Psychologists have found that people’s belief in a just world helps explain how they react to innocent victims of negative life circumstances. People become cognitively frustrated when presented with stories of victims who suffer through little fault of their own. They can deal with this frustration in two ways: they can conclude that the world is an unjust place, or they can decide that the victim is somehow to blame. Most people reconcile their psychological distress by blaming the victim. Even when we know that suffering is undeserved, it is psychologically easier to blame the victim rather than give up the idea that the world is basically fair.
— 

Melissa Harris-Perry

This is also referred to as The Just World Fallacy. If the world is “good and just,” then bad things must only happen to people who “deserved it or caused it.” Except the world is not good and just. And despite individual people choosing to be good and/or just, structures, institutions and systems remain corrupt overall. Primarily through the media is the idea that bad only happens to those who deserve suffering conveyed. Add this to the manifestations of oppression based on gender, race, class, nationality, citizenship, sexual orientation, size, etc. and things like rape culture for example, thrive. And even ideologies that appear “harmless” to some people like prosperity gospel, positivity culture, the law of attraction and American exceptionalism are based on ignoring systemic inequality and focusing on exceptional cases. They stand firm in this particular fallacy.

See, it requires quite a bit from a person to be willing to challenge the world as is. It is psychologically, emotionally and intellectually easier to victim blame. It also helps people protect their psyches from the thought that something bad could happen to them or worse, that they are the causes of those bad things happening to others.

Still…it’s unacceptable. Victim blaming = unacceptable. The right thing to do is listen and support victims/survivors of anything and the oppressed of any form of oppression and work to deconstruct the structures, institutions and systems that make it possible. On an individual level, it requires accountability.

You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?“ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.
—  Junot Díaz (x
When the path of a man and woman are going to cross, it’s always the woman who’s expected to alter her path to avoid a collision. In addition, women restrict their stride as compared to men, and tend to hunch their shoulders and not initiate or maintain eye contact.
So I did this research my friends and I started messing around with this. We found that if you don’t alter your path when walking toward a man, a lot of men will almost run right into you, or bump their shoulder against yours, and then turn and give you this weird look. The weird looks you get are increased if you stand up straight with squared shoulders and take longer strides. I habitually walk this way now, and I continue to get puzzled looks by men who turn around after I pass them and watch me with an uncertain look.
Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction. Imagine living in a world where we can all be who we are, a world of peace and possibility. Feminist revolution alone will not create such a world; we need to end racism, class elitism, imperialism. But it will make it possible for us to be fully self-actualized females and males able to create beloved community, to live together, realizing our dreams of freedom and justice, living the truth that we are all “created equal.” Come closer. See how feminism can touch and change your life and all our lives. Come closer and know firsthand what feminist movement is all about. Come closer and you will see: feminism is for everybody.
—  bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

wetmattos asked:

Dear, can you help me a bit? I'm trying to find your posts on respectability politics to send to a friend with whom I'm arguing about the measure of offensiveness in power dynamics, with no avail... Which tag do you use to mark them? Thanks in advance for the help!

The politics of respectability originated as cultural, sexual, domestic, employment and artistic “guidelines” or “rules” for racially marginalized groups to follow in the effort to be viewed as “human” in a White supremacist society and by individual Whites. Some of the most noticeable manifestations of the politics of respectability occurs among Black people because of the history dehumanization because of slavery. 

The politics of respectability implies that recognition of Black humanity has to be “earned” by Black people by engaging in puritanical behavior as approved by White supremacy…behaviors that Whites themselves don’t have to engage in to “prove” humanity because of White privilege; they’re always viewed as “the default human.”

During the post-Civil War era and early-mid 20th century, the politics of respectability was viewed as a source of power or galvanization of Black middle class society, and a way to combat White supremacist myths of automatic Black inferiority associated with poverty and degradation. (There are arguments to be made that this helped the women’s club movement among Black women’s anti-racism, womanist work in the early 20th century). However, what it ended up doing in many cases was fragmenting the Black working class/poor from the Black middle class, who despite performing respectability to spec, were often still alienated from the Whites they sought approval from. (Where do you think “uppity Negro” comes from? This.) And Black people regardless of class were (and still are) targets of racism.

Today, the politics of respectability is forcefully injected into any conversation about race by both Black and White people. Bill Cosby and Don Lemon are examples. And anytime they shame and scold fellow Black people (as the President has done sometimes too) Whites applaud because once again, they have ZERO accountability for racism.

This myth that White-approved performance (versus actually living) will eradicate racism because Whites will finally “like” Black people is ludicrous and is pushed by those who engage in victim blaming, since it’s easier than admitting the truth about racism.

Black people are human and shouldn’t have to “audition” for humanity based on clothing, speech style, neighborhood lived in, educational level etc. These rules are meant to dehumanize and justify oppression. And if the President of the United States was asked “papers please?“ then obviously resume, grooming, education, and even power is irrelevant in a Black body; obviously the politics of respectability won’t save.

Here’s some of my posts that address the politics of respectability:

Quotes on Gradient Lair from others and includes some notes by me:

  • @FeministGriote on the politics of respectability and Rachel Jeantel [X]
  • Angela Davis on early 20th century Black women, working class and middle class [X]
  • Alice Walker; describing the White Gaze [X]

External links from one of my favorite blogs, Still Furious and Still Brave:

Other good external posts:

And since this post will inevitably be derailed (*sigh*) let’s clarify one thing. The way that sexism impacts White women’s lives differs from the politics of respectability. While sexism and misogyny in general includes domination and objectification for gender, it is not the same thing as the politics of respectability. Further, Black women also have to deal with sexism and misogyny, in addition to racism, misogynoir and the politics of respectability, which is one of the offspring of White supremacy just as colourism is. In fact, all of the “respectable” standards that Black women are supposed to adhere to come from White supremacist notions of womanhood where White women are placed as the ideal. This is why there is specific anti-Black misogyny, or misogynoir that Black women deal with. 

Hope this helps! Take care. 

Privilege is like a knife

It can be a tool. It can be a weapon. It gives power. You’re probably going to be at least somewhat scared of the person who carries around a big ass knife until you figure out if they are an okay person or not. And it isn’t their fault that they have this big ass knife, but they still have it. And that still makes them scary until they prove themselves. 

You know what, I’m going to take hormones, have surgery, lose ‘friends’ and 'family’, increase my risk of homelessness, joblessness, physical and sexual violence, and spend thousands of hours and dollars navigating a hostile medical bureacracy; because that way I’ll be able to finally infiltrate the super-secret radical feminist clubhouse and rape them all.
Oh, and as a nice side bonus maybe I’ll absorb some of their 'feminine energy’ to use for my nefarious patriarchal plot for female subjugation.
—  No trans woman ever

I confront [white guilt] every year, about a month into my course on racism, among [white] students who come to me in tears because they cannot deal with the racism that goes on in their families or their home towns or their student residences. Their tears are the result of genuine anguish, care, and a desire to learn and to change. I confront similar attitudes among my colleagues, and I am similarly gratified by their concern. But those who experience white guilt need to learn three things:

1. People of colour are generally not moved by their tears, and may even see those tears as a self-indulgent expression of white privilege. It is after all a great privilege to be able to express one’s emotion openly and to be confident that one is in a cultural context where one’s feelings will be understood.

2. Guilt is paralysing. It serves no purposes; it does no good. It is not a substitute for activism.

3. White guilt is often patronizing if it leads to pity for those of colour. Pity gets in the way of sincere and meaningful human relationships, and it forestalls the frankness that meaningful relationships demand. White guilt will not change the racialized environment; it will only make the guilty feel better.

—  Audrey Kobayashi, Women of Colour in Canadian Academia
Why Whites Call People Of Colour "Racist"

I have been called “racist” by White people whenever I specifically reject a legislative, political, media/film/art, or cultural manifestation of White supremacy. I’ve also been called “racist” for recounting any experience that I have had with racism. The actual act of naming what I heard or experienced is deemed “racist.” The naming, deconstruction and discussion of experiences of this nature is important, however. As Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins notes:

Naming daily life by applying language to everyday experience infuses it with the new meaning of a womanist consciousness. Naming becomes a way of transcending the limitations of intersecting oppressions.

Apparently, what I actually heard or experienced is of no concern or consequence to Whites seeking to call Black people or other people of colour racist.

There’s two reasons why Whites call people of colour (especially Black people) “racist.” First of all, it comes from a lack of understanding of the term (through ignorance or willful ignorance and hatred), its history and its consequences. As long as “racism” is viewed solely as “one person being mean to another person because of their race” or basically solely as an individual and arbitrary instance of prejudice with equal social capital between the individuals, Whites can obscure or ignore the ramifications of the historical (whether implied, microaggressions or overt racism), institutional, structural and systemic manifestations of White supremacy (which does NOT require extremism to exist) and racism.

A Black person being insulted based on slurs that facilitate(d)(s) oppression and genocide for centuries and that same sentiment behind that slur facilitates the denial of a plethora of opportunities as well as supports a plethora of types of discrimination and punishment represents a different magnitude and scope of an insult versus a Black person “hurting” a White person’s feelings, even if the former is rude. Oppression is about more than hurt feelings. The latter doesn’t even begin to encapsulate what the former is. Further, individual acts of harm from a person of colour to a White person may be an insult, a tort or a crime—but it does not connect to violence (which is more than just physical) used to facilitate the oppression of an entire people. (Even so, because the criminal justice system is about punishing Blacks and “protecting” Whites, a White person wouldn’t have to have the expectation that a Black person would go unpunished for harming them. More convictions and harsher sentences are factors. Even Black adolescents face more punishment than White adolescents. In fact, Whites should fear Whites, in regards to the criminal justice system.)

Many times an insult is not occurring—it’s just a Black person adamantly rejecting White supremacy. The rejection of White supremacy and racism themselves is not “reverse racism.” Rejecting White supremacy is not then telling Whites to be “ashamed” of Whiteness, as they should be able to live and thrive without the lie that is the claim of inherent superiority. For example, I’ve had White women suggest to me that any rejection of Eurocentric beauty, including considering myself beautiful as a Black woman who looks nothing like them, and having a blog where Black women are celebrated visually, is being “racist.” By not making yet another space (since apparently, having their images dominate commercials, films, television shows, magazines, fashion blogs, print ads, books, stock photography and more is not enough), my personal space, dedicated to White women, I am then deemed ”racist” and “oppressing” White women. This is only a smidgen of the nonsense that I face when Whites choose to call me “racist.”

“Reverse racism,” as well as “misandry” and “heterophobia” are not forms of oppression. The oppressed deconstructing, rejecting and fighting oppression does not then make the privileged become oppressed. The privileged have no “right” to oppress, so losing the opportunity to oppress does not make the privileged become oppressed. If the privileged measure their freedom based on how much they can oppress or not, the know nothing of actual freedom. Nothing.

Whites ignore how White privilege protects them from racial oppression but does not for people of colour, especially Black people. They retreat to examining intersections where they may be oppressed (if they aren’t cisgender, heterosexual, White men in the socioeconomic 1% and living in the Western world)—intersections based on gender, class, sexual orientation, being trans*, weight and ability, while not realizing that despite any or all of these areas where oppression can manifest, they STILL have White privilege. Some Whites will ignore the experiences of people of colour who are women, poor, LGBTQ, considered overweight or have a challenge with a particular ability and by doing so, they can focus on how they themselves experience oppression while ignoring White privilege and matters of race. No country for nuance and intersectionality?

The second reason why Whites call people of colour “racist” is quite different. I’ve been in several graduate-level psychology classes where White students stated that being called “racist” is the absolute worse thing that could happen to them. I always wondered why saying or doing a racist thing didn’t scare them more than being called “racist.” What I realized is that some Whites will call a person of colour who called out their racism “racist” in an “I know you are but what am I” reductionist retreat. The defense mechanisms of projection and denial are to protect their egos. If there’s nothing they fear more than being called “racist,” then the best thing to do is to get that label “away” from them as soon as possible. By deciding that a person of colour rejecting racism is the “real” “racist” act, not the racist act that they or another White person was called out on, they can deflect and derail. A common derailment tactic is to assert in a whiny voice “all Whites aren’t like this.” Who said they are? Again, racism is not solely about individual to individual relationships; even when the discussion or action is between two people, it speaks to a greater experience impacted by institutional, systemic and structural factors. Further, an individual White person does not have to be racist in any way to benefit from White privilege living in a White supremacist society. As Mychal Denzel Smith writes In White People Have To Give Up Racism:

Not every white person is a racist, but the genius of racism is that you don’t have to participate to enjoy the spoils. If you’re white, you can be completely oblivious, passively accepting the status quo, and reap the rewards.

A lack of understanding regarding what racism actually is, the belief that White supremacy is “normal” in society, the inability to see the manifestations of racism because they do not experience them and are shielded by White privilege, as well as self-protection from the label that they fear most is why Whites call people of colour “racist” and from my experience, seem to take great pleasure in doing so when that person of colour is Black.

Related Essay List: On Race…

i cannot get over the smug cackling of SWERFs observing that people who trade sex are often in difficult circumstances, as though they’ve produced some sort of clever point.

Gosh, people do jobs because they need money in order to survive. 

And the more you stigmatize a job, the more dangerous you (yes, you rad fems) labor to make it, the more people who have other options are likely to choose those other options.

Well fucking spotted. 

Obviously, if a group of people are being targeted unfairly, the kind, decent, feminist thing to do is mock the fact that their lives are difficult, and that they had to make a serious of tricky, unideal choices to wind up in their position, to pull the fact of their endangerment out like a rhetorical flourish. 

It’s not men who turn us into object. You’re the ones waving us around like the last ten points you need to win your high school debate. 

A lot of people seem to implicitly think that racism, misogyny, and homophobia are fairly rare things in our society. The corollary to this is that racist beliefs are only held by racists, and racists are the sort of extreme aberrations from mainstream society who burn crosses on people’s lawns. So when you say that what person X said is offensive, they think “No way! Person X wouldn’t burn a cross.” I think this is where “it wasn’t intended to be offensive, so it must not be offensive” comes from.

This worldview presents a double whammy, because even if you can convince them something is technically problematic, it’s not related to any systematic problems in our society, so it’s still no big deal.

— 

A comment by Autumn Harvest on No Cookies For Me: Blatant Sexism *Isn’t* Benign, Thank You…

I’ve experienced some of this from friends recently–not that what they say can’t be offensive, but they don’t understand that sexist, racist, heterocentrist, ciscentrist, ableist, etc. beliefs are actually widely held, by people who may or may not be otherwise fairly decent human beings (although how decent one can be while supporting the continued disenfranchisement of an already oppressed class is debatable.)

E: just realized i can edit the source here too, since most people coming to check my blog for evidence of being a white shitlord will be stopping by this page. basically: yes i’m white, but slightly less of a shitlord because this post was made three friggin years ago, check my response to blackfemalepresident’s post here

The real problem with Tumblr’s social justice scene is that it’s really appallingly unmarketable.

wait no put down the rotten fruit i’m serious

Like, people are right to be angry. The kyriarchy is awful and it hurts them and it needs to go. And they have a right to express their anger, on their personal blogs! But then they claim that being angry is the same thing as fighting, or even that it’s the only way to fight, and that’s. That’s just the most poisonous counterproductive way you can possibly go about things.

Changing people’s minds- changing the minds of lots of people, the people whose unconscious biases and behaviors make up the oppression women/POCs/LGBTQ/etc people face… it first requires that you know how to change a person’s mind. 

Now, rule number one of changing a person’s mind: Don’t let them decide you’re the Enemy. Unless you’re dealing with someone who’s unusually introspective and open-minded, a person will treat an Enemy’s ideas as Wrong Ideas, and once someone’s identified a Wrong Idea, it becomes a hundred times harder to convince them that they were wrong about it being Wrong. People will jump backwards through incredibly hoops just to oppose an Enemy’s Wrong Idea- even if they didn’t have any particular opinion on the idea before the Enemy introduced it to them.

And what’s the quickest way to make someone decide a stranger is now an Enemy? Yeah, it’s open hostility. That’s kind of a no-brainer. Even worse is calling someone evil or a bad person right off the bat- people don’t think they’re bad people. They think that very strongly. They think that so strongly that if you tell them they’re a bad person, they won’t even think before deciding that you’re wrong. They become defensive, opposed- you are now the Enemy, and anything you say is henceforth a move against them.

(I suspect very strongly that this is a major reason why the MRA movement exists- they’re those who reacted to being told that their sexism made them Bad People strongly enough that they began concocting really wild arguments for why sexism isn’t bad at all, and furthermore that feminism must be a bunch of evil misandrists out to oppress them.)

There are real enemies, out there. There are those who have made a part of their identity, their core beliefs, that women ought to be subservient to men, that the white man is the superior being, that homosexuality is an abomination unto the Lord. For them, there is nothing but to oppose them with all the strength you can muster.

But most people are not like that. Most people hold their evil beliefs because nobody ever gave them a strong enough reason to question them. Most people, with careful language and proper manipulation, can be led out of the darkness, and come to believe that they walked out on their own, scarcely remembering a time that they weren’t in the light. If you’re careful, if you use your tools correctly- anger in its time, gentleness in its time, the truth backing up your every word- you can begin to fix a broken world.

Row, row, transform the power.

The Concept Of White Supremacy Involving Sociopathy Is NOT Ableism

One way that Whites can continue to control the language by which people of colour–and most often Black people (since anti-Blackness means Black bodies are used as ground zero for oppression in juxtaposition to or “antithetical” to Whiteness itself, and primarily because so much anti-oppression research and scholarship is created by Black people, which is regularly appropriated as we are erased from it)–discuss oppression is to invoke the notion of people of colour as unilateral oppressors of Whites who are oppressed for other facets of their identities. Obviously this is anti-intersectional because the single issue approach to oppression does not account for the fact that oppression types vary and intersect and none of them erase White supremacy itself. In other words, Whites who are oppressed for other facets of their identities (i.e. gender, sexual orientation, class, ability) still have White privilege and still benefit from racism and White supremacy. And since Whiteness determines what is deemed “accurate” and “valuable” scholarship–even about the oppression that Whites do not face, such as racism–this same Whiteness is used to control and police how Black people can speak about oppression.

One way to silence and control is to view oppression through an anti-intersectional lens at best and just straight up make up false claims of bigotry at worst. I mentioned experiencing false claims from Whites in my essay I Will Not Tolerate Whites REGULARLY Making FALSE Claims About Me Being Bigoted. These are the same Whites that often think that using Black experiences as “metaphors” to explain their own White privilege away because of some other form of oppression is them “practicing intersectionality.” Practicing what I actually live, intersectionality, a concept first articulated by a Black woman, Kimberlé Crenshaw (though Black women been living it) and expounded upon by Patricia Hill Collins and other Black women scholars. I explained this anti-Blackness being mistaken for intersectionality in White People Using Blackness and Anti-Black Racism Analogies For Their Experiences Is NOT Intersectionality

One of the most common areas where false claims of bigotry and White supremacy thrives (through racist notions about Black bodies, which I discussed in a Storify, Racist Myths About Black People As Inherently Able-Bodied and Neurotypical) is in discussions and discourse about ableism, though as I mentioned in the essay at the end of the last paragraph, literally every oppressed group has a White person or a White “ally” as the face of that group. That’s White supremacy. In regards to ableism, rarely how White supremacy, racism and anti-Blackness actually create mental health issues for Black people is discussed, how it impacts already detrimental mental health issues for Black people discussed nor does how the healthcare system is virulently racist comes up. (I discussed this in more detail through my own experiences in On Blackness and Perceptions of Able-Bodied Privilege.) Rarely is PTSD for Black people who live in poverty ever addressed. Rarely is how the violence inflicted upon Black bodies where disabilities that occur in response to violence addressed (i.e. I grew up and live in an area where seeing young Black men in wheelchairs because of violence is common and daily), nor is the stress upon Black people who can become pregnant where those issues impact the pregnancy and the physical and mental health of offspring of concern in these White-centered discourses on disability. And now when Black people discuss the sociopathy inherent in White supremacy, that’s referred to as “ableist” by Whites? This is not ableism. 

While Anti-Social Personality Disorder and psychopathy are regularly conflated with sociopathy, the latter includes when a belief system results in learned behaviors that can have mass anti-empathetic consequences. While Anti-Social Personality Disorder speaks to an individual mental health issue that impacts daily interaction, speaking of collective social and learned antipathy, resentment and even hatred (though oppression doesn’t require hatred) as sociopathy because of White supremacy is not a mental health diagnosis whereby mentioning it in a derogatory way is ableism. It is a social condition that fosters oppression and is in response to being oppressors. Oppression does not only change the oppressed; the oppressor is also changed. Sociopathy is not even a mental health diagnosis and does not refer to an individualized mental health issue, though its manifestations can be individualized. The sheer pleasure that someone like George Zimmerman gets from the attention he receives by harming others and murdering Trayvon Martin directly connects to anti-Blackness and White supremacy and an entire system supporting his behavior. (And do not dare mention his mother’s heritage right now because anti-Blackness allows him to access White male privilege despite his ethnicity.)  This same mass disregard for Black life can be seen in Renisha McBride’s death or Jordan Davis’ death or the multiple other ways that Whites disregard Black life and how it seems common place and learned. The common nature of this in addition to the power ascribed upon White supremacy is why Black and other people of colour also internalize the lack of empathy and worthlessness ascribed upon non-White bodies.

Whites seeking to silence the truth about White supremacy are ever too glad to denounce the existence of what reads as sociopathic or where a group of people have a long term pattern of manipulating, exploiting or violating the rights of others. When research confirms that Whites feel lack of empathy towards Black pain, feel that Black bodies are made for handling pain (which would be the actual ableism here–i.e. the Strong Black Woman and Angry Black Woman stereotypes are inherently ableist–however conveniently ignored) and when they learn that Black people are harmed more by police, the criminal justice system and Prison Industrial Complex, they want stricter regulations to continue that harm, that at the core is a learned lack of empathy as a social condition, while feeling zero responsibility for how that lack of empathy in addition to their own privilege actually oppresses Black people. How do you classify people who are glad to see Black people die? How do you classify people who teach “inherent inferiority” of Black people as the foundation of their own identities? How do you classify people who think it is acceptable or even funny to dehumanize and reduce Black people to costumes, tropes, stereotypes or slaves? How ha ha funny is it to wear a Trayvon Martin Halloween costume now or gather around for a Saturday picnic as a Black man or a Black woman was lynched and castrated or raped in the past? How do I classify a White woman in another continent who tried to derail a campaign I created for my brother who was brutally attacked solely because our lives are automatic lies to her and being right about “fraud” for which she had no proof mattered more than his life? (He’s doing a lot better over these last few months.) The actual collective emotional politics are more than abstract laws, institutions or policies. It is human choice and interaction and while not a mental health illness, Whiteness as a social position (not solely being White and from a particular place) has many sociopathic facets. 

As Flavia Dzodan notes in her essay Whiteness As Social Disease and Ableism:

I am not trying to gloss over the implication for mental health and for the stigmas associated with mental illness. Yet, I also realized that for many of us, myself included, whiteness can only be described as a social disease. We lack words to explain this in ways that do not further stigmatize people. I am aware that saying racism is sociopathic could be interpreted as ableist and yet, how do we describe a culture wide phenomenon that kills us? how do we describe a political system founded on our shared inhumanity? how do we describe an oppression that is rooted in lack of empathy and love towards us?

Then it becomes a matter of what language is “acceptable” and when this language is controlled by Whites in a White supremacist society, conveniently they have the power to decide what language can be used to describe how they oppress people of colour. She also notes:

One of the consequences of epistemic injustice is that we do not have accepted frameworks to explain our lives. By “accepted,” I mean, frameworks that are society-wide accepted and recognized as valid throughout academia, mainstream media and public discourses including but not limited to policy and laws. 

The same White supremacy that refuses to acknowledgewomanism,” wants to erase Blackness from “intersectionality,” and thinks that “misogynoir” is make-believe since the word was created by a Black woman, Moya Bailey, and not by Whites and is “new” though the concept and experience is centuries old is the same White supremacy that conveniently wants White supremacy left without critique and conflates social conditions with diagnosed mental health issues. In fact, this conflation is what is ableist. 

Using mental health issues as a shield or conflation in order to escape critique for White supremacy is not new. In fact, last year when Hugo Schwyzer’s abuse of several women of colour including Flavia who I quoted here and others came to “mainstream” light, many tried to blame his mental health issues for the fact that White supremacy is why he was given a platform and impunity to abuse. No one wants to explain why a Black male feminist could not have the same opportunity to abuse for years on end with White women’s support. And then his mental health issues were used to silence critique of White supremacy, which I alluded to in How EVERYONE Works Together To Silence Women of Colour’s Critiques of Mainstream Feminism. While suggesting that anyone with mental health issues is an abuser is in fact ableist (as I do not abuse people despite having anxiety and PTSD), not holding someone accountable for their abuse because of mental health issues is also ableist. It implies inferiority and lack of accountability are acceptable for them as if they are not fully worthwhile human beings like everyone else. The same mental health scapegoat to protect White supremacy stance is regularly used in cases of White male terrorism. No such mental health analyses are provided when Black people commit crimes. The very racist in addition to ableist notion that criminality is inherent in Blackness and thereby uncontrollable is used to mask how racism and inequality contributes to Black criminality in the first place.  

But this is not the same thing as saying a social and culturally taught lack of empathy, responsibility, accountability and sense of fairness that is at the core of White supremacy is a mental health issue. It is not. It is social and it is taught and reinforced through institutional racism and socially via media. It is why the extrajudicial killing of Black people does not even remotely awaken the senses of Whites, many of which think we deserve to die while in the same breath will yell about intraracial crime (which is common for every race) as “Black on Black crime” as if that itself is arbitrary and unrelated to the impact of White supremacy. Are they individually “sick” where we are “mocking” their illness when we mention White supremacy and sociopathy? No. But the oppression that is White supremacy cannot be ignored nor viewed solely as intellectual or legislative experience. It most certainly is behavioral and emotional. But it being the latter does not make it a mental illness. It makes it the status quo, actually. 

Conveniently organic epistemology is not acceptable nor is using “standard” terms to describe what oppressors do because those oppressors decide that they’re “oppressed” when how they oppress is critiqued. And the DSM-IV-TR itself is not without critique nor safe from the confines of White supremacy. The racism involved in schizophrenia diagnoses for Black men and depression versus anxiety diagnoses for Black women, or the fact that being gay was long considered a mental health issue in previous DSM editions needs to be considered before this book becomes the standard for what is ableism or not through White policing. Oh and since Whites and White credentials are what is “accepted” in determining what terminology can be used and how in regards to oppression, I do have 3 degrees in the behavioral sciences and over a decade of research on the matter. Is this acceptable…since living as a Black woman and facing what reads as sociopathy supported by ideology, culture and institutions as the foundation of White supremacy does not count as acceptable knowledge? 

Black people–especially ones like me who deal with mental health issues and physical issues–have to be willing to interrogate why is White supremacy okay in disability discourse if it is not okay in anything else. I say this since many Black feminists, womanists and other social justice advocates are perfectly okay with Whites setting the agenda and controlling what is deemed “ableist,” what matters in terms of mental health, making disability a “raceless” or anti-intersectional conversation, and ignoring how disabled Whites can still be racist and use White supremacy to shape their discourse on disability as well as on mental and physical health. White supremacy must be interrogated anywhere and everywhere it appears. Obviously the concern that people will inaccurately process sociopathy as a “diagnosis” and thereby excuse racism and let Whites off the hook is a legitimate one. However, I am not suggesting that “sociopathy” replaces the word “racism” or “White supremacy.” For what? Those terms work. What I do suggest is acknowledging that racism is not solely an intellectual exercise plus privilege but also collectively learned behaviors of abuse, manipulation and a lack of empathy that is supported by the status quo. White supremacy is why calling the very same White supremacist actions that fit existing definitions of sociopathy can be called “ableism” by the same people who get to decide what is “ableist” or not because of White supremacy. It’s a feedback loop dedicated to the status quo. 

“I will state flatly that the bulk of this country’s White population impresses me, and has so impressed me for a very long time, as being beyond any conceivable hope of moral rehabilitation. They have been White, if I may so put it, too long; they have been married to the lie of White supremacy too long; the effect in the personalities, their lives, their grasp of realty, has been as devastating as the lava which so memorably immobilized the citizens of Pompeii. They are unable to conceive that their version of reality, which they want me to accept, is an insult to my history and a parody of theirs and an intolerable violation of myself.” - James Baldwin

princesspills asked:

how do you feel about people who say that trying to eradicate things like dress codes is pointless because it's "not oppressive enough"? people have told me that theres no point in trying to fix these issues because there are bigger issues to worry about (such as acid attacks on women in Pakistan).

I think people who say that shit need to remember the pyramid of oppression and do some reading into how even microaggressions contribute to a kyriarchal system of oppression and privilege.

So this poll appears to have been targeted only towards those that agree. As of now, there are over 4,000 votes claiming the name is “respectful” and should not be banned from tv (no votes) and about 100 votes to ban it (yes votes). While I don’t think outright banning is the solution, I hate that this is wildly skewed towards the distorted and offensive position that the name somehow shows respect.

What do you think, guys? Can we swing it the other way by sharing it outside the self-reassuring network?

Racism Isn't Only American. White Supremacy Isn't Only Western.

A common comment, tweet, or email that I receive on a weekly basis from someone White (and occasionally people of colour who deny racism’s existence in attempt to protect their psyches) involve two assertions. (This is not hyperbole; it’s already happened twice this week.) One is that racism is primarily an American problem. The second is that White supremacy is a construct that only applies in certain places. 

Both assertions are false. These assertions are based on the presumptions that: 1) White people can determine where racism is. White people are not in the position to make this assertion as Whites do not experience racism. Just because they don’t feel that racism exists in a place doesn’t mean that it is not there. Further, they are not going to “see” it because White privilege obscures their perceptions in terms of noticing it. I am used to White men Whitesplaining and mansplaining this. But the fact that White women also make this assertion is rather comical, and not ha ha funny but please get out of my face with the nonsense funny. White women would flip tables if White men dared to tell them where sexism and misogyny are or are not (which White men actually do). Yet magically they think they are in the position to determine where racism is or is not. 2) Varying population densities where Whites are a numerical minority erases racism and White supremacy. This is also false. Whites do not have to have a numerical majority for White supremacy to exist. Because Whiteness impacts the entire globe–you know the globe where over 80% of it has been impacted by colonialism and White supremacy–yet of course actual White people are a numerical minority globally, clearly it can be seen that this is not a numbers issue. Power, platform, and money lie in the hands of small groups that are often White (and usually cis hetero male) lead. Governments, global corporations, and more are concentrated in power and regardless of the race of the person “in charge” reflect the whims of imperialist White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy. 

On an Ask that I replied to in regards to why I capitalize “Black” and “White” this comment was left by amyleona

I usually use White, but there are some times when I don’t think it should be capitalised. By capitalising White, you absolutely are forcing the reader to think about White supremacy in every context. This is a very Western thing*, so there are some cases were White supremacy is not a factor or were there is a difference between White and white. e.g. In Syria, there are many white people. Those of European descent I would describe as White, since they carry that world-wide privilege (especially Westerners). But there are also white Arabs. Though they carry privilege in a lot of the world, the racial dynamics within the region are very different. *White supremacy is a Western concept, based on the actions of Western nations around the world. Much of it is based in the racial dynamics of the US. These principles cannot be applied across the board, to every culture.

False. White supremacy is a global issue. Now, this does not mean that intersectionality and understanding kyriarchy in terms of intersections and matrices gets ignored. White supremacy is only a part of the picture, hence the term “imperialist White supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy.” Thus, while “ethnic” Whites (i.e. see How The Irish Became White, the racial differences among Jews [not all Jews are White in terms of race], or how certain Europeans are still deemed not “White enough” [i.e. some Eastern Europeans]) and Whiteness itself, (while the latter is not a culture) is hierarchical by ethnicity, nationality, class, and other intersections, this does not mean that White supremacy as a factor evaporates. It complicates, not evaporates.  While one particular culture may have some Whites who dominate other Whites, this does not mean that the existence of the latter Whites then erases White supremacy as ideology, construct or oppression. To think of White supremacy in terms of American dynamics alone eschews the fact that much of the racism, the legacy of slavery in sheer size actually occurred outside of the United States (i.e. Brazil). Much of the colonialism globally impacts America (in terms of capitalism and trade) yet didn’t occur here. The idea that White supremacy evaporates when White people are not present or when some Whites are oppressed for other facets of identity beyond their race is simply untrue.

While cultural facets and country/culture-specific histories have elaborate nuances that diverge from American history or even Western concepts of history, the notion that White supremacy doesn’t apply because of elaborate intersectional facets is untrue. For example, the Arab Slave Trade of Africans or the fact that even some Indigenous people in America owned Black slaves doesn’t mean that White supremacy was no longer a factor. In fact, it complicated what was already complicated. Oppression is intersectional and hierarchical. Vertical and horizontal. And when I mention White supremacy, it is not to imply White = oppressor, anyone else = oppressed as the entire picture of oppression. It’s more complex.

There’s actually a third assertion that I receive almost weekly as well. It is an admission that sure, racism is in America and White supremacy is a problem, but it is “worse” in America. Again, this is not an assertion that Whites are at liberty to make. Even within America, there are Northerners who cling to the notion that all Southern racism was “worse.” (Some stick to that today. Meanwhile Black trans women are regularly murdered in Northern cities…). This worse/better perception within America reminds me of something that James Baldwin wrote:

Northerners indulge in an extremely dangerously luxury. They seem to feel that because they fought on the right side during The Civil War, and won, they have earned the right to merely deplore what is going on in the South, without taking any responsibility for it; and that they can ignore what is happening in Northern cities because what is happening in Little Rock or Birmingham is worse. Well, in the first place, it is not possible for anyone who has not endured both to know which is ‘worse.’ I know Negroes who prefer the South and white Southerners, because ‘At least there, you haven’t got to play any guessing games!’ The guessing games referred to have driven more than one Negro into the narcotics ward, the madhouse or the river.

Whites cannot be so desperate to escape culpability from the fact that they benefit from White supremacy (which racism and colourism are directly tied to and are global problems) that they seek to make it a “problem” that is “over there” and that has nothing to do with them. And this is a consistent stance from Whites looking from the outside into America. Ironically, often during the same weeks that I receive these “nope, your country is more racist” emails from Whites, people of colour from the same places (especially if Canada or U.K.) have another story for me. Literally in the same week many times. This is White privilege…the idea that Whites are in the position to dictate what people of colour experience from a system of oppression that they benefit from.  

While it is important to recognize the multiple faces and facets of oppression, trying to remove the global albeit varying impact of White supremacy is a futile exercise that is often less about recognizing intersectionality and kyriarchy and more about removing the culpability of Whites and discomfort that discussions on Whiteness evokes. 

Related Essay Lists: On Race…, On Race II