy, and in view of the fact that their money-driven, self-aggrandizing, and bitterly myopic perspectives would drive the human race into mass collective suicide, I can only say that I'll dance on her grave in a red dress before I'll sit idly by and let her and her ilk lead us all into ultimate extinction.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Bush

Duck on over to Poetic Justice and listen to the National Slam Bush Champion, Vanessa German, a bee-yoo-tiful African-American lesbian who says it for all of us. That's the way--uh-huh, uh-huh--I like it (uh-huh, uh-huh)...

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, As It Were?

Last night, I got an email informing me that "Black.White." came out on DVD yesterday. Apparently, they decided to email every blogger who mentioned the show back when it was on to say that they could get a copy of the DVD set for mentioning it again. Well, hell, yes!

Now, some of you already read what I wrote about this show. I haven't changed my mind and if you didn't catch it the first time around, you can read about it here or here or even here. A whole bunch of you probably saw the show anyway, developing your own opinions about it. And some of you would probably like to know it's now available (see this).'s available. I intend to add it to my collection and show clips in classes to illustrate various points I make in the blog posts. Thanks for reading this so I can get a freebie. Oh, yeah, and you can tell 'em Changeseeker sent you. Won't get you a discount. And they couldn't care less. But I just couldn't resist saying that.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Monday, September 04, 2006

A European-American Sets Me Straight (1)

In the middle of all my recent fun, I received an email to which I simply didn't have time to respond instantly. I did answer the writer briefly, noting that she, like many others who cannot receive what I write, didn't sound interested in any response anyway, but rather just wanted to set me straight. I assured her that I would respond eventually on my blog, however. And now that the fog is lifting, that's what I'm going to do. But keep in mind that I'm neither captured by her rhetoric nor trying to convince her of anything. I don't argue with people who don't "get it" because it's a waste of everyone's time--mine and theirs. And it's perfectly okay for her to have any opinion she wants. How could I argue with that?

The point is that what she puts forward, as is so often the case, is based on (in Harlan Ellison's words) "bleached-out baby shit." That is to say, what makes her as a White person, and she is White, whether she means to be or not, so White is that she doesn't have the knowledge, the understanding, the empathy, the sense of perspective, or (apparently) the willingness to acquire any of these things that would make it possible for her to "get it." And again, that is, in fact, her right. Just as it would be her right to refuse medical attention even in the face of a dire illness. Just as it would be her right to turn down lottery winnings. Just as it would be her right to walk out onto a freeway in the middle of the night wearing dark colored clothes. Stupid, maybe. Hard to comprehend, certainly. But her right? Absolutely.

So then, why answer her at all? Well, first of all, because I want to. I mean, I can, right? Her email was a direct response to one or more things I have written on this blog. She sent it to me (signed, actually) and I can, then, of course, use the email however I see fit. How I see fit to use it is to give those who want to be allies some ideas to consider for when they might find themselves being "straightened." Out of concern that this post might run to book length all by itself, however, I'll respond to the email in question in pieces. And, since they'll all be written to would-be allies rather than racists, these "responses" will be installments in the series on how European-Americans can ally themselves with people of color in their own best interests.

And heeeere we go!

While I agree that in utopia there would be no racism..."

(an interesting way to begin a long treatise on why racism is reasonable)

" all fairness it is the non-whites themselves who are now the worst perpetrators of this social malignancy. Case in point, the special interest groups who cater to specific minorities and work exclusively on their behalf rather than the behalf of all human beings. We are all supposed to be equal yet certain minorities segregate themselves out by clinging onto their separate cultures, languages, traditions, frequenting their own institutions and media and supporting only their own kind. I guess that doesn't qualify as racism in your mind. White people don't have large national organizations dedicated to their needs, non-whites do..."

This reference to "self-segregation" is one of the prime indicators of cluelessness. Europeans created the socially-constructed, political notion of "race," in the first place, just before the Industrial Revolution for the express purpose of exploiting people of color and their resources. If one's purpose is to exploit--boldly, brutally, continuously, and without apology--and one manages to set up a system within which this exploitation is acceptable and even supported by the ritualized norms of the societies using it, at what point would those benefitting from the exploitation decide voluntarily that they had benefitted enough? A hundred years? Two hundred? Four hundred years? So far in history, to the best of our knowledge, those who use power (and especially those who use force) to dominate others typically sit on that power until they become convinced that those they dominate are about to successfully unseat them OR until they become so dysfunctional with weakness, they simply collapse under the weight of their own poor choices.

But the writer of this email--let's call her "Ms White" (not to be confused with the character in the parlor game, Clue, which was one of my favorite games as a youth)--would have us believe that White folks set up this fabulous system, sucking the very life out of millions of people for hundreds of years, but giving up all the benefits of that what point exactly? That is to say, all the social institutions in the United States were set up by property-holding White men for the benefit of property-holding White men and these same social institutions have continued to be maintained and controlled by property-holding White men throughout the duration to the present moment.

So at what point exactly could Ms White possibly believe that people of color, and African-Americans in particular, suddenly became the recipients of equal access to all that power? And if they did have equal access to all that power (and all the goodies that accompany it), wouldn't they, of all people, know it? And if they had equal access to all the power and all the goodies, why would they need to or want to "self-segregate"? Why in the world would they form "national organizations" outside the mainstream if they had equal access to everything in the society?

As for the assertion that "White people don't have large national organizations dedicated to their needs," the fact is that White people have almost all large national organizations dedicated to their needs. Virtually everything in the society is calculated to meet the needs of White people, even poor White people, either overtly or covertly, while people of color are forced to organize to keep from drowning or watching others drown in the backwater. White folks have the most of the best and the least of the worst throughout the society. African-American men are four times more likely than European-American men to be unemployed at every educational level and only receive 68-76% of the wages of a White man when they do pull off getting hired. For example. What would Ms White have people of color do? Sit quietly? I'll bet.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard an African-American say in an overly polite voice, "No, that's all right, go ahead..." when acquiescing to a bullish White person who has taken over a situation in one way or another, whether it's to get waited on first or listened to first or even through the door first. White folks are so used to being...well..."White" and, God knows, treated as "White," (with all the attendant accompaniments), they don't even realize (or admit) it's going on. Consequently, I will do everything but lay my coat over a mud puddle to show respect for African-Americans, even strangers (and maybe especially strangers). Do I catch myself "acting White" sometimes anyway, or worse yet, get caught occasionally by a person of color doing so? Of course. I look "White." I was socialized as "White." I am approached in hundreds of ways daily as "White." And I have to be stringently vigilent to avoid the default positions.

There are organizations where European-Americans and people of color are fully represented and equal, but they are notable for their infrequency. When I enter a conference or a meeting where there are few, if any, African-Americans, I know I'm coming into a space that is not safe or welcoming to people of color. People of color have to enter such spaces on a regular basis in the United States--out of necessity. If they want a job. If they want to know what's going on in their field. If they live in the suburbs. If they attend (or send their kids to) a public university. They can't take their clothes to the cleaners, go to the grocery, walk into a major department store, visit a mainstream museum, or even walk down the street without having to steel themselves against possible rejection, insult, or ignorance. The most rudimentary activities of daily life hold multiple opportunities for European-Americans to be validated and people of color to be made to feel reduced. Organizations--national or otherwise--are just one arena in which these validations and reductions are carried out. To cast aspersions on African-Americans and other people of color for bonding together in the interest of making a safe space for themselves is to be so mean-spirited that one wants them not only to suffer, but to be unable to exhale for even a minute. Tsk, tsk, Ms White. Tsk, tsk.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Is Anybody Out There?

Well, yes. I am somewhat the worse for wear (thanks for asking), though probably not nearly as visibly marked as I feel. At least, no one has been unkind enough to tell me so.

I do repeatedly say things like, "Have a nice holiday. I'll see you all on Wednesday" only to have one of the students mumble quietly on the way out the door, "Just for the record: today is only Wednesday and we'll be back on Friday for another class before the holiday..."

And then there was the problem I had crafting syllabi for three different courses where I just skipped the first week of classes entirely, as if they were all scheduled to start a week later (wishful thinking?). And I can't seem to recall what I've already said. And I take the long route to almost everywhere I walk on campus. And my feet are killing me. And my lower back thinks I hate it for some reason and it's starting to hate me back.

I'm driving thirty miles each way to and from my university now five days a week (at three dollars per gallon) and it doesn't seem to matter when I get in the car, it's invariably pouring the rain by the time I drive two blocks. Which means I almost slid into the back or side of something large twice last week, misjudging the slick pavement on the exit ramps.

My body-clock is so stunned by the radical shift of forty hours of intensive orientation on my new campus (and the 8:30 a.m. classes) that it wakes up at 4:00 a.m. with my mind already running, mostly into the sides of my brain cavity. And my eyes have settled into a constant glassy, if questioning, stare.

If I wasn't a "pro," I'd be buckling. Or maybe this is buckling and I just don't realize it. Anyway, between all this and the fact that my pc crashed (that's all I can say about that, but many of you know what that did to me), I am walking wounded these days. And I have missed you more than I like to admit. Apparently, somewhere along the route, I became a blogger who does other things on the side. I don't know when it happened exactly, but I'm now being required to behave as if this is not true. And if I'm ever to write anything again other than a post, I must also make room for that. Somehow.

Nevertheless, here I am, struggling along on the brand new IBM Thinkpad my new employer delivered to my office on Thursday. I've never had a laptop before, couldn't even figure out how to open it at first, but desperation is the mother of do-not-get-between-me-and-the-internet, and I'm getting the hang of it. I have appropriately loaded it with some of my must-haves (like Napster and email addresses and the writer's almanac, not to mention my network favorites, of course, with the blogs I no longer have time to read...but will again, if there's a god/dess in heaven).

And the word is already out, according to some of the other professors who have been overhearing students talk, that there's this outrageous new professor on campus who's "awesome" (so maybe they like it when I don't know what day it is because nothing I'm doing feels "awesome," that's for sure).

Bottom line, I'll be back with a real post :^) tomorrow morning. So don't give me up for dead yet...

*squints into the sunlight as she peers out of the mouth of her cave before shuffling back into the darkness*