Woodrow Jarvis Hill (asim) wrote,
Woodrow Jarvis Hill

The R-Word.

Let's just start towards the end, shall we?

the white progressives will generally either back down from or react with defensive panic to any accusation of racism, which makes it a nuclear option and an I Win card.

And this, folks, is what happens when you don't engage yourself, your audience, and most critically those opposed to you, in discussions on racism, and other issues.

Perhaps would like to think on why people back down swiftly when the "R-Word" gets thrown around. It's not just because they are nice people. Because it's not just Progressives, Liberals, etc. in America who react badly. In dueling with Conservatives, you find almost exactly the same reaction. Just go ask them if, say, the "Barack the Magic Negro" bit from Rush was racist. Read the defense the Los Alamitos Mayor made to sending a certain email.

Racism is a visceral word. It triggers thoughts of ostrization from mainstream acceptance. We've seen famous people get pummeled in the media, including losing jobs, over words that hit racial attitudes. And this is a Societal thing. This is the endgame not of Civil Rights, but about a surface level attempt at same. This is us not engaging the words of, say, Martin Luther King, but what did happen -- first marginalizing him as a crypto-Commie, then raising him to Sainthood. This is the result of Society saying, "Gosh, now we hate racists, and you don't have any laws against you, and look at all the people protesting the KKK, isn't that AWESOME?"

So I'm going to use some quotes, at length, from MLK to underline my points here. And because I've quoted them before here, I hope people'll understand that this isn't an attack, but that yes, I feel strongly about this.
It's not genetic to hate racists. There are thousands of years of human history that otherwise. We LEARNED this stuff. A nation literally turned on a dime, in Human Civilization terms, and started back up up the long hill towards reconciliation. We reacted so (yes, again!) viscerally to the struggles of the Civil Rights movements, to the dogs, the water hoses, the beating, and yes, the memories of the Concentration Camps, that we changed not only our laws, but vowed to renounce people who proclaims that racism is OK!"

And now, we stand at a crossroads. Because no, that's not enough. I quote, for the third time here, MLK, months before his death:

The majority of the white progressives were outraged by the brutality displayed. Their goal was improvement or limited progression. Obtaining the right to use public facilities, register and vote, token educational advancement, brought to the Negro a sense of achievement; he felt the momentum. But it brought to the whites a sense of completion. When Negroes assertively moved on to ascend the second rung of the ladder, a firm resistance from the white community became manifest.

Resistance began to characterize the second phase, which we are now experiencing. The arresting of the limited forward progress by white resistance revealed the latent racism which is deeply rooted in our society. The short era of widespread goodwill evaporated rapidly.

Who here has ears to listen? Who here has their heart open?

Think on that, for a second. King -- the Great Peacemaker -- calls out White Progressives, his supposed allies, for actions that are not ally-like. Why would he do such a thing, and more than once?

matociquala, that passage, written not too far from Death's door, is for you. It's about you. and it was written almost 2 Generations ago. It's about allies who can only carry you "so far", because criticism of themselves isn't something they can take. It's about people who've learned unease at the term "racist", causing them to fail to understand the true nature of it. People who forget that racism is like "ugly", going to the bones of a Society, and affecting every part.

And it's about people who can call a "cease-fire", because it's Not Their Battle. You don't have to go to cons where there are 10 PoCs in a hotels filled with thousands of people. You don't have to feel like you carry the weight of representing your entire "race" with every act. You didn't have to grow up knowing that you have to be twice as good as everyone else to make up for that skin color, and that included every damned panel you're on, every argument you have, and every time you try to charm a lady. To quote, at length, MLK again from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail":

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when [...] you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you [are] forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

As to your point about our "reactions"? MANY have been civil, and have attempted to engage in such manner. Hell,I even linked to one PoC writer's commentary about self-analysis; perhaps the flood of angry posts caused you to lose it?

I trust my audience is savvy enough to understand this next point from the same MLK letter, without further underlining or unnecessary breast-beating:

[..]for a perceptive and vivid expression of culpability I would like to submit two sentences that many of you have probably heard me quote before from the pen of Victor Hugo. "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness." The policy-makers of the white society have caused the darkness. It was they who created the frustrating slums. They perpetuate unemployment and poverty and oppression. Perhaps it is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but these are essentially derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.

Because I see too many unaware Progressives, people who a best vagul recall listening to "I Have A Dream", who misunderstand non-violent conflict, use MLK as a shield against criticism. He's not. He was 100% critical about the kinds of actions you're proposing -- and not just towards the end; I note, amongst many other items, Letter from a Birmingham Jail again for another, much earlier critique from MLK about "White Progressives". And this goes right to the bones of the matter.
I try to be damn careful about when and how I critique the Feminist communities. For the record, I don't have a vagina. I don't "have" to read what they read, just to get through, just to grasp the enormity of the challenges our society places in front of women.
When a PoC writes a critique, sometimes, yes, we're off. And sometimes, yes, we are foolish and human. But often? We've read the works, dove into the maelstrom that you can glide over, struggled with these feelings and the actions that define racism for years and years. Our word is not law...but when your word has been disrespected and shunned for so long, yes, you're going to be angry about further disrespect because we "hurt someone's feelings."
So you might want to take your feelings out, and stop displacing your Privilege issues onto those critiquing and criticizing your words and actions. you might want to stop hiding behind that shrinking shield of "gosh, I didn't know," and actually start talking TO us.

Indeed, I'm amazed that this "taking a break" idea was even suggested -- and it's not the first time. Because it's not the break we need. We need a break in the thinking, not the act of dialogue. Waiting till WisCon, where, incidentally, it's just a onrushing power-keg of "acting out", isn't the answer. It's just a way to "save it up" until we can draw lines in person, and act likes fools amongst friends, instead of actually trying to SOLVE the damned problems!

When the HELIX blow-up occurred, I strongly recommended an action I'll recommend, with some caveats, again:

In short, we need to negotiate, to find out how deep this rabbit hole goes. We need to find ways to have Helix be more open, not more defensive, about their actions and attitudes. And that needs to happen where people can talk without a thousand voices pushing to be made heard. We've been heard, and we've changed things already. This kind of thing is exactly what I wish we could do with DC and Marvel, for example, and that I think can be done in this instance, from my amateur observations.

From there, there are options. These options come not from the perception that we are going in gangbusters, but that we made a good-faith effort to change things, to talk though this. If that effort fails, then the onus is on them, not us, regarding next actions.

The difference is that this issue is more...amorphous. And the only person who can start this process, really, is matociquala. You have a choice, because you are the one making the calls here, making the shots happen. And you can continue to do so, and cause this RaceFail to keep flaming. Note that the person who originally tangled with isn't even involved with the situation directly, anymore.

Or you can take it off-line. Negotiate. Try to work through it in private with the people making independent critiques BEFORE WisCon becomes another victim of RaceFail. Show people that your Progressive Words are also Deeds. Stop Backing Down, and start Backing Up your Ally status.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded