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Jun 2

On Privilege, Racism, and Oppression

Posted on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in Theories

Let’s talk privilege. So, I’m a middle class white female-bodied genderqueer mentally ill Jew. I’d be the first to admit I have some privilege but I am also fairly oppressed by the system as well. There are people who hate me because of my heritage. There are people who hate me for being queer. There are people who won’t view me as an equal if they knew about my mental illness. I wasn’t born into money. My family was lower class and worked really, really hard so that their kids would never know what it’s like to go without food. My class status is a result of hardwork, not old or blood money. So, because my family wanted a better life for me than they had, somehow my privilege state is somehow my fault that I need to take responsibility for. I am being told by peers that it’s somehow my fault I am white and middle class. I never asked for this life. I just happened to be born into it.

However, for everyone person like me who admits their privileges – there’s a thousand people who don’t. I was talking to my friend about being privilege. My friend mentioned when she got home from work she turned on the television and “Desperate Housewives” was on. She watched the opening scene and one of the characters stated, “I am privilege and I don’t care.” That sentiment is a majority of people in my position. Yet, I do care and I am trying to use what I got to better the world – not just my own personal interests.

I keep being told I don’t understand racism but no one can explain to me how I don’t get it. I might not have to deal with racism but I do have to deal with the threat that people will hate me for my last name or being visibly queer. How is that any different? Yet, somehow, I am told by anti-racist racists that my experience as a human being isn’t valid because of the color of my skin. Just because I was born into a white meat suit, my whole life and experiences don’t matter. To classify a group of people, due to their skin color, and to automatically decide that people of a certain race experiences aren’t as valid as another race experience, is no different than what Hitler did by blaming the Jews.

Racism is always going to be a problem and I know class/race is related. That most people in prison are people of color and there’s racial profiling. But, if there were more people of color than whites, the situation would be reverse. If there were more queers than heterosexuals, the heterosexuals would be oppressed. It’s just dumb luck that things are the way they are.

Now, I have been told I’m not being a good enough white ally because of my lack of understanding that no one can explain how I lack it. I know my life and personal experiences. I know when I go to people of color events to try to be a good ally they don’t want me there because I am white. I’ve had people who won’t date me because of the color of my skin. I have never rejected anyone based on skin color. The anti-racist racists have already judged me and decided they don’t want me. Why should I bother trying to befriend people who don’t want to be my friend or want my support? Why should I go out of my way to try to support people who won’t support me? What about people caring about being an ally to me for being queer, Jewish, and mentally ill?

I’ve lost lots of friends over being mentally ill. I have people who I’ve known for years turn on me for something beyond my control. I’ve been assaulted for being a homosexual. I don’t know many people of color who’ve been assaulted for being a person of color or lose friends over it. It’s not like they wake up one day and they’re a person of color like I woke up one day with a chemical imbalance. I deal with anti-semantism due to my heritage. Yet, due to my visible race, I am being told I don’t understand oppression?

I am not trying to play the who’s more oppressed than who game. But I find the radical circles intolerable of differences. They want to be project an image of representing a minority and apart from my class and skin color, I am a minority. But all that is ignored and not validated because of my skin. I am told I don’t understand. I do understand and can relate because I am oppressed to.

With that being said, I am doing the best I can do to make the world a more loving, tolerant place. I am trying to be the best ally to everyone but to be told I am lacking without being able to be told why is madness. I would never turn to anyone and say, “You aren’t being a good enough ally.” Or “Your experience aren’t valid.” Or even “You don’t understand.” That’s hateful and violent within itself to not valid another’s experience. I do understand and know what it’s like to be hated for something that isn’t your choice.

To automatically declare I am an oppressor based on the color of my skin is as ridiculous to decide I oppress due to my gender, sexuality, height, weight, type of peanut butter I eat. It’s to make an enemy out of a friend. It’s to become the oppressor yourself.

To simply be told by people who don’t know me that I’m a “privilege rich white kid” and I’m “not a good enough white ally” without being able to explain why other than saying “You don’t understand.” is to not even begin to examine the whole picture. It’s not validating the oppression I face. It’s not validating my family’s struggle so that I can have a better life than they had. It’s not looking at the fact I am using my privilege to try to fight against all forms of oppression. That I acknowledge my privilege but it’s not my fault. I can only work with what I am given and I doing the best I can. I don’t, however, see people of all colors lining up to be allies to me or approaching me to find out how to be an ally for what I need allies for as they expect me to do for them – which I do. I have had people get upset at me for asking how to be a better ally since I should “educate myself” which is what I was trying to do by asking. I’m not a psychic or a mind reader. I’ve never had anyone ask me how to be an ally to me for anything already mentioned. It’s not fair that so much is demanded of me but I can’t ask for the same in return. Because I’m white and I don’t understand oppression.

Mar 2

On Radical Racism Theory

Posted on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 in Theories

A few nights ago, I was reading philosophy by Steiner followed by reading Dottie the Sock: How I Found My Pair. Both were good reads. I also wrote a piece about Queercore: what is it?.

In other news, I was pretty surprise to find out radical racism theory makes a villain out of anyone who happens to be white by automatically labeling them as the “oppressor.” I don’t agree with it. How is the circle of hate going to end when you automatically decided that a group of people due to their race is the problem? In the eyes of these people, it’s acceptable for people of color to dislike people for simply being white. They also say there is no way to ever be racist to people who are white – you can only be racist towards a minority. If racism is discrimination based on race, how is that not racism? I think that is perpetuating hate and not help putting the end to it. It’s like deciding all men are sexist because they never experience discrimination due to their sex.

Honestly, I think it’s time we stop playing the “who’s more oppressed than who” game. The truth is, EVERYONE in a capitalistic system is oppressed to some degree. Some people have more privilege but they are still oppressed. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, we should recognize our common struggle as being humans in an oppressive system and try to get along.

To make up theories to justify your hate due to race, is no different than what other hate groups do to justify their discrimination. People were attacking my understanding of theory for not accepting that simply due to my race, being white, that my whole struggle and existence isn’t as valid as a person of color is ridiculous. I was born with my race. Just like I was born with my sex. To me, race matters just as much as sex, which isn’t at all because it’s beyond a person’s control.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone has their own heritage and experience. I think the world should be more of a tossed salad than a melting pot. So, that we’re all mixed together, equal, but different. People forget that equality and sameness are not the same thing. You can be different and equal. We don’t need to assimilate anyone or any culture for equality. The world would be really boring if everyone was the same.

I view everyone as being equal and different. I take each person on a case by case bases. I don’t judge a group of people because of a few individuals. I take each person for who they are without judging them first due to their meatsuit. I think if more people would stop judging and be more loving the world would be a better place. If the cycle of hatred isn’t going to end with you, who do you expect it to end with?

Jan 14

Antisemitism, White Privilege, and Racism

Posted on Thursday, January 14, 2010 in Education, Theories

I was talking to my dad yesterday and he had the ignorance to say “Racism doesn’t exist anymore. We have a black president.” Then he adds, “Racism exists like antisemitism exists, it’s always going to be there but for the most part gone.” I just got really upset and mostly was speechless. I was appalled by how ignorant he was. He’s reading a book, Feminism Is For Everyone by Bell Hooks. He was unwilling to accept that fact that in the 1970’s, Hook’s felt discriminated based on gender. My dad claims he was going to school around the same time and he doesn’t remember women being discriminated against. He says it was the height of the sexual revolution. My personal assessment is that he, like most males, are oblivious to their male privilege and when anyone who’s oppressed speaks out about it, it doesn’t fit into their reality.

Racism and antisemitism are two different things. Most people forget that because Hilter went after the Jewish people as a race – but it really is just a religion. I get really annoyed when people are like “I’m a quarter Jewish” to me, that just shows lots of ignorance. In Judaism, you get your “jewishness” from your Mother. So, it’s either you are Jewish if your mother is Jewish or you aren’t. There’s no half or quarter or anything like that. You can consider yourself to be culturally Jewish or culturally half Jewish but there is a difference than being Jewish. That being said, being Jewish is something one can hide for the most part unlike race which is apparent. Racism is discrimination based on the color of your skin.

My dad claims he was beat up in school for being Jewish. I also know that my dad was a bully. He shoved a kid in a locker with his football buddies. He did all sorts of mean things so I really don’t know if they started picking on him for him being Jewish first or if it was something to add fuel to the flame because he upset them by being a real jerk. Not to say that it was right to pick on him for his religion, but if you upset people they’ll find something about you not to like.

My personal experience as being the only Jewish kid at my school, no one picked on me about that. I also grew up and a very conservative Christian area. Then again, I wasn’t a bully.

With that being said, I think my dad is very ignorant about racism in America in this day and age. He hasn’t been to the black ghettos on the outskirts of New York City. He hasn’t had Asian Pacific Islanders refuse to date him because he’s white. Nor has he gone to be an ally to people of color to only have them accuse white women of being racists for voting for Hilary instead of Obama in the primaries. He hasn’t been to a queer scene so divided between race and class that whites go to one party and people of color go to another. I have.

I don’t know how to explain what I’ve seen and experienced with my own eyes to him because anything I’d say he can deny. The talk would end with me getting really upset at his stupidity and him remaining blissfully ignorant being unwilling to accept another’s reality. He’s unwilling to admit his male privileges so why would he be anymore willing to admit his white privileges?

There’s an article written by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. I highly suggest everyone go read it. Some of the privileges that McIntosh points out that she has based on simply by being white are:

– I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
– I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
– When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization”, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
– I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who will cut my hair.
– I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
– I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
– If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

I remember having a talk with people of color about what their reality is like. The worse thing you can do when someone is telling you an experience of theirs is to deny it. I mean, it’s really unfair that people have issues with me simply because of my skin color but people have issues with them because of theirs. Even today, my friend pointed out to me racism on Google. If you type, “I’m terrified” in the search box – the auto-complete shows up, “I’m terrified of chinese people.” It makes me sick.

What can you do? Educate yourself and be aware of the privileges you might have. There’s plenty of books about privileges and racism.

I think for the next book I give my dad to read it will be about racism. Anyone have any suggestions?