Saturday, March 14, 2009

Get Your 101 On

To be an ally takes work.  Some believe that because they think that an issue is unfair that they should jump into the fray and immediately start speaking on behalf of an oppressed individual.  Others enter conversations with the sole purpose of defending their right to exist with undeserved privilege at every turn. No matter what argument you may proffer to try and explain why their position is racist/sexist/homophobic etc their commitment to a hierarchy of bodies means that no substantial gains will be made in any conversation.

Comparatively speaking there are precious few spaces where people can engage honestly with the isms.  Many so called liberal sites practice a fauxgressive form of activism as a way to soothe white guilt about the continual benefits that they receive on the backs of bodies of colours.  Statements are earnestly made, self flagellation begins but real and true constructive conversation is stunted because people are determined to speak rather than listen to others. 

When you grow in a racist, patriarchal, homophobic, classist, sexist culture your way of thinking becomes infused with ideas that are necessarily counter to freedom and basic human respect. Even the most conscious amongst us will continually revert to patterns of behaviour, thought, or speech, that are counter to our stated beliefs.  Due to a constant desire to privilege our experience and our existence over another often we do not even recognize these lapses. 

In the various engagements that I have seen in the online, the one  occurrence that I continually see is a failure learn.   So many are lacking basic 101 knowledge and yet somehow they cannot stop themselves from polluting the spaces that are dedicated to the oppressed.  The most basic facts remain beyond their comprehension and then they demand that our assertions be proven with facts, statistics, academic journals etc,. 

If you are gay or lesbian you’re an expert in heterosexist culture and how it marginalizes the various sexualities because for the entirety of your existence you have had to negotiate it to be able to survive.  If you are of colour you are an expert on white privilege and racism because for the entirety of you life you have been assaulted by it.  If you are differently abled you are an expert on abelism because for the entirety of your experience you have been denied access by others, or told to capitulate and remove yourself from any and all social actions.  The oppressed are experts because we live it every damn day of our lives.

It is insulting and infuriating to continually have to repeat the basics to others because they refuse to see beyond their experience to validate the life of another.  If your first response is what about me, there is clearly something that you are missing.  Not every conversation needs to focus on the socially dominate bodies.  To demand that the few spaces that are dedicated to fighting oppression continually regurgitate 101 basics stunts conversations and amounts to the tyranny of the majority.  If you are a privileged body most of what you will see, read, and hear is already dedicated to you.  From mainstream media to every other agent of socialization the message is clear; unless you are necessarily white, cisgender, male, and heterosexual your life is inconsequential. 

Much of the work of oppressed bodies online is hampered simply by those who refuse to educate themselves before engaging in conversations.   Posts that express a more nuanced position based in an assumption of knowledge often get destroyed in comment threads because privilege denial has become the stock and trade of so many.  The what about the mehnz groups continually highjack comment threads once again refocusing conversation on the least marginalized group of all time – white males. 

Somehow despite all of the purposeful disruption we are told to stay calm, not whine, or that we are all experiencing some form of mass delusion.  To be a social justice blogger is to come face to face on a daily basis with those who wield privilege like a weapon.  I have yet to come up with a satisfying solution to this issue.  I have banned the most abusive trolls,  I have patiently explained why certain assumptions are wrong, and I have justifiably lost my mind.  The only thing that I am sure of is that we must defend our spaces if for no other reason than the fact that people who are marginalized need a safe space where they can debate their issues and see their experiences validated.

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