Enough! Stand Up Against The Bullshit!
Many of you have probably already seen this cartoon. It's several years old and the artist is Ampersand at Alas, A Blog. I saw it for the first time probably two years ago, before I had a blog. It's simple truth spoke to me about the blindness of those who climb over others to gain power for themselves, and then forget how they got there. I'm sure it's why a corrupt and incomplete version of history is what we are taught in American schools, we are supposed to forget.
I want to draw for you a continuation of that cartoon. Imagine it, the brown kid is Condoleeza Rice, or Alberto Gonzales, and the next brown kid to come along is Martin Luther King Jr. What happens next? The first brown kid climbs on the second brown kid's back to get to the top and instead of helping him up, does the exact same thing the white kid did, claims they did it all on their own, the civil rights movement and death and suffering of that era had nothing to do with it.
White isn't just a skin color, it's an idea, it's about hierarchy, power, and an "I got mine, SUCKERS!" mentality, that's why there can be and is white POC. It also isn't limited to rightwing racists, we have them in progressive circles too. A common tactic used against people of color who want to discuss our issues and concerns, especially when we are angry because we are ignored by those on our side, is to tell us, "We have more important issues! We have to work on our issues first, and then we will get around to your special interests. Racism is dead, we are all colorblind now." (Notice in Amps cartoon, the brown kid does drop the shackles. I thought that was a very astute observation on his part. The brown kid is slightly better off, but nowhere near equal.)
This isn't an issue purely of race, feminists have heard liberal men parrot this line to them too, so have environmentalists, so have those fighting for the rights of the disabled, so have those who are poverty activists, so has labor and consumer rights activists, so has the GLBT community...BUT some of those people are also climbing on the backs of others. Here's an example, read Maha's description of Heaven and Hell at 23, and my answer at 31, it's the same as the cartoon. Notice how she and her ignorant supporters never answer my question about whether they would have had a problem with that lunch being attended by all men, except the one who wants to make a joke. Now that white women have access, they have no problem slamming the door in our faces. Their "important" issues are being addressed, so go away with our petty unimportant "identity politics", and "jealousy". That comments thread is a screaming indictment for how deep racism runs in America. No, it ain't just the rightwing bigots or skinhead extremists.
Another thing that happens commonly when people bring up the fact that America was built on racism, slavery, and genocide, is for some white people to pipe up about how they are not responsible for that. Their Irish great grandfather arrived after slavery was abolished, and reservations were established for the Native Americans, and not only that, he was discriminated against too! It's true. The Irish, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Catholics, anyone who wasn't a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) were at one time discriminated against. They didn't enjoy all the privileges of being white -enough-. Now that cartoon doesn't make sense, those people didn't step on anyone to get up there! Because there is more to the cartoon, there isn't just one brown boy at the bottom and there isn't just one white boy at the top, and the white boy isn't as passive as the cartoon appears. When the brown boy tries to climb up on his own, the white boy pushes him back down. The white boy likes it that power is consolidated amongst a select few and he can't allow everyone to make it to the top, that means less for him and those like him. But he also has a bit of a problem, those at the bottom keep growing, and he and the small group of other whites aren't strong enough to push them all back down. So occasionally they give a hand up to a few more to help keep the others down. That's what I think about you and your great grandfather. You haven't done a damn thing to help anyone else up, and have instead been helping your former oppressor to keep everyone else down. "I got mine, SUCKERS!"
I wrote this post for the Radical Carnival of Action, first proposed by BFP and being hosted by Sylvia at the Anti-Essentialist Conundrum. You may think that I haven't suggested any grassroots activism, but I have and I will make it clearer: grassroots activism isn't just organizing protest marches, or soup kitchens, or domestic violence hotlines. I feel helpless because I would have a difficult time with any of these very important projects until I have successful surgery. But BrownFemiPower inspired me to write this. That is grassroots activism too. She energizes and motivates me to DO SOMETHING! I dedicate this post to her. I send her love and healing energy.
My grassroots activism is to inspire you to do something too.
I can see a day coming when the crowd at the bottom is going to overwhelm the few at the top. The majority of Americans are already discriminated against or oppressed in some way, but this is as it has always been. The difference is that today there are more of us discontented, alienated, and unrepresented since the turn of the century. Many of us are people of color and it's time for us to come together and shove each other to the top and pull those behind us up too. I'm tired of us vs them in every discussion. I'm tired of people saying to each other, "I must have my important issues first, then we will get back to you", and always it isn't enough. They always have more important issues and never get back to 'you'. I want to motivate you to stand up to these white people, and I do not mean skin color, reread the third paragraph.
1) The next time you hear that bullshit, stand up to it, don't let them tell an immigrant woman imprisoned in Hutto that her problem is a "pet project" that must wait, don't let them tell a disabled man that his problem is a "pet project" that must wait, don't let them tell a transwoman that her problem is a "pet project" that must wait. Don't let them tell you that your problem is a "pet project" that must wait. Don't let them dazzle you with their illogic, "We are on the same side, no circular firing squad!" argument. We are not on the same side if it is only about THEIR needs and never about ours.
2) Don't let them shove their DLC pro-wealthy candidates down your throat. Don't vote for them. I don't give a damn anymore that the Republicans are much worse than the Democrats, because no, they aren't. DLC Democrats are still consolidating power for the few at the expense of the many. Using the Democrats logic the whole Civil War could have been avoided by making sure the slaveholders didn't whip the slaves. No one with any sense in their head would say that that compromise is good enough. But that's the kind of compromise candidates the Democrats expect rousing support for? Voting for either bad or worse isn't a choice. How about we force them to run GOOD for once?
3) Don't just sit it out. Write to the DNC and DLC and tell them why you will not support candidate X, Y, or Z. Tell them "electable" isnt really. Do vote for and support real progressive candidates. Write to those candidates and politicians showing your support. Write to your newspaper or other news outlet that has letters to the editor.
4) Write a blog post like this one. Or like this one. Or like this one. Or like this one. Or like this, all of it. Speak for yourself, speak for others, speak out against the lies and bullshit and games people play to climb on others backs to achieve their own goals.
UPDATE: Ok there she goes, that, that, Sassywho! Writing almost the same thing as I wrote here, only in her fancy pants edumakated way*. For once you can say, "You're just jellus!" and I will agree.
*No she isn't one of the thieves we've been talking about lately. She didn't get the idea from me, and I didn't get mine from her. But, like me, I bet BFP was an inspiration to her too.