mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Dear afrai. Always with the succinct summation of stuff I've had a woolly sense of but couldn't summarize myself.
Here is the mind-set this is coming from: talking about race is a game. The person who loses is the one who is the most racist and most privileged. The person who wins is the one who is the least racist and least privileged. Because white people benefit the most from racial privilege, because they are at the top of the global hierarchy of race, they have an automatic disadvantage in discussions of race. They are already several points down! PoC, on the other hand, are several points up: they have the advantage of being able to pull instances of racism from their own lives, showing that they are the most oppressed!
Because that's the paradigm I see happening over here whenever people are on opposite sides of anything, or even on the same side. It's one of those Games People Play: 'I am more oppressed than you', because the most oppressed person wins. In my own experience it began thirty-odd years ago with feminism and hasn't stopped since. (I *have* mentioned the raging debate that split the expat lesbian community in Japan over who was most oppressed- large women who can't get comfortable airplane seats or thin women who get called 'cute' by men?) Although I think it might have started earlier, with the civil rights movement, and the stunning revelation that white people were, well, not following the Way of Heaven, and righteousness was not with us. (Self-righteousness, yes, but that's another problem.) For whatever reason, there's now this reflex urge to grab the moral high ground back at whatever cost.

Us vs Them has always been at work, but my own feeling is that the society didn't sanction victimization as validation until the late 60s or 70s. But now it's practically a reflex. The most revolutionary thing I've heard through the various iterations of Racefail is the statement that we're all in it together, that it's a mutual problem we need to work at solving together: a dialogue, not a pissing contest.
Here is the mind-set anti-racists have when they are discussing race: racism is a problem. We all lose, in different ways. Talking about race is a way to work to fix the problem. There are no points. There is no prize in sight.
'There is no prize in sight.' That's unintutive in so many ways to, I think, so many white women. Because there *was* a prize in sight with feminism, which was much with the empowering rhetoric, and the conviction that the Man wasn't movable by reason or by arguments that he also lost out under patriarchy-- that the Man would respond only to rage, and that if rage didn't work, at least you felt better for having expressed your anger.

Well, we saw what happened with feminism. The text changed, the subtext remained the same, and it became women patriarchally telling women what they were allowed to say and think. It was white women saying their priorities were more important than other women's, and making it stick because they had the money and the social privilege, so now the term feminism has a distinct taste of academic white elitism to it in my mind. Not something that addresses the needs of real women, basically.

I can only hope that the Man, for certain values of Man, does eventually twig that the racial dialogue is, in good faith, a dialogue. That no one is waiting to sandbag us with anathemas and depart unto darknesses *if* we enter into it in good faith. Am not sanguine. All this is mostly happening in the country where you don't apologize because that's an admission of fault which the other side's lawyer will use against you in court. Dialoguing with that mindset is likely to be fraught with pitfalls.
Tags: afrai

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