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19 January 2009 @ 09:22 pm
Three things make ... 60% of a post?  
ETA: I'm very sorry to do this but I'm disabling comments for now. turning off email notification on this thread and won't be checking  back on it for several days.   I  meant to disable comments, but then realized that would hide the comments that were already made, which isn't my intent at all.

This is all me and my silly head -- I need to work on a paper and won't if I keep wondering if people have said anything here.  So I  need to forbid myself lj till the paper's done.

1) kate_schaefer notes that, it being MLK day today (and hey, Obama's inauguration tomorrow), it's an excellent time to donate to the Octavia Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund, which sends one student of color to Clarion and one to Clarion West every year.

Anything I'm writing now, I owe to Clarion, which means I owe it to the Carl Brandon Society and the Octavia Butler Scholarship and the wonderful donors who have made it possible.

I wish I were well enough to really help people, today or any other day. In the meantime I'll point you at her lovely post.

2) deepad just posted what might be the best explanation I've seen of why color-blindness is a terrible concept. It's certainly the one that's made the most sense to me, though that may be due to my background as well as the fact that it's a marvellous post.

3) I can't stop thinking about -isms and Otherness and all of that. And I think where I stand at this point is:
I believe that Otherness does not stop one having bigoted opinions, and that nobody wins when the game is Duelling Othernesses, and that when we're irritated/upset at being called on privilege it's worth listening, and thinking about our own assumptions, and that it's a really bad idea to decide someone else is overreacting or being oversensitive or failing to understand rather than looking inward.

On the other hand I also believe that we hurt the discourse when we focus on some Others while ignoring... er, others. And that unquestioned privilege can go both ways even at once. And that it's really a terrible idea to confuse one type of privilege/prejudice for another.

Racism, classism, and academic privilege have major overlaps and much in common because of historical injustice that hasn't been adequately dealt with, but they are not the same thing. wrt the recent arguments, yes dismissing people without a college education is prejudice, and it's a prejudice that hurts a lot of PoC, but it is not the same thing as racial prejudice. It is a related, insidious, real problem that we won't solve by thinking it's another problem. And that academics won't know to work on if it's always confused with racism.
(Also... does religious prejudice pattern closely with racism in all cases? And does it pattern with classism and academic privilege too, or just racism?)

Personally speaking, I've felt pretty cast-out by (the subset of) PoC in these arguments who have been acting like being an academic is in direct conflict with being of color. Because, hey actually, I'm both. And I'm hardly the only one.

Misogyny, heteronormativity, and gender normativity similarly have overlaps and several things in common, but are not the same thing. And I think perhaps age, weight, and health prejudices might pattern together too, though more loosely. In all these cases, it's... well, it might be easy enough to get confused about which prejudice we're seeing. But I think we need to be careful not to categorize them by which is the nastiest name we can call people, nor by which ones we are most sensitive to by virtue of who we are, but try to see what's going on as clearly as possible.

And I think there's an issue I've seen lately -- two Others of different sorts both accusing the other of privilege/prejudice/not listening, and both being too hurt and feeling too badly under attack to examine themselves. Which makes me wonder whether we can really get very far without looking at all Othernesses together, at least some of the time, and acknowledging that many people involved in the conversation bring their own hurts, and may be reacting to those. Not in order to dismiss anyone's hurt, quite the opposite -- in order to understand and respect everybody's hurt and work in real partnership.
Current Mood: Pondering
ex_hrj on January 20th, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)
A thought that occurred to me in reading your post is that another angle to contemplate is that not all privilege is a zero-sum game. Some clearly are: privilege due to gender, race, etc. seem fairly solidly zero-sum. But privilege due to family stability, absence of food-insecurity, etc. aren't zero-sum at all. And then there's the minefield -- as you note -- of things like privilege due to education. Not, technically, a zero-sum game except when treated as scalar and given category-boundaries. Hmm, probably a good place to stop.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 07:00 am (UTC)
That's really interesting, and not something I'd been thinking about. I don't actually think anything's zero-sum, since equality is itself a plus for everyone involved. But... some are percieved strongly as zero-sum games, and change does cost the privileged.

Are people always more defensive when it's perceived as a zero-sum game?
mac_stonemac_stone on January 20th, 2009 08:10 am (UTC)
I'm just going to look blank, and listen closely, and hope I can suss out meaning from context.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 21st, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
I was going to get back to this but... argh, paper. So this later. hrj will surely cut me slack,right? Cause the deadline was three days ago *facepalm*
zwol on January 27th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
Are people always more defensive when it's perceived as a zero-sum game?

Seems to me that people are always going to be more defensive if they think they're going to lose something, and framing some equality issue as a zero-sum game is an easy way to make the privileged think they're going to lose something. Lots of the anti-affirmative-action rhetoric is like that for sure, as is the keep-the-Mexicans-out-of-SoCal rhetoric.

But I've also seen cases where the equality issue was framed as negative for everyone; the most obvious example is, conservative economists tend to argue that everyone is worse off if you raise the minimum wage because then there will be fewer jobs. (Because of course the market for jobs is perfectly spherical.) I vaguely remember some anti-feminist screeds also being of this form but I prefer to stop reading after the first sentence or so of those.
asakiyume: mirokuasakiyume on January 20th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
What you say about Duelling Othernesses, and then at the end about not dismissing anyone's hurt, makes me re-remember the thing that I think should be a primary directive: empathy.... or, if empathy's impossible because a person's experiences are so far from one's own ken, then at least respectful attentiveness (... but with imagination, empathy ought to be possible, I think...)

Then too, however, when tempers are running high enough, people aren't likely to notice empathy when it's attempted, and may, contrarywise, find it only adds fuel to the fire--sometimes when tempers are running high enough, any thing adds fuel to the fire.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 21st, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
Dichroicdichroic on January 22nd, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
*sneaking in when Shweta's not looking*

I really think sometimes empathy *is* not always possible, not just because of mismatched experiences but because it's simply a skill not all of us have. (I actually do better online, where people give me words, than in person from body language or whatever.) But anyone should be able to manage respectful attention.

Also, some times badly expressed empathy comes off sounding just plain presumptuous. You know, when in the past week your dog died and you were fired from your job and your husband left you and you got hit by a car and don't have health insurance and you found out your child has a disability .... and someone wanders by and says, "I know just how you feel! I had a bad day once, when I stubbed my toe and burned dinner in the same day."
asakiyume: mirokuasakiyume on January 22nd, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
LOL--yes, I agree! Presumptuous, or condescending, sometimes, and sometimes just obtuse.

Another weird thing that I've had happen is that people will try to restate experience in their own terms, and they'll get it wrong:

Person A: I saw this purple cow, and--
Person B: Oh, a red cow? I saw one once
Person A: No, it was purple, but--
Person B: (pausing) You mean it was blue?
Person A: Well, it was a mix of red and blue, you know?
Person B: (blank for a minute) Oh, a black cow?
Person A: (resigned) Yeah, sort of like a black cow....

(ETA: Whoops, wrong icon!)

Edited at 2009-01-22 01:23 pm (UTC)
Dichroicdichroic on January 22nd, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
My mom does the obtuse version, but I think mostly with experiences outside her own. Not so much with emotional stuff, she gets that. In her case not so much lack of empathy, just of understanding. As in, "Hi Mom, we just got back from climbing the highest mountain in the state. Five miles each way with a 4,000' elevation gain!" "Oh, really? I went on a hike in the local park this weekend - we went half a mile!"

It's easy (but unpleasant) imagining someone with a similar sort of blindness but on emotional issues.
asakiyume: corvus coroneasakiyume on January 22nd, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)

With me, it's not my mother, it's a well-meaning woman in my book group: she has a very limited array of stereotypical responses that she expects from people in a certain situation, and I just hate being thrust into them.

With your mom and the mountain, you (I) almost wish she could *climb* the highest mountain in the state, so she'd experience something really grand and see the difference. (Did you really climb a mountain with a 4,000 elevation gain over a mere five miles? Wow!)
Dichroicdichroic on January 23rd, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
Something like that. I think it's under 5 miles, though - 9 or 9.5 miles round trip. Humphrey's Peak in Arizona.
Kate Schaeferkate_schaefer on January 20th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the praise and the link, Shweta.

Thanks as well for your nuanced, careful combination of approach to and distance from That Discussion.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you right back!
And happy Inauguration day.
mac_stonemac_stone on January 21st, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
What I've been pondering about since I first read this post is to what degree are the -isms built right into the language? (See, there, I almost said built "straight" into ...heehee)

My own personal experience with trying to understand and deal with hetero-normative assumptions that seem to be so deeply ingrained that there aren't equivalent words for some experiences as for others...and that, in a language I deeply love and have spent my life examining and parsing...how much, do you think, does that interfere with actually even having a conversation, sometimes?

If that's not entirely clear (and I'm struggling with this, so bear with me, please?) What I mean, at least sort of, is that as a dyke, I can use the word "wife" for my partner--I don't, but let's pretend I did--but it is NOT the same meaning in terms of context and law and, and, and... in some senses, and does not have the same meaning as when my father uses the same word to refer to my mother.

How much is that cognitive...disconnect?...(I don't really know the linguistic terminology I'm looking for) affecting most, or even all, of the conversations we try to have about Other, whatever that other might be?

What's your take on it?

Edited at 2009-01-21 06:40 am (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 21st, 2009 08:56 am (UTC)
I think they're very much built into the language, and it hits all our conversations all the time, only when people share assumptions they don't notice it. So any conversation across groups and speech communities is necessarily full of potential misunderstandings. And the hardest thing is for to accept that sometimes nobody's wrong, and sometimes nobody's right.

It's true of any culture-meeting conversation, but in the case of Others within a larger culture, it's a pretty... potentially fraught situation to start off with, so that gets harder.

However. Language changes. "Wife" used to mean "woman", and now it means female-partner-in-(default-hetero)-marriage. When lesbian partners have been using the word "wife" for a century, that default-hetero association will diminish.
a princess of now: anna watanabe-mindpowerskywardprodigal on January 21st, 2009 05:58 am (UTC)

Personally speaking, I've felt pretty cast-out by (the subset of) PoC in these arguments who have been acting like being an academic is in direct conflict with being of color. Because, hey actually, I'm both. And I'm hardly the only one.

Where have you seen PoC, in these arguments, acting like being an academic is in direct conflict with being of color?

Edited at 2009-01-21 05:59 am (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 21st, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)
Everywhere people have conflated academic privilege with racism, really. I've seen a few broad comments about how academics are ignorant of anti-racism, but (this is entirely my bad, sorry, I'll know better for next time) I didn't think to save links.

Oh, and a couple posts on Mac's lj, one might even have been you, I don't know, assuming that I know nothing at all about anti-racist work and have been working for assimilation with the mainstream culture. I didn't take them as badly meant, but certainly speaking up cast me in that role, which I am unhappy with.
a princess of nowskywardprodigal on January 21st, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
How does one conflate academic privilege with racism? How have they been conflated with each other?

How does a perceived assumption that you know nothing at all about anti-racist work and have been working for assimilation with the mainstream culture spring from conflation of academic privilege with racism?