Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Insularity

There has been a rather contentious argument going on at BlogRhet. Some may have noticed that I've been participating in the fray.

Yes. I was angry. And I know it's unusual for me to express it so strongly.

However, a dynamic took place there that really disturbed me. People were being "othered" because their views didn't match the dominant view.

I've never seen that before. Not there. It's always been one of the more respectable forums around the Internet.

I was one of the ones who was "othered", so I feel like I can address this with that personal perspective as well as a broader point of view.

It was the stuff of real alienation.

The topic is racism. The predominant, acceptable viewpoint is that, yes, white people have no right to say anything about it because, after all, we're white ~ and therefore we're imbued with a certain level of privilege.

And I'm calling bullshit.

I have spent eleven months on the peripheries of this community we've all had a part in building. And I've been hurt a few times by something that happened or didn't happen. I've apologized.. and been apologized to.. and it all worked out in the end.

This time feels different.

Due to my viewpoint being different, I was flat-out snubbed.

And I'm pissed off because I don't deserve that kind of treatment. I don't do it.. and I don't blanketly accept it.

Even more importantly, my view is a valid one to be put on the table with everyone else's.

My opinion, in a nutshell, is that racism is a function of capitalism, it is a function of economic inequality.

We can natter on for the next ten years about what a shame it is that members of the larger human community are marginalized but until the basic reality of economic equality is addressed, we'll be nattering about the same thing for ten years after that!

I say this here because I can't be censored here.. and I can't be "othered". I can't be silenced in this space. And yes, dismissing someone is silencing.

I resent the implication that because my skin is a certain color, I don't have a voice.. and I don't have a right to use it. Guilt is a powerful bullying tool.

That is about as racist as it gets!

When we really want to solve the problem, we're going to have to be willing to deconstruct it and look at all the elements, even those that make us uncomfortable.

It means we might have to change some of our fundamental views and it means we might have to change some cherished customs.

Like produce-and-consume.

Like economic inequality.

Like blanket discrimination of anyone who doesn't toe the mainstream line.

When there's a willingness to do that, then some useful change might take place.

Until then, the nattering and complaining will go on.... and on...

....and on.

And that's my sorng baht.

Take it or leave it.

~*

23 comments:

ellie bee said...

Can I say BULLSHIT in all caps???

One of the most profound examples of racism is censuring another beings rights to their thoughts, opinions, and voice because of THEIR COLOR. Black, white, yellow, orange, purple. It is ALL racism.

My parents grew up the poorest people I have ever heard of--literally starving. They worked their asses off to have a decent life for their families--without one single handout from anyone. Guess what? They are white. My mother CHOPPED COTTON. I grew up in Alabama, and I live in Georgia. I have NEVER met a black person who chopped cotton. My parents came from dirt poor families. My paternal grandmother worked 4 jobs and saw the inside of a school and my dad got his first paying job at the age of four. No one in my bloodline has EVER owned a black slave. So if I am privileged it is because my family WORKED for it. I don't feel like I owe anyone, regardless of their color, a damn thing because I happen to be white.

Can you tell you touched a nerve here?

ellie bee said...

sorry--my grandma NEVER saw the inside of a school...but she made sure her sons did (after her alcoholic abusive husband died leaving them homeless in 1928--try being homeless with 3 babies in 1928)...

Snoskred said...

Chani said - I resent the implication that because my skin is a certain color, I don't have a voice.. and I don't have a right to use it. Guilt is a powerful bullying tool.

Amen. I was really surprised to see how the discussion went, Chani. I did not expect it over there.

I guess there really are no places where everyone can feel a part of the discussion. ;(

A few people have contacted me by email to let me know they agree BUT they don't want to say it in front of everyone because they're worried what others will think. They don't want to be one of the "othered" you mention.

I've told you before in private email just how much it annoys me when people wont stand up and say what they really think for fear of ......... It is what we here in Australia would call a lack of testicles. ;)

I've got a set of balls and I'm not afraid to say what I think, and the only person who can stop me from doing that is MYSELF.

Sometimes I do zip my mouth. I'm not going to do it on a topic as important as this one though.

Snoskred
http://www.snoskred.org/

Bon said...

Chani, i don't disagree with you about the capitalism part, particularly.

but who snubbed you? i don't get it...i don't get the leap from "this wasn't taken up by someone else" to "i was flat-out snubbed."

and "privileged" in the context of "white privilege" isn't meant to mean "unfairly lucky", Ellie Bee. it doesn't mean white people have it easy all around...i grew up not so different from you, not at all. but i still get to not think about being white in my hometown, even while i've been busy thinking about all the other ways i may have been marginalized. that's all this particular use of privileged is meant to mean.

which i tried to explain in the BlogRhet comment before Chani's last one which brought me over here, because i figured that the word itself might be the source of some of the hurt and i wanted to try to explain what (my use at least) that particular discourse means by the word.

now...Chani, you ignored that, for whatever reason. maybe because it was irrelevant to what you wanted to say...i don't know. but i don't automatically assume that because you didn't address it you were snubbing me.

thailandchani said...

Ellie, I get your point. My father was wealthy but my mother and all her family are rather ordinary working class folks.. and they certainly didn't have any particular privilege. They decided for themselves how their lives would be and set out to make it that way. So I get you. Truly. I do.

~*

Snos, as you know, I don't give any credibility to "private emails".. but I agree with you that at some point, someone has to stand up and say, this is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in this community. And whenever I see it, as I said a long time ago, I will stand up and call BULLSHIT. What I said over there on the forum is no joke! I'm pissed and I'm taking a stand!

Ordinarily I don't function that way. It's my culture. And my culture matters to me.. but sometimes we have to use our strong voice or we simply won't be heard.

~*

Peace,

~Ch

thailandchani said...

Bon, I addressed this more broadly at BlogRhet since I wanted others to see the response, too.

In short, words don't bother me. Actions speak louder than words could ever do.

The fact that this discussion is being co-joined with another site and mine was the *only* viewpoint that was not represented has pissed me off.

And I'm not sitting still for it. Not that I care if I'm included at this point.. but I'm not going to take that kind of snub sitting down and being passive. My voice matters just as much as that individual's personal cadre of friends. It stops being discourse at that point and becomes nothing more than propaganda.

It's wrong. Period.

Peace.. and thank you for coming by to read what I have to say.


~Xhani

Bon said...

thanks for explaining, Chani.

KC said...

that's surprising and disappointing to hear. Sorry you're going through this.

liv said...

Goodness. I have not, nor am I going to, read the discourse at BlogRhet. It's because I'm tired more than disinterested. In fact, as much as I like the idea of pondering racism, I'm flat fucking tired of thinking about it because I live in the South. It is a part of everyday life. I grew up this way in a scandalously poor neighborhood, and worked my ass off to do and have better.

The truth is, and my main point is that regardless of economic level, racism and discrimination can be leveled against you. If you're poor and African American you easily get the shaft. If you're wealthy and Caucasian there's a healthy bias. If you're anywhere on the spectrum in terms of color there will always be someone, SOMEONE who has the potential to hate you because of who they perceive you to be or represent.

I am not so lofty as to suggest that I have not thought thoughts about people because of their ethnicity. And I have spent many high school days and 1 adult night having war waged against me because of my color. I don't think anyone is ultimately exempt from some sort of prejudice and the subsequent poor treatment.

Yes, some of us get it worse than others, but the bottom line is that the continuation of this practice in word or deed is what perpetuates the bad situation for all of us.

*on a personal note I want to say to you, Chani, that I am sorry that you were snubbed. I know how that feels, and it's something that makes your stomach churn.

thailandchani said...

Liv,I understand completely. And I would call that "results". Racism continues on because it is economically necessary. This system can not survive without an underclass.

So you.. and other good people.. have suffered.. because capitalism won't survive without some kind of underclass. As it becomes politically incorrect to "other" one group, another is created. It's no longer PC to discriminate against people because of color... so it becomes sizism or -disabled-ism or some other -ism. The logical extension is that discrimination will be acceptable because someone just plain isn't pretty enough.

Oh, wait.

We're already there!

It's the same dynamic.

Your points are well-taken however.

Thanks.. about the snubbing. Yeah. It's a sucky thing to do. But it, like anything else, serves an objective. It's unfortunate that the person involved chose to do that.. but it is a choice.

And actions have consequences. Obviously, I can no longer associate there because associating would be like giving permission to continue the behavior.

And everyone loses.


Peace,

~Chani

slouching mom said...

I've just read through the comments at BlogRhet. Goodness, have I been out of touch.

There are two broad beliefs about racism, it seems to me, and for a long, long time now there has been a great divide between them.

One is that one can be colorblind regardless of one's race.

The other is that simply by virtue of being a member of a majority race, one must be racist.

All the hurt feelings and anger I see in these comments (it seems to me, anyway) boil down to this essential difference in philosophy.

Quite frankly (and here comes the philosopher in me, watch out) this struggle is not unlike the tabula rasa (blank slate) vs. original sin debates among philosophers like Locke and Hume in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I'd encourage folks to step away from that aspect of this debate, because it is so very deeply entrenched, and I believe it muddies rather than clarifies. There are many other issues to discuss with regard to race in virtual communities, no?

Just my two cents.

And Chani, I'm cross-posting this comment.

slouching mom said...

And, BTW, I am not wanting to silence anyone by suggesting we turn away from that aspect of the debate.

I am only saying that debating those two beliefs will in the end be fruitless, because people hold them near and dear.

flutter said...

Chani

Thank you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think it's true that racism is in large part about economics. The first black people here were slave labor. It doesn't get any more underclass than that. Every wave of immigrants has in turn filled the lowest jobs, and been discriminated against.

Racism based upon anything else is stupid because it should be obvious that no member of the human race is inferior on the basis of his color or religious beliefs.

There has to be some benefit in pretending that someone is lesser than someone else. That benefit has traditionally been economic; the rest is an attempt to justify bad treatment.

What you experienced on those two blogs was affirmative action. You were put down because you were perceived as being a member of a privileged class in favor of the opinions of those who were perceived as being of a discriminated-against class.

Affirmative action is no more fair than the original sins it replaces.

thailandchani said...

Susan, thank you. You are the ONLY one who completely got my point!

I had a few different people read the post over on the other blog, just to double-check me. I don't always know quite how to interpret people. I got one of my housemates, a few other bloggers I know.. and even someone from freakin' Thailand and they all confirmed that mine was the only viewpoint excluded from the discussion.

But you are the only one who put the pieces together.

BINGO!!!


~Ch

Mary said...

Chani,

Yes - bullshit. I didn't read that post but I hear what you are saying loud and clear.

You Go!

Laurie said...

Chani, I've not been in on any of this, but wanted to tell you I'm sorry that it has caused you pain.

Momish said...

Chani,

First of all, I have to sincerely apologize for not making it around to your blog sooner. I have been devouring your comments on other blogs for months now and have much respect for your heart and mind. My utter laziness is no excuse.

I wasn't able to read through all the comments over at BlogRhet for fear of getting fired at work, so I am not 100% sure what actually transpired. Regardless, I felt the need to come here and express my how sorry I am that you were hurt by anything anyone said.

It was like a bomb went off when I saw your comments without your signature "Peace" at the bottom. I cannot tell you how that felt, but I am sure I am not the only person who felt that way.

I am glad you were able to work some of it with the relevant parties. I am sure no matter what, it wouldn't be anyone's attention to hurt or marginalize you or your opinion, as both are highly respected.

I may be wrong, of course and either way, hurt feelings are hurt feelings and you don't deserve that at all.

For what it is worth, I agree with you that economics plays a huge roll in inequality, which propels racism. I also think there are many other factors that propel racism like history, religion and just plain ignorance.

Peace to you, Chani!

thailandchani said...

Mary, thanks. :) I'm kind of exhausted by the whole thing. I will speak up when it seems important though. :)

~*

Laurie, thank you. :)

~*

Momish.. wow... just .. wow. Thank you for such a kind message.

As for the "peace" thing.. it wasn't intentional. It's just.. I can't write that when I don't mean it.

I know it wasn't intentional... with the exception of one person.. and I'm not so invested in that one person that I'm going to spend the rest of my life crying a river.. but it was hard. Yeah. It's always hard when you think someone is a friend.. and she's not. But that's the way it goes in the big, bad world, la?

Thank you so much for coming by. I am so glad to see you here. :)



Peace,

~Chani

Catherine said...

I haven't read the comments or the conflict yet...I will next. Wow. I'm sorry you experienced that.

Not knowing the rest of the story, I definetly agree with everything you said here. In fact, not even knowing this was going on, I spent most of the day feeling depressed and fatalist about produce-market-consume and the many, many evils of consumerism and capitalism. Of course, I feel that often. But today, more so.

Any ideas for how to break out of it? As a society would be nice, but I'd take just changing myself, for starters.

Also, last night I was working on my Diversity class (which I teach) and was reading the chapter about "White folks" and one of the common misconceptions they discussed was that white people don't have a voice in this, can't have experienced it. Well, some of us can't. But some of us can. The evils of stereotyping should teach us to STOP stereotyping, not to stereotype different groups than we were before...

thailandchani said...

Catherine, I agree with you so completely on this. There is no way in the world any of us can know another individual's experience.. no matter how much we might want to know.

What we can know is how destructive marginalizing, stereotyping and "othering" groups of people can be.

That should be self-evident.

Once we know, we have no further excuse to keep doing it. Then it becomes a matter of personal responsibility.

Consumerism: I know it's nearly impossible to escape it.. but by making a different choice today than we might have made yesterday.. by living simply... that will help the impact of consumerism.

We all consume (TG says guiltily, looking over at her new cell phone).. but, really, if we don't need something, we need to stop buying it.

If we must buy it, buy it used.

Trade. Barter.

All of those things help. In my opinion.

What's your opinion? :)


Peace to you,


~Chani

ewe are here said...

Well, I know it's a bit late... but I wanted to say something here...

I didn't read the BlogRhet discussion, but I have read and commented on some of the peripheral discussions as I've tried to catch up on my blogreading...

Here you wrote:

I resent the implication that because my skin is a certain color, I don't have a voice.. and I don't have a right to use it. Guilt is a powerful bullying tool. ... That is about as racist as it gets!

hear hear

Well said.

And I agree that economic inequality and racism are intricately twined together at so many levels...

I'm glad you spoke out.