Race and progressive politics

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Michelle
Race and progressive politics

 

Michelle

We're having a discussion (and an off-topic one [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img] ) in [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=13&t=003774]this thread[/url] about what responsibility people of colour may or may not have to support progressive politics. The idea being that people who have firsthand knowledge of what it's like to be oppressed or discriminated against shouldn't be oppressing others. And that those who do are traitorous or now "acting white".

I know I've felt like that about anti-feminist women in the past. But I also feel that people of colour and women should have the free choice to choose their politics even if I don't like that choice. Edited to add: this is a particularly contentious issue when people from a dominant group outline the expectations they have of what kind of politics are acceptable for marginalized people to adopt.

I know I referenced the past thread, but I'm hoping that we can just discuss the issue without getting into a big "you-said-I-said" thing. I'm hoping that we can divert the discussion from the other thread into this one, and de-escalate it by talking about the issue itself rather than fighting over what was said specifically there.

[ 08 April 2008: Message edited by: Michelle ]

Dr. Hilarius

Good idea, Michelle. And I will do my best to avoid criticizing what others may ahve said in the past.

I admit to having an automatically negative reaction to the notion that people of colour ahve a special obligation to support progressive policies for the simple reason that I don't like the idea of any special obligation (or dispensation for that matter) being assinged on account of race. In my ideal world EVERYONE would feel an obligation to support progressive policies but this responsibility is no more or less important depending on one's race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Everyone is an individual and can make up their own mind and it is simply wrong to lump people into groups on account of their race. Saying "all blacks hold left wing policies" is just as offensive as saying "all blacks smoke crack and shoot each other" because it robs people of their status as individuals and places them strictly in a group context, which is something only done to those belonging to minority groups.

I also think class is far more important than race when it comes to influencing ideologies. Rich blacks have more in common with rich whites than they do with poor blacks. And poor whites ahve more in common with poor blacks than they do with rich whites. For all the talk of "opression" on account of race - yes, it certainly does exist to an unacceptable extent. But for all the barriers that Michael Jordan or Oprah or another rich, successful African American may face, I doubt that there's an unemployed, struggling white person who wouldn't want to trade places with them in a second.

Makwa Makwa's picture

I think that the topic as you frame it is a misunderstanding of the central issue Michelle, as much as I am grateful for your moving the discussion here. The issue is the problem of white activists actively engaging the rhetorical device of calling POC or FN peoples out as 'inauthentic' as POC or FN when they engage in anti-progressive politics. It is divisive and painful enough when POC or FN use terms like 'Apple' or 'Uncle Tom,' but when white activists appropriate these terms it is not unlike when white folk use the 'n' word an an attempt to be hip or ironic.

pookie

quote:


Originally posted by Makwa:
[b]I think that the topic as you frame it is a misunderstanding of the central issue Michelle, as much as I am grateful for your moving the discussion here. The issue is the problem of white activists actively engaging the rhetorical device of calling POC or FN peoples out as 'inauthentic' as POC or FN when they engage in anti-progressive politics. It is divisive and painful enough when POC or FN use terms like 'Apple' or 'Uncle Tom,' but when white activists appropriate these terms it is not unlike when white folk use the 'n' word an an attempt to be hip or ironic.[/b]

I agree completely. I also think it's a bit misleading to characterize the discussion on the other thread as "he said/she said." What was said was clear and available. The deconstruction of it, however, didn't seem to be.

Michelle

Thanks, Makwa. I edited the opening post to reflect that.

KenS

Seconds to what both makwa and pookie said.

Perhaps, more succinctly, this:

quote:

about what responsibility people of colour may or may not have to support progressive politics.

There isn't any question. The answer is no they do not. And no one has disputed that really.

ETA: this comment was cross-posted. But michelle, maybe the part I pointed to is also throwing things off? [I don't know what you already changed.]

[ 08 April 2008: Message edited by: KenS ]

KenS

pookie:

quote:

I also think it's a bit misleading to characterize the discussion on the other thread as "he said/she said." What was said was clear and available. The deconstruction of it, however, didn't seem to be.

Agreed that it wasn't just a case of "he said/she said." But I'm also more than amenable to saying the deconstruction is not likely to be useful.

And agreed that the stream of posts was derailing other things going in the thread, and it was best to take it out.

Good.

But now I'm lost what we are discussing here. If it's not what was said, and or deconstruction thereof, it is.....

martin dufresne

Hmmmm. I think the original - and still salient issue - is what responsibility people from dominant groups may or may not have to refrain judging the political morality of the people from the groups they oppress regarding that oppression. Aren't we're staying within this framework by making the discussion about "them"?

KenS

No. And Dr.H explicitly said that no one should refrain from commenting on their politics.

Seddig

It depends on how you define progressive. If we are talking about anti-racist actions I don’t see it as progressive or non-progressive I see it as being in compliance with human rights or not. When people of colour specially the ones that claim as being anti-racist or for “diversity” and perpetuate racism then there is a lot of problem. They have no right to take ownership of an issue to belong to so many people and portray themselves as working for people of colour while perpetuating racism and use it to gain status for themselves while climbing on the back of other people of colour.

It is very sad that companies and organizations use these kind of people to do their “diversity” work or decide whether a complaint of racism is legitimate or not without any proper process. They are the ones who decide what “other” people of colour are entitled to or not. They are the ones who say “I did it why can’t the rest do it too?” “They are just lazy that is why they can’t do it.”

They claim working for people of colour while all along they are trying to be white and “fit in” with white people. Fannon describe this very well in his book black skin white mask.

I think a person of colour can choose their politic but can’t claim speaking on behalf of people of colour or not at least not all people of colour. They can’t take ownership of oppression that effects all people of colour and offer their racist solutions on behalf of people of colour. These folks are chosen by an organization or an individual they are not elected by people of colour and therefore they can’t call themselves representatives of people of colour. They only push racists agenda of the white system cover it up with different colour.

just one of the...

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]Hmmmm. I think the original - and still salient issue - is what responsibility people from dominant groups may or may not have to refrain judging the political morality of the people from the groups they oppress regarding that oppression. Aren't we're staying within this framework by making the discussion about "them"?[/b]

Then I hope it is clear why it is racist to assert that Israel's actions reflect back onto Jewishness.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I'm not sure of the question anymore but I'm wading in.

Many progressives, and I am one of them, feel an expectation, if not a hope, that those who have experienced one or two or more types of systemic oppression are [i]more likely[/i] to be open to learning and changing regarding other forms of systemic oppression that they don't experience. Being open in this way is, in my opinion, a de facto progressive position. Being not open, isn’t.

An example. My dad came to Canada as an immigrant from mainland China in the mid 1950s. He didn't know the language, there were no ESL or FSL classes, and he lived in Montreal to study engineering at McGill. He learned English, and some French. Throughout his life he never framed any of the discrimination he experienced as racism. He was very sexist towards my mom, my sister and I, and any woman he worked with. He was also homophobic, classist and ableist. He got an engineering degree in the late 50s early 60s and nobody would hire him. He opened a Chinese restaurant.

Another example. While I was active in the GLBTTIQ community in Toronto for many years, I came up against a great deal of racism and sexualized racist fetishism in the mainly white and mainly male community (the 519, Xtra, Fab, Pride). In the community itself, white women were almost invisible, and men/women of colour were not present at all, except for men of colour as hyper-sexualized objects. In the 90s there was also a classist backlash against the so-called "squeegie kids" who hung out at Church and Wellesley, and the complainants were almost always white gay men. During this same time, gay men were regularly assaulted, and some died because of gay-bashing idiots.

A last example. I've seen men of colour and white men bond together over the shared enjoyment of sexism and misogyny towards women. Men of colour who have come over to the progressive side have told me that it's relatively easy to do because first they're taught sexism in general by society, [b]and[/b] it's encouraged because they have a vain hope that if the focus is on all women as "the other" that they will not become a target of everyday racism by their white "buddies". Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I would describe this feeling for me as a completely emotional response, to hope for progressive positions from those whose politics I don't yet know, who are marginalized, even though the reality has demonstrated time and time again that this is fallacious thinking on my part.

Once someone, like Rice or Powell, has proven themselves to be non-progressive (I realize that's a gigantic understatement) I think of them as I think of any non-progressive: they are not an ally, they cannot make links between any marginalization that they may experience and the actions and politics that they are bonded to. And that the politics they are bonded to are in direct opposition to all those who are marginalized, including those in communities they come from.

My last point is an attempt to answer the question why does this happen, why do people from marginalized groups sometimes choose the side of the oppressors?

Some of the answer lies in class and the myth and fantasy of class mobility, and the lie that once one has achieved class status, a high enough salary, an elite enough position, then one will no longer experience marginalization in the form of, for example, racist violence. I believe many people from a variety of marginalized groups believe this to their core. They have to believe it. Hell, anyone raised in capitalist society believes it.

They are trying to survive in a world that hates them. For them, the answer is to accumulate enough capital that they imagine such types of, for example, racism will recede from their lives. This may happen, for individuals. But it will never work to eradicate racism and other oppressive systems.

For me the answer is to make alliances across racialized groups and across the various forms of marginalization. It's slow, frustrating and not always productive. But if we can't speak up and speak out for and with each other, we know for sure that nobody else will, certainly not the powers that be.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

I'll admit to asking the question all the time. I see a gay Conservative and I don't understand it. I see a black Republican and I wonder how it can be. I could never figure a Margaret Thatcher.

But then, in my view, it is not so much race or gender or orientation as it is class. Our politics are more shaped by class than by identity, I think.

And when it is the vast, soft, middle-class, politics are all over the map as identity, class, real, perceived, and aspired, all come together to form the roiling cauldron from which election victories are made, it all becomes a muddier, dirtier fight.

Maysie Maysie's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Frustrated Mess:
[b]

But then, in my view, it is not so much race or gender or orientation as it is class. Our politics are more shaped by class than by identity, I think.

[/b]


Frustrated Mess, while I respect your opinion, I completely disagree with this point.

I would argue that enough white leftists believing the above quote is one of many reasons why POC don't engage with progressive politics as white leftists have defined them.

It's disrespectful to hear from those whose gender and/or race are not problematized, tell us that we need to not put parts of our identities which are front and centre to our politics, aside.

How can there be a left without anti-racism? How can there be a left without feminism?

- - - - -

As a follow-up to my long post above, I wanted to address a possible misunderstanding of my characterization of the queer women's and queer people of colour community in TO. I used the word invisible, and I stand by that, in [i]mainstream[/i] queer culture which is found in the places I listed and is dominated by white gay men. Queer white women have created their own pockets of culture, space, dances and parties, and queer women and men of colour have done likewise (Blockorama, Savour, Cherry Bomb, and others that I don't know about as I don't get out much to parties anymore).

The solution, one in which many marginalized groups have done, is when excluded we create our own. Sometimes we don't want to argue about racism and inclusion, sometimes we just want to be ourselves.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

quote:


It's disrespectful to hear from those whose gender and/or race are not problematized, tell us that we need to not put parts of our identities which are front and centre to our politics, aside.

But I didn't say that. What I said is that politics (and I should have said for individuals), are more defined by class than by identity. That is simply an observation.

For example, if we look at the gay community, of those who support Conservatives, I would bet they are predominantly wealthier than those who do not. I am not surprised, for example, that anti-feminist women tend not to be working class women.

The left is defined, in large part, by not being in power. People with wealth will often find a more coherent interest with people of power, as money in our society is representative of power, than those who are powerless and often marginalized - the left.

That is not to say minorities don't face discrimination among the wealthier classes. It is to say that Conservatives are motivated in government moreso by the protection of wealth, privilege and property than any other issue.

So, if a POC should find himself/herself very wealthy, are his/her priorities taxes, capital gains, and estate management or discrimination, affirmative action, and police relations?

Maysie Maysie's picture

quote:


Frustrated Mess: politics (and I should have said for individuals), are more defined by class than by identity. That is simply an observation.

Okay, that's been your observation. I've noted the ways that I've observed class interacting with other aspects of identity, in a general way, so we will have to disagree on that point.

At times like these I wish there were more voices of colour on babble.

And now I'm feeling like this is a bit of thread drift and would like to return the thread to its original topic.

Seddig

It is my experience and observation that people of similar class socializes with each other as homogenized groups. Although there may be occasional evidence of mixed socializing between white folks and people of colour but there is no real cohesion or inclusion.

If you see a person of colour in the dinner party of a wealthy white person that would be a wealthy person of colour but usually it remains at that level and there is no in-depth connection. In these situations it is the wealthy person of colour who says racist jokes to entertain the group and just to show the white folks that she/he is one of them.

What would happen if the person of colour talks about racism? Would they still be invited to the parties of the white wealthy folks? They socialize because the person of colour “fits in” meaning they remain loyal and stay where they are supposed to stay while acting white. If they start acting as a real equal they would no longer be part of that dinner party.

B.L. Zeebub LLD

quote:


If you see a person of colour in the dinner party of a wealthy white person that would be a wealthy person of colour but usually it remains at that level and there is no in-depth connection. In these situations it is the wealthy person of colour who says racist jokes to entertain the group and just to show the white folks that she/he is one of them.

How do you know?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Seddig:
[b]It is my experience and observation that people of similar class socializes with each other as homogenized groups. Although there may be occasional evidence of mixed socializing between white folks and people of colour but there is no real cohesion or inclusion.
[/b]

It is my experience and observation of people that there are way too many various cultures covered under the umbrella term POC to make such a broad statement. Where I live there are so many different hues of skin colour I find it hard to look at racism in terms of merely black and white. And that is without even going into the cultural difference between various Asian and African communities that have settled here. Or looking at the growing number of Canadians of mixed race. There is racism in Canada but the issues are not as simplistic as you make them out to be.

As for the party for the wealthy I know for sure that it would not matter what your race or ethnicity if you started talking about the evils of capitalism, your social live with the elite would come to a quick end.