Saturday, 15 February 2014

Black and White social justice.

No, this not about race, this is about how people draw hard lines when it comes to oppression/privilege.

Now, the vast majority of people are not wholly privileged or wholly oppressed, we mostly have a mix of oppression and privilege, yet often when we talk about privilege and oppression, we do it in a polarised black and white way that ignores the reality of the common mix in favour of acting like oppressions only matter when it our oppressions, and privilege only matters when it's privilege we don't have. Which is something that really needs to stop happening.

Without further ado, here's my guide to not perpetuating this nonsense.

1. Do you expect to be listened to when it's about your oppression and their privilege? Listen to others when it comes to your privilege and their oppression.

I can't begin to say how many people I've dealt with who expected everyone else to listen to them but who refused to listen when they were the privileged person and were getting asked not to do oppressive things by someone they were oppressing.

2. Do remember that oppressions other than gender/race matter and always examine erasure of them, don't just put it down as a problem you're not part of.

People with identities outside of the gender/racial ones come under enormous pressure from other group members to subsume those identities into the larger groups identity in the name of "solidarity", the larger groups often being either gender or racial. Disabled PoC for example are put under pressure to be PoC first and disabled people dead last.

I frequently deal with gender/racial minority folks who seem to feel that any oppression they don't have isn't a real oppression at all and therefore we should shut up about it and concentrate on our "real" oppressions, ie the ones we share with them. This is often not examined in many groups as it is routinely dismissed as something only white feminists do, but by not examining what our groups do to perpetuate the invisibility of minority people within the group? It allows this problem to be legitimized and pressure to be put on erased people to make nice with those who erase them in the name of "solidarity".

3. Don't expect everyone to magically know when you need support and to come running.

A. Not everyone knows everything going on. We're not omniscient. You got someone being a bigot to you? Folks may see and jump in, but they also may not see it at all. Just because you know bigot09 is attacking you doesn't mean everyone else does. Need some help? Ask directly for it, don't just hope we noticed and then get angry and blame our privileges for the lack of support. Expecting everyone to see you need them and getting pissed when they don't is passive aggressive bullshit.

B. Not everyone has the energy to jump in on your behalf.

C. If you routinely oppress or ignore the needs of other groups or people within your own group, those people may be understandably reluctant to help you. It's frustrating to spend precious energy supporting the fight against another group being oppressed only to face oppression later from the person you supported.

4. Don't take from others while complaining about others taking your groups stuff.

If you find it upsetting when others take things that were created by your group, don't take things from other groups. For example, non-disabled folks referring to having not enough spoons while complaining that someone's taken things from them. If people swiping your groups concepts matters, so does you swiping from other groups.

5. Don't use your oppression in one area to distract from/excuse your oppressing people in another.

It's frightful how many people when called on oppressive privileged behaviour immediately point to the area they don't have privilege in and claim you're oppressing them if you have a corresponding privilege. Someone having a privilege you don't? Doesn't invalidate their right to call you on oppression in areas where you have privilege over them.

6. Don't call out a bigot's argument as complete nonsense, then use the same argument for why you aren't being oppressive to someone else not five minutes later.

If it's nonsense when wielded against you by an oppressor? It's still bloody well nonsense when you're the oppressor wielding it.

7. Don't give lip service to a concept while actively doing the opposite.

If you talk about how everyone needs to take their own time to do things? Don't expect people with say processing issues to be on the ball like right now, not just immediately but by yesterday. Don't talk about how people are experts on themselves and then tell someone how they think and feel about something.

8.Like what someone has to say on one subject? Don't deny it when they're problematic on another.

Nobody and nothing is perfect, even people we like. If your response to the news that someone you look up to is sometimes oppressive is to defend them? You're doing it wrong. People can have valuable things to say even if they also have oppressive things to say, and admitting that they've said oppressive stuff doesn't remove the value of the valuable things they say. You can value the good without defending the bad.

9. Don't act like every issue comes down to a bad side and a good side.

Sometimes when there's an issue both sides are being oppressed and both are oppressing. For example, it's possible to have a Gay cis guy being sexist to a Straight cis woman who is being homophobic to him, and they'd both be oppressors and oppressed in that case. It's not always clear cut bad guy/good guy by default, in fact I'd say it rarely is.

10. Don't play oppression olympics.

Your oppression or supporting friends with oppressions matters to you right? Well other people's oppressions matter to them. Treat their needs with the same respect as you would expect for oppressions you care about. Don't act like what you fight is somehow more serious or more important.

11. Don't use oppressive language against oppressors or support doing so.

Calling a racist a "retard" is still a problem, talking about how many dicks you think a straight transphobic Cis woman has had is still slut shaming and a problem. Being oppressed does not endow anyone with an inability to oppress others, and your oppression doesn't negate your privilege or the oppression of the target/others affected when you do this.

12. Don't treat any given group as synonymous with having every single privilege available.

Seriously, one privilege does not bestow every other one. It doesn't work that way.

In short, don't act like people with your oppressions are the only truly oppressed people and anyone who doesn't have the oppressions you have is therefore a wholly privileged oppressor.

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