I want to preface this by saying that throughout this reflection, when I use “whiteness” I mean it as shorthand, inspired in bell hooks’ definition, for “white supremacist, heteronormative, cissupremacist, capitalist, Imperialist patriarchy” (see here Trudy’s compiled list of origins of definitions and here for bell hooks’ own usage of these ideas in one example of her own writing). I understand that “whiteness” usually means different things to different people but this is what I have in mind when I speak about it. Whiteness as “system of interlocked oppressions”.
Yesterday I shared Sarah Kendzior’s excellent post about media cruelty and exclusion. A number of people objected to the ableism in the piece, mostly, the conflation of sociopathy to racism/ misogyny/ transphobia, etc (you can see it in the reblogs of my post but I also saw the objections pop up on Twitter). Last week, a woman of color, in a private space, asked if people thought that referring to racism as sociopathy was ableist. The question was based, I presumed, in the definition of sociopathy as one in “which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others”. The responses (all of them), said yes. Equating racism to sociopathy was ableist. In all these instances described, the respondents pointing out the ableism were white.
I realized in these incidents that there seems to be a disconnect and lack of understanding of the framework to explain what we are experiencing as PoC. The ableism highlighted in these situations might be technically correct. These could be interpreted as ableist ways of describing social problems, unless the “observer” was implicated by virtue of being on the receiving end of these behaviors. I am not trying to gloss over the implication for mental health and for the stigmas associated with mental illness. Yet, I also realized that for many of us, myself included, whiteness can only be described as a social disease. We lack words to explain this in ways that do not further stigmatize people. I am aware that saying racism is sociopathic could be interpreted as ableist and yet, how do we describe a culture wide phenomenon that kills us? how do we describe a political system founded on our shared inhumanity? how do we describe an oppression that is rooted in lack of empathy and love towards us? Again, this is not to gloss over ableism but what words do we have to pick from? One of the consequences of epistemic injustice is that we do not have accepted frameworks to explain our lives. By “accepted”, I mean, frameworks that are society-wide accepted and recognized as valid throughout academia, mainstream media and public discourses including but not limited to policy and laws. So, in this denial of our knowledge and theories, we are left gasping for air. Here we stand looking for words that would encompass the gravity of what we experience.
Tim Wise, someone whose work is awful, has spoken about the pathology of privilege and this is where Tim Wise’s phony and shallow activism comes through. Privilege is not the pathology. Privilege is the symptom of whiteness as a social disease that kills us. The outcome of our systemic Othering and eventual deaths is the privilege. Wise, ever the apologist, falls into the white trap I’ve written about this past week claiming that racism is bad not because it kills PoC, racism is bad for white people because it causes them mental illnesses:
That’s what white privilege does to white folks. But that’s not all. It also creates an intense anxiety, like a mental dysfunction, an emotional anxiety, and distress. If you are privileged after all, if you are the top dog, if you have all the advantage, you are constantly afraid of who’s gaining on you. You’re constantly afraid of who’s coming to take what you have. You’ve got to close the border. They’re coming to take our stuff. We’ve got to worry about terrorists. They’re coming to take our stuff. We got to get them before they get us; preventative war. We’ve got to stop them. That’s what privilege will do for you because those who have it are constantly anxious. A study in June of 2004, in the journal of the American Medical Association, which received very little attention, found that in the United States the rates of anxiety disorder, depression, and substance abuse related mental disorders are twice the global average, five times the rate in Nigeria. How is it that the most powerful and privileged people on earth can have so much more anxiety than people who live in war torn areas, civil war, political corruption, amazing problems, often famine, all kinds of hardships, that for the most part, we don’t see at least in the same abundance, let’s say, in the United States? And yet, it is here that the greatest level of anxiety exists. I would suggest that the reason that happens is because it’s the privilege that generates the anxiety.
See? White folks suffer more than those Black folks in Nigeria or in war thorn, famine suffering countries! (really? how did he get away with the inherent white supremacy of this statement?! and worse, how did he become mandatory reading material in educational institutions across the Western world?! I know the answer, these are the rhetorical questions I ask myself in disbelief).
How do we, as PoC define a system where you are viewed and treated as the disease and as the reason for the disease (which is what Tim Wise implies, by proximity, in his statements above)? Because if white folks experience anxiety and mental health issues due to a desperation to preserve their privilege, aren’t we somewhat responsible for their perceived suffering as well? How do we steer clear of this language to explain “whiteness as a system that immunizes itself from our existence”? Yes, these are all disease related metaphors and yet, which other metaphors do we have to illustrate something that kills us? Moreover, how do those of us who bear the marks of this whiteness while simultaneously dealing with mental health issues and the associated stigmas find an appropriate framework that doesn’t stigmatize us in one of our intersecting oppressions?
In the Journal of Disability Studies Quarterly, Phil Smith writes about “Whiteness, Normal Theory, and Disability Studies”. From his paper:
Racism is defined bluntly and cogently as “an ideological ethnocentric diseased set of beliefs
“A diseased set of beliefs”. And then, further on, this:
It is very true that minorities are at greater risk for acquiring disability labels and losing ability capacities, often as a result of impoverishment (O’Connor 1993). Difficulty in obtaining services for African Americans may include issues including impoverishment, discrimination, and services that are not culturally competent.[…]
And race has been tied in basic ways to understandings and metaphors of developmental disability. For example, prior to the label of Down syndrome used by modernist medical science, the term Mongolism was the dominant term. The construction of people with disabilities as freaks is “steeped in racism, imperialism, and handicapism…”. Psychiatric survivors have also experienced a “potent fusion of insanity and blackness” as the result of racialized terror felt by Whites.
Race and disability have resided in the same social terrains throughout their history, especially so in educational territories. Eugenicist, modernist science has been instrumental in conflating the cultural topography of disability and race. For example, research has shown over and over that there is a relationship between eligibility for special education services and race […]
One of the most recent of these studies revealed that “…black public school students are three times as likely as whites to be identified as mentally retarded and in need of special-education services…” (Tato 2001, Paragraph 4). Another source notes that African-American students are mis-identified as being mentally retarded or emotionally disturbed at much higher rates than whites […]
I could go on quoting more race based ableist stigmas from this paper but I won’t. My point is made: ableist discourses rest on a foundation of racist Othering. This is not to say that white people are not oppressed by ableism. This is to say that whiteness (see my first paragraph for the working definition) will do away with their own if, by proximity, they can be linked to “us”. And if that is not the textbook definition of a culture that exhibits a “long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others”, then what other words are we left to use to define it?
For years, health care providers have been sounding the alarm on low vitamin D levels among Black folks, equating the deficiency to a “hidden epidemic” that could be connected to elevated cancer rates and other health problems. But, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors may have been misdiagnosing many Black patients with vitamin D deficiency, due to genetic differences in blood types between white and Black people. The blood test most commonly used to determine this particular vitamin deficiency doesn’t account for a unique protein found among many Black people, and researchers say these genetic traits can be traced back to African ancestors.
This is honestly what happens when white people use themselves as a baseline. Fucking medicalized racism runs deep.
EUROPEANS TAUGHT FOR CENTURIES that Africa had no written history, literature or philosophy (claiming Egypt was other than African). When roughly 1 MILLION manuscripts were found in Timbuktu/Mali covering , according to Reuters “all the fields of human knowledge: law, the sciences, medicine,” IT DID NOT MAKE MAINSTREAM NEWS as did the lies taught by Europeans concerning Africa
Someone asked me to somehow “verify” that this story is real.
Of course it’s real! The PROBLEM with the coverage regarding these manuscripts is that they’re constantly portrayed as being in “danger” because many of them are still in the possession of Malian descendants. About 700,000 have been cataloged so far, and they have had to be moved in part because apparently extremist groups have tried to firebomb them. Many others are still in the possession of the families they have been passed down in.
Many of these collected manuscripts are being housed in exile, but mold and humidity have been a constant threat. They have been raising funds to try and preserve these manuscripts-you can read more about the project to house and protect them here.
A bit of the history of these manuscripts from National Geographic:
These sacred manuscripts covered an array of subjects: astronomy, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, judicial law, government, and Islamic conflict resolution. Islamic study during this period of human history, when the intellectual evolution had stalled in the rest of Europe was growing, evolving, and breaking new ground in the fields of science, mathematics, astronomy, law, and philosophy within the Muslim world.
By the 1300s the “Ambassadors of Peace” centered around the University of Timbuktu created roving scholastic campuses and religious schools of learning that traveled between the cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Djénné, helping to serve as a model of peaceful governance throughout an often conflict-riddled tribal region.
At its peak, over 25,000 students attended the University of Timbuktu.
By the beginning of the 1600s with the Moroccan invasions from the north, however, the scholars of Timbuktu began to slowly drift away and study elsewhere. As a result, the city’s sacred manuscripts began to fall into disrepair. While Islamic teachings there continued for another 300 years, the biggest decline in scholastic study occurred with the French colonization of present-day Mali in the late 1890s.
So yeah, basically the story of this collection’s source more or less ends with “…but unfortunately, colonialism”, as do most of the great cities of Africa, the Americas, and some parts of Asia.
Also, as an additional consideration:
With the pressures of poverty, a series of droughts, and a tribal Tureg rebellion in Mali that lasted over ten years, the manuscripts continue to disappear into the black market, where they are illegally sold to private and university collections in Europe and the United States.
Notice where the blame is placed here via language use: on the people in poverty forced to sell their treasures, as opposed to the Universities in Europe and the U.S. buying them.
It’s really just another face of Neocolonialism.
Junot Diaz and a question for us all
A new poll finds that Republicans are more tolerant of high school students wearing a Confederate battle flag to school than they are of students wearing a gay pride (rainbow) flag to school.
Chris Sanders (from the Tennessee Equality Project)
Oh but them blacks and hispanics are SOOO HOMOPHOBIC!
Why folks can miss me with that bullshit(via sourcedumal)
"I must confess that that dream that I had that day has at many points turned into a nightmare."
"I must confess that that dream I had that day in many points turned into a nightmare… I think the biggest problem is now that we got our gains at a bargain rate. It did not cost the nation anything, as a matter of fact it helped the economic side of the nation, the integrated lunch counters and public accommodations. It didn’t cost the nation anything to get the right to vote established. And now we are confronting issues that cannot be solved without costing the nations billions of dollars. I think this is where we are getting our greatest resistance. We can’t get rid of slums and poverty without it costing the nation something!"
Many scholars in Native studies have argued that the field has been co-opted by broader discourses, such as ethnic studies or post-colonial studies.1 Their contention is that ethnic studies elide Native claims to sovereignty by rendering Native peoples as ethnic groups suffering racial discrimination rather than as nations who are undergoing colonisation. These scholars and activists rightly point to the neglect within ethnic studies and within broader racial-justice struggles of the unique legal position Native peoples have in the United States. At the same time, because of this intellectual and political divide, there is insufficient exchange that would help us understand how white supremacy and settler colonialism intersect, particularly within the United States. In this paper, I will examine how the lack of attention to settler colonialism hinders the analysis of race and white supremacy developed by scholars who focus on race and racial formation. I will then examine how the lack of attention to race and white supremacy within Native studies and Native struggles hinders the development of a decolonial framework.
The Logics of White Supremacy
Before I begin this examination, however, it is important to challenge the manner in which ethnic studies have formulated the study of race relations as well as how people of colour organising within the United States have formulated models for racial solidarity. As I have argued elsewhere, the general premiss behind organising by “people of colour” as well as “ethnic studies” is that communities of colour share overlapping experiences of oppression around which they can compare and organise.2 The result of this model is that scholars or activists, sensing that this melting-pot approach to understanding racism is eliding critical differences between groups, focus on the uniqueness of their particular history of oppression. However, they do not necessarily challenge the model as a whole—often assuming that it works for all groups except theirs. Instead, as I have also argued, we may wish to rearticulate our understanding of white supremacy by not assuming that it is enacted in a single fashion; rather, white supremacy is constituted by separate and distinct, but still interrelated, logics. I would argue that the three primary logics of white supremacy in the US context include: (1) slaveability/anti-black racism, which anchors capitalism; (2) genocide, which anchors colonialism; and (3) orientalism, which anchors war.
One pillar of white supremacy is the logic of slavery. This logic renders black people as inherently enslaveable—as nothing more than property. That is, in this logic of white supremacy, blackness becomes equated with slaveability. The forms of slavery may change, be it explicit slavery, sharecropping, or systems that regard black peoples as permanent property of the state, such as the current prison–industrial complex (whether or not blacks are formally working within prisons).3 But the logic itself has remained consistent. This logic is the anchor of capitalism. That is, the capitalist system ultimately commodifies all workers: one’s own person becomes a commodity that one must sell in the labour market while the profits of one’s work are taken by somebody else. To keep this capitalist system in place—which ultimately commodifies most people—the logic of slavery applies a racial hierarchy to this system. This racial hierarchy tells people that as long as you are not black, you have the opportunity to escape the commodification of capitalism. Anti-blackness enables people who are not black to accept their lot in life because they can feel that at least they are not at the very bottom of the racial hierarchy—at least they are not property, at least they are not slaveable.
A second pillar of white supremacy is the logic of genocide. This logic holds that indigenous peoples must disappear. In fact, they must always be disappearing, in order to enable non-indigenous peoples’ rightful claim to land. Through this logic of genocide, non-Native peoples then become the rightful inheritors of all that was indigenous—land, resources, indigenous spirituality, and culture. Genocide serves as the anchor of colonialism: it is what allows non-Native peoples to feel they can rightfully own indigenous peoples’ land. It is acceptable exclusively to possess land that is the home of indigenous peoples because indigenous peoples have disappeared.
A third pillar of white supremacy is the logic of orientalism. “Orientalism” was Edward Said’s term for the process of the West’s defining itself as a superior civilisation by constructing itself in opposition to an “exotic” but inferior “Orient”.4 (Here, I am using the term “orientalism” more broadly than to signify solely what has been historically named as the “orient” or “Asia”.) The logic of orientalism marks certain peoples or nations as inferior and deems them to be a constant threat to the wellbeing of empire. These peoples are still seen as “civilisations”—they are not property or the “disappeared”. However, they are imagined as permanent foreign threats to empire. This logic is evident in the anti-immigration movements in the United States that target immigrants of colour. It does not matter how long immigrants of colour reside in the United States, they generally become targeted as foreign threats, particularly during war-time. Consequently, orientalism serves as the anchor of war, because it allows the United States to justify being in a constant state of war to protect itself from its enemies. Orientalism allows the United States to defend the logics of slavery and genocide as these practices enable it to stay “strong enough” to fight these constant wars. What becomes clear, then, is what Sora Han declares: the United States is not at war; the United States is war.5 For the system of white supremacy to stay in place, the United States must always be at war.
"I’m not white, I’m light skinned - so, we can stop talking about racism now"
ok, i am fully sick of this shit, dictionaries are not sparkly magical oases of unbiased truth, utterly untouched by racism or political agenda
whose political agenda exactly? here, lemme show you. i took five minutes to search for the creators and current owners of merriam-webster and the oxford dictionary and this is what i got
noah webster, wrote the first webster’s. did you also know he was a hardxcore american nationalist and christian who thought the written word was explicitly a tool that needed to be used to control public dissent and individualism which he considered to be badwrong? LOOK IT UP, SHITDICK
oh but who owns it now? well websters became merriam-websters which is a subsidiary of encyclopaedia britannica inc. currently, but here are just some of the white dudes who owned the rights to webster’s shit along the way
hello richard warren sears, yes THAT sears, you are looking particular white and rich
senator william benton, yale graduate, founder of benton & bowles advertising company! rockin that rich whiteness
jacqui safra! member of the famous safra banking family, current owner of encyclopaedia britannica, and merriam-webster and spring mountain vineyard, friend of woody allen and financer of EIGHT of his films. how deliciously white and rich you smell.
here is a small sample of the white dudes that collabed on oxford dictionary originally, archbishop trench, herbert coleridge, frederick james furnivall and sir james murray by this point i was 500% done with reading biographies on boring white dudes doing boring white dude things so instead let’s just all bask in how boring and white they are
for added fun the wiki article on the oxford dictionary has a whole section on criticisms that basically outlines exactly the fucking problem here
Despite its claim of authority on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary has been criticised from various angles. It has become a target precisely because of its massiveness, its claims to authority, and above all its influence. In his review of the 1982 supplement, University of Oxford linguist Roy Harris writes that criticizing the OED is extremely difficult because “one is dealing not just with a dictionary but with a national institution”, one that “has become, like the English monarchy, virtually immune from criticism in principle”.:935 Harris also criticises what he sees as the “black-and-white lexicography” of the Dictionary, by which he means its reliance upon printed language over spoken—and then only privileged forms of printing. He further notes that, while neologisms from respected “literary” authors such as Samuel Beckett and Virginia Woolf are included, usage of words in newspapers or other, less “respectable”, sources hold less sway, although they may be commonly used.:935 He writes that the OED’s “[b]lack-and-white lexicography is also black-and-white in that it takes upon itself to pronounce authoritatively on the rights and wrongs of usage”,:935 faulting the Dictionary’s prescriptive, rather than descriptive, usage. To Harris, this prescriptive classification of certain usages as “erroneous" and the complete omission of various forms and usages cumulatively represent the "social bias[es]" of the (presumably well-educated and wealthy) compilers.:936
so basically, fuck you, you fucking fuck, if you trot out a dictionary definition as proof of racism against white people cuz THE DICTIONARY SAYS that racism is defined only as “racial prejudice or discrimination” (merriam-webster) or “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race” (oxford).
well guess the fuck what.
RICH WHITE PEOPLE WRITE AND CONTROL ENGLISH DICTIONARIES.
RICH WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE ONES DEFINING THE WORDS THAT MAKE IT INTO ENGLISH DICTIONARIES.
AND IF YOU THINK FOR A SECOND THAT RICH WHITE PEOPLE ARE WITHOUT MAJOR FUCKING BIAS YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER FUCKING THING COMING, MAINLY A WHOLE WORLD OF UNCHALLENGED IGNORANCE
"at times like this I feel grateful that my ancestors raped and killed the people who used to live here"