ARE WE BACKING OURSELVES into a trap? With our surety and righteousness and protection?
If A has been oppressed/hurt/abused by B's type of people, and because of this we all agree that A owes B no explanation or education on why or how they experience life and need to be seen and treated because of this (yet A does want this awareness and sensitivity on the part of B), nor any sensitivity to B if B crosses a line that B is not aware of...what is left to happen? Have we created, thus, a dynamic that will mostly lead to exclusion and continued alienation and nonunderstanding?
Do we really want unity? Or just to be tight and safe in our posse? Either one is okay. But do we want one and say we want the other? Do we actually want unity but not know how to work to get there? Is our safety eventually protecting us from even reaching our goals?
Sure, I may be—in this agreed upon locus of duty and obligation that Internet Race Theory has taught me so far—in my "rights" to tell a white person, white man, white woman, to go figure it out. I could dive into my hurt, or even just my safety and know I am understood by my brown friends. In the times I have confronted white people displaying ignorance or even racist thought in my blog, you'll note I almost always begin with trying to do my best to make them understand. Or to understand them. [See "Speech Rules or Beliefs and Attitudes?," see "Right of Peaceful Assembly. Gone," see "Plant the Fear: Reap and Sow"]. I usually end up getting...a bit of a sad reaction from my brown friends, as if I am pulling a Coconut on them, an "Uncle Tom." I feel a pressure to ignore the white people's feelings entirely, their confusion shouldn't count, I ought to respond with anger or scorn. I feel wrong for trying to speak reasonably to them, to help them see what is going on. I am "pandering" to whiteness.
But if all of us in our respective areas—gay, disabled, women, brown, black—give up on caring in this way about other humans, even if the OTHER and their kind have not cared about us as they should have, how much progress can we make? If we really want unity, can we stand so strong and proud and righteous in our refusal to meet anyone halfway? ...
I don't have much to add to these wonderful words. I guess I will simply say that I think "we don't have a duty to educate" comes originally from a good place. Burnout is easy to get to and easy to get lost in.
But not having a duty to do it doesn't mean people never should. Sometimes when we have the guts to say it, to cut down on the snark and say "hey, you don't know much about this but have you ever considered...?" it actually works.
And I think a lot of us lose that in the fierce pride and fierce solidarity that anger initially provides. It's invigorating to give yourself over to feminist rage if you've too long hidden your anger. It's thrilling to be the "angry, ungrateful" crip who says "I was born this way. What the fuck made YOU so nosy?"
It feels good. But after a while if rage is your center, everyone in the "oppressor class" looks exactly the same, and every one looks beyond redemption.
...allies are not perfect.
people who try to be allies but backhandedly hurt you don't deserve free passes. but some people are trying. really trying.
which is why my mom going to pride was actually pretty awesome, even though she might not really get it.
some people really are trying for the kindness.
and I think in the end it'll be the kindness that makes all the shit come crashing down, eventually.
not the theory. the kindness.
not the rage that consciousness-raising initially stirs. that rage is a stage. a real one. an important one. and one that never truly leaves, not until people are really free.
the stupid humans trying to accept and love others, in their own bumbling ways.
And that, you know, is really fucking important. ..actually, looking at this I almost want to just leave it and not continue on with what I was going to say, because in a way it sort of detracts from this really simple, key point.
But I'm gonna soldier on with it, because I want to explore a little bit about -why- I think people burn out, go to that defensive place.
I think in a way it's actually safer to retreat to the burned-out, cynical position. It's understandable, it might even be a necessary retreat, but...it isn't a good permanent resting place. then you start getting into I Blame The...territory. then you don't really accomplish anything.
I do however think it's okay to give up on particular -individuals- when they repeatedly demonstrate no indication of any breakthrough whatsoever. That's realpolitik, but it might also be something deeper.
Truth to tell, i think that it's partly that--the repeated efforts with a particularly obstinate person or group--that actually leads to burnout more often than not. People pour a lot of investment into person or small group x, -sure- that this is the key to bridging the gap, that -if i can only break through to these people-, well, the skies will open and hosannas will play, and...
Meanwhile glossing over all the -other- people wandering to the door and going, "hey, that really speaks to me, I never thought of it that way before," or "you really changed my mind on this," or "thank you for being there, your words make a world of difference to me"
...because, well that's nice, but that doesn't -count-. Not as much.
We're taking that for granted, you see.
Even more truth to tell, -sometimes,- i think that when -that- happens, there's...something else going on besides pure politics. Old shit getting worked out, maybe.
Which, and I think that's inevitable; but maybe it's worth getting conscious of that. Of let's call it old patterns and old beliefs, and whether or not they're what's actually happening right now, and--especially--what -we- have invested in holding onto those old beliefs.
The belief being something like,
"If I can get so and so to love/accept/understand me, then everything will change for the better. Until that happens, nothing will ever change."*
Because so and so is standing in for some -other- so and so, in whom we've unconsciously invested a lot more power than they probably deserve. Certainly that's true of the stand-ins. Honestly it might even be true for the original so and so's. Politics isn't really equipped to deal with that as such, though, I don't think. Which is unfortunate.
Yes, I know. But but such and so is REAL, it's REALLY HAPPENING, so and so DOES have power, it manifests in xyz concrete ways.
I'm really really trying to not discount the structural stuff we've all been talking about, or reduce this all to some sort of happy-crappy self-help thing. I know, there are issues with that sort of approach when it comes to politics. Really.
What if it were a yes-and rather than an instead-of? What if, yes, so and so has material and manifest power in xyz ways, in ways that have nothing to do with anything I've done or contributed to -that- original situation,
the -feelings- of hopelessness and despair and deep hurt that come up when so and so, or some representative of so and so, doesn't get it, might be also coming from something that isn't just about right now? And, more important, what if it could be dealt with in some other way? So that when we come back to the table and discuss realpolitik, we're recharged, have gotten the emotional/spiritual sustenance elsewhere, so that we can continue the work?
*and there is also this question:
Do we really want change.
And if so, 1) from what to what, specifically, and 2), why?
Because you know what, on the individual level and so I think even more so the collective level, change is scary.
Yeah, even change for the better. Yeah, even though we swear up and down consciously that of COURSE we want to change, this situation is miserable, anything's got to be better...
But, see, there's also this little inbuilt human fear of the unknown.
It's natural. It's instinctive. It's self-protective. And, it's one little fucker we're really gonna have to struggle with if that part of us which is conscious and rational really sees that change is necessary if we're going to continue to survive.
Old habits that no longer serve. How do we identify them, and how do we transform them into something that -does?-
It's a challenge on the individual level as well as the global one; and it's probably never been more crucial.