Thursday, June 25, 2020

Racism is an Enormous, Well-Maintained Machine

Below is something I wrote to a friend of a friend who objected to Affirmative Action; a quick item I put together to give insight into the nature of Racism, how it connects to oppression tactics, and why it's a white responsibility to address... and to address properly.

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Racism is an Enormous, Well-Maintained Machine

Racism is not mere racial prejudice, it's an institution, a structure. People want to think "racism" is just one race being anti-another, but that's racial prejudice, not racism. Racism is a huge machine, built and tuned over centuries to do a specific job: keep white people on top, oppress everyone else.

And yes, racism IS a white-specific creation. [Ed.: Even in non-white areas of the world, Colonialism... with its singular global scale of success in conquest, cultural appropriation, and oppression... has been the blueprint for modern Racism, Classism, Sexism, et al.] For white people, whether they want to admit it or not, it's a privilege they all have, whether they use it or not. It's the category of privilege that one kind of person has, but NOBODY should.

For everybody else, it's a monstrous burden they pay for... they pay all the costs for white people to enjoy racism... but they don't get any of the benefits unless a few "benevolent" white people let some scraps trickle off the table. Everyone else pays for white racism, but they get none of the return.

For white people, racism is an incredible privilege. For everyone else, it's a crushing burden of oppression.

This is why people use terms like "institution" or "systemic" when referring to racism. People get careless in pretending it's interchangeable with "racial prejudice", but even that false equivalency is white-driven: white people see the use of the term "racism" as a weapon meant to hurt them, and they want "equality" to mean they can use it back in the same way... but it's not. The word isn't a weapon. When non-white people use it, it's to describe a burden white people put on them. But white people hate that there's a "bad" term that they're uniquely responsible for.

And this is why racism is a pandemic, and it's also something white people have to cure, in the same vein that women can't cure misogyny; men have to, because it's a structure, a carefully-built and maintained machine, of institutional male power. And, in the same vein, the poor can't cure poverty... the lower classes can't cure classism.

The wealthy have to. Because hoarding wealth causes classes in the first place. The lower classes don't have the resources the wealthy have hoarded. And so, because there's a HUGE overlap between racism, classism, and sexism, we have a HUGE Venn diagram of who suffers most... and who is most obligated. When you hoard power, you are responsible for the evils that hoarding creates.

So, when you address something like Affirmative Action, or reparations, yes, it sucks that we have to expect white people to do it, and it sucks that we have to badger and explain to them WHY they should do it (see "Expecting POC To Teach Whites"), but they have the resources, they have all the profits and benefits gained from Racism (and, from here on out, I think I'm going to capitalize that word, to denote its existence as a massive and organized machine), but it's progress, and, if we're going to convince white allies who WANT to dismantle the problem to see, and to keep going, then it'd help if we didn't have POC voices from within trying to undo progress.

If we have to progress by lighting the way for white people, explaining it from within because it saturates and defines our lives but it's just a bunch of theories to them, then... well... at least we're being heard, and progress is being made.

Context:

It's been several months since I've written anything for this blog; in Chicago, a quarantine started on March 21st, and Pumping Station: One closed up in accordance. Since then, PS:1 has re-opened somewhat... limited capacity, scheduled use of stations... but it still hasn't re-opened as a community building. And it shouldn't. As an at-risk member, I agree that it shouldn't. The USA is going to see another wave. Honestly, we should be looking at a firmer lockdown. But more on that at another time.

Shortly before the quarantine, PS:1 restricted me from all online interaction with the community. I took a hard stand against the quiet, "civil" institutional Racism, Sexism, and Classism that is rampant in the organization, in the PS:1 Slack channel designated for "inclusiveness"... so not "public", but "public to the community"... and a few key members of this mostly-white, mostly-male educational nonprofit, including the former President for three years, filed quiet, "civil" complaints with the Dispute Resolution Committee.

After numerous exchanges with this mostly-white, mostly-male committee... which boiled down to "we're going to let you say a lot of words, but we're already going to do what we want to protect the negative peace of PS:1", their decision was to restrict me from all online interaction for six months. One of the Committee's key points... and I'm writing the quote verbatim... is that "some members have said they don't want this here." Some members... of a mostly-white, mostly-male organization with a stated conceit of "equality". Don't want strident opposition to Racism, Classism, Sexism here. And this after one of their most powerful white, male, middle-class members joined the complaint; the former President who I've critiqued heavily over the last few years.

Somewhat unintentionally, the end result, combined with the quarantine, is my complete exile from the PS:1 community for the duration of my sentence, since it will likely end before PS:1 returns to community accessibility. It's another example of how the pandemic highlights the fallacies of white authority and post-colonial standards of punitive behavior; I was never seriously invited to participate in analyzing, addressing, or resolving such issues in the organization. Instead, once I became loud enough... I was simply deemed expendable for the comfort of others, and the scale of that isolation was never really considered. As a person of color, being obviously-mixed-race Mexican, Mescalero Apache, and European, I've never legitimately had a seat at the table. "Equality."

Ultimately, it has been my burden... and almost exclusively mine, so far... to try to educate the membership (or, more specifically, the community leadership... which overlaps heavily with the Board, historically, since they share the offices among themselves and their favored allies, but which is not, by definition, exclusively the Board) on the nature of Racism, and Classism, and Sexism. A blowback I get a lot is from those well-educated members who have "taken a class"... but working with the concepts as discrete theories is NOT the same as having your world shaped by these concepts every day. While white people shouldn't expect to require people of color to educate them on the nature of Racism, et al., the leadership of the organization simply isn't going to make a substantial and timely effort of their own accord.

And, in renewed light of recent events (such as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police), their ties to similar prior events, and the overarching structure of Racism, et al. that these events are built on, doing that work is more important, more urgent, than ever. Especially since this mostly-white, mostly-male, mostly-middle-to-upper-class organization has been suspiciously silent on the highlighted issues in their public platform of "equality". While I may be in exile, in my four-plus years of membership I find I'm comfortable predicting that there are wealthy white men insisting these issues are merely "politics" that PS:1 "is obliged to avoid" as a 501c3 nonprofit.

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