The only argument I'm developing is that I'm uncomfortable with assumptions and statements that I see in the national media, developed by surrogates disappointed in Hillary's performance and/or convinced of "massive" sexism dooming her campaign. I KNOW that my attitude would be "IF you could rank gender and race...then black men, etc." but I also know that I believe that is bullshit--amassing evidence is meaningless without a neutral context and perspective, which is impossible for me--or any human being-- to achieve.
The REASON it came up again is that, since the last time I spoke about it, I've heard a hundred different arguments in the media that sexism doomed Hillary's campaign, and repetition of the idea that sexism hurts more than racism. I have the perfect right to push back at what I see as a poisonous meme. In fact, it is my obligation, don't you think?
Dan--Your comparison is invalid from my POV. When someone says: "was slavery good or bad for slaves" I damned well did look at the question as dispassionately as possible. And the standards I brought to the question were not subjective. You can argue with the standards I selected, but they were Death rate/Life extension, inherited wealth, and infant mortality, standards that have long been used to measure the relative health, wealth, and standing of different ethnic groups, nations, and social tissues. On every measure--EVERY measure, slaves and the descendants of slaves suffered horribly. This just isn't true for women--they were worse on some measures, better on others. If I used those standards for blacks, and then applied them to the question of women, I can be considered rigid, but not, I think, hypocritical. (No, you were not accusing me of hypocrisy).
That said, I DO see benefits that have passed to the descendants of slaves. Furthermore, of course there is a perspective that suggests whites didn't actually benefit by slavery. I only buy into the spiritual/psychological aspect of this (and that only to a degree) but there are scholars (who I disagree with) who take this to the economic level as well, suggesting that slavery was never really profitable. I consider this absurd, but I'm sure that they can mount interesting arguments. They aren't idiots, they have the right to their opinion. My only question would be whether they are using that argument to suppress rights TODAY.
I listen if large numbers of people disagree with me about something, but that's not determinative. I've been criticized for not accepting the scholarship of feminists on this subject. There is something you guys don't seem to take into account: I am also discounting the scholarship of Afrocentrists, the majority of whom believe race is the determining factor. In fact, I've been screamed at and vilified by black people for not automatically accepting THAT point of view. Now...let me see...is there anything in common between the people who think gender is more pressing? Yep--they're almost all white. And while I can't make a direct comparison, the majority of black people seem to think that race is more determinative. I would consider these forces equal and opposite, and that they CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT. I have no obligation to lean one way or another, or accept either set of arguments without taking the other into account. I let both sides of that argument scream at each other across a table. I can feel the part of me that would like to take the position that race is more of a burden, but both logic and intuition tell me that it isn't that simple, and that it would be selfish bullshit to go in that direction.
But that doesn't mean that when I hear white folks screaming that gender is more of a burden than race, I don't have a flinch response, a sense that the very group that enjoyed ALL of the benefits I've wanted all my life for my people is now trying to twist the facts so that they can win a contest with their fathers and brothers...and just like the Afrocentric scholars, are perfectly capable of ignoring the humanity of others to further their own interests. If Obama had lost, I would have been HORRIBLY disappointed if he did the "a black man doesn't have a chance" routine. It is interesting that anyone would expect me to buy the same bullshit coming from the other side.
All of this relate to my personal values, and the way most people have expressed theirs through action, throughout most of human history. The average person places their life, and the continuation of it, above the lives of others with the exception of immediate family or the dearest of friends. This is why we respect acts of true heroism so highly--they are rare. So I look at the most basic things, across a population: lifespan. Death by violence. Infant mortality rate. And I believe that most place these "first and second chakra" issues above everything else, on average. It should hardly be surprising that I am not willing to
1) Discount the uncountable women who have told me they think there are real advantages to being female
2) Discount a value structure that has shepherded me through uncounted mazes of social and personal illusion
3) Discount all of the Afrocentric scholars who argue that race is more crippling than gender
4) Discount the fact that virtually 100% of those who think gender is worse are themselves white
without my bullshit meters going off. I sit firmly in the "we can't know" camp, while feeling the tide toward "black has it harder." It is a hunger, similar to the one I feel on fasting days. I would like my tribe to win. I just don't care as much about the other. But my hunger isn't me, and I don't have to be controlled by it. My protection is to guide my actions by the higher principle, and invite criticism if by word or deed I act contrary to it. I don't know what else I can do, really.
But I would be very suspicious of any belief system whose adherents seem to be determined primarily by place of birth or genetics.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:43 AM