Apr 21

Racism and White People: How We Can Change

Quotes about racism are provided from several books, including How to Be An Antiracist, that help us understand racism better and that offer advice about making appropriate changes.

I. Ibram X. Kendi‘s How to Be an Antiracist

The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’.

“Institutional racism” and “structural racism” and “systemic racism” are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

I do not use “microaggression” anymore. I detest the post-racial platform that supported its sudden popularity. I detest its component parts—“micro” and “aggression.” A persistent daily low hum of racist abuse is not minor. I use the term “abuse” because aggression is not as exacting a term. Abuse accurately describes the action and its effects on people: distress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and suicide.

II. Robin DiAngelo‘s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism 

White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of color; it is the deeper premise that supports this idea—the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.

White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions. Regardless of whether a parent told you that everyone was equal, or the poster in the hall of your white suburban school proclaimed the value of diversity, or you have traveled abroad, or you have people of color in your workplace or family, the ubiquitous socializing power of white supremacy cannot be avoided. The messages circulate 24-7 and have little or nothing to do with intentions, awareness, or agreement.

If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out; now I am aware of and can change that assumption.

III. Reni Eddo-Lodge‘s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.

White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.

White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times, that they only notice it when it’s taken away from them.

When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.

Sep 11

Rage Among Women: Serena Williams Is Not Alone

Eloquent Rage…Rage Becomes Her…Women & Power…The Logic of Misogyny. These are parts of book titles that Rebecca Traister, author of the upcoming Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, has suggested be read in the wake of the recent Serena Williams incident.

I. Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2018)

Publishers Weekly review excerpt:

Cooper, Cosmopolitan contributor and cofounder of the Crunk Feminist Collective blog, provides incisive commentary in this collection of essays about the issues facing black feminists in what she sees as an increasingly retrograde society. Many of the essays are deeply personal, with Cooper using her own experiences as springboards to larger concerns.

From Cooper:

…(T)here’s this stereotype that dogs so many of us that we’re ‘angry.’ We get accused of being angry even when we’re not, and we’re just sort of going about our lives…
What does it look like to both say, ‘Yeah, we’re mad as hell about the ways that the world treats black women consistently and relentlessly,’ and then think about what it looks like to have that rage, to own it and to use it in ways that are beneficial to us, rather than letting other people weaponize it against us?

II. Soraya ChemalyRage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018)

Chemaly on CBC Radio“We talk to girls about a wide range of emotions but parents don’t really talk to girls ever about anger. Whereas they talk to boys almost not at all about the full range of human emotion, but specifically about anger.”

Kirkus Reviews:

Women who step out of line to assert themselves become targets of what Chemaly calls the corrosive ‘drip, drip, drip’ of microaggressions that ultimately become ‘the building blocks of structural discrimination’ (among countless others, see: Hillary Clinton). The author goes on to assert that much-critiqued worldwide movements like #MeToo are crucial because they offer spaces where women can tell their stories and be heard. To help women use anger productively, Chemaly ends by offering a 10-point plan of action to help redress the gender imbalances that threaten not only them, but democracy itself.

III. Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto (2017)  

…(O)ne satiric stunt on US television featured a fake severed head of Trump himself, but in that case the (female) comedian concerned lost her job as a consequence. By contrast, this scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world. You could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo TRIUMPH, sometimes TRUMP). It may take a moment or two to take in that normalisation of gendered violence, but if you were ever doubtful about the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded or unsure of the continued strength of classical ways of formulating and justifying it – well, I give you Trump and Clinton, Perseus and Medusa, and rest my case.

IV. Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (2017)  

From the review in The Guardian (Moira Weigel):

“Down Girl is full of sadness about Clinton. Some of it I agree with; some of it I don’t. (I would prefer never to argue with another woman about Clinton again.) But American feminists cannot accept that a female leader will always, necessarily be doomed – for the sake of…Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, or whoever comes after, as well as all of us. Not only is misogyny ‘still a thing’. As Trump and his cronies eviscerate the state, and appeal to their base’s wounded masculinity, it is poised to become more of a thing than ever.”

Mar 11

That’s So Gay Not Okay: Ash Beckham and Others

The phrase that’s so gay doesn’t hurt everyone. Nor is it even offensive to all lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. But it does indeed hurt some. Studies and common sense show that it hurts lots of people, in fact—especially young ones.

The title of a brand new book by psychologist Kevin L. Nadal uses the term “microaggressions,” first coined in 1970 by psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce, to describe those subtle forms of hostility that most LGBT people experience frequently. That’s So Gay!: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community shows that “(t)hese accumulated experiences are associated with feelings of victimization, suicidal thinking, and higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and other health problems among members of the LGBT community.”

Microaggressions have three different subtypes, as listed by the APA: microassaults, microinsults, and
microinvalidations. “That’s so gay” falls into the category of microinsults—“snubs, gestures, and verbal slights.”

Microassaults “include intentionally calling a person who identified as a sexual or gender minority a derogatory slur, or telling a trans person that they cannot use a multiple-stall restroom or rejecting their entry into a multiple-stall restroom when they try to use one,” and microinvalidations “serve to exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups.”

Sam Killermann made the following flowchart to indicate when it’s okay to say “that’s so gay”:

The point being, of course, that it’s usually not okay unless you’re appropriately describing a person with a gay or lesbian orientation.

Thanks to the blog Dorothy Surrenders for the following clip. It’s awesome. LGBT activist Ash Beckham gives a rapid-fire and interesting speech about how the words “so gay” can hurt:

Think Before You Speak is an organization that has developed several PSA’s designed to improve the language used in pertinent instances. Presented below are a few, all brief. First, Wanda Sykes speaks out:

Hilary Duff is the advocate in another ad:

Finally, “the cashiers”: