Thursday, December 01, 2005

December 1st: Blog Against Racism Day

Chris Clarke of Creek Running North has declared December 1st Blog Against Racism Day. For a brief moment on my drive home today, I was a bit torn about what I would write. While blogging against racism is a chance to start having a real discussion about race, today is also World AIDS day. I have lost someone to AIDS, or -- in medically correct terms -- a secondary infection permitted to run amok by an immune system destroyed by HIV. He was, and continues to be, the very best person I have ever known. There are not many aspects of who I am that would be as they are now, had I not had his example to work from.

My conundrum disappeared when I allowed a neuron or two to fire. I realized then that much of the racist discourse in America and Europe is inextricably linked to sexist discourse, all of it tied to Godliness in the perversion of faith that calls itself religion these days. Together, these discourses become the swirling vortex of fear, hatefulness, and apathy towards the injustices experienced by the "Other" in which we all live, whether we like it or not. Creek Running North, Quod She and Pandagon have good posts up about the hidden racist assumptions we make everyday, based on the information we've acquired as citizens of a racist culture. I'll let them speak to that.

The latest of the American Jeremiads, still continuing today in the body of neo-con "thought,"
became obvious to me and a number of others while watching the 1992 Republican National Convention. The basic tenets of that Jeremiad stated damned near outright that "we" (ie, WASP men in America) need to: 1) "Get the women back in line," 2) "Let the gays die of their disease, it's God's punishment, after all," and 3) "Get these Blacks to stop complaining about their fate, it's their own fault for having been born to the race of Ham anyway."

Let me quote Pat Buchanan, for the first and last time of my life:
"The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America--abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat--that's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God's country."... 1992 RNC speech.

And a few years later:
"Martin Luther King was one of the most divisive men. Some see him as the messiah of the nation, others think he’s a dreadful person. He is a divisive figure." ... NPR Talk of the Nation, May 30, 2000.

So, what the hell am I getting at, other than that racist jackasses tend also to be sexist jackasses? The bray is in the same voice, it just changes key sometimes. We all know that. Here's the thing, though. Oppression almost always involves assaults on the sexuality of the oppressed. ( I don't have citations for this. I'm too lazy to go get them. Look up Gender and Race in the Early Modern Period.) Women in the colonial period were not to be trusted around black men because they were perceived to be sexually attracted to the enslaved men. Shortly after, the fear of sexuality was transferred to black men, and how they all wanted to rape the white man's woman. Of course, black women were also "devilishly sexual," which made raping them far less likely to work on the consciences of the white men in the colonies. Moving along through the centuries, the myth of 'animalistic sexuality' in blacks/Native Americans/women/gay men/anybody "we" (again indicating WASP men) wanted to feel better than began to be seen as Truth. And then in the eighties, HIV came along. Now, we know that HIV affects proportionally more minorities in America than straight, white men. We also know that there's been a strong correlation documented between economic class and likelihood of catching HIV, almost the same correlation as between race and poverty. Coincidence? Nay!

Yet, because AIDS is a sexually-transmitted disease affecting minorities most, we have a government that deliberately, and evilly, refuses to work as hard as they can and should to eradicate the illness, or even educate people about how to avoid getting or transmitting it. What our government will do is lecture to "these people" about abstinence. Don't have sex, and you won't get a sexually-transmitted disease. Sounds logical. Except that people, much like other mammals, have sex. All sorts of people have sex. The neo-cons would like you to believe that straight, white, wealthy and married couples are above that sort of thing, but they keep breeding, so that can't be true.

Ask a conservative about taking care of AIDS patients and their families, whether here or in Africa. Watch their reactions. Suppose there were a sexually transmitted disease that disproportionately affected straight whites, and came originally from a bunch of god-fearing European dudes. Maybe the theory is that these dudes were assaulting sheep on cold winter nights. Do you suppose there would be a call to lecture the Europeans about the dangers of sex, God's wrath against the sexually active, and avoiding "the wrong kind of sheep"? Probably not. I'm guessing there'd be an invention of some sort that would allow the European menfolk to have sex and not get diseases.

In this case, we have a sexually-transmitted disease that does not affect those in power as much as it does the under-class, so we go back to stereotypes that served so well before. "Those people" keep having sex, they keep breeding, they keep getting diseases, and it's not my fault, they aren't my family, so I don't care. Racism, and all the braying about sexuality that accompanies it, has EVERYTHING to do with the way we deal with the AIDS epidemic in America and the world.

9 comments:

coturnix said...

Great post. It is good to see I am not the only one connecting racism with sexism in all of almost 200 posts written on the topic today.

Chris said...

Heo, I agree with Coturnix (I often do). I really enjoyed this particular approach to the discussion of racism. It was refreshing, and particularly appropriate since it was written on World AIDS Day, a day on which we heard over and over again that 50% of new AIDS cases in the U.S. in 2004 were in African Americans, and mostly African American women.

Anyway, I'm mostly writing to say that I linked the post, because I don't know any other way to contact you, and I always feel bad about clandestine linking.

HeoCwaeth said...

Coturnix,
Thanks. I'm actually amazed that more people didn't discuss the connection. Can you send me a link to your post? I can't seem to find it, and I'd really like to read it.

Chris,
Thanks for the comment, the link, and your generous appraisal of my choice of blogger identity and blog. I don't even know you, and I already like you.

Razib said...

heo, i think i see the gist of your post. but, unlike courtnix & chris i'm not a liberal, i'm more libertarian leaning. so the thing is, i'm not a big fan of neconservatives, but as a libertarian i often get lumped with all sorts of types who i disagree with (i.e., those on the right are one big amorphous lump to some), so to claim that the 1992 convention is being extended by the neocons seems very off to me. i'm not a big fan of paleocons, but neocons they ain't, and they were the ones behind the crazy rhetoric in '92

1) pat buchanan regularly speaks against neocons
2) opposes neocon foreign policy
3) founded a managazine (*the american conservative*) which is predicated at attacking neocons (from the right)
4) many neocons are relatively socially liberal as far as conservatives go, many are ex-liberals who supported the civil rights movement. paul wolfowitz is even dating an arab!

anyway, i understand that you weren't preparing a monograph. but those of us on the right get tired sometimes of being lumped together as if we had no differences of opinion or nuance of thought. i certainly don't going labeling everyone left of center a socialist because some of those left of center happen to be socialists. conservatives are people too, and not all of us are racists. some us aren't even white (like me).

HeoCwaeth said...

Razib,
Thanks for your comment, and clarification of two brands of conservatism. I will grant you that Buchanan does not fit in with the "hawk" mentality of the neo-con. I'm standing by my classification, though. And here's why:
1)Buchanan *does* state in the same NPR interview I cited that he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. before deciding he was a divisive figure. Neo-connish, no?
2)Precisely which bit of the crazy rhetoric Buchanan spewed in '92 are the neo-cons NOT promoting, whether they truly believe it or not, in current policies?
3)Yes. Many neo-cons are, by the definition I have, ex-liberal radicals. However, this does not necessarily translate into current neo-con social liberality. Liberal "as far as conservatives go" could very well mean something akin to "sweet for a curmudgeon."

I will thank you for refraining from discussing the mating habits of Paul Wolfowitz in future comments. However, since you brought up the subject, and my eyes are already bleeding, here are my comments. I consider PW's dating an Arab slightly less powerful proof against his racism than I consider Clarence Thomas' skin-color proof against his. All manner of people can be prejudiced, in varying degrees, even against "their own."

As for the right getting tired of being lumped into one amorphous blob of non-thought, I think those of us on the left can sympathize. I will attempt in future rants to be more clear about the connections I'm making, and why.

Do feel free to call me a socialist, though. I've been called so many ugly and untrue things by those on the right that simply being classified as a recognized and non-pejorative cognate of "left-leaning" will be refreshing.

HeoCwaeth said...

Replace "cognate" with "synonym." It's late.

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