Saturday, April 22, 2017

If the world only knew

is a phrase that is uttered by a woman who escaped being murdered by the racist regime of Hitler era Germany. She believed (erroneously) that if peoples in other nations knew what was being done in Germany, they would act to interrupt and/or prevent it. My presumption is that when she says "the world" she means humans outside of the control of the German state.

(Note: for those of you who are vegan and have tried to tell others in the "world" about the horror inflicted on our sister/brother Earthlings, unnecessarily, by we know all about about the futility of telling about what is happening. If you realize that, then you must consider that other kinds of horrors are ongoing and that humans (maybe including you) do not want to know about them either. The rule seems to be...for every 'terrible awful' that persists there is are powerful and persistent dynamics that promote indifference and invisibility. Think about it and let me know if you discover a persistent 'terrible awful' that humans do that doesn't also have accompanying processes that promote indifference and invisibility...especially in those not targeted by the 'terrible awful'.) 

She says this in a relatively brief video (~17 minutes) which focuses on the coverage of the genocide that took place between 1939 and 1945. The video looks at the New York Times and notes the fact that of over 23,000 front page articles published in that newspaper from 1939 to 1945, only 26 were about the holocaust. (that's about 0.00113 percent)

The horror that was happening in Europe was just wasn't talked about or publicized. There's that process of invisibling again, notice how it has an affinity for horror and atrocity? 

A central part of the video elaborates about the strong anti-Jewish racism that characterized American society during that time and the fears/concerns that the decision makers at the NY Times had about arousing push-back from those who ascribed to this variant of racism and their concern about losing their readers if they focused coverage on the racial atrocities in Europe.

A question asked in the video is "how could such horror not be questioned?".

Two years ago I would have asked myself the same I grasp that for white men, maybe the most upsetting thing about the Hitlerite genocide was that Hitler did it in Europe. The dismay was driven more by being aghast at where what was done than by being aghast at what was done. (there's a reason prisons and death camps and slaughter houses are tucked away where they're not easily seen by the public, such hiding helps with invisibling)

White people (men) had been doing very much the same sorts of things in other parts of the world for centuries. Hitler had the audacity to do that stuff in the very part of the world where it all started and it couldn't be hidden.

That "stuff" was called "colonization". An example...the town where I live in Oklahoma has a parade every year that "celebrates" some of the activities of "settlers" (which is a term used here in the U.S. to refer to colonists). Most of us white people have yet to clearly and accurately look at what "colonization" meant or what it continues to mean.

One way to think about Hitler was that he treated the Romany people and the Jewish people (and other marginalized groups) as if they were being colonized by Germans...but he did it where avoiding knowledge and awareness of it was impossible (especially after he screwed around and lost the war). Do you really think we would have the same awareness of the holocaust that we do if Germany had won the war?

Here in Norman, a local parade celebrates a "land run" which is a nice sounding way of referring to giving land to white people (men) which was stolen (taken by force or threat of force) from Native Americans. Colonization. Think about the parades or other "celebrations" that might be going on in Germany now if the Hitler regime had won the war. Do you really think we're "different"?

Oklahomans are quasi-educated about the "Trail of Tears", which was a death march where native people were 'removed' (again by force or threat of force) from their homelands (where they had lived for centuries) and were made to go to lands that white people didn't want (right then anyway, later white men would decided they wanted much of that "unwanted" land). That land white men initially didn't want is now what is called Oklahoma.

Most Oklahomans are oblivious to the fact that the supreme court had ruled that the Native Americans could not be forced from their lands in Georgia and the president (Andrew Jackson) decided to do it anyway. Here in the U.S. we're big on the law, unless it gets in the way of what white men want. (notice what's going on with the new president)

Be who are reading this will henceforth be unable to truthfully say that you've never encountered the idea before that a big part of the horror of the holocaust was because colonial practices were carried out too openly and too close to "home".

And, to make it even more dismaying, it was directed at peoples that were/are often considered to be "white" or at least "honorary whites". (Cori Wong points out that most Americans don't "get it" that being perturbed and upset over the Hitlerite holocaust and ignoring of or minimizing toward other genocides is, in part, driven by racism stemming from the fact that the majority of the victims in Europe were "honorary whites" and victims of genocides elsewhere were people of color. There are other factors involved too, but she most certainly makes a very significant point.)

It was a manifestation of the real and sobering reality that what is done to "others" who "aren't like you" might also be done to those who are "like" you, that what is done "there" might be done "here".

Understand; such horrors happened before 1939 -1945, they just happened in lands away from Europe and they happened to people who were considered to be People of Color. You can read about Belgium's genocide in Africa in the 1880s here and you can read about the centuries long (beginning in 1492) genocidal campaign against Native Americans here. There have been multiple other instances of such "civilizing" horrors. Do some studying and you'll find that numerous efforts to terrorize and murder people by the colonizing European nations had occurred prior to the Hitlerite atrocities. 

Many of the problems we white men have are involved with our efforts to deny the realization that it's not "who" you do awful things to that's the crux of the problem.

Our efforts to dismantle these practices must struggle with the thinking that makes the doing of these kinds of awful things even possible. The "who" is variable and will change according to circumstances. The problem isn't "who" is designated inferior or superior...the problem is the error of the inferior/superior trap itself.

One way to help counter the conditioning to be unknowing about this stuff is to focus on impact and be very leery of intent. We've been taught excellent skills to assist us in fooling ourselves, but gearing our attention to impact and not intent can assist in subverting such self-deceptive practices. 

Farting around and believing you can do awful things if you only do them to the "right" beings or that if your intent is good or benign then you're "innocent" is a part of what's allowed this centuries long debacle of racism to continue.

Applying hierarchies of value, including the "superior/inferior" binary to living beings almost always leads to debacle, whether such practices are applied to "race" or "gender" or "species". 

That illusion or fantasy of "superior"/"inferior" seems to be an profound attraction for we humans (white men especially) and it may well prove to be fatal to all of us unless we're wise enough and brave enough to recognize it for what it is and reject it. 

An acceptable singular moment to think of as the beginning of the era of modern colonization would be the when Christopher Columbus "discovered" the "new world" (the western hemisphere).

In the centuries after 1492, Europeans (white men) developed and elaborated the methods of exploitation used to enrich themselves and their nations at the expense of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere and of Africa and of Asia. Land theft and displacement and/or murder of the original inhabitants of the land and human enslavement characterized these "explorations" which affected most of the peoples of the world outside of Europe.

Native peoples in North America were eventually (after attempts to enslave them proved to be too difficult and it was found to be easier to kidnap peoples from Africa and bring them to the "new world" to work as slave labor) deemed to be not useful.

Thereafter the main white people's societal response to them was to eradicate them as living beings and to also attempt to eradicate their culture (boarding schools) from the consciousness of those who were not exterminated. All in the name of the "good" of "civilizing" them.

Here in the U.S., I was taught that "settlers" and "pioneers" were good and brave people who were only striving to make a "new life" for themselves. That's the story all colonizing societies tell themselves to make them feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves and their ancestors. Here in the U.S., "settlers" and "pioneers" were the folks who benefited from land theft and "removal" and murder and and kidnapping and human enslavement. I wasn't told much of anything about that part or what I was told was framed in such a way that it seemed to be tragic or sad, but "necessary" and that it's all better now. No need to worry myself about all that stuff that's in the past and is "ancient history".

Spoiler alert...reading this paragraph might be upsetting. If you're white and you live in North America and you're not an overt and blatant racist, then, like me, you're sort of the moral equivalent of those "settlers" and "pioneers". We're just trying to live our lives, we don't want to hurt anyone or take what's not ours...but...we participate in a system created by taking from others and we participate in a system (from which we benefit) that engages in ongoing taking from and depriving others. Remember my example about pay differentials? That's just one example of numerous practices of harm that are made invisible to us (that's so we can motor along feeling good about ourselves as we uphold and support a system of harm to those with less social power)

White men developed the ideologies and worldviews used to justify these practices. The ideology of "race" served to render their murder and theft acceptable, natural and "normal" and it also served to allow white men to think of themselves as 'innocent' and/or 'good' and/or 'well-intentioned' (although such innocence and goodness is false and untrue, nevertheless it was strongly held and continues to be strongly held by we who are influenced by (implicit or explicit) racial biases).

Being able to behave like a monster while simultaneously believing ones self to be 'good' and 'innocent' is a variant of the notion of having ones cake and eating it too. It's an impossibility...but if reality is ignored and/or denied it can seem as if it is "real".

Back to the video and the New York Times. Think about the dominant culture in the U.S. between 1939 and 1945. Antisemitism was openly acceptable and on display, anti-black racism was openly acceptable and on display, anti-Native American racism (and racism targeting other people of color) was blatant and "normal" here in the "land of the free". It was socially acceptable, legally enforced and...well..."natural" and just "common sense". (just writing that scares the pee out of me and makes me cringe...and it should you too...what horrors now are considered "common sense"?)

When laws that enforced these racist ideologies were not thought severe enough, mob lynchings of African Americans occurred. This website lists lynchings by year and indicates more than 20 African Americans were murdered by non-state sanctioned groups of white men during that time span.

If we think about what the U.S. was like during the time the holocaust was underway in Europe then it becomes less remarkable that the New York Times devoted so very little prominent coverage to what was being done to subordinated groups in Europe.

In the video you will see a clip of Father Charles Coughlin saying that what Americans would do to Jews would be worse than what the Germans were doing to Jews.

Here's a photo of Coughlin, a Catholic priest.

He was the 1930s version of the haters like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and various Fox news puppets who are all over the broadcast airways today. (and now they're in control of our executive branch of government) 

It's an "American tradition" to lend credence to those who advocate for hatred and violence (often in the name of "self-defense" or "safety" or "national security"). The person who is the newly installed U.S. president fits in well with this very common "American tradition" of racist white men. None of this stuff is new, none of these ways of thinking are new...they are the "norm" for European white men, especially white men here in the U.S. 

We white people (mainly men) may seem to change but that's misleading...we've been doing the same things and thinking the same ways for centuries, only the characters have changed and some of their words have changed...but the core ideas and practices haven't.

What often makes this difficult to comprehend is the insidious excellence with which racism and the hierarchical valuing of different groups of humans disguises and invisibles itself. It morphs to fit the times and to render it difficult to recognize.

Here's an excellent quote from an Ava DuVernay documentary titled "13th".
“History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of history that our ancestors choose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are the products of the history that our ancestors mostly likely did not choose. Yet here we are all together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it." Kevin Gannon; Professor of History at Grandview University
History is one of most powerful guides we have available to render comprehensible or visible that which is hidden from ourselves. It's often easier to 'see'/grasp/comprehend things/events once they are in the past rather than when we're right in the middle of them happening.

If we study history, we can then use that increased comprehension to apply to "now" and make the features of our lived reality more understandable. But...we have to do the work of learning and studying and thinking...otherwise..."now" is likely to remain wrapped in a veil of confusion and incomprehension and invisibility. 

If we don't do the work, then, we're at risk not only of being the product of a history chosen by our ancestors (if we're white)...we will not have the ability to comprehend the choices that were made that created our understandings and position in the world.

We will lack the necessary tools we need to make our own choices, instead we will be doomed to play out the choices made by those who lived before us. We will believe those choices are ours, but they're not. (Unless we're just a murderous asshole no matter what...but...that's actually not most of us. The majority have to hide truth and reality from themselves in order to behave monstrously...that's part of why invisibling is so necessary to keeping this crap going.)

It's impossible to be "free", if by free we mean making our own, carefully considered and with a minimization of coercion/deception, choices unless and until we become knowing and understanding of that history which produced us and created our perceived framework of choosings. (I'm tempted to write "either you master your history or it will master you", but that's a bit trite...even though there's truth in it)

Watch the video, ask yourself whether the people talking (especially the white men) really comprehend the horrors of colonization. I suspect they don't. They grasp that horror occurred and that the NY Times didn't devote extensive reporting to that horror while it was happening...but they seem oblivious to the lesson that the thinking that led to the horror is where change must be made. 

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rebecca Solnit

is a white woman who writes books and essays and sometimes writes about feminist issues. 

One quote from an essay titled: "Men Explain Things To Me" knocked me out.

"I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet."

I've written a number of posts about invisibilty and its profound effects on us and on our ways of perceiving and behaving and that quote above is one of the better ways I've seen yet of describing something invisible becoming visible. (I'm presuming the anaconda didn't eat a actual cow but a cow's turd...if she meant an actual cow then it would have been a much better sentence without evoking violence being done to an Earthling.)

That essay, among others, is in a collection of writings in a book by the same title as the essay: Men Explain Things To Me. It's a very enjoyable read and yet while I was reading and enjoying the superlative writing I was bothered...and I really didn't know why but eventually it came to me that the author seems, well, her writing and in her ways of conceiving society and such.

I enjoy the heck out of her feminist stances...yet...they often feel pretty white. I know that sounds weird coming from a white guy...but there it is. I could be wrong, probably am...but hey...that's my feeling right now.

(What I'm  meaning by "white" here is that her perceptions of sexism and feminism seem to arise from some universalized position of "femaleness" instead of being cognizant of and addressing of the fact that sexism as it is enacted toward women of color is different in many ways than how sexism is enacted toward white women...there are overlaps...but they are seriously different too. Rebecca Solnit seems sort of oblivious to that. It's really not possible to de-couple racism and sexism, each of those practices influence/inform the other one. Pretending that they don't influence each other or being oblivious to that is generally something that white women do. It's a manifestation of white supremacy.)

By the way, the essay called Men Explain Things To Me is often credited with being the inspiration for the invention of the word "mansplaining". Pretty nifty, eh?

You might enjoy the book, give it a read. She's a very talented writer.

Let me know if you too sort of sniff the whiteness. I'm absolutely tentative about my ability to detect it, especially where it is ambiguous, but my current stance is always to opt to err in the direction of calling/thinking something white instead of not. Heck, centuries of the denial of whiteness has to be countered in some way or other, ya know?     

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Not all white men are racists...

Not all white people are racist, not all men are misogynists, not fill in the blank.

Some variant of this kind of thinking/talking is one of the maneuvers that members of oppressor groups are taught (socially conditioned to believe to be true) to implement in order to avoid acknowledging or recognizing complicity. Members of targeted groups are taught the same stuff, but they often recognize the erroneousness of such flimflam.

I recently ran across this photo that was discovered in an album belonging to one of the staff who was stationed at Auschwitz. It was taken at a "resort" that was used by Auschwitz personnel.

On the hosting website, in his trial for war crimes the man who had this photo is quoted as saying:

“I had no possibility in any way to influence the events and I neither wanted them to happen nor took part in them. I didn’t harm anyone and no one died at Auschwitz because of me.”

No one is complicit, almost everyone is innocent, except for those few terrible awful baddies, right? (one term used to describe this sort of "thinking" is called mystification, here are some synonyms)

It's rather amazing to think about the incredible horror that has occurred (and continues to occur) over the centuries that is done by so few monsters...and all that goes on while so many of us are "innocent".

Maybe the problem isn't just the monsters, maybe the problem is all of us who aren't the targets of awfulness but are members of the same group as the monsters. You know...all of us who aren't "monsters" but share group membership with them.

What about the families of these "innocent" folks, are they "innocent" too? What about the folks who worked in the factories that made the SS uniforms, are they "innocent" too? Where does complicity begin and innocence end?

What if it is, that should we belong to a group that upholds/supports/allows/condones awfulness, then there is no innocence for anyone belonging to that group?

What if awfulness is like a turd and the smell emanating from that turd is strongest for those closest to it...but it also can be smelled by even those some distance away...even if they had their back turned to the turd.

Maybe the only way to even get within hailing distance of innocence (or to avoid the smell), in such a situation, is to be engaged in actively working to stop the awfulness.

What if? 

Monday, April 3, 2017

For many years

it's been my habit to stick a gum wrapper or a sticky note or some other marker into a book whenever I'm reading and run across a quote or idea that interests me.

If the book is a library book, I'll either copy down the quote somewhere, or if it's lengthy or the idea covers a number of pages I'll make a copy of the pages that interest me. Then...sometimes...I'll study or think more about what piqued my interest. Sometimes though, I write the quote down or copy some pages and then forget about them.

Many of the books I own have odd pieces of paper stuck in them at various places and probably so do some of the books I return to the library...if I forget to remove the marker. So, if you get a library book that has some bit of paper stuck somewhere in it, it may be that it was a book I read and forgot to tidy up before I returned it. Sorry.

Some people mark in library books...I think that's rude and it always dismays me when I run across stuff like that. I sometimes mark books I own...but not those that don't belong to me. Jeez.

I recently read a couple of books by Elizabeth Strout and I found some lines in her writings that resonated with me. I was, in fact, alerted to the quote from Black Hawk that was in my last post by something that Elizabeth Strout had written in a book titled: The Burgess Boys.

There's a quote from that same book, on page 311, that contains some truth I think. She wrote:

"In case you haven't noticed, people get hard-hearted against the people they hurt. Because we can't stand it. Literally. To think we did that to someone. I did that. So we think of all the reasons why it's ok we did whatever we did."

I read another book by her titled: My Name is Lucy Barton and in it, on page 95, there was this quote: 

"It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it. I think it is the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down."

I suspect those two observations are related, maybe they're aspects of the same thing...and...I wonder if they don't have something to do with how and why we go about justifying the violence and harm we inflict on others that's referenced by the "isms" of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, and so on).

Indeed, I wonder if they don't also have to do with our trying to justify harm to those Earthlings who aren't humans and maybe even harm to mother Earth herself.

Isn't it curious that we have a desire to make terrible awful things we do seem ok? It's intriguing to me that we often seem to work at trying to "feel superior"?

Why do we do that? Why do we flounder around and try to make terrible awfuls seem warranted?  What pushes us to try to "feel superior"?

It's intriguing to realize that built in to any struggle to "feel superior" is a rejection of the notion of being ok with "equality". Hmmm...

In that first quote she writes that we literally can't tolerate thinking we hurt someone...why can't we? What is it about ourselves that makes us uncomfortable if we feel we've hurt someone else? I wonder.

Is a struggle to "feel superior" just a manifestation of some unspoken and unacknowledged feeling of that's so painful and disorienting that we can only conceive of "less than" and "more than" and the awfulness of that feeling of "less than" drives out any consideration of being equal? I wonder.

By the way, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears maybe has some elements in it that have to do with the "less than" and "more than" and "just right" dynamic. (where "just right" suggests equality)

(Note: folks who are a lot smarter than me have wondered about this inferiority/superiority stuff too...Alfred Adler for instance)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Words so smooth...

I've been reading a book titled: Birth of a Nation'hood: Gaze, Script and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case which was co-edited by Toni Morrison. I remember the amazing brouhaha that went on in the media during that trial and I very well remember how African Americans (especially the jury members) were demonized and demeaned by the media (and the majority of white people) after the event.

Realize that the Simpson trial occurred only about 3 years after the debacle of the Rodney King trial where several white policemen were acquitted of beating Mr. King...even though their unwarranted and illegal assault was captured on video. 

The book was published about 20 years ago and the various articles and essays in it are sad making.

Part of their power to depress me comes from the fact that the words we've used and the ways in which we white people have been avoiding accurately looking at ourselves and our behavior haven't much changed...and...they are (with updates to reflect contemporary vocabulary and linguistic expression) pretty much the same as they've been for over 500 years.

I've been looking at us...hard...for over two years now. Understand, when I say we white people, I'm meaning the majority of white people...there are exceptions (thank goodness) but they are few and they are thoroughly marginalized and/or ignored.

I fully accept we white people here in the U.S. are thoroughly committed to the strange belief that somehow if we can find just the right way to say or express something, then we can make horror and/or harm be a good and acceptable and right thing.

We may deny that we believe this and we may sincerely believe that we do not think this way...but we do....and somewhere we vaguely know this to be true or at least suspect that it might be true. We white people may not "know" what's wrong with this country and ourselves...but we suspect something not good is going on. And we have no right to not know because the evidence is everywhere. I write this knowing full well that I avoided comprehending all this for decades...but I damn well knew something was wrong.

It's almost as if we have the belief that if we just want something to be a certain way hard enough...then the hard wanting/wishing will make it be that way. We couldn't be that detached from reality, could we? (you can insert your own examples here, there are plenty of them)

Do you remember thinking like that way when you were a little kid? I do. It is a potent desire. It took some repeated efforts for me accept the untruth of that enticing notion.

But...something like that...which is a task that is confusing and difficult for a child really shouldn't be an issue for an adult, should it?

People of color have been telling us (we white people) this for centuries. Again and again and again they tell us...and we ignore them, or attack them.

Towards the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century, a band leader of the Sauk Tribe (his name in English was Black Hawk) was quoted as saying:

"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right."

How smooth must be the language of we whites.

How powerful we must believe it (and ourselves) to be for us to embrace the notion that words change reality.

If you want, you can watch this brief video of Dr Charles Mills explaining white people's version of the history of North America.

If it sounds silly and childish to you...well...then go take a look at the American history book your elementary or high school aged child is using in her or his school and see if it isn't full of smooth words that mislead and deny. We lie to ourselves and we lie to our children. Smooth words intended to deceive others end up deceiving us too.

And we harm every living being (including ourselves) and mother Earth too.

Words so smooth are doing us all in. (except they aren't really smooth except to those who embrace them)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Get Out...

is the name of a just released movie. It is excellent. Go see it.

Below are a couple of images from the movie (the captions were created by unknown folks and they are spot on).

If you're raced as white and this movie doesn't sometimes make you uncomfortable then maybe you're not "getting it".

This movie is terrific throughout, the excellence of the performances, the story content, the cinematography...the whole dang thing. Wow.

Melding comedy, horror and social commentary has never been done with more skill and deftness.

The writer/director, Jordan Peele, described the movie in an interview as being strongly influenced by the Stepford Wives and Scream. (note: he didn't specify which version of Stepford Wives (1975 or 2004) so I linked to the 1975 version)

Go see it. 

Monday, March 6, 2017


has one definition which (in part) reads: "choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others...".

This photo comes from a story about a soccer game between teams from Rome and Torino in Italy. The story says a small child didn't want to stand next to the Black player.

If the child's behavior is driven by racist beliefs then what about the teammates of the shunned player? How do you adjudge their actions...or inactions?

Are they being complicit in racist behaviors via their proceeding in taking part in the photograph? What about the photographer, is she or he resisting or upholding racist behaviors by creating and publishing the photograph?

What about the child's parents or coach? What about the behaviors of all the adults that we can reasonably guess are close by, both those depicted in the photograph and those who aren't? Who is being complicit?

Children can't be held to the same standards of behavior or comprehension as adults because of their immaturity and diminished understandings. However, adults around a child can either accept or condone behavior or interrupt and reject it. What are the adults doing (or failing to do) here?.

Yes, the child is apparently behaving badly...but...the photograph contains much more information than just that which immediately grabs our eye.  The child's behavior is actually only a small part of the information/meaning that is available to us in this image but extracting that meaning requires more effort than a glance.

I have come to understand that It is incumbent upon us, if we are to struggle against injustice, to work toward disrupting our own obliviousness and to consider factors that aren't immediately apparent or comprehended or visible. We must, if we are to uphold justice, develop the skills to add context and history and invisibled meanings and understandings to depictions like this. 

This photo exemplifies is what Howard Zinn's meant when he said:
 “You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.”
Whenever injustice occurs in our presence and we fail to work toward interrupting or disrupting it, then we're not being "neutral", we are...whether we wish to or not...assenting to or agreeing with or upholding what is going on. We're being complicit. When the status quo is upholding/enacting oppression and we aren't struggling against that status quo...we're being complicit.

Thinking good thoughts and having good intentions but failing to engage in action means we're assisting in maintaining the status quo. We're encouraged to be oblivious and ignorant, that doesn't mean we have to assent to it or go along with it. We have the power to struggle against that socially encouraged obliviousness...and if we fail to do so...well...we are complicit.

In situations where action is possible, that doesn't mean we can't or don't pick and choose our battles, nor does it mean we'll always know exactly what to do but it does mean there's no refuge of innocence in obliviousness...most assuredly when it is within our power to resist being oblivious or unaware.

It also means that the status of being "uninvolved" is much more fiction than reality. And further...the status quo very much encourages and relies on folks to be oblivious or unaware or ignorant and to perceive themselves as "uninvolved".

Note: this is a very complex image and it is likely that much more meaning can be extracted from it than I've done here. It is important for us to realize that images like this potentially contain much more information than is apparent at first glance. But...our culture encourages us to glance and then move on, but we do not have to go along with that encouragement of superficiality.

(p.s., please be aware that I've been unable to confirm the veracity/validity of the story associated with the photo, hence the suppositions. The image itself is a good example of something that can be worked with in an effort to attach meaningful connections to context and history and to practice skills allowing movement beyond "face value" understandings.)

 (As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is influenced and shaped by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

It's not history...

Nope, colonization is an ongoing process. This photo (from Twitter) taken at the site of the protests in North Dakota against the pipeline across native lands exemplifies this colonization process quite well.

Settler colonialism as defined (in part) on the Native American History website:
"Settler colonialism has best been defined as more of an imposed structure than an historical event. This structure is characterized by relationships of domination and subjugation that become woven throughout the fabric of society, and even becomes disguised as paternalistic benevolence. The objective of settler colonialism is always the acquisition of indigenous territories and resources, which means the native must be eliminated."
One of the more effective ways the dominant narrative in U.S. culture invisiblizes truth about itself is to promote the notion that the "bad stuff" that happened in the U.S. to members of marginalized groups is in the past and we've "progressed" beyond such ignorant harmings.

Wakey, wakey...all you have to do is watch what happens if members of any subordinated group resist or object to the agenda of the dominant elites. See the photo above? Stuff like that has been ongoing since Europeans showed up in the western's not "history"'s now.

That photo shows your tax money being used to equip and pay those armed men who are threatening those Native peoples. 

Just like way back when.

When marginalized folks resist dominance that "paternalistic benevolence" disappears and the threat of violence (or the enactment of violence) pops right back  into visibility.

It's not's now. 


Friday, February 17, 2017

White ignorance, timeless and multinational. .

Recently I've been reading work done by Dr. Melissa Steyn, who is a professor at a university in South Africa. She's been studying and observing cultural conditions about race there for several decades. In one of her articles I ran across this passage:
It has become a standing joke that since democracy in South Africa one cannot find anyone who supported apartheid. Increasingly some white South Africans claim that they did not know what was happening during apartheid; that it was not their generation that was responsible for apartheid, but that of their parents;and even that it was not as bad for black people during apartheid as it is for white South Africans in post-apartheid South Africa. Yet the system of racial apartheid could not have been functional or sustained for over four decades without the active and passive cooperation of the white population – using separate entrances,enjoying whites only transport, beaches, restaurants and cinemas, paying sub-minimum wages to black employees employed only for menial labour, educating only white children in the schools their children also attended,...
South Africa had a brutal version of Jim Crow racial segregation and legal racial subordination in place (called apartheid) and they didn't have an election where everyone could vote until 1994. That's not ancient history and's common for white people there to maintain that they 'didn't support' this awful stuff and many claim they "did not know" what was happening in their own country.

It made me think of something that occurred in Germany immediately after the end of WWII.

The photo shows a number of the residents of a town (Ohrdruf) in Germany, where a concentration camp was located, being forced by Allied soldiers to view the victims who were confined in the camp.

Various towns where these camps were located were sites where the residents were forced to view the victims of the holocaust.  ""We didn't know." This was what the German civilian population would say over and over again about the concentration camps...".

"We didn't know", "We didn't know"...sound familiar? Notice that one claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in Germany in 1945 and the exact same claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in South Africa some 50 years later.

What's that got to do with the United States? Well, take a look at this passage from an article written in 2014 about the awfulness in Ferguson, Missouri. 
"...whites in Ferguson were often surprised by the racial fault lines exposed by the shooting and the sometimes angry protests that followed. They said they had no idea of the simmering tensions between African Americans and police. They did not know that many black residents felt unfairly targeted by the police and unrepresented by city government. And they bristled when protesters portrayed their town as racist."
Whites in Ferguson were "surprised" and "had no idea" about the brutal and unfair treatment of black residents in their town.

From 1945 to 2014 is 69 years, from Germany to South Africa to Missouri, U.S.A., is many's almost magical? that dominant racial group members from 3 different countries, spanning almost 70 years, manage to either "not know" or have "no idea" about the horrid treatment of members of subordinated racial groups and 2 of those sites of obliviousness were in their home towns. Not somewhere else in their countries, mind you, not some far away or distant place, but they expressed ignorance about what was going on in their own towns where they shopped and went to the movies and lived their daily lives.

Not know? That's bad enough, right? Well, I'm not sure what you would call it when ignorance isn't the problem but an actual reversal of reality is trotted out and presented as "truth".

Look at this quote from that same article from 2014 that's referenced above: "polls found that white perceptions of anti-black bias have diminished to the point where they are more now likely to think anti-white discrimination is a bigger problem than bias against blacks."

Heck, white people in the U.S. not only "don't know" or have "no idea" about the reality of what life is like for African Americans, they are "more likely" to believe they are "discriminated" against more severely than are members of subordinated groups.

Think about that for a moment, members of the dominant racial group...that same dominant group which controls (and has always controlled) every major power and influence wielding  institution (the media, the government, education, health-care, criminal justice, etc.) in their society...thinks they are more likely to be targeted for discrimination than are members of subordinated racial groups. (is this an example of "alternative facts"?)

Here's a tip for you, presuming that you're interested in accurately perceiving reality and working to stay as close to truth as you can, if that characterizes you then I would suggest you be very very cautious when it comes to listening to white people in the U.S. or in South Africa or in Germany about anything to do with what's going on with race or racial issues.

The examples I've provided for you here should help you realize that white folks in these three nations (likely others too, but I'm focusing on these 3 in this post) have some deep and severe problems when it comes to race. The motto about race (apparently in all three countries) seems to be "deny, deny, deny...and if you get tired of that, then lie".

I sometimes try to figure out positive things about white people that I've learned since I started digging into whiteness and such over the past couple of years. It's pretty slim pickings (pretty much nothing). spot of amusement I've found is that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) I can pick up on when white people are being ignorant (and...well...stupid) but think they're sounding thoughtful and intelligent. It's eerie when that happens (and rare, I usually succumb to white thinking in the moment and only later figure out that it's crap) as it's occurring because I can almost predict exactly what's going to come out of a white person's mouth before they say it.

I watched this video recently and at around 35 minutes into the video the panel gets a question from an old white guy (an old white guy like me, jeez) and about two sentences into his rambling I realized that he was re-inscribing white dominance and also that he had no idea that he was doing that. I had to laugh out loud even though I felt very sad for the African American professor who was exposed to such hurtful obliviousness. She immediately perceived what he was up to and responded briefly and accurately and moved on. She should never have been exposed to such crap though.

I can't feel good about spotting this crap because it's taken me 2 years of pretty intense work and study to get to that point...but...I did get some pleasure from my recognition that my ignorance has subsided (sometimes) to the point that I can fairly quickly detect (sometimes) when serious reality avoidance is going on.

It isn't much of an improvement on my part...but...I'm desperate to see some glimmer of positive stuff on this journey. I keep telling myself that I have to learn to walk before I can run and I still fall down often when I'm trying to walk. Sometimes I don't, though, and that can be encouraging.

Note: if you choose to watch the video and can't figure out what the old white guy was doing with his 'question', let me know and I'll assist you in comprehending what he was enacting (although I suspect he "didn't know" what he was doing because he was thoroughly in the grips of an epistemology of ignorance)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Divide and rule...

is the title of this entry in wikipedia.

One approach to considering race/racism (indeed, maybe an approach to considering all socially constructed identities) is to think about them as divide and conquer strategies. By that I mean that it's a heck of a lot easier to manage/resist/control a big group if you can get small groups within that big group to squabbling among themselves (and they only resist you piecemeal or sporadically) than if they all get together and unite in opposition to you. 
Early on in the invasion of the "new world" of North America by Europeans, the tactic of affording minor (but minimally helpful or trivially beneficial) concessions and perks and status to those identified as "white" by the wealthy elites who controlled power resulted in the poor "whites" disaffiliating themselves from those who weren't identified as being "white". This served to break up alliances among the poor and powerless so that their resistance to being controlled by the wealthy elite was effectively diminished. The poor and powerless started opposing each other instead of the common oppressor.

In an excellent book titled: Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America, the author (Rev. Dr. Thandeka) writes extensively about the various functions served by promoting the notion that "race" was/is an important and meaningful way of conceptualizing humans. Those functions served to keep the many from uniting against the ruling "few".

In this excerpt from the book, the author elaborates about the various ways which the ruling elite offered relatively trivial and non-significant "benefits" to "whites" as an enticement to keep them from alliance with kidnapped Africans and displaced Native Americans. "Race" served as a handy dandy tool to keep those oppressed and harmed by the wealthy from uniting against the wealthy folks. Instead of uniting against the common oppressor, those who were relatively poor and powerless turned on one another.

Maybe it is the case that one of the most effective ways to keep exploitation/oppression rolling along (since the ruling elite are always smaller in number than those oppressed) is to encourage factors that keep the oppressed squabbling with one another instead of uniting against the real source (the ruling elite) of oppression.

Think about this, how much of your freedom and/or liberation and/or deprivations are caused by the poor and/or the vulnerable and/or the powerless versus your freedom/liberation deprivations being a result of actions and/or with-holdings and/or constraints that come from powerful/wealthy individuals and/or corporations and/or institutions? 

Who holds you down or restricts your life...those with power or those without power? 

Think about that and then look at society...who is in conflict? It usually isn't the united powerless against the's way too often the relatively powerless squabbling against other groups that are also relatively powerless. Or one small segment of the powerless resisting the powerful with little or no support from other groups who are also relatively powerless.

And...those with the real power and wealth (who implement and cause and benefit from the harms) just keep rolling along without any real resistance to their agenda.

Do you get it? We're all being played for fools...and we're joining in, enthusiastically even, the process of ensuring that structures of harm are not really challenged. Instead, we quibble over trivialities. It's sort of spooky to consider how easily we are distracted and deterred from engaging in effective ways of making society better for all.

I've written about this sort of stuff, multiple times, but...I didn't use the phrase "divide and conquer", I used the phrase "recreating oppression". Saying recreating oppression is just another way of saying divide and conquer. Way too often we cause harm to those who aren't the primary source of the oppression or fight with those who aren't the instigators of the oppression, and we do it in the name of resisting oppression. Jeez.

That sort of stuff is, I suspect, a big part of how we just keep on failing to bring about transformation in our social structures. 

Other factors in addition to identities that work to encourage these sorts of divisions are the ideologies of "individualism" and of "meritocracy". These notions work to obscure (make invisible) the fact that group membership has much more impact on us than we wish to admit when it comes to being harmed (or helped) by structures of oppression.
(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 



Saturday, February 4, 2017

Deep doo doo...

That's where we are and it's going to get worse.

I'm more than 70 years old and I can tell you with no hesitation or doubt that the man who now is the president of the United States is the most frightening and dangerous individual who has ever held that position in my lifetime. I suspect he's the absolute worst in the history of the U.S. but I haven't been around that long.

My wife is shocked and upset, I'm upset but not shocked. I had a pretty good suspicion that Clinton would lose. The flow of the society in the U.S. has been trending toward some sort of open eruption of white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic and imperialistic horror for quite some time and now it's here.

If you've followed this blog, I was writing about such stuff 2 years ago, here's a link from a year ago, and another link from the same time period. But...being aware of what's brewing doesn't do much except preclude my being shocked.

The enactment of the ban on immigration from some countries by the president is, I fear, just the beginning of what is likely to be a long and awful line of acts that unravel the myth that many held about this being the land of "liberty and justice for all".

It's never been that and it never will be that unless the majority of people here, mainly the white people, decide for that to be true and do the work that it will take to make it true. That will be painful and difficult and I really don't know whether we white people have what it takes to do the job.

Every day that the bigoted fools are in power means that more effort will be required to stop the damage.

The new phrase for lying from this administration is "alternative facts". We're in for a long siege of "alternative facts" and horrid deeds.

Get ready for lots of "political language"...and suffering and death.

Resist. Support and protect those in all marginalized groups. And, stay safe, if you can. 

(Note: if you voted for the man who is president, and we survive all this, don't vote anymore...ever...please. Your judgement is so deeply flawed that remediation is unlikely and even if you do achieve some've screwed up so badly that proper atonement would, at a minimum, mean you never ever vote again. Jeez.) 

 (As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 


Friday, January 27, 2017

Strange things continued.

In June of last year I wrote about some of the various aspects of how to behave and/or be in order to achieve "real" Judith Butler would phrase it "perform" being male. She views gender and even sex and sexual desire as acts that we learn to perform rather than some core element(s) of our developing being that unfold as we mature.

In other words, we feel and perceive in various ways and instead of us being free to figure out how to deal with those feelings and perceptions, our culture tells us how to think about and understand those things. Heck, our culture even tells us how to exhibit (or hide) such behaviors and feelings and thoughts. And...if we don't follow the cultural "rules", lots of pressure is invoked to get us follow the "party line".

Something that I struggled with on an ongoing basis for years was my realization that I didn't particularly care to be around most men...looking back now I can see that it was mostly white men I didn't much care for but while it was going on I simply perceived it as my being rather put off by most males. I simply didn't like them very much and found their company unpleasant. I did have some male friends but there were only a very very few men that I enjoyed being around. Probably in my lifetime I've known no more than 2 or 3 white males that I actually felt comfortable with and fairly consistently enjoyed being around.

On the other hand I noticed that I more often enjoyed the company of women and found, again in general, that their company was much more pleasant and interesting to me. That enjoyment would sometimes get complicated or distorted by my being sexually attracted to a particular woman...but...there were a number of women that I wasn't particularly attracted to sexually that I found that I greatly enjoyed interacting with. Women are, on average, just me anyway. 

Numerically, lets say, out of 100 women I would find 10 or 20 that were pleasant or interesting company...and that I felt comfortable around, out of 100 men that number would shrink to 1 or 2 who were experienced by me that way...if that many. We all differ to some degree from one another but for me...on average...women are spiffier. 

I noticed this about myself over the years and wondered about it, but not too deeply or persistently.

It really came to the front of my awareness as a result of my time in the military and then my time in graduate school. The Air Force put me in a position where I met and lived around hundreds of guys, mostly my age.

I found a few guys that I sort of enjoyed interacting with but on the whole, having to be around men all the time was stressful and unpleasant for me. Mostly it pretty much sucked. Looking back at that time from years later makes me shake my head. Then, I vaguely wondered whether maybe was something "wrong" with me. What it was...I didn't know...I just knew I felt uneasy and uncomfortable and at the same time thought my feeling that way wasn't how I was supposed to feel. Aren't guys supposed to like to hang out with guys? That's what I was taught, but that wasn't how I felt.

My discomfort and unease persisted as I aged. In elementary school and even high school I had guy friends and hung out with guys but the older I became the more uneasy I found that I was whenever I was with most guys. Not that I was fully aware of this at the time, I'm thinking and writing about it now, many decades later, and it is apparent to me now but I couldn't have clearly articulated it then...I just felt it and lived it.

A few months ago some of my confusion resolved itself. In part because some reading I have been doing of the works of various feminist authors...Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Williams, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin and Dorothy Allison come to mind.

One of the things that popped into clarification was that women...all women no matter their race...have to live in and learn to survive in male dominated culture. That's totally true here in the U.S. where there's a core component of our society that's driven by something some call 'toxic masculinity', which refers, in part to: "...a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world."

It's creepy and scary to think about this, but the fact is that most violence among humans is male violence. For instance, this article quotes the statistic that men account for about 80% of those arrested for violent crimes in the U.S. Think of it, if we look at the total population and don't consider the children and women, then 80% of all violent crime arrests come from about 40% of the population (males are about 50% of the population and about 20% of that 50% are 14 or 40% of the population is male and older than 14). And, about 90% of all murders here in the U.S. are committed by males, so that 40% of the population accounts for 90% of all murders.

Toxic masculinity is harmful to men...but men are violently harmful to others.  

Men in my family rarely if ever act out violently...but...many of the stifling components of "being a man" are inflicted on the male children.

For instance, years ago, I was probably in my 30s, I was out one afternoon tossing a football around with my cousin, who's a couple of years younger than me and his young son...who was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. The youngster tried to catch the ball and it hit the end of his fingers on one of his hands and jammed them. If you've ever had that happen you know how much it hurts and the kiddo started crying because of the pain.

My cousin...who was someone I was quite close to most of my life...started getting all over his son because he was crying. Telling him to shut up...that boys don't cry and all that crap that gets drizzled all over most little boys. I vividly remember being furious with my cousin...I can feel the anger even now as I write about it decades later.

That memory sort of epitomizes some aspects of my repulsion and rejection of that crap about being a "real man". Men don't cry...which is stupid when you think about it...why would we have tear ducts if we don't cry? I almost hated my cousin at that instant...I had always been pretty close to him but that changed it all for me. I never looked at him the same way again...ever. It's one of those moments that stay with me. It sort of summed up so many of things I'd been taught and exposed to in my life about being a "man".

I love my cousin, I had known him my whole life but that moment brought a distance into our relationship that hadn't been there. I saw him differently from there on. We still visit sometimes but I know...and he knows too...that we comprehend and view the world around us rather differently.

If you're stuck into being raised as a guy, there's little freedom to genuinely express how you feel (without fear of retaliation or ridicule or ostracism) have to follow the don't are "tough"...crap like that.

I was lucky in that I didn't grow up in a family where men were encouraged to be violent, but many boys aren't so lucky. Even if families don't encourage such harmful behavior, we're all exposed to movies and television and books where male violence is lauded and praised and admired and promoted....male violence is "normalized" and encouraged.

And then we're shocked and horrified when boys or men act out violence. Duh.

FYI, I work at not thinking of gender without also considering the U.S. all "men" are a "race" and all who are "raced" are also assigned a gender. It's a false notion that we can clearly and accurately think about "female" (or "male') without also considering which racial group that female or male has been assigned to. Because, you'll get socialized differently based on both those factors, there will be similarities...but there will be important differences too. 

Both of those aspects of identity are (almost invariably) assigned to us from birth and we experience U.S. society from those positions simultaneously. It's misleading to think about them separately, even though that's the "norm". It's incorrect to do so. I am working on figuring out how to think and write and speak about this without sounding as if I think there's something like a "woman" without a race or a racialized human without a gender. 

So...excuse where I've failed to make this clear...I plead guilty to being unskilled at it. I've been taught to think about "women" and "men" as existing outside of racial groupings instead of viewing race/gender as being inseparable and overcoming that erroneous conditioning is an ongoing project. 

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 

Friday, January 20, 2017

You might have wondered...

why this blog has turned to focusing on issues of race/racism and other "isms" (systems of oppression). (or, maybe you haven't)

If you did's because I was rudely and thoroughly awakened to the fact that many aspects of the overall vegan movement, including my local vegan organization, have some serious problems that subvert and distort the goal of moving away from doing harm.

It became dreadfully clear to me that many/most white people who live vegan and advocate for and promote an "oppression free" lifestyle are deeply oblivious to how totally U.S. society is organized around and enmeshed in systemic racism and other structures/systems of oppression.

And...that obliviousness is no accident because being unaware serves to uphold and repeatedly recreate racial domination of PoC and concurrent harm to members of other marginalized groups of humans, indeed, to all Earthlings and to mother Earth. Harming is the "norm", absence of harm is the exception. 

My orientation is that if you're not struggling to resist oppression in all its forms and manifestations...then you're subverting what is the heart of veganism (to me anyway)...which is to live in ways that do the least amount of harm.

You can't go around trying to stop harm to one group of living beings while engaging in random or "accidental" or inadvertant harm to other groups of living beings and/or mother Earth.

Well you can...obviously...but if you do that it makes you a thoroughly ineffective representative of anti-oppression,

In fact it makes you complicit in upholding and promoting harm. Not only will you be duped into doing stuff you don't want to do, you'll be oblivious to being used. 

Pattrice jones writes most excellently about this:

My experience, and the experience of many others, indicates that white obliviousness and the upholding of and re-creating of the racist structures of oppression in U.S. society is as widespread and "normalized" in white vegans as it is in any other grouping made up of white people (most especially those that aren't specifically working toward dismantling the ugliness of white racist ideology).

I didn't become vegan to have a "cause". I became vegan because my awareness expanded and I realized I was participating in routinized and "normalized" horror. I was complicit in inflicting suffering and and deprivation and loss of freedom and death on groups of beings who had little or no social power.

Using/harming others and their lives for my gratification and/or pleasure and/or enrichment is nothing I want to participate in.

But...I live in the United States and this nation was founded by harmers and thoroughly structured by racism and sexism and profit above was built to cater to wealthy white men (especially) but to pay lip service to the idea of being "the land of the free". (mainly because they knew being honest about what they were doing probably wouldn't get very far).

And...the ways of thinking and perceiving that we are all taught here are designed to uphold and implement these enactments of oppression. Our culture is structured on dominance and subordination and it works hard to teach you to not grasp this and/or be aware of this.

And...especially for white people (most especially white men)...this absence of comprehension is thoroughly effective and widespread.

Resisting injustice means working to comprehend and make visible these thinking/perceiving modes that serve to uphold harm. Heck, if we don't do that comprehending work, then our attempts to resist will mostly serve to recreate that which we think we're fighting against.

Read Sistah Vegan, read Aph Ko, read pattrice jones...begin moving away from habits of feeling and thinking that serve to (inadvertently) uphold oppression. Ok?

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The racist/anti-racist binary.

In the meaningful book “Is Everyone Really Equal”, the authors point out that focusing on this false binary instead of on racism as an all-encompassing system interferes with the necessary personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical and structural analysis that is needed to challenge it.

Americans are taught to focus attention on individual racist acting out (individual horrid acts by “bad” people) and to believe if we don’t think, do or say such awful stuff then race/racism isn’t our problem. While individual racist acts of emotionally disturbed white people are deplorable, they are not the core issue with race in U.S. society.

Think of the phenomenal cognitive and emotional distorting of understanding and comprehension involved for members of a group (the group raced as "white") that historically engaged in genocide and land theft from Native Americans and in the human enslavement of kidnapped Africans to be able to manage to perceive themselves (white people) to be not only innocent, but, indeed, good and supporters of "equality and liberty and justice for all". That's beyond ridiculous.

Think of the massive self-deluding necessary for the ancestors of such criminals, who benefit from past and current domination and harm (healthcare disparities, housing discrimination, educational disparities, criminal justice discrimination, disparities in job acquisition and pay and on and on) to marginalized groups, to perceive themselves with such incredible unfounded regard that they believe themselves and their nation to be "exceptional" and admirable.  

The depth and breadth of the disregard for reality is astonishing. And yet...this is "reality" for most white Americans.

I participated in this fantasy for decades and continue to struggle to extract myself from such distorting. We are incessantly encouraged to remain unaware and oblivious. And most of us succumb to this tide of unreality. We're rewarded for embracing distortion and penalized and even punished for seeking truth and reality.

And we wonder how we end up with the "leaders" we have?    

Friday, January 6, 2017

There's work for you (and me) to do.

The history of the U.S. is incomprehensible without understanding that our society/culture was (and remains so) thoroughly influenced and structured by slavery/race/racism. It's like Dr. john powell says: "you can't understand this country without understanding the institution of slavery."

Most of us people who are raced as white (indeed, all Americans) have (and continue to be) carefully and persistently taught (by the media and public institutions) to be oblivious to and/or dismissive of this deplorable and terrible truth. (In part, that's how the systems of oppression keep on keeping on, your ignorance (and mine) is vital to this continuation of awful.)

We are well “educated” into subscribing to an epistemology of ignorance wherein we are taught to: “see the world wrongly, but with the assurance that this set of mistaken perceptions will be validated by white epistemic authority.”

Most Americans are unaware that: “Enslaved African Americans built the modern United States, and indeed the entire modern world, in ways both obvious and hidden.” (The Half Has Never Been Told).

Societies structured around oppression and oppressive practices almost invariably promote the denial and distorting of history and the stripping away of context in order to uphold and maintain a positive view of themselves and to minimize resistance to their oppressive practices. If bad stuff isn’t seen or understood, then it’s less likely to be interrupted or fought against. (invisibling)

The European colonial enterprise has enveloped and warped us all in our thinking and understanding and behaving…and damaged everyone…some horribly... materially and bodily and psychologically via atrocities and violence…and some, were damaged, not bodily, but psychologically and epistemologically. Those who received that latter damage had it masked and hidden, in part, by being given material benefits obtained by threat or violence from the colonized and/or the enslaved.

Begin to educate yourself and to resist by reading The Half Has Never Been Told, read The New Jim Crow, read Slavery By Another Name, read Ebony and Ivory, read Birth of a White Nation, read Is Everyone Really Equal?, read Custer Died For Your Sins.

Read with an open heart and mind, read with the awareness that your cultural conditioning will urge you to deny and minimize and distort what you’re learning (especially if you’re raced as white).

Read with the awareness that you will be made uncomfortable by what you’re reading. Read with the knowledge that if you’re not uncomfortable…then you’re not “getting it”.

Read knowing you’ll try to find ways that exonerate you or your ancestors (if you’re white)…and…if you think you’ve found those ways then you’ve failed to comprehend. We are all immersed in this dismal swamp of oppression, we all participate, whether we want to or not. The greater clarity and understanding of what's going on that we achieve, then the better equipped we are to work to interrupt these damaging practices.

This reading and thinking and comprehending will be hard and painful work. Thank your ancestors for this. It was hard for them too…and they wilted and did not do their work. They opted to turn away from hard truths and painful realities and chose to embrace a lie and they passed that lie on to you.

Read knowing that if you even read one, just one, of those books that I listed, you'll then be more knowledgeable about the reality of the history of the United States than are 99.4% of all white Americans. (I made up that percentage, but it will be very very close to accurate...and that's very sad)  

Don't want to read books? Well, I can direct you to some blog posts by Abagond that will disrupt your obliviousness if you prefer short and snappy wreckings of your learned ways of thinking.

Here's a brief history of White America, here's a post about some of the thinking of Vine Deloria, Jr., here's a post about the way colonialism obliterates (physically and historically) Indigenous peoples and their cultures, and here Abagond writes about what he was not taught about American history. (if you're raced as white and live in the U.S., I can almost guarantee that reading Abagond's blog will cause you be forewarned)

To struggle against (as best you can) white obliviousness will mean hard work and discomfort and much thinking. Mainstream cultural narratives will encourage you to avoid gaining a more accurate view of the way this nation operates by offering a myriad of paths that support denial and/or ignorance.

Our culture/nation is not organized around truth and equality for is based on upholding structural oppression for the benefit of a few...and on obscuring and hiding and denying its own reality.

 Racism and these structures of oppression have had centuries to evolve and hone and morph their justifications and obfuscations. You will have to work to fight through these confusions and evasions…and even then...they’ll often win anyway. “Good intentions” aren’t enough. Being a "good person" is not enough. This stuff hasn't persisted for centuries because it is easy to defeat. It would have disappeared long ago if that were true.

Either you fight it or you uphold it, there is no third option…your ancestors made sure of that. If they had done their work, you wouldn’t be faced with doing it now…but they didn’t. Now it’s on you (and me).

Part of the way this stuff keeps going is by keeping us obliviousness to the necessity to fight it.

Living vegan isn't enough to lead a life of minimal harm to others. In the U.S. we all were born into or moved into a horrid system that routinely harms its less socially powerful citizens, either you are struggling to understand and to refrain from harm to're participating in harming them (or benefiting from harm to them). There is no opting out of these systemic oppressions.

If you want to be angry at anyone…be angry at your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and generations before that. Your fore-mothers and your fore-fathers failed to interrupt and transform this society of oppression…it’s your turn (and mine) to struggle with the task. If we don't work to oppose it...we are upholding it. (I choose to struggle against it because I find it repugnant and disgusting. What about you?)