One of the dangers of social media tools is that you’re always up to date, and this makes my particular decisions whether or not to be witness to yet another incidence of failure rather difficult. Discovering this morning that the public radio broadcasting company, Deutschlandradio Wissen, had decided on a round table, discussing an unorganized array of video games, cultural impact and sexism, and yet, did not have a single “expert” there who wasn’t a self-identified man*, this Saturday morning started out rather troublesome.
Many things were wrong with this “round table” and the fact that three men* kept musing on about what Women* (TM) really wanted in video games or what Feminists (TM) might have to say about sexism was just the most ironic part. The fact that a representative of this radio station felt the need to answer my twittered criticism by saying that if I didn’t like it, I should read newspapers or blogs instead and they thought it was a good show (surprise!), was also just another example of how alleged “professionals” deal with people who criticize their pseudo-“artistic freedom” (when this artistic freedom is nothing less than the marginalization of certain people) in germany. Not even the
l**e [I apologize for using ableist language – thank you for pointing it out, zweisatz!] bad excuse that the radio station simply couldn’t find any women* competent enough for this debate, that shit happens and that we should all calm the fuck down was particularly exciting. [Check out Femgeeks for their reaction!]
What annoyed me the most, yet again, was the publicly spoken white privilege and its subsequent defense. Two quotes were particularly sharp, namely – when (rightly) aiming at criticizing the white-man-default of video games – the continued talk of “people of other skin colors” (other meaning not white, as was the guests’ unspoken agreement, because white universality is awesome), and the half-sentence about the irritation of being prompted to battle against “Taiwanese 15 year-olds” when logging on a game.
Most people who have heard a thing or two about white privilege and racism probably understand what my problem is with this. Hints: whiteness as default and its constant reproduction, racialized clichés about “ethnic” groups, general dumbassery.
And, as it was to be expected, this was just too much for some people on Twitter. As this post might come across as putting the boot in with more than 140 spaces, let me just say that: 1. Totally. 2. Ben is just a wonderful example for a line of argument and behavior that is typical for some people.
So… Ben showed up! Male, atheist, non-smoker, and self-declared debater who thought that I read “too much into” the whole thing, and that finding racism wherever I can was my personal “wishful thinking”. Yes, he apparently believes I actively hope for discrimination, because I’m hooked on that sucker like no tomorrow. I am, actually, but not in the way Ben thinks… The “debate” rapidly worsened, because Ben was determined to show that the “context” of white privileged expressions (such as “other-coloreds”, or complaining about those videogame crazed Asians, amirite?!) is crucial, and posed investigative, multi-layered questions: if I always thought that racist language was a sign of racism, what about oral presentations about racism that are critical of racism by pointing out racist language, are they racist too…? Huh? Huh?!
I tried. Honestly. Because once in a blue moon, I think that debating people might help, and I shouldn’t virtually shout at them right away. So, I tried. I tried to explain that racist stereotypes are racist. That racist language is racist. That having three white dudes debate whether women* like a good rape background story in Tomb Raider is a really bad idea. But Ben kept asking for evidence!1! of where the actual racism or sexism lie in these words and interactions.
Not being convincing enough, he called me a “child”, accused me of trying to read between the lines (of “other skin-colored people”, because that’s such a subtle innuendo…), of being a coward and telling me that he totally believes in structural racism and sexism, but that he doesn’t want me to bring it up so much when talking to him, because he sees me as a human being, not as a woman* (yes, I had to chuckle – this sums the sexism issue up, basically…), and that I didn’t even know him, so I shouldn’t be so mean. He just doesn’t think that racist stereotypes and racist language mean racism, because context.
Finally, he accused me of Having An Agenda, of wearing antiracism/antisexism blinders (that apparently made me oblivious to his eye-opening, game changing line of argument why racism isn’t always racism and why calling both the women* who publicly disagreed with what he said “children” isn’t sexist or adultist), and of, again, being a totally mean child without reading comprehension. Sadly, his account is now private, but the one thing he made public is his personal conclusion of our (and maybe other people’s) encounter:
[Update: a transcript is now available here in the comment section (and many thanks to the person who doesn’t want to be thanked publicly!).]
:) and m( – those convictions must have been running deep for the entire decade plus, if pushback by the people he believes he has been an ally to leads him to make this statement. If it’s a joke – it’s not funny, because it is really believable and has been practiced by oh so many people for oh so many centuries. I don’t believe it’s a joke anyway, though. Thinking that having to face criticism (after telling PoC that their pointing out of racism in a particular circumstance is “just wishful thinking”) is comparable with the actual discrimination your “allied” marginalized possee has to deal with, and has now literally broken the camel’s back, makes me ask the only question I frequently knew to ask you: “Really?” I suspect your answer is, yet again: “Really.”
The point I am trying to make is this: if people who are part of a marginalized group tell you that, despite the fact that you call yourself an ally and an anti-racist and anti-sexist and whatnot, you are behaving in a horrible manner and are defending racism and/or sexism, for example, it would be great if you could shut the fuck up. If you’re addressed in an unfriendly manner, it is because marginalized people have said that very same thing at least once that day to someone else before, and that this has been going on for approximately three quarters of their life time. If your faith in other people’s and your own humanity is so quickly shaken, you weren’t an ally to begin with, and I am most relieved to see you go. And if you now have the sadz and think you’re non-belonging as a white, cis, male, heterosexual german, I am not the least bit sorry for you. You’ll make new friends! People like you are everywhere!
The only thing I am sorry for is having wasted so much time trying to explain to you why racism is actually racism, when clearly, all you wanted to do is make yourself the center of attention, to derail the discussion and to be as willfully clueless as possible. I am still struck by some people’s ignorance about this, and sometimes think they just don’t know any better. Yet, you, once again, have shown that this is almost never the case. You know quite well. You just don’t care. You don’t want to listen or learn. You actually believe I should be grateful for your pseudo-commitment to not being a racist asshole and that you deserve a cookie for it. That’s not what being an ally for any marginalized group is about. That is a mere sign that anti-racism, for some people, is already considered a personal achievement when they condemn Neo-Nazis and those racists over there, and yet, are quite happy to forget all about individual behavior and language and choices. There mere fact that Ben calls people who question his antiracist dedication “bigots,” shows how little he has actually understood about systematic oppression and the myths of reverse racism/sexism, and, in turn, how very aptly he shows how upset and obnoxious some people get, even after a decade of self-proclaimed activism, when one calls their anti-racist credentials into question due to their behavior and choice of words.
So, if people like Ben proclaim that all these marginalized people have been totes discriminating against them and are big ol’ meanies who just won’t pick them first for their dodgeball team, won’t make them feel as comfy as if the were part of the marginalized group(s), and, therefore, they now enjoy their privilege, it’s the clearest indicator that this is what he and others have been doing all along. So spare me the compassion theater, and get right to it. And don’t mind me: I am shouting at you and other self-declared allies and regular people again.
Because Nothing Else Works.
[Update (7/9/12): Just look at the discussion here on Mädchenmannschaft (in german) with one of the white dudes* of said radio round table, and you’ll find yet another example as to why the shouting approach is actually very reasonable. Nothing else is taken seriously, except for six lines by another man* who oversimplifies the critique of yet another woman* – but that hits a homerun with radio guy. No, dear, you couldn’t make this shit up.]