shadesofmauve: (Default)
When we talk about working to stop oppression, lots of people get tied up questions of personal responsibility and blame and defensiveness. There are lots of great essays about that, but having to go over it every time is distracting, so I want to look at it practically, instead.

Look.

A black person cannot have a "useful conversation" with a white supremacist because that white supremacist has already decided that they have no value and thus won't listen to anything they say. The only person the white supremacist might listen to is other white people, because those are the only people whom they value.

A woman cannot change the mind of a die-hard sexist because the die-hard sexist has already decided that her words have no merit based on her gender. The people with the best chance of dismantling that sexism are men, because the die-hard sexist values what they say.

The transgender person can't change the mind of the entrenched transphobe because the entrenched transphobe has already decided they're a freak and everything they say is warped or suspect. They only value the words of cisgender people.

Dismantling white supremacy is white people's work, because we're the only ones who can do it.
Dismantling sexism is men's work, because they're the only ones that can do it.
Dismantling anti-semitism is goyim work, because we're the only ones that can do it.
Dismantling homophobia is straight people's work, because we're the only ones that can do it.

I want to acknowledge that people in an oppressed group *can* impact people who have unconcious bias -- they do tons of that work all the time. It's the die-hard/entrenched/actively-out-to-get-you people who BY DEFINITION won't listen to those they oppress. I need to figure out how to do that acknowledgement without lessening the power of the statement. On the other end of the scale, I truly think that when you have someone like the nazi fuckheads marching in Charlottesville, there is no such thing as a 'useful conversation' with them. There is a useful reaction, though -- like the family who disowned their nazi son, the people who's words these assholes actually value need to say "Fuck you" and turn their backs on them. It's still white people's work, I just don't think we get there through a heart-to-heart over the dinnertable, because the enemy is too far gone.

I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate that nuance -- the idea that there are hugely different levels of racism/sexism/homophia/antisemitism etc etc etc -- without losing the power of the message. 

Gotta think on that one.

Date: 2017-08-16 07:42 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sarasa_cat
sarasa_cat: (Default)
While I agree with the fundamental sentiment, statements like Dismantling X is Non-X's work, because we're the only ones who can do it" are a problem because it unintentionally suggests that Non-Xs have the solution when, almost always, they don't.

Take "Dismantling sexism is men's work, because they're the only ones that can do it." There are some very good examples in the tech industry about how it took a lot of input from women to transform an engineering team from very few women to 50% women. Men did not have the answers. What men needed to do was take a step back, listen, and work toward a common goal.

Things get far more complex with "Dismantling homophobia is straight people's work" because there is a lot of bigotry and queer-v-queer hatred INSIDE the LGBTQ community. Straight people can help dismantle anti-queer bigotry, but anti-queer bigotry is a much larger can of worms than homophobia.

I'm not even sure where to begin with "Dismantling white supremacy is white people's work" because white supremacists have a very specific definition of whiteness, because even thought the american problem is rooted in definitions of blackness vs whiteness the problem and the racial.ethnic history is far more complex, and there are a lot of non-white communities that need to a hell of a lot of work rooting out their own anti-blackness, much less the reasons why they have been rewarded for their racism. I mean ... this is a big fucking issue with centuries of good writing and decades of excellent writing and ...

Which gets back to my original statement: I agree with the fundamental sentiment if the sentiment is "straight white christian-heritage america needs to wake up and realize they need to take part in shoveling the shit out of the stables." But where I profoundly disagree is idea that this wake up call should be result in straight white christian-heritage americans elbowing their way forward to grab all the shovels and shame-shovel as fast as possible until all the shit is gone. Because it doesn't work like that.
Edited Date: 2017-08-16 07:49 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-08-16 08:31 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sarasa_cat
sarasa_cat: (Default)
"What I really want to see is people taking members of their own group to task." <--- agreed. But from where I have been and the things I have seen, it really isn't clear to me how the blind should best lead the blind. This isn't a merely matter of one bro telling another bro to chill with the sexist comments he's making in his workplace. It's about fundamentally changing the mental frameworks within people's heads. Telling some one to chill with unwanted talk doesn't change their brains. If anything, it reinforces it, which is why we are looking at what has been unfolding for the past N years. (too lazy/busy to dig of research showing this but the backfiring of even small corrections is A Thing).


I think the heart of what I am really saying is this is NOT a battle to be won on facebook or by using quick slogans that are made for the internet era. If anything, facebook/twitter/etc are a quagmire. This is only a battle that can be won through the hard slog of face-to-face dialogue. But from what you are saying, I think we pretty violently agree on this. ;)

But this is not a battle that will be won by reinventing the wheel. People will need to READ. They will need to seek out words of wisdom that carefully explain the Thing. If the solution was easy, we wouldn't be in a crisis right now that requires you to wonder what in hell can you say.

I guess my point is that I'm pretty damn uncomfortable with the fact that much of america suddenly woke up to something they don't know how to tamp back down -- and this waking up occurred after years, decades, (centuries) of being told "Hey, America, there's a problem" and being ignored. Right now, the best solution I can offer is for everyone to take a chill and go spend the rest of the summer quietly educating themselves, and then we can all come back and talk on the first day of Autumn.

But that isn't going to happen so... *shrug*
Edited Date: 2017-08-16 08:31 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-08-17 08:05 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sarasa_cat
sarasa_cat: (Default)
**Nods**

My main concern though is that when the blind leads the blind, frameworks don't change. Merely telling someone that a certain mode of thought or behavior isn't appropriate doesn't work. A person also need to understand why. The act of understanding why requires info that, frankly, their in-group/identity-group probably doesn't have. Thus, harmful misinformation continues to spread and progress stagnates.

Also, no worries about the rambliness.

A random thought regarding the fact that, unfortunately, there is no way we can call a nation-wide time out and have a giant teach-in ... except, waitaminute. Maybe we can. :)

The problem I've seen for quite a while is a lack of unifying leadership amongst all of the groups that stand for social progress. In this current moment we're in desperate need of someone (or, preferably, a small group of someones) with outstanding oratory skill -- people who deeply understand various aspects of the problem and have the charisma and speaking power to cleanly, crisply, and clearly communicate what each problem is, how it came into being, and how to move forward. And while this IS NOT a magic bullet in any sense, it would be better than what there is now: a cacophony of middling voices on the left and center who cannot agree. Looking backwards, I have seen too much distrust amongst various groups on the far left, center-left, and business-as-usual center. Looking forward, idk, maybe we can hope that the horror in the white house (and the deep unsettlingness in many state-level governments) will create enough of an obvious threat for everyone else to learn how to build necessary bridges so alliances can be made, unifying *usefuless* messages can be found, and tools for rebuilding a better society can be learned.

After all, the wheel doesn't need to be reinvented. There are many issue-specific groups who have been slogging away for years or decades on their issue. That's where the expertise is. We just need more awareness of all these various issues framed by the people who know it best. That's the hard part.

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