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.)