“I Don’t See Color”: Racism

Personally, few things are more infuriating when you can see that there is a problem and others can also see that there is a problem but the supervisor/teacher/parent/authority figure denies it or just claim not being aware of it. Sometimes, it’s laziness. Sometimes, it’s an “ignorance is bliss” defense but it is indefensible to those who are affected.

This is essentially what color-blind racism is. It boils down the present as to be just being the present with no historical, social or political influences taken into account and looking at an individual as having full agency instead of being one part of many within our society. None of us are truly self-made beings; our values and beliefs are shaped by the society we grow up in, our attitudes and behaviors are modelled by those we deem role models, and punishments and lessons teach us what’s right and wrong. It is not until we are at a significantly ripe age mentally that we are even able to self-reflect and see the effects of our environment and the people around us on our development and what we hold dear. However, these are just values and beliefs and behaviors that everyone is subjected to within a society. Other factors like gender, race, class, sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, etc. limit us in other ways.

Our societal systems ascribe certain essential attributions to groups of people under each of those categories and these attributions may come in the form of stereotypes but also manifest within our policies, our culture, how employers hire new employees, the production and consumption of media, and similarly pervades every other facet of society. There might be some inclination of guilt if one is privileged by such a system that disadvantages everyone else but again, the individual often has little to do with the power structure already in place so rather than a passive hopelessness and paralysing guilt, there needs to be a proactive effort to seek out the ways how this privilege manifests and to challenge it wherever it is seen in your life. As he does best, here’s James Baldwin on color-blindness in 1968:

Here’s a transcript for some of what he says that are particularly relevant today:

“I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know we have a Christian church that is white and a Christian church that is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday.

That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church.

I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me — that doesn’t matter — but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to.

Now, this is the evidence– you want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.”

**If you haven’t read or seen any of his work, I highly suggest checking them out.**

Let’s look at a modern-day example:

The San Francisco Housing Crisis

There are several examples I would like to look at within the context of this housing crisis. First, there is the invisibility of poverty that is relegating the homeless people of San Francisco to the sidelines and the physical fringes of society because people don’t want to see them and local governments take great pains to keep them out of public spaces. Then, there are the historical processes that started with slavery and continues today with redlining, income inequality and other everyday cases of racism that further push and keep minority populations down the socioeconomic ladder.

Then, there is the circular relationship between reality, perception and discrimination. There is a racist preconception existing in the American psyche that black men (especially those of lower socioeconomic status) are violent and a danger to society and themselves, that black women are nymphos that have kids from multiple men and live off of government welfare.

The perception of black people as being the majority of the homeless and the meritocratic assumption that people are homeless because they’re lazy and/or are drug addicts leads to less effort to support the homeless community and ignores existing racist institutional practices and historical maltreatment which does nothing to alleviate the problem and so the cycle continues.

News footage shows us the homeless population in these urban centers as being predominantly black, which is not reflected in the statistics (over 30% of the homeless population in SF are black while they make up less than 10% of the city’s overall population).

The statistics above show us two things: 1) African-Americans are overrepresented in the homeless population, 2)African-Americans are overrepresented in the media.

People naturally seek out what confirms their preconceptions (confirmation bias) and the media footage proves that. That confirmation strengthens the previous biases and justifies them. Meanwhile, the underlying reasons why this huge population of people are homeless remain untouched.

Why are there so many single mothers caught in the mass evictions in San Francisco? Does it have anything to do with the over-policing of black communities that often land black men in jail? Perhaps the lack of access to adequate education and the school-to-prison pipeline that lock members of the community out of a job market that increasingly sees a college education as a minimal requirement, therefore keeping them poor and uneducated? Is it the lack of good financing options/de facto segregation that pushes minority populations out of desirable housing markets and into situations where they’re more likely to default?

It’s all three and more. What mass incarceration is doing to the men of minority communities, eviction is doing to the women. It pushes the narrative of this dysfunctional community of thugs and loose morals and a regressive lifestyle. But hearing the news stories and seeing the pictures of homeless black women with their children don’t tend to evoke these discussions about how the system has consistently treated them as second-class citizens or why so many of the minority populations have ended up concentrated on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

Color-blindness ignores all context and points at an individual’s shortcomings to blame for their situation in life. Why are there so many single black mothers? Because the men were taken away to be locked in jail. Why were the men committing crimes? Crimes rates are higher in majority-minority communities and also for lower-income communities. Is it because these communities had more criminals or were there just more policing? In these communities and for those targeted as part of the “efforts to crack down on crime”, even (jay)walking can turn into tense, potentially life-threatening encounters.

As far as it goes, fraud and embezzlement are as much stealing as larceny or burglary and the former often involves far greater amounts of money but it’s easy to see how the treatment of those convicted of them differ vastly from each other.

However, even that is questionable because we’ve seen over and over again how the criminal justice system treats those who pass through it. As far as it goes, fraud and embezzlement are as much stealing as larceny or burglary and the former often involves far greater amounts of money but it’s easy to see how the treatment of those convicted of them differ vastly from each other. The way we see those crimes as a society and how they’re portrayed in the media are certainly different because it’s not that richer people don’t commit crimes, it’s that their crimes and their actions are afforded more privacy and, with more power and better lawyers, they can more often get out of convictions (just look at what’s come into light since #MeToo).

There are so many layers to how our society and its institutions consistently favor some over others and once you start looking, it never ends. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed. For example, social mobility in the US is minimal; very few actually move up the socioeconomic ladder. For a country where social mobility (i.e. The American Dream) is lauded as one of the nation’s great virtues, its social classes are remarkably stable. That’s because social and cultural capital figure into how many and what type of resources people have access to and the ways upwards are increasingly exclusive and hostile to those trying to move up.

Intergenerational wealth is also a huge factor; there is very little an individual can amass against the power and influence of a fortune that’s been accumulating for several centuries; even more so in a country with minorities like African-Americans who literally didn’t have any money for most of American history and were kept from any significant means of supporting themselves even after “liberation”.

“…there is very little an individual can amass against the power and influence of a fortune that’s been accumulating for several centuries…”

Let’s talk about something else. Native American mascots:

I could only find partial clips on YouTube but the entire documentary is worth watching.

There is this notion that everyone is somehow “equal through consumption”. You can see it in how minority cultures are seen as things to be appropriated and gentrified. For example, black culture has long been commercialised to great success by celebrities and artists to be “edgy” and “counterculture” but the people that the cultural symbols came from whether it be the way they speak, the clothes they wear or the music they create, the original creators and holders of this culture are ridiculed and seen as uneducated, “ghetto” and a multitude of other stereotypes and slurs.

It is the same way with Native American mascots. We say, “What? It’s just a mascot. It’s not hurting anyone.” But it is. By commercialising and making a cultural symbol a commodity, a spectacle, it is the erasure of the original purpose and meaning of this symbol. It is the usurpation of what a community holds dear and is part of their identity. But it is not all abstract either. The reactions to abolishing Native American mascots are very real. Activists get attacked, spit on and receive death threats. If it is only a symbol, only for fun, as they say, then why such a hostile reaction to doing away with it?

It’s the sense of entitlement and the interruption of the comfort people had twisting another people’s sacred symbols for their own entertainment. This interruption of their comfort zone, this accusation of racist intent, of insensitivity. How dare they make me uncomfortable in a place I should belong?

Of course, this sort of casual comfort with disregarding the sanctity of others’ culture doesn’t limit itself to thoughts and “harmless” fun for sports games. Something else that Charlene Teters (the Native American woman speaking in the documentary) mentions later on is that the vestiges of Native American culture are doubly precious because its preservation has been fought for through bloodshed and struggle. To diminish that culture is to mock those ancestors who died being ripped from their homes, those that died fighting to protect their people and their lands, those initial Native Americans struck down by foreign disease and the Native children that were “re-educated” through Indian boarding schools.

That is what people don’t think about when talking about political correctness. That is what people don’t think about when they see paraphernalia for sports teams with Native mascots in gift shops. It should be. It’s not some abstract concept about what is an “appropriate” opinion in polite society. It affects real people. Looking at it from a colorblind stance where you only see the mascot as a harmless bit of fun during football halftimes is willful ignorance of a people’s heritage and history. A true understanding of the situation requires knowledge of history and an awareness of others and their perspectives.

“…politics is what gets to decide if you are counted as a person. It decides your rights and your access to resources and public facilities…. whether the law will protect you or hang you out to dry.”

Then, there are those like the Yale professor in the James Baldwin video above that was about to say “Not all white people are racist!” and more or less did complain about Baldwin “pulling the race card”. You might complain, “why does everything need to be political?” But you have to remember that politics is what gets to decide if you are counted as a person in this country. It decides your rights and your access to resources and public facilities. It decides whether the law will protect you or hang you out to dry.

Things like the Census are integral to this. For example, the first Census had three categories: free whites, all other free persons, slaves. Since it is a Census year in 2020, this is a reminder to take the Census seriously because it not only determines the distribution of representatives, it also determines the resources allocated to a population and if minorities are undercounted, as they likely will be, then the government funds set aside for our development won’t reach the communities that need it.

Only those who can live comfortably knowing that their government and elected officials will represent them and have their best interests at heart can afford to hold the worldview that the personal, the moral and the political can be separated. For the rest of us, colorblindness makes us invisible and that is deeply problematic where the visibility of a population dictates how kindly we are treated.

More Reading Material

Police Bait Truck: Entrapment?

Bubble Tea and How it Figures into East Asian-American Identity

Race, Class, and the Framing of Drug Epidemics

**Featured Image is of the payroll of African-Americans, both enslaved and free, that built the Capital.**

[Repost] Race, Class, and the Framing of Drug Epidemics

Highlights:

A cursory reading of national media seems to confirm this long-standing narrative of White, middle-class drug users as victims, not criminals. For example, the New York Times’ coverage of suburban drug users has invited sympathy and identification with the people in the stories, encouraging the reader to see themselves, their child, or someone they know in the stories of good people raised in loving families who became opiate addicts almost by accident. The accompanying pictures to these articles show white people hugging as they leave drug treatment and well-dressed parents looking at pictures of the son or daughter they’ve lost to heroin. Photos of attractive and smiling teenagers—someone’s children—remind us of the promise and potential extinguished by an overdose. And yet, the Times is also savvy enough to contextualize this new drug panic when they write, “In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs” (Oct. 30, 2015). They subtly remind the reader that non-White addicts get punishment and harshness when they refer to the White opiate crisis as a “new era” characterized by “striking shifts… some local police departments have stopped punishing many heroin users.” It is only because the users are White that a redemptive narrative of families and police coming together to stop opiate use can gain traction in print and in legislative bodies.

“Heroin or nothing,” as Steven, a man I met at the syringe exchange, put it. Those were his options. He’d broken his back several years before, and opiates helped with the lasting pain as he continued in manual labor, working odd jobs and moving furniture. But treating the physical pain now meant dealing with the “pain in the ass” of the system, of the methadone treatment providers and probation officers. Steven was among the many people I encountered who had initially started using legally obtained opiates to treat pain from work-related injuries, only to find their access limited by increasingly stringent state prescribing regulations. People like Steven turned to heroin not because they preferred it, but because they could no longer get prescription painkillers.

Conversations with addiction medicine providers echo the judgment about which some of the drug users I’ve spoken with complain. In the New York Times’ coverage of the suburban opiate panic, doctors identify with their patients, perhaps even knowing them socially. This is not the case in Vermont, where the class divide between doctors and patients is wide. Even the most sympathetic physicians I spoke with endorsed monitoring and coerced treatment. One said that there was “no high-level thinking in Vermont” and “no one understands the medical piece.” When I asked about the best way to treat addiction, this doctor told me it was suboxone (buprenorphine) combined with “tight control… put an ankle bracelet on them and tightly monitor them… If you mess up, you go to jail. Folks do best when there are consequences.” Other medical providers were frustrated with their patients, viewing their poverty-related struggles such as lack of transportation or difficulty finding employment as “excuses” for not succeeding in recovery. Their patients’ continued smoking and poor eating habits are also a regular source of frustration. One doctor who called addiction a “disease” insists that the criminal justice oversight of a sick person is not a contradiction, but a mechanism to ensure sorely needed “accountability.”

Read more: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1536504217742391

[Repost] Bad typography has ruined more than just the Oscars

[Repost] How to Test Your Emotional Maturity

When the world hurts us, we mustn’t first think of how to hurt it back.

[Repost] Opulence

[Repost] Bias in Medicine

Error 404: White Allies Not Found

There’s always this nebulous cloud of unease whenever I get invited to a discussion of race and privilege with a white person. At best, they could listen to what’s being said and try to understand but at worst, it will devolve into a he said she said where everything is taken as a personal attack or a joke. This article puts that feeling into more definite terms.

To read more: https://perilousblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/error-404-white-allies-not-found/

Tolerance vs Acceptance

Within the past several decades, as people take an increasingly nuanced look at their identity, many more identities have risen to the public awareness. These different identities aren’t new to the human race. There have been many representations of people identifying as queer and transgender etc. since people have existed. Whereas before, Western and specifically American culture has shunned and punished those who wore these identities proudly, there are more consequences to acting out hate and prejudice against queer and non-cis people. (I won’t talk about the rest of the world.)

However, as with all other types of prejudice, it can manifest in very subtle ways. Besides the sign-wielding, megaphone type of prejudice, the far more insidious half-suggestions and denials is more damaging in the long-term and harder to snuff out.

The refusal of people to use one’s chosen pronouns and name.

The refusal of others to recognise your partner, rather labeling your relationship as “good friends”.

The “it’s just a phase” from your parents

It’s the implication that you as a person is “ok” just as long as you’re not “too gay” or as long as you’re “reasonably passing”. Basically, what it means is that as long as people are able to assume that you’re cishet, then you’re good. This was the idea behind Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

People keep saying, “I’m okay with gay people, as long as…” To me, there are two points wrong with this. Besides what I said in the previous paragraph about performing “normality”, they’re identifying people first as gay and using that label to decide what they think about them before anything else. Not being cishet shouldn’t be a person’s identifying characteristics just as being cisgendered or heterosexual isn’t. Because having a particular sexual identity or sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily tell them any information about that person other than how they identify within/out the gender binary and who they find sexually attractive. That’s it. Second, just the fact that they have to say “you’re okay” with a person’s existence. You and I exist independently of what others think of us. It shouldn’t be within the ability of a person to judge another’s existence.

That is tolerating. Tolerating is you don’t get in my way, I won’t get in yours. There is still a sense of separation, an uneasy truce. Tolerating is my mother knowing my friend is bisexual and letting her stay the night but would disown me if she knew I was bisexual. Tolerating is the “equal but separate” treatment which everyone knows isn’t equal. It’s “you can exist as long as you don’t think you’re equal to me”.

That is why true acceptance is important. The response to “I’m gay.” should be “Cool.” and move on. It should be as easy as telling people your favorite color or pasta sauce. You don’t say, “It’s okay that your favorite color is yellow,” because it doesn’t need to be said; it’s not controversial, the other person wasn’t really expecting anything otherwise and it doesn’t say anything about you as a person besides the fact that you like yellow. This is what needs to happen not only for LGBTQ but also for things like mental conditions, disabilities etc. These are normal parts of being human and they need to be normalised.


That’s it for this time. I have a link for a 2016 essay on the intersection of race and sexual orientation that I couldn’t fit up there so if you wanna read it, check it out. This is Lieutenant and we’ll talk to you next time!

Gay Will Never Be the New Black

Othering and Purity Culture

I recently finished Pure, a book about the purity movement in evangelical Christianity (and beyond)and the psychological effects it has left on the generation of girls that grew up under it. It’s a really good read and offered me a lot of insight into the minds of a community that I have always had a hard time understanding. (I don’t have firsthand experience being immersed in this sort of culture so please read the book if you’re interested in learning more.) In it, there was one idea that really struck a chord with me — a lightbulb went off:

Othering (n.) – The process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as fundamentally different or alien.

So today, we’re going to explore a little part of the purity culture with the concept of othering as well as some other topics to explore a little more about the human condition. **To be clear, in relation to our discussion about purity culture, I will be focusing on the effects on women; for some sources exploring how it has affected people more broadly, check out the bottom of the article for additional resources.**

Purity Culture

In the book, the concept was introduced when the author pointed out that many within the communities that adopted the purity movement saw how it was affecting their children negatively with none of the benefits that it was supposed to guarantee (lower sexual activity, delayed sexual “debut”, lower teen pregnancy rates, etc.) and yet did nothing about it. The leaders of the communities often also refused to acknowledge the damage done to the members of their community. Even those close to victims could often found to be unsympathetic or worse, judgmental. Why?

There is a prevalent sense of shame associated with any deviation from this culture. Those who deviate aren’t worthy, unsaved, dirty, used, and somehow less. To further enforce these ideas, some communities associate the deviations with biases and prejudices the community may hold, subconscious or otherwise. These biases/prejudices may be based on race, class, ethnicity or religiosity (and obviously, being a gendered issue and also affecting women disproportionately, gender). This, then, introduces a strong divide in what people perceive that those that are like and those that are unlike themselves. Since much of the US’s, and indeed, the world’s Christian communities are heavily influenced and dominated by those considering themselves Caucasians and evangelical, the out-group will be made of those who are decidedly not those things. Subconsciously or not, people who are sexually active, sexually expressive, sex positive, have been r*ped/assaulted etc. will be thought of being black/brown, poor, uneducated, atheistic, etc. and therefore, not the image of a good, white Christian so these sort of things will never happen to them. This obviously will play out in the many ways these beliefs can manifest in racist acts etc. but we won’t talk about that now.

There is a prevalent sense of shame associated with any deviation from this culture. Those who deviate aren’t worthy, they’re unsaved, dirty, used, and somehow less. To further enforce these ideas, some communities associate those who deviate with biases and prejudices the community may hold, subconscious or otherwise. These biases/prejudices may be based on race, class, ethnicity or religiosity (and obviously, being a gendered issue and also affecting women disproportionately, gender). This, then, introduces a strong divide in what people perceive that those that are like and those that are unlike themselves.

Since much of the US’s, and indeed, the world’s Christian communities are heavily influenced and dominated by those who identify as Caucasians and evangelical, the out-group will be made of those who are decidedly not those things. When being a virgin and untouched is synonymous with being a good Christian girl while those used as an example of a sexual sinner is someone who is homeless, a minority, an immigrant or someone who dresses “immodestly”, then when confronted with a Christian girl who isn’t sexually “pure”, many would try to ignore it in hopes of denying the fact that it could happen within a good Christian community. This is especially troubling when faced with issues like pedophilia, r*pe and other forms of sexual abuse.

Failing to conform to the standards of sexuality makes one as other as someone who is not accepted within the community. Such guidelines create room for other implicit interpretations which leads to ostracizing the “others” instead of addressing whether their inability to conform is their fault or if the guidelines themselves too unforgiving. Someone who is sexually assaulted is at fault for “not fighting back hard enough” or for being a “tease”. Nonconformity immediately places one outside the umbrella of protection offered by the Christian community. No longer are you a child of God being tested by the devil but someone who must be avoided so that the unacceptable behavior does not become acceptable by mere exposure or “infect” the rest of the pious community. The book goes into more detail with personal accounts of how this culture has created an atmosphere of almost constant shame and anxiety even when individuals hadn’t done anything to be ashamed or anxious about.

And the thing is, this doesn’t even touch on the fact that this seems to leave some Christian minorities perpetually with two bad options. If you fit the stereotype, then it enforces their beliefs and is used as justification for ill treatment. If you don’t, there is still a sense of shame and fear moreso because you’re seen as more likely to “succumb” to it. For example, black girls are often seen as more sexually mature and more capable of adult-like thought than their white counterparts and are punished more severely as a result. This happens despite the fact that black girls cannot control the rate at which their bodies mature and are often sexualised at a young age (starting as young as five). This intersection of both race and gender under this religious context creates a doubly toxic environment for those growing up with it.

Intra-Racial Dynamics

The effects of interracial dynamics whether positive or negative are well-documented especially between groups that have in contact for thousands of years but those within a race are less obvious and less understood. There is othering within racial groups as well that cause significant social issues. Race has been simplified in large part to skin color in the history of the US and it plays a huge role in how the in-groups are formed within a racial minority. In Asia, colorism is highly prevalent and can be seen in everyday media, marketing and in the popularity of whitening creams. This exists to a large extent in most of the world touched by Western influences. White was beautiful, dark was not. This creates the lighter-skinned in-groups and the darker-skinned out-groups.

This not only impacts people’s opportunities for social and economic mobility but also exposes them to discrimination from their own racial group in an effort to distinguish more markedly the difference between the two groups, though oftentimes the differences were non-existent and based on stereotype. Think of Dr. Bledsoe‘s character in Invisible Man.

Because of these divides within the communities, it undermines any effort to progress the group’s rights or status as some within the group are content to cater to the majority by stepping on others within their group.


I didn’t go into a lot of detail in this second part so I’ll leave some supplementary material below if you would like to learn more.

Let us know what you think in the comments or the contact form, follow us or leave us some appreciation on our Patreon if you would like to support future articles.

In any case, hope you’ve learned something new and we’ll talk to you next time,

——

Written by LtDemonLord
Edited by Nemoulysseus

[Repost] Arousal Dissonance: Why Rape is Always Rape

In many rape cases, there have been those that argue that since s/he “enjoyed” it, then it must have not been rape. However, this is a grave misconception where you ignore the fact that the mind and body don’t always act in tandem. If the body reacts, it is in no way a substitute for verbal consent and people need to understand that. In the following video, the speaker goes into detail about why this happens and the outcomes of ignorance.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-q-tSHo9Ho&index=9&list=WL&t=758s