I remember my childhood more vividly than I remember last week.
I grew up in rural Minnesota, where all of my classmates in school were white. Racist views were common, but they were usually of little consequence. If you’re white, you may have heard other white people say things around you that they would probably never say around non-white people. That annoys me. My entire world was like that 20+ years ago. Most of the black people I saw were on TV. Racial slurs were tossed about flippantly by children. At some point in elementary school, third grade I think, we were politically indoctrinated on race relations. We already knew about the Civil War, but we didn’t really know much about the fate of former slaves after it ended. We learned about Jim Crow laws and how Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and the civil rights movement ended them in the 1960’s. This was in the 1980’s. It was when the terms “racism”, “prejudice”, and “discrimination” entered my vocabulary. We pondered the difference in meaning of these words. Lacking knowledge and critical-thinking skills, we arrived at stupid conclusions. Our teachers weren’t much help. They didn’t learn about the civil rights movement as children, as it hadn’t happened yet. I was thankful to not have grown up in a racist household as many other kids had. Stemming, I think, from my own sense of fairness, I held a view that everything should be colorblind. I remember taking offense to seeing racial statistical breakdowns on the TV news. I didn’t understand the point.
Today, I understand the point. There are two types of motivations for putting anything on TV news. One is to keep people watching until the next 4 minutes of commercials, and the other is to promote the political agenda of whoever has the power to determine content. Racial disparities in statistics accomplish the latter because they show evidence of racial discrimination. They are also used to make white people feel superior, accomplishing the former. Showing evidence of racial discrimination is necessary to convince people that it needs to be banned even more than it already is. Political movements don’t stop when they accomplish their goals.
Today, I also understood the actual meaning of the word “discrimination.” Some years after third grade, I was forced to reconsider what it meant when I heard the phrase “discriminating tastes” at the end of a Saturday Night Live broadcast. Discrimination means to differentiate. The loaded and overly-specific definition I had been taught is bullshit. It may well be in your dictionary, but it’s still bullshit. It was loaded with a negative connotation that it does not deserve out of context. If you ask someone, “do you discriminate?”, their answer will depend on their emotional connection to that word. I place a high value on consistency in language.
D. Lynn Thompson introduced me to the word “intersectionality.” Instead of pretending I knew what the word meant, I asked google, and, as I expected, Wikipedia offered the first answer. It’s a convoluted concept with a political agenda and I refuse to accept it as a valid concept, just as I refuse to accept the loaded version of discrimination. The following is from a Background Briefing on Intersectionality by Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers:
Central to the realization of the human rights of women is an understanding that women do not experience discrimination and other forms of human rights violations solely on the grounds of gender, but for a multiplicity of reasons, including ages, disability, health status, race, ethnicity, caste, class, national origin and sexual orientation.
This seems to be a completely pointless tautology. What about men? Do men experience discrimination and other forms of human rights violations solely on the grounds of gender? People all over the world are figuratively fucked every day. If you want to help them, good for you. If you want to help just the women, knock yourself out. If you want to concentrate only on people who fit a specific intersection of oppressed groups, I don’t really care. If you insist that intersectionality is useful as an abstract concept, you’re full of shit. It appears to be an attempt to make things that are not gender issues into gender issues, but only for women. Because this seems so completely pointless, I’m fearful for what the actual motivation for this nonsense might be.
And (while I try to remain respectful in my posts) I must say that, if you honestly think that a white, middle class, protestant woman in the US has the same social “disadvantages” (and yes, I say that with sarcasm) as say a black, poor woman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you are not quite as observant as I previously thought. Whether or not you think intersectionality is BS, it still exists. Rich white men and poor Latina women are not likely to have even remotely the same set of experiences, regardless of your opinion.
My refusal to acknowledge an abstract as a legitimate or useful idea does not constitute a denial of any actual occurence. In an apparent effort to be irrefutable, you’ve managed to make a completely noncontroversial tautological statement. No people anywhere have the same set of experiences. Everybody knows this and nobody cares. Having a worse set of experiences than someone else should not lead to a conclusion that there is any cause for concern. David Reimer had a rather shitty set of experiences, so has this guy.