My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Deconstructing More Baltimore Narratives

Sonic Gal went to Chicago today to help them with a food service crime syndicate, so The Brain is doing a double patrol. I'm watching The Contrarian all day while Uberdude tries to invent a joint servo with the capacity for enough motion speed that our "decoy" Sonic Gal android can at least walk around the neighborhood fast enough to be believable.  

Plus I still have a few thank you notes pending.  (For those who donated in the first quarter, I haven't forgotten. I just suck.)

I never did get that half finished post finished up and cleaned up, and it's not going to happen in the half hour before this kid strapped to my chest wakes up to demand that I feed him lunch or there will be a great cry through Oakland such has never been heard before and shall never be heard again.

Also, I've kind of been running hot on writing about Baltimore in other places. I thought I would share a few of those thoughts here even though most are not explicitly about writing. I think if I were going to lose readers for being a Social Justice Bard instead of always apolitically writing about writing, I probably would have by now. They can always be looked at through the lens of cultural narrative though.

But here are a few of the posts about Baltimore that got the most shout outs from my Public Facebook Wall (yes, you're welcome to friend me if you want, but I'm a very cranky social justice gadfly in that space, so be warned).

On modern racist double standards...

Black Crime= Thug/Animal/Gang Violence

Middle Eastern Crime= Terrorism/Islamically motivated

Latin/Hispanic Crime= Illegal immigration

White Crime= Well there's a lot of complicated factors that go into the calculus when something like this happens, including socio/economics and the complex psychology of peer pressure that was exerted on this person by the unfortunate group they fell in with to try to feel like a part of something. Usually these things don't just happen in a contextual vacuum. Now I don't know all the facts, so I'm not going to rush to judgement–and let me remind everyone that in this country we are innocent until proven guilty, thank you very much–but if it turns out that it wasn't self defense (which I'm not convinced of, by the way, because that anonymous call said it heard shouting before the shots and wasn't SURE it was the victim's voice, so that's a reasonable doubt right there) then I would point out that the perpetrator has a history of mental illness, is on the autism spectrum, and extremely easy access to guns. Why would you even bring up that they were white? Racist! This person's life is ruined, we need to reach out to these poor people and help their communities and address mental health issues so that tragedies like this don't happen again, and you're being a racist.

Racism: It's not really the goofball shit in Bioshock Infinite from guys who LITERALLY twirl their mustaches. It is the unequal application of compassion, empathy, intellectual rigor, benefit of the doubt, second chances, and nuance.

Trigger Warning: Extremely graphic violence and macroaggression racism.

On "real" activism...

I've done "real" activism folks. 

The benefits are pretty much the same as the online kind. You make people aware of stuff they wouldn't normally be. You yell a lot and it seems like you annoy most everyone who's listening. A bunch of people get incensed that you have the temerity to make them think about stuff they don't want to and/or inconveniencing them by being in "their" space. A shit ton of people ignore you, and some make a point of ignoring you in a way that makes it clear that they're doing it so that YOU know they're ignoring you. (Sort of the "mature" version of a kid saying "I'm ignoring you. I can't hear you. La la la la la la.") No one really listens (or so you think) and you feel a little dejected, but then a bunch of people who you didn't even think had a dog in the race are suddenly with you on the next march because you've opened their eyes or encouraged them to risk speaking out. And suddenly people are donating and talking about it and there's a discussion. A year later, most people are still clueless, but you've moved the ball down the field a few yards. And then you do it all again.

The downsides are rather profound though. Lots more spit. Lots more horses in your face. Much much more fear. And if you don't happen to look like me, there are also more knees to the back of the head, zip ties, tear gas, rubber bullets, truncheons, and from what I've seen of worse protests than I've been in, LRADs, assault rifles aimed at your head, and actual non-zero chance of death. Honestly it's a pretty privileged outlook to think that it doesn't count unless one takes to the streets. Have you noticed what happens out there?

People tell you online "Well why don't you go DO something about it," like it's not condescending, elitist, presumptive, and ableist to demand people go march in the street with a megaphone in order to be "real" about their activism. But here's the punchline: when we were out there in the streets with the megaphones guess what the thing we heard the most was?

"Why don't you go DO something about it?"

Yep. All that is is someone telling you to leave their space without actually saying "I don't care as much as you do about this and I wish you would leave."

Get the fuck over this "real" activism thing.

On trying to guilt me as a skeptic...

Oh PUH-LEEEEEZE with the "aren't you a skeptic?" crap. "Gosh, why do you just BELIEVE these stories...."

Yes, I'm a skeptic. My social justice and my skepticism are linked forces in my head--they always have been--but I'm not doling out the skepticism in an unequal way to only one side (like Dick Dawk or Hitchens), and THAT is what you really seem to want.

Yes, I'm a skeptic. When all the quantifiable and qualitative evidence points towards systematic injustice, I am skeptical of the attempts to rationalize it, blow it off, explain it away, and dismiss it made by the group that benefits from that injustice. That seems mighty fishy to me.

Yes. I'm a skeptic. When I see so many initial police reports contradicted by eye witnesses or cell phone video, I begin to doubt that all the others. That's a natural conclusion of the critical thinking.
Yes. I'm a skeptic. When something statistically uber-significant like 95+% of people living in a situation (women, people of color, LGBTQ+, etc....) basically tell me the exact same thing about their lived experience and another group that has NO experience with their situation and a lot of social power to lose tells me not to listen to them, I am very, very skeptical that the second group might not be on the level. Very skeptical, indeed.

Yes. I'm a skeptic. I'm skeptical of your ability to portray the lives of others accurately--especially when you ignore them every time they try to tell you what it's like. I'm skeptical that judging other people's trials and tribulations through the lens of your situation might not correctly represent them.

Yes, I am a skeptic. Just because I listen to both sides doesn't mean I stay forever neutral. It means I evaluate the claims, I adjust my thinking when I find out I'm wrong. I take in as much new information as I can. Evidence will change my mind and I am open to it. It does NOT mean I stay forever neutral. Skeptics are not still calmly listening to climate change deniers make the same old arguments no matter how many demands for civil debate the latter makes. (If they brought NEW evidence forth, splendid.) Skeptics should never tune out any new information, but neither should they engage endlessly with one more person bringing forth the same old arguments against a preponderance of evidence. Which in the case of systematic inequality is SO apparent that it would take a certain level of credulity to be convinced that it is no big deal.

Yes. I'm a skeptic.

On institutional violence...

If you ignore enough top down, state sponsored, institutional violence, you can clutch your fucking pearls and pretend you never saw these broken windows and burned liquor stores coming. Anyone with half an eye on the news during the last 18 months is probably wondering what took so long.

Do I want looting? Do I want violence? Of course I don't. Of COURSE I don't. OF COURSE I DON'T!!

But it's a little weird to me how many people want to "burn the mother fucker down" when it comes to our racist/sexist/imperialist/homophobic/unjust culture, but think we're not going to lose so much as an CVS or some car windows along the way.

When people trained to de-escalate–to serve and protect–consider their lives in danger when UNARMED men are running away from them, when twelve year olds are sitting facing away with a toy, when outnumbered men are suffocating under their choke holds, when they surrender, when they run, when they beg....tell me exactly how they are supposed to be contrite enough

Please. Tell me.

Because right now, what you're actually saying is that you won't have their back unless they stand there and die. 

Because you will, with political-sex-scandal faces, grudgingly admit that racism still exists in our society, but this incident and that one and that one and that one and that one and that one weren't REALLY racism. Because YOU know what real racism looks like (and what it doesn't) even as the riots rage around you.

If they play nice, you ignore them. If they don't play nice, you ignore them because they're not playing nice enough. It's ALMOST like they can't win. PLOT TWIST: In 50 fucking years, it's been made abundantly clear that you wouldn't have their back even if they DID stand there and get shot.

We've earned this. I hope tonight not ONE person is hurt in body or livelihood, but we have fucking EARNED this. And if we dismiss it, we deserve more.

On some ever-so-subtle double standards...

White People: We should bring guns into Wal-Mart; it's our right. People shouldn't fear their government. Government should fear their people.

White People: The second amendment enshrines our right to violently revolt against oppressive government. That's why we HAVE to have assault rifles.

White People: This dude grazing his cows for 20 years on public property had them taken. You can't do that. Let's get our guns and go put federal agents in our sniper cross hairs to show them we will turn this into a revolt.

White People: Let's disobey the laws of England, revolt, destroy property, kill some soldiers, and show them what we think of taxation without representation.

White People: Let's blow up this jail with dynamite to protest the arrest of veterans who were watching the polls for fraud.

White People: We don't want to get drafted. Let's basically burn down all of New York.

White People: Eight hours is a long enough work day. Let's riot and kill some people.

White People: The Syrians should have a violent uprising. A people have the government they deserve.

White People: If our lives are being threatened by terrorism, we should ignore international law, the Geneva convention, our own laws and collateral damage and kill everyone with a box-cutter who doesn't love us.

Black People: Okay well we're being extrajudicially executed, often while unarmed, fleeing, or begging for our lives, so we're going to protest the government. Some windows might get broken.

White People: Hey why don't you just obey the fucking law. Violence never solved anything. You're just making things worse. I hope they gun you thugs down like the animals you are.

Lastly, why gnaw so hard on this social justice bone...

My problem is I don't run out of fucks to give. The field where I grow my fucks is verdant. They grow over everything like kudzu.

Time, energy, mental bandwidth. I can run out of those (pretty easily) but I always have one more fuck to give.

There were several other posts, but many of them got assimilated into Tuesday's post on controlling the narrative.