Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Invisibling.

Here is a Patriarchal / White Supremacy timeline of the United States. (PWS).

A couple of definitions will be useful.

Patriarchy: a family, group, or government controlled by a man or a group of men.

White Supremacy: a form of racism centered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore whites should politically, economically and socially dominate non-whites. A PWS (patriarchal white supremacist) nation means a nation ruled by white males. This ruling can be implemented and/or maintained by cultural practices or laws or both. Laws can be implemented and/or enforced by various governments ranging from the smallest (a town for instance) up to and including the federal government. If racism or sexism isn't specifically prohibited (with penalties for violation that are rigorously enforced) then cultural/social behaviors and/or legal implementations of racism and/or sexism tend to occur.

1526      PWS:  (legal and cultural PWS) First African Slave on North American Continent, genocide toward Native Americans already underway) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American)
1776 – 1526 = 250 years

1776      PWS: (legal and cultural PWS) Only white male landowners can vote. (note, only 6% of the population was allowed to vote for George Washington as president)
1865 – 1776 = 89 years

1865     PWS:  Civil war, theoretical ending of African American (black) slavery.
1920 – 1865 = 55 years

1920     PWS: Women given the right to vote, no other protections, some elements of legal patriarchy end, cultural patriarchy remains in force.
1965 – 1920 = 45 years

1965    Federal guarantee for all People of Color re their voting rights, discrimination legally ended for race, sex. (the civil rights act of 1964 ended legal discrimination based on race, sex, in public accommodations and in job compensation, the voting rights act of 1965 ended legal voting discrimination)
2015 – 1965 = 50 years

2015  current year
2015 – 1526 = 489 years since first Black slaves arrived on the continent.
1865 – 1526 = 339 years Blacks were enslaved.
1965 – 1526 = 439 years legal/cultural white supremacy on this continent
1865 – 1776 = 89 years Black slavery legally existed in the formal U.S. nation.
1920 – 1776 = 144 years the U.S. was a legal white supremacist patriarchy.
1965 – 1776 = 189 years the U.S. was a legal white supremacist nation.
2015 – 1965 = 50 years legally guaranteed (dwindling since 1980) voting rights and non-discrimination due to sex and race.

2015 – 1776 = 239 years the U.S. nation has formally existed.

339/489 = 69% of entire length of time Blacks have been on the continent, they were enslaved.

89/239 = 37% of time the U.S. has formally existed, Black Americans were legally enslaved.

189/239 = 79% of the time the U.S. has existed it was legally a white supremacist nation.

144/239 = 60% of the time the U.S. has formally existed it was legally a patriarchy and white supremacist nation. Culturally this nation remains a patriarchal white supremacist nation even though many legal implementations designed to enforce these oppressive practices have been taken off the books.

50/239 =  21%    The United States has existed for 239 years, only since 1965 has it allowed/protected full participation in elections by People of Color and prohibited public discrimination based on sex and/or race. Note however that residents of U.S. Territories are considered ‘citizens’ but are still not allowed voting (about 5 million people…e.g. Guam, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico).

This nation was a patriarchal white supremacy by law and culture, for 60% of its existence and once women gained the vote it remained a white supremacist nation, both legally and culturally, for another 45 years or 79% of its whole formal lifespan.These incontestable facts are pretty much invisible to...guess who? The group that benefits the most from them, white men...and...to a lesser extent, white women. Most members of the groups who get shafted, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, pretty much everyone identified as belonging to People of Color are much more knowledgeable about these truths (if they haven't bought into the invisibling too much).

When I experienced that transversion to a vegan awakening from the false dream of kindness and compassion toward our sister/brother Earthlings I never ever would have thought it would end up with prompting a struggle toward awakening from the dream called the "land of the free".

Being able to begin to make the connections between the food that's eaten and the confinement and suffering and death of living beings who love their lives and feel pain and fear and joy means to make visible and felt and comprehended that which custom and culture renders invisible. Being able to make the connections between being an 'American' (white) and the enslavement and suffering and death of living beings who happen to have a particular skin color means to make visible that which custom and culture (and 'patriotism') makes invisible (mainly to those who are white).

Pick your oppression, classism, abelism, sexism, racism, speciesism and more and you will find that invisibling is a central feature in the privileges and the oppressions associated with them. In plain language, oppression means some group is getting shafted and privilege means some group is reaping benefits from that shafting. There's a useful elaboration of these kinds of ugly exchanges here.

If these sorts of crappy goings on were obvious then all kinds of chagrins and guilts and objections might be raised and they might be stopped (and the benefits would end)...so...they're kept sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' by invisibling them. That way the less vicious perpetrators get to avoid feeling bad about themselves and the victims may accept the shafting as "that's just the way life is" or if they don't succumb to the invisibling process and accept their shafting with the good grace of keeping quiet about it...then they're ignored and/or discounted and/or ridiculed and/or accused of lying and/or accused of being "too sensitive" and on and on. Invisibling helps make all that possible.

The disconcerting and astonishing thing about making those connections is that they are obvious...they aren't locked away in some secret box...they're out in plain sight but not seen/comprehended. None of these facts about human history in this hemisphere or in the United States are hidden. They're right out there and easily accessed...heck most are even taught in the public schools...albeit not with quite the specificity and emphasis that is in this post.

"Invisibling" is an insidiously effective tool of self deceit and one that this culture (and other cultures too) seems to invoke with great competence. It makes participation in evil and horror appear to be an innocent act of pleasure (eating) or the celebrating of the oppressions of racism and sexism to appear to be a virtue (patriotism). That which is terrible and deplorable is transformed into something 'natural' or good or fun or normal or inevitable or 'necessary' or 'common sense'.

Norman, Oklahoma, where I live, has an annual "89er" day parade that celebrates the land run that resulted in the founding of the city of Norman. It's made to be fun for the children but, the white people who "settled" the land aren't called invaders...which they were...and the land they "settled" was taken from the  Native Americans by force and violence or threat of violence, but that's not mentioned.

To help with the invisibling process, the land that was "settled" by the "pioneer 89ers" was called "unassigned lands". I've participated in protests by groups of Native Americans at this parade where we held signs shaming the parade participants for celebrating theft. Small children look shocked and adults look angry. It's not nice to de-invisible oppression. Generally this isn't appreciated by the oppressors or their descendants.

In a bit of inadvertent irony (maybe accidental),the KKK  has sometimes referenced itself as the "invisible empire". Jeez, truth comes through occasionally even when it isn't intended.

A previous post referenced this invisibling phenomenon and another post flopped around with the dismay of trying to find some sort of solid ground to stand on...ground that doesn't turn out to be squashing someone else. It's tricky stuff...and very upsetting and horrifyingly disillusioning. If you feel brave and secure in your virtuous ideas about the "land of the free", then you won't fear  triggering some of your own invisibling mechanisms by reading this blog post. And, in case you want to consider white U.S. Americans as anomalous, this information will make that difficult.

If you're vegan, you've likely had the experience of pointing out the invisibled horror and oppression of our sister/brother Earthlings to someone who's not vegan and to whom that horror remains hidden (even though it is obvious to anyone who looks)...what usually happens? Do they respond with cheers and joy and thanks to you for helping them see the obvious? Do they look stricken and immediately decide to go vegan? (actually, I've had several reactions akin to that...but...each came from a person who was very very tuned toward not harming others) I suspect that's usually not the reaction that's encountered. More often it's disbelief and/or denial and/or indignation and/or offense, maybe even anger and/or outrage or scoffing and/or scornful distancing or or or. Welcome...you just encountered some of the forces of invisibling.

On the other hand, point out an invisibled oppression to someone who's a member of the victimized group...voila...quite often they get it pretty quickly if they didn't already know it. I'm mostly referencing human groups here. Not always though, sometimes they've internalized the oppression and side with the shaftor. As when a woman in an abusive relationship says she caused the abuse.You could argue the case that Clarence Thomas (the supreme court justice) often exemplifies the effects of internalized oppression because he seems to think much like an oppressor, not like the member of a victimized group.

If you wanted to point out something like oppression to animals that don't happen to be human ones, go to a pet store that sells birds and start opening cages...the birds will probably quite quickly see the opportunity to escape their confinement. It's a similar principle...but...do realize that the oppressor in this instance (the employees or the manager) will react quite differently. See the previous paragraph for a listing of the types of invisibling maintenance emotions/reactions that might be provoked. Maybe that's a poor example because, usually, our sister/brother Earthlings don't much buy into the invisibling stuff...they recognize oppression immediately and you can talk all day long and they won't buy that it isn't oppression or that it's natural or fun or or or. They don't like it. Period. And they'll usually escape it if possible. (of course there will be exceptions)

While these folks haven't created an Implicit Association Test for speciesism yet, they have put together a test that seems to be able to point to how extensively negative racial stereotypes have come to colonize unconscious processing. If you would like to know more about some of your own invisibling of racial biases, this test might interest you. Be forewarned however, you might discover something about yourself that is disturbing.

We all are born into human societies and cultures that we did not create. For that we are not responsible. But, we are responsible to struggle to awaken ourselves from the invisibling of our culture that supports and maintains oppression. If we fail to do that then we fail ourselves and we become, albeit unwittingly, collaborators with the forces of oppression. That's not ok. The sad and distressing truth is that being neutral pretty much isn't an option and living vegan is only one part (it's a huge one though) of a lifelong and difficult journey.









  

3 comments:

Have Gone Vegan said...

It's not nice to de-invisible oppression.

No, it isn't, but it's necessary, and I thank you for doing it. Haven't taken the test yet, but sadly I don't think it would surprise me too much as I HAVE harboured racist thoughts in the past. Not proud of it, but am hopeful that recognition is the start to dismantling.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I was attempting sarcasm with the not nice crack...it was a lame attempt to sound like the old commercial about it not being nice to fool with mother nature. I should have resisted the impulse. :-)

The Implicit Association Test is not some sort of "magic" device so don't get too wrapped up in the details. I think the greatest thing about it is the potential for getting folks to think about the kinds of influencing and biases that are presented by the bombardment of information from the media. We sort of like to pretend we can swim in the sea of slanted information without being influenced and the IAT might offer some countering evidence. Which, for me, is important because it adds weight to the notion that we really ought to be focusing much more effort on teaching and implementing critical thinking skills.

I wouldn't mind seeing some experimenting with, say, much more stringent criteria and warnings associated with commercial speech (where some yahoo wants your money) or opinion speech (where some yahoo (me for instance) is pulling stuff out of their anal region) or "fact" based speech where references and/or sources were required to be presented.

We have a severe reality problem and we have a severe problem with what we say versus what we do and it's extremely destructive.

Beating up on black people or any other relatively powerless group is something everyone needs to stop. The insanity of believing that a group can be enslaved and then socially and educationally and economically crippled for some 20+ generations and that same group can effect a complete recovery from such horror within 2 generations or so is beyond ludicrous...it's criminal and...in the words of many who have screamed, with probable futility, into the wind: "somebody better do something about it". And that somebody is white people because we're the perpetrators of these crimes and if it causes lots of upset and dislocations and turmoil to rectify it as best as possible...well...so be it. We shouldn't have acted like assholes in the first place.

Have Gone Vegan said...

I should have resisted the impulse. Oh no, not at all. I quite enjoyed it (and remembered the commercial), although that didn't come across in my comment.

Critical thinking skills would be nice indeed. Yep, am being a bit sarcastic here because I wonder if it's too little, too late. Just as I wonder if we'll ever stop acting like assholes, and dumb assholes at that. I don't have as much hope as I'd like, and fear for future generations, sigh.