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Decolorize The Color Line?

11 Oct

Most things are more complicated than they seem at first glance – most people know that. Analyse und Kritik has published an article last month by Jule Karakayali, Vassilis S. Tsianos, Serhat Karakayali and Aida Ibrahim, named “Decolorise it!” This text has somehow become an internet sensation to many, and is posted and re-posted as if it had reinvented the wheel. I have mostly heard people refer to said article who found themselves confronted with some kind of racism reproach, in a multitude of instances. Even worse, most people who posted this article were white activists who have an anti-racist self-conception (and would object to being called white), occasionally with the – ironic – implicit or explicit note/justification that this text wasn’t even written by “white” german people, but by german people with a “I don’t want to say either migration background or PoC but somehow, well, not white, no, I can’t say that either – waaaah…” (thus rendering the article’s ‘”germanness” = priority’-argument moot).

This article is a nice example as to how little tweaks to allegedly neutrally presented theories can make people throw out “the baby with the bath water” through oversimplifying and generalizing statements and conclusions; in this case about Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) (although the AK article forgets to add the “Critical” to the Whiteness Studies – certainly a mere coincidence, I am sure…). Unfortunately, this text rejuvenates many justifications for (being able to ignore) individual privileges through white supremacy that CWS tried to mark. Although I personally think there are valid points made regarding concrete anti-racist practice and co-operations, the mere fact that so many people who have to stand up to being called “racists” by PoC (yes, I am sticking to that term) now cover their faces with this article seems to clarify that the immediate dissolution of  the (non-essential, even though some people love to forget that) “categories” this article is aiming at would result in (maybe mostly unintended?) disadvantages for anti-racist activism under present conditions.  The article’s conclusion and numerous examples and references are – on their own or through their curious interpretation – symptomatic for the issues CWS (and Critical Race Theory) criticize: the degradation of socio-cultural elements and systematic experiences of racism to a mere secondary contradiction, and cherry picking (Black) authors’ half sentences for the article’s own benefit.

The AK text is very elaborate and touches on many points, so I’ll point out a few examples to illustrate my evaluation but will not cover the whole text.

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You Walk Alone.

23 Sep

[Content note: rape culture, sexual(ized) assault and violence and language, victim blaming, racism]

Ever since a police officer told a group of of students in 2011 to not “dress like sl*ts” so they wouldn’t get sexually assaulted, women* in Toronto, Canada, started out a quickly spreading action movement against this culture of sl*t shaming and victim blaming by initiating the so-called “sl*t walks” in protest. In an effort to reclaim the word sl*t and (at least partially) regain access to the discourse about women*’s sexuality and rights to bodily integrity, demonstrations titled “sl*twalks” took place in 75 cities worldwide at the end of 2011. In Berlin, germany, the first walk took place in August last year with about 3,500 participants; another sl*t walk marched just last week.

The under­lying rea­sons for a pro­test move­ment like the “sl*twalks,” Fe­mi­nism ™ agrees on that, are tre­men­dously important: the fight against rape culture, sl*t shaming, victim bla­ming, sexual(ized) violence and (street) ha­­rass­ment, objectification, trivialization and the common disregard for women* who are being thought of less than a human being in (public) space. Sl*twalks are a non-centralized, diverse action movement that seems to profit and suffer from the same strategies and in­herent difficulties that the (non?)political concept of “openness” brings with it – a chance for people who are not politically organized to participate anyway, but the inevitable perpetuation of systematic social discrimination when one does not explicitly reflects and/or strongly advocates and acts against it (cf. the remarkably similar – no, that’s not remarkable, that’s irony – problems of the Occupy Wall Street movement). Importantly: having an open movement like sl*twalks that invites as many women* (and men*) as possible to participate, it is not only about preventing discrimination, and, in certain regards when establishing this “open” concept, discrimination is basically part of the deal; the reaction to incidents or even whole structures of discrimination becomes vital, and here is where many sl*twalks fall short.

There has been anti-racist criticism of sl*twalks – and not just once, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. There has been anti-classist, anti-heterosexist, anti-ableist, anti-cis-sexist, … criticism of sl*twalks – and not just once, here and here and here and here and here and here.  And these links are just the result of a quick Google search, by the way – there’s a whole lot more.

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Not My Representatives.

19 Apr

Kristina Schröder, germany’s federal minister for families, seniors, women and youth (…ridiculously hard to translate: BMFSFJ), is a bad person. She has been constantly mocked as incompetent, stupid, overchallenged; yet, I do not think she is any of these things. I think Kristina Schröder is a conservative ideologist and activist, an anti-feminist and a german nationalist with racist tendencies – hence, in my view, a bad person.

Schröder refuses to amend gender-discriminatory fiscal policies (such as the german “Ehegattensplitting”) and is one of the few European politicians in charge of gender equality politics to outright decline any gender quotas/affirmative action, even though her “flexible” and “voluntary” models have led to no essential changes in the make-up of germany’s companies’ executive boards and male dominance.

She rather writes a book (…co-authored by one of her employees…), named “Thanks – but we’re emancipated!” (“Danke – emanzipiert sind wir selber!” – and I’m not even gonna get into the fact that, if only linguistically, that title makes my head hurt…). I won’t spend a penny on this drivel, so I haven’t read it, but what I gather from her interviews, guest articles, excerpts from her book, and other people’s book reviews, her writing seems to be in line with her rambling: an oversimplifying, anti-feminist treatise about the magic awesomeness of individual freedoms; negating structural discrimination and evoking the very tiresome neoliberal construct of unlimited personal liberty and agency, and that if you face resistance or are discriminated against, it’s simply your fault and there’s no non-individual remedy, and that it’s certainly not a political issue.

Yet, she is the one who will implement “Betreuungsgeld”, a monetary reward for every family that decides (and can afford) to not put their kids in daycare and either take care of the toddlers themselves (or rather: herself…) or hire someone privately, while selectively eliminating the additional financial support parents get within the first year of a child’s life (“Elterngeld”) for parents who are on welfare (“Hartz 4”). And while it is certainly no one’s business why or why not families put kids in daycare, the mere fact that some of them have no other choice but this costly option and “Betreuungsgeld” merely deflects the very important criticism that, despite the minister’s promises, there aren’t nearly enough daycare spaces for kids in this country anyway, shows that Kristina Schröder is certainly not shy when it comes to executing certain policies that do affect people’s personal liberties – as long as it affects the ones she doesn’t really care about.

Moreover, Kristina Schröder is not only a (ultra?)conservative when it comes to women’s rights, she’s also an Enthusiastic German, who tells fairy tales of the alarming rates of reverse racism [sic] and animosity towards german people in this country (germany…), of course: committed by “immigrants”. She was the one to not only cut funding for anti-racist and anti-fascist grassroots organizations, but to enforce the new ordeal that all of them now have to officially declare their love of the constitution. She chose to shift the focus of “anti-extremist” work to the extremely outrageous german left-wing terrorism of sabotaging army vehicles and smashing paint bombs against buildings, while right-wing terrorists could travel the country and execute people they deemed “non-german” (…but that’s the same!). Moreover, taking up the right-wing slogan of “germany for germans”, Schröder was so generous to fund a project titled “Dortmund den Dortmundern” where neo-Nazis and “normal” teenagers were brought together in a nice circle to discuss the city’s “democratic” future.

And yes, there is so much more…

Kristina Schröder is a bad person, and her politics can’t help but show that. Her book seems to have been the final straw for some of germany’s feminist activists, and, in the wake of Schröder’s publicity tour, germany’s Green Party and independent activists have initiated an Open Letter, called: “Not my Minister” that has been signed by 3,000 7,000 people at this point, asking Schröder to resign.

Personally, I think it has been high-time for public figures to counter Schröder’s ideology. I also think the letter is well-written and addresses many important issues in regard to Schröder’s blatant anti-feminism and her classism. However, it seems that the letter’s authors seem to be partially stuck in feminism’s Second Wave – which is ironic because that’s Schröder’s biggest pet peeve…

The letter adequately addresses Schröder’s ideological fallacies, the persistence of structural discrimination and the ridiculousness of having a person like her represent this country’s women. I also understand that Open Letters are compromises, that Open Letters cannot address every single issue, and that Open Letters have to be as broadly written as possible to appeal to as many people as possible. But here’s where you lose me, dear initiators: You have written a letter from white german women for white german women, a letter about white german women’s problems and how to fix these for this group. Not with one word does the letter even mention Schröder’s nationalism and racist tendencies, not with one word do you take the specific discrimination of women of color in this country, that Schröder not only perpetuates but exacerbates with her anti-feminism and “reverse racism” talk and action, into account.

I understand that activist nitpicking can be annoying and that, sometimes, some form of protest is better than none. But to me, this is not a minor detail – this is unacceptable, and it showcases a lack of awareness and an abundance of white privilege in certain “professional”, german feminist circles. It also makes this letter really “safe” and ensures that some of the more prominent undersigned won’t face any repercussions and/or disadvantages in case they’re looking for a “gender mainstreaming”-labelled job offered by a political party or related organization at some point and want to use this in their portfolio…

Kristina Schröder is not merely anti-feminist, she is a conservative ideologist. Her anti-feminism, classism and german nationalism go hand in hand, and it is this cluster of discriminatory thinking and subsequent action that affects people. The Open Letter was a chance to not only speak for certain women, but to address the discriminatory structures that Kristina Schröder creates, perpetuates and simultaneously denies, and that especially affect people who face intersectional discrimination. In my view, you cannot address one without the other, because Schröder’s ideology is as interwoven as reality.

Keep Right, Except To Pass.

12 Apr

Skin color is a funny thing. Despite the fact that we talk about it so much (yes, that includes me), explicitly and, much worse, implicitly, it is inherently meaningless. It tells you absolutely nothing, except for a vague ratio of pigmentation an individual can call his/her own. It is completely arbitrary, unreliable and unstable what kind of fictional “race” and its fictional meaning people have linked and continue to link to someone’s skin tone, and despite such delightful historical artifacts like “The One Drop Rule”, the concomitant construct of “miscegenation” and the fact that people still think of “mixed” “race” children as the progeny of two people “mixing” their “black” and “white” blood, for example, there is no inherent genetic marker of “race” other than what people have assigned to certain phenotypes. And yet… As always, disclaimers like this one simply have to be followed by actual experiences that show time and again that people cannot be bothered with logic or actual importance or decency.

I am a light-skinned Afro-german person. Not that this should matter, but it actually does. Having been raised in a white, small town family with middle-class aspirations, this proved to be somewhat of a problem. And what’s the german way of dealing with those? Right: denial! Denial in the form of years and years of not addressing the simple fact that I don’t look like the rest of this side’s family, of dressing me in super-frilly white dresses, of never allowing to let this “unruly” hair be unbraided, of teaching me poems of every dead white literary person one can think of, and of making sure this foreign looking kid is extremely well-behaved, to not stick out more than she already does.

The thing is: I actually believed I was white, or like everybody else, and would emphatically deny that I am also Black when people would ask me why I have all that pigmentation going on (…to somewhat paraphrase). Friends of mine would emphatically defend my whiteness, saying that I was not Black, but “Brown” (which is so much better, apparently), and others would give me “compliments” about being so light, because, obviously, things could have gone a lot “worse”… All in all, I was extremely embarrassed when being called out for that apparent difference from the enforced norm.

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“Fauxminists”, Season 3.

28 Dec

There is a whole internet clusterfuck going on about Hugo Schwyzer (yet again) – and if you’d like to read about it: see Feministe discussions here and here. From my point of view, this is what basically happened:

1. Clarisse Thorn, a blogger who has written, I think, very interestingly about subjects other than Hugo Schwyzer, has posted an interview with him on Feministe.

2. People got angry, because Schwyzer has a, well, interesting history and an interesting present behaviour. As you can read in the posts (because I certainly will not link to Hugo himself), Hugo is somewhat of a (self-declared) poster boy for male feminist allies, teaches gender studies at Pasadena Community College, has his own blog and writes for other blogs (such as the Good Men Project which has been linked here before – definitely need to re-think that, obviously… :/) and is an influential and prominent voice within publicized Feminism™.

Hugo also has a history of sleeping with his female students whilst being their professor (and, well, somewhat bragging about it, I’d say), of being condescending and discriminatory towards women of colour, of trying to intertwine Feminism™ with Christianity (after he’s made a 180° religious turn, apparently), of profiting from a WASP and monetarily carefree upbringing and, oh, last but not least, of once trying to kill his ex-girlfriend who had apparently been abused that same day by another man, and was lying drugged and unconscious on his kitchen floor. When he was stopped by the police, he lied that it was a mutual suicide plan (when, in reality, he had decided for her that both of them should die now…) and, subsequently, never had to face any legal consequences. I was unaware of many of these pieces of information (that he himself revealed, except for the reports of discrimination against WOC…), and so were many other people – consequently, that led to a bit of a shock and rage that this dude is such a central figure, according to some (white) feminists, when it comes to promoting feminist work and his own career (which goes very well, apparently – at least he has tenure and a large fan base).

Hugo suffers from NPD and is vocal about that. That invited speculation about the way he deals with his past. Hugo also is open about his past mistakes and has apologized for some of them. That invited speculation whether this subsequently requires (un?)conditional forgiveness (and if forgiving means forgetting).

If you read his post (linked in one of the Feministe threads I have linked above) about the “incident” of attempted murder, you (well, I ;)) might get the feeling that he doesn’t really understand what the problem is, though… That’s because: he doesn’t. He seems to see himself as the actual victim here, and is now whining about all the rage he encounters because of his past and present behaviour.

Boo Hoo. ‘Tis tragic, indeed.

People have gotten angry with him (and Clarisse for providing a forum for him, yet again) and I am sure he has, as he has said, gotten some ugly and horrific hate mail (and personally think that this is understandable, but not justifiable).

And here’s the But you were sensing: This is not the actual problem. Here’s the actual problem:

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