xenologer: (Lisbeth)
Okay, so. I'm reading a lot about how Dynasty Young's mom shouldn't have sent him to school with a taser, generally because two wrongs don't make a right yada yada self-defense perpetuates the cycle of violence blah blah I am a privileged piece of shit who can count on people to sympathize with my problems and either protect or avenge me should things really get messy etcetera etcetera some Just World Fallacy in there as well because if Dynasty got expelled then he and his family definitely did something wrong here or it wouldn't have happened.

Here's my deal.

Victim-blaming is siding with the assailant. Yes it is. Yes. It is.

Considering that the school board basically told Dynasty it was his fault for being bullied because he comes off as being too gay, I think they know why he was being bullied and what was happening to him just wasn't important to them.

Now, it could be said that it wasn't important to them because they don't do jack about victims of bullying in general, which has been my experience. However, considering the victim-blaming Dynasty received, it doesn't sound like the school board disagreed with the bullies' opinion of LGBT people. They just might have liked the bullies to "express" that opinion off school grounds.

From what I learned about how public schools handle bullying, the right thing to do is always to tell an adult, but it's not generally going to do any good. There are certain kinds of people whose lives are just plain worth less to everyone else, and members of those groups always learn where they stand sooner or later.

For the record, my parents didn't send me to school with a weapon that was against the rules for me to have or that could be confiscated. Note that I didn't say they sent me with nothing. My dad just understood that if I can't count on administrators, then they must be assumed to be extra hazards.

If Dynasty's mom made any mistake here, it's in not treating the administrators as being as much her son's enemies as they really turned out to be. Dynasty deserved that weapon, but it gave administrators the excuse they needed to help homophobic bullies make his life miserable, and of course they took that excuse and ran with it.

Still, giving them an excuse to help homophobes mess with a gay kid's life doesn't make it her fault that they did. The administrators are still accountable for the fact that they took that opportunity and used it to make the situation even worse by picking the victim of bullying to make an example of.

That is such a cynical way of looking at it.

I don't mean to sound overly cynical here, because I am an optimist that we can make things better. The world doesn't have to be like this. However. This is what the world is like now; this is what we've got. I don't think Dynasty mattered to the administrators, because certain kinds of people are often treated as disposable, particularly for the sake of "keeping order."

The difference between me and a cynic is that I know we can do better than this. I just am not so starry-eyed that I'm willing to candy-coat what Dynasty's really up against and how long the list is of people who'd lose ZERO sleep over harm to this kid because of his orientation.

But! But! How can you say that adults don't care? I'M AN ADULT! D:

I think so many adults want kids to trust them SO BADLY that they've forgotten how few adults kids can really count on. We're not supposed to tell kids, "We can't protect you so you'll have to learn to protect yourself." But um. For a lot of kids it's true, and I think a lot of people reading probably learned that firsthand.

For those who didn't? Take it from me. Failing to teach children the real limits of what they can count on adults for is not merely teaching a lie--it's teaching a potentially dangerous one. There's generally a point at which politely requesting help from the powerful but disinterested authorities fails. As activist type people (which many of my friends are) many of us are aware of it, but get squeamish about applying it to children, because then we're including ourselves in the group of people that they can't always depend on, and that hurts.

It's still true, though.

I cannot romanticize my own younger years nearly hard enough to forget that. Maybe some people can, and anybody can talk a good long line about all of the things Dynasty's mom could have done beyond getting the school board and an independent panel to review the situation, but it seems like everything on that list amounts to a polite request for justice.

We all know how effective those are.

The only reason to make those polite requests is to preserve moral high ground for later. Basically: Do it so that you can say you did. You will need to be able to say that later for when every adult who promised to have your back inevitably betrays your trust, because your only weapon against them is your ability to destroy their credibility. Talk to them first to set up the shot.

It's not going to help, though. Maybe a lot of adults don't remember that, but some kids don't have the luxury of forgetting.

Also posted this over at Dissent of a Woman. As usual, if you want to share this, that's awesome, but if you could keep my LJ and Dreamwidth between us, I would appreciate that.
xenologer: (I have arrived)
The 99% Isn’t Me: Being the Minority in the 99%
Another issue I have with the 99% concept is that it smacks of the rhetoric we black and brown people heard from the Left back in the 70’s, that we’re all just people and we need to be colorblind, and that we are all being oppressed by the same people and on and on… Those thoughts are valid, kind of if you ignore much of American history. My oppression as a black man in America is very, very different from that of a poor white person. Yes we both ended up poor and without food or a job but he doesn’t get called a nigger or have to deal with the very real reality of racism. Although the white middle class who’s central to the Occupy movement are right about Wall Street and politicians they fail to see that the struggle is different if you’re a woman, gay, Black, Latino, Native American, etc. Many of the aforementioned groups have been in the gutter for…. Um… ever. Actually yea really forever since this nation was created many of us have been at the bottom of the pile. With that said I think it’s a serious problem when someone tells me that my struggles are the same as theirs and I should get behind a movement that I had little part in creating. This is what the relationship (especially in places like my hometown of Buffalo) between the occupation and oppressed minorities has been since the beginning. It smacks of the reductionism that we have seen from the likes of the 10’s-40’s communist / socialist movement and its dealings with black people and how the movement has almost always dealt with women (aka sexism as a secondary issue). (...)

To many people the Occupy movement is strictly about economic inequalities and Wall Street not about race, gender, or class although they have no problem welcoming black people, women, or the unemployed as supporters. It’s indicative of a lack of recognition of race, gender, or class (and other issues) in the occupation (and its connection to capitalism and economics) and any felt need for the creation of spaces to deal with these issues in any real way.

What counts as "common ground?"

I got into my local Occupy movement at least partly hoping to prove to myself that arguments like this were baseless. They're not baseless. This is what it looks like to the people who're told that the issues of privileged people are "common ground" and the issues of marginalized people are "divisive."

If you're thinking reading what I just wote, "Cripes, Xeno, that's basically everyone, because everyone's getting screwed somehow," you're right, and you're beginning to see the depth of the problem and how many people can be alienated to a lesser or larger degree by it.

For example, what I face as a white person is common ground, and I can bring that up without anybody calling me divisive for centering a conversation on my experiences of the economy or governmental/law enforcement abuses. Whether I say, "I as a white person..." or not, these are experiences which are shaped and changed by my race and what that prompts people to assume about me. These are white experiences whether I label them or not, because they are so distinctive to people who present like me and would have been very different were I any other color.

However, I might want to talk about being a woman, and once in a blue moon I may talk about being LGBT (though the latter is something I feel less qualified to discuss due to the fact that I'm cisgendered and benefit from straight privilege in a lot of ways). Despite the fact that I am the same person whose plight was "common ground" in the previous discussion, suddenly now we're talking identity politics. Suddenly an experience I have had that is unique to my circumstances is divisive.

But I'm the same person I was in the first case. I'm not any more privileged or oppressed than I was when I was speaking to a particular (white) experience of our economy and culture. I'm still me. There are just parts of me and my experience that are not considered an "occupy" issue.

That's why, no matter how much we may say that women and people of color and LGBT people are welcome and no matter how sincerely and deeply felt that sentiment might be, as long as some people have to shut a door on part of what probably brought them to Occupy in the first place, we're not living up to that promise.

I also think that Richardson made a great point here:

"Too considering we’re (as in women, blacks, latinos, etc) are the ones suffering the most shouldn’t the movement come to us and put us in place to contribute versus us having to shoehorn our stuff to their? It’s their movement not ours and if they want it to become our’s too they are going to have to move towards us."

It's not merely our job at this point to open the door and say, "You are welcome to join us." We have to do that and then actually allow conversations about their unique experiences, or else what we're really saying is, "You're welcome to join us as long as you pretend your struggles aren't different." In that latter case, we're setting a very high price on participation by demanding that they be less true to their experiences and needs for the privilege of being accepted even at the margins.

That's why even groups that really sincerely want to be inclusive often still have at the fore and at the core the same demographics that've been at the fore and core of everything else in power. It's because until we start listening to what the people who aren't getting included are saying will make them feel welcome, no matter how hard we try we simply will not know how to get that done.

What makes this especially hard to climb up out of is that if a movement's face is not diverse, people who benefit from diversity and suffer from its lack will not always come sacrifice their time, money, and precious energy (of which we all only have so much) to be that diversity. I know that when I see an organization that is run entirely or almost entirely by men, I consider where the women went, because surely there've been at least some. Why didn't they stay? What happened to them that I can't see from here? Do I love this cause enough to risk finding out the hard way?

Getting personal for a moment.

To give an example that is not necessarily intended to translate here but merely to illustrate one example that I walked in with, I used to be involved with an activist organization. It was progressive in its politics toward the poor, its stated attitudes toward LGBT people and women were extremely forward-thinking, and the attitudes of all of the individual members I spoke to about racism were strongly in favor of creating a society where people of color did not disproportionately suffer.

And yet its upper management was run by all white men with the exception of one white woman. I didn't know enough at the start to wonder what the disconnect would be. Fast forward a year. After a year I'd seen hiring practices that weeded out nearly all people of color immediately, so that when higher positions were pulled from the ranks, the ranks had already been cleared of racial minorities. After a year, I'd seen a culture that shelters sexual assault by pressuring women who experienced it to avoid making a fuss for fear of damaging the organization's ability to do its worthy work. Essentially, after a year, I saw exactly why women and people of color were absent: they'd been driven out or had fled for their own safety and sanity.

Consequently, now I look for the signs. When I see a movement that isn't diverse, I hang back. I don't hang back out of a lack of love for the cause. I hang back because I learned why women and POC were absent from an organization that I loved very much whose work I am proud to have been part of to this day. I am still proud of the work this organization does, which is why I am not saying their name (though I will if you contact me privately).

(As an aside, if anyone reading is thinking, "Oh my god. Their hiring and retention practices were racist and assault victims were pressured to keep it quiet and you're still protecting them? What's wrong with you?" then I hope you are taking care to police this kind of thinking in yourself when it comes to Occupy. If you're not comfortable with what I just did, then please let it be a lesson about how ugly this reasoning is and how hard it can be to overcome even for people who've personally suffered because of it.)

What does that have to do with us now?

That experience is why I look at the Occupy movement, at the diversity problem we have in my city, and am willing to immediately assume that the problem is not people of color or LGBT people or women not caring enough. I am willing to assume that the problem is us. Unfortunately, it's hard to address this problem. My difficulty has been that so many of my city's occupation supporters are unwilling to make that first step of saying, "Maybe it's something we're doing wrong," that I never get to the point of having any other conversations.

It's like... remember how when all this started, OWS got flak for merely stating problems and not making demands? Remember what we told them? We told the press and our friends and our families that until enough people understand that there's a problem in the first place and until enough people understand what that problem is, we are not ready for a conversation about the solutions.

So! For those of you who are sick and goddamn tired of hearing about this problem because nobody is telling you how you can fix it, here's what you can do to help us fix it: Have these conversations yourself. Explain to the people who listen to you and respect you that there's a problem, because odds are they don't even realize there is one yet. Explain to the people you have personal relationships with that the problem is that we are doing something wrong. Get them up to speed. Get everyone up to speed. Get them ready to be part of the conversation about solutions.

Then we can really sit down with open minds and honest hearts and find a solution. Until then, there's no point. We're not there yet.

If you want to link this around, that's cool, but if you do I ask that you link the "public" version rather than to my personal journal. That link is here. Thanks for your consideration for my privacy.
xenologer: (Default)
Cis is Not a Slur, Grues.

I am baffled by the existence of people who are outraged that they are being called cisgendered instead of "normal." I guess maybe they consider every label to be inherently derogatory because it points out that a thing needs to be linguistically marked and I guess that is inherently degrading? Calls into question THEIR intentions when they refer to LGBT people, doesn't it?

Maybe I just know too many chemistry geeks, but everybody I know immediately got that "cis" is just the companion term to "trans." That's it.

I suppose this is more from the files of people who don't mind equality as long as by "equal" we mean "everybody is okay but I am obviously more so and please don't imply that you are good as my kind." As long as we can define "equality" so that it preserves their sense of natural supremacy and superior "rightness," they're okay with it.

Never mind that this makes no goddamn sense at all even linguistically. If these people were better at thinking about words and what they mean, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

For people who are confused that I am annoyed, here is your crash course on what folk sound like when they object to the idea that they can't just refer to themselves as "normal" and define everybody else in opposition. "Other people are either failing or succeeding to be like me and should be classified accordingly and any implication that I am an asshole for classifying them this way is ZOMG CISPHOBIC OPPRESSION."

This is what it looks like applied anywhere else. Thinking of people like this is... honestly kind of hard to avoid because it is taught and enforced in a lot of cultures, but you turn the corner into Asshole Town when you start defending this like it is acceptable or even desirable. Here are ways that you should not be classifying people:

Normal people and gay or trans people.

Regular people and women.

Americans and Black Americans.

Get it?

tl;dr: You can't call yourself normal without calling someone else deviant. If that isn't your intention, then accept that gracefully allowing yourself to be linguistically marked just like everyone else is the decent thing to do. If it is your intention, you are horrible and as I have seen threatened elsewhere I will literally change you into an animal using my magic powers.

(Disclaimer: This blogger does not have magic powers, nor was she processed in a facility that also processes magic powers.)

If you want to link this anywhere, that is fantastic, but I do ask that you link to my "public" blog. Here is the link you want for that.
xenologer: (Lisbeth)
So Elisabeth Cornwell spoke at the Reason Rally. The video is behind this link. My commentary is reproduced on that page, but I wanted it here as well to boost the signal on this, because it is not okay. It is not.

Trigger warning: mention of sexual assault.

The systematic degradation of women's control over their own bodies and lives is not just bad, it is monstrous. It is an act of war, as rape is an act of war. There are even a lot of parallels to how female slaves were treated, because they were considered always-accessible subhuman incubators for the valuable property of their masters, much as a disposable class of unsupported children is valuable for rich white dudes today who benefit from trapping other communities in generational poverty. There are a lot of parallels, and even if it was a little hyperbolic... I expect hyperbole at a rally.

There is a problem, though. I was there at the rally and I listened to Cornwell talking about how women in America are being enslaved then invoke the alleged ideals and opinions of Thomas Jefferson, to convey how appalled he would be by this kind of inroad toward theocracy. I realize that this is a thing easily forgotten by white people in this country, but Jefferson actually personally himself enslaved women. You know who made their reproductive choices? Jefferson did after he bought them. Sure, he'd potentially stand with the white women in the audience in their struggle for reproductive freedom, but if you think he'd stand with the women of color, I don't know where you got your history education. More likely you just didn't consider that what he did to black women reflects as strongly on his character as what the theocrats are trying to do to you now.

This is a problem.

How much more strongly can someone imply that black women aren't real women, their enslavement not pressing until it is shared by white women? I can think of no other reason why Jefferson's status as a famed enslaver and rapist of slave women should be overlooked so that he can be called upon as an ideological ally to modern women, except that to some people his serial rapes and violations of the reproductive autonomy of *black* women were less important as a measure of his character than his excellent insights about religion.

We did a good job on diversity of speakers and guests at the accompanying convention this year, but if you want to be mindful of not seeming like a movement run by white people for white people, please be mindful of whom you're asking your audience to idolize. We're talking about a guy whose reputation for raping slaves and forcing them to bear his children is so legendary that there are entire geneology projects dedicated to tracing just his descendants among people of color.

Jefferson's political theory was a good place to start (particularly when it comes to his views on religion), but it's a terrible place to finish and we sure as heck shouldn't retreat back to it to stop the enslavement of women. So let's keep that in mind before we canonize the man and ask the women of color in the audience to look up to the guy who raped so many of their great-great-grandmothers and forced them to carry and bear his "property" against their will. Maybe some of his nasty personal/"business" habits are overlookable by a financially secure white activist, but the fact that you can overlook it doesn't mean other people are going to be able to handwave it so easily.

I appreciated the rally and had a lovely time both there and at the convention. The sense of community was beautiful and necessary. It's just sad that it had to be undermined by something like this at a time when we are all clearly making an effort toward including the full range of atheists in all our diversity.
xenologer: (happy!)
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My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (happy!)
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My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (happy!)
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My dinner party would be Alan Turing, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and John Brown.

(This is just an extension of my dream to someday use time travel to give Alan Turing a hug. I'd like to give him a hug and introduce him to Ellen.)
xenologer: (objection!)
Okay, I have yet again had "this country was intended to function like X and we need to put it back like that" thrown at me, this time by a Ron Paul supporter but eh. It's too pervasive for me to just point at them and say it's their argument, though I'll get to him when I've picked apart that little highly-polished ball of shit.

Here's my feeling.

I am a lot less reverent of "the way things were intended to be" than I am "how things would need to be so that privileged and currently-marginalized people can have equality of opportunity."

The country we create means a lot more to me than the degree to which it matches someone else's idea of sufficient faithfulness to the ideological orthodoxy of a group of social contract theorists two centuries ago who had no more experience with the kind of culture I want to live in now than anybody else did at the time.

So rather than spending the rest of my life building a political theory around slavish obedience to the ideals of men who owned black people and mostly didn't think women were qualified to vote, I'm going to look at politics and government as a problem-solving exercise, not a test of my loyalty to "the founders."

Some of the same people who'd never argue that we should do whatever the Bible says (or seems to say) because it's a book written by people will nonetheless kill and die to demonstrate their unwillingness to depart from centuries-old ideas about what America should be like. I don't get it.

I don't think "the founders" were necessarily any wiser men than we have today. They had great ideas (though a lot of that was just them having the sense to identify ideas worth copying from other cultures), but they gave us a starting point. The Constitution they wrote is a great place to start, but it's not perfect enough as a place to finish.

That's why I can't join the libertarian party's devotional cult dedicated to "the founders" or their ideals. I am fairly familiar with what they wanted, where they differed with one another, and with whom I'd likely have agreed if I'd been around then.

Fact remains, though, that we're further along in this experiment than they were. We know things now that they didn't then, and if we're more concerned about orthodoxy than which policies will actually create a nation of equal opportunity... then I feel like that's way more of a betrayal of their legacy than anything I'm arguing for.

Read more... )
xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
As I discussed in a previous entry, the more I look at the Occupy Movement, the more I think it's powered by white people who are only now realizing that white privilege doesn't buy what it used to. Then they find that not only are they not guaranteed college, jobs after college, and financial stability, but now the cops are spraying and beating them like they're... well... not white! The shock. The indignation.

I can't really be shocked, though. I mean, I know a lot of people are still in denial about what the enforcement of our political and economic system looks like, but people of color in particular have never had that luxury. We can talk all we want about how not all cops are bad, but if the best cops we can hope for are ones that do not actively abuse protesters and merely stand by while other cops do... well... I think we'll see the rest of the 99% catching up with what poor people, homeless people, and people of color have known about police all along.

The Zimbardo Prison Experiment isn't just a freaky footnote in psychology courses. It's real, and some people have been living it this whole time. No wonder they're looking at the Occupy Movement (both those watching at home who are shocked that the police are being scary, and those in denial who insist that the police are just misunderstood) and shaking their heads at all the privileged people just now getting a taste.

The challenge is going to be remembering these lessons when middle-class white people have gotten what they need and poor people, people of color, LGBT people, etc. have not (because I firmly believe they will be the last). The challenge is going to be remembering what it was like to have to fear police repression once things go back to how they were and it's just happening to Those Other People again.

On a more personal note, Indianapolis has a second occupation movement going on, and I want to be around just because it is apparently not usual for conversations about privilege to be had. I want to be there for it, but I think before I can do that that I need some kind of taste of what I could be building. I want to go to a space where solidarity is a Thing. I want to talk to people who believe that compassion can be a way of life. I want to participate in a decent group founded on a consensus model.

If I want those things, though, I guess there's nowhere I can really go for them. I don't know if I'm qualified to help build them, but I guess I have to. Do I have the energy? Do I have the expertise? Can I do that?

Maybe there's an occupation near me that I could visit to help out a little before I go back to try and build something decent on the crumbled nasty wreckage of Indy's first attempt. I could use some inspiration. It's hard to let my local organizers give me that, because the more I think about it the more unsure I am that they would understand what inspires me at all.
xenologer: (do not even)
On the new message board for the new Indy Occupation (IndyOWS), a thread was started with the following prompt:
Post only what you want to share, like where you're from, what brought you to IndyOWS, what would you most like to see accomplished by the Occupy Movement...

This is OUR forum, let's start sharing!

This is what I posted. It's not perfect, but I thought I'd preserve it here for posterity, if only to look back on it in a few years and cringe. I sort of hope I do. The fact that I look back on stuff I've written only two years ago and think, "Oh fuck I didn't know anything," is a good thing. It means that I must have learned something during that time.

Anyway. There's a conversation that I haven't really seen happening in my local Occupy movement, and I think it's largely because while we have some truly amazing and badass people of color helping out... it's a lot of white people. The best of these white people probably just don't feel like they're qualified to talk about racism and what kind of damage it really does, and they're right. But the alternative? Not talking about it at all?

I don't know. It just doesn't feel right.

So I figured I would at least try. I'm sure I'll screw it up and I'm sure I really don't know much when it comes down to it, but I just can't see how I'm helping anybody by sitting and being quiet and hoping that a person of color will come along and say it all perfectly.

I wrote it while I wrote this entry, so you'll see some stuff repeated as I refine my thoughts and put on my big girl pants to try something that I know going in I probably won't be very good at.

Read more... )
xenologer: (objection!)
Dear people who believe that Big Pharma is keeping marijuana illegal because they are afraid of its panaceic majesty:

Marijuana seems like it has a lot of health benefits and potential for treatment for lots of things, but it's hardly a replacement for pharmaceutical research. For one thing, if you like having things like studies to back up the medical treatments you use before you use them, universities aren't the only people doing those.

Pharmaceutical companies are no less in need of a critical eye than any other company, but the problem is not the drugs they produce (which go through a lot more testing and refinement to prove relative safety and efficacy than any drug I can buy on the street from someone who grew it in their yard or made it in their house). The problem is having medicine be a for-profit industry at all.

I mean, it's not like "alternative" medicine companies are any less excited to squeeze money out of desperate sick people. At least companies whose claims are regularly evaluated by the FDA have some supervision to curb their more callous and ruthless impulses (which is not to say that they don't have them, because they certainly do--otherwise we'd never have needed the FDA to tell them to do things like stop using antifreeze as sweetener in childrens' medicine).

I just worry more about the companies the ones who want sick people's money just as badly as pharmaceutical companies but don't have to jump through ANY of the regulatory hoops that actual medicine needs to be put through.

I know this is sort of a tangent, but just because pharmaceutical companies are run by brutal and callous assholes who think that other people's sickness should be an opportunity for profit doesn't mean that people selling alternatives to medicine are being hocked by people who are terribly different. Those people just aren't required to prove anything about their drugs, because as long as they don't actually make real claims to safety or efficacy they can sell whatever they want and /imply/ that it's safe and effective.

So it's more than big pharma. It's the entire for-profit medical industry. The naturopaths and the homeopaths and the people who want to twist your spine to cure your diabetes and the people who think you can treat cancer by holding a crystal and standing with one foot in a patch of clover while you rub garlic into the sole of the other foot or whatever the heck are all playing the same game, and it's the game that screws people over.

And yet we have people (probably on both sides of the political divide, but I've encountered them most on the left) who are more suspicious of the people who are legally required to disclose the limitations and side-effects of what they sell than the people who can sell whatever they want as long as they do it in entirely-unregulated supplement circles.

But again. Focusing on "big pharma" as though they're some kind of uniquely evil cabal of kitten-eating reptilians from outer space seems short-sighted to me. As the kids these days put it (or perhaps as they used to put it like twenty years ago, I dunno): Don't hate the player, hate the game. I would add that you can hate the player if you want, but at least try and give the side-eye to the other players, too. It's never just one.


A person who treats her illness with science, not conspiracy theories or magic.
xenologer: (objection!)
My dad posted this article on Facebook, and I ended up sort of wall-of-texting at him. In the interests of not having to type this again in case I need it, I'm saving it here.

I'm not terribly fond of people using some highly-fictionalized privilege-friendly white-coddling version of Dr. King's work as a stick to hit people with who dare bring up race like there might still be racism and like maybe we still have work to do and white people still need to check ourselves.

In The De-Christianizing of Dr. King, Peter Heck complains that there were no direct references to Christ or God on the monument or in the selected quotes.

My first thought was yeah, well, they somehow managed not to explicitly mention race or racism, either. If they won't let him be a hero to Christian social justice activists, at least they're not letting him be a hero to black people either. (And yes, I find both of these two things inexcusable, though hardly inexplicable.)

The sterilization of Dr. King's positions and work is really interesting, if sort of maddening. To hear the way he's discussed now, he was a nonconfrontational and nonthreatening friendly black Santa who didn't challenge anybody's ideas of justice, racial equality, or what kind of social justice battles Christians could be considered OBLIGATED by their religion to fight (but which many of them just try not to think about). He asked politely and quietly for equality and eventually it was handed to him because he was nice enough to say please and then sit down and wait for white people to be comfortable with his ideas.

I mean, by all serious accounts I've read (by which I mean to exclude the children's books they have people read in grade-school American history courses), King was considered a dangerous radical. Sure, you had X running around being even more of a scary angry black man, but it's not like people saw King during his time the way memorials like this seem to be trying to get him viewed in hindsight.

Everybody LIKES Dr. King because at this point in our culture you sort of have to like him as a symbol of... of well, whatever we're calling the best American ideals and behavior at any given time. What not everybody would like is being faced with someone like him today. When King died, wasn't his approval rating only like 30%?

Then again, I have basically the same view on Jesus. Americans are sort of all required to at least have some vague bland fondness for him as a symbol of kindness and generosity, but it's a lot easier to feel that way about him when he died way too long ago to turn over anybody's tables or assail anyone in the face with a whip.

As long as Jesus is this amiable white guy telling us we're God's favorites and not telling us that means we should change how we do things or think about our fellow humans a certain way, Jesus is great and we're all allowed to sign on with a loose version of his ideas. As long as Dr. King is this amiable black guy telling us we can all get along and not telling white people that it requires we change how we do things and think about our fellow humans (both black and Asian) a certain way, King is great and we're all allowed to sign on with a loose version of his ideas.

I think maybe it's because he said a lot of inflammatory things that are actually still basically true. It'd be a lot easier to honor the real work he did and the real reasons he did it and the real people he was working for if we didn't still have his opposition hanging around acting like mentioning racism is a dirty trick conversation ender. (For example, this article condemns people who call out racism today as though they were somehow BETRAYING King's legacy rather than continuing it.)

I don't think the people who put up this monument would enjoy or appreciate the Dr. King who really existed and was such a controversial figure in his time.

Honestly, though? I don't think the guy who wrote this article would, either, and I don't think he'd get on with Jesus any better. Just a lot of dangerous radicals bringing class warfare and race relations into everything and bothering all the comfortable privileged people who just want to live their lives pretending that nobody else's problems have anything to do with them.

I mean, what King would have to say to Peter Heck, who wrote in this very article:

While King dreamed of the day when ours was a colorblind society, the left seems intent on bringing color into every political discussion. In just the last two years, liberals have used race to condemn conservatives for their opposition to high unemployment, increased debt, stimulus spending, climate change policies, the occupy Wall Street protests, and for the mere observation that food stamp usage has skyrocketed under President Obama.

Sounds like somebody still doesn't want race discussed at all, and isn't even open to CONSIDERING whether racism might need to at least be an explanation on the table. What would King have thought of that?

Despite new laws, little has changed...The Negro is still the poorest American -- walled in by color and poverty. The law pronounces him equal -- abstractly -- but his conditions of life are still far from equal. -- Negroes Are Not Moving Too Fast, 1964

Heck is right that King's work is being sterilized of much of its substance to make him a less threatening and challenging figure, but I'd find Heck's criticism a lot more compelling if he were not doing the exact same thing. Just as he derides the planners of this monument for recasting King as the kind of guy who didn't work from Christ's teachings, Heck recasts King as the kind of guy who didn't want to have conversations about race and racism (that are uncomfortable, but mainly only for white people).

Heck has himself remade King in his own image, and while he's not the only one doing it, it puts him in a damn poor position to gripe at anybody else.
xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
I think one reason some kinds of people prefer individual acts of charity to large systematic changes with charitable aims and impacts (such as tax-funded social programs) is that if everybody is giving to a comparable degree, they don't get to feel special anymore.

To someone like me, though, giving to the poor is not something I'm doing above and beyond the call of human duty. It's a baseline of dignity and respect, and I'm not special for doing it. With that mindset, I guess it's natural that I wouldn't understand why some people need to feel like they are making a grand and unexpected benevolent gesture.

Sure, that's probably better for the ego, but my ego wasn't actually involved in the first place. It's just a decent thing to do. Not an extraordinary thing: decent.


Oct. 31st, 2011 03:14 am
xenologer: (unlikely weapon)
Ugh, I feel this.

Taking My Own Advice by T. Thorn Coyle.

It's time for winter. I need a rest.

Blessed Samhain, everybody. I'm going to start the year by trying to chill out, calm down, get some rest, and be some good to myself before I try being any good to others.

What's your new year's resolution?
xenologer: (everybody's aunt)
We had some people tonight who kinda wanted to go off and start some shit, and it had to be made clear that they couldn't do that with us, because the thing to do with us is join our General Assemblies and reach consensus with us about movement actions.

Here's the long form of my opinion on individual action, particularly in reference to civil disobedience.

People are gonna do what they feel they've gotta do. If somebody needs to get in a confrontation with cops so that they can sleep at night... well, y'know, they're gonna do what they feel they've gotta do. However! They need to do it with their own reputation and in their own name. The only way to earn the right to say you're representing our movement is to be part of our process. You don't get to say you're representing the occupation movement if you don't respect the consensus process which defines us as a movement enough to get our consensus before you go out and do things that reflect upon us.

We are the ones who are not merely using the consensus process, but we are the ones who have voluntarily taken on the obligation to prove that the consensus process works. Instances like this where people want to fly off on their own as individuals are the biggest test the consensus process can possibly have, and it's at times like this that people demonstrate whether they believe in the process we're advocating for, or whether --when it comes down to it--they don't. If they don't believe in the consensus process, in my personal opinion they need to be doing some serious reflection on whether this is the movement for them.
xenologer: (I have arrived)
I've been following my local occupation protest, and have found it really fulfilling and energizing so far. I haven't been posting much by way of updates here because I do my organizing on Facebook for the most part these days. It's not inherently better for it, but for whatever reason that's been more effective, so I have concentrated my energies there.


What I've been doing during the Indy occupation's first week is what a lot of supporters have been doing: waiting to be told what they need. I know they speak for me, and I trust the people I know and have spoken to personally to be getting the issues discussed that I care about and considering solutions I'll find acceptable. What I didn't know was what I could possibly do to help. I contributed financially to the Wall Street Occupation because I know not everyone can. I offered at the medical tent at our kick-off rally to buy necessary supplies that hadn't been donated, because I was short on time but can financially do what a lot of them can't: pay for things.

Yesterday a friend told me that they needed notebooks and pens to take proper minutes at the meetings. I showed up with them, at the actual "let's be here round the clock" occupation for the first time, and asked to whom I should give them. Who's taking minutes?

Someone laughed and said, "You are!" I laughed and did it.

So that's how it worked. If you see a need and when you ask, it's not immediately apparent who is doing it, do it. I took minutes, and it felt great. I'm going back tonight specifically because I'm a good note-taker and I'll be able to get them posted online quickly. That will help keep the ground shifts and internet arms of the Indy occupation in communication with one another.

You can guess which of these made me feel like I was more a part of things.

Now, I can think of ways for us to make it easier for people to pitch in. We need to inventory our supplies, and if nobody has done that, I can do it tonight. That way we'll know what we have and what we still need. We need to streamline the way that the various working groups talk within the group and make the various discussions more orderly to follow than FB groups will allow, so I am hoping to help with a message board that gives each of our many working groups a subforum where their threads won't be dicked around by Facebook's scrolling format.

I have figured out how to find things to do, and my intended contribution is to spoonfeed those opportunities to people who haven't learned that yet. It's what I was waiting for someone to do for me at the start, which is my motivation to see that it's done for the next people.


There is still a lot of talk in the media right now about how the occupation movements are a fucking mysterious directionless mob that has no idea what it wants because they haven't presented a list of unified demands for everyone in it.

People who ask this are missing the point. I have been talking to people on Facebook who are confused that there's no bumper sticker statement that they can decide whether to sign onto or not. They want to know exactly what's been determined to be the priority of the movement before they go down and get involved. This is a reasonable desire, and it's the best idea when dealing with top-down sorts of organizations where priorities are announced and members can either sign on or join elsewhere.

That's not what this is, though.

If you want something specific and you aren't sure whether your local occupation is going to agree to push for it, then the solution is not to sit at home and wait to see what the attendees have decided.

For people who want a specific list of demands:

I can speak for many in my local General Assembly, I think, when I say that one reason a list of demands has not come out is that the specific things we want are enormous things like, "Stop letting corporate money influence elections." Rather than make that list and camp out until we get it, my General Assembly is talking about educating people about the problems in our electoral system, because frankly a lot of people do not even know yet.

How can we get people behind a list of demands if they:

A: Don't know the problem, and
B: Don't realize that decision-making could happen any other way than by having a list of options that all serve corporate interests more than our own?

We're teaching people about what money can do (and shouldn't do) in our country, and we're teaching them how direct democracy and consensus work.

I don't know what your General Assembly is doing, but if you don't like how they're handling themselves, I suggest you show up there to vote.
xenologer: (unlikely weapon)
Activists are frequently asked to be ready to give up anything and everything they love personally for "the cause" (whatever that might be). This is not sustainable.

Activists are supposed to ignore their creative passions, ignore crimes against them by their fellow activists because of race or gender, allow themselves to be used for a good cause and bled dry and discarded. This is not sustainable.

Do what you have to in order to keep your own fire burning. Self-care matters, because sometimes we are all we have to give, and we shouldn't waste it. Be well, be good to yourself, and if you're ready to jump into a fight at some point in the future, rest assured there'll always be one. :)

-Present Me.

Someone should have told me this, but the people who got me into rabblerousing were too busy trying to get the best use out of me they could. I had to learn it later. I don't regret anything I've done and I'm tremendously proud of the work I sacrificed to contribute to, but my decisions look different now than they did then. That's probably a good thing.

So... huh.

Sep. 13th, 2011 03:05 am
xenologer: (happy!)
I am using Facebook more and more for political links and stuff since people actually seem to get more use out of it there. People on DW/LJ who want politics are probably going to get their links from some of the same excellent sources I do, whereas the people I know on Facebook really... don't.

I didn't think people would like that my Facebook feed is ALL LIBERAL ATHEIST FEMINISM NEWS ALL THE GODDAMN TIME but I keep getting little notes of appreciation and admiration for it. I have had people tell me that I'm their main news source, which is terrifying but at least I am gratified to be providing a service in a way that works for them. If what they check is Facebook and the news they want is the sort of issue-based stuff I care about, I guess it's good that I'm bringing it to them.

What this does mean is that I am not using my journal for that so much these days. As I look over my last several entries, they've come about every two weeks and they've been *gasp* about me.

I know, fucked up, right?

That's what I've done for the past few years. I haven't had much else to say because like a lot of people... I don't post too much about myself when I'm happy. I have been. I have the kind of marriage that parents should tell their kids they may not have because it's so unrealistically great. I don't even really have much of a list of First World Problems. I'm... happy. I'm happy and I'm pretty stable and I've got a bunch of new hobbies that have brought a lot of joy to my routine.

I go to burlesque shows now. I will inevitably start performing at some point. It's a matter of time, because we're all just so fucking happy when we're there and I want to be part of the happy. Also, as I told the members of a local burlesque troupe where I have friends, I am really amused by my own ass, and would like to share that with the world.

So maybe you'll be hearing about that! Or maybe I'll just post to tell you how much I love my new bicycle, my new home, and my husband. Maybe my journal will be about me again.

xenologer: (angel/11)
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Scariest horror flick? The Stepford Wives, the new one.

xenologer: (angel/11)
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Scariest horror flick? The Stepford Wives, the new one.


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