Sunday, April 15, 2007

Welcome to Our World

...Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails. Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats"...

...It's not as if those cowards will actually act on their threats...

...If they can't handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work...

- From Death threats and blogging, by Kos at Daily Kos, in response to Blog death threats spark debate, from BBC News.

I found this discussion via Feministing, in the post Kos: Getting harassed? Stop blogging., by Jessica, a valid reaction to uninformed statements quoted above. Read the linked articles--the BBC News one first--so you'll understand the context. Here's what Jessica had to say:
It's always nice to see our "progressive" brothers taking misogyny and violence against women seriously...

...So let me get this straight: blogging about the oh-so-controversial world of software development means you should expect to get death threats. After all, nothing brings out the crazies like tech-talk. And besides, she probably made it all up anyway...

...I mean come on, if you can't handle your address and social security number being published along with threats of rape, hanging, suffocation and death--you're a fucking lightweight...

As I was reading some of the linked response postings at Feministe and Shakesville, I was reminded of something I read last weekend in Souls Looking Back: Life Stories of Growing up Black. It was in an essay by a woman named Chantal, who was a junior in college at the time:

I knew that my view of the world was changing when a statement by a speaker at a conference I attended revived all of the analytical skills that I learned in my best classes at college. The speaker, an African American male, said that the black feminist movement was destructive to the African American struggle for equality and self-improvement. He said that because the black feminist movement is based on the white feminist movement, it is centered in the Eurocentric idea of individualism. In his opinion, black feminists were against the family and were most interested in themselves. I thought to myself, "In many cases, without us, the black family could not have survived!" He continued with the "fact" that the issues facing black women were nothing compared to those faced by black men (incarceration, murder, drug usage, etc.). I tried to argue with him, but I had no knowledge of black feminism, so I floundered in my words.

Progressive Black women, and other progressive non-white women, and progressive non-hetero women, have been struggling with this concept for years, decades, if not centuries. I personally was struck with this last year when I discovered The Michael Baisden Show on V100, after 100.3 The Beat disappeared from the LA radio airwaves. Most of the people who call in to Michael's show now are pretty stable individuals. But last year, when the show was just getting on its feet, there were some nutters (possibly off their meds) who liked to hear themselves on the radio. My point is, at least two black men called in saying that black women were the cause of not only the high incarceration rate of black males, but also the reason for the crack problem in the United States.


Then, less personally, was the "Love Taps" episode of A Different World, directed by Kadeem Hardison, where Gina gets beat up by her boyfriend, Dion. And Freddie, on her radio show, reads a poem that goes something like, "Brother, you always tell me about the man keeping you down. But the man you just hit me with was your fist." Don't quote me on that.

I was also reminded of this article on AfterElton: Crossing the Gay Color Lines, by James Hillis.

Isaiah Washington, an African American actor, uses the word "faggot" during an altercation on the set of ABC's Grey's Anatomy. Tim Hardaway, a black former NBA star, hears that another former NBA player is gay and responds: "I hate gay people. … I am homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

White gay men see these incidents as examples of a homophobic African American culture. Straight African Americans see a cynical media exploiting caricatures of the angry, ignorant black man. Neither appraisal reveals the more complex truths about why GLBT people and African Americans still eye each other suspiciously across the cultural divide.

Are the parallels that gays make between GLBT struggles and the civil-rights movement instructive or offensive? What is the deeper meaning behind the perceived homophobia in the African American community? And what about inclusiveness in the gay community? Do gays of all ethnicities live up to the ideal of the "rainbow" people?

It can be awfully hard identifying with multiple oppressed groups and not being fully understood by any of them.

Anyways. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga does not have the market cornered on being an insensitive, willfully ignorant "progressive." Just today I had to listen to Johnny Wendell on KTLK AM 1150, LA's progressive talk station, ranting about the greatness of this story, featured in this LA Times article: Santa Ana chamber pushing residents to learn English. I think English classes are a great idea, especially for those persons who butcher the language even though it's the only one they speak. However, Mr. Wendell's main argument was that people who come to the United States need to speak the language of the country (English), because he was here first. Unless Mr. Wendell is over 200 years old, I don't think he really was here first. And God forbid he learn another language in order to communicate with anyone else.

The LA Times article states, "More than half the city's employees speak Spanish, most Asian merchants have learned the language, and nearly every retail business has Spanish-speaking employees." The very next sentence is, "Business owners need employees who speak English, chamber officials said." If over half of the people working in Santa Ana are fluent in Spanish, then why don't the chamber officials encourage the rest of the residents, i.e. business owners, to learn Spanish?

Don't even get me started on Al Franken and Marc "Mr. K" Germain empathizing with Michael Richards as a fellow comedian. And Jon Stewart refusing to hire more than three correspondents at a time that aren't white males with short brown hair.

I'm getting off topic here, but what I'm trying to say is, for some self-appointed "progressive" leaders like Kos, special interests like women's rights, queer rights, and non-white people issues just don't register as things that relate to them, or even things they should be concerned about. And why should they worry about them? They are (usually) straight males. It's not like they'll ever interact with any women or gay people or non-white people, who might already have solutions to their true progressive issues.

No, forget about listening to women with demonstrable problems. Instead, these "progressive" leaders should continue to dismiss our concerns, if not ignore us completely. And if we do receive death threats because we've offended someone by simply being female, I guess we really "should try another line of work."

But if the death threats come true, and we women are all gone, I wonder who will be left to speak up for Kos.

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