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March 18, 2009

Happy Tuesday!

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 11:28 am

I’m leaving on a roadtrip with W tomorrow(!!), so I’ll be out of the blogosphere for another two weeks or so.

Erk.

Also, I should really really really be asleep right now.

And I haven’t packed yet.

Erk.(!!)

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RANT!

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:54 am

In response to a post in which I said nothing specific about my personal relationships but expressed joy over seeing a positive article about polyamory in a mainstream news-source, someone just posted the following comment on my LiveJournal:

Most of the polyamorous people I’ve met are compulsive liars, greedy, incredibly attention-seeking, and very, very sexually promiscuous. If this had been maybe one or two people, I’d shrugged it off, but I’ve got eight friends that I’m fairly well-acquainted with who claim to be bisexual and polyamorous. They’ve given me some pretty negative views considering they’re all irresponsible and selfish in their relationships. It’s all about instant emotional gratification, and eventually physical.

I just don’t approve of the quality of people I’ve met thus far living the lifestyle. I can see how it’d work, but with the immaturity and selfishness of the polyamorous I’ve met thus far, the community is just a big fucking joke to me.

What the fuck? Seriously?

I didn’t even know what to say. I settled on “Why did you feel it was appropriate to post a comment like this here?” and left it at that – but I really had to fight down the bile in my throat impulse to get seriously defensive and start trying to refute her insults point-by-point and telling her why her logic was broken and she was an asshole…but I know there’s no point. This person is clearly just spewing hate. And, honestly, even if she weren’t I am fucking sick of trying to be the shining counter-example for everyone’s assbackwards stereotypes about polyfolk.

Additional Ranty Ranting behind the cut.
(more…)

Three Things I’ve Learned from RaceFail About Being an Ally

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 7:31 am

1. There is no Right Way.

There are plenty of wrong ways, plenty of ways not to be an ally, but there is no Right Way to accrue all the brownie points, become a Good White Person, and Win at Racism. I already knew this – sort of. But I think, deep down, I believed it was theoretically possible – if only one read enough and listened enough and researched enough and carefully, conscientiously, oh-so-tentatively engaged in enough Right Action – just practically impossible because there were too many books and blogs and causes out there to ever understand in one lifetime. The upshot of this being that, while it may be impossible to Win at Racism, it is distinctly possible to Level Up. Or to NOT Level Up, because you fucked up big-time somewhere, broke a rule, blew all your experience points and should probably just give up and go home.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, because I think it’s a subconscious shift more than a conscious one, but something about the mass de-centered, multilayered, fluid, hypertextual, exploding, blossoming, echoing and reverberating nature of the discussions (and arguments, and shouting matches) around RaceFail has disabused me of that notion. There is no One Right Way or even One Right Path to being an ally. It’s not even realistically impossible to plug in all the variables and get the right answer, it’s metaphysically impossible; the variables are as infinite and ever-shifting as human experience, and there is no right answer. You just have to be an ally and, most importantly, keep being an ally. It’s important for me, as a white person, to sit down and shut up when POC are talking about their experiences with racism, but it’s also important not to stay silent when injustice is being done out of my fear of being wrong. This is not a license to go wading in, ignorance flailing, and start trying to “help” in places where you have little context and no idea what’s going on. It is a geas to quit consuming and participate.

2. The Blogosphere Does Not Exist for MY Edification

In my previous post, although I couched it in awkward caveats, I said some things implying that RaceFail was really a Good Thing because we had all Learned So Much. It’s true that I have learned a lot from RaceFail and from the discussions around cultural appropriation that preceded it. I know the same is true for other allies an hopefully even some white people who were not previously allies. I’m also overwhelmed and excited to have discovered some awesome new (to me) bloggers who I feel negligent for not being aware of before. (But that’s more egocentric Right Way stuff talking. What matters is that I’m reading them now.)

But by claiming that this was all worth it for the sake of edifying some ignorant white people (including myself), I trivialized the experiences of POC who were hurt in the process. I sorta thought I understood this thing too, but I didn’t really get it. This post brought it home to me:

[…] In the intense and almost singular focus on clueless white people in this discussion and the often repeated statement that this was an opportunity to dialogue, that there is solace in the fact that it has been worth all the pain and difficulty, that they are somehow *glad*, the underlying assumption is that:

* PoCs have emotional/intellectual catharsis after such discussions.

* PoC’s pain being part of an educational moment for clueless white people is worth it to PoCs because it’s worth it to white people.

* Anti-racism matters the same amount, in the same way to clueless white people, allies and PoC.

My own personal answer is, frankly no, I haven’t felt any kind of catharsis. I’m pretty sure that the sacrifice of my dignity and watching other PoC being denigrated without any remorse isn’t worth it so please stop talking for me and be more precise in your speech and own that you didn’t really think about whether my pain and humiliation is worth your enlightening moment.

The radical blogosphere, and the people blogging within it, do not exist to make me a better radical. If I become a better radical through my relationship with the blogosphere, that’s great – and how could I not, given the influences I’m surrounded by? But this is not a show being put on for my edutainment.

I think the internet – the blogosphere in particular – is an incredible, unprecedented and powerful forum for doing political work. In order for that work to get done this needs to be, as much as it can be, a safe space where we can work together on difficult issues in ways that respect our own and each others’ humanity. (Which is different from ways in which nobody ever gets angry.) As a participant in that work, educating myself is important but it’s not enough to do just that; it’s my responsibility to facilitate safety and respect. RaceFail has illustrated how having a bunch of perhaps well-meaning but otherwise needy, clueless whites running around can epically derail meaningful political work being done by PoC and their allies, and can make the spaces in which that work is/was happening feel uncomfortable, unsustainable, even dangerous.

I know, trust me, how tempting it is as an insecure baby-ally to hide out in the comfortable anonymity of lurkerdom and call it ‘self-educating’ – because that’s pretty much all I do. It’s easy, it’s free, it’s emotionally safe; it’s the path of least resistance. But that’s not a sufficient education because it is NOT THE JOB of PoC bloggers to educate their more clueless readers. (Although many of them do go out of their way to do so. This is something we should massively appreciate, but not something we should expect.) We need to be educating ourselves by doing our own research, going beyond the blogosphere and maybe even(!) outside the Internet. Maybe to consciousness raising groups in our local areas, or to people in our own communities or to, say, the fuckin’ library. Even though that might necessitate scary things like looking a person in the eye and saying, “I don’t know.”

3. ‘White Guilt’ is an Epithet.

This is tangential to RaceFail, but it’s an important thing I’ve learned in the past 48 hours. I have often, when trying to discuss racism with other white people, been accused of suffering from “white guilt.” The derogatory implication being that my interest in racial politics – rather than being based on any kind of valid argument, or real ethical or personal commitment – is just some kind of idiosyncratic character flaw, indicative of a weak and gullible constitution. I’ve been concern-trolled, online and in person, with the “just white guilt” line enough times to partly internalize it. I sometimes wonder if my activism is not really about a commitment to racial justice or a desire for my loved ones to be safe and flourish, but rather just a manifestation of some neurotic insecurity…

Today I read a post by Seeking Avalon’s Willow in which she said:

Allies (those who recognize white privilege – and who have sometimes been labelled race traitors and polluters. Or more recently; manipulated, emotionally fragile white people).

And suddenly two-and-two came together in my head. *click!* Within anti-racist movement, we talk about white guilt as a manifestation of privilege, one that white people need to overcome in order to engage meaningfully. But that’s NOT what non-radical white people mean when they say it. It’s no longer as effective to explicitly shame white people for being anti-racist, as with “race traitor” or “polluter.” So, instead, accusations of having “white guilt” are used to make us feel crazy for it, to cause us to doubt our own reasons, commitment and character.

Like most people raised in this messed up society, I do have a plethora of neuroses and insecurities. I can’t claim that they don’t impact my activism because they impact my whole life, of which my activism is a big part. And yes, I do feel white guilt sometimes. But it’s the kind that’s important to work through. It’s not the kind that, merely by existing, magically negates my real reasons for caring about racial justice. And finally understanding, thanks to Willow’s comment, that those two things are different allows me to say the latter with confidence.

Without the fear that one day my inexplicably (but obviously!) neurotic weird white guilt might unexpectedly and suddenly disappear, taking with it all my drive to keep fighting racism and turning me into a Strong ‘n’ Steady Normal White Person Who Can Easily Resist That Silly Reverse-Racist Dogma… Well, let’s just say I feel a lot more hopeful about confronting my actual white guilt and dealing with it in a constructive way.

March 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:59 pm

Also. (Okay, I lied.) Also. What is up with all these people talking about how this isn’t a productive discussion, and this is the wrong way to go about this, and nothing is coming out of it, and oh isn’t it tragic(ally annoying)?

Is it as simple as White People on the Side of Right telling POC, “We’d listen if you people just used a different tone?

There may be something I’m missing about the context here because I’m not very tied in with online fandom. I get the impression from comments that explosive discussions like this (on this scale?) end up sweeping the community several times a year, in which case I can totally see why POC and allies would feel like it’s a pain in the ass having to go through the same arguments again and again and again. This is clearly a community of creative, talented, conscientious, daring people and it’s bullshit that they’re regularly being cornered into educating a bunch of more-or-less unreceptive white people who can’t pick up a book, rather than spending that energy, y’know, writing.

Still, I do feel like it’s mostly white people saying that this “flamewar” is a waste of breath. Meanwhile, in the past few hours, I’ve read challenging, thought provoking, beautifully written essays and comments by WOC that, while they may not all be explicitly part of the nested RaceFailing, would, perhaps, not have been written without it.

Not to mention you’d have to be willfully not paying attention to miss this. That happened. Is happening, currently, right now.

I suspect that the people in the “Both sides are behaving badly!” camp believe this conflagration has no productive merit because the people involved are just getting angry. I think that’s backwards. People get angry precisely because something is at stake. If people are angry, that means something important is going on.

And when those people are ones who have historically been silenced, their getting angry is, in itself, something important that’s going on.

None of this negates, however, or makes up for the fact that some people were personally threatened, attacked and outed in the fray. That some people are having to worry about the continuance of their careers because they voiced their opinions. That most people are, from the looks of it, exhausted when they have plenty of other stuff on their plates too. That people have felt harassed into having to defend their integrity and even their very existence. That’s some bullshit.

But I think the argument that RaceFail was/is simply a silly flamewar run rampant is clearly ludicrous and probably racist.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:58 pm

Soooo…I had this plan where I was going to bed at 11.

And instead, I seem to have spent six straight hours reading RaceFail links…

$6/hr Internet and blogreading don’t mix, so I was away from the blogosphere for about three weeks and…Holy Fuckin’ Mahoney!

I’m still not even close to caught up. Hell, I’d link ‘RaceFail’ to something but I’m not even sure where to start. Lots of notes and links and thoughts scribbled haphazardly in my little box, but they’ll have to be sorted into something comprehensible later because, seriously, sleep must happen.

I’m not sure trying to digest the whole thing in one night is advisable, anyway. I’m of two minds – well, really, two stomachs. One says, “This is totally overwhelming. OMG there’s so MUCH going on, and so much of that seems Vitally Important, and there’s fractalization, nuance and complexity here that I’ll never be able to keep up with or wrap my mind around much less participate meaningfully in, fuck it, I’m going to spin around and around and around like a dying videogame character until I fall over, maybe i can bury my head in the sand…mommy?”

The other goes, “This is totally amazing! There’s so much good stuff happening here, a lot of which is totally beyond my ken. Thank god for all these incredible writers and brilliant people, I feel lucky and inspired to be around them! I want to understand more about what’s going on so that I can hopefully contribute something.” That one’s great.

But for the time being, sleep deprivation is kicking both their butts…

One thing I can say, though: I will never again utter the phrase, “It’s just the Internet.”

March 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:27 pm
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Excerpted from something I recently wrote elsewhere:

Right now, the geographical place that feels most like home is Denver. Odd, since that’s the place I’ve spent the least time living since I graduated. But Denver’s really grown on me in the past few years. Something about the city just clicks. I never would have expected it. Considering we were less than half an hour’s drive away, it’s surprising how little time my friends spent there as kids. The occasional rock concert or school field trip, the extremely rare excursion to some all ages goth club or hipster coffee shop, this or that indie film that wasn’t screening in Boulder, and once or twice we probably went to the Zoo. Always a mission. In and out. We didn’t know the place. It was a hulking, nondescript metropolitan mass on the fuzzy horizon of my adolescent consciousness. Nothing compared to the glamorous coastal cities, or to Chicago or, say, London. It sure as hell wasn’t New York. It was “just Denver.” The town next door.

In college I made new friends, several of whom were Denverites, and many of my old friends also moved Denverwards – it being more affordable and less heterogenously bubble-like than Boulder. I started spending more time there, getting to know the place, discovering restaurants I liked, navigating bus routes, sleeping on couches, visiting the Library, taking long meandering inebriated rambles through downtown streets, making memories. Then I spent most of last summer living within walking distance of the city center.

I don’t know when the shift happened. It was gradual. But I started to notice if I went out of town, even just to Boulder for a few days, that upon my return seeing the shiny Capitol dome, or the concert marquees lining Colfax, or the stupid Qwest building fluorescing blue over everything…would make me feel inexplicably elated. As if a bad day here must be better than a good day anywhere else. I don’t get that feeling about many places – and it’s never snuck up on me like that before. Sure the city has its drawbacks and its problems; it’s a city. But it’s a city that I managed to fall in love with while I was busy making other plans.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:05 pm
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Yesterday, I was helping a couple of friends move a three-person bicycle rig out of the back of their truck when something occurred to me:

Whenever I’m involved in lifting or moving something heavy and doing so isn’t painfully difficult, I assume it’s because I’m not carrying my share of the weight. I figure the work seems easy because I’m not giving it my all and because the other lifters are strong while I am weak. The thing must feel especially light to me because it feels especially heavy to them; I only appear to be offering support, at most I’m providing an additional point of balance, at worst getting in everybody else’s way…

It never occurs to me that sometimes sharing the work between many people really does make it easy on everybody.

Or that, even when I am weak where others are strong, providing extra balance is not an irrelevant contribution.

This does not, however, deter me from wanting to get stronger. But maybe I should focus my energy on doing that, rather than worrying about it.

One way to get stronger is by helping to lift heavy objects.

We got the bike on the ground and rode it to church, where we drank sangria and sang the praises of nothing in particular, and then there was cake.

March 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:47 am

I am posting this purely to derail any further use of the excuse that “I haven’t posted in x amount of time – so I can’t post NOW unless I have something GOOD to say!”

I met my brother’s girlfriend! His first serious girlfriend ever. She’s a PhD Chemistry student. And the very first thing she did was take all of us out to a yummy vegan restaurant regardless of the fact that nobody in the group, including herself, is vegan. She has an article posted on her fridge about how CalTech is working to increase the proportion of women undergraduates. Today Keenan told me about how much, in just the few months they’ve been dating, she’s opened his eyes to the kinds of obstacles faced by women scientists that, as a man, he’s never had to deal with or even imagined. Tonight we watched The Worst Witch (definitely passes the Bechdel Test) and Legend (definitely does not) at her house. Also, she has a cat named Cat and makes a mean cocktail. So far, this person definitely gets the Older Sister Stamp of Approval. (And I’m pretty proud of my kid bro, too.)

I just found out that someone I know from when I was in Ireland is publishing a YA fantasy novel. That’s exciting.

Whitney and I are driving up the Coast starting on Tuesday! I should perhaps do a little more planning for this than I have already…

August is flying out here tomorrow – well, today now. It’s our anniversary this weekend. Eleventh. Whoa. Thus, I should really be asleep right now.

I was up ’til 6am yesterday and slept ’til 3 this afternoon. Jetlag, being sick, and sudden unlimited free access to the Internet make for a wacky sleep schedule…

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