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September 24, 2009

It is really bizarre to me the way so many liberal white folks really do seem to believe that if racism is wrong, it must only be because race itself is only a social construction.  It couldn’t possibly be that, yes, race, insofar as race is a naturally occurring variation in human physical manifestation, exists, but that the social meaning we’ve applied to these differences is simply wrong.  No, in order to eliminate racism, the assumption seems to be that we must blind ourselves to the existence of physical differences in skin color, hair texture, and facial features.  It’s so frustrating to me.

Of course, the faulty logic underlying this erasure of the experiences of nonwhite, especially black, people – in the name of anti-racist activism, no less – has made its way into the sexism arena under the guise of queerness.  Just as we are to pretend racial differences do not exist in order to eliminate racism, we are to pretend sexual differences do not exist in order to eliminate sexism.  Despite the fact that people who are female and/or dark-skinned and woolly haired have been oppressed on the basis of their physical divergence from maleness and pale, straight-hairedness, we are to make-believe as though there aren’t really any physical differences at all.  That is, we’re to pretend as if there are no female people and dark-skinned, woolly haired people to begin with.

The underlying assumption, then, is that if the differences really do exist, sexism and racism are simply inevitable.  When ostensibly anti-racist and feminist liberal white males insist that sex and race are social constructs, and nothing more, what they really mean is that an acknowledgment of these naturally occurring differences is, for them, the same thing as oppressing people on the basis of those differences.  That is, they are admitting that the very existence of people who can be categorized as Other is what precipitates their socially sanctioned subjugation at the hands of those considered the standard.  Therefore, the way to end sexism is to convince everyone that maleness and femaleness don’t exist – and the way to end racism is to convince everyone that blackness and whiteness don’t exist.  The notion that both sex and race are real facets of human existence that have merely been associated with various social statuses and privileges/oppressions, through violent enforcement and restriction, is forbidden.

The term ‘post-racial’ is actually quite a telling indication of this type of thinking.  We don’t hear much about the pursuit of a post-racist society, or the aspiration to an era of post-racism.  No, the hierarchical structures based on physical difference aren’t the real problem; the physical difference itself is where these liberal white males focus their attentions.  It is the fact of physical difference that must be minimized and erased, not the system of social rewards and punishments which is based on these visible differences.  The same thing is happening with regard to sex, of course.

I just don’t understand why white women seem to want to downplay the parallels between race and sex.  The only way that race differs from sex is in the way it is passed down from generation to generation, the fact that, hypothetically, phenotypical difference could be lessened over time through globalization, that is, reproductive contact across populations that were previously geographically separated.  That is it.  That is the only difference.  But the fact that these variations in human physical presentation can hypothetically be lessened over time doesn’t mean that the variations don’t actually exist right now, or that they won’t continue to exist long into the foreseeable future!  I don’t know why I bother to keep stating the obvious; women have been trying desperately to reject the similarities since that infamous discussion about black-face and drag being equally oppressive and offensive.

10 Comments
  1. September 24, 2009 4:54 pm

    Where many white people, and unfortunately some assimilationists, fail in their grand colorblind scheme is the conflation of color and race (or maybe a different word, a word needed to differentiate expected performativity from biological physical characteristics). The Truth is always to be found in the opposite of what the “do-gooders” claim they are doing/realizing. If they claim they do not see color you can best believe all of their actions will prove that they do in fact see color, —loud and clear and use that color to actualize and assign their performative expectations. What they don’t see when they see color is how they are assigning expectations of color onto the reality of that person’s physical characteristics.

    There is nothing wrong with seeing color and physical characteristics that are uniquely associated with people of a certain whatever. The problem, which is in fact parallels to the sex/gender dichotomy is assigning a social construct with that biological fact, a construct that hierarchizes people based on physical characteristics. Color (physical characteristics) is a fact like sex is a fact. Race (or another word) is like gender.

    Race as a construct demands an expected performativity, thus, perceived performativity (whether physical characteristics are actually performing as such or not). And of course, the writer of that narrative, the narrative that will be used to determine the differences that will determine who is worthy and who is not, is the whoevers demanding to maintain power.

    It is like when I tell my friend that she does not have to clean the house for a man, she says, “But it is my job, I am the woman.” No, it is not. You can hear something similar from a white person (in fact I heard something in the ballpark yesterday at a public place). “Of course they will do poorly in school, they are _________________” As if school performance is based in biology (for the most part, there are disabilities) and not sociology.

  2. September 24, 2009 5:00 pm

    “You talk white!”

    How in the hell can someone talk white? As if being born white produces a specific type of speech. What is really being said is, “You talk in a way that society has labeled as white, thus, worthier than other dialects, dictions, etc”

    “You talk black!”

    How in the hell can someone talk black? As if being born black produces a specific type of speech. What is really being said is, “You talk in a way that society has labeled as black, thus, not as worthy as other dialects, dictions, etc.”

  3. September 24, 2009 5:35 pm

    Color (physical characteristics) is a fact like sex is a fact. Race (or a another word) is like gender.

    And, see, I’d say race (as in, what you look like) and sex (as in, the method by which you’d reproduce if desirable and possible) are facts, while racism and sexism (or, gender) are constructs based on those facts. I’d hate to have to use the word ‘color’ when I think race encompasses a lot more about a person’s physical characteristics than just their skin tone. Either way, though, I do get tired of the way we’re all supposed to pretend as if these real variations in human physical appearance simply don’t exist just because somebody or other’s bi-racial child doesn’t feel as though she fits into any of the categories already given name to. It’s exactly what we’re being made to do on the sex front – pretend as if neither the female nor male categories exist just because some failed male doesn’t feel he fits into either of them.

    • September 24, 2009 5:48 pm

      Yes, far more than just skin color. I was stumbling to find a word (to keep it simple and understandable). To me, genderism (the social construct that assigns expectations—a verb, an action) is/creates sexism (the outcome of that assigning), whereas __________ (a word that labels expected actions based on physical characteristics) is racism (the outcome of that assigning). Unless that word be race. And if the word/concept fits, then race in itself is racism. Which will lead people back to say, “If I see race, I am a racist.” But again, they are not seeing race, they are seeing different physical characteristics, and instead of admitting that, they are conflating what they see with what actions/attitudes/etc they have assigned to that race (to those physical characteristics).

  4. September 24, 2009 8:41 pm

    Ah, see, I don’t see a difference between gender and sexism. Gender is sexism to me. Sexism is assigning social meaning to sexual difference, just like racism is assigning social meaning to racial difference. In any event, we’re on the same page, even if we see the term ‘race’ a bit differently.

    • September 24, 2009 9:50 pm

      I’m not willing to concede that we see the word race differently. It may appear that way because I am trying to cut clean lines between the adjective, verb, and noun form (or, however one could call it, or it could be called my way of dissecting or the way that I dissect). Either way, they are the same. Such as genderism is sexism, —-to which I agree.

  5. atheistwoman permalink
    September 24, 2009 11:48 pm

    I love it when y’all take on liberalize bullshit. It warms the cockles of my shriveled, cancerous heart. :-).

  6. September 25, 2009 12:52 am

    It pisses me off when people say things like, “Everyone just needs to interbreed until there’s no race left.” Like, we’re supposed to solve racism with mass interracial rape? And then the hatred of those who are most non-white would probably intensify, as they could now be blamed for their different appearance and for not going along with the plan.

    Or light-skinned, Anglo-featured mixed race celebrities like Jessica Alba being held up to prove … something about race. How we’re not racist anymore, because we accept slightly less white people now.

  7. September 25, 2009 1:45 am

    Exactly, Joce Claire. The least white of us are supposed to rejoice at the acceptance of white-looking people with nonwhite parents. And this is what ostensibly proves that race doesn’t exist and that those of us who insist on addressing the concerns of specifically nonwhite-looking people are just unreasonable.

    And all of that is exactly the same thing as what the queers are trying to do on the sex front. We’re all supposed to trannify ourselves until us females are satisfied that we don’t have to address the issues of specifically female people anymore, which is somehow supposed to mean we’re not sexist anymore. It’s maddening.

    And it’s especially maddening to see women who understand that trannifying won’t solve female people’s problems, that sex will continue to exist regardless of trannification, fully accept that race doesn’t exist and argue that color-blindness will somehow help nonwhite-looking people.

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