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  • 3 tweets or 2 minutes,
  • immediately after he gets called out for hijacking a conversation that excluded him from the center and also challenged his class status

I’m not from India nor did I ever vacation there.  I don’t take yoga and I don’t own the Kama Sutra (why bother, when I can download it for free, anyway?)  So, I’m not an expert and I’m probably more wrong than right.  No cookies for pointing that out.  That said, here goes anyway.

Recently - Arundhati Roy agreed to write an introductory essay to “Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical edition by B.R. Ambedkar" which she titled, "The Doctor and the Saint: An introduction”.  Hindu nationalists like the BJP love to get their outrage underpants all bunched up whenever Roy does anything other than keep her mouth shut, basically.  Roy’s introduction to Ambedkar’s work may cause Hindu nationalists like the BJP to be outraged that she dare to say anything that is anti-Hindu (which is basically anything that is not unquestioningly pro-Hindu/BJP). The BJP is for all intents and purposes, India’s GOP.  So, their outrage comes as no surprise for her association with a speech that Ambedkar wrote to challenge progressive Hindus on their own desire to reap the benefits of caste are antithetical to their stated organizational goals and perpetuating the targeted oppression of lower castes.  

Ms. Roy is fairly leftist, challenging empire, corporate-military capitalism, caste and so - she’s an easy and constant target for people born into wealth and status and whose bank accounts seem to do very well when the ultra-nationalist BJP gets their way.  

Ms. Roy is herself from an upper caste, a topic that has often materialized by BJP party supporters suggesting that she is not Dalit or is Brahmin, so she should shut up with anything that makes Hindus look bad.  Her recent selection to write this introduction, has brought up a the question of why is the introduction of a lower caste Indian who challenged caste, being authored by an upper caste Indian?  

"Roy, this time doesn’t find herself solely attacked by the Right, or her usual club of We Must Hate On Roy In All Seasons Fanboys (well, not entirely). This time, it’s the Dalit community too, visibly hurt and angered by Navayana’s decision to have Roy write the introduction to Annihilation of Caste—given this is a publication house that makes its livelihood and brand (another not-co-incidence?) by portraying themselves to be ostensibly anti-caste. It’s a little more complex argument than, “Dalit People Should Write About Dalit People Only”—which, sadly seems to be the hasty summary most of us have come to. Ambedkar’s essay is famous and infamous for taking on Gandhi, an act that cost Ambedkar dearly—and his seat in the Parliament for starters. Famous because he put into words the intense sense of betrayal Gandhi and Gandhism brings to the issue of caste (what with wanting to abolishing only the practice of untouchability while leaving in tact the other social, sexual, economic and emotional segregation that caste-based societies foster). Gandhi has become (and perhaps always was) the straw-man argument we often throw to the ex-untouchable castes, for their derision of the “Mahatma” (“BUT DON’T YOU SEE HE WAS ON *YOUR* SIDE, YOU UNGRATEFUL RASCAL!!11!”), a betrayal that me and mine will never experience. Or even if we will, this disillusionment with Gandhi won’t cost us (and our families) livelihoods, access to education. Roy, while her introduction may be as insightful as her other works, simply lacks this connection. It’s unfair to expect her to comment on the experience of reading and encountering this essay, sure. But I’d rather ask why wouldn’t Navayana put someone with *this* history of reading and encountering Ambedkar (for instance, one of my seniors at uni, M* was working on the different Ambedkars she met in the course of her life: the Bhimrao in the Buddhist shrines, Bhimrao she met at protests and the Dr. Ambedkar who she found at university, in libraries and academic texts). It’s a failed opportunity to have Roy write an introduction—good business though, she is after all, the face brand of the revolution—to such a seminal text. It’s not a conversation about cultural relativism, but one that we must own up to: Why Are Most Of Our Beloved Ambedkerite Scholars Upper-Caste Scholars?

- woh-battameez asked in her summary of the contexts surrounding this topic.  (bold added by me)

(btw - woh-battameez is a great read for any number of topics weaving through Indian politics and culture, in and outside the lens of academia.  Especially if one cares to do more than regurgitate the PR talking points of corporate nationalists like the BJP or the colonial worldview of the UK/BBC.  There are many such voices to be found, but not on corporate sponsored venues, so check her out and you will be glad that you did.)

And it is this final point that what brought me to this post, with two questions:  

  1. How familiar is this caste dynamic in the US?

  2. Are the expressions of those challenging US caste framed / retold in the words of the upper caste?  

How familiar is this caste dynamic in the US?  White Christians obliterated, slaughtered and silenced the indigenous peoples of the Americas.  While doing so, the peoples of Asia and Africa that were enslaved for the labor of taking two continents.  Then, in the continued occupation, systematic devaluation by isolating indigenous, African and Asian culture and targeting them with laws and law enforcement to criminalize and impoverish them.  The net result is that there are consistent groups of people who have had access to wealth and the protection of the rule of law and there are groups who have access to neither.  There are groups who have more or less wealth than others and with more wealth comes less criminalization.  Our castes are further codified by race and gender identity.  One thing is clear: the same people are rich and poor as they were 300 years ago.

What does caste do?  If nation states are defined by demographics and numbers, then who created such reasoning?  Demographics do not exist as molecular compounds or properties or states of energy or mass.  Demographics are not objective. demographics are a fancy way of making gang warfare sound like science, like fact, like reality, like they are beyond change and must be accepted.  And it is this last bit "must be accepted", which is the whole reason.  Demographics, caste, class, religion - these are methods to reinforce the message that some people will prosper so long as others suffer.  This is what caste delivers.

What cultural beliefs / systems / institutions deliver what caste does?  Why don’t we in the US call it ‘caste’?  In what ways do we as “Americans” codify caste?  If we look at how we codify race, poverty and gender, do we see any clues?  One clue might be in the US aversion in our mythology to embrace elites.  We have them, but we don’t call them that.  We demonize academics as elites, but they are not the elites that have all the wealth.  Our wealthiest are called ‘entrepreneurs’, ‘visionaries’, ‘mavericks’ and ‘job creators’ (patriarchal mythology at its finest) and ‘self-starters’.  

One thing I tend to believe is that social and cultural behaviours end up where they were intended to go.  So, that the US denies our elites means we’re in denial.  Why are the same people are poor and wealthy as were 200 years ago?  Through it all, if we look at the demographics, most of the country is poor and getting poorer while those who were born rich are staying rich and getting richer.  “if it looks like a duck…it’s a caste duck.”

Are the voices of those challenging US caste framed / retold in the words of the upper caste?

Who writes the books from the voices of those in these lower US castes? 

Activists are written out of history books, like Cesar Chavez, who spoke from being a farm worker for the rights of millions of humans harvesting the food we eat.  He was / is labeled in many negative terms by the hoarders of wealth who profited from the human misery and toil right here in the US.  Or, like Angela Davis, they are criminalized for speaking out and acting out against police and prison injustice.  Authors or academics are labeled as ‘elites’, ‘socialist’ or ‘Ivy Leaguers’ or any number of insults to demean someone who ‘hates America’ and so forth. 

The newspapers and TV news outlets are also labeled as this same group of ‘elitists’ when, ironically they have been owned by the real US elites for decades.  Most news anchors have as little in common with the perpetually impoverished majority of the US as does any Kshatriya news anchor does with the millions of Dalits.  

Who writes the books, reports the news, documents the lives of US lower castes from being a member of those castes?  During the Great Depression, when the income inequality collapsed the global economy, obliterating the middle class caste, the chain of participation was broken.  The bribe paid to the middle class caste is that if we participate in caste, we will have some rewards over the poor caste.  When that promise was broken, voices like Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck and other men (sexism and racism stayed intact through the collapse) spoke out and were heard because so many poor existed with too small a buffer of middle class caste in place to silence those voices.  Those voices have been reduced to paragraphs in a social studies book, if that and tested on a pop-quiz.  Gone from the minds of children before the end of 8th grade.  

As I look at India and the US, I see lots of differences and similarities, and there’s no telling if my views are accurate or not.  That may not be the point though.  Both India and the US have blind spots when we look at our own cultures, but may be able to see in the other culture some features of their culture that exist in our own blind spots.  If we resist the temptation to go colonial and declare how great we are for not being like them…maybe we can learn and grow for the good of all instead of some.

The castes that  benefit from our ignorance are ever working to make those blind spots even bigger.  If you are reading this, and you live in the US, you and I and anyone else seeing it - are not in the bottom caste.  It is me and you and the rest of us that perpetuate US caste to see into these blind spots and undo caste - or it won’t be done.  The upper castes will not undo caste and the lower castes cannot do it alone. 

 

what I do mean

  • I do mean that I love feminism
  • I do mean to challenge / unseat / disrupt racism within something that I love (feminism)
  • I do mean that racism within feminism negates and impedes the intended goals of feminism
  • I do mean that even something I support and care for deeply must deal with racism daily / hourly / minute-by-minute, forever
  • I do mean that I will also be addressing class, caste, education and any other system of power inequality that exists, because they are all at work - in every social dynamic and not just feminism…but that feminism is not exempt nor ever shall be, from addressing these power dynamics.
  • I do mean that website hits / clicks, book deals, advertising, teaching positions, language, organizational structure…were all created in social structures that are unequal, and are all complicit in building and maintaining inequality.
  • I do mean to make the space I take up into something more feminist
  • I do mean that I am white and I will not pretend that feminism is free of racism - ever.

what I do not mean

  • I do not mean that I want to hear any bullshit from MRA’s or RadFems or TERF’s
  • I do not mean that biological essentialism, gender assigned at birth define or limit who can identify as woman.
  • I do not mean that I hate feminism
  • I do not mean that feminism is bad or broken or in some way evil
  • I do not mean that any bullshit opinions about women / feminists or misogyny or sexism or “false rape” need to be uttered within 100 meters of me
  • I do not mean that it is bad to be feminist
  • I do not mean that you, nor I, nor anyone else gets to tell the rest of the world how to be a good feminist
  • I do not mean that feminism is defined in the same terms for every person
well if a white man says it, then you know we have to take it as unquestioned truth…

well if a white man says it, then you know we have to take it as unquestioned truth…

Left colorblindess is the enemy

Left colorblindness is the belief that race is a “divisive” issue among the 99%, so we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. According to this argument, the movement is for everyone, and people of color should join it rather than attack it.

Left colorblindness claims to be inclusive, but it is actually just another way to keep whites’ interests at the forefront. It tells people of color to join “our” struggle (who makes up this “our,” anyway?) but warns them not to bring their “special” concerns into it. It enables white people to decide which issues are for the 99% and which ones are “too narrow.” It’s another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment, even in a democratic movement.

As long as left colorblindness dominates our movement, there will be no 99%. There will instead be a handful of whites claiming to speak for everyone. When people of color have to enter a movement on white people’s terms rather than their own, that’s not the 99%. That’s white democracy.

The white democracy

Biologically speaking, there’s no such thing as race. As hard as they’ve tried, scientists have never been able to define it. That’s because race is a human creation, not a fact of nature. Like money, it only exists because people accept it as “real.” Races exist because humans invented them.

Why would people invent race? Race was created in America in the late 1600s in order to preserve the land and power of the wealthy. Rich planters in Virginia feared what might happen if indigenous tribes, slaves, and indentured servants united and overthrew them. So, they cut a deal with the poor English colonists. The planters gave the English poor certain rights and privileges denied to all persons of African and Native American descent: the right to never be enslaved, to free speech and assembly, to move about without a pass, to marry without upper-class permission, to change jobs, to acquire property, and to bear arms. In exchange, the English poor agreed to respect the property of the rich, help them seize indigenous lands, and enforce slavery.

This cross-class alliance between the rich and the English poor came to be known as the “white race.” By accepting preferential treatment in an economic system that exploited their labor, too, the white working class tied their wagon to the elite rather than the rest of humanity. This devil’s bargain has undermined freedom and democracy in the U.S. ever since.

trashprincesss:

just like every other kind of worker, sex workers on a low income have the right to tell our truths and also organise for rights. we may even help the rest of you when we do. golly gee!

(via theworstpossibleoutcome)

I am a Mississippi resident who receives food stamps, roughly $367 per month (less than $100 per week) for myself and my 4 year old daughter. I can live off food stamps for a week easily enough — it’s making them last through the rest of the month that’s difficult. It’s almost impossible to buy healthy foods — fresh vegetables and fresh fruit — on a food stamps budget. I try to do it, but eventually I end up getting canned vegetables that aren’t as good for us anyway. Canned peas aren’t as healthy as fresh spinach or kale. Meats like beef and chicken are hard to come by. If I buy a lot of meats or fresh foods, I usually run out of stamps about 2.5 - 3 weeks in. It’s why Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the nation, is also one of the most obese. People here cannot afford to buy and eat healthy food, especially people dependent on food stamps. Ending obesity needs to start with ending hunger and poverty. It sounds ironic, but it’s true.
The stigma attached to receiving food stamps in the ultra-conservative south is awful. People think the only people who get food stamps are lazy welfare queens, but that’s simply not true. I have a bachelor’s degree and a law degree, and yet I need food stamps to survive. I’m working a part-time job because I can’t find a good legal job in this economy and cannot afford to relocate right now. The University of Mississippi recently started a Food Bank for students who are going hungry but are ineligible for food stamps. These are college students working hard to better themselves. I am grateful for the food stamps I receive each month — were it not for them, I wouldn’t have enough money for myself or my daughter to eat after paying the rest of the bills. But it is not easy to stretch my food stamps from month to month and meet all the requirements for continued eligibility. No one stays on food stamps because they like it. They stay on food stamps because they need them to survive. End of story.

fuckyeahfeminists:

On October 3, 1977, Rosaura Jiménez died in Texas of an illegal abortion, becoming the first known woman to die because of the Hyde Amendment, which eliminated federal Medicaid funding for abortion.

Congress first adopted the Hyde Amendment on September 30, 1976, but it did not go into effect until August 4, 1977. Within just two months, it had driven a woman to take desperate steps that resulted in her death.

What do we know about Rosaura Jiménez? Rosie, as she was known, was a 27 year-old Latina college student and single mother. Rosie was six months away from graduating with a teaching credential – a ticket to a better life for her and her daughter, who was just five years old at the time.

Rosie had a $700 scholarship check in her purse when she died. She went to a doctor in her hometown of McAllen, Texas to ask for an abortion, but the doctor wouldn’t provide one because Medicaid would no longer reimburse the service. So determined was she to complete her education that instead of using her scholarship money to pay for an abortion out of pocket, she crossed the border into Mexico and obtained a cheaper, illegal, and unsafe abortion there.

This is why we need to fight for abortion access for ALL people - there are many barriers that exist that are often forgotten about when we talk about abortion rights. We need to repeal Hyde. I would be happy to have my tax dollars to assist low-income people in need of abortions.

(via finleyjack)

theatlantic:

Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea’s Music Video Sensation

The American rapper T-Pain was retweeted 2,400 times when he wrote ”Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is.” Pop stars expressed admiration. Billboard is extolling his commercial viability; Justin Bieber’s manager is allegedly interested. The Wall Street Journal posted ”5 Must-See” response videos. On Monday, a worker at L.A.’s Dodger stadium noticed Park in the stands and played “Gangnam Style” over the stadium P.A. system as excited baseball fans spontaneously reproduced Park’s distinct dance in the video. “I have to admit I’ve watched it about 15 times,” said a CNN anchor. “Of course, no one here in the U.S. has any idea what Psy is rapping about.”

Read more. [Image: Reddit]

(via amyleona)

myintersection:

Far too often, I’ve heard radical queers and feminists, in their hipster garb, talking their academic jargon about checking one’s privilege and being accountable, and in the same breath mocking poor people. It’s not always explicit. Actually, in social justice circles, it hardly ever is. Many of you know not to say words like ghetto or white trash, or at least I hope you do, because of its classist and racist implications, but that seems to be where the anti-classist work stops. So, let me help you.

  • Every time you push your vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian diet on people, remember that your diet is a privilege that doesn’t make you superior or more of an environmentalist, food justice champion, animal lover or good human. I know you know about food deserts. Well, you don’t have to live in one to not be able to afford to have a restrictive diet.
  • Furthermore, poor folks went green along ass time ago. I don’t get why you feel so special about your mason jars and bicycles. Oh good for you for taking the bus when you could’ve driven. Do you want a vegan gluten-free cookie?
  • Yes, Wal-Mart is evil. So, is Urban Outfitters. Get over yourself. The only reason why Wal-Mart is singled out is because poor people shop there and it is easier to distance yourself from the problem. So, stop judging poor consumers who are just trying to feed and clothe their families, and start working to dismantle capitalism, or at least organize for workers’ rights (preferably in a non savior complex kinda way).
  • Your shitty college dorm room, apartment or shared house, does not make you poor, neither does shopping at Good Will.
  • There is a difference between being broke and poor, much like the difference between acute and chronic pain. Learn the difference. 
  • For those of you who do work with poor folks, you are not special, and you are not a savior. Like I said before, drop the savior routine. It makes a big difference when you take the cues from the communities you are serving. And, just because someone isn’t a college educated career activist, doesn’t mean they don’t know what is best for them and their communities. So, don’t be a condescending ass when people don’t talk like you, and practice some real nonjudgmental allyship.
  • Pro tip: classy, trashy, hood, ghetto, dangerous/sketchy/seedy (in reference to poor PoC neighborhoods), white trash, etc are all really classist terms and hella racist too. Think about it, why do we specify that the trash is white? Because all other trash must be brown, right? If you don’t have a claim to these words, don’t use them. 

Anyway, the examples could go on, and if anyone wants to add onto this, please do. I just don’t understand how a community that prides itself on fighting body-shaming and slut-shaming, could be so unequivocally class-shaming. In your own words, you better check your privilege.

(via onlytobekingagain-deactivated20)

With 2012 creeping in, it’s going to be a matter of time before feminist blogs from the Eur-Am belt are going to be worried about the declining child sex ratio — for the two weeks it takes to earn the year long ‘intersectionality badge’ — and it’s better to get certain facts straight before anyone *anywhere* starts to express grief and outrage over the number of missing girl children. 

— The census data is tweaked, sometimes there are whole communities who are not accounted for (that’s a whole another post on its own). Point is, even the data collected by the census is not free of its biases. 

— Having said that, it’s extremely important to not conflate sex-ratio with child sex ratio (children from 0-6 years to be precise). Sex ratio talks about females per 1000 men and child sex ratio counts the number of girl children (between ages of 0 to 6 years) per thousand boys. All of this data is in percentile, so if the stats show a drop of two points, these two points translate to thousands if not lakhs of people. 

— Due to better health care, better access to technology sex ratio shows an upward trend, i.e. women’s life expectancy is better, less maternal mortality rates. However, even in states that show high sex-ratio (like Kerala, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Nagaland etc), their child sex-ratio show a visible and sharp decline in the last decade alone. 

How to make sense of this data: 

— ‘Son preference’ is not a new phenomenon, not here or in any other part of the world. It’s not a surprise that structures accommodate and prioritise sons; it’s a little frustrating when people pigeonhole India to a land that craves sons and ignore that across the world the imagination of an “ideal” family has a son (one son and one daughter, or two sons. Rarely do we see two daughters as a prototype of an ‘ideal family’). 

— Calling sex-selective abortions “female feticide” collides with very dangerous terrain and language pro-lifers use. ‘Feticide’ incorporates notions of murder of the fetus (and already the fetus is imagined into forms and discourses of personhood) and can be *extremely* easily co-opted to an anti-abortion campaign as many states right now are doing, where they argue that access to the right to abortion should be revoked to “correct” the skewed data. 

— In regions and states abortion, sonographies and other reproductive technologies are expensive, many communities practice infanticide. While the stories are true and disturbing (no matter whatever mode of infanticide is practicing), it’s important to place these stories in the contexts they belong to. In the early 70’s, the Govt of India came out with a population control scheme mandating that every couple should have two children and now that’s reduced to one child per couple. If the ideal middle-class family imagines only one space for a child, it’s understandable** that people who think girl children are ‘expensive’ (education, dowry etc), they would prefer a son. 

— Any article/post on sex-selective abortions on India that do not engage meaningfully with the efforts and standpoint of the various women’s movements across India are a little above racialised condescension disguised as global solidarity. 

——-

**Understandable doesn’t mean I condone it. Rather, that it makes sense in the context it springs from. 

~ Other sgb editor. 

sexgenderbody:

Audre Lorde once spoke at a feminist conference, noting that she was the only black lesbian there and one of only two women of color.  She was pointing at privilege and exclusion within a group formed to remedy and address privilege and exclusion.  In this address, she pointed to the language and organizational structure adopted by feminists to address patriarchy was formed by patriarchy to reinforce patriarchy.  That language and organization are the “master’s tools” she speaks of and her assessment is that by using them, privilege will not be eliminated, but instead renewed and sustained.  

That metaphor has resonated with me since the very first time I heard it.  I started blogging for a number of reasons, including identifying, owning and interrupting privilege.  I have come to some conclusions which I will share in this post, namely:

- Privilege is always happening, in everyone’s life and in every group.

- I can only interrupt, acknowlege and impact my own privilege.  This seems to be true for us all.  It is also true for groups.

- Denial sustains and reinforces privilege and honesty creates an opportunity to interrupt privilege.

The very instant any group or community is formed or declared, exclusion and privilege are established and instituted.  

Exclusion: some people are in that group and some are not.  

Privilege: the group has leader(s) / former(s) / administrator(s) / public & private voice(s) in some form or another who agree to their ability to declare the identity of that group.  There is also privilege in the selection of new members to the group or the expulsion of current members.

This can be problematic for any group whose stated goal is to address or lessen privilege.  This is often a group whose members and lives are often largely defined by their experiences of having been excluded by privileged persons and groups.  How such an organization or group addresses its privilege and exclusion will impact how successful they are in their efforts to impact privilege elsewhere and as a group or individuals.

Privilege does not go away.  

It’s baked into the language we use, the roles and identities we exchange and learn, the laws of the land, the conventions of speaking and gathering, the eating of food, the drinking of water and the air we breathe.  Privilege is a companion to every life on this planet from birth to death.  

Privilege materializes in many forms: economic, power, race, gender, class, caste, age, education and a myriad of “pecking orders” drawn up formally and informally.  

No group, whether seeking to benefit from privilege or to mitigate it, exists without its own privilege dynamics.  It is perpetuated and reinforced by all group members no matter whether they act / speak or are silent, whether they know it or not.  There is no moment when we can remove privilege and announce

“OK, we fixed privilege, so let’s move on to the next item.”

That does not stop some groups from trying to do exactly that.  It seems to be human nature to want to declare that something is completed and finished.  I think this concept itself is a privileged assertion by a human mind to declare to the world (in a language only spoken by humans) that something has ended because we said so.  Our language allows and supports this concept to be accepted, desired and re-stated solely because we all agree that’s what it means.

So, if we cannot make privilege go away (and we can’t), then what are we to do about it if we find ourselves in a group who would like to lessen some negative aspects of privilege and / or exclusion?  

1. My first suggestion and I think, the most important is to embrace the existence of privilege and exclusion from the very start of the group identity.  

The only way to keep something in the open is to avoid hiding it.  Denial of privilege is an act of privilege.  How a group chooses to address its privilege and exclusion is the first choice that group makes upon forming.  Denying, omitting, forgetting about, not thinking about..privilege are actions and choices just the same as talking about and creating a strategy.    

Compare privilege in this example to the water around a ship.  The water is always leaking in and if the crew ignores, denies or rationalizes about the problem being people talking about the water , then the ship will sink.  The only strategy to keep the ship afloat is to build the boat from the onset to be actively managing water from leaks.  

If a group starts out knowing full well that it will be addressing and managing its own privilege and exclusion, the group is giving itself the best chance to impact, interrupt and mitigate the effects of privilege and exclusion.  It creates access for all group members and external voices to engage on this facet of the group when it arises.  A group building on honesty and open communication is likely to endure longer than one build on denial, dishonesty and deliberately ignoring its own actions.  

For groups attempting to address privilege elsewhere, this strategy has the added benefit of providing experience in building the vocabulary, communications, customs and conventions consistent with addressing privilege in the areas and objectives they focus upon.  This is not only “building a muscle”, this is building the muscle critical to such a group’s success.

It will not be easier to handle later.  There is no better time than the beginning to address privilege and exclusion.

Dealing with privilege and exclusion involves effort.  That same effort waits for the group if they address it later, but is compounded with all the additional effort of drawing group energy and time from its ongoing efforts, cleaning up past acts of privilege and exclusion that the group cannot tolerate in its new form, repairing or addressing the denied communications and relationships between internal and external persons regarding privilege and exclusion.  

Further compounding this is inviting people that were excluded before into a group that in every aspect was created to exclude them specifically.  Why would anyone want to join a group that has been excluding / ignoring / silencing them?

It may be compared to knowingly building a house wrong, then redesigning it, cleaning it and rebuilding it while living in it - rather than spending the effort to build it the way it needed to be the first time.

2. Everyone in the group participates in the establishment of privilege and exclusion.  The appointed representatives, administrators, leaders and the “audience” of listeners, members, supporters, volunteers.  The group must be thorough and clear in terms of what, where, how and by whom the manifestations of privilege and exclusion will be addressed and communicated.

The hierarchy of a group breaks the group into definitions which each carry their own group agreed values and roles.  However, the privilege is only maintained so long as the group agrees to the definitions.  So, it’s not just the speaker at the head of the room, but the butts in the chairs of the audience that listen to the speaker in the privileged terms that both speaker and audience agree to.  

Silence is consent.

When a group does not address privilege, this is just as active as any role performed by leader or appointed representative of the group.  In fact, it is the silence of the majority on the topic of privilege that reinforces the message to leadership that the group approves of not addressing its own privilege.   

3. Privilege and exclusion reside in language.  

Every word we use in our daily life has been created within a system of privilege and exclusion.  This is also true for concepts, behavioral conventions, cultural traditions, verbal cues, gestures, looks, group and individual behavior.  A smile, a wink, a handshake, a word, a phrase, the structure of a sentence, seating arrangements, rank, status, possessions, agreement, disagreement - all of these things are communicated in language.  It does not matter which language.

The languages we share today were created in social structures that had clear privilege levels and exclusions.  Those privileges shaped, informed and chose by inclusion only the words that furthered the survival of that privilege structure an omitted any language that did not.  

Even as we speak toward lessening privilege or exclusion, we are reinforcing it with the very words we speak, the gestures we use, the places we sit and the order in which we gather.  This is true of individuals and groups alike.

We are stuck with language.  It gives us everything.  We do have a choice in whether we address the role language plays in our understanding and creation of the world we live in.  Ignoring this is also a choice, a privilege and an action with consequences.

4. Results come after committed action.  

To quote Yoda:

“Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.”

Day in, day out - we choose how we deal with privilege.  Not all groups addressing privilege are starting from scratch.  I have encountered more than a few NGO’s, 501(c)3’s, blogs, magazines, educational institutions that have stated goals of addressing privilege which do not address their own privilege.  

When we look at the privilege we create and perpetuate, we will see the places where we see ourselves as different, where we fear others and where we enjoy the advantages of privilege.  We fear seeing this in ourselves and we fear being forced to own this in public - at least if we are investing our identity in unseating privilege elsewhere.

Conservative organizations often seek privilege out as a favorable outcome.  Groups  seeking to cement privilege and exclusion will often tell external critics to go “find their own group” and send them packing with a “fuck off”.  

 When a progressive / liberal / privilege facing group ignores external calls to its own privilege, it ends up delivering the same message as the conservatives but lacking the intellectual honesty.  The external complainants are led to believe that they are included, but left to figure out on their own that they have been excluded by a group claiming on the surface to be willing to address their concerns.

Whether they exist already or are starting from scratch, groups seeking to address and mitigate privilege will make their choices on how to deal with their own privilege and they will also live with the results.

In order for us to address privilege and effectively interrupt it, we must name it, know it, hold it out in the harsh light of day and in the process exposing our own blemishes.  Llinguistic privilige and exclusion are designed to flourish, prosper and perpetuate through silent assent and denial of existence…and not to your benefit.  I invite you to look at yourself, your groups and your language to see where these elements are playing out.  Look until you see what it costs you, those you know and the things that matter most to you.

We are not victims of language unless we ignore its singular role in defining who we are and who we are not.

Reblogging again for the day crowd. 

~The other SGB editor. 

Audre Lorde once spoke at a feminist conference, noting that she was the only black lesbian there and one of only two women of color.  She was pointing at privilege and exclusion within a group formed to remedy and address privilege and exclusion.  In this address, she pointed to the language and organizational structure adopted by feminists to address patriarchy was formed by patriarchy to reinforce patriarchy.  That language and organization are the “master’s tools” she speaks of and her assessment is that by using them, privilege will not be eliminated, but instead renewed and sustained.  

That metaphor has resonated with me since the very first time I heard it.  I started blogging for a number of reasons, including identifying, owning and interrupting privilege.  I have come to some conclusions which I will share in this post, namely:

- Privilege is always happening, in everyone’s life and in every group.

- I can only interrupt, acknowlege and impact my own privilege.  This seems to be true for us all.  It is also true for groups.

- Denial sustains and reinforces privilege and honesty creates an opportunity to interrupt privilege.

The very instant any group or community is formed or declared, exclusion and privilege are established and instituted.  

Exclusion: some people are in that group and some are not.  

Privilege: the group has leader(s) / former(s) / administrator(s) / public & private voice(s) in some form or another who agree to their ability to declare the identity of that group.  There is also privilege in the selection of new members to the group or the expulsion of current members.

This can be problematic for any group whose stated goal is to address or lessen privilege.  This is often a group whose members and lives are often largely defined by their experiences of having been excluded by privileged persons and groups.  How such an organization or group addresses its privilege and exclusion will impact how successful they are in their efforts to impact privilege elsewhere and as a group or individuals.

Privilege does not go away.  

It’s baked into the language we use, the roles and identities we exchange and learn, the laws of the land, the conventions of speaking and gathering, the eating of food, the drinking of water and the air we breathe.  Privilege is a companion to every life on this planet from birth to death.  

Privilege materializes in many forms: economic, power, race, gender, class, caste, age, education and a myriad of “pecking orders” drawn up formally and informally.  

No group, whether seeking to benefit from privilege or to mitigate it, exists without its own privilege dynamics.  It is perpetuated and reinforced by all group members no matter whether they act / speak or are silent, whether they know it or not.  There is no moment when we can remove privilege and announce

"OK, we fixed privilege, so let’s move on to the next item."

That does not stop some groups from trying to do exactly that.  It seems to be human nature to want to declare that something is completed and finished.  I think this concept itself is a privileged assertion by a human mind to declare to the world (in a language only spoken by humans) that something has ended because we said so.  Our language allows and supports this concept to be accepted, desired and re-stated solely because we all agree that’s what it means.

So, if we cannot make privilege go away (and we can’t), then what are we to do about it if we find ourselves in a group who would like to lessen some negative aspects of privilege and / or exclusion?  

1. My first suggestion and I think, the most important is to embrace the existence of privilege and exclusion from the very start of the group identity.  

The only way to keep something in the open is to avoid hiding it.  Denial of privilege is an act of privilege.  How a group chooses to address its privilege and exclusion is the first choice that group makes upon forming.  Denying, omitting, forgetting about, not thinking about..privilege are actions and choices just the same as talking about and creating a strategy.    

Compare privilege in this example to the water around a ship.  The water is always leaking in and if the crew ignores, denies or rationalizes about the problem being people talking about the water , then the ship will sink.  The only strategy to keep the ship afloat is to build the boat from the onset to be actively managing water from leaks.  

If a group starts out knowing full well that it will be addressing and managing its own privilege and exclusion, the group is giving itself the best chance to impact, interrupt and mitigate the effects of privilege and exclusion.  It creates access for all group members and external voices to engage on this facet of the group when it arises.  A group building on honesty and open communication is likely to endure longer than one build on denial, dishonesty and deliberately ignoring its own actions.  

For groups attempting to address privilege elsewhere, this strategy has the added benefit of providing experience in building the vocabulary, communications, customs and conventions consistent with addressing privilege in the areas and objectives they focus upon.  This is not only “building a muscle”, this is building the muscle critical to such a group’s success.

It will not be easier to handle later.  There is no better time than the beginning to address privilege and exclusion.

Dealing with privilege and exclusion involves effort.  That same effort waits for the group if they address it later, but is compounded with all the additional effort of drawing group energy and time from its ongoing efforts, cleaning up past acts of privilege and exclusion that the group cannot tolerate in its new form, repairing or addressing the denied communications and relationships between internal and external persons regarding privilege and exclusion.  

Further compounding this is inviting people that were excluded before into a group that in every aspect was created to exclude them specifically.  Why would anyone want to join a group that has been excluding / ignoring / silencing them?

It may be compared to knowingly building a house wrong, then redesigning it, cleaning it and rebuilding it while living in it - rather than spending the effort to build it the way it needed to be the first time.

2. Everyone in the group participates in the establishment of privilege and exclusion.  The appointed representatives, administrators, leaders and the “audience” of listeners, members, supporters, volunteers.  The group must be thorough and clear in terms of what, where, how and by whom the manifestations of privilege and exclusion will be addressed and communicated.

The hierarchy of a group breaks the group into definitions which each carry their own group agreed values and roles.  However, the privilege is only maintained so long as the group agrees to the definitions.  So, it’s not just the speaker at the head of the room, but the butts in the chairs of the audience that listen to the speaker in the privileged terms that both speaker and audience agree to.  

Silence is consent.

When a group does not address privilege, this is just as active as any role performed by leader or appointed representative of the group.  In fact, it is the silence of the majority on the topic of privilege that reinforces the message to leadership that the group approves of not addressing its own privilege.   

3. Privilege and exclusion reside in language.  

Every word we use in our daily life has been created within a system of privilege and exclusion.  This is also true for concepts, behavioral conventions, cultural traditions, verbal cues, gestures, looks, group and individual behavior.  A smile, a wink, a handshake, a word, a phrase, the structure of a sentence, seating arrangements, rank, status, possessions, agreement, disagreement - all of these things are communicated in language.  It does not matter which language.

The languages we share today were created in social structures that had clear privilege levels and exclusions.  Those privileges shaped, informed and chose by inclusion only the words that furthered the survival of that privilege structure an omitted any language that did not.  

Even as we speak toward lessening privilege or exclusion, we are reinforcing it with the very words we speak, the gestures we use, the places we sit and the order in which we gather.  This is true of individuals and groups alike.

We are stuck with language.  It gives us everything.  We do have a choice in whether we address the role language plays in our understanding and creation of the world we live in.  Ignoring this is also a choice, a privilege and an action with consequences.

4. Results come after committed action.  

To quote Yoda:

"Try not. Do or do not, there is no try."

Day in, day out - we choose how we deal with privilege.  Not all groups addressing privilege are starting from scratch.  I have encountered more than a few NGO’s, 501(c)3’s, blogs, magazines, educational institutions that have stated goals of addressing privilege which do not address their own privilege.  

When we look at the privilege we create and perpetuate, we will see the places where we see ourselves as different, where we fear others and where we enjoy the advantages of privilege.  We fear seeing this in ourselves and we fear being forced to own this in public - at least if we are investing our identity in unseating privilege elsewhere.

Conservative organizations often seek privilege out as a favorable outcome.  Groups  seeking to cement privilege and exclusion will often tell external critics to go “find their own group” and send them packing with a “fuck off”.  

 When a progressive / liberal / privilege facing group ignores external calls to its own privilege, it ends up delivering the same message as the conservatives but lacking the intellectual honesty.  The external complainants are led to believe that they are included, but left to figure out on their own that they have been excluded by a group claiming on the surface to be willing to address their concerns.

Whether they exist already or are starting from scratch, groups seeking to address and mitigate privilege will make their choices on how to deal with their own privilege and they will also live with the results.

In order for us to address privilege and effectively interrupt it, we must name it, know it, hold it out in the harsh light of day and in the process exposing our own blemishes.  Llinguistic privilige and exclusion are designed to flourish, prosper and perpetuate through silent assent and denial of existence…and not to your benefit.  I invite you to look at yourself, your groups and your language to see where these elements are playing out.  Look until you see what it costs you, those you know and the things that matter most to you.

We are not victims of language unless we ignore its singular role in defining who we are and who we are not.