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Posts tagged ‘racism’

Privilege 101: The Slant

Continuing on the topic of elaborating upon and understanding how privilege functions—as opposed to simply its effects—I wanted to talk a little about what I’ve termed “the Slant.” Part of how privilege behaves—the processes it uses to perpetuate itself as a vicious cycle—is a particular mental distortion inculcated within everyone growing up inside a power dynamic.

What makes it so insidious is that the Slant is entirely perception-based. The Slant describes two specific “cognitive biases” that are entirely based around the status quo: the reasonableness and trustworthiness of both the “empowered” and the powerless.

To clarify:

1. The “empowered” are:
a. Reasonable.
b. Objectively motivated.

2. The powerless are:
a. Unreasonable, irrational.
b. Personally or deceptively motivated.

Part A of the Slant is particularly important because the falsehood that humans are uniquely rational, reasonable beings, set apart from all other animals by a capacity for logical processes, is actually the freaking basis of human civilization.

It’s fairly obvious, given enough time and energy seriously dealing with other animals, that this is not the case: all animals have logical processes—they just aren’t necessarily based on sight-stimulus and technology the way humans’ information-gathering is. Animals come to logical decisions, like humans, but using different sets of information. Furthermore, animals only seem “irrational” if one is thinking of them specifically as not-person—as someone malformed because they were not born with a human interface.

And not to put too fine a point on it, tell me I’m the only bee in your bonnet the human concept of “logical” has always had quite a bit to do with whether or not you supported the status quo. Here’s where we get into the mind-boggling reinforcement of one oppression to another, which yes, means you support all of them if you are not vegan.

Women’s insistence that women were not inferior—not irrational, not child-obsessed dunderheads, not incapable of brilliance, not frail, needy histrionic cases—has always been used as an example of how women were inferior and irrational, and it still is. Evolutionary psychologists, MRAs, and trans misogynists use women’s belief that they are, well, people in order to argue that women are irrational. They’re delusional; they don’t get that we’re just the way we are because nature made us that way, which is not an argument for our extermination, somehow, but an argument against it and an argument that women should just, like, let us be evil. Women are just too stupid, self-absorbed, naive and idealistic to understand that the Kyriarchy exists because it is inevitable.

The fact that Black people did not want to be enslaved was used as evidence for how little they understood, and how much they needed to be “guided,” however brutally, by white people (men, generally). The fact that they didn’t agree that they were inferior was proof that they were inferior.

That fat people refuse to starve and emotionally torment themselves over the size of their body is evidence to the fatphobic, body-obsessive, carnist medical establishment that fat people just don’t understand how inferior they are. When fat people point out that any self-destructive endeavor would be fruitless—starvation, even with exercise, doesn’t work for somewhere around 98% of the population—they are assumed to be too stupid to understand “the facts.” Literally, fat people are expected to ignore the actual facts and embark on a terribly scarring journey of self-loathing—the more you agree that fat is evil and wrong, that fat is an indicator of a personal flaw, the more “rational” and “reasonable” you are. Surely we can all agree that you are weak-willed and immoral.

And today, too, if you are “mentaly ill” and object to the idea that you need to be institutionalized and “treated” into docility with psychotropic medicines—or if you and your others refuse to believe that integration is necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life—then it’s further evidence that you are just too mentally ill to understand you need to be controlled helped.

In our society, reasonable is a loaded word. It doesn’t take brilliance to see that.

Part B is simple but slippery, because it’s so easy for the “empowered” to wordle their way out of the claim. I can’t be responsible for what other people think of my motivations; are you implying my motivations aren’t pure? Yadda yadda, whine whine whine, what about teh menz/whitez/humanz.

But really, the best way to describe “assumption of motivation” is in terms of a good-faith/bad-faith argument. An assumption of good faith is the default: it’s reasonable to assume that a given human doesn’t mean you any harm unless you are given actual evidence to suspect otherwise—for example, the epidemic of rape perpetrated by men; the disenfranchisement of nonwhite people by white people; the abuse of animals by humans. It’s not unreasonable to assume that someone who was born and raised as an “empowered” person will be able or willing to see you as a person if you’re on the “powerless” side.

Bad faith is what is automatically attributed to those who are powerless, or who are fighting for the powerless. Their words are interpreted within the most unflattering meaning; on the other hand, when the “empowered” say bigoted things, they are defended and excused. Very often someone challenging the status quo is simply not listened to at all—my experience with trans commenters made me wonder, briefly but seriously, whether or not being transsexual actually impaired your reading comprehension. Simply by not agreeing, you can be accused of derailing or having impure, personally-motivated, bigoted motives:

1a. Animal experimentation has not brought about any serious medical advance; in fact, most medical advances have happened IN SPITE of animal experimentation and were slowed down by it instead of being helped. And in fact many diseases have afflicted humans specifically from their use of animals; it’s not good for humans, either.
1b. You care more about animals than humans!

2a. The gender dichotomy is fucked up. We should destroy it so that no one is gendered; then we can all be free to be people, instead.
2b. You’re transphobic! I worked HARD to be seen as a woman!

3a. Dude, what you just said is really racist; affirmative action doesn’t give non-white people an advantage.
3b. You’re just a reverse racist who doesn’t want to work for what you have!

And on a deeper level, the experiences and feelings of the powerless are unconsciously demeaned. Women are hysterical and overreacting about rape; women of color—people of color in general, but especially women of color—are “angry and militant” when they object to being alienated from a group (yes, as if it were undesirable); children and animals aren’t as complex or as rational and logical as adults, humans; and women who were forced to be “women” from the day they were born are just expressing “insecurity” about their “femininity” when they object to male-socialized people in their spaces.

Unreasonable. Hysterical. Irrational. Doesn’t know anything. Ignorant. Naive. Idealistic. Delusional. Doesn’t understand how the world works. Illogical. Emotional. Silly. Empty-headed. Airhead. Man-hater.

The Slant makes it impossible for you to know whether you agree with, or find persuasive or intelligent or competent, any “empowered” person because of the behavior/reaction sets they and you were indoctrinated into; similarly impossible to know whether your opinion of anyone on the “powerless” end—on the basis of age, race, sex, species, body shape, etc.—is based on your cultured filters of power or on who they really are.

No, scrap that: the Slant virtually guarantees that your opinion of anyone will be, in part, based on the place of power they are given in the Kyriarchy, regardless of how reasonable and logical you think you are.

And there are no easy answers. You can’t watch porn and pass out condoms to encourage sexual liberation; you can’t buy cage-free eggs and grass-fed cow products to encourage animal rights; you can’t put a Black or Asian person smack-dab in the middle of the photo amidst a group of white people and expect to be hailed as anti-racist or inclusive. You can’t decide that it’s okay for people to switch sexes in the gender binary, but not for anyone to object to the existence of a gender binary at all, and ever help anyone except the most privileged male-socialized people.

It is a long, hard, fucking cold road, and it’s one you have to take alone; there are no quick fixes. You can decide that every animal can feel and deserves not to be used as property, to be farmed; or you can give the fuck up and resign yourself to the fact that your unwillingness to dispense with the idea of property—with gender, with capitalism, with a “right” body to have, with the idea that sex can be power—has doomed everyone you claim to be fighting for. Because you are too fucking obsessed with getting yours to ever do anyone any fucking good.

Take people seriously. Listen to them; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings as valid; and don’t ever justify anything that is done to them in the name of oppression and power as “not as bad” as something happening to another person elsewhere.

White Privilege is a Thing

As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.

Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.

… Specifically referring to white privilege.

Now, I want to make two things clear:

1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.

2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.

Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.

It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.

That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.

The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.

The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.

And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.

I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.

The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!

The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.

Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.

The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.

Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.

That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.

They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.

And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.

So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.

And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.

Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.

In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.

That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.

Hunting: Dom/sub

Hunters are one of those groups that no one really feels neutral about. Fauxgressive carnists hate hunters because the regressive carnists love them; even the halfassitarians—whoops, I meant to say vegetarians—adore hunters because they can “respect” their ability to “look their food in the eye.” Which is just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard; if you think you’re perfectly justified because you have a big manly, uh, gun, you’re going to be able to look whoever you want in the eye and tell them, “Yep. I am perfectly justified in doing whatever the fuck I want,” without a trace of goddamn irony.

And as someone who lives on $25/week for groceries, you have absolutely no place to be telling me that they hunt for food. If you have enough money to buy and maintain a gun license, a hunting license, a good gun, ammunition, safety gear and a vehicle to take you into a hunting range, you so have enough fucking money to eat goddamn beans. You didn’t grow up with a family that needed to hunt—you grew up with a family that wanted to hunt. Beans provide more protein than the human body even needs and won’t give you diabetes, and probably not cancer, either. Meat does not have any magical properties, especially if you’re claiming you’re an omnivore, who are very traditionally scavengers, not predators. Okay, do I need to cover anything more? Okay, good. Go argue with someone else about how you need to hunt because you are a magical protein-deficient fairy (that also happens to be, just as magically, not an animal). That bullshit doesn’t fly here.

More to the point, I want to cover the rise of the hunter ideology by a cross-section on property/submissiveness.

Defiance of power creates a backlash; this is a pretty big fucking reason for deference among all the inferior classes—nonwhite, nonmale, prepubescent, etc. Watch anyone who’s never been enrolled in any military training converse with a cop; the difference between how they’d treat a “normal powerful person,” and how they’re treating the cop is startling. When someone can really fuck you up, you spend a great deal of energy showing that you are not worthy of their backlash—you’re still obediently conquered. No resistance here; you don’t need to apply any pressure to get me to obey.

That’s how it goes. The conversation between the average person and a cop is just all threat politics writ large: you get nervous and you get deferential because this dude can fuck your shit up. It’s the dynamic of fear, where one person has nothing to fear and the other person has everything to fear.

But the same submissiveness that white men try to effect on everyone else in the world is also counterproductive to one rule of Patriarchal Physics. Also one of the most important ones: thou must continually prove thy superiority by dominating others.

A submissive target is a good one for reinforcing power roles amongst your peers—gang rape, lynchings—but it simply won’t do when you need to keep asserting your dominance. Someone who will just lie down and think of England isn’t fun to torture. When you prove your power, you need to break their soul—although their body can do just as well, provided no one will care if you keep them alive or not.

So you go hunting.

No one cares when you hurt and kill property because straight-up property will never fall in line with the kyriarchy; they’re either incapable of it due to language barriers, as with non-human animals, or they’re just slightly isolated outside your realm of social influence, like children. Patriarchy is a religion that has three tiers: one, for the elite class, is orthopraxic—it matters how you practice. The second is orthodoxic—it doesn’t matter how you practice, because you have no power; what matters is that you believe. If you’re on the second tier, you’re partially property, but because you admit you’re property, you have some limited means of protection. Maybe. Provided you don’t go thinkin’ silly things like that you have a right to your own body, and to not be raped or forced to bear children whenever someone of the elite class wants to stick his dick in a hole.

The third tier is at the bottom: they’re the infidels, the unbelievers—the ones who will never, ever fall in line with the kyriarchy, so you get to kill and rape them at will. Hell, breed them and then sell pieces of their corpse so that other believers can feel they are drawing strength and vitality from their flesh, having a fucking mystical experience where every cell in their body is coming alive.

Although you may never reach the status of not property, there are degrees of property status—not that lesser degrees protect you in any meaningful way, because they’re still property; but they protect you from the other second-tier denizens and allow you to abuse the third tier with impunity. For the first tier, abuse isn’t an opportunity—it’s a requirement. You have to keep on subjugating people, violently, and even as fucking ridiculous as patriarchy gets, unless you can get off on it? Punching someone who’s just submissively letting you isn’t impressive.

It is more attractive to dominate (through whatever means, be it rape or killing) someone who will not submit to your ideology—who won’t internalize the belief that they are inherently not worthy of not being abused—because someone who submits is easy prey, a nice wife you keep locked up at home. The patriarchal ideal of domination, though, is that you must assert your power and dominance successively. You can’t stop doing it or you’ll lose your place of power in a ranking system where there is no place for “equals,” only rivals: those you must beat out or they will beat you. FYI, this is where we get the “stupid hypothetical question” shit like, if you had to choose between a 200-year-old tree and a mosquito, which would you choose? In patriarchy, there is. no. in. between.

The kyriarchy is a proselytizing religion: you convert and you slaughter the infidels, though it doesn’t really matter which you choose. Columbus raped, tortured, mutilated, and massacred Caribbean natives, in ways that I couldn’t even come up with in my worst nightmares—he did it as sport. He made his hunting dogs tear them apart. Literally, to him, his atrocities were sport—hunting. Fun. Entertainment.

The Americans did, and are still doing to a degree only limited by population size, the same thing. You went huntin’ those Injuns, so you could scalp them and bring back a trophy. White men hunted them down, unarmed, so they could score “points.”

You know, I’d run a slideshow of every single invading army ever to happen ever, but unfortunately I have no idea how I’d embed that on the page. But if you don’t get my point by now, you need to go back and read this post from the beginning, and keep doing it until you understand.

Patriarchal power rests on the basis that you will go out and deliberately and intentionally violate others to maintain your kyriarchal ranking. However, you can’t do that to the people who are already submitting to you, because you need to use force, not coercion. The more an inferior individual submits to you, the higher a “personhood” status they get, which also means that you can’t violate them except if they try to defy you. So you go hunting.

Privilege at its Extreme is Individualism, Again

Oddly, while my own experience of reading blogs is that it’s liable to make me more depressed and despairing on my own (probably because of the silencing factor), combining it with writing relieves me and makes me angry and passionate instead of resentfully cynical. Maybe this is just because I am “the vegan,” so my passion for basic rights puts me at odds with most “rights activists.” It’s really rare that I read something I feel resonates within me so much:

It was the eighties. The atmosphere was ripe with immanent denunciations. Politics in the still-breathing lesbian community had begun to hollow out into a ritual called “name the racist (classist, homophobe etc).” Who would be next in line to confess her privilege? Once she confessed, she too could be admitted to the ranks of the righteous, entitled now to “call out” any others on their particular “isms” … She now had an Id-entity. Indeed the self became implicitly re-imaged a container-entity either filled or emptied of privilege-chips.

I’ve noticed this going around a lot, and I am deeply uncomfortable with this process in feminism. It’s not that I don’t realize I’m privileged in many ways; I’m also systematically oppressed in many ways, but those privileges and oppressions and their intersections are not nearly as clear-cut as people make them out to be. The way these things interact and play off each other would take fucking years to describe—and by then they’d have changed anyway—and I don’t feel comfortable, in any way, having the face value of my privileges and oppression determine how much I should be listened to.

Because that’s what the effect comes down to: your credibility is directly determined by your relative oppression and privileges. It’s a bizarre mathematical equation that I’m sure gives both the oppressed and the privileged on any given issue some self-satisfaction, but it doesn’t work.

I was born into an upper-class, not wholly white, partially foreign family. But that wealth was not shared with me: money and its privileges were seen as the exclusive benefit of our mother and any money given to children—even for social necessities like clothing, soap and food—was only done grudgingly. I’ve been shocked, again and again, at what kids from only middle-class families feel entitled to, because the privilege people assume I had I never actually received.

Most of my warped worldview comes from the suburbs, where the houses are large and spaced far enough apart so that the neighbors can’t hear the children being beaten—and even then, it’s not much of a feeling of entitlement: my upbringing solidified a sense of distrust in my own perceptions and experiences, so that I assume I am acting on an incomplete worldview. Whether that’s the product of the suburbs or the abuse I can’t say—though I’d consider the suburbs themselves a type of abuse.

But even aside from that—I’m not rich, and I haven’t been for years. I and another person (my best friend, my platonic life partner) survive off of roughly $1,000/mo for all expenses. I’ve been homeless. I’ve had to lift all my food. Right now, at this point in my life, I am so poor that I sneer at the arguments of how poor people can’t not buy junk food, because if I bought junk food I’d starve.

So which am I? Do I get to know what I’m saying or don’t I? Are my anti-capitalist beliefs less valid than a pro-capitalist homeless man, because I have shelter right now?

I’ve been told that it’s because of my privilege that I’m vegan—big fucking NOPE here alongside an explanation of animal agriculture-as-Western-colonialism and genocide/ecocide—and that I’m racist by saying that people of color shouldn’t be treated like animals because it’s wrong to treat animals like that in the first place. Because I’m white enough to pass on the street—though still not white enough to get a job thanks to Mexiphobia—even though I’ve been caged, dismissed, and compared to animals too.

When someone gets told they have privilege, it’s shorthand for: all of what you just said is invalid.

And instead of engaging ideas critically and actually picking them apart, everyone follows that idea—that if you agree with someone who’s oppressed on a subject tangential to their oppression, you’re more credible, too. It’s gone from: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you have a skewed perspective and your flippant suggestions for how to solve XYZ aren’t accurate or useful. To: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you know less than they do.

That’s where it ends. Just, “you’re privileged,” the end.

The trend that Kathy Miriam points out has been my observation, too.

One of the obstacles to critiquing individualism is that the latter, like all ideology, functions by obscuring itself and self-presents as “just the way things are.” It is the air we breathe, the element in which we swim, thus invisible. Because individualism is so naturalized as a belief system, it can disguise itself as knowledge—or invisibly form the preconditions of what is claimed as self-evident knowledge.

Because there’s never any discussion of, “Well, how do I change my privilege?” (at least, that isn’t short-circuited by I shouldn’t have to educate you!), privilege has become this self-evident, unchangeable reality. And so we shift our attention away from demanding rights and equality from the people in our community towards legislation, which has a limited chance of success and an even more limited effect on the people who still have to deal with it on the ground.

We’ve become so caught up in this idea of changing either the individual or the government that we forget that the media, capitalism, religion etc. all spew this poison into our lives. We take the media and capitalism and marriage and religion and everything else so much for granted that we forget that we can—and should—build communities for ourselves if the ones we live in will not accommodate our very real needs for safety, survival and belonging.

Instead we focus on one person at a time, and not even within our communities—we fight over the fucking internet, devolving into a big fucking fight where everyone’s screaming NO UR PRIVLEJD and, in light of all that, activism—real activism—withers and dies.

Privilege analysis is a damn good lens for social justice movements to use. But it can’t be the be-all end-all of analysis and the only tool in the cabinet, and just because you’re privileged doesn’t mean you’re not onto something.

In short, privilege makes you unworthy of listening to when you speak up in favor of a system that you benefit from or that does not directly oppress you. But having been oppressed does not mean you are smarter or a moral-o-meter that can tell the relative ethical worth of ideas, either. And while it’s nice to believe that you, personally, can tell whether or not someone’s been oppressed or privileged—e.g. that women are privileged by gender conformity norms instead of oppressed by them—no one has that super-power, sorry.

And in shorter, you can’t let discussion of privilege limit the ways you move in the world. Now, I’m going to go create some animal adoption posters. Go read Dialectical Spin now. Bye!

To Be Property

Part and parcel of property status is maligning the intelligence of the property class: their experiential, emotional, and mental capacity and complexity. Everyone assigned property status at any point in the world has been said to be simplistic, not in control of their actions, incapable of grasping or using dense logic.

Slaves were—one of the justifications for making it illegal to teach slaves to read and write was that they were incapable of learning. (Apparently it makes sense once you’re dealing with enormous cognitive dissonance; whatever.)

Women were—they had to maintain entirely domestic lives to prevent the atrophy of their frail ladyparts, and also to prevent their descent into violent, frothing craziness. (Which I have to wonder, were they just tired of laying back and thinking of England?) Except for poor women, anyway—the “lower classes” had no problems of the sort because, well, they were lower class, and already had those labels applied to them.

Speaking of, working class people were said to be like that—even now, our stereotype of a McDonald’s worker is completely unsympathetic: a vacant-eyed, slackjawed imbecile flipping burgers with a limp wrist.

Children are supposedly inferior, which only holds up as long as you refuse to take into consideration a) adult dissociation from their childhood and b) that not being able to argue effectively in a language you’ve only had a few years to learn, especially when everyone treats you like you’re fucking stupid, might make accurate results a bit hard to come by. Animals are supposedly inferior, too, in the same ways children are—driven by instinct; impulsive; simplistic and lacking in logic. The idea that animals are inferior falls prey to a lot of the same problems, too—but the one I want to talk about here is that believing they are stupid, crazy, and untrustworthy solidifies others’ power over them.

This is not some convoluted fucking theory, either, that makes you feel like you have to be on drugs to see it clearly. You have to believe that their thoughts and emotions are inferior and unworthy of being taken seriously because if you didn’t do that, you wouldn’t be able to keep doing this shit to them. To feel justified in consuming a cow’s corpse, you have to believe that the cow’s experience wasn’t worth taking seriously; to feel justified in forcing a child to eat that steak, you have to believe that the child’s experience isn’t worth taking seriously.

Zie just doesn’t know what’s best for zem. Pele’s erupting tits, that has been heard for centuries. Let me point out:

Crusades: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Conquistadors: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Native American Genocide: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
U.S. Slavery: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Women: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.
Farmed Animals: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Et fucking cetera. No, seriously, white fucks actually argued that slavery was a good thing because otherwise black people would just run around being violent and tribal and natural (omfg!1) and crap and not knowing what was good for them, and it was up to the Good White Christian Men to kidnap them and submit them to horrendous lifelong multilayered torture to break their spirits for Jesus. And that runaway slaves didn’t say anything against slavery itself, because guess what: They Just Don’t Know What’s Best For Them.

Obviously, there’s that lingering, strikethroughed “Us” right before the Them, unspoken but not unheard. It’s present in every rape, every unspeakable act of violation on another’s body and soul. You just don’t know what you want; you don’t even know your own mind, and that’s why I get to do this to you without feeling a twinge of empathy or regret. You just don’t know that you’re perfectly fine with this, you stupid dog.

This needs to be repeated to you, over and over and over again. Whether it has to do with women, non-human animals, indigenous peoples, children, it does not fucking matter, you need to fucking understand this: the property status came first, the justification after.

It was not: “Animals are, like, retarded, so we’re gonna feel just dandy playing tiddlywinks with their social structures before killing them.”

It was: “We want to play tiddlywinks with animals’ social structures before killing them. Not because we need the food, mind, because there’s plenty of that all around us: we want to because being able to subjugate someone means that you are powerful, and we want that power. But, um, we’re gonna feel pretty shitty if we actually consider their feelings like the non-predatory species we are, so… They’re retarded! Take that, conscience!”

It was not: “Women are simplistic and irrational, so we get to own them and rape them whenever we want.”

It was: “We want to own women and rape them whenever we want… and women are simplistic and irrational, so we are perfectly moral in doing so. God/Science/Nature/Darwin/Psychology says so.”

Part of privilege, part of oppression, is being brainwashed into thinking that it was the other way around. Because if the justification came first, the oppression has a reason to exist—that’s rationalization, right there. It’s never been true, but if the oppression existed for a reason, then you have your reason to disregard it and continue the power structure.

DNA is a damn good self-perpetuating system. But I think oppression may be a little bit better—because even when it’s eating you from the inside until you’re an emotional and ethical cripple, you’ll continue on. Even when you’re killing vast swaths of your habitat and your community, you’ll continue on. And when someone gives a damn good post underlining why those prejudices you hold aren’t trustworthy, you’ll use the prejudices themselves as an argument for why they shouldn’t be listened to.

That’s fucked up, man.

I Ain’t Dumb II: Accents as Racial Discrimination Justifications

Re-reading my I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence post previously, I was inevitably reminded of the race and class issues on the same subject. You can see why: one of the stereotypes of Black people, historically—it was used as a justification for slavery—has been that they aren’t intelligent because they don’t talk right. Nevermind that it was the best that kidnapped Africans could do under the circumstances and it actually ended up being perfectly adequate—it was taken as something inevitable.

Slaves couldn’t speak right because they were too stupid to talk “proper English,” regardless of their native tongue, regardless of the fact that they were deliberately manipulated to be that way—given a chance to decide between whether it was biological or cultural, white people chose to believe that it was biological, because it shored up the power structure. And if it hadn’t been speech, it would have been something else—said kidnapped Africans being hard workers was used to justify their lack of intelligence, as was the fact that most Africans weren’t Christian. It would have been something, but because it was so obvious, the fact that they couldn’t talk right became the figurehead for everything that was stupid and ignorant and uncultured about African-descent people.

And it still exists, too, though now it’s oftened defined by negative space—an African-descent person who speaks with a middle- or upper-class accent is “articulate,” and “well-spoken,” even when there’s virtually no difference in wording.

The tradition has been faithfully upheld, too. I’m sure you can come up with examples just off the top of your head, and so can I—when the Chinese were shipped and kidnapped to be used in U.S. labor, the heavy Chinese accent was taken as evidence that they were extremely stupid, albeit cunning and manipulative. Irish and Italian immigrants, often used the same way, were seen as stupid for the same reasons: they couldn’t speak English fluently. The Polish were stupid, too—good for nothing more than manual labor. The Russians were stupid, enormous behemoths, and thugs on top of that. Blind people are stupid, as are deaf people and those with speech disorders. Et cetera.

Some are even less concrete than that—floating ideas, representations of the preality—an animated cartoon of a Native American, raising his hand and saying, “How.” Speedy Gonzales. Sven and Olga jokes. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tonto (“stupid” in Spanish), who was cowardly, too.

Face it: Western society is all kinds of hung up on how you talk.

And a lot of that has driven the anti-Hispanic sentiment lately. How likely would it be that “LEARN ENGLISH, MORANS” would exist if Mexicans were portrayed as speaking midwestern English? And how much of the resentment aimed towards Mexicans is based on the idea that they speak broken, unaccented English?

Given how much and they don’t even speak English! is used as a constant refrain in anti-Hispanic rhetoric and opinions, I’m gonna bet that language bias is a huge, enormous part of that. Having the right accent decides so much of your worthiness and value in a community that if you don’t have it, you’ll be looked at with suspicion and wariness a priori—as a likely thief, lazy sonuva, con artist and general good-for-nothing.

And look at that list: how many of those stereotypes do we regularly apply to Mexicans? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shift uncomfortably while a neighbor starts ranting about those thieving Mexicans will steal everything you have because they’re too lazy to work for a living—lol—and try not to interrupt with, “Um, my grandfather was full-blooded Mexican. My dad’s an ex-patriot. My brother’s visibly Hispanic. I have a Hispanic last name. You’re talking about me and my family when you say those things.”

Actually, my roommate, who’s half-Hispanic and passes depending on who’s looking at zem, has done that. Zie even used to have the stereotypical “Hispanic” accent, because zie grew up in the inner city in a largely Mexican and Latin@ area—but zie was moved by family out into the suburbs and had to adapt out of that accent to pass. I’m sure you’ve already realized the response zie’s gotten: “Well, you don’t sound like them.”

… Accents are a class and racial cipher key in modern-day U.S. to determine how worthy the person is of being around you, and being in the U.S. at all.

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