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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,179

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Being White and Female: How Toxic is Half the Privilege?

So, yeah, privilege in American culture has many dimensions and race and gender are only two of them. There's a poisonous mash-up of other characteristics we use to dehumanize each other-- who we love, where we worship, how educated our parents are/were, where we were born, what level of education we finished, what kinds of work we do, what ZIP code we live in, how healthy we are, how thin, how attractive, etc.

Many privileges are conditioned or affected by other privileges, but most often by the Big Two: Race and gender. Once those are assigned in the genetic lottery, our culture uses them to define us and place us in the hierarchy that has "White/Y-chromosome" at the top.

I am white and I can barely imagine the experience lived by not-white people in America and I certainly can't speak to it.

But I am also someone with two "X" chromosomes. And I've come to painful terms with the reality that even men who are heartfelt allies, who are fighting with us for our rights as full human beings, who have an intellectual appreciation of how integral the dehumanization of women is to our culture, can NOT see it as we experience it. Even men who are aware that the cultural definition of gender roles is a fundamental tool for maintaining that dehumanization, still reflexively default to assumptions about the role of the Y chromosome in creating differences between who men are, and who women are.

From this I have to hypothesize the extent and the persistence of my own blind spots from being raised in a racist culture. Because I can't see those blind spots from inside my white skin and my white experience. The pain I feel for the experiences of those who are not white will always be mixed with my own deep shame and sorrow and desire to escape the awareness of the privilege of whiteness that has dictated those experiences. My privilege.

Intellectually, I reject that privilege. Emotionally, I repudiate that privilege. Socially, I scorn that privilege. Politically, I strive to be aware of and demolish that privilege.

But on some deep, deep level, I fear losing that privilege.

On some level, having lived the experience of NOT having the privilege that would be mine if I'd been born with a Y chromosome, I'm terrified of losing 'the only privilege I have'. It seems like, maybe, it's my only compensation for the status of Superior Domestic Livestock that is allocated to us double-X chromosome types.

Let me be clear: What I want, what I am committed to, what matters profoundly to me on an emotional and spiritual level is making America a place where privilege is bestowed fully and equally on all of us by virtue of our humanity. Where we all have equal access to the choices and opportunities to earn greater privilege by virtue of our value to one another, or to lose our privilege by virtue of our choices to damage or disregard others' humanity. I am committed to that.

But in that blind spot, the blind spot of being white and female, fear lives.

I have to constantly remind myself of this, check it, look for its tracks in my unconscious choices and assumptions. It's work. I'm not complaining about the work, but nor am I overestimating my flawed human capacity to sustain the effort. I fuck up plenty. And try again.

I believe this experience of being white and female is at the root of some of the more toxic racism that white women perpetuate. A kind of frenzied psychic clutching at the half-privilege of being white, and a terror of losing that, if being white no longer bestows institutionalized advantages.

(Sometimes I ask myself: "Do humans who have a Y chromosome, but not the privilege of being white-- do they have a similar set of blind spots and fears?" Is there a kind of toxic misogyny that goes with being not-white but clutching that Y chromosome as the only superiority you have a baked-in 'right' to? I don't know.)

This awareness of blind spots is one reason why I am increasingly looking to women of color for leadership. It's not a fair burden to assign them, I know. Race and gender do not guarantee that a person will not have plenty of blind spots-- there are all those other privilege-meters we've established, after all. But I think they have a better chance at seeing clearly, and I appreciate all the women of color who are stepping up and providing leadership.


The Woman Without a Mask at the Emergency Dentist

Over the weekend my DH began experiencing pain in a tooth. Our regular dentist is an older man who has essentially shut down his one-man practice for the duration. So we called the "Emergency Dental Services" number in the phone book.

This number is shared by several practices who offer emergency services on a rotation basis. The first available appointment was at a large chain with an office quite close to home early this morning.

My DH has an issue with high gag reflex that makes almost any dental work painfully difficult, and he's learned to take a low dose muscle relaxant to minimize that. Which means he can't drive himself, so I provided the ride.

As I'm sitting in the waiting area, one or two other patients arrive, properly masked, and the (masked) receptionist screens them with a short series of questions, takes their temperature, and directs them to widely-separated areas of the waiting room.

Then The Woman Without a Mask arrives, and marches up to the receptionist, who immediately offers her a disposable mask. This all transpires without a word.

The Woman Without a Mask (TWWM) ignores the mask being held out to her, fumbles in her satchel, takes out a card, and holds it out to the receptionist, who reads it, and says "May I show this to my Office Manager?" TWWM hands it to her and the receptionist leaves with it.

A moment or two later the receptionist is back with (I presumed) her (masked) office manager in tow. The office manager hands the card back to TWWM and explains that this is a health care establishment required by law to have all staff and patients wearing masks in non-treatment areas and whatever manifesto is on TWWM's card does not overrule that law, and would TWWM please wear the mask if she is here for an appointment.

I'm sure y'all can write the dialog from there. "Freedumb". "This is a DENTIST and I'll have to open my mouth ANYWAY". And of course the "I can't HEAR you behind that mask, you're all breathless and indistinct and THAT'S the real risk".

And the office manager patiently reiterating that they cannot permit her to remain in the establishment if she won't wear a mask. Reminding her there's a pandemic raging in our town. ("Pandemic! More like PLANdemic!" ) Finally she leaves, muttering.

I said to the Office Manager "Why didn't you just explain to her this is a dental office, not a psychiatric facility?"

I think I gave them the best laugh of their morning.


6200 in a 19,000-seat venue is blood in the water. They gambled and lost, big.

Watch for an increasingly frantic exodus by any GOPpie who isn't irrevocably chained in the bilge of this sinking ship.

That is all.


Thoughts on Celebrating Juneteenth

First thought: I think there are reasons for Americans who are not black to celebrate Juneteenth. It marks a major occasion when lying to black people about their status to keep them in bondage was no longer possible.

I think it's important for white me to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate when a particular door to shitty racist behavior closed for white people.

I think it's important for white me to acknowledge, honor and celebrate when a major racial injustice perpetrated by white people was brought to an end.

Second thought: Black people have the right and the option to define Juneteenth as a holiday and white me wants to respect and honor and celebrate that definition.

But I do worry that if Juneteenth becomes "a black holiday" it will forever get pigeonholed and marginalized and its real significance might be lost. White me thinks it would be best as an American holiday. Like Independence Day. Very like that.

Third thought: Maybe the way white me can most respectfully celebrate this holiday is by LISTENING to the voices and thoughts of black Americans on their experiences.

So my celebration today begins by looking for the first-person stories of black Americans, historical and contemporary, on how racism is experienced, and how we can change it.


Stop blaming the apples.

Sure, they're rotten. Not just one or two, but barrels of them. Occasionally you get some good ones, but yeah, the number of rotten ones just keeps getting bigger, fewer in each barrel are salvageable...

But it's not the apples' fault that they're rotten.

The orchard is diseased.

A healthy orchard has many different kinds of fruit, for many purposes. Early harvest, later harvest. Fruit that's best for eating, fruit that's best for cooking. Fruit to use right away, fruit that keeps well.

And you don't grow them all together, because different kinds are vulnerable to different stresses, diseases, pests, etc., and if you grow too many of the same type close together, one bout of blight can affect all the fruit.

Of course, it's cheapest to monocrop. Pick one kind. Optimize conditions for it. invest in the machines to tend and harvest just THAT kind.

At least, until the blight sets in.

And then you've got an orchard of one kind of fruit that's good for one kind of thing, but it's being shoved into every niche, whether it's good for that or not. And when the disease sets in, you've got nothing going into the barrels but rotten fruit.

If you want to fix it, stop thinking you can do it on the cheap with a monocrop and a one-culture-fits-all growing environment and automated equipment.

Survey the ground, test the soil. Note the sun exposure, the prevailing winds. What kinds of fruit will do well at this end? You definitely need some cooking fruit, where will it do best? What do you need to grow that special kind that's going to be in demand later?

Tend it carefully and pay attention to it. Don't think you can cheapass it with quick-grow fertilizers. Amend the soil properly and pay attention to its health or it won't grow you healthy fruit.

Check the trees regularly for signs of pest infestation and disease, and don't hesitate to remove a bad tree if it won't respond to treatment.

Get the BEST rootstock. Quality rootstock will let you graft healthy and resilient bearing scions.

At this point, we may need to plow it all up and re-plant.


The tide has turned.

I use this expression deliberately.

My stepfather retired on the Gulf Coast. When I'd visit him, he'd suggest I take a walk on the beach... "before the tide turns."

See, when the tide turned, the beach would get littered with garbage, and a series of tarry, debris-defined lines... the stuff left there by the old tide, coming in and leaving the garbage.

Now the tide has turned. Float with it, or swim out to sea, or face the risk of being left on the beach like a desiccating jellyfish corpse.

Racism is not over.

Racists are forever.

But the system is changing.

And the tide has now, finally, turned.


What's Really Chapping [Redacted]'s Ass Right Now...

...is how clearly the pandemic and the protests in the street demonstrate his own complete and utter irrelevance.

Not one thing he has been able to do has changed either situation in any real magnitude.

Meaningful decisions have all devolved from the White House to hundreds of state and local Departments of Health, Governors' mansions, law enforcement entities, community protest groups, media centers, etc.

He had chances-- dozens of them, even hundreds of them-- to affect outcomes dramatically, to make a real, positive difference, in both situations. But they would have required him to, in his own view, "look weak." They would have required him to delegate and cede power to competent others. They would have required him to become a leader, leading by consent and with participation of the governed, rather than a dictator giving orders.

So he couldn't do it. He couldn't do any of it.

The most he could do, without directly scuppering his own mental image of himself as The War Pressydink or whatever it is, was to mess up other peoples' efforts.

And now there are too many people making too many various efforts in too many other places for him to control at all.

All the effectiveness and impact he, as the designated central authority, COULD have contributed to the dire situations, is so much tear gas dispersing on the wind.

He's officially irrelevant. The sideshow clown he's always been, exposed.

His foam-flecked horror-tweets barely rate a mention anymore, and that only pro-forma from the sources detailed to maintain a watching brief.

Watch for him to keep trying increasingly dangerous and deranged gambits to make himself relevant again.


Dear Joe Biden

First, thank you. Thank you for a life of service to America's Constitution, and the people of America. Thank you for your humble leadership, your gentle exercise of power, and the unflinching moral clarity you have learned through trial and error, sacrifice and hope- both personal and public.

Second, be assured of the support and strength flowing to you from all across America, appreciation for the hope you represent and the promise you have given us. I am grateful. I know I'm not the only one.

Now, a request. I know you're getting advice and gathering information from some of the most experienced political, social, and media strategists in America- but these are extraordinary times. Not even the strategists can claim experience with the concatenation of challenges facing our nation right now. You, however, have one incredibly rare and incredibly valuable quality which, if you put it to use, will light the path to rebuilding our nation as a just and equitable home for democracy: You have always shown yourself keen to listen to ordinary people outside the bubble of political power and media influence. Put this to work now.

And I'm writing this, so here's mine: Begin forming your government, NOW. Begin building strategies. Assemble plans. Connect with allies. Identify sources of expertise and help. And above all, gather data. Track what is going on in all of the places where the forces of greed and autocracy are attempting to shatter our commons and destroy our ability to heal democracy.

In other words, start day one with an action plan ready to roll out, and contingencies for all the obstruction you will face (and it will be monumental, undoubtedly.)

Don't neglect to hold a watching brief for the ploys focused on destroying your candidacy and stealing the election, but also, don't prioritize putting resources and energy into too much of the traditional campaign activities. Respect the electoral process, sure. Connect with voters, of course. Let the nation see you value the exercise of our votes, definitely.

But put as much of the resources and energy as you can into building a government that we will have confidence in from day one. You know as well or better than anyone the amount of energy that gets diverted into media circuses around the selection of key appointments and the structure of Administrative power, in those early days. That way lies loss of valuable momentum.

Well-planned choices now will not only sidetrack that unproductive folly later, it will build our confidence. And it will limit the amount of scrumming for influence later. We don't need horse races. We don't need reality teevee. We don't need drama, suspense, and soapsuds.

You can do this.

And we got your back.


The dumb bigots are salivating at the thought of finally getting their "Race War"

They want to escalate the violence because they think it will be blamed on black people and finally, finally, they will get what they want and all white people will rise up in righteous retaliation and restore the natural order of white dominance in America.

If I knew I had Covid-19 right now, I'd head right on out and join them, shouting joyfully into their faces about how finally the world will see the righteousness of the Holy Wypipo Cause.

I don't, though. But I applaud all of those who are risking their lives to witness the provocation and testify to the racist escalation of the violence.

And I shudder to think of what the coronivirus fatality statistics will look like a month from now.

And I weep.

I weep...

I weep...


I updated my candidate preference early.

I said I wasn't going to do this until all the Primaries were over and it was clear which candidate is the choice of the largest number of Democratic Party voters.

Of course, I said that a long time ago- nearly a year ago, IIRC.

Who I would have voted for in my state's primary is no longer relevant.

(Reminder: Voting in your state's primary is STILL IMPORTANT, if it hasn't happened already! There are other contests than the Presidential ticket to determine and your voice matters.)

I am thrilled that we have a candidate as experienced, compassionate, and competent as Joe Biden to head our ticket. I am thrilled that so many brilliant Democratic public servants participated in the primary race and gave us a chance to get to know them.

I am grateful to ALL of the primary candidates for the attention they brought to issues that matter to us and to our Party. While the current existential threat may force some hard choices and difficult prioritizing, none of those issues should (or, I suspect, will) be forgotten in the long run.

I am a proud and delighted Biden voter and I hope that we can now unite strongly behind Joe and his Veeper pick, and kick the toxic death cult that the GOP has become, to the curb in November.

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