Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

It’s a slight cliche to argue that history is written by the winners, but unfortunately it’s true. Admittedly the phrase does imply somewhat more of a martial perspective, so let’s adjust it; history is written by the dominant.

As marginalised people, we only have to look at our own histories to see the truth in that. We are absent from the historical narrative to a very large extent; sometimes there are obscure glimmers of proof of our previous existence, but most often even those of us who achieved a place in the historical hall of fame have been bleached with the ideals of the dominant groups that did the writing.

I am a historian – still studying, and not yet studying exclusively history, but a historian nevertheless – and it frustrates me. Written primary sources were often written by privileged people whose perspective neglects the marginalised. Secondary sources also tend to reflect academia’s skewing towards the kyriarchal ideal. There are ways of finding out about the marginalised, but we rarely find their uncensored voices ringing down the ages.

What effect does that have? A huge effect. Some groups find themselves cut off from their roots, with much about their past lost irretrievably. Others find themselves entering the record only on the terms of their oppressors, with their personhood denigrated and their voices erased. Others find no reflection of their existence.

The neglect of the history of some groups combined with the elevation of that of others has a profoundly harmful effect. People have always looked to the past, for lessons and for inspiration and guidance, and if they find only certain groups reflected there it is very easy to have the idea, already implanted by the kyriarchy, that only those groups are worthy and important validated. It’s also used to denigrate people in the present, implying that they’re making things up because they only came into existence recently when the only evidence we have for that is a void in the general historical narrative with clues generally so small most people wouldn’t pick them up.

It’s important to factor this in as we write our own histories. How will the English Riots of this summer be remembered? Will the memory of the alienation and disillusionment suffered by those who rioted survive, or will they be painted merely as thugs? And the Occupy movement – when protestors say one thing and police say another, who will be believed by posterity? As for the Arab Spring – how will history perceive that?

The privileged classes have always tried to write their history on a higher level than the rest of the populace. Sometimes, just access to the tools of recording ensures their voices are the only ones heard. Other times, restricting access to academia or to certain media spaces is their preferred method. And quite often, they merely rely on their privilege to amplify their voices, as it so reliably does.

People’s minds tend to run a lot on patterns and associations. When someone says a word, we can generally summon up a bunch of connotations from our experiences and the messages we’ve imbibed from our culture. If I try this with a random word generator and get ‘chat,’ I think, ‘room, little, office, experience of the words ‘wanting a chat’ preceeding a lecture that I will squirm through and not dare speak up in.’ (I think this means that I never caught on to using the word ‘chat’ when talking about ringing someone up to talk…)

This gets really important when the words we use impact on people. Words and the way we use them are really influential when it comes to the way we think, especially as we are growing up and learning how to weave those words into expression. We learn them through communication and connotations, which means that the things we associate with a word will forever have an impact on how we perceive what that word is attached to. I had a slight negative reaction with ‘chat’ because it appears I’ve mostly come across it as a prelude to earnest conversation directed at me that I felt very uncomfortable being a part of. That’s what I associate it with; squirming in my seat and feeling silenced.

So what happens when people-words get bad connotations? Those connotations generalise to the people concerned, and negative, prejudiced attitudes creep under the carpet of people’s minds. Also impacted by negative presentations and cultural messages, these negative attitudes are generally at the root of discrimination. Where inequality is legislated, it comes from the underlying prejudices of the people who created the legislation, the people who passed it, the people who elected them and so on. Where inequality is tolerated, that comes from discriminatory behaviour striking a chord with those same underlying prejudices. Language, presentations, culture – they’re important. There is other stuff to fight for, big stuff, solid stuff – but these underlying currents are where they come from. When the big stuff gets fixed, it’s unlikely to stay fixed until the culture changes, as the underlying attitudes find new ways to mess the marginalised up or push the big stuff back to its original position.

It’s very uncomfortable to see people-words get bad connotations, and yet it happens all the time. ‘You throw like a girl,’ makes ‘girl’ the object of contempt, something to be avoided, something lesser. And negative attitudes towards women and girls and those perceived as such are reinforced. I… may be overstepping myself here, since I’m white, but ‘acting black’ troubles me since I’ve generally seen it used against people who act in a way seen as negative – thus enforcing racism. ‘That’s gay,’ one of my own little hobby-horses, associates gayness with something pathetic, contemptible, useless, bad – thus enforcing heterosexism. Slurs work this way. Longer messages, such as the many that enforce rape culture, work this way.

And the worst thing is, it looks like nothing. It’s hard to correct, because you’re seen as being pedantic and petty-minded. And to be honest, merely, ‘don’t say that word’ is unlikely to work. We need to examine the reasons why we’re saying what we’re saying, and the message that sends out, and consciously work on changing it. It’s definitely important to salvage the stuff floating out of reach, issues that have a concrete impact on our quality of life, but one can’t ignore the little eddies and swirls that show the current beneath the surface, the current that could eventually tear the solid stuff out of our reach.

The riots are spreading fast, and all the mainstream media can find for it is condemnation and demonisation of the riots as thoughtless thuggery, the breaking tide of feral youth upon the shore of respectable society heralded with fire, a force to be met with force. They’re being taken out of context, out of time, judged as an island of humanity when the contexts and explanations lie elsewhere upon the landmass.

Violence, especially violence of this type, is not something I can condone. It is – as so much else – hitting the less privileged more as their houses and lives burn around them while the more privileged sit in their white towers and play dice with the lives of the rest of us, demonising us as they go.

But I can understand. The shooting of Mark Duggan was a match in a flourmill, where the flourdust of alienation, poverty and hopelessness had long clogged the air, anger unexpressed, rage battened down. We should not have been surprised. Of course there is anger – people have been pushed into the margins, further and further, clinging to the edges. The rich have taken as theirs everything their sweet-tongued lies and economic tyranny can exact from everyone else. The sovereignty of the police has gone unchecked even as hundreds die in custody and our children are kettled in the streets. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the tunnel grows narrower every day until the daylight is cut off from a glimmer. Racial divisions fester in the heat of an economic meltdown, with young POC seeing themselves burned in effigy as demons in the mainstream discourse.

Of course there was anger! And when that was expressed peacefully, in marches and petitions, it was ignored. It is always ignored. Sometimes I think that if the whole country came to London and camped in Parliament Square, we would be ignored until someone threw a stone. It seems that our ‘leaders’ believe that the only time they need to pay attention to the existence of the non-rich populace is around election time, when they can throw us a bone and our starvation will bring us to heel.

So anger turned to violence. And violence is, as I have said, not good.

But there are other forms of violence. There is the violence of what our leaders are doing to our futures, there is the violence of contempt for our anger, there is the violence in ignoring our needs. There is violence in every dram of money-blood being taken from us to pay the debts we did not incur, and there is violence in entrenching the inequalities that divide our society like lightning in the stark midnight sky.

Besides that, we must look to the sweet poison capitalism has dripped into our ears from the cradle to the grave. Is it any wonder that looting is going on, when we have been raised from birth to believe that status is in capital? And is it any wonder we have been raised like this, when all the power is in the hands of the few who sit on thrones of banknotes, elevated above the rest of us with the power to match?

I hate that destruction stalks our streets, since the kyriarchy feeds upon destruction and the only way I can see to fight it is to build. I hate that some of this is communities lashing out against themselves. But these events cannot be looked at outside of the grim context they were born in, and in that context it is hard to argue things could have turned out otherwise once that match was dropped. I stand against violence, whether the violence of the powerful state upon the populace or the violence of therelatively powerless people – but I also understand the explosive power of bottled-up anger.

*    *    *

I’m pretty privileged in this issue, being lower-middle class, relatively economically secure, provincial and white, and while I can’t be certain I doubt the rioting will spread to where I live. But I’m fed up of seeing all the one-sided mainstream reportage, and I don’t think it’s all that difficult to hold the dual thoughts of ‘this is violence, and violence is bad,’ and ‘I understand why this happened,’ in one’s head. Basically I wanted to put in my two pence. And yeah, I’m aware I waxed poetic. I do that sometimes.

Mr MacMaster, you should be utterly fucking ashamed of yourself. You think you can speak for the marginalised? Over the marginalised, making their lives more fucking dangerous while you carry on with your absurdly privileged life? And you think that’s okay?

It’s really, really not.

You wrote a story, constructed a fiction. You did not have to live that reality. You had the privilege to disengage. And you thought that doing that was acceptable. You thought that wearing an internet mask for a few posts on a blog could even approach the real experience. You thought wrong. Other people don’t have the luxury of being able to take the mask off – because for them, it’s their true face.

You appropriated people’s experiences, overruled the voices of those who actually had those experiences. You’ve made their lives more dangerous. You could have caused people to put themselves in truly dangerous situations, while you were sitting safely mired in your privilege. You’ve inserted your straight, cis, white, Western, male self into a discourse where you have no business being because you simply know nothing about the issue. I know nothing about the issues you attempted to write about, but I sure as hell know that it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance and imperialism, it would be totally and utterly wrong, to appropriate an identity, such as the one you took on. Rather, the role of those of us who have no place, in the discourse is to listen. To accept the conclusions of others’ discussions about their selves and try to aid them in their goals. Not to elbow our way in under false pretences and speak over others’ voices. Not to mention, you’re now the blogger who cried wolf. And that could
have serious consequences. You took people’s compassion, their trust, and you betrayed it.

We all know that online interaction is hard because there’s no way of knowing the exact truth. But that’s why, especially in internet
spheres that rest on people’s accounts of their experiences, it’s vital that people do not appropriate identities. Doing so is unethical, appropriative and deceitful. It’s made everyone’s online identities easier to attack, too. I can give no proof but my word that I am a young, queer, agender person from/in the UK. But how easy would it be for someone to claim that my writing was invalid because they thought I was someone like MacMaster? Very easy. And how could I disprove it? I couldn’t. The fact that I really am who I say I am is unprovable – but I swear that I am, and I don’t break oath.

Everything about this (and the Bill Graber/Lez Get Real thing) stinks of privilege, massive, unchecked privilege. Thoughtlessness,
entitlement, imperialism, appropriation. It stinks. I don’t even have a sense of smell and I can tell that. It leaves an utterly bad taste in the mouth, and they should both be ashamed of themselves.

I’ve come across a load of people on the internet claiming that they have an ‘unpopular opinion’ and then spouting a load of bigoted, kyriarchal slime. It seems to be, along with ‘irony,’ a very common way that bigotry reveals itself. But you know what?

Don’t call it an unpopular opinion if it’s an oppressive, kyriarchal one. Because it’s not. It’s just bigotry, and that, my unfriends, is extremely popular.

Put it this way. If misahetery/misohomy is an unpopular opinion, why is it okay to say, ‘that’s so gay’? Why is that phrase normalised? The clue’s in the word ‘normalised.’ It’s normal. Slowly becoming less normal, but for a non-heterosexual person it is still absolutely normal to find that most people around you either a. hate your sexuality, b. are uncomfortable with it or c. want to ignore it. That’s a sure-fire sign of the normalisation of misahetery/misohomy and heterosexism. Why are marriage options not equal? Why do people experience abuse for being non-hetero? Why are there still inequalities here, there and everywhere? This normalisation and these views are wrong. They’re absolutely wrong. But they’re not seen that way by a regrettably large portion of the population. So therefore, having these views is not an ‘unpopular opinion.’

That was just one example. Binarism – and I’ve come across this one quite a bit – is another prime example. It. is. not. an. unpopular. opinion. to. think. that. we. are. making. it. up. It is an utterly wrong, bigoted, oppressive opinion that has no basis in fact and is complete bull feces, but it’s quite popular in society. Don’t believe me? Why are toilets rigidly gendered then? Why is there no legal document that will allow me to not misgender myself?

And here’s an example that may shock a few of these ‘unpopular opinion’ people – racism. Again, totally wrong. And this time this is an oppression that I am not really equipped to talk about as a white person, so if I mess up please feel free to tell me to educate my damn self. But racism is still a systematic oppression, despite all the anti-racism initiatives. People of colour are routinely hassled, profiled, silenced, subjected to great indignities, denied opportunies, Othered, exoticised, exploited… Racism is still a mainstream prejudice, much to the shame of our species.

The same thing applies for basically every other oppression there is. Many are medically or legally normalised in addition to being socially normalised. Their acceptability is a stain upon humanity – but they’re not unpopular opinions. They’re bigotry.

So these ‘unpopular opinion’ people may think they’re being oppressed and silenced by ‘political correctness’ – but they are not. Political correctness, to start with, is a term created to discredit the movement for inclusive, non-oppressive language, making it an inherently reactionary, kyriarchist term. And secondly, they evidently have no idea about the nature of oppression. Here’s a clue – it’s not being told that your bigoted attitudes are bigoted. Oppression is being on the receiving end of these systematic bigoted attitudes and the actions that inevitably result from them. And silenced? No. Anyone with kyriarchal views can find a million avenues to sound off about their bigotry. Being told that those views are wrong in the few SJ spaces that exist is not silencing.

Don’t call it an unpopular opinion if it’s kyriarchal. It’s bigotry. And calling it otherwise is privilege denying and oppressive. Of course, if you could acknowledge it as bigotry, you’d be able to work to get rid of it and THAT WOULD MEAN THE END OF THE WORLD /endsarcasm. You know what opinions beliefs I’ve found to be unpopular?

Anti-kyriarchal ones. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Those firmly in the grasp of kyriarchy claiming victimisation for their views, while victimising those fighting to get the kyriarchy’s claws out.

Hello! I am writing to you from my computer! I am not a) getting ready to party in the streets, b) watching The Event on the internet, c) watching The Event on TV, d) camping outside The Event or otherwise demonstrating myself to be a good forelock-tugger. I am instead blogging about The Event, but not in the adoring way expected of one of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects.

The Event being, of course, the Royal Wedding. My criticisms run deep and will probably run on for a few dozen paragraphs. Let’s start with one very fundamental criticism.

The instution of the monarchy. Historically, I know why we have it (groups of people gathering more and more land, leader of those groups getting more and more power, finally calls himself (generally was ‘he’) King. Then one group becomes more and more powerful and replaces the monarchy of the other groups to that one group’s monarchy. Fairly simple. What I don’t understand is why we still have it.

This is the 21st century. We have spent centuries advancing the cause of democracy, forcing it on our colonies, advocating for it, believing in it. I believe in it. Rule by the people is in my opinion the only fair way of running things. The only way that ensures that everyone has a voice and should, if properly executed, ensure that those voices are heard. Elsewhere in the world, people are fighting and dying for it, today, now. And yet we still have a monarch. We still have a fossil of the days when one person held the lives of many in the palm of their hand, crushing and killing, in our political system. The monarch may not have much ‘true’ political power, but we still have one. And while we’re talking of power, the Royal Family do have power.

They have the power to oppress. They have the power to command the eyes and ears of the world. They are sent out on diplomatic missions. They have the power to command crowds, to leech our money away from us. That’s power.

They have no place in a country that dares to call itself democratic. They do not earn their huge wealth – they sit on the previous generations’ wealth, plundered with inhumanity and brutality from other corners of the world, and are awarded more of the people’s money. Abolish the monarchy, even with pensioning off one or two of them, and I imagine that most of our financial woes would be temporarily ended.

The institution is oppressive in its self. The only reason Queen Elizabeth II currently holds the throne is her parents’ lack of a CAMAB offspring. Sexism. And do you think that if an heir to the throne turned out to be non-cis (binary or non-binary) their role would be adjusted, their self would be respected? I don’t think so. Perhaps some have, and that’s why we don’t know about it. Catholics – and presumably any other non-Protestant/person who doesn’t mind pretending – are barred from taking the throne. I doubt anyone who isn’t straight, cis, white, conventionally able/appearing so or who lacks privilege in any other sphere would be allowed into public life, or kept out of the pillary if they found themselves there.

Besides this, the English monarchy forced its authority onto its colonies through force of arms, through brainwashing, through the eradication of cultures. Talking about my own situation, my country’s monarchs were deposed and often killed by their ancestors, and while I would hope that our own monarchs would have been deposed in favour of a democracy by now I resent that they were replaced by the authority of those who tried to wipe out our culture, damn near succeeded and may yet. I would imagine that English colonies and ex-colonies feel similar, having had their autonomy, nationhood and often culture assaulted, wounded, often killed – generally more severely than my own – on the orders of the English monarchy.

And now onto the specific wedding-related critique.

It’s all joy and everything over this marriage. He’s a Prince, she’s a commoner – although in my book, if she’s common I really wish I was – they’ve been together for years, with a couple of break-ups – so modern, isn’t it?-… it’s the stuff of the modern kyriarchy’s dreams. She’s just common enough to give an illusion of progress, but all the basics are unchanged. Think about it. There’s still the oppressive institution. The power differential reinforces the privilege differences between women and men. She’s still rich. Her self has been subsumed in the coverage beneath the weight of custom and royalty worship. They’re straight. They’re white. They’re cis. They’re conventionally able. Etc. Privilege! The joys of a privileged and a super-hyper-privileged person getting married! What would happen if he wanted to marry a man? Or if she had less privilege? One acquaintance of mine said, ‘They’d say, ‘Hey, why don’t you go live in Switzerland?’ and try to silence the papers.’ I imagine that would be at least somewhat true.

And who is paying for this? Us.

Us. We, who are suffering from the effects of a recession and the draconian cuts inflicted upon us by an overprivileged, contemptuous, capitalist Government – we are paying for the festivities of a monstrously rich institution that was not chosen by us. We didn’t choose to foot the bill. And a bank holiday has been declared, a day of wages that many people will lose, that will seriously impact on many people’s lives.

I am fed up with having it shoved in my face. I am fed up of knowing that resources earned by the people are fueling this extravaganza of forelock-tugging, pomp and privilege. I am fed up with the adulation being poured out to a group of utterly undeserving, overprivileged people who have often shown themselves bigoted, oppressive and awful. I am fed up of the adoration being directed towards an institution with so much blood on its hands.

Fuck tolerance

There. I said it. Fuck it. Fuck tolerance. Fuck acceptance, too.

I don’t want to be tolerated in our broken world, our awful system, our terrible kyriarchy. I don’t want to be accepted into a structure that oppresses people, into a system of inbuilt oppression. Hell, I don’t even want to be welcomed with open arms there.

I want nothing less than the destruction of the kyriarchy. When the kyriarchy is destroyed, I won’t be ‘accepted’ or ‘tolerated’ – I will be human. I will be equal. We will all be equal. There will be no grudging ‘oh I guess you can live then,’ from the oppressors, because there will be no oppression.

Until then, I will fight for the destruction of the kyriarchy in each person’s individual head. That’s the only place it lives – inside our heads, feeding on our lives. The kyriarchy is a parasite. It is introduced to us from the first seconds of our lives by every human interaction we have, it crawls inside us, and it eats away at us and at every other person we know, so that it seems normal.

The kyriarchy’s in my head, right now. I’m grappling with it, but it’s there. It’s taking my potential and that of society within my influence and feeding me lies about myself and about others. It’s whispering to me that I am subhuman because I am not its privileged ideal, and it is whispering to me that other people, wonderful people, worthy people are subhuman because they are not its privileged ideals.

And I’m angry about that. I’m angry that it’s trying to tell me that my fellow human beings are less than. I’m angry that it succeeded for so long. I’m angry that it’s telling my fellow human beings that I am less than. I’m angry that it’s so hard to excise. I’m angry that my culture ushered it into my head, back when I was a tiny child with no defences or resistance or hatred. I’m angry that my culture is always ushering it into people’s heads, from the moment they’re born.

We are truly better than our kyriarchal prejudices. We all have them. We can fight them, but in this culture it’s impossible to ever be totally free of them. We can only work against them as actively as we can and hope that our minds will become poisonous for it.

Tolerance is useless as a way of working against it, mainly because it’s not working against it at all. It’s merely putting a veneer over the poison the kyriarchy is leaking into our minds. It’s better than hostility – but it’s never going to be a tool of anti-oppression, because it is passive. It doesn’t try to change anything about attitudes, only the person’s outward expression of those attitudes. And while those attitudes are there, the kyriarchy still has its claws dug deep into our mind and is still telling us all those lies, and we are still swallowing them.

If someone tells me they are tolerant of a group, warning bells start ringing. Because they’re not saying that they have stopped having negative attitudes to those people – only that they’ve stopped expressing them as hostility. That’s not right. And that’s certainly never going to end any oppressions.

Oh sure, it might seem to – but it won’t. Behind the scenes, the kyriarchy will still be spewing its lies into our heads, and those lies are going to make us treat the ‘tolerated’ ones differently. As the Other. As the Lesser. Even if we don’t notice, those lies are going to have their way.

So fuck tolerance.

We need resistance.