Deserted Reality

Wandering aimlessly, pretty much

42 notes &

NO to Social Security cuts, NO to tax cuts for the top 2%: Take Action

cactuartamer:

Please signal boost, we may have won the election but action is needed if we don’t want to see the Democrats do what they do best, and turn to mush when it comes time to stand up for the middle class, working class, and poor, against unnecessary austerity measures that serve only to fund even greater tax breaks for the most wealthy among us.

Starting just the day after the election we’ve already seen a push in the mainstream media to make the narrative about how Obama needs to appease Wall Street. We’ve seen it declared all over that the election doesn’t constitute a mandate (when a margin less than half the size did, in the hands of GW Bush.)

Things are already moving and it’s going to take a push just as strong as the one during the election, to let the people we just sent back to Washington know that our support is not unconditional.

The reality (from AmericaBlog, emphasis mine):

It’s a safe bet Obama wants this. He’s been angling for something like Simpson-Bowles for years. In fact, Simpson-Bowles is his commission. (For more on why I say this with such certainty, click here.)

Unless the Dems take the House, there are only two places this can be stopped — at the White House and in the Senate. The White House is likely — but not certainly — a lost cause (see above). In addition, Sen. Whitehouse said last month that if Obama doesn’t take a strong stand, many Dem senators won’t either. I take that as a request from Mr. Whitehouse, in public, for Obama to do what he fears Obama won’t do. More confirmation of the first point.

▪ In the Senate, Bernie Sanders has marshalled 29 Democrats who will “oppose including Social Security cuts … in any deficit reduction package.” He, they and 96 activist organizations are organizing a resistance to this lame duck catastrophe.

What to do about it:

1. Raise a constant and public stink about this. There are many actions being planned. You can start by signing Sen. Sanders’ petition here. This petition is now the central collection point for citizen names. Over 17,000 people like yourself have already signed. Later there will be organized actions around the country, and you can help out. (Updated: Earlier there was more than one petition. Sanders is now the main one.)

2. Barrage the 29 senators who signed Bernie Sanders letter, asking them (firmly but politely) to keep their word (see names and phone numbers below). We need them to go for the win and not the show. I know they are already being courageous by bucking the leader of their own party. (There’s a real price for this kind of opposition.) And if cutthroat use of Senate rules can’t produce a win, there’s no point in taking it down that road.

But if cutthroat use of Senate rules can produce a win, ask them to use the power they have to accomplishtheir own goal. Remind them that there are 29 of them, a large enough group to provide some protection against the inevitable Dem retaliation. Remind them that both Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer (who many think wants to be the next Harry Reid) signed the letter. The ask:

If this is really as important as you say it is, stand together for strength and go for the win. Take risks for the people you’re protecting.

You can call as many of these senators as you like, and you don’t need permission. Be sure to start by thanking them. They’re the ones who got this going.

3. Barrage the non-signing senators with questions and complaints (see names and phone numbers below). Some are up for re-election this year. Some are even self-branded “progressives” (for example, Amy Klobuchar, whose helpful staff can be reached at 202-224-3244). Be polite, but make it uncomfortable for them to stay off the team.

You can call as many as you like, and you don’t need permission.

4. Report your results so that what you do has resonance and amplification. There will be a whip-count page at Campaign for America’s Future in the next couple of days. I’ll edit this post with the address when it’s live. To report, simply email the results of your senatorial communication to:

tl;dr Links:

Lame Duck Whip Count - A list of the status of every member of the House and Senate on this issue, complete with Phone numbers and instructions for making yourself heard.

Stop Dismantling Social Security and Medicare - Petition at SignOn.org,  By Senator Bernie Sanders and Social Security Works (Contact) To be delivered to: The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama


0 notes &

A Brief Defense of “Harping on semantics,” or SJ’s Justified Fixation with Language

As I continue to study for the Kanji Kentei, I’m having a lot of ups and downs with this. I mean, mostly I’m kind of ambivalent about the characters that come up on my vocabulary list, but then sometimes something comes up and I get excited, like… 濁(‘taint’ or ‘be tainted,’ It’s a word they used in Madoka Magica to talk about the Soul Gems), because I always get a kick out of things that are relevant to my interests. (see also:鋼, putting the ‘Fullmetal’ in Alchemist)

But then I’ll see other stuff like, 雌, which means ‘female’ in a clinical sense, but also has connotations of ‘weak.’ (NTM being used in a lot of nasty gendered insults) And well…a lot of the characters that mean female or woman have double meanings or connotations with ‘weakness’

…or stuff like 恥, which means ‘shame,’ and which forms part of the word for ‘genitals/private parts’ in Japanese, or literally, ‘shame parts’ 恥部.

And I just get to thinking about how fucked up humans and human society can get when it comes to gender/sexuality, The Other, and more… and about all the attitudes that get enshrined in the language and passed down completely unquestioned by people who come afterwards.

It really bothers me when people criticize feminists or other SJ types for “harping on language,” as if language was a small thing.

The whole of our ability to perceive the world is constrained by language. People don’t think in “pure concepts,” untouched by worldly tongues, our understanding of the world is guided by and in many cases, limited by the words we have at our disposal.  Furthermore, our ability to communicate our understanding of the world is entirely limited by those words, both the ones we know, and the ones our audience will understand.

And words mean things.

This is so simple, I’m not sure why it seems to need such constant explanation, but words have a thing that they are understood to mean. A meaning that you can’t change with nothing but your good intentions.

Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of having a conversation with the sort of pedant who undertakes to explain to you why everyone is using the word ‘decimate’ incorrectly. I’ve had that exact conversation so many times, with many different people.

And they? Are incorrect. It doesn’t matter what the word is supposed to mean. It matters what the vast majority of the people who hear it will understand it to mean. After all, therein lies the essence of communication,  and what else are words good for, fundamentally?

Which is why, in full knowledge of the historical meaning and context of the word ‘decimate,’ I will continue to use it to mean something closer to ‘devastate/mostly destroy,’ because that is how it is generally understood.

This is an important principle when it comes to male-normative language. Proponents will often argue that everyone damn well knows that we mean all of humanity when we say Man of Mankind, but years of studies have shown that words like Man or Mankind, fireman, and the general use of ‘he’ to refer to mixed gender groups, cause the audience who hear them to perceive the subject as male. It’s a finding that should surprise exactly no one, that using words associated with maleness will be understood to be referring primarily to men.

This phenomenon has been shown to have concrete effects on, for instance, how well people think a woman could perform a certain job. If it’s got ‘man’ in the title itself, the odds are not very good that a women will be perceived as competent to perform the job.

And things like this, in a very real way exclude whole groups from being seen as a part of their own society and culture in ways that are very real and harmful.

It is an issue fully worthy of anyone’s time and effort, and I, for one, intend to keep drawing attention to the problem where I see it.

Filed under SJ Social Justice Language Gendered Language Gender Issues Gender Semantics Decimate Pedantry Male Normative Language Whining about things other people care about feminism feminist language Intent isn't magical

4 notes &

Dear People who Complain about Immigrants’ grasp of ‘The Language.’

Ok, so I’ve been mulling this over for a while. It’s not directed at anyone in particular. At least, not at anyone I’m personally acquainted with anymore.

Specifically, I want to talk about why I don’t trust you when you complain about immigrants who “don’t speak English.”

Did they really not? Really? Or were you to busy ignoring what they were actually saying because of your uncharitable assumptions?

Let me tell you, so many of the communication problems I have come from people looking at my face/hearing my accent/whatever and deciding that I’m asking some kind of simplistic question instead of the more nuanced question I’m actually asking them. It takes like, 4 turns of a conversation repeating myself usually to get them to realize that the thing they keep telling me in a clear slow voice is not the thing I’m asking them about.

I mean, people hear an accent and any benefit of the doubt they might have given that person as far as language goes flying straight out the window. Luckily (well, for me, anyway), most of the most egregious examples I’ve witnessed have not been directed at me.

Like, I used to work drive thru at various fast food restaurants. Having been on both sides of that damn window, I know that sometimes you just can’t hear the other person that well. Now, usually when that happens, you’d just politely ask them to repeat themselves, or just politely repeat yourself if they hadn’t heard you.

Unless, perhaps, the person on the other side of the drive through is clearly one of those people. You guys know the ones.

I watched in horror once as a co-worker asked a guy if he wanted another straw. And the guy didn’t hear him, so my co-worker held the straw up close to dude’s face and said “STRAAAAAAWWWW” … and then dropped the straw and slammed the window, while saying “You knew what it was when you were snorting coke.”

And I was just literally struck silent by that. What the fuck had I just witnessed? Poor man wants some fast food and gets humiliated for it. I wonder if he complained to management. I doubt it. I didn’t either. I didn’t even say anything when it was happening. I was upset and angry, and yeah, honestly, at the time I was afraid about whether this guy would target me if I said anything. I, too, was the wrong kind of people, of course. Talk about a hostile work environment.

So yeah, that happened, and that, plus myriad unfortunate conversations with anti-immigrant relatives and family friends, that’s why I won’t just take your word for it when you complain to me about how hard it was to understand a particular individual.

I have personally experienced, and seen to many times, people with perfectly wonderful communication skills get bashed or insulted, or you know, just stubbornly, willfully, misunderstood by people ranging from the cluelessly well-meaning to the brazenly assholish.

It’s like the issue of another language comes up and people just turn off their brains. I mean,  I fully intend to strangle the next person who spouts that fake Chinese at me. If that never happens again in my entire life it will be too soon.

And beyond that, not only do I have a lot of experience being the one speaking a non-native language, but my day job is to teach non-English speakers English. So, I’ve learned another language or two in my own adulthood and I teach a foreign language to plenty of other adults and adolescents.

Which means, I give absolutely no credence to people who complain about vaguely massive but never clearly defined numbers of people who “just refuse to learn” …like, for shits and giggles or something.

Quite frankly most of the people who say this wouldn’t know what learning looked like if it bit them in the ass. They have no appreciation of the process and are not at all qualified to evaluate the amount of effort that a random stranger they were already negatively predisposed towards has put towards learning their target language.

TL;DR, chill for a second and actually evaluate the individual situation you are in, and the individual person you are interacting with before you act like a racist dick because of language.

Filed under Immigrants Immigration Foreign Language second language English Speak English discrimination prejudice racism speak english language ::whispers:: those people anti-immigrant

2 notes &

Healthcare is a Human Right

The only reason I was able to get surgery I needed for the torn cartilage in my right knee, the only reason I’m going to be able to also get needed surgery for my left knee, The reason I can afford the physical therapy, the reason I can go to the dentist whenever I need to, the reason my recent eye testing and the prospect of getting glasses is not a financial worry for me….

Is because I’m not living in the United States. While Obama’s health care plan falls short on so many levels, many of it’s opponents are simply opposed to any move towards a national plan. And I can’t support that kind of notion.

People deserve healthcare. Yes, they do. People deserve not to bankrupt themselves fighting cancer, fighting just to stay alive. People deserve not to permanently handicap themselves because they have to ignore injuries for years. People deserve not to die or almost die because they get hurt or sick and don’t have the money for the hospital. Yes, even people you don’t like. Even people with low paying jobs. Yes, even unemployed people don’t deserve to die/be maimed for the sin of being poor.

A national plan is not going to destroy private insurance. It is merely going to make sure that you don’t have to depend on private insurance. People here, including myself still have private insurance plans if they want them. The difference is that no one is so desperate for any coverage at all that they can’t walk away from the private plan if their needs aren’t met.

So private plans here don’t jerk you around like they do in America because they know you’re not so desperate you’ll put up with it. I was actually reimbursed in full for my hospital stay, with no hassle or hard time whatsoever. It was shocking to me at that time, genuinely shocking, that my insurance had actually paid, and hadn’t tried to take my premiums and run, so to speak.

So yes, we need reform and wider availability for health care in America, and Obama’s plan doesn’t go far enough towards doing that at all, and there are many good reasons to be opposed to it for that, but there is no good reason to act like we don’t need to take steps to provide healthcare for people, and there is no reason the government shouldn’t be involved in doing that.

Filed under Obamacare Health Reform Health Care Plan Health Insurance Health Individual Mandate Health care debate Human Rights treatment Reach deep into your black heart and find a goddamned speck of compassion why don't you United States Japan Industrialized World

25 notes &

A public service announcement about shaming people for what they eat and some common misconceptions about what it actually costs to eat well:
This pic has been going around facebook, I guess? My very naturalist foodie cousin posted it. And that’s cool for her, you know, I happen to enjoy cooking my meals too, but I do it in the full knowledge that I and my cousin are sitting a top a mountain of moneyed privilege that is inaccessible for a great many people. And those people don’t deserve to get shamed for that.
Let’s talk about what’s wrong with this picture. First, can you spot the dishonesty? It’s actually kind of breathtaking. Things like olive oil and seasonings have been marked at much less than a dollar. Of course, I understand that this person is probably just marking the cost of the actual portion..and I hear you saying, “but wait… doesn’t that still mean you’re saving money in the long run?” But I want you to think about it for a minute, and try to grasp the very simple fact that being poor means you don’t have enough money to save money in the long run.
Confusing? Not really. If you’re poor and you’ve got five dollars in your pocket, what is the better bet, spending that outright on one or two or three cheap meals for you and your loved ones, because you’re hungry now and you need food now, and maybe you’ve already been skipping meals this day or week…. orrrr…. you can buy a bottle of olive oil. Great! Now you’ve got a bottle of olive oil. It will impart slight amounts of flavor to your food and last for a while but it’s not really doing anything for you or your loved ones in the near term.
This applies to oils and seasonings the most of all, I think, but it also applies to packages of meat, blocks of cheese, and even bags of beans or rice (my usual 5 kilo bag of rice lasts my one person household a couple of months or more but costs 15-20$ outright) Not to mention many vegetables as well, which along with costing more up front, don’t keep as long as cheaper dry/instant foodstuffs. All those healthy Leafy things wilt pretty quickly, and don’t even get me started on the price of fresh fruit. Psh, fruit?
Often, I see these same types of criticism around lodging. Asking why would someone live in and out of cheap hostels and 24hr internet cafe’s, when they could totally afford a small apartment with the money they spend on those things in a month, is ignoring the fact that the person in question probably never has that much money all at one time. What landlord is going to let you drip the rent in as you get it? To say nothing of deposits! And you’re just not in a position to get yourself a month ahead of everything. You’re pretty much stuck.
And it’s the same thing with the groceries. You need to have the money up front to just buy that stuff you need to cook. It all needs to be bought and then gradually used. If you don’t already have oil and spices, or hell, saucepans and baking sheets, then the initial outlay of acquiring all you need to actually cook at home for less is going to be pretty hefty.
Fast food and quick meals like mac and cheese at the grocery store are ‘cheaper’ in that sense because if all you ever have on hand is a dollar or two for food, then at least you get to eat outright, instead of gradually buying ingredients to ‘one day’ make a meal or four.
But money is only part of it.
There’s time, too. I work one job and I’m done in the evenings. The worse thing that happens if I decide to spend an hour making soup for the week is that I don’t get to play video games as much that night. Maybe that pretty much describes your experience, too, but it’s time to open your eyes and realize that some people don’t just have ‘a job,’ they have two, or three, because they have to, because they need that many just to keep thing barely held together. Maybe they also have children or elderly relatives to care for. You can’t underestimate how much time a decent paying job buys you, or how much lacking that time can impact someone’s life for the worse.
Next, location, location, location. Have you considered that these people in question just don’t have a grocery store they can get to? Many locations have become food deserts, especially in poor rural or urban areas. Grocery stores have removed themselves to the suburbs and the only places available to actually buy food are fast food joints and convenience stores. Take a look at the USDA’s map to get a rough idea of how widespread the problem is. 
And finally, because it deserves at least some mention, when poor people do manage to get assistance to be able to buy decent food at a grocery store, whether from food stamps or another program, they are almost guaranteed to face horrible attitudes and insults from other people in the store, even cashiers, who gripe about the quality of the food being purchased with food stamps.
And one really can’t win for losing when it comes to this kind of bitching either. If you buy decent food then you’re “wasting” “my taxpayer dollars” on more than you deserve and if you don’t, well, then you’re “wasting” them on junk. I recommend you read this post for more about that particular problem.
In conclusion, basically just sit down and think about what might actually be going on before you unreservedly bash someone for their eating habits, and especially before you put down entire groups (you know, ‘those people’), for not meeting standards that have been placed entirely out of their reach for the most part.

A public service announcement about shaming people for what they eat and some common misconceptions about what it actually costs to eat well:

This pic has been going around facebook, I guess? My very naturalist foodie cousin posted it. And that’s cool for her, you know, I happen to enjoy cooking my meals too, but I do it in the full knowledge that I and my cousin are sitting a top a mountain of moneyed privilege that is inaccessible for a great many people. And those people don’t deserve to get shamed for that.

Let’s talk about what’s wrong with this picture. First, can you spot the dishonesty? It’s actually kind of breathtaking. Things like olive oil and seasonings have been marked at much less than a dollar. Of course, I understand that this person is probably just marking the cost of the actual portion..and I hear you saying, “but wait… doesn’t that still mean you’re saving money in the long run?” But I want you to think about it for a minute, and try to grasp the very simple fact that being poor means you don’t have enough money to save money in the long run.

Confusing? Not really. If you’re poor and you’ve got five dollars in your pocket, what is the better bet, spending that outright on one or two or three cheap meals for you and your loved ones, because you’re hungry now and you need food now, and maybe you’ve already been skipping meals this day or week…. orrrr…. you can buy a bottle of olive oil. Great! Now you’ve got a bottle of olive oil. It will impart slight amounts of flavor to your food and last for a while but it’s not really doing anything for you or your loved ones in the near term.

This applies to oils and seasonings the most of all, I think, but it also applies to packages of meat, blocks of cheese, and even bags of beans or rice (my usual 5 kilo bag of rice lasts my one person household a couple of months or more but costs 15-20$ outright) Not to mention many vegetables as well, which along with costing more up front, don’t keep as long as cheaper dry/instant foodstuffs. All those healthy Leafy things wilt pretty quickly, and don’t even get me started on the price of fresh fruit. Psh, fruit?

Often, I see these same types of criticism around lodging. Asking why would someone live in and out of cheap hostels and 24hr internet cafe’s, when they could totally afford a small apartment with the money they spend on those things in a month, is ignoring the fact that the person in question probably never has that much money all at one time. What landlord is going to let you drip the rent in as you get it? To say nothing of deposits! And you’re just not in a position to get yourself a month ahead of everything. You’re pretty much stuck.

And it’s the same thing with the groceries. You need to have the money up front to just buy that stuff you need to cook. It all needs to be bought and then gradually used. If you don’t already have oil and spices, or hell, saucepans and baking sheets, then the initial outlay of acquiring all you need to actually cook at home for less is going to be pretty hefty.

Fast food and quick meals like mac and cheese at the grocery store are ‘cheaper’ in that sense because if all you ever have on hand is a dollar or two for food, then at least you get to eat outright, instead of gradually buying ingredients to ‘one day’ make a meal or four.

But money is only part of it.

There’s time, too. I work one job and I’m done in the evenings. The worse thing that happens if I decide to spend an hour making soup for the week is that I don’t get to play video games as much that night. Maybe that pretty much describes your experience, too, but it’s time to open your eyes and realize that some people don’t just have ‘a job,’ they have two, or three, because they have to, because they need that many just to keep thing barely held together. Maybe they also have children or elderly relatives to care for. You can’t underestimate how much time a decent paying job buys you, or how much lacking that time can impact someone’s life for the worse.

Next, location, location, location. Have you considered that these people in question just don’t have a grocery store they can get to? Many locations have become food deserts, especially in poor rural or urban areas. Grocery stores have removed themselves to the suburbs and the only places available to actually buy food are fast food joints and convenience stores. Take a look at the USDA’s map to get a rough idea of how widespread the problem is.

And finally, because it deserves at least some mention, when poor people do manage to get assistance to be able to buy decent food at a grocery store, whether from food stamps or another program, they are almost guaranteed to face horrible attitudes and insults from other people in the store, even cashiers, who gripe about the quality of the food being purchased with food stamps.

And one really can’t win for losing when it comes to this kind of bitching either. If you buy decent food then you’re “wasting” “my taxpayer dollars” on more than you deserve and if you don’t, well, then you’re “wasting” them on junk. I recommend you read this post for more about that particular problem.

In conclusion, basically just sit down and think about what might actually be going on before you unreservedly bash someone for their eating habits, and especially before you put down entire groups (you know, ‘those people’), for not meeting standards that have been placed entirely out of their reach for the most part.

Filed under food shaming fat shaming food deserts poor shaming low income food snobbery fast food healthy food money poor people government assistance cooking

37 notes &

Racism in cosplay? WHY YES, IN FACT, BLACKFACE IS.

anarkistbavern:

I’ve seen quite a lot of posts around here about black cosplayers. People complaining about black cosplayers. And people who complain about people who complain about black cosplayers.

Huh, OK. So the OP doesn’t like it when people complain about black cosplayers. I also don’t like that.  I think I’ll read on a little bit.

Let’s be fair. If you saw someone cosplay the Hulk without painting themselves green, what would you think of that? A black or white hulk would be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?

Yeah, hm, I guess it would be weird.  I guess I agree with that…but for some reason suddenly I have massive misgivings about where this post is going…

And what if a white person cosplayed a dark skinned character, but without painting themselves darker? Yup, a bit weird.

erm, what? I mean, what WHAT WHAT?

NO! that wouldn’t be weird at all, that would be perfect, that would be awesome, that would be EXACTLY what everybody wants to see when white people cosplay PoC characters.

So, how come it’s racist thinking that black people can’t cosplay someone white without doing anything at all about their skin colour?

Because well, first of all, as stated above no one expects or desires that white people wear blackface, brownface, or yellowface when they cosplay. In fact, we spend an awful lot of time and energy convincing them not to do so, sometimes in the face of strident opposition on the part of the offending parties.

And secondly, because by doing so you’d be supporting a lot of toxic cultural narratives about the badness of dark skin. The kind of stuff that keeps actual store shelves in the actual real world stocked with corrosive bleach products so that you, dear consumer, can scrub the pigment out of your skin when you can’t take the weight of all the negative opinion anymore.

In fact, it is reasonably likely that the very Black person you are admonishing has had the personal misfortune of running into colorism in their own community or being personally devalued/singled out for their non-whiteness, and that is the spirit in which your comments will be taken.

It’s not about “race”, it’s about the fact that you have missed a crucial part of your cosplay. The character is white. So paint yourself white.

It is about race,  No, and FUCK NO.

I would never dream of cosplaying someone black without body paint.

Dream of it! Oh, please do!

And I’d never dream of cosplaying someone green without body paint.

Hmm. One of these things is not like the other!

Here: Sort the following into two categories and then tell me you’re reasons. OK: Green people, grey people, purple people, orange people, black people, brown people, white people.

Are you finished? Well, here’s the answer. The first four go in their own category, because they are kinds of people who don’t actually exist in reality. Knock yourself out painting yourself Starfire-color or Midna-color or Megamind-color. No one will care. Because blue(or whatever) people aren’t real people with a very real history of being abused and marginalized because of their skin color, and an ongoing present where they are STILL being devalued constantly because of that very fact.

THAT is the world, the real world, in which you are cosplaying. You can’t ignore that reality. Well, you can, but would really be a dick move.

So dear black people, I don’t dislike your skin colour. I dislike your lack of paying attention to crucial parts of your cosplay. Thank you.

Okay, I don’t dislike your skin color, either. I dislike your lack of paying attention to (or…caring about?) the actual world you live in and the feelings of the actual people who live in that world. Thank you.

Filed under race in fandom racism cosplay black cosplayers white cosplayers white people People of Color blackface whitewashing fandom What the hell am I reading? What you did Missing the point by light years...

25 notes &

"Korra is not Black!" , "Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing?" , and other Phrases I could Happily Live Without ever Hearing Again.

Big fan of Legend of Korra here. Sometimes fandom is awesome, and sometimes fandom could be described, I suppose, as equal parts joy and frustration/stabby emotional pain.

Since I check out a lot of fanart, I see a lot of the stuff were Korra’s been, well..lightened a lot, or given pink tones to the point that someone unfamiliar with the show would never guess that that character had brown skin from looking at the fanart… not that I would want to be so extreme as to characterize such practices as whitewashing.

And sometimes, against my very best judgment, I read the, er…discussions that develop on the topic of these pictures. And as has been pointed out by others with much more brevity and clarity than you will ever get from me, there is a particular set of statements that seem to keep recurring: the spontaneous “Korra is not Black!” …even though no one said she was in the first place, often accompanied or followed by the sincerest of bafflement that the individual being replied to is upset about such trivia issues as these.

I have so many feels about this, so I wanted to comment but I keep having to re-write this post because I don’t know how to say what I need to. Plus, this is me we’re talking about, so this is going to be like 4000 words long. You have been warned.

I want all the people who say things like that, to understand how much it hurts real people when you, yes, you personally, perpetuate that attitude by saying those things you said.

So yeah, I wanted to specifically talk about the “anything but Black” attitude that is so obvious in the reflexive and unprovoked “Korra is not Black!” denials.

How about a story?

When my father introduces me to new people, he always outright tells them that “[I’m] Indian.(1)" It didn’t register with me as a kid, but I started thinking about it as I got older and I realized that he’s never not done that. He does it Every. Single. Time. Why? If he really didn’t care about what race I was, why bring it up all the time? It bothered me.

Over time, I’ve concluded that it’s because he doesn’t want people to mistake me for that ‘bad’ kind of brown person. You know. *whispers* Black people. I don’t think this is something conscious, or that he’s ever articulated the issue to himself that clearly, but it has become obvious to me that while my parents don’t care that I’m not-White, at the very least it’s important to them that I be not-Black.

There was one particular incident that also sticks with me, one with my mother, when I made the mistake of trying to talk explicitly about my race. We were talking about it and I was just kind like, “Mom, what if I was Bl—” and I remember she cut me off. “You’re not Black.” And that was just… wow, the way she said it. I never brought it up again.

…and I won’t bring it up with my father either. There’s just no way a conversation like that is going to go well. And I don’t have the heart to burn any bridges over this. I love my parents. I want to stay close to my father, especially after my mother has passed away. On this point I’ll make a personal decision to suffer in silence.

So when you say things like that, especially when you’re refuting something that nobody claimed in the first place… if you can’t understand why it hurts…Just think a little and put yourself in my place, and the places of people like me.

I want…wanted… to believe that my parents completely loved me for me and that it really, really, really didn’t matter to them that I was a different race, that it really wouldn’t have mattered to them if I was black. And I can’t. I can’t believe that because I don’t think it’s true.

If I had been a little darker, if my hair had been tighter curled or god forbid, Black hair, would they still have wanted me? Would they still have looked at that baby and though she was beautiful, and taken her home with them? I honestly don’t know, and that hurts. It hurts to think about and I’m crying as I write this because it’s just a little too much.

So when people pull that “Korra’s not Black!” reflex, that’s all I think about, is my father telling every new person we meet that his daughter is Indian(1) so they won’t think she’s Black, because how terrible would that be? And it fucking hurts.

And yeah, you couldn’t be expected to know about my unique special snowflake trigger, and I don’t expect people to bend over backwards whatever to protect me or my feelings, but here’s the thing-I’m not unique in this. So many people have been through so many different crappy situations because of this, all leading them to the same horribly familiar places… Colorism, the results of the Doll Test, people bleaching their skin because they hate it so much.

Because this shit is everywhere. In the media, and in society, and we get this stuff from everywhere. It is not a small issue, it has serious effects on real people. A lot of them.

And all people are asking is that you think for two seconds before you add to it. Is that really so much to ask?

Is it really so hard to understand how bad this can hurt others, even if it’s ‘not a big deal’ to you?

Is it really?

(2)A detailed account of my parent’s attitudes towards race and incidents associated with it is not the purpose of this article, and I hope the omission of such a litany doesn’t weaken my descriptions of our family dynamic too much, but that is a topic for another post if ever.

(1) To explain the use of quotes around Indian, along with some other related thoughts, here is another post, because it’s a massive digression and deserves its’ own post anyway.

Filed under Legend of Korra Race in Fandom Fandom is Very Serious Business SRYSBSNS TLDR Whitewashing Racism Race Korra Backlash Social Justice Meta

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Musings on Racial Identity, and why this ‘Colorblind’ Nonsense is Bullshit and Everyone Knows It.

This goes here in the ‘serious’ blog. Think I had a post to this effect on LJ, but damned If I can be bothered to go look for it now.

So, I’m adopted. Being a shade or dozen darker than my white parents, the subject of race deserved at least a cursory acknowledgement, and that’s what it got. My parents told me that I was “Indian” and that was pretty much that as far as race getting a discussion.

Now, when my parents told me , that I was “Indian” they meant Native American, and specifically Cherokee (yah, pretty much.) This is only one of the reasons that, over time I have come to believe that they really don’t know anything about my race and that they have made something up, just to have an acceptable answer to the question.

Let’s be clear that as far as I know, my parents don’t know anything more about my birth parents than I do. Which is to say, practically nothing. They’ve told me that my birth mother was Caucasian-looking and not anything else pretty much.

So yeah. I’m not precisely sure about my race. I could be a mix of anything. Black, Indian-as-in-the-subcontinent, and South-Asian are all things that people have guessed about me in the past.(Historically, random people love to come up unsolicited and tell me what race they think I look like, so I have a good sample of opinions from that particular demographic).

To complicate the matter, since I was raised by white parents in a mostly white environment, I don’t personally feel like I have any culture other than, just ‘white’ and more specifically of semi-recent German / Scot-Irish extraction.

So, no matter what the truth is it feels very much like falseness and to some very real degree cultural appropriation for me to say that I am Black or Indian or South Asian, and especially Native American. (I feel like such a jerk for saying I was Native American all those years). So for now, I’m a just going to be brown, because that much I certainly am, and that at least I can own without complication.

And I’d love to say it doesn’t matter, that “I don’t feel like I have a race,”  especially because it is largely true!

I totally understand how you feel, Random-Most-Likely-White-Person who feels like they ‘just are’ and doesn’t get why all these other people are so hung up on racial identity, and if only we could all just be. I get that. I felt the same way. And at least for the first half of that, yeah, I still kind of feel the same way, I’m just me. An Individual.

But what some people don’t get, and some don’t want to get, is that it really doesn’t matter what I think on that issue to a great extent, because I can’t turn off the world, or change it with a thought, and the fact is that even if I try to act as if my ‘race is American’ or that ‘it doesn’t matter if I’m Black or Brown or Purple’ or what the fuck ever pat bullshit the cool kids are saying these days to emphasize their oh-so-colorblindness….

The simple fact is that doesn’t matter, because the fact that I am a Person of Color does matter to others. They notice, and they make sure that I know that they notice, and sometimes they expect me to explain myself.

I mentioned above the strangers that come up to me and ask me what my race is and/or tell me what they think the answer to that question is. Those people exist. More than just a few of them.

And they don’t actually accept the ‘colorblind’ answers, funnily enough. They get uncomfortable if I don’t supply a definite racial category, or if I disclaim the one they supply for me, and they certainly get very uncomfortable if I supply a racial category they don’t think ‘fits’ their view of what I look like. And then, judging by some of the platitudes they utter, without irony, in the same breath as all of this, I suppose they go home and congratulate themselves on how they don’t see color.

And then there is overt stuff. “Oh, wonderful Miss, sure, we’ll hire you, you’ll be great with our Ethnic customers.” And there is really bad stuff, too. Not everyone is well meaning and clueless, some individuals are genuinely racist fucks.

So believe me I grew up ‘white,’ and my parents instilled the same “I’m just and individual and only an individual” attitude in me that they had, and it took, it totally took. That is how I feel personally. And then I went out in the world and people wouldn’t let me be just me. In all the ways I mentioned and more.

Basically, there is always someone who is going to go out of their way to remind you that you? You are the Other. Your outward Otherness of whatever type or hue is significant and noticeable and worthy of being singled out for comment. Worse than that when it comes to media, there is the message that not only are you the other, but that you are therefore less, or that your Otherness is something that ought to be fixed. At least, it’d be better if it was.

So if you have adopted the “I’m just me” ‘Colorblind’ racial identity… and it’s actually working for you? Try to understand how much of a real, and I know, I know how much people hate this word, but…privilege it is to have most other other people, most of the time, treat you as in individual instead of as a given instance of (x) minority group, and to have the media reinforce and agree with that.

It’s not that all those other people are stubbornly refusing to adopt such a simple and elegant solution to racism, it’s that this method doesn’t work the same depending on your skin color and other factors.

This isn’t giving up agency or “letting other people define you.”  I define me. I cannot deny the fact however, that what people see when they look at me may not and probably doesn’t match my own definition… and that, as far as race goes there’s not much I can do, especially with brief encounters, to affect others’ perceptions and their associated internalized stereotypes.

I know this is just one more voice of many saying things like this, but really, being able to ignore your race is a luxury that a lot of people honestly don’t have. Think before you indulge in or support “not seeing color.” Ignoring the problem is not the solution, it’s just a way to make sure nothing can ever get solved.

Filed under Racial Identity Race Talking about Race Social Issues Colorblind

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Cognitive Dissonance, Foreign Policy in the Middle East, and Why I Should Never Discuss it with my Father

I should have learned by now that it’s impossible to maintain a civil conversation about middle eastern foreign policy with my father for any significant period of time.

Today’s conversation careened off the rails at the usual juncture, the introduction into the conversation of the topic of Israel. It was my father who brought them up this time. The conversation itself was about Iran’s Nuclear Program. My father’s first point was that “Well, Iran wants to destroy Israel.” 

Obviously the first response to that is pointing out that the feeling, in that case, is completely mutual, a fact of which Iran is well aware, and which probably contributes greatly to their desire to acquire nuclear weapons in the first place. 

I did not actually point that out, however, as Israel can do literally no wrong in my father’s eyes, and to someone like that, even a mildly nuanced view looks like radicalism. Unfortunately, in the current climate it seems positively extreme to stop for a moment and pretend that our enemies are humans with human motivations instead of declaring them crazy, evil, or both. It does get us off the hook though. No need to make serious efforts at diplomacy, or heaven forfend, change our own behavior. There’s just no use in trying to deal with a mad-man, we reason.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: as a small country with hostile, nuclear armed neighbors, and with the large, powerful, mostly hostile, nuclear armed US breathing down their necks, Iran would really have to be crazy to not try to acquire nuclear weapons.

But that unshakable belief in a black and white world is not the only thing that makes talking to Iran-war-hawks so deeply headache inducing. The main thing has got to be the fact that, well, the facts, don’t seem to matter at all to the construction of the black and white world.

The next part of the conversation involved me pointing out that the US was kind of hypocritical in a lot of their rhetoric regarding Iran’s nuclear program, considering how we just sort of decided to pretend it never happened when Israel ran a clandestine nuclear weapons program, lied to us, and kicked out our inspectors, and finally acquired nuclear weapons under the radar and without our ‘permission’

Not, mind you, that I think they needed our or anyone else’s permission. They didn’t and neither does Iran. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think nuclear proliferation is a good thing. It’s a definite problem, and sheer probability says that eventually someone somewhere is going to screw up and press the button. Be that as it may, who are we, to tell them they can’t have nukes?

The very fact that the United States, of all places, has the gall to lecture someone else about putting the safety of the world before their own self-interest in security is an absolute joke.

But the actual history of Israel’s program has never happened as far as my father was concerned. When I brought it up, he immediately asked me if I knew who had given Israel their nuclear material. I did not, at that point, and said so. Well, he said, triumphantly, it was the US! So Israel never went behind our backs at all.

Wait a minute. Now, I may not have known the answer to that question, but I sure as hell knew that wasn’t it, and as less than a minute of research told me, the actual answer is “France, in the 1950s,”This isn’t a hotly contested fact.  And you’d think evidence that the information he is ostensibly basing his opinion on is explicitly incorrect would be relevant.

But when I tried to tell my father that he was misinformed about this, suddenly, it was all “We obviously can’t talk about this, our opinions are too different.”  Any attempt to correct factual inaccuracies in his worldview always leads to this result. He can’t allow himself to actually consider any information that contradicts his pre-conceived notions, and the excuse is always that the issue has just become too polarized.

It is polarized, and unfortunately it’s going to stay that way, as long as people’s opinions on it are not actually based in any meaningful way on the facts on the ground. When there is absolutely nothing that can change your mind, you know that you are not thinking rationally. Any rational worldview is by definition open to the possibility of change based on new or previously unknown evidence.

People turn their opinions into their identity and then you can’t challenge a fucked up situation without causing deep personal offense, and reactionary defensiveness. It’s the same phenomenon that led to people blindly cheering for the death penalty in Texas, in the face of an actual situation that has some fairly clear abuses. Nevermind the facts, go team us! Down with the other guys!

At length, I hung up on him, I really can’t talk to him if the facts don’t even matter, and I can’t take the pretension that it’s just our differing opinion. I sent an email with links to the wiki pages describing the nuclear programs of Israel and Iran. I don’t expect that it’s going to have a positive impact. He probably won’t read it, and if I get a reply at all it will be more excuses about how it’s just too contentious an issue, or perhaps something condescending about how I’m clearly too young/too emotional to discuss this rationally.

Originally published Nov 20th, 2011 7:51am

Filed under Israel iran Nuclear Proliferation cognitive dissonance middle east foreign policy

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Pretty much have to say something about this. Get it off my chest.  Can’t believe that this is reality now, that this is the world we live  in. My country died when I was a sophomore in high school, and there are  so, so, many people who don’t seem to have realized this,  wholeheartedly embracing the shambling undead hulk of a constitutional  democracy which has taken it’s place. Exulting in it, even.
And  the rest of them? So many of them were too young. The don’t even  remember what it was like, “when America was free… cryingeagle.jpg”  Maybe you think I’m being kind of melodramatic here, but quite frankly,  we are past the point of hyperbole. I don’t know how to say it strong  enough to wake people up. Is it even possible anymore?  I’ve been reading comments on posts about the the murder of Anwar  al-Awlaki which have surfaced at various places on the interwebs. Again  and again, I see comments like “Treason! He’s committed treason, and he  got his just deserts!”  Does it bother no one that this is a man who was murdered, for allegedly  committing crimes? That there was no trial? Not even an indictment?  That the evidence against him is largely secret, and that the decision  to kill him was made at one man’s discretion?  I don’t care what you think he did, before you tell me that “I have  nothing to fear if I’ve done nothing wrong,” look deep within that world  view and tell me, that lacking a trial or any kind of mechanism to  publicly establish that wrongs actually were committed, to reign in the  whims of the guy in charge, what exactly is there left to prevent the  same from happening to you, legally speaking? There is nothing left. Do  you trust those in power so much that this is OK with you?! I can’t wrap  my head around it.  When we start to become Desaparecidos, the reassuring lies you’ve told  yourself will be cold comfort.  Sounds like paranoia, right? I honestly hope it is. But where the hell  else does this road lead?

Pretty much have to say something about this. Get it off my chest. Can’t believe that this is reality now, that this is the world we live in. My country died when I was a sophomore in high school, and there are so, so, many people who don’t seem to have realized this, wholeheartedly embracing the shambling undead hulk of a constitutional democracy which has taken it’s place. Exulting in it, even.

And the rest of them? So many of them were too young. The don’t even remember what it was like, “when America was free… cryingeagle.jpg” Maybe you think I’m being kind of melodramatic here, but quite frankly, we are past the point of hyperbole. I don’t know how to say it strong enough to wake people up. Is it even possible anymore? I’ve been reading comments on posts about the the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki which have surfaced at various places on the interwebs. Again and again, I see comments like “Treason! He’s committed treason, and he got his just deserts!” Does it bother no one that this is a man who was murdered, for allegedly committing crimes? That there was no trial? Not even an indictment? That the evidence against him is largely secret, and that the decision to kill him was made at one man’s discretion? I don’t care what you think he did, before you tell me that “I have nothing to fear if I’ve done nothing wrong,” look deep within that world view and tell me, that lacking a trial or any kind of mechanism to publicly establish that wrongs actually were committed, to reign in the whims of the guy in charge, what exactly is there left to prevent the same from happening to you, legally speaking? There is nothing left. Do you trust those in power so much that this is OK with you?! I can’t wrap my head around it. When we start to become Desaparecidos, the reassuring lies you’ve told yourself will be cold comfort. Sounds like paranoia, right? I honestly hope it is. But where the hell else does this road lead?