“But We’re Not All Bad!” Is the Wrong Answer

25 05 2011

This might be my most favourite derailing tactic (and by favourite, I mean most facepalm-y) of all time. The old “we aren’t all like that!” trope, guaranteed to derail a discussion in 140 characters or less. If you are privileged enough to have never experienced this (if you haven’t already done it yourself) I’ll give you an example. Adjust the situation for the oppressed/oppressor relationship of your choosing:

Trans woman: Wow, I really wish cis LGB people would quit directly playing a direct hand in my erasure, denial of services/basic humanity and the often fatal harm of me and women like me. That would be great if all that would stop.

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes. More derails follow, the discussion goes to shit and the oppressor often ends up getting consoled instead of the marginalized person being attacked (also known as white women’s tears) and the attempt for a meaningful discussion or call-out is abandoned at that time. All of this because of a six word sentence that has no validity in any of these discussions whatsoever.

Far too many discussions that need to happen do not, because there is always at least one privileged champ who comes in and fucks everything up with this tactic. It is not the way that one in a position of privilege should be reacting when a marginalized person speaks their truths. When a person of colour is talking about their frustrations with harmful things white people tend to do, the correct response isn’t “I don’t do that!/We aren’t all that bad!” The reaction of a person who is truly socially conscious should be to listen and learn. Only after listening and learning (not demanding someone be your Mystical Minority Teacher(TNM)) can you begin to maybe do something about this problem. Not throw a temper tantrum about how all white people aren’t in the Klan, but ask yourself “What can I do to reject my privilege, help end the systemic and oppressive problem the group I belong to has a history of doing, and how can I work to uplift marginalized people?”

The one in the role of the oppressor has no business to “prove” that their group is “not all bad” to a marginalized person. The fact of the matter is, these problems that are spoken of are systemic within the entire communities of privilege. It is not something that occurs only in fringe/extremist/super duper hateful circles within those communities of privilege, it is everywhere within the community. The goal should not be to to prove to any marginalized person that you aren’t all bad (attempting to deny the lived experiences of any marginalized person is fucked up in and of itself.) The goal needs to be to end the systemic oppression of marginalized people that requires these discussions happen in the first place.


The Stigma Attached to Community College

30 08 2010

I began my college career at a private, four year university in New York. The tuition was almost $50,000 per year, and even with scholarships and grants, I was taking out a considerable amount of student loans. The school was tiny, the department for my major offered little more than basic classes, and the environment was incredibly hostile for people with disabilities. And yet, I wanted to stay. Why? Two reasons.
A0 I wanted to be back in my homeland (homeland being the New York/North Jersey Metro Area)

B) My only other option was community college.

So, when I got a letter in the mail saying tuition was going to go up 4% each year (I was already taking out the maximum in Stafford loans) I was looking for a way to stay there. This particular school has a pretty bad retention rate, and I know a lot of people who left for more affordable state schools and community colleges. But not me.

When I was faced with the very real prospect of going to community college, I was terrified. It meant losing all of my independence (thanks, NJ Transit!), and besides, only stupid people went to community college right? Right?!

Wrong. So Goddamn wrong.

This thought had been drilled into my head from the moment I began high school. From teachers, friends, office staff, family, etc. “Do well in your classes or you might end up at Brookdale!” “Join some clubs, you don’t wanna go to Brookdale!” “Your college essay could put you at a top school, or community college,” Over and over and over for four years. This idea that only unintelligent people attend community colleges was drummed into me (and many other students) so much that I believed it.

Let’s break down this hateful stereotype, shall we?

Higher Education is a hugely inaccessible institution for most marginalized people. People of colour, poor people people with disabilities and trans women and men are routinely denied the opportunity to attend a four year college or university. There are many reasons for this, including cost, ability to successfully get through high school, rigid admissions standards, etc. From the way public schools harm oppressed children, to the absurdity of the SATs, it is made damn sure than marginalized people have a difficult time getting into a four year school. This is where community college comes in.

Community college accepts everyone, regardless of SAT score, incomeand high school performance. It is infinitely cheaper than a four year institution (and if you get a Pell like I do, you might even get a stipend), some majors (like Nursing or Criminal Justice or Education) will enable you to get a job without a Bachelor’s degree, andn many state schools have agreements with community colleges that allown for automatic acceptance upon graduation. These are only some of the reasons why it’s better to initially attend a community college, but because many students taking advantage of this are marginalized, it is seen as lesser by the Privileged. And since the Privileged deem it unworthy, it must be so.

My Beef With Self-Declared Allies

24 08 2010

If you have declared yourself an ally, you are not going to like this post.

Many blogs and twitterfeeds that claim to be about social justice like to put the word “ally” somewhere in their bio/about section. Trans ally, LGBT ally, POC ally, PWD ally, etc. This is supposed to signify that the writer is *really* about social justice and is *really* about helping the marginalised group of people in whatever way they can, right? RIGHT?!

Not so much.

Instead, what this usually means is the writer is badly in need of some hipster activist points and among PWP (progressives with privilege) this is an easy way to get them. Many of these “allies” who feel the need to tout their ally-ness are more interested in how they look as a PWP and yelling about what a good person they really are than in uplifting any marginalized group. This is best seen during any argument an “ally” gets into with a person of a marginalized group.

Ally: [does something incredibly privileged without realising it]
Marginalized Person: “Hey, try checking your privilege because that thing you said/linked to/endorsed was harmful.”
A: “Check my privilege? What do you mean privilege? I’M AN ALLY.”
M: “Be that as it may, you still have a fuckload of privilege and you are currently using that privilege to silence me. Stop it.”
M: “You are still doing it, and now you’re derailing the conversation. Stop it.”

The “ally” will typically then rattle off reasons why they’re such a good ally, or why there’s no way they could have done something privileged. The person the ally claims to be helping will suffer, and the ally will continue to do harm under the guise of “being a good ally.”

If you truly want to uplift people you oppress and use your privilege for good, you do not need to tell everyone that you are a Super Ally. But, if you were *really* interested in doing those things, you would already know that.

Fat Hate: It’s What’s for Dinner

24 05 2010

Fat hatred is nothing new. And whether you’re a size 2 or a size 22, you’ve probably experienced some kind of fat shaming or fat hatred at some point in your life. It penetrates all aspects of daily life – education, work, travel and all forms of media.

So, naturally, fat hatred has infiltrated social networking. A search of the words “Fat” and “hate” on twitter will bring up thousands of tweets about how much the user hates someone who is fat, or is trying to insult someone by calling them fat. On Facebook, the same search turns up multiple pages and groups dedicated to hating things fat people do.

Notice the theme among those pages (besides the awful grammar)?
It’s not just any kind of fat person this hate and vitriol is directed at. Almost all of this is directed at self identified women.

When I worked at Fashion Bug, every day women would come in who had internalized this special combination of sexism and fat hatred, and the results were not pretty.
Women who were terrified of trying on clothes, women who wouldn’t take of their winter coats (in April) to avoid people seeing how big they were underneath, women who wouldn’t let anyone measure them, etc. This is all a direct result of groups that target fat self-identified women.

This is what the world thinks of fat women.

Now, I know you’re reading this groups with judging eyes, but before you get all self righteous, think about how you see fat people. How often do you think “She is too fat for that dress,” “He needs to put down the fork” or “Maybe if she ate some vegetables she wouldn’t be in that scooter?”

This is certainly a big problem, one that requires everyone’s help. But, keeping the same thoughts as those above and just keeping your mouth shut solves nothing. You cannot help us end hate until you rid yourself of hate first.