Connecting through struggle

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I often quote Nezua from The Unapologetic Mexican here. But if you’ve ever read his writing, you know that the man knows how to sit down at a keyboard and bang out some amazing thoughts. One of his latest, A New Breed of Colorblindness, was particularly powerful to me.

The post is a reaction to one by Nina at “Kimchi Mamas” titled Mutt Like Me. As we probably all know, at Obama’s first press conference after the election, he spoke about about the family getting a dog and stated his preference for adopting a “mutt like me.” Here’s what Nina had to say about that.

I’ve heard mixed-race people use that term to describe themselves before, usually in the same ha-ha way Obama did. I’ve also heard it thrown around as an insult, a pejorative, a slur. I’ve felt the slap of that word across my face and it is not a word I can “reclaim.” My fear, however, is that Obama, as the first mixed-race president, will shape the way most Americans view people of mixed race for at least a generation. And will Obama calling himself a “mutt” – with humor, as if the word is nothing, nothing at all – make it socially acceptable for people to start calling me a mutt? My kids?

Because not only does the word have a history as a slur, but there are reasons that that word makes such an easy slur. It allows people to rhetorically reduce us to animals – people “bred” like dogs are bred. For all our “mutts are better!” talk (it is, as Obama knows, better to adopt a dog from a shelter, right? Rejected, but nonetheless in need of love), it still comes from a place where “purebreds” are better. It stinks of eugenics and generally just makes me queezy.

One of the comments to this story at boston.com says this:

Oh, get over it. We are way to wrapped up in race in America.

I chuckled when Obama said that, that’s what I call my self, so what I am too.

The Black, White,Asian, Latino thing is getting soooo tiring, let’s start acting like the brothers and sisters that we really are. The constant racial harang is only a mechanism to divide and destroy.

This is one of the things I worry about a lot in what some want to call our “post-racial” United States now that Obama has been elected president. Yes, it is a powerful step forward. But there are people who continue to pay a heavy price every day for the color lines we still draw in this country. If you have any doubts about that, Nezua points out this story from just a few days ago.

And he ends with this call to a place of real unity.

IF WE WANT TO UNITE, it cannot be by overlooking differences that stab at people and stick in their throats and veins and bellies. This unity must come about by connecting ourselves through struggle; by working together to fight the iniquities that pit brown against black against gay against indigenous against secular against Trans against Asian against Disabled (and so on) and all so that one or two types of persons can ascend unfettered, to the top of the heap (of riches and power and bodies and lives and lost chances). We must band together and abdicate those hateful systems already in place,…and we must fight against those who would work to keep them in place.

Anything else is just a joke.

20 comments

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  1. here’s Wanda Sykes adding a little color and gender to the fight against prop 8.

  2. All this talk of separate races is the beginning of confusion. There is one race, the human race. As Peter Tosh teaches us:

    One Foundation

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation.

    There will never be – yeah! – no love at all;

    There will never be no love at all.

    Got to put aside them segregation, yeah!

    Got to put aside them organization;

    Got to put aside them denomination.

    There will – there will never be no love at all;

    I mean there will never be no love at all.

    (Got to build our love) So build our love

    (on one foundation) On one foundation;

    (Got to build our love) Come, let us build our love

    (on one foundation) On one solid foundation.

    (Got to build our love) Got to build our love

    (on one) on one foundation (foundation),

    Or there will never be a single drop of love;

    you won’t have no freedom now, yeah!

    Got to come together

    We are birds of a feather;

    We got to come together

    ‘Cause we are birds of a feather;

    Got to come together

    ‘Cause we are birds of a feather;

    Or there will never be (Lord, have mercy!) no love at all –

    There will never be – yeah, yeah! – no love at all.

    We also got to realize we are one people, yeah!

    Got to realize that we are one people, yeah!

    We got to realize we are one people,

    Or there will never be no love at all –

    There will never, never, never be no love at all.

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation;

    Got to build our love on one foundation …

    • Robyn on November 19, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Predictably, someone was outraged.

    I’ve tried to point out…

    …that it’s okay to use skin color and ethnicity to discriminate between people.  What’s not okay is to use them to discriminate against people.

    • Edger on November 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    one day surfing, by someone named “Trish”, at The Struggle Site

    It’s a transcript of a talk “Trish” gave in 1994, and she provides a different, maybe useful concept:

    Any discussion of Racism needs to examine the roots of Racism in order to understand it and to struggle against it effectively. There are basically 3 explanations for the existence of racism.

    The dominant view which is rarely expressed as a worked out theory but rather operates at the level of assumptions is that racism is an irrational response to difference which cause some people with white skin to have hateful attitudes to people with black skin which sometimes leads to violent and evil actions. People who have this understanding of racism advocate awareness and education as a way of preventing the practice of racism.

    The second view is that racism is endemic in white society and that the only solution is for black people to organise “Themselves separately from whites ” in order to defend themselves and to protect their interests.

    The third view and the one which I am advocating is an explanation of racism based on a materialist perspective, which views racism as a historically specific and materially caused phenomenon. Racism is a product of capitalism. It grew out of early capitalisms’ use of slaves for the plantations of the new world, it was consolidated in order to justify western and white domination of the rest of the world and it flourishes today as a means of dividing the working class between insiders and outsiders, native and immigrants and settled and Travellor in the Irish context.

    It is necessary to examine the underlying assumptions about racism in more detail in order to arrive at the materialist analysis of it. Racism is commonly assumed to be as old as society itself. However this does not stand up to historical examination. Racism is a particular form of oppression: discrimination against people on the grounds that some inherited characteristic, for example, colour, makes them inferior to their oppressors.

    However, historical references indicate that class society before capitalism was able, on the whole, to do without this particular form of oppression. Bad as the society of classical Greece and Rome were it is historically pretty well proven that the ancient Greeks and Romans knew nothing about race. Slaves were both black and white and in fact the majority of slaves were white. The first clear evidence of racism occurred at the end of the 16th century with the start of the slave trade from Africa to Britain and to America.

    CLR James Modern Politics writes that ‘the conception of dividing people by race begins with its slave trade. Thus this (the slave trade) was so shocking, so opposed to all the conceptions of society which religious and philosophers had . . .the only justifications by which humanity could face it was to divide people into races and decide that Africans were an inferior race”

    So racism was formed as an attempt to justify the most appalling and inhuman treatment of black people in the time of the greatest accumulation of material wealth the world had seen until then.

    That’s about 1/4 of it. It worth a read, I think.

  3. … I went over and read the comment.  Nina seems to be groping for understanding, and I can certainly relate to that.  She continues:

    Or maybe I’m just taking it all way too seriously. This is possible, if not probable. I just admit to being disturbed when I heard it and I do wish that he would take more care in the words he uses as he speaks about race and identity. And yet then I come back to this – I cannot lay on him the responsibility to speak for all of us, for me, for my children when it comes to race. Certainly not in an off-handed remark during the middle of his first press conference as President-elect of the United States. I am, just in writing this, placing him under a microscope, imposing all my own longings and misgivings about race and identity in America on him.  

    After all, like all of us, he is entitled to navigate his identity – to identify himself as he feels is appropriate.

    I know I am also “imposing” a lot of longings and misgivings about a lot of things upon Obama and I struggle with that.

    I think Nezua’s words capture both the ambiguity and the certainty of love when it comes to this new circumstance we find outselves in.  

  4. are the most common purveyors of racism, it would seem to me. And these people are also the ones that don’t have a very large world view. Their bubble of perception is small, focused on family, and a small circle of friends, and those on the other side of the thin skin of that bubble are “not us”, “others”, and so on; and to be feared and fought, in pursuit of survival. It is a brutal stage in the evolution of consciousness, whether as a person or as a species. A brutal step on the journey from I, alone, to I, together, representing the unified “I” or the God head.

  5. My girlfriend is writing a book about this:

    Cyrus the Great was quarter Lydian (neo-Hittite), quarter Mede and half Anshan (Elamite Iranian).  The Priestess at the Oracle at Delphi warned of him:  “Beware of Cyrus the Mule.”

    Cyrus’s response?

    He used his bloodlines to claim to the thrones of the Medes, Lydians and Iran and ending up ruling the ancient world.

    (h/t to my lovely lady for the above)

    */:-D

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