I’ve done a lot of writing over the past couple of weeks. It’s amazing how much time I have to devote to this blog when I’m not writing a dissertation.
So part of me wanted to take a few days off, let some of the last few rather weighty entries sink in, let the continued conversations fester in the comments. But then John Edwards went and dropped out of the Clusterfuck to the White House, so now I need to say something about that.
And that something is the following: vote for Barack Obama. (If you’re still voting for Democrats, that is. If you’re a Republican, vote for someone other than McCain. Please.) I have a litany of reasons for why I think you should for Obama, but you know them all already. And apart from those reasons, the truth of the matter is that my decision to vote for him is more emotional than rational. I’m a sap. There. I admitted it.
But the real reason why I’m not reciting the litany is because that’s not what I wanted to write about. What I wanted to write about is how, now that our two biggest contenders are a white woman and a black man, over the coming days and likely straight on through November, we’re going to be hearing a lot about race and gender. And I’m willing to bet that most of it is going to going to be pretty asinine.
The fact of the matter is that the mass media, most people in this country, and even the candidates themselves aren’t very good at articulating issues of racism and sexism. It’s not their fault, of course. We’ve all been conditioned to play out our socially and culturally constructed roles in this society, and it’s damn hard work to move past those roles. Let alone even acknowledge that we’re playing them.
So what I really want to say is that over the coming days and weeks and months, every time Bill Clinton references Jesse Jackson, every time a talking head talks about “what are white men going to do if there’s no white man for them to vote for?”, every sound bite you hear, please do not take it at face value. Do not rush to judgement. Do not categorically reject and, more importantly, do not uncritically accept all that you see and hear. Because when it comes to talking about racism and sexism, most people in this country are inept.
Here’s a good place to start if, like me, you want to move past our inherited and internalized racism:
First, keep in mind that when people use “racism” or “sexism” to mean “an individual acting like a prejudiced moron,” they’re using the terms wrong. Racism and sexism are social systems. The very structure of the word should be a tip-off. Any “-ism” is not referencing an individual (think “capitalism,” “Marxism,” “Catholicism,” and so on); “-isms” reference social systems. An “-ist” is a person. And when you claim that someone is a racist or a sexist, the claim ought to refer to someone who benefits from an inherently racist or sexist social system. Which often (always) we do. (And the “we” here are European-American men like me.)
That doesn’t make us prejudiced assholes. Those are two different things.
Second, to help understand what the hell it is that scott’s talking about today, go read some people who are far more eloquent (and at times funnier) than me. Or go to a library. And read those old-fashioned things called books. To help you along, here’s a list of relevant blogs and sites:
Rachel’s Tavern, a sociology professor and damn fine writer
A review of the movie Crash by author Tim Wise (warning: spoiler alert)
The White Liberal Conundrum, an interesting piece to get you thinking about becoming an anti-racist
A Racism FAQ to answer some of your questions
ButterflyEaves’ theRabbitHole is full of excellent bits and resources; I wish she’d write more, but I know she’s busy changing the world
Moving right along, in completely different news and totally unrelated to any of the above, baring any major announcements in the news, I think I really am going to sign off for a bit. I want to do some tinkering behind the scenes here (update the blog-engine, etc.), read more and write less, prepare for the Dissertation Defense (coming up in less than two weeks), and work on some other academic and non-academic projects. I’ll comment on comments of course, so keep ’em coming! And if anyone wants to add to the above list, please do.