Thursday, June 29, 2006

Today's Menu: Classism and Heterosexism

First of all, thank you, Kwynne, for adding to the conversation. I was beginning to feel like I was standing on a milkcrate, yelling my views on the subway. People were walking by, shaking their heads, and moving onto the next blog...

I wanted to clarify why I have focused so much on "white privilege" and race issues. At least in my community, which experienced a horrible, gut-wrenching racial conflagration last year, the wounds of racism are so raw and fresh that most White people quickly gloss over issues of race, and focus instead on attributing the oppression experienced by people of color as being related to class, education, sex, pretty much anything other than race. Having read so many legitimate complaints of people of color about the infiltration of the civil rights movement by white gay men and white women (both straight and gay) with no regard to the advantages they get from their skin color, I want to make sure I am not guilty of the same transgression. I do not want to gloss over the oppression of others by making this about my issues.

Today was classism and heterosexism. The classism exercise was very artificial, and somewhat hard to participate in. A few years ago, Dyke Two modified an activity she had seen done at a conference, and made it relevant and appropriate for teachers. She then shared it with her advisor (the instructor of this course) who watched her lead it once. In turn, he turned it over to his TA, who ran the activity never having participated in or observed the activity. I think it goes without saying that the activity was not the one Dyke Two created, and that many important details were lost in translation. I was unable to get inside myself for this activity, and observed it as an outsider while maintaining a guise of participation.

For the heterosexism discussion, we had a panel of gays and lesbians who answered questions for the participants. I agreed to serve on the panel since it would be harder to watch it without being a panel member. I am always surprised at how little some folks know about the lives of gays and lesbians. Things got a little touchy when Christianity entered the discussion, which I get to happily ignore. My favorite part of the panel was getting to hear the stories and experiences of my friends who served as co-panelists. Once you get out of your early twenties, you rarely hear people's coming out stories, or their internal struggles. I love having this forum each summer to hear these internal stories from my good friends. I answered lots of questions about Bigfella, and about being a gay teacher.

But I did realize that having a White man decide on the activities, create the message and set the tone of these encounters, perpetuates a very narrow and limited view. It allows people to learn enough to feel better, without causing the cognitive dissonance required for real transformation. As Kwynne pointed out, these oppressions are so interrelated, and to build on her point, by dividing them up into separate groups just splinters the efforts and creates artificial enemies. And, when the artificial enemies put each other down, as many others eloquently have pointed out, we lift up our oppressors.

I also realized that i am still not good at the emotional, messy, raw parts of this work. I still spend most of my energy on head issues, not heart issues. But, I also realized that I resent people who try to inexpertly delve into my heart issues without the training, intentionality or long term commitment that I feel is necessary. I feel it is manipulative as all get out.

But, most importantly of all, have y'all seen Star Jones this week? We are watching Larry King Live right now, and for the love of all that is holy, she looks like a space alien, leaving The View to re-board the Mother Ship.


At 1:22 AM, Blogger Mo said...

Hi, I'm here and mostly just soaking up your wisdom, not shaking my head. I haven't added much because you are stating yourself so well! But reading this is good to wake me up because I definitely tend to settle into my little life and forget about the big things.


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