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Sunday, 8 July 2012

-Blindess and Naming

By: Liberate Zealot

In certain activist groups and movement there's this idea that we must all "pull together" and not mention the differences that exist within group.  Differences "don't matter" and discussing them is "divisive". Now, the idea that we should all be color-blind and talking about racism and race fuels racism exists in many areas, but it, and similar ideas of gender-blind and sexuality-blind is especially problematic in activist/social justice areas as it invariably leads to the more privileged members being the focus while the concerns and experiences of the intersectionality oppressed are silenced.  

I was at Occupy Wall St for the October, 17th marches and meet up in Times Square.  Friday Night the GA had a discussion about how often Occupy Wall St was represented almost solely by white men when they interacted with outside media and that the working groups should endeavor to make sure they were equally represented by women and people of color.  This was purposed by a black woman.  The next two hours were filled with white guys saying this would equal silencing them, or attempting to go off on unrelated tangents about Israel and Palestine. One white guy went off about how there is "no black or white, we're all people of color." Many seemed to feel that acknowledging and representing the differences among the members wouldn't help the cause, and in fact, that doing so would hurt Occupy and silence the male members. 
Similar attitudes can be found in a variety of social movements, or with people who interact with such movements with calls for humanitarianism and all joining together instead of focusing on one group or oppression.  Some feel that even naming or identifying the differences is "segregationist" and hurts the cause. And I can only wonder at their understanding of history and oppressions. 

Part of the actions of an oppressive group is erasing the identities and existence of the oppressed.  It Others people who are differently abled, of color, women, queer.  And it does so by ignoring their existance, or by treating them (us) as some different entity, less normal/human than the Kyriarchal ideal. It ignores and silecnes us. It's incredibly shortsighted for activist groups to further this oppression by branding discussion of differences within group as "divisive".  To say that differences like race, gender, ability, and sexuality shouldn't be addressed or named because it detracts from the central focus. When the "central focus" isn't informed by the differences (and different avis of oppression that people experience) than it only addresses the concerns of the most privileged members of the group.  All while demanding the effort and support of the people that they ignore and thus further oppress.  
History has proved this time and again within various groups. 
Feminists only address the concerns of white/middle class/ cis women. Gay rights activists only address the concerns of white gay cis men. Black rights activists only address the concerns of straight men. As said, Occupy has an issue with sexism and racism.

To be fully revolutionary, to be fully about social justice an activist and/or group must be aware of intersectionality and the differences of people.  Because those differences change the experience of oppression, and oppression cannot be dealt with unless it's manifestations and the various causes for it are understood.  Differences and how those affect the oppression people experience can only be addressed if they are named. We cannot speak about what we cannot name. And we can't address or attack an oppression if the people it oppresses cannot even identity themselves.
And if people are treated differently (and they are) than those differences must be addressed as they are. Not under some banner that erases such differences.

Furthermore, these "divisive" elements are people, their identities, their experiences, their lives.  To treat this as "divisive" and distracting/less important is to treat them (us) as "divisive" and distracting and less important.  And there's nothing revolutionary or just about that, it's simply a continuation of the Kyriarchy.  And a social justice advocate/group cannot be Kyriarchal and just.

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