Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 August Archives: Revisiting September of 2008: on whiteness and racism, manhood and sexism, heterosexism and radical social change

This image/poster is from here

In the autumn of 2008, I began to lay out some of the major themes of this blog: challenging profeminists and antifeminists who purport to be acting on behalf of justice and freedom; identifying the dangers of white privilege and white supremacy; and offering up perspectives on radicalism, rape, and white men's ageist sexism and misogynist racism in media.

I have been deeply dismayed and disheartened to learn that Ward Churchill, who I regard as a white man with a strongly pro-Indigenist politic and perspective, has since been identified as a batterer of at least one American Indian woman. This raises the on-going question of who we look to for leadership on matters of liberation from oppressive systems of dehumanisation and degradation. In my own experience, one definitive answer is "not white men". I find white men, on both structural and experiential levels (the two being intimately related) ill-prepared to lead anyone out of white male supremacist ways of being and systems which benefit them. The investment in them is too great, and white men believe themselves too great to not be leaders.

Here are some excerpts:

“[...] it is obvious to most of us that under socialism, and certainly under communism, social relations will be ruptured and go through lots of changes, in line with the necessities of building a new society.” [a comment from another website's discussion on socialism, by Linda D.]

The question, of course, is whose new society, and is there just one? If just one, is it based and constructed on the political philosophies and practices of white europeans and their descendants? If so, this is deeply problematic, which is to say, white supremacist. See, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior (1994), by Marimba Ani for much more on this matter.

Although not strictly on the topic of LGBT community and its future, Ward Churchill does tackle this matter rather impressively. I shall first pull the passage from the above discussion I am responding to, posted by Dave:

The issue is a line that says that it is an open question whether or not a certain group of people will “cease to exist” under socialism or communism. This is wrong, and worthy of derision and scorn.

What follows is from the book Acts of Rebellion: The Ward Churchill Reader (2003), page 260. I believe it can apply to some degrees to many marginalised and oppressed ethnic/cultural groups, but here he is discussing Indigenous populations/nations. I will note that I consider Ward Churchill to be a U.S. white man, as am I, but in the passage below he speaks of himself as someone directly descended from American Indian nationalities. This is beside the point, in terms of accepting his analysis of marxism-leninism, however. His work is thoroughly researched, and not only academically.

Our very right to exist in a national sense, and usually as distinct cultures as well, has instead been denied as such. Always and everywhere, marxism-leninism has assigned itself a practical priority leading directly to the incorporation, subordination, and dissolution of native societies as such. This is quite revealing, considering that the term “genocide” was coined to describe not only policies leading to the outright physical liquidation of “ethnical, racial, religious or national” aggregates, but also policies designed to bring about the dissolution, destruction, and disappearance of these “identified human groups as such,” by other means. [see note 113 in the book] Viewed this way, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that marxism-leninism is and always has been a genocidal doctrine, wherever indigenous nationalities/cultures are concerned. [see note 114 in the book]

I also want to recommend two other books to the readers and commenters here on the matter Linda D. specifically raises. One is titled Black Sexual Politics, by Patricia Hill Collins (2004) and the other is called Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism (expanded edition, 1997), by Suzanne Pharr. With those two books, and Churchill’s and Ani’s, I strongly agree with Linda D. that Dworkin’s analysis, too, is needed in this discussion.

Related concerns:

Whose LGBT culture are we talking about? Is our understanding of this culture u.s./eurocentric? Does it place the experiences of Two Spirited people and Womanist woman-centered women at the center of its theories on heterosexuality and queerness? What is our analysis of heterosexuality and its causes? Heterosexuality, not having an asocial or cross-cultural history, nor a future that is eternal, is infused with political ideology, is it not? (It sure seems that way to gay ole me!)

Do those who discuss "the LGBT community" mean white people in the middle class or those who are part of the bourgeoisie? If so, this is but a small piece of the whole of Queer experience and culture.

On Roger Ebert's sexism and ageism (and if you read the whole post, we can note how this also includes racism and heterosexism):

What irks me even more is this comment by Roger: "What a pleasure this movie is, showcasing actresses I've admired for a long time, all at the top of their form. Yes, they're older now, as are we all, but they look great, and know what they're doing." Well, we're not all "older now", as the film stars one actor who is all of thirteen; let's hope she's not yet hit the top of her acting game. And I doubt he's been admiring her for a long time, or, well, I hope he hasn't.

So, getting to the most sexist portion of his review: why do men ALWAYS say things about women's appearances like "they're older now, BUT they look great"? What, exactly, does "great" mean: not old? That they've had enough cosmetic facial surgery, but not too much? First, older women are older than younger women AND they look great. Age doesn't take away beauty; it adds more dimensions to it. And what's with the obsession about how great older or younger women appear, particularly to white heterosexual men who write movie reviews? This film's actors are whatever various ages they are (and they are various ages: a teenager performing in a film with women in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and at least one woman in her eighties). And whether or not they are still lookin' great really ought to be entirely irrelevant. It would appear looks don't matter when we're dealing with white male actors who are "older." There's plenty of unattractive older male actors, and plenty of ugly-as-f*ck younger ones as well.

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On September 2, I published another piece on the sexual assaulter and former profeminist activist Kyle Payne, who I'd dealt with in several posts already and who I regard as a dangerous man, psychologically and politically capable of sexually assaulting women again. I regard him as such because he has demonstrated no appreciable empathy for his victim, nor a willingness to be accountable to feminists, or, even this one profeminist. He has refused to answer basic questions about his crime and his awareness of what he did that was destructive to another human life. He has remained utterly preoccupied with how his life was harmed by being caught.

On whiteness, white privilege, and white supremacy, there was a posted video promoting the work of Tim Wise, who, increasingly, I find to be in need of a deeper immersion in radical feminism, particularly that radical feminism which firmly embraces intersectionality as a core theoretical practice, based in the reality that most women, intersex people, men, and transgender people, occupy multiple locations socially and politically such that focusing on just one--say racism/white supremacy--insufficiently deals with the complex of oppressions ALL oppressed people endure, resist, and challenge. There is not one single human being who is only located as oppressed by color or race.

I also noted a few personal-political observations about white folks like me, the content of which is reproduced below:

1. We know best. When we fight for justice, for, say, animal rights, we are quick to condemn those other human cultures (you know, the ones we have colonized and are exploiting and destroying) because they, allegedly, "don't get it" that animals are not inferior to us. Never mind that this view doesn't inhere in Western Philosophy, in our Civilizations at all. Our religions, laws, and customs place men above women, (some) humans above animals, (some) men above the Earth, as a ruler, as a dominator. Never mind that most white folks, disproportionately men, are or have been barbarians and savages (currently often by proxy). Never mind that any notions of animals being like us, not being inferior, being spirited and sentient, comes from the cultures we oppress, not from our own.

2. We behave, without acknowledging it as reprehensible and wrong, as if white folks were adults, and people of color are children. We will actually argue (not in so many words, necessarily) that because some people of color participate in the systems which disproportionately harm them and benefit us, that they are not equipped to lead a struggle against oppression.

3. We actually believe that because not all Indigenous cultures were/are [fill in the blank: respectful of women, respectful of animals, peaceful, sustainable] that we ought to decide who owns the land, as if it is ethically ours to begin with. (It isn't: we stole it, and ought to give it back "without reservation.")

4. We think we are the experts on everything that isn't about us, while being profoundly ignorant about how and what we do that is so harmful and oppressive to others. We call our oppression of others "good", "moral", and "right".

5. We don't think we are raced: we actually believe that "those people" are a race of some kind, and we are, well, just people. We refuse to acknowledge that in any social space, we are white supremacists. Whether we behave like white supremacists has a lot to do with what we recognize in ourselves as racist actions. There are exceptions to this belief: white liberals think we are white, but that race should just be invisible, meaning we should all act like white people. White Nationalists do believe in a white race, and that it is in danger, or must be "pure" as if that was ever the case, or as if creating "purity" involves anything other than bigotry and violence against people of color. White Nationalists, the ones I've heard speak out, believe that race is natural, inevitable, not political and cultural. White Nationalists believe in genocide against non-white people, even if they don't promote it publicly. Such white folks, it may be concluded, aim to be purely evil.

6. We argue there is such as thing as "reverse racism" and reverse ethnic bigotry. We carry around a ridiculous belief that we either have been living in, do live in, or will soon be living in, an Indigenist Supremacist, Asian Supremacist, Latina/o Supremacist, Arab Supremacist, Jewish Supremacist, Muslim Supremacist, or Black Supremacist society. Never mind who still controls every political institution and economy in this country and other white-dominated countries. (The answer is white Christian men.)

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