Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Policing Desire = Race Card

My recent critique of a post on LarryLyons II was met by a flurry of words meant to fatigue me; which they did. Lots and lots of words and answers posed as questions that I was not supposed to answer. Like:

“Is it impossible for John Stewart to critique white privilege if he benefits from it?” (can you hear the implicit answer that one is supposed to arrive at?)

Yes, certainly.

(But there is another question)

Is it possible for me to accept his critique as authentic when he is working (4 times a week in the gym, is it, Larry?) to keep his privilege in place?

No, AB-solutely not.(LOL)

Thus, exhausted I ended my participation in the blog discussion. Then the discussion continued on my blog.

Larry commented that drawing the connection between “No Fats No Fems” and Jim Crow laws was overly simplistic, strategically worthless, alienating, and dangerously close to “policing desire.”

I thought it was beautifully simple, striking, empathy inducing, and dangerously close to letting desire off the hook. It was an image coupled with four words that are popular within the cultural language of black gay men. And the intention of having a conversation on my blog about No Fats no fems was realized months later, thanks mostly to Larry’s abs.

Social Justice Lessons

I’ve learned through years as a Social Justice trainer, who made a cute penny at white college queer alliance conferences, that no matter how well intentioned people who come from privilege or people who have privilege are, they have every reason to protect by struggle and fight-to-death their privilege. Whether we are talking about Men, White people, people from class, heterosexuals or able bodied people, the above is true.

The second thing that I learned is that silence is the glue that keeps oppression in place (NCBI). If we don’t talk about it disenfranchised people who know of their oppression, will never truly know the full impact of that oppression or the differences between the lives they live and the lives that the people of privilege live. This means, to me, that in the struggle to defend privilege the people of privilege are wedded to silence. We do not discuss, in proper taste and proper places, race, class, disability, women’s rights, etc. We do not mention whiteness. We do not discuss body privilege or question that people who are conventionally attractive have privilege. Be clear that when I say privilege I mean benefits that are undeserved and unearned. We certainly do not discuss the disenfranchisement of Fat people, black people, feminine people, women, disabled people, and what those listed and those not listed, lose as a result of there being outside of convention, or being fringe. If we do discuss these things we are accused. We pay dearly. We are lashed by people of privilege.

The third thing I learned is: There is an inherit complicity with the abuse and subsequent suffering of the disenfranchised whenever one, consciously or unconsciously “accesses” (accepts the benefits of) privilege.

The fourth thing that I remember from my social justice work is this: As a way to deal with the guilt that inevitably arises from knowing about one’s own privilege and knowing about the impact of one’s own privilege on the lives of the disenfranchised, people of privilege do a couple of things:

1) Deny that the privilege exist all-together and reduce the voices of the disenfranchised to complaining (Race card). This method usually involves blaming the disinfranchised for their condition as well.

2) Attempt to associate themselves with the disenfranchised group which amounts to cooption of the disenfranchised identity. White wigger identified individuals and skinny big-gurl identified gay men fall into this category. Also those "allies" who's alliance is always rhetorical and never active.

3) Declare themselves disenfranchised and hold up the ways in which they are disenfranchised as a shield to being challenged about their complicity with the disenfranchisement of others. "I am not a receipient of white priviledge I'm a poor woman." or ???Intellectuals in sexualized positions are subversive???

Protecting Privilege

1) Others and I who critique the use of body privilege by one who identifies as feminist and queer, are accused of being in pain and reacting to “our own stuff.” This is not unlike the habit of white people accusing black people who acknowledge racism of having a “chip on the shoulder” or “playing the race card.” This is not unlike calling women who advocate for there rights as humans bitches. Disinfranchised people must not dare mention there disenfranchisement! When they do, it is because of their own anger and bitterness and not because of “what had happened.”

3)We are accused of policing desire? I believe that the term “policing desire” is equal to the term “race card” in this instance. It’s a term used to say "shame on you" when people who are on the outside challenge people on the inside of privilege.