I Mean What I Post

March 25, 2012

[content note: discussion of race, privilege, and the word, bullshit - If this language offends you, then do not read any further.]

The above image is posted on one of my boards on Pinterest.  It got repinned a fair number of times, which felt good, but it also got me called a racist by several people.  I explained why the statement above is not racist on Pinterest to my satisfaction, but in light of the tragic murders of Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd, coupled with the very sad and disturbing racism going on with some of the members of the fat acceptance movement, I feel the need to explain the image on my blog.  
First off, you might ask, "Why do you care?"  I mean, I am primarily a disabilities advocate, right?  Shouldn't I just concern myself with the issues that affect me personally?  Yesterday I finally read the blog that is getting so much attention in the fat acceptance sphere and I was absolutely disgusted.  The blogger seems to have the position that an activist should only have one focus-if an ally calls that person out on racism or any other kind of -ism, all they are doing is detracting from the main point.  But, as a commenter on the blog pointed out, while a good activist may have a specific focus, they should be devoted to ending ALL the ways in which people are oppressed.  I one hundred percent agree.  (Note: I am purposely being vague here, as I do not want to inadvertently support the blogger in the FA community.)  Besides, there is such a thing as intersectionality.  That is, all areas of oppression intersect.  For instance, a person may be of color and have a disability, so they have to navigate racism and ableism, very often at the same time.  This fictional person may also be poor and queer.  Now they also have to deal with economic hardship and homophobia or bi-phobia or trans-phobia or asexuality or polyamory.  I, myself, am socially disadvantaged by the fact that I am female, queer, and have several severe mental illness, along with fibromyalgia.  On this blog, I mainly choose to write about my recovery from these illnesses, but as my life intersects across other areas, I sometimes write about other issues too.
One of my critics said that, "By saying the "white racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit" instead of simply the "racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit" you are perpetuating racist bullshit.  I say that's a bunch of bullshit, myself.  For one thing, it always makes me suspicious when white people who claim to not be racist are quick to point out how whites are victims of racism, themselves.  I always wonder if they would be so quick to defend people of color.  Another commenter agreed, claiming that ""Reverse" bigotry is still bigotry."  Folks, there is no such thing as reverse bigotry.  It's something white people made up.  Racism is being oppressed by the people in power because of the color of your skin, therefore white people cannot be victims of racism.  Why?  Because white people are the people in power.  White people can, however, be victims of prejudice, which is a preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience.  Bigotry is intolerance for others who hold differing views other than your own.  There is no such thing as "reverse bigotry," because bigotry is not about being in power, but is a general term about being intolerant towards others.  Words matter and if you say that I am only crying about semantics (another claim on Pinterest), then I will tell you that semantics are important, for it is how we communicate and understand each other.  Saying something is only about semantics is always said when trying to discredit another person, but it is not the truth.  Semantics actually do matter.

Make no mistake about it-I am one hundred percent against the white, racist, homophobic, patriarchal bullshit.  I am also against transphobic, classist, ableist bullshit too.    At my core, I am a feminist and while there are as many different definitions of feminism as there are feminists, the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that feminism involves a critique of power.  Just because we now have a Black president does not mean that we live in a post-racist society (as another commenter claimed).  Trayvon Martin and Rita Boyd were both killed, because white men claimed they looked "suspicious."  Why did they look suspicious?  Because they were Black.  Are the killers in jail or even arrested?  Nope.  Why?  Because they're the ones in our society who have all the power.  Having power does not always mean that you are the person in public office, but it does mean that general society  considers your argument, no matter where you are, to be more sincere, more plausible, more trust-worthy than others.  In our society, it is the white, cis-gendered, straight, able-bodied, neuro-typical male who holds the most power.  This needs to change.  I don't know about you, but I long for the day when we share our power equally.
One of my critics tried to make the point that it's not actually the white people that have the power, but rich people. But this is simply where the intersectionality I was talking about earlier comes into play.  We all have multiple privileges and multiple oppressions-it's part of being human.  I am not saying that Black people have no advantages at all-the privileges are just not there because of their race.  As I explained to the commentator, a Black man is oppressed by race, but he is privileged in his gender.  See how that works?  So a white person may be oppressed financially, but NOT because of the color of their skin.  I don't think that white people should walk around buried in shame, but I do think that white people need to be aware of their own privilege.  Awareness is a powerful thing.  I try to be aware of my own privileges and I think this helps me be a better person.  When I am aware of my privilege, I am kinder, more open, and more willing to listen to the pain of others.   That's all I want from anybody-consideration.  How does my privilege affect you?  How can I use my privilege to help you in your situation?  Is this a time when I should shut up and listen?  How can I do my part to end all oppression?  These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves and each other.
Sigh.  I also have a bad cold.  sniffle, sniffle
Here is my one recommended reading:

The anti-choicers are absolutely deploying gender essentialism. We don’t have to respond on their terms, though. (unless we, like, really really want to lose. Cause that’s what happens if we let our opponents determine the terms of the debate.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *