Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Voice of [Their] Anger

I grew up witnessing anger being silenced, including my own. I have also started to learn about my anger as a tool which can focus me toward what needs to change, and have the energy to change it. The silencing of anger, then, can be a particular kind of power against me.

Black people are angry. Disabled people are angry. Fuck your politics. Listen.

I have done a lot of privilege work since the 90s and while there is utility to that framework, I could not continue to look at the world through such a framework. In my experience it was used as a tool for silencing when it became the main framework for discourse. Power is complex and if we explore it along this one axis -- even through "intersectionality" (an attempt, perhaps, to introduce mathematics in an erroneous fashion as if we could ever quantify qualitative experience of oppression).

I cannot think about race without remembering how the legacy of Jews (exile, genocide, diaspora) permeated the everyday experience of my [family] culture. I cannot think of race without imagining similarly, a legacy of Black people (slavery, colonisation, scientific racism) permeates the experience of their cultures. No, we are not a monolith (And I blame American solipsism and exceptionalism for some of the odd political stances I see). We inherit the trauma we didn't ourselves experience -- a Republican from Wisconsin talked to me about his work around historical trauma and I admit to being surprised his politics allowed that. Shows what I know.

At the same time, it doesn't diminish that we haven't just experienced second- or third- or N-generation trauma, we can also experience it in the daily ways that still exist. People still throw pennies at jewish people, and target black people as thieves, and on and on. We can use the language of microaggressions as a way to capture the chipping away of trust and safety one can feel going around the in the world, and we diminish the right anger at the macro aggressions - the acts without plausible deniability. The egregious acts of coercion being done because of an unchecked and toxic and repugnant orthodoxy to beliefs that should have been obliterated by science and freedom-fighting.

There is power, there is resistance. There is privilege, there is coercion, there is hegemony. There are many lenses, and many filters to apply to those lenses. Often, it seems common to assert a view through a particular filtered lens, then argue with others who employ a different filtered lens about who has reached the wrong conclusion -- without ever working alongside one another to even reveal what lenses we are employing. This seems like a great waste of fine minds. For if we allowed those revelations perhaps we would have a language for philosophical argument of the deeper issues, rather than building our skills for internet trolling.

When I read the arguments between people that ultimately devolve into silencing, hate speech, because of unchecked racism or ableism or any other ism -- I don't see the value in undermining the "-ism" because it is a left-wing idea of oppression, and I don't see the value in shutting down the hate speech when it so very clearly comes from a place of misunderstanding. Hold up a mirror. Listen. Be willing to hold the anger of the other. But let me be clear -- it is not so much on the people who are angry -- legitimately angry from an unrelenting legacy of receiving hate -- to do this work. No, there is a difference between losing many peers to race- and poverty-related violence and being angry about that, and the anger of rich white people at "their" resources, earned on the backs of those very people, being used to address systemic problems. No, anger at being fucked over by a world you want to change is NOT the same as the hate borne of a perceived loss of privilege. I use privilege in that sense very earnestly.

In other words, patriarchal/misogynist butthurt is NOT equal to the rage at a system that murders women and trans people. Got butthurt? I have toys for that.

But to those who would turn away from us who are angry -- legitimately angry -- because race may have no scientific meaning but it is culturally salient and it MATTERS in the sense that it materially affects a person's experiences, opportunities, and safety in the world, and because of that, being colorblind is at best a copout -- then that angry must matter. Not only must it matter, it is the path to freedom. Not only must we listen to the anger of black people, woman people, disabled people, trans people, first nations people, those in poverty, those who witnessed genocide, those who are being enslaved, etc -- we must understand that anger is like an arrow at the heart of coercion and evil and we must amplify these voices and distill their meaning and behold their power with the tenderness it deserves; without ownership, destruction of authorship, or compromise of message.

The more uncomfortable we feel about those voices, the more it's on US to work that through and pay even closer attention. There is no solution until those voices aren't just a part of the conversation: they are the conversation.

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