Wednesday, August 27, 2008

By their headlines, shall ye know them

IlliniPundit over at, um, IlliniPundit has on several occasions, claimed that Democrats are being overly-sensitive when it comes to race in this election. (Example.)

That's the advantage of privilege, isn't it? Whether is white privilege, heterosexual privilege, or male privilege, one of the benefits is that you don't even have to realize it's there. A corollary to that is that you don't have to wonder about those borderline cases. Until I'd read a few feminist blogs, I'd never actually noticed that paper towel commercials always show a smiling woman mopping up some mess or another, either made by a child or while some hapless male looks on in bewilderment. I'd never even thought about how our society often makes jokes that imply that rape is a complement.

So maybe it's easy for the (I assume) white IlliniPundit to pooh-pooh the racism that may be inherent in political ads this season. But think about this: Ann Coulter's August 20th column was titled "Constitutional Scholar Obama Questions Legality Of Slavery Ban."

Really. One of the most visible and most syndicated conservative writers in our country just wrote a column suggesting that a black Presidential candidate might approve of slavery.

No, race won't be a factor in this election. Not at all.


Anonymous said...

We've transcended race and sex, Narc, you didn't know that? That's why all the nice MRAs who comment on the feminist blogs tell us we need to quit our bitching and get back to making dinner or whatever it is they think our well-controlled uteruses *should* be doing. *eyes roll*

Hell, there was a nice-looking middle class white dude on CBS a couple of months ago who said (and I quote) "I'm not racist or anything, but I won't vote for a black man."


David said...

"I'm not racist or anything, but I won't vote for a black man."

The sound you just heard was me falling out of my chair.

Ryan said...

This is one of the conversations that seems rather difficult to have. In one sense, the invocation of race, gender, or sexuality as an identify-factor or foundation because of difference--i.e. that one derives one's identity of being gay because one is different from the majority which do not share the same interests--seems to continue the situation that such identity categories and the awareness raising they case is meant to do. That is, by identifying as black, a feminist, as gay, we end up reifying the categories, at once calling attention to our difference as a means to identity and highlighting our plight, while also seemingly supporting the labeling of ourselves, which is how issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia seem to perpetuate. In other words, we talk about race, or sexism, or homophobia, as well as the problems they cause, and seemingly, then, we participate in their continuance.

Of course, the opposite is also true: if we don't speak up, they continue as the 'norm' anyway, and insidious manners of prejudice continue. I'm always at a loss as to what to tell my students, because inevitably one poses the question as to whether or not at sometime in the future there will not be racism or sexism or homophobia...and if there aren't, will I have a job. And I don't know what to tell them, given that it's hard to imagine a world without prejudice--everyone has hierarchies, like chocolate is tastier than vanilla, it's just that some of them are really atrocious, damaging, and ridiculous for anyone with a brain (like racism)--yet I often wonder if there is a way that a white gay man (who is marked high on the status hierarchy) can successfully talk about these things or even consider dating someone of another phenotype or ethnicity without the inevitable questions as to his motive.

Anyway. People who won't vote for people of color yet claim to not be racist are exactly the people who live in my hometown. It's galling, it's appalling. But maybe I can help stop that in my classes.

Anonymous said...

In other words, we talk about race, or sexism, or homophobia, as well as the problems they cause, and seemingly, then, we participate in their continuance.

During high school, I was called a freak, a bitch, (neither of these next ones are real insults, but in Small Town America they were) a feminist, and a lesbian for not being small-town normal. I didn't have long hair, I refused to act stupid to get boys to like me, and I wouldn't follow the crowd going off to read the KJV while talking about how much they were loving taking those Abstinence Pledges. I found out that all of the people whom I'd grown up with and I thought liked me for, well, you know, being ME were actually only interested in controlling who I was. The minute I said, "Oh, no thank you, I'm not interested in going to your church/anti-choice prayer breakfast/rally against a movie you deem offensive but haven't seen" then I became THE ENEMY.

All of what I've said above is probably preaching to the choir, but I've been thinking about labels a lot since I'm going to my 10 year high school reunion this weekend. It's going to be interesting to see how many of the holier-than-thou types have fared. I wonder if any of them will be able to even look me in the eye. I see what you're saying about how labels can restrict us, ryan, but my labels have set me free.

Narc said...

I also find it interesting that the people that seem to be the ones that we've "transcended" race are the straight white males. One of the benefits of privilege is that you don't have to think about the privilege.

Ryan, I don't think we will ever be past this sort of thing. Personally, I'm starting to think that tribalism is truly ingrained into the human psyche. We will find a way to separate and declare ourselves better than the other guy whether it's based on religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or just the local sports team.

And when you're one of the oppressed people, taking your label and owning it can be a powerful thing. Just ask that freak, moon-grll. :-)