Saturday, November 21, 2020

White Fragility and Facebook

 Two posts in one week. I don't think my blog has seen this much writing since like 2016.  I responded to a person's I did not know comment on a friend's Facebook post this morning. Then I followed up this evening with a second response to their reply to my initial comment. I am including redacted screen shots of both of the other individuals comments and the full text of mine.


If by chance the Electoral college worked as designed in constitution where each state had one representative per 30,000 people then it would be more reasonable to argue both its value and our need for it. However once the unconstitutional permanent apportionment act of 1929 unfairly separated aportionment from a consistent population ratio it has completely become a way for rural mostly white states to assert their percieved supremacy over more urban racially diverse states. As with most everything in the United States, it was white supremacy all along. 

But white intellectuals defending white supremacy while denying it is white supremacy and pretending it is just rational logic rather than personal bias and bigotry is as American as apple pie too.

So it is no surprise the "We NEED the electoral college" argument is going nowhere.


I wonder if you are aware of the term White Fragility? It is a term that has been around for while now within the communities focused on thinking critically and intersectionally about race and its role in our society. Robin DiAngelo is credited with inventing the term. Her NY Times Best Seller on race is titled using the term. DiAngelo attempting to define White Supremacy writes, "In a nutshell, it’s the defensive reactions so many white people have when our racial worldviews, positions, or advantages are questioned or challenged... And that defensiveness serves to maintain both our comfort and our positions in a racially inequitable society from which we benefit."

I bring the term up because your response to my earlier comment was not to consider the position I offered and respond with a rational rebuttal, but instead to insist you were proven right because I called you a white supremacist. Rather than be willing to consider how the Electoral College operates as cog in the systemic problem of white supremacy, you instead chose to become defensive in order to distract from the very real and very intentional system which protects the, "inequitable society from which we benefit." 

In her book, "White Fragility" DiAngelo writes, "The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.” This adaptation allows white people the luxury to find it more offensive that they were implicated as benefiting from a racist system than the offensiveness of the racism itself. 

Racism and White Supremacy is not about you as an individual. Racism and White Supremacy is a systemic problem. It is singularly the greatest existential paradox of the American experiment. Our founding principle that, "all men are created equal," was written by a man that enslaved over 200 people on his estate. The absurdity is that "All men" has never meant ALL in the construction of our government and economic systems. For many people who have been privileged, by circumstances of their own whiteness, to not experience disenfranchisement and oppression the incongruity seems trivial. So they can comfortably assure themselves that they are not one of those evil racists; this is white fragility. 

The electoral college was designed to privilege slave states. James Madison admits this in his own justification for the substitution of electors over the direct vote. The 3/5 compromise enshrined this privilege by granting an over 40% boost in electoral power to just five slave states. Over time other strategic manuevers, like the addition of block voting by the states, would be made to protect the institution of slavery. As times changed and cotton replaced tobacco as the country's top export, even nothern economist were able to recognize the need for a disenfranchised labor force to pick, process, and ship this commodity which was the most important piece of the nation's economic engine. With that power threatened in a post reconstruction south further manuvering setup the stage for unequal apportionment.  At every stage the EC's purpose has been a White Supremacist purpose.

Oxford philosopher Terry Eaglton wrote a textbook in 1991 titled "Ideology." In it Eaglton writes, "[It] is not just a matter of what I think about a situation; it is somehow inscribed in that situation itself. It is no good my reminding myself that I am opposed to racism as I sit down on a park bench marked “Whites Only”; by the act of sitting on it, I have supported and perpetuated racist ideology. The ideology, so to speak, is in the bench; not in my head." 

Your reply subverts any discussion of the ideology of the electoral college by refocusing the discussion as a personal slight. I don't know you and have no personal slight against you. I have no intention of labeling you as a racist. You have been the beneficiary of systemic white supremacy; [Shared Friend] too, myself as well, and all our white peers. So in no way is my earlier comment intended to accuse you of that "conscious bias held by mean people." Instead, I am merely attempting to show how defending the Electoral College perpetuates racist ideology because, the ideology "is in the bench."

Monday, November 16, 2020

Stardust and Stories

This morning as I was doing laundry I decided it was time to move the Biden / Harris face mask from usage to my memory shelf in my bedroom. I walk past the shelf all the time, but as I added the mask today the memories and stories these objects represent to me just filled me with love and nostalgia. There are good memories and painful memories both, but that is the tapestry of life. 

The shelf holds pieces of old costumes, thank you cards from friends, small gifts I have been given, stolen props from old shows, inside jokes, mementos of failed romances, important moments with my kiddos, possesions of loved ones no longer with us, and a bevy of other trinkets and echoes. 

Erin Morgenstern in her newest book "The Starless Sea" has a line I really want to get as a tattoo, "We are all stardust and stories." This shelf holds the portals to so many of those stories for me. Some pieces I could explain with a short recital of a single moment. Others are entire tales with all the backstory and nuance of fiction. Still, others would be told with such a yarn that they have crossed the memoir line and actually become complete fiction. Collectively and individually they each remain stories.

Looking at this shelf you may see something I held onto from an event we did together. There are pieces far too small to make out in a photo from this distance that might just contain a fragment of our relationship too. Some people are in one item and others are in many, as the fingerprints people leave in my life are as varied as the people I love and call friends.

In some ways, this newest addition of the Biden/Harris mask may seem an anomaly. The shelf already has the first mask my daughter sewed when the pandemic started, so it was not that the shelf needed a mask to represent 2020. I added the Biden/Harris mask as a chronicle of when the metaphor for the shared community we are in as humans became a piece of fabric. I do not like masks, they fog up my glasses and disturb my sensory issues. I did not like voting for Biden/Harris, I wanted actual progressives. So like wearing my mask, voting for the Democrats was active participation in protecting the most vulnerable members of our community the best I can. The Biden/Harris mask like all these other tokens is a story, a history of how I and so many others chose the community's collective needs while another segment of our society chose their individual selfishness. 

With time my shelf will acquire new relics because my life will acquire new stories that need to be remembered. There will be new testimonials to the love of my friends, new remembrances to loss, new trophies of shows completed, and more keepsakes that I do not know yet why I will find them worth keeping.  All the pieces there now, and all the pieces still to come, and all the people in all the stories past and future will share one thing, we are all stories of the universe made from the same stardust.