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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Who's got the power?

I remember a song that had a chorus wherein the line "Who's got the power?" was repeated several times. When I searched...hmmm....multiple songs use the word power in their title. There's "Who's Got the Power" (here) and there's also "You've Got the Power" (here) and "The Power Lyrics" (here). I think the song I remember is the one associated with that first link. I don't recognize anything about the song lyrics from that last link...but...they seem to be associated with how I've been writing about social power.

Have Gone Vegan wrote a comment on the previous post about power that almost made smoke come out of my ears because it tripped off so much associating and so much cohering of pieces of information I had which were/are floating around in my head that it left me sort of reeling. And, I trust the sense of excitement I felt because that coherence sort of dissipated but when I focus on it again then some of that sense of excitement about some things beginning to make sense that didn't previously (make sense) begins to return. I've learned to trust that sort of experience because it sometimes suggests I'm onto something that's both powerful and meaningful.

HGV's comment included a quote from Professor Marilyn Frye's book: The Politics of Reality. If you don't have this book of essays and are struggling to understand aspects of the dynamics of oppression then...get it. You can find it for 99 cents plus the cost of shipping online.

In May of this year I wrote a post about narratives that referenced parts of this book. One essays works to explain how our position or positionality (our lived life experiences) profoundly determines that which we're able to comprehend or grasp. She uses the analogy of vision to elaborate about this by writing about our "seeing" (understandings, comprehensions) being influenced strongly by our particular positions (viewpoints, social locations, "identities").

HGV's comment included this quote from the book:

"One of the privileges of being normal and ordinary is a certain unconsciousness. When one is that which is taken as the norm in one's social environment, one does not have to think about it. Often, in discussions about prejudice and discrimination I hear statements like these: 'I don't think of myself as heterosexual'; 'I don't think of myself as white; 'I don't think of myself as a man'; 'I'm just a person, I just think of myself as a person.' If one is the norm, one does not have to know what one is. If one is marginal, one does not have the privilege of not noticing what one is." p147
In this passage, Dr. Frye points out to us that in addition to our knowing and comprehending being influenced by our social position (what we can "see") it also happens that if we are members of the dominant group then part of what we "know" are actually knowings/understandings that are transmitted to us (by our culture/society) but are out of our awareness (unconscious).

This means these "knowings" influence our comprehending/thinking/acting...but...we can't examine them or check them for accuracy or truthfulness or desirability.

It's critical to remember that what our culture presents to us as ways of thinking and/or understanding comes from people who lived before us and who decided (for various reasons, including self-interested ones) that this is how the "world" is or that such ways of thinking or understanding are just "common sense". Hmmm...

We "know" these things (meaning that they influence our behavior and understanding) but we don't consciously (or within our awareness) "know" that we know them. And that comes in seriously handy when we engage in or enact harmful/dominating behaviors toward subordinated group members but all the while simultaneously needing/wanting to cling to and experiencing ourselves as being "innocent".

Remember, in 1962, while the racist practices and laws of Jim Crow were in full effect in the U.S., 82% of white people believed educational opportunities were equal for everyone. An telling illustration of behaving horribly but maintaining innocence.

Being unconsciously influenced in how we behave and think is sort of magical really...because it can result in our doing shitty and hurtful things to our sister/brother humans (or sister/brother Earthlings) and simultaneously being unaware of the awfulness of what we're doing and thereby maintaining that very desirable sense of being "innocent".

It's often (not always, but often) suggestive of unconscious stuff going on when someone does something harmful to someone else and they are called out on it and their response includes howls of outrage and wounded innocence and denial of doing any such terrible thing or denial of harmful intent.

(I say often but not always because this is not a hard and fast formulaic thing, one way to try to confirm such goings on is to look for a pattern of repeated instances of harmful behavior and outraged denial. That's often a useful clue that unconscious factors are in play (either that or the person is just consciously lying). This sort of stuff is part of what makes learning to be an effective psychotherapist fairly demanding. Also this is why the average person usually isn't very skilled at being a competent psychotherapist. It's damned tricky to learn to recognize when unconscious factors are involved and you'll screw up often before you get to be half-way skilled. In other words, kids...don't try this at home...or if you do be prepared to screw up royally...and often.)

It's the outrage and wounded stuff that can serve as a clue that some "knowing" while not "knowing" (unconscious) process is in play because the outrage and woundedness is (usually, but not always) out of proportion to the situation and also sort of weird.

Think about it...if I accidentally or inadvertently harm another and they point it out to me...and I genuinely (no unconscious stuff going on) made a mistake...then I can take in the feedback I get, feel regret and remorse or whatever, and learn to avoid making that same mistake in the future. No need for wounded outrage. I mistakenly did a hurtful thing...I did not desire to cause hurt...I feel bad for doing the harm and...I'm responsible for learning more about what causes hurt so I can modify my behavior to avoid such harming in the future.

All well and good. Uncomfortable, heck yeah, but not some occasion for explosions of outrage and wounded innocence.

Or...maybe I did mean to cause harm...and I got caught...time to fess up and take my lumps. Either way...not an occasion for some sort of outrage type stuff.

But...if I harm another and that harming was based on unconscious stuff and I get feedback that I hurt someone...oops...my unconscious stuff got outed...I got caught doing a shitty thing that i (unconsciously) intended to do. How to keep unconscious the fact that somewhere I wanted to do what I did? In other words...how to do something harmful but also to influence others (and myself) to see myself as innocent? (and...to complicate it further...all this maneuvering is going on out of my awareness...it's unconscious)

Pitching a fit about my lack of culpability, accompanied by shrieks of outrage and expressions of wounded innocence is one way to (clumsily) cover up the bad stuff going on with me.  (stuff that I'm unaware of...know that that which is unconscious resists...powerfully...being brought into consciousness).

Notice that suddenly...even though I harmed someone else...I magically become the victim, all pristine and shiny and draped in wounded innocence. I get to act shitty without taking any responsibility for acting shitty and if anyone calls me out on my shitty behavior...zip zoop...they're the shitty one because I'm innocent and pure and devoid of bad intent and they've insulted me and called into dispute my my "good intentions" and innocence. It's sort of childish appearing when written out like this (and it is pretty crude and unsophisticated) but when it happens in real life it often discombobulates anyone witnessing it or that it is directed toward.

If you want to observe a human being who often screeches outrage about his innocence and exhibits defensive attacking anger and woundedness...go watch the Bill O'Reilly show on television. He's either seriously influenced by unconscious processes or he's a really scary and malevolent liar...either way he most excellently illustrates the kind of stuff we're grappling with. Denial accompanied by attempts to intimidate and bully others scripts many of his interactions with others. 

You might recognize this psychic maneuver by a phrase that's come into rather common usage. It's called: "Blaming the victim". You might remember it from your own childhood if you or someone else ever trotted on the phrase "she (or he or they) made me do it".

One historical example (there are tons of them)...think about how the Nazi regime viewed people they identified as Jewish. The Nazis maintained that their murderous campaign against millions of innocent victims was...here's the magic of the unconscious...an act of "self-defense". The Nazis maintained that the Jewish people were evil and bad and and and (even though there was zero evidence of this assertion)...and the atrocities that were carried out in death camps were because the victims were threatening the very survival of Germany. In other words the Nazis maintained their sense of "innocence" all the while engaging in unjustified and unprovoked harm to a subordinated group of people. Blame the victim....see how it works?

Some examples closer to home if you're an American? Think about the "savage" Indians your history books referenced, think about the notion of a "happy" enslaved African American. Think about "reverse racism". Unconscious processes offer human beings a distorted and terrible way to justify enacting atrocities while simultaneously retaining a sense of innocence. It's deeply seductive and insidious and destructive stuff.

We often see these kinds of contortions (wounded innocence suggestive of unconscious stuff) when members of dominant groups are engaging in harmful/dominating behaviors toward subordinated group members. That way dominant group members can enact horrid behaviors and maintain their sense of virtue. 

If you want to see it in action in person and you're white, pay attention to other white people and when you hear them say something that's racist in nature or do some racist act...call them out on it (do it in a way that's gentle because they're likely to focus on how you pointed out their bad behavior: "the tone argument") and pay attention to how they react.

If they made a mistake without unconscious harmful intent being in play, they may struggle with comprehending but...there's not likely to be wounded outrage.

If the unconscious factors are present...you might get to see quite a show...and you're also quite likely to be attacked for being a mean person for daring to impugn their incredible innocence (think Bill O'Reilly). Welcome to the world of the unconscious influencing of behavior. By the way, it's usually not fun when you encounter it.

Now, go reread the quote from Marilyn Frye above.

What a wonderful thing being "the norm" offers. If we are members of a dominant group, we get to be harmful toward members of a subordinated group and...and...we get to retain our sense of being innocent all through the magic of the unconscious.

Go (re) read my post on power (the one with the thoughtful comment from HGV) and notice the examples of all the "good" (innocent) people enacting heinous atrocities in various societies and...all the while...maintaining (to themselves anyway) their sense of pristine innocence.

Struggling to comprehend aspects of the "isms" of oppression is complex. Especially when you're a member of a dominant group...part of how this stuff just keeps rolling on is that one of the components (usually, but not always) of being a dominant group member is being unconscious (unaware) of behaving monstrously.

That ability to behave harmfully while believing oneself to be "innocent" may be why a woman (who's postioned as  a person of color) that I have great esteem and respect for said that until she was 20 years old or so she just thought white people were "crazy".  She had never met, or even read about, any white person who had any sense of the horridness of their behavior toward people of color or even that white people had the ability to comprehend that their behavior and attitudes were disgusting and deplorable and that there was something terribly wrong with them (white people) for having such attitudes/behaviors.

Robin DiAngelo writes about aspects of this sort of innocence that's based on the operation of unconscious processes masking attitudes of negativity when she wrote about what often occurs when trying to engage white people in talk about race and racism: "Our socialization renders us racially illiterate. When you add a lack of humility to that illiteracy (because we don’t know what we don’t know), you get the break-down we so often see when trying to engage white people in meaningful conversations about race."

She's not using the term unconscious...but it is in the very stuff she's referencing when she writes about racial illiteracy and an absence of humility and our not knowing what we don't know. What she calls a "breakdown" is what I've referred to as explosions of outrage and wounded innocence in this post.

And...what's really tough about all this is that it's even more complex than I've touched on here. Sigmund Freud spent a professional lifetime thinking and writing about the operations of the unconscious...as have many other humans.

In summary...what we know is strongly influenced by what we can comprehend ("see") because of our social positioning (whether we're situated in dominant groups or subordinated groups...or both) and also what we can comprehend ("see") is complicated by the operating of unconscious processes that usually (almost always) go along with being members of a dominant group.

Look...if you're a member of a targeted group (subordinated) then you damn well know that members of the dominating group are doing shitty things to you (usually...but not always) whereas if you're a member of a dominating group you may be doing shitty things to subordinated group members but...you're often hiding that from yourself (you're unconscious of it) and hence you feel all innocent and such. When you exhibit that false innocence to a member (who's aware of what's going on) of the subordinated or targeted group...they may see you as being either deranged or lying.

And...to make it even more convoluted, since positionality influences (determines) what we're able to comprehend ("see"), if I belong to one group (dominant or subordinate) I have to really work hard at trying to grasp what the other group members are comprehending and/or experiencing because I don't have their lived life experiences. But...if I belong to a targeted group and I'm being harmed by the actions of dominant group members and structures of society that they control...it's often not difficult to be aware of my being injured.

Dominant group members have two strong factors that interfere with their being coherent. One is that their positionality limits what they're able to comprehend or "see" and the second is the likely operation of unconscious processes...which means they're not in good contact with reality (they don't "know" what they know).

Whereas subordinate group members often only have one factor against their coherence and that's that their positionality limits what they're able to comprehend or "see". (this may be complicated by their unwitting acceptance of the dominant ideology and viewing themselves as "inferior" and deserving of the harms directed at them...that if only they "tried harder" all this bad stuff wouldn't happen to them)

Those last two paragraphs maybe explain why there's so much truth to the notion that members of subordinate groups generally have better or more accurate knowledge about what's going on in the operation of dominant/subordinate group interactions than do members of dominating groups. And...subordinated group members tend to understand and know more about dominant group members than vice versa.

(Note: there is, in no way, any comparison between being targeted for harmful behaviors and enacting harmful behaviors, do not confuse these two very different experiences...getting hit in the face is not comparable to hitting someone in the face...ok? In this post I'm just trying to tease out some of the factors that influence comprehension of this stuff. )


Want more? Well, my understandings are evolving which means I have to spend more time reading and thinking, in the meantime you can read some really good writing about this over on Dr. David Shih's blog.

And you thought resisting oppression was easy peasy, right?

Think about it this way, if oppressive actions and behaviors were fully transparent and comprehensible to us...do you really think they would be as persistent and widespread as they are?

Most human beings aren't shitheels (I don't think) and if it was easy to identify and recognize oppressive behaviors and social structures (don't get me wrong...in many ways it is easy...but in other ways it is extremely difficult and complex to comprehend) then the crap would probably have stopped a long time ago.

We (by "we" I'm primarily referencing those of us who are positioned as dominant group members...in the U.S. that means white or male or both. Also remember that humans are the dominant group in regard to other Earthlings) have much work to do.

Any comments and/or criticisms about this post you might offer will be appreciated. (No howls of outrage or wounded innocence, I promise. I'm getting a lot of practice at grappling with gaps and deficiencies in my comprehension.)

 

Friday, November 25, 2016

The "isms" won the election or did they?

I've been thinking...which is probably not something I do very well at times...but...I'm wondering if all the reading and working at bringing what I've been taught by history and culture into greater clarity isn't resulting in my comprehending something we've all been taught to comprehend as if it were "sensible" when in fact it's not.

Here's a bit of a blog post I started on within a few days after the presidential election:
....and now it's apparent to anyone who can comprehend that the U.S. is much much worse off than most thought. By that I mean that white people in the U.S. are deeply disturbed emotionally and cognitively. They're genuinely dangerous, to others, to the planet and to themselves.

The depth and breadth of this ugliness of white supremacy that is embraced by we white people has become so malignant and huge that those infected with it are now out in the open and celebrating a debacle.


And those of us who struggle to resist...obviously didn't struggle enough.

Will we now learn? Will we? And...even if we do...and embark on the painful and ugly business of accepting and working thorough our horribleness and effectively resisting white supremacy...what price will the vulnerable have to pay for our lassitude and laziness and embrace of obliviousness?

I was old enough to finally begin to glimpse how deeply deficient we white people in the USA were when Ronald Reagan was elected. We've been in something akin to a death spiral ever since. We white people have made this...and we must change it. It is up to us and no one else.

The innocent and vulnerable should not have to pay for our failure...but I fear they will.

By the way...if you hear a white person say "but I'm not racist"...know that you are in the presence of an enabler/practitioner of racist ideology. If you say it...then go read this and get to work on yourself.

As you can see from the above...I was piling on to the "voters"...and from what's occurred in the writings of many since I wrote that...I wasn't alone. See here, here and here.

But...it's untrue.

In fact, a relatively large majority of the voters for the president rejected the overt "isms" in the person of the president and opted for the theoretically less bigoted candidate. By a margin of around 1,700,000 (or more) voters. The "official" count is still underway so there isn't a final total yet. Here's an early story about this when the margin was just over 1 million.

Hmmm...what's going on here?

I was sitting in a class last week when it occurred to me that maybe...just maybe...we're being offered an opportunity to see an irrational aspect of our society's history (decisions made be people from the past) coming out of it's invisibility (becoming apparent because it is getting ready to operate) but we've been deeply and thoroughly taught to not think about it or notice it but rather to accept it as "normal" when...in fact...it's actually bizarre and operates to scuttle "democracy".

That "normalized" absurdity is that thing called the electoral college.

On December 19th the "real" voting for the presidency occurs. There are 538 "electors" and it is their vote that decides who is president. The big election where all the eligible voters get their say doesn't actually decide who's president...the people who vote in the electoral college decide that...and they can vote for anyone they want.

Contact your state's electors and tell them you want a democracy...you want their voting to reflect the voting of the majority of the voters...there's still time to stop an oncoming disaster that rejects what the majority of voting Americans want.

All the hoopla re Trump's "victory" is because in theory he won the "majority" of the electoral college voters. That...if it occurs the way everyone is writing and talking about it...will be Trump even though he was clearly rejected by the majority of American citizens who voted on who they wanted for their president.

Clinton
won the popular vote...by a margin greater than the margin in past elections that put people into the white house. In other words, in just a few weeks (December 19th) the United States is gearing up to put someone into the office of the presidency in opposition to who the majority of the voters supported.

The "will of the people", the "decision of the voters" is apparently going to be reversed and the candidate who lost the election is going to be crowned as president. That's a "democracy"?

What is going on here? How can a "democracy" result in someone becoming the president in clear opposition to the majority of the voters? A system like that is something other than a "democracy" wherein the vote of a citizen counts to show who they want in a particular office. It's a system...yes...but it's not a "democracy".

The citizens of the United States have a narrow window of opportunity here to demand that their "democracy" operate like a democracy. Trump is not the president yet...the vote by the electors on December 19th will decide who occupies the white house. That's when we'll see who is president. The citizen's vote does not decide that...the 538 people who are electors decide that.

Lambasting the voters for opting for bigotry and racism and sexism is erroneous. A considerable majority of the voters selected Clinton and rejected Trump. (I totally believe any vote for Trump is a travesty and wrong...but that's not the point I'm addressing here...the fact is that he lost the popular vote...strongly.)

And yet...most of the "analyzing" I'm seeing online is all about the horridness of (mostly white) Americans and their support for racism and sexism. When...in fact...the majority of all voters rejected such awful and odious "isms" in favor of a candidate who (theoretically) also opposes such ugliness.

See what I mean about "invisibility"? Much of the writing and talking is writing and talking about an untruth. We do not have a democracy (in regard to who becomes president)...we have a system where 538 people decide...for millions and millions of citizens and the popular vote of all those citizens is only vaguely and only in theory influential on how those 538 electors vote. The electors decide (and they can vote for anyone they want)...not the citizens who voted in the national election.

But...we (me included, see partial blog post above) mostly talk and think and write as if we have a system where the majority of the voters decide who is president. They (we) do not. The electors decide.

How can it be that we think of this as a "democracy" where the majority of the voters decide on a candidate...and zip zoop...suddenly it is the rejected candidate who becomes the president?

Something weird is going on here and the weirdness is being accepted as "normal" and not weird. I suspect that "normalizing" of the absurd (the defeated candidate becoming president) is a manifestation of invisibling.

And...the American voting public is being lambasted and depicted as supporting racism and sexism when in fact the majority of the voters rejected those awful things.

But...we're not noticing that...we're motoring on as if that didn't happen...when it did. I think that's part of how to make invisible or not seen a truth that's right in front of you and it is, in fact, clearly visible if you just look and think about it.

I'm still thinking about this...and if you see a hole in my thinking...tell me. Please.

Another part of this that's amazing to me is that I've expressed this absurdity on Facebook and people...some anyway...just gloss right over it.

I'm saying...look...and think.

We're bamboozling ourselves if we don't dig deeply into the absurdity of the majority of the voters (a big majority) rejecting Trump and yet...the electors are getting ready to put him into office even when he was rejected by the voters. What in hell is going on? That's not how a "democracy" is supposed to work.

I'm not ignoring or denying that it is horrendous that millions voted for Trump...but...it is a denial of truth if we also do not realize that more (apparently millions more) voted against him than did for him. It's untruthful and erroneous to accuse the majority of voters of supporting racism and sexism when if fact they did not.

Here's a social experiment you can try on your own. If you follow what I'm trying to convey in this blog post...go on some social media platform and point this out and watch what happens. I suspect you will find that what you say will be denied or ignored or ridiculed or in some other way minimized or rejected.

If that happens...and I suspect that it will...then you will (I think) be seeing an example of how some of the processes of invisibling operate in the consciousness of people.

We've been conditioned to believe/pretend that voting for the presidency is "democracy" when in fact it is not. I've brought this point up in person in two group settings and in both instances people just ignored it and went on deploring and decrying the awfulness of the voters for embracing the ugliness of oppression.

Let me know what you think...and...if you try the experiment...let me know what happened. I gotta tell you, this is one of the damnedest things I've ever seen in my life.

I'm not excluding me...I started wondering about this crap way back in 2000 when that creep Bush was put into the white house...even though he lost the popular vote by over 500,000. Up until then I had always gone along with the pretense of a "democratically" elected President. But something started stinking to me then. This time there's no doubt...something reeks. And everyone is pretending/believing/thinking that it doesn't. 

We do not "democratically" elect the president. And...we're on the cusp of once again sticking somebody in the white house who was clearly and strongly rejected by a majority of the voters. All the while, pretending that "the people have spoken".

And...many/most are pointing fingers at the "voters" and condemning them for something they did not do. In fact, if it happens this time, that will be the 5th time it has occurred in 54 presidential elections.

Almost 10% of the time the loser of the popular vote...the one who was rejected by the "will of the people"...becomes the president. I don't know what you would call such a system...but democracy it is not. Wakey wakey.

This is surreal...and I think maybe...when the invisible  becomes visible...that's exactly how it feels...surreal.