My Identity is a List of Links
Today’s WTF sexist loons? is brought to you by the Daily Mail:
The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women….
And I for one welcome our new battery-powered overlords.
Hattery-tippery to Feministe. More links, and some talk about racial identity and identity politics more generally, below the fold.
- There’s a new blog carnival for grad students, the Carnival of GRADual Progress. The first edition will be Aug. 15, so submit your postgraduate angstposts now!
- Although my own angst is not for public consumption, I will say that Dave Ng provides a valuable service.
- Arunn is using his blog as supplementary material for his class on heat and mass transport in porous media; he has an excellent introductory discussion up on what qualifies as a porous medium. It’s been a while since I thought of my head as a zero-flux boundary…
- Fisher Price can lick my balls, too
Finally, Changeseeker has written Part 1 of a guide for white people on being a better antiracist ally. Good reading, but of course I’m only responding to the part with which I have a quibble:
Europeans created the concept of “race,” created “Black” people (who were actually Africans or African-Americans) and “White” people (who were actually Europeans or European-Americans) and then an entire system of social “rules” to determine how “Black” people and “White” people should or would be allowed to live their lives. For this reason, I don’t call myself “White.” I don’t choose to identify myself with the socially-constructed, political notion of “Whiteness.” I’m not ashamed of my ethnic heritage, per se, or of being myself as a European-American. But, since the category of “White” was created only for the purpose of oppressing people who are not “White,” I don’t identify myself with it. You could make the same decision, if you wanted to. Not to deny “Whiteness” as a system of privilege and power that is destroying our nation, but simply to disavow your desire to participate in the maintenance of that system while knowing that you are doing so.
The shop clerk who doesn’t follow me around the store, the cop who lets me off with just a warning, and other notional tools of white supremacy are not responding to my ethnic identity as a North-European-Mutt-American (which is also a social construct), but to my race; they could care less about my self-identification. There are two ways to get them to not respond to me as White:
- Engage in racial drag; or,
- Wave the wand of magic anti-racist enlightenment every time I meet someone new.
Not practical answers. Since my assigned race influences my life whether I want it to or not, I don’t think it makes any sense to run around telling people “oh, I’m not White, I’m Euro-American”.
I doubt Changeseeker would deny that the way one is racially categorized has significant impacts on one’s experience in society, regardless of one’s personal level of antiracism/internalized white supremacy/etc., or that she thinks we can change the way we are identified by others (though obviously she’s welcome to correct me on this) – I think we just have different concepts of identity. She appears to see identity statements as claims about the speaker’s desire or affinity, while I usually interpret them as claims about the speaker’s interactions with the world, including the way other people respond. These aren’t mutually exclusive metaphors, and neither of us is wrong, but when there’s significant tension between personal desire and social response the distinction becomes important.
If identity is a claim about my interactions with the world, saying that I’m not White is a lie, and all kinds of un-PC as it means I am denying my own privilege. If identity is a statement of desire and affinity, saying that I’m not White is a perfectly sensible and progressive statement whose truth value cannot be determined without a detailed, intimate examination of my antiracist commitments. Conclusion: when making statements about racial identity, it is important to be clear about what “identity” actually means.
I’ve done most of my thinking about socially-foisted identity in the context of trans allyship, which is an interesting contrast because the power dynamics are different. If I deny my assigned race, I risk being seen as denying my privilege in an offensive way; when a transwoman denies the gender she was assigned at birth … well, some people (coughcoughMichFestcough) do see her as denying her male privilege in an offensive way.
Shit. I hate that I’ve just argued myself onto sort of the same side as MichFest. But I really, really need to get back to work, so I can’t resolve the cognitive dissonance right now. Maybe some Gentle Reader can help?