Racism

Where is Your Condemnation Now?

TW: For Racism

During the Ferguson protests, during the Baltimore uprisings, during countless demonstrations that took place because black children, black men, and black women, are being murdered, there were countless and endless condemnations by white people of the protestors as being too violent, too angry.

Last night, white people came to a Black Lives Matter demonstration for no other purpose then to commit violence. Their purpose wasn’t to raise awareness, to express anger and hurt over government sanctioned murders. No. They were there to kill people who had the nerve to protest being murdered. They were there because they don’t see PoC as being human beings, as being people. They shot five people.

When the police responded, their response included macing protestors after they had just been shot at.

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Don’t You Fear Terrorism

If you have any interest in the news, you have heard about the attack that took place by a stadium in Paris. The attacks on Paris were not the only ones that took place. In addition to Paris, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Beirut and Baghdad which took place just hours before the ones in Paris.

In light of the attacks, there has been an international backlash against Syrian refugees. The backlash has included attacks on refugee camps, attacks on Mosques in Canada, the US, attacks of Muslim people all over the world. It has also resulted in the US attempting to close its doors to desperate people fleeing from Syria. Politicians are announcing that they are barring their specific corners to refugees in flagrant violations of their own laws, and still others are suggesting measures reminiscent of the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany before the start of the war.

Why? Because they’ve decided that Syrian refugees pose a safety risk.

Some people have decided that the torrent of refugees is the perfect disguise for any terrorists looking for admittance to the US or any other place where refugees fleeing. This, of course, ignores the realities of the refugee process, and the fact that none of the terrorists have even been found to be Syrian nationals.

The racist and islamophobic rhetoric and actions of the last few days, always seem to be accompanied by apologists asking: “Don’t You Fear Terrorism?”

The question is meant to suddenly make these bigoted measures seem appropriate, because, it’s not racist you see, its self-defense.

But see, here’s the thing. I do fear terrorism.

I fear the terrorists who send threats to people who fight for social justice.

I fear the terrorists who put people’s lives in danger by doxing them.

I fear the terrorist who decides to shoot me or my friends because he’s decided that feminists are to blame for anything that has gone wrong in his life.

I fear the terrorist who walks into a school with a gun because a woman told him no.

I fear the terrorist with a badge who kills people based on the colour of their skin.

I fear the terrorists who see nothing wrong with brutalizing their children because of a disability, or because they are trans, or gay.

I fear the terrorists threatening and murdering people of colour for daring to exist: in churches, universities, in parks playing as children, walking home from the store.

I fear the terrorists who blow up clinics because they disapprove of a woman’s right to choose.

I fear the terrorists in government who use fear to slowly strip us of our rights.

What I don’t fear are children and terrified people fleeing their homes and everything they’ve known, who have watched their homes destroyed, and seen their friends and family killed.

The refugees are not terrorists. The terrorists we are so afraid of grew up right here.

Unpacking the Red Pill

I’m actually sort of upset that internet hate groups have managed to co-opt the matrix red pill analogy. It is actually a really good metaphor for social justice and the way that becoming aware of privilege and systemic injustice works.

It really is like suddenly opening your eyes and realizing that everything you thought you were seeing you were actually seeing incorrectly your whole life. It’s incredible. Where the analogy fails is by painting it as a single pill.

The truth is that becoming aware of social justice issues is really like swallowing a whole bunch of different red pills, each one exposing you to yet another level of interconnected systems of oppression. This is why we get some atheist activists, and other social justice activists, falling into this same trap over and over again of thinking that they couldn’t possibly be sexist, racist, transphobic, classist, etc. because they “already swallowed the red pill” so now they could see the whole truth.

There is also this idea that swallowing one red pill makes every additional one easier to see, but that’s not true. Sometimes you can swallow multiple red pills at ones at once. But the truth is that each one is painful to take. Each one produces its own side-effects, its own difficulties. Swallowing the red pill is never easy.

It’s not just one easily exposed system that once you see a part of, you essentially get an idea of the whole. It is more like a self-replicating computer virus that infects different system files. You can cut one out, but unless you get them all, it will just rebuild again.To really solve the problem, you have to root out every single individual corrupted system file. Otherwise, the program rebuilds itself, just using a different pathway, but ultimately yielding the same result.

Take the evolution of feminism throughout the years. Each wave of feminism exposed layers of patriarchal oppression, however, by failing to consider the interconnections of various issues and the level to which the system was self-replicating, rather than fixing the problem is shifted the scope of it. Such as when the response of women trying to prove that they were every bit as capable in “masculine” fields and tasks ended up reinforcing the gender binary. The focus was on showing that women can also do “masculine things” rather than on showing that the division of actions into an either or option was not based on an accurate social model of gender. The resulting surge in femmephobia reinforced a lot of harmful patriarchal concepts that are now that much more difficult to dismantle. It’s not that second-wave feminists went too far, it is that they didn’t go far enough. It failed to take into account how the system is also supported by race, by cis-centrism, by ableism. It failed to look at the matrix as a whole.

Imagine if the matrix actually existed as a series of levels. With every successive pill you see a little more of the matrix. But if you don’t realize there are more pills to take, you might be tempted to think you see the whole matrix. Agent Smith is counting on that, because as long as you believe you are outside the matrix, they can use the parts of the matrix you are still connected to to shift your perception of the world around you.  As long as you are still within levels of the matrix however, you continue to power the system.

If we take the premise of the matrix movie that human beings are being turned into a potato battery, becoming aware of different spheres of oppression is like discovering that your potato battery is charging other batteries and working to shut off those batteries so that your battery doesn’t die. Those are the first red pills you usually take.

The hard pills to take are those that reveal that even while you are struggling to unplug the connections that are causing other batteries to drain your charge, you are recharging your own battery from other people as well. These are the pills that make us choke, that stick in our throats. These are the ones that make us want to fight and reject what we are seeing, because more than anything the matrix relies on our denial that we could be harming people even if we have no intention to.

You didn’t know. The plugs were in your back and you couldn’t see them because you were in the matrix level whatever. But intentionally or not, you have been draining other people’s batteries. Whether you knew or not, you may have been the connection that added just that extra little drain needed to completely empty someone’s battery.

So now you have to make a decision, which do you pull out first?  The ones draining others or the ones draining you? Or do you try to pull them out at the same time? Do you leave others to try and pull out the ones draining them out themselves? Do you go back to pretending you never saw the ones in your back or deny that they’re there? Do you address some but not others? What makes you decide?

The choice you make is ultimately yours, but the one you make says something about you as a person.

My choice is striking a balance between pulling out both sides. I need to pull out my own because I can’t take out the system if my battery is completely dead. But I also need to work on pulling the ones that are charging me. Sometimes, when my battery is draining too fast, I need to take a break. I might need to focus on pulling out my own for a few moments, though I never forget about the ones in my back. Sometimes, I am being drained slow enough that I can forget about pulling out my own for some time in order to focus more on pulling out the ones that I benefit from. In fact, often when I am puling out my own, it is so that I have the surplus energy to spend more time pulling out the ones that charge me.

Everyone is interconnected into the system, but not everyone carries the same number of output and input energy. Some people only have maybe one or two output cabled, while being charged by several sources. Even when this happens, you might not be retaining a high charge, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are still draining others. The opposite extreme also exists with some people being almost completely output cables and none or almost no input cables.

The system is like a web and everyone is plugged into it.

It is essential that we all disconnect and break the system. When you have any system that depends on batteries basically sharing charge in a single continuous system, that leads to combustion. Just ask anyone who has had keys and batteries in their pocket, and ended up with burning pants because the two connecting created a single circuit.

The system is a path to destruction as long as it exists because either your battery gets completely drained or you combust. That’s ultimately why systems of oppression like patriarchy end up hurting even those they privilege.

The Violence of the Mental Health Excuse

It’s become a trope. A white man is involved in a shooting, and within moments people are rushing over themselves to call him mentally ill. Sometimes this happens even before there is a suspect on which to pin the label. There are several cartoons and memes out there depicting the trend, and comparing it to the coverage received by people of colour in similar circumstances.

Whenever people are called on it however, there is always someone rushing in to defend the idea claiming that no “sane” person would commit such a heinous act of violence. That that level of obsession, that level of hatred, could only be the result of there being something mentally wrong with a person.

I understand why we need to believe that. Growing up listening to tales of good and evil, the villain is always readily identifiable. Whether an underground network of evil super villains, the wicked witch, or even just the bully at school, there is always some way of telling who the bad people are. To borrow from Christian mythology: some mark of Cain identifying the evil inside. (more…)

Quick Thoughts on the Attacks in France

I want to say something about the whole situation in France.

1.No one deserves to be killed or be the victims of violence. This is true no matter who they are, or what they say.

2. What happened in France in terms of the killing was a tragedy. Many people died needlessly.

3. This does not mean that the Charlie Hebdo magazine wasn’t racist. It is important to discuss the differences between satire and just plain bigotry, between necessary criticism of bad ideas and using it as an opportunity to perpetuated stereotypical ideas based on biases.

4. I support the push for more open satire, parody, and criticism or religion, among other things, but with the caveat that if you do so in a way that punches down, your work creates harm rather than good. You can be critical of religion without being racist. You can draw Mohammad without being racist. You can create satire that is not harmful to oppressed peoples. If you can’t think of how, then you shouldn’t be doing it. A lack of creativity is no excuse for bigotry.

5. It is important to think critically about the attacks that generate this level of public attention and how they always focus on acts of aggression by stigmatized groups against privileged groups. The attacks of the majority groups on minority groups are largely ignored. Where is the outrage over the Muslim women in France having their hijabs forcefully pulled off, and being attacked. She was pregnant and lost her baby as a result of the attack. A Synagogue in France was attacked and also graffiti with Nazi symbols and anti-semitic messages. Neither of these attacks have been publicized nearly as much. There are no hashtags standing with these victims. What about the firebombing attack on the NAACP. This is not a Dear Muslima post. These attacks should be publicized and a public discussion of harmful ideologies generated, but not at the expense of always ignoring acts of violence, terrorism, and systemic racism, against minority populations. The critic that doesn’t take time to look in the mirror objectively is at best a hypocrite.

6. It is important to discuss how attacks like these don’t exist in a vaccuum. Yes they were wrong and there is no justification. That said, the result will most likely be a greater danger to the lives and safety of anyone who is, or more specifically, looks Muslim. Just like in the US the horrible 911 attacks were used to justify incredibly racist and unconstitutional laws: including detention without access to a lawyer or notification of charges, legalized and even encouraged racial profiling at airports and borders, etc.

7. When People of Colour and other oppressed minorities are telling you that something is racist. When they are telling you that racism exists, is rampant, and is perpetuated by certain things, it is important to listen. White people don’t get to decide what is racist and what isn’t, just like abled people don’t get to decide what is ableist, men don’t get to decide what is sexist, and cis folk don’t get to decide what is transantagonistic.

Last but NOT least. In fact I think this is the most important point.

8. The only successful way to combat attacks like this is not by increasing our culture of racism and prejudice but by fighting against it. By making this world, our world, one of acceptance and aid. By eliminating the excuses that are used to justify brutal acts of violence. By empowering the people within these minority groups so that the voices of the reasonable are not silenced, but can drown out the voices of the fundamentalist. Give a greater audience to brilliant writers like Heina, who have lived experience of what it means to be Muslim, an apostate, and a woman of colour in our Western Culture. Stop letting white men be the voices of what’s wrong with Islam, of what is an isn’t racism, or sexism, or transantagonism, cis-sexism, or ableism. Stop telling people in these communities how they should act and instead listen to what they have to say. Listen, and learn! and Do Better.

So no, Je ne suis pas Charlie, but my thoughts and condolences to the families of all those lost in the senseless violence.