Friday, February 17, 2017

White ignorance, timeless and multinational. .

Recently I've been reading work done by Dr. Melissa Steyn, who is a professor at a university in South Africa. She's been studying and observing cultural conditions about race there for several decades. In one of her articles I ran across this passage:
It has become a standing joke that since democracy in South Africa one cannot find anyone who supported apartheid. Increasingly some white South Africans claim that they did not know what was happening during apartheid; that it was not their generation that was responsible for apartheid, but that of their parents;and even that it was not as bad for black people during apartheid as it is for white South Africans in post-apartheid South Africa. Yet the system of racial apartheid could not have been functional or sustained for over four decades without the active and passive cooperation of the white population – using separate entrances,enjoying whites only transport, beaches, restaurants and cinemas, paying sub-minimum wages to black employees employed only for menial labour, educating only white children in the schools their children also attended,...
South Africa had a brutal version of Jim Crow racial segregation and legal racial subordination in place (called apartheid) and they didn't have an election where everyone could vote until 1994. That's not ancient history and yet...it's common for white people there to maintain that they 'didn't support' this awful stuff and many claim they "did not know" what was happening in their own country.

It made me think of something that occurred in Germany immediately after the end of WWII.

The photo shows a number of the residents of a town (Ohrdruf) in Germany, where a concentration camp was located, being forced by Allied soldiers to view the victims who were confined in the camp.

Various towns where these camps were located were sites where the residents were forced to view the victims of the holocaust.  ""We didn't know." This was what the German civilian population would say over and over again about the concentration camps...".

"We didn't know", "We didn't know"...sound familiar? Notice that one claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in Germany in 1945 and the exact same claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in South Africa some 50 years later.

What's that got to do with the United States? Well, take a look at this passage from an article written in 2014 about the awfulness in Ferguson, Missouri. 
"...whites in Ferguson were often surprised by the racial fault lines exposed by the shooting and the sometimes angry protests that followed. They said they had no idea of the simmering tensions between African Americans and police. They did not know that many black residents felt unfairly targeted by the police and unrepresented by city government. And they bristled when protesters portrayed their town as racist."
Whites in Ferguson were "surprised" and "had no idea" about the brutal and unfair treatment of black residents in their town.

From 1945 to 2014 is 69 years, from Germany to South Africa to Missouri, U.S.A., is many miles...but...it's almost magical? that dominant racial group members from 3 different countries, spanning almost 70 years, manage to either "not know" or have "no idea" about the horrid treatment of members of subordinated racial groups and 2 of those sites of obliviousness were in their home towns. Not somewhere else in their countries, mind you, not some far away or distant place, but they expressed ignorance about what was going on in their own towns where they shopped and went to the movies and lived their daily lives.

Not know? That's bad enough, right? Well, I'm not sure what you would call it when ignorance isn't the problem but an actual reversal of reality is trotted out and presented as "truth".

Look at this quote from that same article from 2014 that's referenced above: "polls found that white perceptions of anti-black bias have diminished to the point where they are more now likely to think anti-white discrimination is a bigger problem than bias against blacks."

Heck, white people in the U.S. not only "don't know" or have "no idea" about the reality of what life is like for African Americans, they are "more likely" to believe they are "discriminated" against more severely than are members of subordinated groups.

Think about that for a moment, members of the dominant racial group...that same dominant group which controls (and has always controlled) every major power and influence wielding  institution (the media, the government, education, health-care, criminal justice, etc.) in their society...thinks they are more likely to be targeted for discrimination than are members of subordinated racial groups. (is this an example of "alternative facts"?)

Here's a tip for you, presuming that you're interested in accurately perceiving reality and working to stay as close to truth as you can, if that characterizes you then I would suggest you be very very cautious when it comes to listening to white people in the U.S. or in South Africa or in Germany about anything to do with what's going on with race or racial issues.

The examples I've provided for you here should help you realize that white folks in these three nations (likely others too, but I'm focusing on these 3 in this post) have some deep and severe problems when it comes to race. The motto about race (apparently in all three countries) seems to be "deny, deny, deny...and if you get tired of that, then lie".

I sometimes try to figure out positive things about white people that I've learned since I started digging into whiteness and such over the past couple of years. It's pretty slim pickings (pretty much nothing).

But...one spot of amusement I've found is that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) I can pick up on when white people are being ignorant (and...well...stupid) but think they're sounding thoughtful and intelligent. It's eerie when that happens (and rare, I usually succumb to white thinking in the moment and only later figure out that it's crap) as it's occurring because I can almost predict exactly what's going to come out of a white person's mouth before they say it.

I watched this video recently and at around 35 minutes into the video the panel gets a question from an old white guy (an old white guy like me, jeez) and about two sentences into his rambling I realized that he was re-inscribing white dominance and also that he had no idea that he was doing that. I had to laugh out loud even though I felt very sad for the African American professor who was exposed to such hurtful obliviousness. She immediately perceived what he was up to and responded briefly and accurately and moved on. She should never have been exposed to such crap though.

I can't feel good about spotting this crap because it's taken me 2 years of pretty intense work and study to get to that point...but...I did get some pleasure from my recognition that my ignorance has subsided (sometimes) to the point that I can fairly quickly detect (sometimes) when serious reality avoidance is going on.

It isn't much of an improvement on my part...but...I'm desperate to see some glimmer of positive stuff on this journey. I keep telling myself that I have to learn to walk before I can run and I still fall down often when I'm trying to walk. Sometimes I don't, though, and that can be encouraging.

Note: if you choose to watch the video and can't figure out what the old white guy was doing with his 'question', let me know and I'll assist you in comprehending what he was enacting (although I suspect he "didn't know" what he was doing because he was thoroughly in the grips of an epistemology of ignorance)



Friday, February 10, 2017

Divide and rule...

is the title of this entry in wikipedia.

One approach to considering race/racism (indeed, maybe an approach to considering all socially constructed identities) is to think about them as divide and conquer strategies. By that I mean that it's a heck of a lot easier to manage/resist/control a big group if you can get small groups within that big group to squabbling among themselves (and they only resist you piecemeal or sporadically) than if they all get together and unite in opposition to you. 
 
Early on in the invasion of the "new world" of North America by Europeans, the tactic of affording minor (but minimally helpful or trivially beneficial) concessions and perks and status to those identified as "white" by the wealthy elites who controlled power resulted in the poor "whites" disaffiliating themselves from those who weren't identified as being "white". This served to break up alliances among the poor and powerless so that their resistance to being controlled by the wealthy elite was effectively diminished. The poor and powerless started opposing each other instead of the common oppressor.


In an excellent book titled: Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America, the author (Rev. Dr. Thandeka) writes extensively about the various functions served by promoting the notion that "race" was/is an important and meaningful way of conceptualizing humans. Those functions served to keep the many from uniting against the ruling "few".

In this excerpt from the book, the author elaborates about the various ways which the ruling elite offered relatively trivial and non-significant "benefits" to "whites" as an enticement to keep them from alliance with kidnapped Africans and displaced Native Americans. "Race" served as a handy dandy tool to keep those oppressed and harmed by the wealthy from uniting against the wealthy folks. Instead of uniting against the common oppressor, those who were relatively poor and powerless turned on one another.

Maybe it is the case that one of the most effective ways to keep exploitation/oppression rolling along (since the ruling elite are always smaller in number than those oppressed) is to encourage factors that keep the oppressed squabbling with one another instead of uniting against the real source (the ruling elite) of oppression.


Think about this, how much of your freedom and/or liberation and/or deprivations are caused by the poor and/or the vulnerable and/or the powerless versus your freedom/liberation deprivations being a result of actions and/or with-holdings and/or constraints that come from powerful/wealthy individuals and/or corporations and/or institutions? 

Who holds you down or restricts your life...those with power or those without power? 

Think about that and then look at society...who is in conflict? It usually isn't the united powerless against the powerful...it's way too often the relatively powerless squabbling against other groups that are also relatively powerless. Or one small segment of the powerless resisting the powerful with little or no support from other groups who are also relatively powerless.

And...those with the real power and wealth (who implement and cause and benefit from the harms) just keep rolling along without any real resistance to their agenda.

Do you get it? We're all being played for fools...and we're joining in, enthusiastically even, the process of ensuring that structures of harm are not really challenged. Instead, we quibble over trivialities. It's sort of spooky to consider how easily we are distracted and deterred from engaging in effective ways of making society better for all.

I've written about this sort of stuff, multiple times, but...I didn't use the phrase "divide and conquer", I used the phrase "recreating oppression". Saying recreating oppression is just another way of saying divide and conquer. Way too often we cause harm to those who aren't the primary source of the oppression or fight with those who aren't the instigators of the oppression, and we do it in the name of resisting oppression. Jeez.

That sort of stuff is, I suspect, a big part of how we just keep on failing to bring about transformation in our social structures. 

Other factors in addition to identities that work to encourage these sorts of divisions are the ideologies of "individualism" and of "meritocracy". These notions work to obscure (make invisible) the fact that group membership has much more impact on us than we wish to admit when it comes to being harmed (or helped) by structures of oppression.
 
(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

  

  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Deep doo doo...

That's where we are and it's going to get worse.

I'm more than 70 years old and I can tell you with no hesitation or doubt that the man who now is the president of the United States is the most frightening and dangerous individual who has ever held that position in my lifetime. I suspect he's the absolute worst in the history of the U.S. but I haven't been around that long.



My wife is shocked and upset, I'm upset but not shocked. I had a pretty good suspicion that Clinton would lose. The flow of the society in the U.S. has been trending toward some sort of open eruption of white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic and imperialistic horror for quite some time and now it's here.

If you've followed this blog, I was writing about such stuff 2 years ago, here's a link from a year ago, and another link from the same time period. But...being aware of what's brewing doesn't do much except preclude my being shocked.

The enactment of the ban on immigration from some countries by the president is, I fear, just the beginning of what is likely to be a long and awful line of acts that unravel the myth that many held about this being the land of "liberty and justice for all".

It's never been that and it never will be that unless the majority of people here, mainly the white people, decide for that to be true and do the work that it will take to make it true. That will be painful and difficult and I really don't know whether we white people have what it takes to do the job.

Every day that the bigoted fools are in power means that more effort will be required to stop the damage.

The new phrase for lying from this administration is "alternative facts". We're in for a long siege of "alternative facts" and horrid deeds.


 
Get ready for lots of "political language"...and suffering and death.

Resist. Support and protect those in all marginalized groups. And, stay safe, if you can. 

(Note: if you voted for the man who is president, and we survive all this, don't vote anymore...ever...please. Your judgement is so deeply flawed that remediation is unlikely and even if you do achieve some remediation...well...you've screwed up so badly that proper atonement would, at a minimum, mean you never ever vote again. Jeez.) 

 (As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 






  


Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange things continued.

In June of last year I wrote about some of the various aspects of how to behave and/or be in order to achieve "real" manhood...or...as Judith Butler would phrase it "perform" being male. She views gender and even sex and sexual desire as acts that we learn to perform rather than some core element(s) of our developing being that unfold as we mature.

In other words, we feel and perceive in various ways and instead of us being free to figure out how to deal with those feelings and perceptions, our culture tells us how to think about and understand those things. Heck, our culture even tells us how to exhibit (or hide) such behaviors and feelings and thoughts. And...if we don't follow the cultural "rules", lots of pressure is invoked to get us follow the "party line".

Something that I struggled with on an ongoing basis for years was my realization that I didn't particularly care to be around most men...looking back now I can see that it was mostly white men I didn't much care for but while it was going on I simply perceived it as my being rather put off by most males. I simply didn't like them very much and found their company unpleasant. I did have some male friends but there were only a very very few men that I enjoyed being around. Probably in my lifetime I've known no more than 2 or 3 white males that I actually felt comfortable with and fairly consistently enjoyed being around.

On the other hand I noticed that I more often enjoyed the company of women and found, again in general, that their company was much more pleasant and interesting to me. That enjoyment would sometimes get complicated or distorted by my being sexually attracted to a particular woman...but...there were a number of women that I wasn't particularly attracted to sexually that I found that I greatly enjoyed interacting with. Women are, on average, just niftier...to me anyway. 

Numerically, lets say, out of 100 women I would find 10 or 20 that were pleasant or interesting company...and that I felt comfortable around, out of 100 men that number would shrink to 1 or 2 who were experienced by me that way...if that many. We all differ to some degree from one another but for me...on average...women are spiffier. 

I noticed this about myself over the years and wondered about it, but not too deeply or persistently.

It really came to the front of my awareness as a result of my time in the military and then my time in graduate school. The Air Force put me in a position where I met and lived around hundreds of guys, mostly my age.

I found a few guys that I sort of enjoyed interacting with but on the whole, having to be around men all the time was stressful and unpleasant for me. Mostly it pretty much sucked. Looking back at that time from years later makes me shake my head. Then, I vaguely wondered whether maybe was something "wrong" with me. What it was...I didn't know...I just knew I felt uneasy and uncomfortable and at the same time thought my feeling that way wasn't how I was supposed to feel. Aren't guys supposed to like to hang out with guys? That's what I was taught, but that wasn't how I felt.

My discomfort and unease persisted as I aged. In elementary school and even high school I had guy friends and hung out with guys but the older I became the more uneasy I found that I was whenever I was with most guys. Not that I was fully aware of this at the time, I'm thinking and writing about it now, many decades later, and it is apparent to me now but I couldn't have clearly articulated it then...I just felt it and lived it.

A few months ago some of my confusion resolved itself. In part because some reading I have been doing of the works of various feminist authors...Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Williams, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin and Dorothy Allison come to mind.

One of the things that popped into clarification was that women...all women no matter their race...have to live in and learn to survive in male dominated culture. That's totally true here in the U.S. where there's a core component of our society that's driven by something some call 'toxic masculinity', which refers, in part to: "...a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world."


It's creepy and scary to think about this, but the fact is that most violence among humans is male violence. For instance, this article quotes the statistic that men account for about 80% of those arrested for violent crimes in the U.S. Think of it, if we look at the total population and don't consider the children and women, then 80% of all violent crime arrests come from about 40% of the population (males are about 50% of the population and about 20% of that 50% are 14 or younger...so...about 40% of the population is male and older than 14). And, about 90% of all murders here in the U.S. are committed by males, so that 40% of the population accounts for 90% of all murders.

Toxic masculinity is harmful to men...but men are violently harmful to others.  


Men in my family rarely if ever act out violently...but...many of the stifling components of "being a man" are inflicted on the male children.

For instance, years ago, I was probably in my 30s, I was out one afternoon tossing a football around with my cousin, who's a couple of years younger than me and his young son...who was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. The youngster tried to catch the ball and it hit the end of his fingers on one of his hands and jammed them. If you've ever had that happen you know how much it hurts and the kiddo started crying because of the pain.

My cousin...who was someone I was quite close to most of my life...started getting all over his son because he was crying. Telling him to shut up...that boys don't cry and all that crap that gets drizzled all over most little boys. I vividly remember being furious with my cousin...I can feel the anger even now as I write about it decades later.

That memory sort of epitomizes some aspects of my repulsion and rejection of that crap about being a "real man". Men don't cry...which is stupid when you think about it...why would we have tear ducts if we don't cry? I almost hated my cousin at that instant...I had always been pretty close to him but that changed it all for me. I never looked at him the same way again...ever. It's one of those moments that stay with me. It sort of summed up so many of things I'd been taught and exposed to in my life about being a "man".

I love my cousin, I had known him my whole life but that moment brought a distance into our relationship that hadn't been there. I saw him differently from there on. We still visit sometimes but I know...and he knows too...that we comprehend and view the world around us rather differently.

If you're stuck into being raised as a guy, there's little freedom to genuinely express how you feel (without fear of retaliation or ridicule or ostracism)...you have to follow the rules...men don't cry...men are "tough"...crap like that.

I was lucky in that I didn't grow up in a family where men were encouraged to be violent, but many boys aren't so lucky. Even if families don't encourage such harmful behavior, we're all exposed to movies and television and books where male violence is lauded and praised and admired and promoted....male violence is "normalized" and encouraged.

And then we're shocked and horrified when boys or men act out violence. Duh.

FYI, I work at not thinking of gender without also considering race...in the U.S. all "men" are a "race" and all who are "raced" are also assigned a gender. It's a false notion that we can clearly and accurately think about "female" (or "male') without also considering which racial group that female or male has been assigned to. Because, you'll get socialized differently based on both those factors, there will be similarities...but there will be important differences too. 

Both of those aspects of identity are (almost invariably) assigned to us from birth and we experience U.S. society from those positions simultaneously. It's misleading to think about them separately, even though that's the "norm". It's incorrect to do so. I am working on figuring out how to think and write and speak about this without sounding as if I think there's something like a "woman" without a race or a racialized human without a gender. 


So...excuse where I've failed to make this clear...I plead guilty to being unskilled at it. I've been taught to think about "women" and "men" as existing outside of racial groupings instead of viewing race/gender as being inseparable and overcoming that erroneous conditioning is an ongoing project. 

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

Friday, January 20, 2017

You might have wondered...

why this blog has turned to focusing on issues of race/racism and other "isms" (systems of oppression). (or, maybe you haven't)

If you did wonder...well...it's because I was rudely and thoroughly awakened to the fact that many aspects of the overall vegan movement, including my local vegan organization, have some serious problems that subvert and distort the goal of moving away from doing harm.

It became dreadfully clear to me that many/most white people who live vegan and advocate for and promote an "oppression free" lifestyle are deeply oblivious to how totally U.S. society is organized around and enmeshed in systemic racism and other structures/systems of oppression.

And...that obliviousness is no accident because being unaware serves to uphold and repeatedly recreate racial domination of PoC and concurrent harm to members of other marginalized groups of humans, indeed, to all Earthlings and to mother Earth. Harming is the "norm", absence of harm is the exception. 

My orientation is that if you're not struggling to resist oppression in all its forms and manifestations...then you're subverting what is the heart of veganism (to me anyway)...which is to live in ways that do the least amount of harm.

You can't go around trying to stop harm to one group of living beings while engaging in random or "accidental" or inadvertant harm to other groups of living beings and/or mother Earth.

Well you can...obviously...but if you do that it makes you a thoroughly ineffective representative of anti-oppression,

In fact it makes you complicit in upholding and promoting harm. Not only will you be duped into doing stuff you don't want to do, you'll be oblivious to being used. 

Pattrice jones writes most excellently about this:


My experience, and the experience of many others, indicates that white obliviousness and the upholding of and re-creating of the racist structures of oppression in U.S. society is as widespread and "normalized" in white vegans as it is in any other grouping made up of white people (most especially those that aren't specifically working toward dismantling the ugliness of white racist ideology).

I didn't become vegan to have a "cause". I became vegan because my awareness expanded and I realized I was participating in routinized and "normalized" horror. I was complicit in inflicting suffering and and deprivation and loss of freedom and death on groups of beings who had little or no social power.

Using/harming others and their lives for my gratification and/or pleasure and/or enrichment is nothing I want to participate in.

But...I live in the United States and this nation was founded by harmers and thoroughly structured by racism and sexism and profit above life...it was built to cater to wealthy white men (especially) but to pay lip service to the idea of being "the land of the free". (mainly because they knew being honest about what they were doing probably wouldn't get very far).

And...the ways of thinking and perceiving that we are all taught here are designed to uphold and implement these enactments of oppression. Our culture is structured on dominance and subordination and it works hard to teach you to not grasp this and/or be aware of this.

And...especially for white people (most especially white men)...this absence of comprehension is thoroughly effective and widespread.

Resisting injustice means working to comprehend and make visible these thinking/perceiving modes that serve to uphold harm. Heck, if we don't do that comprehending work, then our attempts to resist will mostly serve to recreate that which we think we're fighting against.

Read Sistah Vegan, read Aph Ko, read pattrice jones...begin moving away from habits of feeling and thinking that serve to (inadvertently) uphold oppression. Ok?

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The racist/anti-racist binary.

In the meaningful book “Is Everyone Really Equal”, the authors point out that focusing on this false binary instead of on racism as an all-encompassing system interferes with the necessary personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical and structural analysis that is needed to challenge it.

Americans are taught to focus attention on individual racist acting out (individual horrid acts by “bad” people) and to believe if we don’t think, do or say such awful stuff then race/racism isn’t our problem. While individual racist acts of emotionally disturbed white people are deplorable, they are not the core issue with race in U.S. society.

Think of the phenomenal cognitive and emotional distorting of understanding and comprehension involved for members of a group (the group raced as "white") that historically engaged in genocide and land theft from Native Americans and in the human enslavement of kidnapped Africans to be able to manage to perceive themselves (white people) to be not only innocent, but, indeed, good and supporters of "equality and liberty and justice for all". That's beyond ridiculous.

Think of the massive self-deluding necessary for the ancestors of such criminals, who benefit from past and current domination and harm (healthcare disparities, housing discrimination, educational disparities, criminal justice discrimination, disparities in job acquisition and pay and on and on) to marginalized groups, to perceive themselves with such incredible unfounded regard that they believe themselves and their nation to be "exceptional" and admirable.  

The depth and breadth of the disregard for reality is astonishing. And yet...this is "reality" for most white Americans.

I participated in this fantasy for decades and continue to struggle to extract myself from such distorting. We are incessantly encouraged to remain unaware and oblivious. And most of us succumb to this tide of unreality. We're rewarded for embracing distortion and penalized and even punished for seeking truth and reality.

And we wonder how we end up with the "leaders" we have?    

Friday, January 6, 2017

There's work for you (and me) to do.

The history of the U.S. is incomprehensible without understanding that our society/culture was (and remains so) thoroughly influenced and structured by slavery/race/racism. It's like Dr. john powell says: "you can't understand this country without understanding the institution of slavery."

Most of us people who are raced as white (indeed, all Americans) have (and continue to be) carefully and persistently taught (by the media and public institutions) to be oblivious to and/or dismissive of this deplorable and terrible truth. (In part, that's how the systems of oppression keep on keeping on, your ignorance (and mine) is vital to this continuation of awful.)

We are well “educated” into subscribing to an epistemology of ignorance wherein we are taught to: “see the world wrongly, but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority.”

Most Americans are unaware that: “Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden.” (The Half Has Never Been Told).

Societies structured around oppression and oppressive practices almost invariably promote the denial and distorting of history and the stripping away of context in order to uphold and maintain a positive view of themselves and to minimize resistance to their oppressive practices. If bad stuff isn’t seen or understood, then it’s less likely to be interrupted or fought against. (invisibling)

The European colonial enterprise has enveloped and warped us all in our thinking and understanding and behaving…and damaged everyone…some horribly... materially and bodily and psychologically via atrocities and violence…and some, were damaged, not bodily, but psychologically and epistemologically. Those who received that latter damage had it masked and hidden, in part, by being given material benefits obtained by threat or violence from the colonized and/or the enslaved.

Begin to educate yourself and to resist by reading The Half Has Never Been Told, read The New Jim Crow, read Slavery By Another Name, read Ebony and Ivory, read Birth of a White Nation, read Is Everyone Really Equal?, read Custer Died For Your Sins.

Read with an open heart and mind, read with the awareness that your cultural conditioning will urge you to deny and minimize and distort what you’re learning (especially if you’re raced as white).

Read with the awareness that you will be made uncomfortable by what you’re reading. Read with the knowledge that if you’re not uncomfortable…then you’re not “getting it”.

Read knowing you’ll try to find ways that exonerate you or your ancestors (if you’re white)…and…if you think you’ve found those ways then you’ve failed to comprehend. We are all immersed in this dismal swamp of oppression, we all participate, whether we want to or not. The greater clarity and understanding of what's going on that we achieve, then the better equipped we are to work to interrupt these damaging practices.

This reading and thinking and comprehending will be hard and painful work. Thank your ancestors for this. It was hard for them too…and they wilted and did not do their work. They opted to turn away from hard truths and painful realities and chose to embrace a lie and they passed that lie on to you.

Read knowing that if you even read one, just one, of those books that I listed, you'll then be more knowledgeable about the reality of the history of the United States than are 99.4% of all white Americans. (I made up that percentage, but it will be very very close to accurate...and that's very sad)  

Don't want to read books? Well, I can direct you to some blog posts by Abagond that will disrupt your obliviousness if you prefer short and snappy wreckings of your learned ways of thinking.

Here's a brief history of White America, here's a post about some of the thinking of Vine Deloria, Jr., here's a post about the way colonialism obliterates (physically and historically) Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and here Abagond writes about what he was not taught about American history. (if you're raced as white and live in the U.S., I can almost guarantee that reading Abagond's blog will cause you distress...so be forewarned)

To struggle against (as best you can) white obliviousness will mean hard work and discomfort and much thinking. Mainstream cultural narratives will encourage you to avoid gaining a more accurate view of the way this nation operates by offering a myriad of paths that support denial and/or ignorance.

Our culture/nation is not organized around truth and equality for all...it is based on upholding structural oppression for the benefit of a few...and on obscuring and hiding and denying its own reality.

 Racism and these structures of oppression have had centuries to evolve and hone and morph their justifications and obfuscations. You will have to work to fight through these confusions and evasions…and even then...they’ll often win anyway. “Good intentions” aren’t enough. Being a "good person" is not enough. This stuff hasn't persisted for centuries because it is easy to defeat. It would have disappeared long ago if that were true.

Either you fight it or you uphold it, there is no third option…your ancestors made sure of that. If they had done their work, you wouldn’t be faced with doing it now…but they didn’t. Now it’s on you (and me).

Part of the way this stuff keeps going is by keeping us obliviousness to the necessity to fight it.

Living vegan isn't enough to lead a life of minimal harm to others. In the U.S. we all were born into or moved into a horrid system that routinely harms its less socially powerful citizens, either you are struggling to understand and to refrain from harm to them...or...you're participating in harming them (or benefiting from harm to them). There is no opting out of these systemic oppressions.

If you want to be angry at anyone…be angry at your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and generations before that. Your fore-mothers and your fore-fathers failed to interrupt and transform this society of oppression…it’s your turn (and mine) to struggle with the task. If we don't work to oppose it...we are upholding it. (I choose to struggle against it because I find it repugnant and disgusting. What about you?)

Friday, December 30, 2016

An observation.

I'm drawn to expending as little effort as possible on figuring out what to spend more effort on.

In pursuit of that usually unachieved goal, it occurred to me some time ago that whatever the right-wing gets excited about might be something that’s actually threatening to oppressive structures and therefore worth looking into.

That's part of the reason when I look at books on Amazon that deal with racism/race or whiteness, I look at the one star reviews. If such a book garners lots of white men expressing worry about the book or disliking it...then it might be worth reading.

Things that get right-wingers all riled up, at least in recent history, can serve as a useful proxy for identifying what might effectively interrupt oppressive practices.

During my lifetime, the Republicans or right-wing or Conservatives (whatever you want to call them), mostly align themselves on the side of those (who're white or who think white) with power and money.

Both the right and the left tend to embrace a number of ideologies that deny the importance of marginalized (race, sex, class, and so on) group membership...notions like "meritocracy" and "equal-opportunity" and "individualism". These ideas are currently most often used as masks for obscuring a very different reality in terms of how U.S. society operates.

It is the right-wing that almost invariably pursues policies that reflect these ideologies. And...it is the right-wing that consistently denies systemic oppression in the U.S.

The two stances (right and left) differ...but not nearly as much as they have in the past and currently they both strongly fall on the side of upholding money and power. It would be nice if they both resembled each other in terms of opposing oppression...but right now they don't.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the right-wing folks rarely (if ever) “accidentally” decrease oppressive practices while left-wingers “accidentally” enhance or bolster oppressive practices quite often. For an instance of this, read about Bill Clinton's "welfare reform"

Right-wingers are much more precise in supporting oppression than left-wingers are in opposing it.

This is more (maybe much more) important than is often noticed. Important, at least, in terms of helping to navigate the often confusing and contradictory rhetoric that oozes around like obscuring fog.

Note: One of the better guides to opposing oppression is closely examining what scares or upsets those most devoted to upholding oppression.

My speculation about why the left-wing often misfires in its attempts to resist oppression is that the left-wing establishment is controlled by white folks (men mostly) and from their position position they’re sometimes trying to help out those with little social power and…they often don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing.

Both parties are controlled by wealthy white men...and...most white men in the U.S. are supportive of patriarchal white supremacist social structures (whether they consciously realize it or not).

I've also slowly come to be aware that it often is that "good white liberals" tend to struggle when they come face to face with some of the realities of what it means to implement an egalitarian society and behave with respect toward those who've been historically targeted for oppression. Sadly, because of social conditioning, we all tend more toward trying to "look" good rather than "doing" good...and...also because of social conditioning we tend to have erroneous notions about how oppression operates. (read what some "good white liberal" vegan women did when they were urged to opt out of supporting some racist "advocacy")

If this is true, then for left-wingers to get as precise about their undertakings as they say they want to be…then they should turn over control to marginalized groups. But, that's not how it is right now.

In the past, the left has done credible and worthwhile work toward interrupting oppression, but it's almost invariably occurred when they were finally persuaded (or forced) to listen to and follow the lead of the voices of marginalized groups. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one example of a policy supported by the left only after years of advocacy and civil disobedience.

Currently, it seems, outside of listening to the voices of the oppressed (that's the real standard but we white folks...especially white men...have tremendous difficulty doing this), one of the better guides around to what might actually work to interrupt oppressive practices is to pay attention to what gets the right-wingers in an uproar. Again, this observation is mostly about current times, this stuff morphs and re-shapes itself as social and historical circumstances change.

Right wingers often clearly tell us what the malicious power structure of this country is frightened by…but many of us seem to have a hard time realizing this.

So, in order of descending credibility, in terms of guidance in what might be effective in interrupting oppressive practices (and errors will sometimes occur in each of these).

First
: Listen to those who are being oppressed, they know what's hurting them and what would help them. Right now, my primary source for this kind of information is African American women. Other marginalized groups of folks also have excellent information to provide, especially if it's concerning an issue that is directly targeting them. Right now though, for general knowledge about oppression, there is much thinking and theorizing by African American women that is relatively easily accessed. Their thinking and theorizing almost always addresses, at a minimum, both racism and sexism.

Second
: Pay attention to what gets right-wingers in an uproar. If they are sweaty and red-faced about it... then it's probably worth looking into whatever is disturbing them because they are pretty focused on upholding power and wealth (as long as that power isn't the power of the people). So if they hate something then that's usually worth investigating and thinking about.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Intent versus impact...

and other faulty ways of experiencing ourselves and our behavior has been on my mind lately. This all has to do with working to better understanding how the process of invisibling work and seem to be so effective.

I briefly touched on the intent/impact notion in a previous post but I didn't do any work toward tying it into the invisibling process.

Audre Lorde knew full well that a big part of working against oppression meant working on ourselves. By that it's meant that we must work to identifying and modifying the ways of thinking and doing that are oppressive that we've taken into ourselves. We're all, in greater or lesser degree, infected by oppressor logic and thinking and perceiving and behaving...facing that stuff and accepting it and working to comprehend it and change it...that's hard and scary and painful.

It's profoundly tempting to opt out of doing that by embracing denial or other enticing reality avoidance maneuvers. And we all do that from time to time...but...each time we do we betray not only reality, but also ourselves, our ideals and if we persist then sooner or later we'll also betray those who are victimized by oppression. Apprehending and dealing with what's real is a pain...but the alternative is much worse. 

So...I've been really wallowing around with trying to come to some greater understanding and comprehension of the curious and misleading phenomenon of the fascination with intent. For this sort of erroneous thinking to be so persistent and extensive, I wondered if maybe it isn't based on more powerful things than simple ignorance or crummy thinking ability (or meanness).

And...well...maybe some of it is.

One study I found relates to this issue of our being "wired" or naturally biased toward cognitive/emotional emphasis on intent instead of impact.

Most of us tend (I include myself) to assign more weight to someone's "intent" when they do something than we do to the "impact" or outcome of what they do. The old "but I didn't mean it that way" kind of stuff.

That kind of emphasis on "intent" is very widespread, when in fact, it's rather weird (in a way) . Maybe it has more to do with how we are as beings than it has to do with whether we're paying considered attention to reality.

Sure enough, this article over on the Scientific American website suggests this sort of biased way of thinking may be "wired" or built into us. Aspects of this show up in humans as young as 10 or 12 months of age. Some studies show that:
"Intentional acts are even seen (and experienced) as objectively more harmful than unintentional acts – even when the end results are actually identical."
That's a pretty powerful statement. Think of it this way, if you or I get run over by a truck and killed...then we're dead...and...whether the driver of the truck intended to run us over or not makes not one whit of difference in whether we're dead or not. Dead is dead...but...apparently we're prone to somehow comprehend or perceive being dead by intent as being more harmful than being dead unintentionally. Whoa.

That's pretty bizarre when you think about it. Would you rather be accidentally killed by a friend or deliberately killed by an enemy? There's strangeness in there that needs more thinking about. Hint...it's better to not be killed at all.

There are other writings about intent versus impact here and here. I noticed when I looked over some of the articles about intent/impact that none (that I saw) made reference to the Scientific American writing about our bias in that direction. That's unfortunate because being aware of a built in tendency in our thinking can assist us in countering it. And...it can be countered since it's only a tendency, not some sort of mental law kind of thing.

We seem to conflate or erroneously mix together the intent of the perpetrator with the outcome for the victim...when...in fact...outcome and intent are not connected in that way.

The state of mind or motivation(s) of the perpetrator of harm aren't related to the magnitude or intensity or impact of the harm or even whether the action is harmful or not but we tend to squish those two things together in the ways we perceive/think.

If I accidentally punch you in the nose or deliberately punch you in the nose...for you and your nose...my "intent" is irrelevant...your nose gets punched either way. But somehow, we apparently are geared to tie the harm a nose endures to what was going on inside the puncher who did the punching. Hmmm...

That's not good thinking. That is not perceiving reality accurately.

So...how might this stuff play into the invisibling of injustice?

Well, if we focus on intent and ascribe great importance to intent then we are ooched in the direction of distorting our comprehension of the impact...maybe even to the point of invisibling that impact.

If I didn't mean it...then the harm doesn't mean much. We might minimize it, maybe even to the point that we don't even perceive or register the harm. If our perception of the harm dwindles or disappears then that rather smells like invisibling, eh?

Also...notice that when we focus on intent then we're centering the attention onto the perpetrator of harm rather than on the victim of harm. Hmmm.

Notice too that in the notion of white privilege, a presumption of being "well intentioned" seems to be associated with "good white people"...even though such folks may be recipients of that which is taken from others (focus on intent and not impact?). A magical sort of thinking that suggests that if we don't think bad things then we can't do bad things (or benefit from bad doings?)

If I intend no harm, then I can do no harm, or, whatever harm I do won't be awful because my intentions are good, or, if my intentions are good then I can't be blamed it the outcome is bad. Notice how weird and silly that stuff looks when it's clearly expressed.

Now...we have to also consider the factor of whether we "really" didn't know what we did would cause harm. Did we "really" not know or could we have known if we had spent the effort/time to figure out whether it would cause harm.

Often we tend to think that if our intentions are good then we're sort of protected against doing terrible awfuls and that can easily lead us into not spending time and effort considering the impact of what we do. Maybe this bias in our ways of thinking serve to lead us toward being ignorant and not attentive to factors that are extremely important.

What if our culture encourages us to be inattentive to (or to disregard) the harms inflicted by well intentioned? What if our culture encourages us to think that if we mean no harm (consciously anyway) then we're "innocent"?

If I didn't mean to cause harm then no harm happened or any resultant harm was inconsequential. Once again, that sort of smells like invisibling. Also notice that this sort of teaching gains extra power or effectiveness from the fact that it goes in the same direction that we seem to be inherently biased toward...focusing on intent instead of impact.

There's an old saying: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It's one that can alert us to the fact that intent and impact are not the same thing and believing that "good intentions" protects us from doing great harm is both dangerous and false.

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

Friday, December 16, 2016

White privilege?

I've come to understand and perceive that phrase, "white privilege", as being problematic and misleading.

I've been thinking about power and control and that stuff I call invisibling.

If you and your group (or me and my group) wanted to control another group of people (or any sort of groups of Earthlings actually) one way we could do it would be to use force or violence or the threat of force of violence to get them to do what we wanted. That would probably work, especially if the group you wanted to control had less power than you (or me) and they could be forced to do what you wanted and if they didn't...well...you could imprison or kill them.

There are a number of difficulties with this approach. For instance, if you're the obvious source of domination that means those who want to resist your control know who to fight against and if your methods of control are obvious and blatant, those who want to resist could easily identify what things to fight against. Hmmm...controlling a group like this could be done...but it might take lots of effort and be really messy.

And...thinking of yourself as a good guy and getting others to see you that way while acting like a dominating and violent a**hole might present some challenges. It could be done (and has been done by some prominent folks or groups of folks...think white people) but it's really cognitively demanding. You have to play hell with reality and do lots and lots of lying and covering up and such. It's semi-doable...but...wow, lots of work. And...outsiders, those not living in your system and subject to your control will, without much effort, see you for what you are.

Hey...wouldn't it be nifty if you could control them (maybe it wouldn't be 100% effective, but we're not worried about the small stuff, we just want to control mostly, a few exceptions aren't going to make us get excited) without their knowing that they're being controlled? The group members think they are making their own choices about what they do and how they think and understand themselves and the world but...all the while you're setting the agenda for their doing and thinking and understanding. Hmmm...pretty slick, eh? They wouldn't fight you because they wouldn't even realize that they were being controlled. What a deal!

And...if all else failed you could return to the tried and true ways of threatening violence or actually doing violence. But...that's ugly and messy and gets people all riled up...much better to make all this controlling invisible when possible.

And...what if I wanted others who weren't in on the system (for instance, those who are born and live after I'm gone) I've set up to go along with it and help keep it in place but without being aware that that's what they're doing? They might benefit from it...but...they wouldn't notice what it does or how it works. A system that, once it got rolling, could just take on a life all its own. A perpetual oppression machine needing little maintenance or thought. 

One way to think about "history" is to realize that included in "history" are ways of behaving and thinking and relating (including ways of interacting with both groups and with other individuals and even to ones self) that were established, perhaps centuries ago, and subsequent generations are socialized into enacting those ways...and...often they're also socialized to not think about the origin of those ways of behaving and thinking.

These inheritors of a history (us) are socialized to not question "tradition", socialized to not look at who created these ways, to not figure out what their purpose(s) were, socialized to see these ways of living and such as "natural" and/or "normal" and/or as "common sense".

Society members who fail to interrogate and investigate and think about all the ways of thinking and being and and perceiving and living that they inherited will end up being just little puppets doing a dance (called being "normal") that some goobers created long ago for their own purposes.

Welcome to now. Here we are...doing the dance steps to the tunes the folks before us created. Because we think it's "natural" or some such stuff. And we think we're "free". Jeez.

I first used "invisibling" as a title for a post almost two years ago. And here I am, still wallowing around trying to achieve some sort of coherent understanding of it. That's maybe because of my poor capabilities or maybe because what I'm trying to understand is complex and slippery...or...maybe it's both.

After two years into flopping around in the mental and emotional mud with "invisibling", one thing I'm certain of, is that it is way more potent that most of us realize. Part of the power of "invisibling" is that its effectiveness is also deliberately made invisible. Pretty neat, eh?

Think about hiding something and then hiding from yourself the fact that you hid something. That's similar to a terrific definition I once read of a defense mechanism called repression. It, repression, was defined as the mental operation of forgetting something and then forgetting that you've forgotten it.


I copied this image from Abagond's post about white privilege. Read the post...Abagond rarely fails to educate and delight.

One of the things that is problematical with that phrase (white privilege) is that it sort of suggests that the goodies associated with being white just "happen".  Like they (the privileges) fall out of the sky or something and whee...I get some nifty stuff just because my skin is white and isn't that hunky dory? Well...go read this post to become a little more educated about how hunky dory often happens.

There's no bad stuff happening that is connected to the phrase "white privilege", there aren't any bad guys, I just get some goodies and it's almost magical.

Always remember, humans doing "magic" means some stuff that's out of sight (or right in front of us but not noticed or seen) is going on. 

"White privilege" is code for material things and psychological and social benefits for dominant group members that are either taken from or denied to members of subordinated or marginalized group members. That phrase, "white privilege", is a nice or neutral sounding phrase that obscures and makes invisible the awfulness that has to be there for such 'privileges' to exist.

We white folks are socialized to believe that If we don't do anything that's racist, if we don't treat someone badly because of their race then we're good to go, right?

If we get some goodies because of our white skin...well...we're innocent since we didn't do anything harmful or hurtful. Isn't it nice to be white and get this neat stuff, eh?

But...what if that isn't true? What if what I get is because it is taken from someone else? What if my goody or privilege or benefit is the result of someone else being ripped off or prevented from having that same goody?

Am I still innocent? Or am I the recipient of the loot from a crime? A receiver of stolen goods and/or psychological or social well being?

Look carefully at the graphic, in each panel either Bob or his ancestors are benefiting...but...others are also being excluded or denied access or losing their freedom or otherwise being harmed.

Less for them, more for Bob. But Bob doesn't comprehend that...the bad stuff has been...you guessed it...invisibled. Wow...what a deal! Bob is both "successful" and "innocent".

White privilege is an innocuous sounding phrase that, when you think of it, serves to uphold invisibling. Because...it doesn't sound too bad or awful (although some think it does, I sort of guffawed when I read this guy carping about the phrase being "needlessly confrontational", good grief) but it necessarily means crappy and harmful stuff is going on. 

If you or I benefit from "white privilege", that always means someone else is being excluded or having something taken away from them.

But, we don't think about that part...it's made invisible.

This society uses that invisibling stuff sort of like duct tape...it uses it everywhere and in all kinds of circumstances where society wants you want to engage in sh*theel behavior but not comprehend that you're being awful. Or, it wants you to be targeted for being screwed over but society wants you to blame yourself and not make a fuss about being victimized. See what a handy dandy thing invisibling is?

Social "privilege" doesn't fall out of the sky...and if it does that's not the kind of stuff I'm writing about. I'm writing about instances where I get extra because someone else got less...or got harmed...or were excluded or those things happened to their ancestors. The kind of "privilege" I'm addressing is when there's a "goody"...and that "goody" came from when someone somewhere was screwed in the past or is currently getting screwed.

And...the term white privilege can serve to lull us into thinking it's all nice and nifty and nobody gets hurt...we just get some "extras"...nope...ugly stuff has to be for those sorts of "extras" to happen.

Let's do some thinking. 

Consider, the average African American female makes only 63 cents for every $1 the average white man earns in pay for equivalent work (that means task competence is the same, experience is the same and so on). That's white male privilege in action.

But for that white man to make that $1, that African American woman gets shafted. If disparities like this were leveled out, if we were all "equal" then it would mean not only an increase in pay for African American females but would also likely mean a commensurate decrease in pay for white men (all factors held steady and say we didn't look at how the employer is engaging in profiteering or whatever).

For example, if the total amount of pay available was $1.63 then averaging these pay rates would mean dividing this amount by 2, then each worker would be making about 82 cents in pay. This would mean a 19 cent increase for African American women and an 18 cent decrease for white men (again, if all other factors were held equal). Oops...the "white privilege" for that white man means that the unequal pay he is getting is being taken from the African American female.

Maybe the the author of that article, noted above, who described "white privilege" as being "confrontational" is not as silly as he seems at first glance.

You might have noticed...I've used an example that illustrated the intersecting of two forms of oppression...racism (African American) and sexism (female). That's the way this stuff often works, sometimes folks are socially positioned in more than one subordinated group, their deprivations intersect in complex ways....in other words, folks in marginalized groups often get shafted in more than one way.

And...recipients of "white privilege" are often reaping the results of more than one sort of harming.

Benefiting from or receiving a "privilege" isn't a neutral thing...your elevation or benefit is because someone else is being pushed down or deprived.

Nope, there are none who receive "white privilege" who are innocent. They (we) might think they are, they (we) might not comprehend what's going on (it's invisible) but there's crappy stuff going on and we white folks are right smack dab in the middle of it and we're getting goodies that come from harming or taking away from or denying things to folks positioned in marginalized or subordinated groups.

"White privilege" doesn't seem so innocent or neutral sounding now, does it?

All white people 'benefit' from racism, even if we don't see ourselves as racist or "do" racist actions or think racist thoughts...just like all men (mainly white men) 'benefit' from sexism, even if we don't "do" sexist actions or think sexist thoughts.


We may not have created it, we may not have chosen it, we may abhor and detest it...but...we white people get goodies from racism...whether we want to or not. There's no neutral place to hide.

And...we (white people) are the ones who have the responsibility to change this. If you (or me) are acting sh*tty, or benefiting from sh*tty stuff that's done elsewhere or by others then we have a responsibility to start resisting this. And...if that means we have to move toward changing the way things are done so that others aren't harmed for our benefit...then that's what we have to do. 

One of the things that you must do...unless you want to continue with the pretense of innocence and non-involvement...is to work to comprehend and to understand. And one of the biggest obstacles to doing that is to begin to see what's right in front of you...that invisible stuff.

I was taught to not think critically and carefully about what's going on around me...so were all of us. Even people who are positioned in marginalized groups are taught such avoidant mental maneuvering.

Our society abounds with "nice" or neutral sounding words and phrases that make horror invisible or difficult to see. "Settler" (murder, genocide and land theft), "pioneer" (same thing), "colonist" (same thing), "founding father" (wealthy white male slave owner), "southern plantation" (human enslavement, rape, murder) and on and on...it's sort of sickening and disorienting when you start digging into the real meanings associated with these nice/neutral sounding words and phrases.

But.

We don't have to continue to go along with this sh*tty stuff.

I'm slowly coming to understand that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to comprehend all this...the hard part is making the invisible become visible...once that happens...well...figuring out the way the these things work is something a 4th grader could do. Or a sharp 3rd grader.

Go back and look at the example above and the simple math I did to achieve some equity in pay. That's not calculus, ok? Granted, it's a simplified example, but it illustrates the principle that underlies way too many things we take for granted and pretend are "neutral" or "just the way it is".

The tough part is realizing that the $1 that white guy is paid comes, in part, at the expense of the African American woman who only gets paid 63 cents for the same amount of work. Both are working, both are exerting effort...but...the white guy is being overpaid and that extra pay is available because the African American woman is being underpaid. 

When you go shopping...either at the manufacturer of the thing you bought or in the store where you bought it (most likely both)...there are people getting paid unfairly...just because of whatever group(s) they happen to be positioned in. And you're participating in that systemic enactment of racism (or other systemic oppressions). Even if you didn't intend to, even if you didn't want to, even if you dislike or hate racism or oppression. You're helping it to roll right on. 

Heck, I was the recipient of white guy pay throughout my career...that means folks who weren't white guys were getting screwed so I could get that pay. I didn't comprehend that, but I benefited from it. All of us who are positioned in a dominant group (white or male or able-bodied and so on) are benefiting from the shafting of those who are positioned in corresponding subordinate or marginalized groups.

We don't live in an "equal opportunity" society, we live in a society that uses code phrases like "white privilege" to hide and make invisible the oppression and awfulness that are the foundation and core of this here "land of the free" (that's another of those code phrases that lies to us to make us feel good about ourselves without involving the hard work of making it be true).

We (most especially we white people) can do better than this.

But...sitting around with our thumbs up our a**es and thinking we're "innocent" because we don't think bad thoughts or do bad things isn't going to make things better. In fact, that's exactly what your ancestors want you to do because that helps the sh*tty stuff keep right on keeping on.

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)   



 

Friday, December 9, 2016

So you think slavery is over?

Very soon now (December 19th) it appears that the U.S. is going to install someone who lost the popular vote for the presidency by more than two million votes.

And...the creators of the structure that's going to make that possible (the electoral college) were white men who were committed to the continuation of human enslavement here the "land of the free".

Here's a quote from a story that epitomizes my some aspects of my viewpoint up until a few years ago: "The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman admitted on the night of Trump’s victory that “people like me – and probably like most readers of the New York Times – truly didn’t understand the country we live in”"

I wasn't quite as naive as Paul Krugman, I've known something fundamental was wrong with this nation for a long, long time...but I've been woefully inept at figuring out just what up until the last couple of years. Being less naive did not translate into alarm and dismay and motivation in any meaningful way...so I might as well have been as clueless as he apparently was/is. It's sad to be less clueless than a Nobel prize winner and it not mean much.

Given the reported selections that the apparent new president is making for key government officials...for all those who think this is "just" another election may be in for a shock. I fear that many will be awakened rather rudely. I hope not...but I suspect many if not most of us are going to be impacted negatively much more than is yet realized. I'll gladly accept my being wrong about this. In fact, I would cheer my error.

It simply isn't possible for us to follow the policies of institutions created and implemented by white men who believed in white supremacy and have that be a positive thing for the ideals of "liberty and justice for all" and "democracy". Nope...can't be done and now we're going to reap the consequences of complacency and complicity. And the most horrid aspect of that reaping is that the most vulnerable are going to be harmed with the greatest intensity.

I've seen probably more presidential elections than anyone reading this blog...and I assure you that nothing even approaching what is coming is conceivable in terms of who has been the president in my lifetime. Maybe ever in the history of this nation, certainly in terms of the power that the office of the presidency holds. Andrew Jackson was a despicable man...but he didn't control nuclear weapons. He didn't control the largest military budget on the planet. 

The selection for the attorney general is a blatant racist, the pick for head of the EPA is an avowed foe of environmental regulation. We're likely to see a phenomenal dismantling of protections for vulnerable citizens and for our environment. And that's just for starters.

And all of this is going to happen because of our complicity in maintaining and following the dictates of a structure designed by and for white men who wanted to enslave human beings.

I've been surprised before by presidential election outcomes, I've been saddened and I've been pleased...I've never been frightened though. And I'm deeply frightened this time. The individual who's apparently going to be the president does not believe in any version of a nation that most of us can imagine.

I'm sorry for us all and I'm most sorry for the vulnerable and the innocent who have been and are going to be (indeed, already have been) the victims of this ugly manifestation of the cowardice and lack of integrity by we white people.

We white citizens have been unwilling to grapple with the ugly history of white racist domination and harm to people of color that is our legacy and now it's going to envelope all of us in an unimaginable intensification of an ongoing and widespread catastrophe.

This nation began with the dual crimes of the murder of Native Americans and the stealing of their land and with the enslavement of kidnapped African peoples.

Racism was envisioned and created to justify the enrichment of white men at the expense of those not classified as white.

The focus that most of us white people take when it comes to conceptualizing racism is the emotional acting out of disturbed individuals. That's primarily a distracting sideshow, not that genuine and deplorable harm isn't done by these individuals, but many/most of us who are white believe that if we don't do those things then our hands are clean. That's not true.

None of us white people are innocent because we are the ones who have left the structures and institutions intact which were dreamed up to ensure white supremacy and have operated as if this were "normal". And that festering awfulness is going to come into open enactment once again. Except, worse...much much worse than anyone alive has ever seen.

We're going to see an intense focus on profit with no regard for the human cost like nothing that's happened in any of our lifetimes. And...that's exactly the principle that drove the formation of this nation. That's exactly the principle that drove the genocide of Native Americans, that's exactly the principle that drove human enslavement and the ideology of racism that was dreamed up to support and justify that enslavement.

I'm sickened by my own complicity and complacency in allowing this to come to pass and sickened by all other white citizens who've failed to act prior to now. I'm sickened by those white citizens who hate and directly harm those with little or no power. But I'm well aware that they would be of relatively minor importance in the grand scheme if we "good white folks" hadn't been remiss in doing what needed to be done.

Howard Zinn said what needed saying in a book published in 2002. He wrote:
"From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country--not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society--cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”
The rot at the root he wrote about is coming into full visibility in the whole plant now. That rot is going to do more harm than is conceivable...and the uprooting of that rot...well...given that we (white people) have been unwilling to do it up until now doesn't auger well for the future.

Friday, December 2, 2016

How does it...

manifest itself when it operates? I'm in the midst of wrestling with that question.

I'm wondering about what features or dynamics operate to uphold or create invisibility when it comes into play in how we think about and perceive things?

The image below illustrates how we're products of lots and lots and lots of rules about how to think and perceive. We must work hard (and persistently) at bringing them into awareness so that we can evaluate and decide whether we want to enact them or reject them. If we don't work at it...then those rules control us...even if we don't agree with them or like them.

The "I" that I think i am (and the "you" that you think you are) is very much a product of ways of thinking and feeling and perceiving that folks who lived long before me (or you) made up. If I (or you) don't want to be their puppet...then I gotta "de-invisible" the rules and and ways of thinking and perceiving that I inherited. (those rules and stuff is what is meant by "social construction"...we often call that stuff made up by people who lived long before you "common sense")

And so do you. Yes...it's a pain in the ass...but...that's what we're stuck with and there's no opting out. You either do the work or be a puppet...there's no third choice.



Doing that kind of work is what is meant by liberating yourself. Such efforts require reattaching history and context to ideas and structures and ways of comprehending and thinking that you believed were yours but were actually made up by people who lived before you. It's part of the work of making "visible" the "invisible".

For instance...how is it that much/most of the "national narrative" that's going full blast right how is all about Trump's "victory" when in fact he lost the popular vote by...according to this link on Wikipedia...more than 2.5 million votes.That's totally bizarre to me...he lost...why aren't we talking about the absurdity of the loser becoming president? I suspect it's because of this process of invisibling.

The "national narrative" story I linked to above mentions this loss and then just ignores it. When something is seriously important...and visible to everyone...but almost completely ignored...isn't that one way that invisibility operates?

What kinds of things go on inside us that make this ignoring of the absurdity of talking about a "democratically elected" president when...in fact...as this website points out, you could theoretically become the president by gaining only 21.84% of the popular vote.

Stating it another way (according to the website)...a candidate could win a majority vote of 78%+ and still "lose" the election. (I haven't fooled with checking the numbers...so be aware of this...I do know it's all rather absurd to talk/think/write about "democracy" and "majority vote" in regards to the presidency)

This whole bizarre (and deeply dangerous) situation exists because of a structure that has been in place since the beginning of the nation that's called the electoral college...which was created to support the power of the states which enslaved human beings. Oppression and horror created this structure...and we're going to go along with this without a whimper?

So, why aren't we talking about this? Or...maybe a better question to ask is what ways do the mechanisms (or dynamics) of making something invisible feel when they occur inside of us? What's our personal experience of invisibling when it operates?

Apathy? Helplessness? How do we feel inside when a major phenomena of reality distorting (or minimizing or ignoring) happens? Or...how do we feel when one of those deep culturally imposed or inherited rules...that we disagree with...manifest themselves in our thinking or perceiving or reacting?

Does it have to do with what's discussed in this essay where the authors write: "...two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we also blind to our blindness.”

This seems critical to me because it apparently is the case that invisibling is often (always?) associated with keeping systems of oppression and harm to those with little or no social power in place. Is it that a big part of the way they keep on keeping on is because we don't comprehend or notice them?

What are the specifics of how we experience invisibling when it happens inside us?

If we desire to quit behaving in ways that are harmful and hurtful to others...don't we have to figure out what the operations are of the processes that implement and uphold and maintain those hurtful practices? We are all subject to them...wouldn't it be useful to be able to identify them when they impact our perceiving/thinking/behaving...and resist them?

Maybe it's focus or paying attention to irrelevant (the majority vote for president) or only loosely connected stuff instead of the critical things (electoral college)?

I've spoken to several people about the ridiculousness of the presidential election (where the "winner" loses) and gotten responses that include feelings of helplessness or "that's just the way it is" or lack of realization that the person who lost by 2.5 million votes is apparently going to be the president.

It seemingly shows up in different ways in different people. What are those ways?

There can't be an infinite number of them (pathology, reality distorting, isn't that creative), we should be able to enumerate and identify the specific ways this occurs in various folks. Shouldn't we?

Why haven't we done this before? (or maybe we have and I just haven't done enough research) Is (if it hasn't been done before) the lack of information about invisibling processes part of the invisibling process itself? Is that part of not comprehending and not comprehending that we're not comprehending? (my own suspicion that all this is related to Charles Mills' concept of the epistemology of ignorance...but I don't know for sure)

Is it movement? Does invisibled stuff most often escape notice when it is not operating or moving...is it more easily detected when it is in operation? I ask because of the often used analogy about vision when we're talking actually about our comprehension. (Using the notion of "seeing" when we're actually trying to talk about comprehending or understanding).

Vision requires movement to operate...you see things with your eyes only because your eyes are constantly moving (those movements are called saccades). If there is no movement, then vision fades and you don't see anything.

I discovered the movement and vision thingee by accident when I was a kid, I shut one eye and then pressed on the eyelid of my partially open eye (that pressing on my eyeball through my eyelid made saccading stop) and voila...the visual field faded out quickly. Is it the case that we have difficulty noticing invisibling unless it is 'moving" (or in operation)?

(if you decide to try the vision experiment...well...be careful...you're doing it at your own risk...I'm not recommending it to you, ok?)

Or...does comprehension operate quite differently than vision and if it does then using the vision metaphor for comprehension might be more misleading than we're aware of.

I sure would like to get your thinkings about this stuff because it's quite confusing to me and it's also, I suspect, incredibly important...for us all.