Author: has written 5268 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

40 Responses

  1. Momentary
    Momentary August 21, 2013 at 10:35 am |

    Very worthwhile reading.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

    I think the reason activists movements sometimes work at cross-purposes to each other is about power and control. Many people want to be the monarch in control of their own fiefdom, which they feel they have carved out with their own sweat and toil. This is often the case in non-profits and political action committees.

    Everyone linking together requires humility and a desire to serve others, rather than for personal gain. It would require trust, rather than suspicion or fear. Some might be afraid that their own paycheck and work would be discounted or discarded. Honestly, this idea of servant-led leadership is ancient, but it is a strenuous challenge. Hierarchies are easily created but difficult to set down.

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen August 21, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

      You may be getting at something with the ‘power and control’ aspect. I also wonder though how much white supremacy has encouraged divisiveness between different communities of color, the way Rinku Sen talks about the relationship between Indian immigrants and the black community.

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

        Ack, grammatical ambiguity. “the way Sen talks about” is meant to mean “Sen notes an example of this” not of course “Sen’s talking about this leads to divisiveness.” Am not writing clearly today, sorry.

  3. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll August 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm |

    Yanno…this is the type of thing we’ve included in the solidarityisforwhitewomen threads. A post about racism and racial justice gets 2 whole fucking comments.

    1. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

      Maybe because some of us have comments they know no one wants to hear.

      But fine. You want my comment SO bad?

      I’m not wowed by this piece. I’m not impressed or moved at all. I learned nothing, was provoked to no new thought, and this piece seems very 2002 SJ-101ish. In other words, while this piece may be thought-provoking to a few white middle-class people that are new to social justice, it’s the blogging equivalent of the college senior who re-hashes the same old intro/general essay on a subject for the 10th time because he’s sick of writing papers.

      I strongly suspect it’s just thrown out there by this site to look more racially aware and to have better coverage on race matters in the wake of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen scandal.

      I’m a regular Colorlines reader and of the many superb, unique-coverage pieces that could have been linked, I’m a bit pissed that this is what’s being linked.

      I could be wrong. This piece could actually be an excellent intro piece. Unfortunately, it’s not talking about anything new to me, so of course it’s going to be boring and disappointing to read. Maybe it’s the same for other readers here. So intro/101/and done that there’s nothing new to say.

      Yay for five comments, right?

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm |

        And you thought total silence on it what, conveyed one fucking thing? What part of “call out things you see” was confusing to you? If you think that link is an attempt to look more racially aware then get off your ass and say so instead of fuck all.

        1. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

          There’s nothing wrong with trying to be more racially aware. I suppose I said that in a way that implied I believed it to be a superficial attempt. It may very well be legitimate. My own opinion on that is irrelevant, because I’m cynical to a ridiculous extent.

          If other people feel as I do, and simply aren’t impressed by this piece, then I can see no point in us all coming and commenting on how boring we find it or how lackluster. In addition I don’t take any joy in critiquing other people’s writing/coverage.

          I just find it annoying that you would say “A post about racism and racial justice gets 2 whole fucking comments” about this piece. There are a lot of posts by PoC and/or about racism/racial justice that deserve more attention here. I don’t feel this is one of them.

        2. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

          As I said, that is part and parcel of speaking up. That you refuse to get that is more than annoying. And part of a bigger pattern.

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 21, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

          By the way- this isn’t just directed at you. The excuses such as “well I didn’t post because I already know this” or ” well it wasn’t an important article” are used on so many threads that deal with racism that it’s become default. If something seems problematic, speak up. If you’re not sure this was a serious link instead of phoning it in, speak up. Silence won’t ever contribute to solving a problem. Part of the problem is assuming no one wants to hear your opinion, or believing someone else will say something. And that? That doesn’t help. Feminist sites can’t change if people get apathetic about what they link to in regards to racial issues.

  4. moviemaedchen
    moviemaedchen August 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm |

    Still sorting out my thoughts a bit here. I was very struck by the distinction between civil rights and justice in the article – a distinction which really got me thinking and which makes a lot of sense. As Rinku Sen points out, civil rights laws don’t do much, for example, to change the lack of representation of PoC in media or the whitewashing of important roles.

    Sen’s observation about the American idea of racism as being only overt, individual and intentional is right on. There’s a deep resistance here in the US to thinking about systematic inequalities and the idea that one might be unconsciously biased that, it seems to me, works together with a suspicion towards any large-scale (especially governmental) project to combat such wide-scale problems. I’m not sure what a good strategy would be to start changing that, though.

    This was also very interesting to read together with the link that Jasmin posted in the #sifww WOC thread.

    And this from the article, yes:
    “A few months before the 1963 march, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” There is a modern expression of this most fundamentally moral concept, and inserting that idea into the body politic is our own generation’s responsibility.”

    1. Tony
      Tony August 21, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

      I was very struck by the distinction between civil rights and justice in the article – a distinction which really got me thinking and which makes a lot of sense.

      And this distinction doesn’t only apply to race, it applies to every form of inequality.

      Sen’s observation about the American idea of racism as being only overt, individual and intentional is right on.

      And again, this is one of those insights that apply to racism as well as other -isms. As these -isms get pushed into the realm of the socially unacceptable, they certainly become less overt, and then less intentional. But these are survival strategies- it should be the job of activists to ferret these out, expose them and undermine them.

    2. Momentary
      Momentary August 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

      This stood out to me too. I hadn’t seen that specific push on the word justice before.

  5. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune August 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm |

    I agree with Barnacle that this is pretty 101, which is why I didn’t have much to say about it.

    However, as moviemaedchen did above, I’d like to connect it up to Jasmin’s link, here at a different angle: the intra-POC angle.

    I see a lot of people in the desi community, mainly in India but also here, being pretty willing to be racist against black people while arguing against racism. I’ve seen rich desi friends (and relatives) in the US talk coolly about voting Republican because they’ve got theirs tax breaks > The Blacks/The Gays/Those Illegals Ugh. I’ve seen anti-black racism leveled against my dark-skinned desi friends/family (my family’s pretty varied in hue so there’s some fugly interfamily dynamics as well) and so on. It’s a pretty effective divide-and-conquer method, turning POC against each other, and complicated, even if the Colorlines article doesn’t exactly provide much of that nuance. It strikes me as a similar phenomenon to what Jones’ article discusses, that the “hard work” is viewed as less than the “fun work”. White folks are easier targets. They’re also justified targets (in the same way that anti-racism workshops are both justified and easier). I dunno, I feel like I’ve let people of other races down in the past by concluding that there’s only One True Oppressor or something, and not owning my own shit in the process.

    It’s hard for me to really wrap my head around how anti-black-oriented US racism is. (I would make an argument that Canadian racism is anti-Native in the same way.) It seems in some ways, from an outsider’s relatively generalised perspective, that American xenophobia and racism function on a “scale of blackness” (which isn’t really related to being black per se) but where the middle ranges are in some ways forced into being gatekeepers of whiteness. It’s much the same as the high-caste folk in India don’t have to directly dirty their hands with keeping Adivasis down; they just have to keep reminding the lower-middle and middle castes that “you see that? if you don’t fight that, you could become that”. It’s pretty disgusting. It’s also really alluring and easy to fall into; god knows, as an LGB-group person, I see trans people (shh they can’t be LGB just T) being held over my head as a “there but for the grace of my whim” group, and it took me a while – far too long! – to figure out how to look past that fallacious antagonism and see the points of unity.

    Gah I feel like I’m rambling.

    1. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

      It’s hard for me to really wrap my head around how anti-black-oriented US racism is.

      This varies considerably at the local level. One of the U.S. representatives where I live is possibly one of the most racist individuals on earth, but it isn’t black people he is trying to legislate against.

      1. Tony
        Tony August 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

        Man, my friend and I were just talking about this last night. He brought up the same point, more of in a broader, historical level.

        E.g., how all of American history arguably revolves around the black-white divide. The Civil War obviously. But also how the entire history of South is defined by this divide, how racism might have prevented (and still does) the emergence of broad based cross working class coalitions in some places that would have supported a European-style social welfare state, how the most progressive areas of the country tended to be those with the fewest minorities, etc.

    2. Momentary
      Momentary August 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

      In USA high tech this also gives white people an out from paying attention to racial justice. Companies and academic departments are seen as racially diverse because they have desis and East Asians and a few upper class Middle Eastern and South American people, so they resist seeing it as a problem that they don’t have any American PoC.

      1. Momentary
        Momentary August 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

        Hmm, “American PoC” was bad wording — of course some of the desis and other folks listed are also American. Sorry about that — it’s past my bedtime.

        1. EG
          EG August 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

          Oh, I thought you meant the departments were hiring PoC from outside the US.

      2. tigtog
        tigtog August 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm | *

        Companies and academic departments are seen as racially diverse because they have desis and East Asians and a few upper class Middle Eastern and South American people, so they resist seeing it as a problem that they don’t have any American PoC.

        That reminds me very much of how diversity operates in Australia too – the professions, IT, and academia have plenty of positions filled by South and East Asians and Middle Eastern people, so there is great resistance to any querying of why their representation of Aboriginal and Melanesian/Polynesian and African people is so low.

      3. No Racist Anthropology
        No Racist Anthropology August 22, 2013 at 8:43 pm |

        Not just high-tech. Also universities, academic departments like Berkeley Anthropology, which have serious anti-Black racism issues which they don’t get called on because they have Asian profs and so most people have ‘we have some minorities so we can’t be racist’ blindness.

    3. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm |

      I dunno, I feel like I’ve let people of other races down in the past by concluding that there’s only One True Oppressor or something, and not owning my own shit in the process.

      Well, that right there is another reason why I don’t comment much here re: race.

      I’ve seen the “racism = prejudice + power” coupled with the “PoC cannot ever be racist or in any way” here more times than I can count. That right there is alienating to a lot of PoC, which I don’t even think the [sometimes white, sometimes PoC] people saying it realize.

      And given the massive shitstorms I’ve seen erupt elsewhere for challenging this as a PoC, and given that I’ve seen PoC bullied, harassed, and doxed for going against the idea that PoC can never oppress re: race, I can understand why anyone who thinks otherwise is going to keep mum on this (and other feminist and social justice sites), to the extent that I’m surprised you risked saying anything about it.

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

        Part of that issue is that people think it’s only oppression if it’s racism. Prejudice can oppress. Silence can aide the oppressors. All races can be prejudiced. People of all races can oppress. Neither of those are synonymous to racism.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 22, 2013 at 1:11 am |

        Yeah, I think the power+prejudice equation goes only so far, and assumes a defined hierarchy of power that can be quantified, as if the same marginalisations don’t affect any two people differently. And I do know about the harassment of POC who speak out about intra-POC oppressions and prejudices and yes, racism; I do know, and that’s half the reason I’m talking. It feels like it isn’t spoken about enough, and when it is it’s by ridiculous assholes on Tumblr talking about “desi privilege” and “East Asian privilege” and sneering at the very real racism faced by those groups just because they function differently and to a lesser extent than anti-black or anti-Native racism. Gah. I just want some nuance in my race discussions, you know?

    4. shfree
      shfree August 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

      My boyfriend lives in the UK, and occasionally we get into discussions about the World as It Is. And he just flat out can’t grok the unique racism we have toward African Americans here due to slavery, as well as the unique racism toward Native Americans due to colonization. I’ve tried to explain to him that it isn’t just because of their immigrant status or the color of their skin, but because of a mightily fucked up long term relationship of oppression that just hasn’t gone away. And this is while he is still appalled by racist fueled actions like the Trayvon Martin murder. I think an easier way to explain it would be to have him think in terms of the UK’s relationship with British citizens of Indian decent, there must be unique way racism rears its ugly head there, given just how long the country was colonized and how much of Indian culture seems to have slipped into the UK.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 22, 2013 at 1:15 am |

        Yeah, the contexts are pretty different. I dunno, I would feel much less safe in the US than I do here even though I would have more of “my people” about there. (I use quotes because I feel like North Indians are as likely to be racist at me as any given white person, and they’ve certainly given me greater orders of magnitude of shit while in India.)

      2. Willemina
        Willemina August 22, 2013 at 3:13 am |

        I don’t know that you can make that analogy fly. The dynamic is completely different on many levels, demographically, spatially, and rhetorically being the most notable. There’s something about building your homeland on the blood and bones of the indigenous population while bringing in human chattel that just can’t be reduced to a silver bullet kind of conversation clincher. Maybe try that approach?

    5. Samquilla
      Samquilla August 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm |

      Wow. Thank you for linking to that here. Having read now both Jill’s link and this one, yes, this one is way meatier and so much food for thought. I have to say that I find comment threads over 100 or so overwhelming and they almost never lead to really constructive, interesting, good-faith discussion. Not having to wade through 200 aweful comments has its benefits.

    6. LC
      LC August 22, 2013 at 12:33 am |

      (I would make an argument that Canadian racism is anti-Native in the same way.)

      Just seconding that part. It was one of the things that struck me moving from the US to Canada.

  6. Radfem
    Radfem August 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

    I wasn’t aware the racial justice movement just got started or is about to start or is on the cusp of starting. I guess that’s news to me. A lot of these “movements” including the “food movements” they’ve actually been around for a while in many places. Immigrant rights.

    I liked the reference of MLK jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It’s as timely now as it was then.

  7. Tony
    Tony August 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

    I still feel that I can learn a lot from 101 discussions– let’s face it, a lot of people around here are 101 when it comes to race. And there’s value in thinking about the broader, abstract issues once in a while.

    One benefit that comes from reaching across communities for racial justice is that older movements, particularly African Americans in relation to newer immigrant POC, might have a thing or two to teach.

    For instance as an East Asian I think it’s taking me a much longer time, even as an individual, to understand how racism works in America, than it takes most black Americans. For one thing you have to separate out what’s race and what’s foreignness. Ideas like the “double consciousness” apply to us too but if you only think of W.E.B. Dubois as being within the black experience alone and not a human thinker grappling with fundamental issues of being a member of a marginalized community then you can easily think it’s irrelevant to your personal experience.

    Particularly if you’re not of a “race” that is particularly accessible (I am not an academic; I was very alienated from the Asian American “racial” literature growing up because it largely addressed the 1980s and before which had no relevance, and even a lot of contemporary Asian American writing because there’s this mythology of there being some sort of unified “community” when that isn’t the case at all.– e.g. What is Amy Tan’s relevance would be to South Asians?, but that’s just the most obvious) What I’ve found that is both accessible and relevant and good is extremely sparse.

    So I’ve found that it is useful sometimes to turn to other POC (generally African-American) writings that are generally more prolific and grapple with the same basic issues. Lauren Walker’s article last week was another good example.

    Also, cosigning everything mac wrote above about there not just being One group with oppressive attitudes towards race.

  8. Radfem
    Radfem August 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

    This varies considerably at the local level. One of the U.S. representatives where I live is possibly one of the most racist individuals on earth, but it isn’t black people he is trying to legislate against.

    Yeah. I think in states where the balance of population numbers, voting population and the power base itself is starting to shift in that order. There’s reasons why it’s hard for the Republicans to get a foothold in the state level and the national level in California and some of them have to do with their “war” against a particular demographic.

  9. Radfem
    Radfem August 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

    And then there’s Arizona.

  10. EG
    EG August 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm |

    I thought that what was good about this piece was, yeah, nothing I haven’t seen before; I also thought it was somewhat ahistorical in that it minimized the radicalism of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power and other race-based movements and activism it gave birth to. Those movements were about justice; they were not interested in stopping with civil rights but with all the socio-economic issues rectifying white supremacy in this country entails, and many were interested in forging international links and movements as well. It just seems like Sen has bought a bit too much into the whitewashed/defanged image of those movements that mainstream white culture has done its best to market.

    1. Momentary
      Momentary August 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

      Just read it through again and yeah, you are right.

    2. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen August 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm |

      Yes, I see what you mean.

    3. Kerandria
      Kerandria August 22, 2013 at 4:05 am |

      I agree, EG. I wish that someone like Assata Shakur had been mentioned; she’s a great example of an activist for racial justice.

  11. RenKiss
    RenKiss August 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

    I read the piece and I get some of the comments about it being 101-ish, but sometimes we all need a little refreshing every now and then. Every social justice movement needs to have intersectional analysis. When that’s all said and done, I’m hoping we’d get to a point where we can begin finding ways to dismantle power structures. Articles like this to me are only the beginning.

  12. trees
    trees August 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

    RenKiss said:

    I read the piece and I get some of the comments about it being 101-ish, but sometimes we all need a little refreshing every now and then.

    I agree. I thought it a worthwhile contribution.

    Although, I agree also agree with EG’s position:

    I thought that what was good about this piece was, yeah, nothing I haven’t seen before; I also thought it was somewhat ahistorical in that it minimized the radicalism of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power and other race-based movements and activism it gave birth to. Those movements were about justice; they were not interested in stopping with civil rights but with all the socio-economic issues rectifying white supremacy in this country entails, and many were interested in forging international links and movements as well. It just seems like Sen has bought a bit too much into the whitewashed/defanged image of those movements that mainstream white culture has done its best to market.

    Sen seems to have bought into the repackaged sound-bite harmless King, not King the dangerous radical (to systems of power) that he was.

    Also, she doesn’t take into full account the impact of Jim Crow laws, and pre-JC!, on non-black POC, including both folks who were forced into “black” and those who wiggled into “white”. Nineteenth-century Virginia gun possession laws come to mind.

  13. Momentary
    Momentary August 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm |

    Any chance of a separate thread to highlight and discuss Jasmin’s link?

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.