Eteraz brought up a post of his up for discussion in the comments thread on Mundane Stress. My post spent some time discussing invisibility and marginalization; eteraz talks about Arianna Huffington’s blog:
Today, though, is different. Rather than reading the stories on her blog, I am struck by the faces of the people writing them. Faces I have long ignored. Their words I have devoured but whose actual visage I have cared nothing for. Yet, this is the post-literate age. We are as moved by images as we are by words. So here I am, moved by the faces of the Huffington writers. Why? One simple reason: they are all white. White as in white. Some milky, some pasty, some goetee’d, some mustachioed, some pretty, some bald. But: white.
And goes on to do a partial strawcount of Huffblog current posts and the Hufflblogroll, which is also white as in white:
Since this is the blogging world, I will leave the exhaustive survey to someone else. My methodology is very simple: does or does not the person have white skin. If they do, they are white. Now, to the implications: it appears that out of the 55 writers I looked at, 2 were not white. That’s right, coming in at a solid 0.3% of the Huffington Post population, the coloreds! Take a bow.
I agree that this is racism, and that it is not subtle. Eteraz goes on to note and explode three potential rebuttals to the charge of liberal and/or Democratic racism, none of which are terribly strong–they seem to boil down to, “They’re racist, too!” “Racism doesn’t exist,” “Racism doesn’t matter,” and “Racism doesn’t exist or matter.”
Eteraz spends some time talking about one particular minority group that is represented on the blogroll (at least, by an informal measure that might not be entirely reliable):
But the question is this: does the presence of a large number of Jews, who have historically been a minority in this country — a non-white minority to be exact — excuse the conclusions of my survey? You may disagree with me, but my surprising answer is: yes. While at first blush it is true that all the faces belong to white skinned people, in my book, due to the historical conditions under which Jews have lived in the United States, they are not white.
He further argues:
Marshall McLuhan, in a 1959 essay, “Myth and Mass Media,” put forth this idea. He wrote that “we live in a postliterate and electronic world, in which we seek images of collective postures of mind.” Thus, my problem with the white-appearance of Huffington’s blog isn’t with the fact that her writers are all white, but rather that they all look white.
I think you could also argue that the problem is that Jews are the only racial/ethnic/cultural minority represented in significant numbers.
(I’m about to make a race/sexual-orientation analogy; I hope it’s not offensive. I’m trying to elucidate some of the inter and intra-group dynamics wrt political representation, not equate oppressions.)
Say the Democratic party decided to appoint scads of cisgendered and cissexual gays and lesbians to incredibly prestigious positions. Say they went on a homo headhunt for the best, brightest, and gayest people to lead, both as candidates and organizers. Let’s just pretend.
Even after the Dems had just saturated their party with those queers, and maybe even gotten one into the Oval Office, I as a transsexual would still have reason to ask for specific inclusion and representation. Why? Well, cissexual and cisgendered gays and lesbians are queer, but they are not transsexuals.
They have experienced similar oppression, historical and current. There’s a strong tradition of political alliance and inclusive theory. Our communities overlap such that they have a greater likelihood of knowing transpeople. Gaymo-inclusive leadership would be better for transpeople than the exclusively heterosexual kind.
However, they would not experience transphobia directly, and therefore would not have a personal stake in ending it. They would be less likely to understand its complexities. For example, we would all agree that murder is bad, but they might not understand why it’s really important for the government to issue new passports rather than just drawing a line through the ‘M’ and writing ‘F’ alongside. And, simply because they’re human, they will pay more attention to the injustices that affect them.
Cisgendered and cissexual gay and lesbian groups do throw transpeople under the bus, because it sometimes serves their political interests, which can sometimes be separated from mine. The HRC just stopped actively fighting inclusion of “gender identity” in anti-discrimination legislation.
White liberal queers make the same mistake with regard to racism and queer hatred, and it’s just as obviously false. Different prejudice, different immediate experience, different political consciousness–and those disparities do permit ignorance and selfishness. They can be used to cynical political advantage, and they frequently result in limited political perspective.
I think that an analogy can be made here. Anti-semitism isn’t dead any more than any other kind of racism, but the two groups eteraz measured are not in the same place. For example, they aren’t both largely absent from Arianna Huffington’s blogroll. So while the appearance/representation argument is absolutely true, I think you could argue from common experience as well.
I should also note that all-the-same is a common aspect of tokenism and other forms of lip-service. If you start from the premise that basic acknowledgement is an imposition on and a huge favor from the dominant group, then making distinctions within a minority group is just absurd. “Them” should be more than enough; when pressed, members of Us will occasionally expand to, “them-ish,” “false them,” and “neo-them.” For example, I have never heard any complaints about vague and trivial distinctions like “Methodist” and “Unitarian,” nor ever seen anyone try to refer to all Christians as “Jesusists,” or whatever. Other religions aren’t so lucky. “People of color” connotes an important coalition, but it would be yet another example of racism to assume that anyone in that group could speak for everyone else.