Connected by a common thread

Because of the way in which the conversation has been traditionally framed and understood, we face a serious reluctance to identify all but the most egregious examples of racism in common parlance. To be sure, there are those of us who make a habit of exploring the racial component of every human interaction under the sun (and what exactly do you mean by ‘under the sun’?). To discuss racism properly is to be involved in a constantly-evolving conversation that explores all angles of an issue without falling too definitively hard on any one position (at least without acknowledging the other positions).

When racist behaviour carries with it the (apparently immense) threat of being labeled ‘a racist’, the emotional stakes are quite high before a claim will be accepted as having any merit at all. Absent a fMRI and sworn testimony by a panel of psychics, people are prone to deny the racist component of any behaviour they may have exhibited, and will jump to the immediate defense of any admired person who is thus accused. On comes the search for a loophole – any loophole – that provides enough cover to escape having to confront the harm that those behaviours have.

Most people don’t have time for the kind of near-constant scrutiny and encyclopaedic historical knowledge required to identify all instances of racism. Whereas those of us in visible minority positions are made more aware of racism by the mere fact that we are more likely to experience it, I would venture to guess that within any race-based story there is a subset of even the affected minority group that says “now you’re just overreacting”. Depending on how convoluted or specific the issue, this dissenting group may encompass all minority group members except a few dedicated academics. [Read more...]

Movie Friday: FAN MAIL!

Ohmygosh you guyse, I am just super excited. I was poking around in the dashboard of this site yesterday, and I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from a Youtube video. Seeing as it is highly unusual for me to get referrals from Youtube, I clicked on through to see what was driving traffic to the site. Well wouldn’t you know, someone loves me and loves this blog enough to record a ten minute piece of fan mail! I’m so incredibly flattered. For someone to take ten whole minutes out of what I’m sure is a very busy schedule of hating the shit out of women to talk about little ol’ me? Gosh…

Let’s watch!

Well it’s the oddest piece of fan mail I’ve ever got. It doesn’t even seem like fan mail. It seems like he doesn’t like me! But that can’t be… I’m so loveable.

For those of you who didn’t/couldn’t watch all the way through, I will summarize IntegralMath’s* points: [Read more...]

The New Fascism

This past Sunday, I went with my partner to our city’s Remembrance Day ceremony, which I do every year. My brother has served two tours in Afghanistan with the Canadian forces, and a tour in Bosnia after the civil war there, and many other members of my family have also served. I’m not one for overt expressions of nationalism, and I have numerous issues with the overly Christian-themes on display there, but for me, Remembrance Day is about my brother and the sacrifices he made. I think about his friends – some of whom did not make it home alive – and I remember that whether I agree with the mission in Afghanistan or not, the government that represents me sent them there. If nothing else, it reminds me of the absolute necessity of striving to elect people who understand the concept of ‘Just War’, and who recognize the heavy cost of sending young people to fight and die in our name. When we decide that the past is no longer something to remember and learn from, the old, crappy ideas that caused so much damage begin to seem a lot less crappy, and they start to be rediscovered by a whole new generation. [Read more...]

How is a black man like a parking space?

Because all the good ones are taken or gay!

Wait… I think I screwed that joke up. Speaking of things that are screwed up, here’s a thing:

Extremist Christian and Bishop Earl Walker Jackson may believe gays are ‘sick’, but he has admitted he thinks they have stolen ‘all the nice looking black men.’ He made these comments while in an interview with Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, Right Wing Watch reports.

Jackson said: ‘Their minds are perverted, they’re frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality. When they talk about love they’re not talking about love, they’re talking about homosexual sex. So they can’t see clearly.’

Once again… a whole lot to unpack in even just this snippet of a statement. [Read more...]

They took ur helth curr!

I will honestly never know how it was that conservatives got this reputation as being “fiscally responsible”. People who fancy themselves politically savvy centrists will often describe themselves as “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” as though that was a superior approach to just calling themselves “moderates” or something. Nuanced it may in fact be, but a point in their favour it is not. Classical fiscal conservatism is, at its heart, an argument that the state should interfere with economic matters as little as possible, and even then only to encourage the development of private industry through competitive markets and maintaining standards of fairness.

Since the days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, however, fiscal conservatism has come to mean “get the government out of the way” by “starving the beast” and basically denying the possibility that public control over any industry is anything other than a surefire path to failure. It’s not enough to maintain fairness – it’s an absolute necessity that government be powerless not only to participate in markets, but to also demonize the possibility of intervention when things are clearly headed for calamity.

Specifically, this attitude has reared its disgusting and self-centred head in a discussion over the provision of health care to refugees. The basic underlying philosophy of publicly provided health care is to ensure that people are able to access medically-necessary services based on their need for those services, rather than a market-based approach that prioritizes those who have superior ability. Yes, it happens to be anti-capitalist, but it has the side benefit of being more fiscally responsible, since people aren’t putting off illness management until it’s too severe for them to ignore it. Refugees, people literally fleeing to Canada for fear of persecution in their home countries, often have greater need (particularly for psychological care, a particular bugbear of mine). The public health care system, it therefore seems to follow, should respond with greater provision of services.

Not if you’re a “fiscal conservative” though: [Read more...]

Get it?

There was a conversation on a post of PZ’s about a guy who had to endure outrageously and heart-wrenchingly frequent racism at the hands of his bosses and co-workers, who responded to his complaints with condescension and dismissal (which, by the way, most victims of oppression have experienced many times before – it’s why we don’t always speak up about it). The discussion centred on how to know where ‘the line’ is for jokes and humour that involve race. None of us want to offend our friends, and knowing which topics and jokes are ‘okay’ is occasionally quite difficult. Often you don’t know where the line is until you’ve crossed it.

My usual policy is to remember that all jokes are inside jokes. Humour is based on a shared perspective on an issue – that both the speaker and the audience see a situation identically. Some comedians (e.g., Mitch Hedburg) are masters at drawing you into a story and then subtly adjusting the perspective, and the laugh comes from realizing that the situation under discussion, or the meaning of a word, is actually quite different than you thought. Others (Louie CK, Sarah Silverman) push boundaries of acceptable social norms based on the shared understanding that both audience and speaker understand those norms. Still others (Chris Rock) point out the absurdity of the norms themselves, holding them up for scrutiny and ridicule.

Humour, in whatever form, requires the audience to be able to share the perspective of the comedian, which in turn requires the comedian to be able to understand the audience. There are many who fail to be funny because they miss this important second step, resulting in awkward and sometimes hurtful situations*. We sometimes feel bad for those whose humour simply doesn’t work because of failed delivery, and cringe at those who try to be ‘edgy’ but instead fall back on ‘crude and mean-spirited’. [Read more...]

Paging Dr. Freud?

I am not really a big supporter of the whole “anti-gay bigots are secretly closeted gay men” meme. I find it far too ‘pat’ an answer – human behaviour and beliefs are multifaceted and complex. While there have been a number of examples where anti-gay crusaders (Eddie Long, George Rekers, Ted Haggard) have turned out to be something other than the sterling avatars of pure heterosexuality that they claim to be, there are enough men in public life who hate gays with equal sincerity and virulence who show no evidence of being gay, secretly or otherwise. Whatever the relationship between gay hatred and self-hatred by gay men, I find that particular explanation sometimes borders on succumbing to ‘shaming’ straight men for being gay, and that makes me uncomfortable.

All that being said, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation*:

“Untrammeled homosexuality can take over and destroy a social system,” says [anti-gay activist Paul] Cameron. “If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement[1], and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get- and that is what homosexuality seems to be-then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist[2]. The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm.” So powerful is the allure of gays, Cameron believes, that if society approves that gay people, more and more heterosexuals will be inexorably drawn into homosexuality[3]. “I’m convinced that lesbians are particularly good seducers,” says Cameron.

“People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical,” he adds, sounding evangelical himself. “It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush[4]. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they’ll take enormous risks, do anything.” He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. “Martial (sic) sex tends toward the boring end[5],” he points out. “Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does[6]” So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

There’s a lot to unpack here: [Read more...]

Idle Chatter

George Orwell’s prescient masterwork 1984 is more or less required reading if one wishes to critically appraise the modern political world. To be sure, it has always been the case that people have exploited war and propaganda for the purposes of seizing and maintaining power, but in an era where mass communication has never been so accessible, the lessons taught by Orwell have perhaps never been so valuable. When it is trivially easy to completely selectively tailor which news outlets, columnists, television stations, and essentially every aspect of information communication that one listens to in such a way as to flatter our inherent biases, we find ourselves with a shrinking number of opportunities to be presented with the kind of cognitive dissonance that forces us to examine facts.

One of the most chilling elements within 1984 was the “Two Minutes Hate“:

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started.

As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured — in some hiding-place in Oceania itself.

(snip)

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. [Read more...]

#MittBateman

I have loved some of Brett Easton Ellis’ novels. While he himself is a difficult person to have positive feelings about, his work is excellent and unique. Reading and watching American Psycho has been singularly useful to me in explaining corporate behaviour in the age of #Occupy.

And so when I saw this clip of Mitt Romney talking about the mortal lock that President Obama has on poor people:

I couldn’t help but think of this clip of Patrick Bateman saying much the same thing:

Now sure, Mitt’s knife is only metaphorical, but he’s running to have enough power to stab everyone.

It should not be overlooked, by the way, that even when he’s alone, Mitt Romney lies like a cheap rug. It’s also worth taking a look at where this supposed Obama-loving, no-tax-paying, freedom-hating 47% live.

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The price of speaking up

One of the cool things about North American culture’s increased multiculturalism (as a statistical fact, if not a political one) is that we begin to see an increasing permeability in roles that were once divided strictly along racial lines. The United States has a black president, which is a nifty thing in and of itself, but the Calgary Flames ice hockey team also has a black captain who will probably be inducted into the hall of fame – perhaps an equally remarkable accomplishment. Jackie Robinson is the most celebrated of race-barrier breaking athletes, but golf (a sport once almost synonymous with white folks) has a number of established and emerging stars who are people of colour (PoCs). And then there was that whole “Lin-sanity” thing.

Perhaps it is precisely because there is a much stronger incentive (particularly financial) to pick the best person for the job regardless of race, and perhaps it is because of how high-profile the field is, but sports seems to be one of those places where racial barriers can drop pretty quickly. Part of this must undoubtedly be a cohort effect that is a by-product of the selection process. For example, your family has to be able to afford to give you tennis or golf lessons when you’re a really young kid – this is often beyond the reach (and/or lies outside the reasonable life expectations) of many immigrant families, meaning that it probably takes a generation or two before you’ll see athletes of colour rise through the ranks. Even those merely economically disempowered domestic (i.e., non-immigrant or non-recent-immigrant) minority groups will have some generational lag time before they will be recognized as a youth prodigy and receive the requisite attention and coaching it takes to become a star.

But it is tempting, in the days of Tiger Woods and Lydia Ko, to forget that the racism in the background of even the brightest stars follows them, and will find any opportunity it can to take them down: [Read more...]