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Re: On Things…

October 3, 2011

This is a teal deer response to this post here. I don’t feel I have much place discussing this sort of thing in the spaces of those so marginalized, but that’s why I went and made a blog of my own, amirite?

In short, there is a lot of misalignment of scrutiny and fallout within social-justice circles, where people tend to target POC and women of color far more than whites and men for “calling out” on issues and asshattery. I believe that there are two over-arching forces at work in this phenomenon: betrayal and bullying. Each of these has as many underlying facets and sub-sections as they have people who function under them, but the two forces are split up generally by whether the person in question is, in fact, interested in social justice or not.

For those that are, those people who are genuinely trying to explore privilege and denounce its manifestations, those (generally marginalized) who are often involved in actual activism besides dram_comms, it is a matter of finding amongst themselves, the army they have come to trust by necessity, somebody who has failed. It is the queer whose black friend votes against gay marriage, the latino/a whose girlfriend cracks a racist joke. It is the feeling of the knife in the back. It results in a reactionary anger based on broken trust, on the realization that it takes more than one common cause to find a safe space between people. And I think that it builds up–that these repeated breakdowns of intersectionality result in a habit of “policing the borders,” so to speak, of being more focused on making sure everybody on the front line with them is facing the same direction than finding targets across the divide.

I don’t think that this is an unreasonable reaction, though obviously it has its faults and, when more and more people give in to it, results in a lot more energy being focused on what may or may not be constructive whistle-blowing than stopping oppression from people who have the power. But it’s not easy fighting the rich and/or powerful, and it is doubly hard when you have to keep side-eyeing the people who have your back. It becomes a matter of trying to clear some safe space from which to work before you can focus outwards again, but this turns into an exhaustive full-time occupation (usually on top of actual full-time occupations) and then it’s all one can do to stay afloat, much less swim for shore. And what once was a stop-gap before you can finally focus on the fight again becomes your only contribution to a hopeful next generation–weeding out the problem children.

Or, sometimes, a person finds that it is much easier and almost as satisfying to attack other marginalized allies. Hence phenomenon two: bullying. Because white male institutions are dug in deep into the foundation of power and walled high with the rhetoric of privilege, and hapless refugees are merely hiding behind precarious sandbags of hope and effort while flanked by the wide open cavalry plains of internalized bigotry. And over-extended metaphor. If are going to put your precious effort into the attack of people spouting off on the internet, will it satisfy you to be a splash of water on those high white walls? Or is it more personally edifying to drown somebody already struggling for breath? Finding women and POC who have broken some covenant and dragging them down is something a small group of SJ warriors can conceivably do, and it has a clear result. And then you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Conversely, if you’ve just always been an asshole and would like to continue to do so without that occasional pang of guilty conscience, there’s nothing better than learning the SJ language. Then you can be exactly the same person doing exactly the same thing and you’ll always find a home amongst like-assed brethren, enjoying the warm glow of community and vindication when you dogpile some poor fucker who made you feel guilty for being a dick five years ago and just let slip something that, considered carefully and slantwise, could almost be a privileged statement.

Clearly I have more patience for one of these, but I see the latter very often. Especially on anon sites, where there need not be any identification of marginalization (or otherwise, obviously) and people use these carefully chosen and defined terms like bludgeons in the hands of malicious playground bullies, laughing at how clever they are to have subverted all this nonsensical uprising against oppression and all this naming and shaming. Where better to associate with trolls and bugbears than in the fetid marsh of drama_comm, under the graffiti’d bridge of anonymity?

And the worst of this is: when encountering the latter, do you then become the former? Do you put the effort into weeding out the so-called social justice weekend warrior instead of focusing on the ivory tower? Can you fight those who say they’re on your side in good conscience while an open enemy stares down his NRA-endorsed sights, watching, waiting for his chance to take a report of how insipid and foolish these people rallying at his gates are? Because he watches, too, and he loves to place the blame of his comfort on the shoulders of the powerless, for if they could but work together, how could he resist?

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