Re: Is white racism nec. all bad?

Gary Strand (
27 Apr 1995 22:22:34 GMT

rh> Robert Hartman
gs> Gary Strand

gs> [T]o me, "oppression" is too-often used for "things didn't turn out the
way I wanted". Face it, life is a bitch and a crap shoot sometimes. "If
you can't always get what you wa-ant, you musta be-en oppres-sed", right?
Sorry, but that kind of self-pity and refusal to realize that life ain't
always fair just doesn't carry well with me.

rh> OK. Even if it is often used that way, too-often used that way, what do
you do about those situations when it is appropriately used. How do _you_
tell the difference?

I'd have to know the details, the context if you will, of the situation in
which the alleged oppression is occurring, ie, I won't just take someone's
word for it. A black person telling me she's being oppressed isn't enough -
I have to know the details. If it's Oprah Winfrey, well, I'd have a real
tough time taking her claim seriously. Another thing I look at is if the
claim to oppression is because the person is doing things in a non-standard
fashion - for example, being denied tenure not because he's Latino, but be-
cause his academic writings *haven't* appeared in the usual journals, but
in Latino-"only" journals. Deviations from the norm, and the reaction of
others to them, doesn't necessarily imply oppression. If that were always
the case, then NAMBLA members are oppressed too.

gs> Who gets to climb to the top of the "Poor Me Pyramid"? Or do we step back
and say "Hey, everyone gets shat upon at one time or another."?

rh> We step back, acknowledge that there's shit on all of us, and start help-
ing each other clean up.

Howzabout we don't sling shit on each other, or ourselves, to begin with?

rh> We don't go around saying that there isn't any shit on anybody.

Which is *not* what I've said.

rh> We aren't going to eliminate the oppression white men face by protecting
white men at the expense of others. We can only eliminate oppression by
eliminating it for those who are the most sorely oppressed.

gs> Fine. Don't be oppressive to others. That's how I am

rh> Really? You know that for sure. You've checked it out thoroughly. You've
done the longitudinal study on yourself. You keep track of it on a daily
basis. Well, no one could ask for more than that.

Do you suspect otherwise?

rh> Emphasize others capabilities to help themselves all you want, but don't
pretend that the impediments they face aren't there--even if you haven't
encountered them yourself.

I've never said that racism, sexism, idiocy, bigotry, &c don't exist - what
I do dispute is that these things are the *only* "impediments" for some. It
is considerably more complicated than that.

rh> Exactly what is it that a person can do that would revoke her or his sta-
tus as a human being? You said murdering innocent children, and I'd tend
to agree. But is that all? Or are there other things that could disqual-
ify a person?

I'd save the categorization of "human in biology only" strictly for those
who in engage in egregious violations of others' rights - yer serial rap-
ists/murderers/molestors, terrorists, and the like.

rh> How do you justify the difference between your line and the line of a

Easy. I go by what people *do*, not *what* they are.

rh> ps. There's an old saying that has a lot of wisdom in it: "There but for
the grace of God go I."

For one thing, I'm an atheist. Two, this is too fatalistic for me - it de-
nies that we are creatures of action and ability to change our environment
to suit our wants/desires better. We are not trees, rooted in one place,
just waiting for the next lightning bolt. Nor do I believe in the phrase
"Those less fortunate than ourselves", as if one's life is mere fortune.
We *can* and *do* control our own destinies - not 100%, to be sure, but we
are not mere bits of flotsam in the universe either.

Gary Strand WWW: PO Box 3000 Boulder CO 80307-3000 (303) 497-1336
Opinions stated here are mine alone and are not those of NCAR, UCAR, or the NSF