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I canceled my subscription today. They asked why, and this is what I told them: )

After sending this, I read an interview with Marvel's new Editor-in-Chief in which he says, "it has to come organically. It’s not something you can force." Which sounds like weasel-words to me, ones that say, "even though this problem occurred because people fought for their right to discriminate, we won't fight for your right to be represented."

Fuck that noise. How about, "It has to come organically, from people who really believe it's the right thing to do"? Along with a commitment to fire the assholes who are standing in the way.
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Today I sent this to the National Resources Defense Council:

As a long-time member of NRDC, I call on you to make a public statement in support of Van Jones. We've been quick to invoke his name when championing our causes; now, when his hard work on the environment has gained him the public enmity of media voices like Glenn Beck, we've been silent.

Discovery's "Treehugger" has spoken out:

And so has the NAACP:

How can we do less?

Cheryl Trooskin-Zoller
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So, I make it to the end of Charles Stross's Atrocity Archives. And there's this author's note.

If I'm reading it right, it appears that the relegation of women almost entirely to ineffective middle management or "bimbos", and of people of color to the bad guys, was done intentionally as a foil to play up the "almost perfect photographic negative of the real intelligence agent," the white guy who knows what's going on while everybody else is dumb and evil.

In reality, "Far from being men of action, the majority of intelligence community staff are office workers, a narrow majority of them female .... The picture changes when you contemplate non-Western organizations ..."

I understand why one might want to craft an homage to the great spy and horror novels of yore. But this falls short of pointing out the failings of the genre, and instead lands squarely in the middle of perpetuating them.
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Maybe this is a Monday morning thing. Over the last twelve hours or so, the internet has put a *lot* of good reads on my plate. And now I'm sharing them with you.

If you only read two articles today, read the first two I link to here.

Neesha Meminger writes eloquently about how racism & cultural power imbalance works. "Different things to work on; different lessons to learn."

Fillyjonk writes about the cultural messages about women that we're soaking in. The recent murder of women at that fitness club in LA is used as an example.

If you're more image-minded, Adventures of a Young Feminist points to a political cartoon that makes similar points.

Speaking of shootings, violence against women, and culture of oppression, M. LeBlanc writes about Dr. Tiller's murder and the normalization of anti-choice violence.

Finally, three not-exactly-related posts on money and power:

Clinton Presses Congo on Illicit Minerals -- NYT article discussing Secretary of State Clinton's trip to Congo and the money that comes from ilicit mining that goes to funding armed groups like the ones who are using rape as a weapon of oppression in Goma. Money, violence, oppression of women.

Americans Pay $38 Billion of Bank Overdraft Fees a Year!?. Article in the Atlantic about American banking and ridiculous overdraft fees. Money, no obvious violence, oppression of "the most financially stretched consumers."

Despite Improvements, Rape Kit Billing Problems Persist. Why do people still think it's reasonable to compound injury with insult? Violence against women followed by billing the victim for $1,200.

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In my experience, mainstream liberals can grasp why overt acts of othering are something to be avoided: the tech conference shenanigans that marginalize non-heterosexual non-males, for example.

I want to talk about the covert stuff. The stuff that sounds perfectly *normal* until somebody points it out. And then I want to talk about *why* I think it’s important that we point it out.

There’s a category I’m looking to define, which I call “Casual Othering.” It’s in the caricatures we use as shorthand to refer to whole groups of marginalized people, without ever explicitly saying anything negative about those people. Often without saying anything at all about those people – we’re just using them to make an entirely different point. The pink bow to mean an entire gender, used to suggest that if “you” engage in certain behaviors you’ll attract women. A piece of traditional garb to mean an entire race of people, used to suggest that if “you” go to this place you’ll find tasty food.

By marking the difference, we normalize the unmarked state and dehumanize the other.

By doing so casually, we exclude that group from our audience and we move on with our conversation – not stopping and talking about the exclusion renders the othering invisible and protects the speaker, who can then hide behind intention: but this had nothing to do with any minority group! Except we *made* it have something to do with that minority group by using a reference to the group as a communication tool. We’re casually making fun of a whole group of people in order to make our communication sound edgy.

And why do I think we should not do this, and point it out when other people do it? Because the practice normalizes bias. It makes demarcating and excluding difference just part of the fabric of our conversations. It provides fodder for those who want to respond, “why are you making a big deal out of this little thing?” And it creates fertile ground for the more-obviously-destructive forms of bias, forms of discrimination which require a normalization of othering before they can be enacted.

It’s a teeny-tiny step from using racial references in casual conversation to actual civil rights violations.
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I strongly recommend reading [ profile] rawles's post about examining Uhura's role in the new star trek movie through the lens of race and not just gender. I think she's absolutely right -- the feminist trope that female characters are often diminished by romance is oversimplified to the point of inaccuracy in the case of a woman of color, *especially* in the context of this story's history.

Still ticked off that the movie didn't do more to move women and minorities out of the "token" status. It feels like we're fighting over crumbs while the white guys hang on to the feast. Even if they are very tasty crumbs.
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this week is the fourth annual International Blog Against Racism week.

I've never been good at writing on-demand; I tend to write when something lights my fire. So I'm not expecting to be linked on their big roll-up of posts. Instead, I'm posting this so you'll know about it, if you don't already.

(also, I hear the concerns people have about the potential for white voices to dominate this event, and that makes me even less willing to contribute frivolously.)


Jul. 21st, 2009 05:41 pm
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Regarding Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s arrest, I have nothing to say because I'm too pissed off.

If somehow you have no idea what I'm talking about, all I can offer are a sampling of the things I've read today, from:
Shakesville, Bitch, PhD., Feministe, badger2305, stuff white people do, and Kate Harding's Shapely Prose.
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NOW Hails Reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment

(Maloney's courting women's votes for her upcoming senate bid, I bet, particularly since she just seriously stumbled regarding race.)
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Heard anything lately about the day care ejected from the swim club in Pennsylvania? I went hunting for information and found that the day care, invited back, declined & decided to sue instead. Good for them.

That CNN article got me thinking about what does it look like to actually, genuinely resist racism, to check our own privilege, to work for social justice?

The Valley Swim Club "asked the Creative Steps day care to return." The director of the day care says that nobody from the swim club contacted the day care with that request: "The only thing that I've heard has been third party via the media."

Right. Put on a nice face for the (white) media, and forget to speak at all to the injured parties. Sheesh. They're not sorry they hurt anybody. They're just sorry they look bad. And they've got the privilege of access to the media -- note who gets the majority of the quotes in this and other mainstream articles on the subject.

The article closes with several paragraphs of half-hearted breast-beating by the racists in question:

"I hope we can teach our children a lesson -- that you should admit errors. We should have done things differently. And if there are differences, we can overcome them."

She again denied the claims of racism and expressed hope of reaching a resolution.

"I wish we had come up with better solutions. I wish we had it to do all over again," she said.

How about, instead of wishing you could have a do-over in which to behave better, START BEHAVING BETTER NOW?

What would they do, if they did it all over again? Why can't they start doing that now?

What would an ideal response be, when an institution is faced with its own racism? Wait, let me ask a different question, because we're so far away from the ideal that I don't think we can visualize it. What would a better response be?

Instead of denying racism, how about owning up to it? We pretend to have a zero-tolerance policy for racism in our culture, but it's an illusion. Instead of actually refusing to tolerate racism, what we do is castigate the obvious offenders and then deny that any of the rest of it exists.

Because if we admitted it was there, we'd have to do something about it.

What would doing something about it look like? If the swim club actually wants to admit errors, do things differently, overcome differences, come up with a better solution -- what should they do? In the thousands of similar-but-less-blatant examples we've all seen and participated in, what should we do?

We must start by actually admitting our error and apologising: What we did was wrong, and it was racist. What we did was inexcusable. We apologise.

We must start to overcome differences by stopping the differential treatment. We should promise: We will never again privilege the prejudice of a member of our organization over the dignity of another human being. And then we should actually live up to that.

We must not accept racism in our lives, our organizations, our homes. We must label racism unacceptable and then LIVE THAT. We must work to recognize racism in our lives (because if we're not the victims of it, it doesn't come looking for us; it's only obvious to its victims, and even then, only sometimes). Our friends must be put on notice: if your words or actions are racist, I will not be your friend. As members of organizations we must know that if we speak or act like a racist, we will be ejected. As people who run those organizations, we must have the will and commitment to refuse to tolerate racism, even if that means ejecting members of our organization or kicking paying customers out of our spaces.

The better solution to recognizing racism within our own organizations is to ROOT IT OUT. The people in that club who made those racists comments, are they still members of that club? WHY??? Why should anybody who's willing to humiliate children over the color of their skin have the privilege of using your goddamn pool? Why does swim club director John Duesler still have a job?

And finally, they should be having these conversations with each other and with the people they hurt -- not with the media. Because if you're so damn concerned with saving face after you've humiliated someone else, you're never going to actually fix anything; all you're doing is defending your own damn privilege.


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