Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hip to be Angry (lots of swearing)

As a sociologist, I read a lot of blogs about...well, society. Not glamour pages or Hollywood - I read about race relations, cultures, and a lot of news. More and more I see the label "white" pasted across anything racist. Now hear me out - there is a lot of institutionalized racism. A ton. If you ever want visible proof, look at a map overlay of Southern California comparing race vs. income. There is no if, and, or but about it; blacks were put into ghettos and kept there by unfair housing, discriminatory wages, and hostile environments. The same seems to be true for Hispanics (I haven't studied it - sorry). That being said, I would also like to point out, you know - to the internet in general, that NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARE RICH. If you haven't noticed, yes, the Power Elite (as my beloved sociology professor likes to refer to them as) is mostly made up of white men. Again, not a coincidence. However, that does not make every single white person alive responsible for the system of racism put into place. As always, money talks. If you don't have money, guess what? You're everybody's dog. Irish, Italians, Polish, Persians, Jews... all screwed by the system. All considered white by Census standards.

I read on another blog that all white people... you know what, here...here's the quote that set me off:

Most white people are quick to agree that "we're all human." But they rarely see how, deep inside themselves, they actually consider people who are supposedly different from themselves, in large part because of their skin color, as less than human. As less than fully deserving of fundamental "human rights."

(source: http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/05/value-white-lives-more-than-non-white.html)

I wish there was a Chris Rock sketch for white people that does the same thing that his Black people vs. N*** did. Yeah, I don't use the word, and I don't get much titillation out of him using it. But he makes a good point - there should be a way to separate yourself from the stupid shit that people in your color do. Someone on your baseball team does something morally repugnant - you can quit the team. You can switch political parties if they violate your beliefs. You can't quit your skin color. So why the hell should it even be used as a judge?

At the core of it, when I read things like this and am as outraged as the next person (non-white person, according to the magazine article because whites totally don't think that human values are for everyone and hence wouldn't feel outraged) I feel betrayed. I feel like telling them - "You fuckheads! You screw up everything! Just when I feel like my race isn't a mark against me you assholes go and do something to make everyone who's watching roll their eyes and go, "Uh huh, whitey. This equality thing is all a lie and you know it." FUUUUUUUCK!!!

I just want to point out again that race is a bill of goods sold to the underpriviledged to keep them contesting amongst themselves instead of with the people who make the rules - the Power Elite. It's the magician's sleight of hand, watch while I conceal billions of dollars in bailout money and corporate kickbacks - look, illegal immigrants are taking your shitty less-than-minimum-wage jobs!! Outrage! Scorn! Guess what? He didn't take your job - the man in charge of the corporations decided to pay less so that you couldn't live on that wage because he knows he can screw over the immigrant with no legal recourse. Face it, the Power Elite are the ones who decide the policy, not you, not anyone else. After all, did you get to vote on that bank bailout? Fuck no - the ones in charge said it's for the best and we shrugged and said okay. Meanwhile, you'll swallow the bullshit they pass down to you that black men are more likely to be violent, illegal immigrants take up all the welfare, and whites are involved in a system to keep everyone down.

It's ignorance, not skin color that decides this. Look around you - we're all screwed the same way. We're all just trying to get by. That white person you see on the street where you live isn't puppeting the system because those kind of white people live in gated communities, put their children in private school, and wouldn't walk in your neighborhood because it makes them nervous. That white person is stuck the same as you, bitter the same as you, and you both probably hang out together and watch the game. If not, you should - the Dodgers are having a hell of a season.


Taco said...

Hmm, I must think this post is important if I am willing to type the whole thing on my damn phone.

There will always be issues at the interface of human groups who come together at any boundaries. And we do love to congregate at the boundaries. The issue is primarily one that deals with some thing fundamental to the way humans work and that is how we build schema. We build schema based on familiarity. Usual human learning is incremental and those with limited experience reflect that in their actions.

The posting that you linked to show three groups with limited experience. The first was in the two kids who attacked the Latino guy, the second were the actions of the Latino guy and his girlfriend, and the third was the blog writer. Everyone came to the table with limited experiences and narrow world views and the usual disasters resulted.

The boys instigated a fight with racial insults, sure, they are bastards and that goes without saying. But they aren't completely bad guys or they would have more of a criminal record, if they do this again in the future the jury will be less lenient and things are occurring as they should.

Mr Ramirez had three opportunities to walk away with his girlfriend but never availed them. Nothing about the description of the case seemed to suggest that he was ever held against his will and was free enough to start the altercation a second and third time against better odds. He did not deserve to die, but he could have made better choices.

Finally the blog writer sees this as systemic failure that cannot be tolerated. Would the writer have felt better had these boys had to rot in prison? Does that change the dynamic of the boundary or deal with historic implications of race? No, like most expressions of rage there is precious little suggestion of a solution. The better solution is for those boys to have to spend ten years on probation working in an after school program with all minority children.

The point is that the only solution for the race boundary is personal relationships. The only way we grow out of racially biased perceptions is to develop the kind of one on one relationships that allow us to refuse to see a "group" at all and puts everyone on the level of individuals. The only way you can classify "Latinos" in all of their infinite cultural heritages and distinct national cultures is if you don't know any. Likewise the only way you could classify whites (who are usually anything but purely white because of a penchant for apparently procreating with a woman of any heritage in the American west) is by not recognizing a litany of special circumstances.

People just don't fit easily into groups that sustain such ignorant analysis. Moreover the data suggests that people on the boundaries fare better and eventually overcome such biases. The trick is to get out and build relationships with people of different heritages, which is the only thing that is capable of changing the "them" to "us."

It's a call to action, there, people. Rush out and have sex with someone from a different ethnic group! (not in that old school white plantation owner sort of way, but you get the picture). Not because sex itself builds any sort of inherent closeness between people, but all those conversations that you inevitably get into about what it all means and who feels what will certainly teach you a lot about the other person's culture.

Kory said...

I was considering a similar thing on monday, I went over to the mall on my lunch break (a rare event to be sure) and observed a tussle among some individuals who could be classically and crudely described as "white trash." I was ashamed of the sight, not because of a racial connection, but in other ways. I was ashamed that these people were a walking stereotype for everything one tends to associate with impoverishment in America. I was ashamed that for every person who is of a similar status who try as they might, can't seem to break out of the cycle of poverty. You have a-holes like this who poison the well of public perception. And then I started thinking more about race. About how I'm no ashamed that GWB is white, that most serial killers are white, that these piles of refuse at the mall were white. Why should a black person be ashamed of the behavior of someone like OJ.

Here's my thesis. Because we (white people) have accepted the homogeneity of a pale skinned race be they originally irish, italian, french, whatever. We do not see ourselves as a color, we see ourselves as the "baseline" so to speak. With the exception of Jews, institutional racism is too far back in our collective memory to remember when we were the underclass. We have lost our frame of reference for "outsiderhood." Any statement of color-blindness is merely reinforcing our present outlook and refusing to progress in relations. We must first accept that the life and cultural experience of the other is not something merely produced as an excuse for failure. We have to accept that experience which formed the outlook is valid, even if we do not agree with the conclusion that outlook created.

That being said I absolutely concur that racism by and large is a tool of distraction. Look no further than history. Got a crippling recession and crumbling infrastructure in Germany? Blame the Jews.

And how many poor white southerners would have taken up arms were it not for the fearmongering of the elites who convince them, that if the slaves are freed, then there will be so many small farmers that they will drive your little butts out of business and take all the land. Never mind that it was the plantation system which basically put the smallholders in the south at a severe disadvantage.

The fact remains, if society has a problem its easier to blame people who cant speak up for themselves than it is to point the finger at the truth.