Archives for category: Racism

After some time to think and recharge, rather than collating links here, I’m going to folks on summarizing major stuff in various social activisms that I feel should be part of a wider conversation and occasionally personal thoughts and ramblings. I will also be building up the 101 pages to provide a place to find information both about various identities, and how can happen when they intersect.

If you follow what’s going on in feminism at all, you will have heard about Hugo Scwyzer. If you haven’t, here’s background.

Short version: Scwyzer has a long history of abusing people, and especially women. His history of abuse has long been ignored by feminist media (let me put this in perspective: 3 years ago, when I didn’t know anything at all about feminism, I had heard of Scwyzer and knew he was an abusive asshole who I didn’t want within a mile of me, my daughter or any other woman I knew. There is no way feminist media missed this. They ignored it.) Now he’s finally gone ‘too far’ and people are trying to make excuses for him based on mental illness, while shutting down or ignoring the WoC he abused, pleading for understanding about his illness and calling upon ‘community’.

I am told (haven’t read it myself) that some places are even raising the cry of ‘ableism’ in Scwyzer’s defense. Flavi Dzodan’s has a very good response to that shit. The abuser getting a pass due to his mental illness while the abused is victim blamed and their illness – which is caused often caused by the abuser – is ignored and swept under the carpet. Anyone who is familiar with rape culture recognizes this pattern. It should not be happening within feminism.

Mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. It is not a reason for abuse. If my mentally ill partner ever hit our child because the kids screaming during an anxiety attack cause him to lose control (something I have no fear of him ever doing, but work with me here) I would be out of this place so fast the carpets would catch fire and my partner would be talking to the police and/or the residents at a psych-ward. The fact that he is mentally ill would hopefully get him treatment rather than jail time, but it would not excuse his abuse.

And using his illness as an excuse to shut down my voice is not protesting against ableism, it is aiding and abetting an abuser.

Which is exactly what mainstream feminism has done to WoC who had stood up to demand Scwyzer be held accountable for his actions.

Scwyzer was allowed to brand himself as a feminist, to build a media career on the backs of the women he abused, and was aided and abetted in this by the feminist media who should be rights have denounced him for the way he behaved.

WoC color have been harmed repeatedly by this man, and by the brand feminism that supported him. WoC have a voice, have a right to be heard, have a right to be able to name their abuser without getting further abuse from the very people who should be supporting them. WoC have a right to not be erased by mainstream feminism.

If you aren’t in the habit of listening to the voices of WoC, then Red Light Politics and Tiger Beat Down are good places to start.

ETA: For more on this, check out twitter hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen

 

Mother Russia is not actin very motherly, at least not to her LGBT children. I will not link to the sickening shit that has been going on over there in the wake of the anti-LGBT laws that were recently enacted. Those who are familiar with history are loudly noting the similarity between the actions of Vladimir Putin and the early days of Nazi Germany. And anyone who wants to start crying about how what’s going on is nothing in comparison to the Holocaust, educate yourself on 1935-1939 in Germany. The Holocaust didn’t start as the Holocaust either.

Ironically, and furthering the parallel, Russia is scheduled to host the Winter Olympics this year. Varying Olympic committees in different countries have reacted in less than ideal ways, such as saying that if LGBT athletes don’t feel safe going to a country where LGBT people are being beaten to death while the police look the other way, they shouldn’t compete. Athletes who take action to protest the anti-LGBT laws or support gay pride, such as wearing rainbow pins, have been threatened with fines.

Thankfully, there is one huge difference between now and 1939. LGBT has far more support around the world than Jews did during Kristallnacht or the 1939 Olympics. From sidewalk graffiti to political protests people are speaking out.

For a wonderful summary of the situation and why the Olympics don’t belong in Sochi this year, check out Stephen Fry’s open letter to British PM David Cameron.

Multiple petitions have been started, asking the International Olympic Committee to relocate the 2014 Olympics to Vancouver.

And Colinology is looking ahead, to what may need to be done if Russia truly is walking in the Nazi’s footsteps.

Also, the first link in this section raises some alternatives ways to challenge this development.

As a bisexual, Jewish woman who studies history, this in parallel with some of the developments in Greece is terrifying. Because as bad as what is happening to LGBT in Russia is right now, if those of us looking at the parallels are right, it is only going to get worse.

 

There is a slightly disturbing trend in non-monogamous discourse. In short, it’s become all about polyamory.  Mainstream media has latched on polyamory as the ‘ethical’ non-monogamy and that many other forms of non-monogamy (which are just as ethical as polyamory or monogamy) such as swinging, open relationships, and the many, many other varieties non-monogamy can take are getting swept under the rug. Some folks inside polyamory (myself included) are disturbed by this and see a parallel to the way L&G interests have dominated LGBT discussion to the point of erasing or abusing B&T folk. Its a complex mess with no easy answer, but I’m putting out an invite for folks who practice a non-poly form of non-monogamy to contact me. I’d like to get a Yahoo! Discussion group going for people who formulate their relationships in any way that doesn’t match mainstream monogamy, so that we can start building an umbrella that can fit all of us and the political and social strides being made can begin to extend beyond polyamory.

ETA: If anyone knows of such a group or umbrella that already exists, please let me know!

Folks, life has beat the crap out of me lately and I had largely disappeared off the ‘net due to mental overload and loss of the ability to give a fuck. Luckily, I regained my feet just in time to meet the tidal wave of SCOTUS related news which is this week in activism. I’ll try to resume regular posting next week. Usually I try to take a couple of days and several revisions before putting up a post like this, but right now timing and topical counts. Apologies for any typos or errors.

It has been an amazing and horrid week in SCOTUSLand. Rarely do simultaneously want to jump for joy and break down weeping. Lady Justice, where the hell were you Tuesday? Certainly not in chambers.

Alright, anyone who isn’t living under a rock has heard about the so-called ‘big news’ of the week. The Supreme Court has struck down part of DOMA (After DOMA Fact Sheet) and dismissed the case on Proposition 8, both of which are major wins for LGBT rights. Personally I wonder just how much bile Scalia had to swallow in siding with the majority on Prop8 (here’s some legalese on why the Prop8 decision isn’t actually about SSM – I am not endorsing this guys conclusions, per se, but he has his facts in order).

The sadly-less heralded news came on Tuesday. NAACP, wake up and remember that you are not irrelevant! The media blitz from the overturning of the Voters’ Rights Act should have rivaled the celebrations today, instead SCOTUSLand’s butching of voter rights has passed relatively quietly.

For anyone who has not been following the VRA case, here’s the gist:

Last year, Texas tried to redraw their voting districts in such a way as to deliberately hurt PoC. This redrawing was done by white members of the Texas legislature in secret from their black and latino colleagues. Basically, here’s what happened: the white guys looked at the voting districts and said “This district is a majority PoC, which means they won’t vote the way we want them too, so we’re going to change the borders of the district to remove some PoC and add some white folks, this way the PoC won’t have a majority any more. This other district has a majority white folks, we’ll leave that alone.”

Well, understandably PoC and their allies weren’t to happy about this. They challenged the redistricting under the voter’s rights act, which among other things, said that states with a history of severe and institutional racism and voter manipulation had to run changes in voting laws past the Federal government to insure that any changes they made weren’t going to infringe the voting rights of PoC.

The Feds took a look at Texas’ new-and-improved voting districts and said, “What are trying to pull here? This is blatant racism and you aren’t allowed to pull that crap!” And the old districts stayed. But Texas didn’t like being told what to do (who does?) and sued the Feds for the right to set any voting laws they want, no matter who got hurt.

Yesterday, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Texas, and less than two hours after the ruling was handed down, Texas Attorney General said the redistricting and associated voter ID law might go into effect immediately.

And the reason SCOTUS tossed out the VRA? Because everyone has the right to vote now, and racism is gone in America, so it wasn’t needed any more.

As Justice Ginsburg says in the dissent: “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

For fairly obvious reasons, white LGBT folks are a bit happier with SCOTUS today than straight PoC. For LGBT people of color, well sadly the DOMA and Prop8 don’t apply if you live in any of the states that were covered by the VRA, because none of those states have marriage equality, so you can’t get married and they can now fuck with your voting rights. Yay for the puff pastry of oppressions.

Yeah, I’m snarky today. It’s keeping me somewhat sane in the face of this insanity.

In a somewhat related note (very related to intersectionality, somewhat related to SCOTUSLand), last night Texas Senator Wendy Davis pulled a marathon filibuster* that prevented the passage of a bill which would have shut down 80% of abortion clinics in Texas and outlaw abortion after 20 weeks (SB5 Primer) Wendy Davis is one of the Texas senators whose district would have been redrawn before the November elections, meaning she likely wouldn’t have been elected and standing on the Texas Senate floor to pull off her feat of awesome if that redistricting had gone through.

*One source claimed she spent most of the 10+ hour filibuster reading the stories of women whose lives would be negatively impacted by the bill. Sorry I lost the link for that one.

I’ll be honest. Cultural appropriation is an idea I am still working to wrap my head around.  That there is something wrong with a member of a privileged culture (read:white 99% of the time) making money off of the symbolism and traditions of another culture – for instance for someone to create a company that manufactures imitation dream catchers and sells them for massive profit while the NA tribes that dream catchers come from are fighting to get the money to provide their people with food and housing… If anyone is going to make money selling cultural items and ideas it should be the culture they came from. People using trappings of another culture to try to look exotic or cool or hip? Yeah, that’s just wrong and I’m not going to pull any punches. But, the idea that, as some have maintained, it is cultural appropriation for my friend to practice Buddhism? Possibly it is because I grew up a culture where it assumed to be a good thing when someone converted to your religion, I don’t get this. TBH, I especially don’t get this when applied to Buddhism, which has a long history of proselyzation and, yes, forced conversions.

Would it be cultural appropriation for me to write a story set in Mongolia or India? I honestly don’t know. I also know it isn’t my opinion that matters.

But this intro is actually off topic from my musings today.

Stavver‘s linked to an old but good piece on reverse cultural appropriation. Now, the idea that it is reverse cultural appropriation for PoC to wear business suits, when it is impossible to get a ‘good’ job wearing anything else, that Native American’s should not be wearing jeans, when they have been stripped of their ability to make enough clothing for their people using their traditional methods AND their ability to evolve new methods… I have, in fact, heard more ridiculous ideas. But not many.

If white people think it is reverse cultural appropriation for PoC to wear business suits, then white hiring managers had better start welcoming applicants in kimono, sari and other formal clothing from other cultures.

But it was something in the comments that really got me thinking about cultural appropriation and intersectionality.

A person who identified as Irish (I don’t know if they were a person of Irish decent living in the US or a person of Irish nationality – and I don’t think it makes a difference) raised the issue of St. Patrick’s Day, and asked if her being upset with people getting drunk, painting themselves green and generally making a mockery of her heritage would be seen as cultural appropriation or just another whiny white girl crying ‘reverse cultural appropriation’.

To which I can only respond with the classic geek battle cry: Yes, no and 42!

Yes: The adoption of St. Patrick’s Day and its associated drunken celebrations are definitely a form of cultural appropriation.

No: This is not an issue of crying reverse cultural appropriation.

42: But factor in everything else, and it’s pretty damned complicated.

Okay, first off, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are where the English first practiced colonialization before exporting their oppression to the rest of the world. According to my father, I have ancestors who were forcibly shipped to America for refusing to swear loyalty to the British crown. The oppression of the Irish has a history that is actually longer than the oppression of PoC. That said, the suffering of my ancestors who were forced from their homes and thrown into what history tells us they would have perceived as a ‘howling wilderness’ is DEMONSTRABLY LESS then the suffering of PoC, in particular for purposes of this example, the Africans and Native Americans who were forced in slavery or subjected to genocidal campaigns. (There may well have been genocidal campaigns against the Irish, and I have been told that ethnocentrism in Great Britain continues to create and oppressive social structure for the Scottish and Welsh with some similarities to the racist social structure in the US.)

So the Irish are NOT a historically privileged group trying to divert attention from their own oppressiveness with cries of ‘reverse cultural appropriation’ and similar bullshit.

Historically, the Irish were part of the oppressed.

But intentionally or not, the Irish were also the oppressors.

Does the fact that my ancestors had no choice about coming to America change the fact that they and their descendants kept slaves, forced NA tribes off of their lands and were able to live comfortable lives off the suffering of others? No, no it doesn’t.

The history of the Irish in America, as opposed to the history of the Irish in Ireland and Great Britain, is not a tale of the oppressed. It is a tale of a people stuck in the middle. A people who were once faced with “No Irish allowed” signs as ubiquitous as “No Negros allowed”, but who were able to level themselves into a white identity and become part of the dominant, and privileged majority.

In the Appalachian coal mines, the descendants of Irish and Scottish immigrants still do a disproportionate amount of dying in the mines that feed the US’s need for electric power. But people of Irish descent are well represented in boardrooms, legislative houses and other centers of power across the country.

Yet the specific question for cultural appropriation is even more complicated.

EDIT: I had previously stated that the English never appropriated the cultures of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish. Several commenters have corrected me on this.

Sometimes I think the real basis of cultural appropriate is not modern avarice, but ancient awe. I think on some level Anglo culture has never forgotten that when London was a cesspit, the Mughals ruled a powerful empire, Istanbul with THE City, center for culture and power, held in awe throughout Europe, and Ancient China was a united power when William the Conquer was in nappies. And even if Anglo culture didn’t exist yet when the pyramids were raised, what European traveller, however firm in his superiority, could not be overwhelmed faced with the glories of ancient Egypt? Cultural appropriation happens, I believe, because we recognize the wonders of other cultures, and rather than being willing to come as students and learn from the wisdom and might of others, we insist on coming as thieves, taking the work of others and trying to make it our own.

There was no cultural appropriation of the Irish in Britain. That waited for the US. Yet… within the US, Irish culture was not sought out by Anglos and other ‘white’ folk (b/c the Irish were not considered ‘white’ for long periods of US history). Irish culture came to America with the Irish themselves, as they worked to recreate and hold onto the traditions that had been stripped from them. The popularity of Irish music in America is as much cultural appropriation as the popularity of rap or jazz. Both are attempts by a displaced and broken people to create or retain something of their own in a place where they have been stripped of their past and made into the ‘other’.

But… St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, that may be the most complicated of all. For Saint Patrick’s Day is the day when EVERYONE can be Irish. It is literally day publicized specifically for the appropriation of Irish culture by everyone in the US. It is a holiday built on cultural appropriation. Isn’t it?

Well, let’s get back to where we started – yes, no and 42.

You see, while St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America originated in Irish-American’s desire to connect with each other and their cultural heritage, in the mid 19th century when discrimination against Irish was at its height, Irish-American’s organized politically and used St. Patrick’s Day as part of their organization. They pushed to make St. Patrick’s Day a revelry celebrated across the nation. The transformation of St. Patrick’s Day from a relatively sedate celebration of pride in one’s heritage into the drunken revelry it is today can be directly linked back to this push. So is it oppression and cultural appropriation for the non-Irish to take up a celebration vigorously promoted by the Irish? in a country where the vast majority of people are a quarter this and a quarter that when we look at nationality and national culture rather than race, is someone with an Irish great-great-grandparent celebrating their heritage or stealing someone else’s when they get drunk on green beer and wear “Kiss me, I’m Irish buttons?” Factor in that commercially St. Patrick’s Day is widely promoted by Irish companies making money off of Irish traditions being celebrated by both Irish and non-Irish people…

And what about St. Patrick’s Day in other parts of the world? St. Patrick’s day is celebrated in several Asian countries, parts of the Caribbean and even Russia.

In the end, I can understand an Irish person trying to hold onto their culture being upset, insulted and dismayed by the drunken revelry that St. Patrick’s has become in the US. I do think it is a kind of cultural appropriation, when non-Irish try to claim for themselves Irish-ness on this day that is traditionally an important holiday and a cultural unification for people of Irish decent in the US. But I also think that such a person needs to recognize that whatever cultural appropriation may be happening one day a year, is not in the same league as the culture appropriation going back centuries faced by PoC from around the world.

And whatever oppression the Irish have faced in the US in the past, they have levered themselves into a position of privilege, and it is important to recognize that fact. Any structural ethnocentrism which remains in UK is oppression and needs to be fought. But oppression is not always international, and a person of Irish descent in the US is not dealing on a daily basis with the oppression in the UK, while they are benefiting on a daily basis from the privilege of being white.

We all function in a matrix of both privilege and oppression. Recognizing the ways we or our cultures are oppressed does not give us a pass on the privilege we benefit from.