Montag, 26. August 2013

Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs

Wie wir wissen, ist Theo Beale (alias Vox Day) mittlerweile bei den Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) rausgeflogen, nachdem er einen Twitter-Account der Organisation benutzt hat, um rassistische Ausfälle gegen N.K. Jemisin zu verbreiten. Jemisin hat ihre Reaktion auf Beales Rausschmiss auf ihrem Blog veröffentlicht (und auch bekannt gemacht, wie sie reagiert hätte, wäre Beale die SFWA-Mitgliedschaft nicht aberkannt worden). Die ganze Affäre könnte ein Anlass sein, darüber zu diskutieren, was genau das SFF-Fandom zu einem so anregenden Betätigungsfeld für Faschos wie Beale macht. Stattdessen gibt es jetzt ein ziemlich seltsames Nachspiel, bei dem ich mir nicht sicher bin, ob ich es lächerlich oder gefährlich finden soll.

Will Shetterly ist ein Autor, dessen Werke ich schätze. Sein Roman Dogland zum Beispiel ist ausgesprochen empfehlenswert. Leider ist Shetterly aber nicht nur ein guter Schriftsteller, sondern auch eine nahezu perfekte Verkörperung des Dämlichen. Der Dämliche, wie Umberto Eco ihn in Das Foucaultsche Pendel definiert, ist ein »Träger eminent bürgerlicher Tugenden«. Er verrennt sich nicht in obskurantistischen Weltanschauungen, vielmehr misst er der Vernunft hohe Bedeutung bei. Das Problem des Dämlichen ist, dass er sich laufend vertut und es nicht mal bemerkt. Er verehrt die Vernunft, aber ihm fehlt jedes Gespür dafür, ob das, was er sagt, der Situation angemessen ist: »Der Dämliche sagt nicht, daß die Katze bellt, er spricht von Katzen, wenn die andern von Hunden reden.« Das ist in diesem Fall ganz wörtlich zu verstehen. Shetterly ist der Typ, der in eine Diskussion über rassistische Lynchjustiz hineinplatzt und davon zu reden beginnt, dass es auch Lynchmorde von Weißen an Weißen gab. Das ist faktisch richtig, aber das Problem mit dem Dämlichen ist ja auch nicht, dass er falsche Behauptungen aufstellen würde. Das Problem ist, dass es in einer Diskussion über rassistische Lynchjustiz vor allem um Rassismus geht, der Dämliche aber durch nichts davon zu überzeugen sein wird, dass er am Thema vorbeiredet. Schließlich treffen seine Aussagen zu und sind nicht zu widerlegen. Eine Aussage über Katzen wird nicht dadurch falsch, dass sie in einem Gespräch über Hunde fällt, deshalb fühlt der Dämliche sich im Recht und reagiert ausgesprochen erstaunt, wenn die anderen Gesprächsteilnehmer_innen ihm derailing vorwerfen.

Shetterly ist ein libertärer Sozialist, und er führt einen unermüdlichen Feldzug gegen alle, die sich in ihrem antirassistischen und antisexistischen Aktivismus auf Intersektionalitätstheorien berufen, und wirft ihnen unterschiedslos »Identitätspolitik« vor. Das Konzept der Intersektionalität wurde von der kritischen Rechtswissenschaftlerin Kimberlé Crenshaw geprägt und von Theorieansätzen wie den Critical Legal Studies und der Critical Race Theory aufgegriffen. In diesem Kontext stellt Intersektionalität ein Konzept dar, mit dessen Hilfe Formen sich überlappender Diskriminierung sichtbar gemacht werden sollen. Um es anhand eines bekannten Beispiels zu erläutern: Eine Person bewirbt sich auf eine Stelle, für die sie gut qualifiziert ist. Ihre Bewerbung wird abgelehnt. Die Person fragt sich, ob es daran liegt, dass sie schwarz ist und weiße Mitbewerber_innen ihr vorgezogen wurden. Auf Nachfrage wird sie jedoch darauf hingewiesen, dass die gleiche Stelle bereits an einen schwarzen Bewerber vergeben wurde. Als nächstes fragt die Person sich vielleicht, ob sie übergangen wurde, weil sie eine Frau ist, wird jedoch mit dem Hinweis, dass die gleiche Stelle auch schon einmal von einer Frau besetzt wurde, erneut abgewimmelt. Es scheint keine Diskriminierung vorzuliegen, die auf den Zuschreibungen »Frau« oder »schwarz« beruht. Die Antwort der Intersektionalitätstheorie auf dieses Problem lautet, dass die Person aus dem Beispiel durch zwei sich überschneidende Diskriminierungsformen benachteiligt wurde – nicht allein wegen ihres Schwarzseins oder ihres Frauseins, sondern weil sie eine schwarze Frau ist.

Ich möchte an dieser Stelle kein Urteil über die Wirksamkeit der Intersektionalitätstheorie bei der Bekämpfung gesellschaftlicher Ungleichheiten abgeben. Schon gar nicht ist der vorherige Absatz eine  vollständige Darstellung der Theorieansätze, die sich mit dem Konzept Intersektionalität verknüpfen. Worauf es aber ankommt, ist, dass die Intersektionalitätstheorie bestimmte politische Strategien impliziert. Wenn es zutrifft, dass bestimmte soziale Gruppen von sich überschneidenden diskriminierenden Zuschreibungen betroffen sind, heißt das im Umkehrschluss, dass gegenteilige Zuschreibungen mit Privilegien verbunden sind: Weißsein und Mannsein bewahrt vor Diskriminierung und versetzt mit diesen Zuschreibungen versehene Personen deshalb automatisch in einen Zustand der Privilegiertheit. Will man die daraus resultierenden Ungleichheiten bekämpfen, dann kommt es darauf an, den Bevorzugten ihre Privilegien streitig zu machen und die Position der Benachteiligten ihnen gegenüber zu stärken. Es kommt gewissermaßen darauf an, in politischen Auseinandersetzungen lautstark die Differenzen zu betonen – zu betonen, dass die einen aufgrund ihres Weißseins und Mannseins privilegiert sind und die anderen aufgrund ihres Schwarzseins und Frauseins benachteiligt, und dass dieser Zustand untragbar ist.* Dieses Vorgehen zur Verschiebung der Machtverhältnisse ist es, dass Shetterly der Intersektionalitätstheorie vorwirft und als »identitätspolitisch« bezeichnet.

Shetterly vertritt dagegen eine Position, die sich vereinfacht als »postrassistisch« beschreiben lässt. Er meint, die Kategorie »Rasse« sei dadurch, dass sie als gesellschaftliches Konstrukt entlarvt wurde, obsolet geworden. Sie ist in seinen Augen irrelevant, da sie unwahr ist, während es in Wirklichkeit darauf ankommt, ein möglichst hohes Maß an gesellschaftlicher Gleichheit zu etablieren, indem man von Differenzen absieht. Letzteres ist in meinen Augen der springende Punkt. Shetterly hat wiederholt die Ansicht geäußert, die Betonung der durch Rassismus hervorgerufenen Differenzen – egal, ob sie in kritischer oder in affirmativer Absicht erfolgt – spiele dem Rassismus in die Hände. Das ist eine plumpe Gleichsetzung von Rassismus und Antirassismus, der auf tautologischen Behauptungen wie »Rassismus entsteht, indem von Rassen gesprochen wird« beruht und gerade von Rechten gern als Argument gegen antirassistische Politik angeführt wird. Nicht, dass dies Shetterlys Absichten entspräche. Er vertritt vielmehr emphatisch die Ansicht, dass der Rassismus sich von selbst erledigen würde, wenn es zu einer Umverteilung von Reichtum käme. Rassismus ist für ihn vor allem ein Symptom ökonomischer Ungleichheit.

Ich persönlich bin durchaus der Überzeugung, dass wirkliche Gleichheit nur durch die Überwindung des Kapitalismus möglich ist. Ich glaube zwar anders als Shetterly nicht, dass Umverteilungspolitik gleichbedeutend mit der Überwindung des Kapitalismus ist, aber ich würde mir wünschen, dass es im Fandom mehr Menschen gäbe, die das Leben in einer auf Ausbeutung, Lohnarbeit und Konkurrenzzwang beruhenden Klassengesellschaft menschenunwürdig finden und für eine von diesen Zwängen befreite Gesellschaft eintreten. Mein Problem mit Shetterly liegt vor allem darin, dass sein Sozialismus vor allem aus einer Reihe von oft wiederholten, aber wenig aussagekräftigen Plattitüden wie »It’s time to share the wealth so no one will be economically dependent on anyone else.« besteht, die auch ein Sozialdemokrat im Wahlkampf von sich geben könnte.** Insbesondere der Zusammenhang zwischen Rassismus und Kapitalismus scheint mir bei Shetterly eher behauptet als theoretisch durchdacht zu sein. So richtig redselig wird Shetterly ohnehin nur dann, wenn er sich über Critical Race Theory, Intersektionalität und Antirassismus ereifern kann. Deren Vertreter_innen wirft er vor, nicht kapitalismuskritisch zu sein. Indem Shetterly auf das Fehlen einer kapitalismuskritischen Perspektive bei anderen hinweist, ohne in dieser Hinsicht selbst etwas vorweisen zu können, schwächt er seine (in diesem Fall auf einem berechtigten Einwand beruhende) Position unnötig.

Das alles wäre nicht weiter schlimm, sondern könnte eine interessante, fundierte Alternativen aufzeigende Diskussion sein. Ist es aber nicht, denn Shetterly, sofern man ihm nach seinen jüngsten Eskapaden noch einen guten Willen unterstellen will, steht sich vor allem selbst im Weg. Vor anderthalb Monaten veröffentlichte er einen Blogpost,*** in dem er seine Gleichsetzung von Rassismus und Antirassismus erneut vorbrachte und auf äußerst geschmacklose Weise konkretisierte. Theo Beale und N.K. Jemisin seien »similar in kind«, weil der eine ein Rassist ist und die andere eine Anhängerin der Critical Race Theory sei. Dabei ist nicht nur die Gleichsetzung der beiden Personen ungeheuerlich – zur Erinnerung: Beale ist der Faschist, der über Jemisin sagte, »savages« wie sie müssten zum Abschuss freigegeben werden –; Shetterly spekuliert außerdem mehr über Jemisins Ansichten, als dass er sie aus ihren konkreten Äußerungen belegen würde. Das Ergebnis ist vorhersehbar: Beales rechtsradikale Ansichten werden durch die Gleichsetzung aufgewertet und behandelt, als ob sie einer wohlwollenden Auseinandersetzung würdig seien. Beale und seine Kumpanen griffen die Möglichkeit, die ihnen da geboten wurde, gierig auf und fielen sofort bei Shetterly ein, um ihren Meinungsmüll zum Besten zu geben. Und natürlich führte Beale Shetterlys Post gegenüber der SFWA, die gerade darüber beriet, ihm die Mitgliedschaft zu entziehen, zu seiner Entlastung an.

Von Beale und seiner Fascho-Truppe einmal abgesehen, stieß Shetterlys Post auf wenig Zustimmung. Bemerkenswert, wenn auch nicht zu 100% zustimmungsfähig, finde ich vor allem die dezidierte Ablehnung durch Steven Brust. Aber anscheinend überblickt Shetterly die Folgen seiner Vorgehensweise nicht mal im Ansatz. Vor etwa einer Woche schrieb er einen weiteren Blogpost, in dem er erneut die Gleichwertigkeit von Beales und Jemisins Positionen behauptete. Wieder besteht seine Darstellung von Jemisins Ansichten weitgehend aus Unterstellungen, die diesmal auch noch als Suggestivfragen formuliert sind. Die kritischen Dialogversuche, die Shetterlys erster Post noch hervorrief, blieben weitgehend aus. Stattdessen führt Shetterly im Kommentarthread des zweiten Posts mehr oder weniger ein Selbstgespräch, das nur durch die rassistischen Ausführungen von vereinzelten Beale-Kumpeln, die des Spiels noch nicht müde geworden sind, unterbrochen wird.

Shetterly ist Ecos Dämlicher in Reinform: Antirassist_innen tauschen sich darüber aus, wie mit den Beales dieser Welt umgegangen werden kann. Shetterly tritt auf, um die Antirassist_innen zu belehren, dass ihre Ansichten verfehlt sind. Er tut dies auf eine Art und Weise, die Beales Fascho-Kumpels eine Plattform zur Verbreitung ihrer Weltanschauung bietet, wie sie sie wahrscheinlich schon lange nicht mehr zur Verfügung hatten. Und es ist noch nicht einmal so, dass Shetterly etwas dagegen hätte. Wenn andere über Rassismus reden, redet er über Meinungsfreiheit. Eine seiner Lieblingsüberzeugungen ist die, dass jeder Form von Meinungsäußerung überall eine Plattform geboten werden müsse, da alles andere eine Einschränkung der Meinungsfreiheit sei. Konkret bedeutet dies für Shetterly offenbar vor allem, für die Meinungsfreiheit von Faschist_innen einzutreten:
You want to tell me Vox Day and his posse are all kinds of bad, and I’m totally with you. But just as I supported the ACLU when they supported the right of Nazis to march, I support Vox Day and his posse’s right to be as creepy as they want to be. I do not know a single speech code that cannot backfire ...
Well, Shetterly, I know a strategy that can backfire, and it just did so spectacularly: Set up a stupid equation between fascist thought and anti-racism. Drive off all the right people you might want to discuss the ways and means to overcome racism with. Give a bunch of white supremacists a space to freely articulate their views on your blog. Honor them by acting as if the fascist filth they spread was worthy of debate. Celebrate your achievement by repeating the stupid equation. — Congratulations. You just made sure that for a lot of people, your blog is not a space where meaningful exchange about a society free of racism and inequality seems even remotely possible.

Shetterlys erster Post endet mit folgender Aussage:
This should be an easy message to understand: Respect everyone because we’re all equal. But it’s a message that threatens many people’s worldview. It’s no surprise that people like Jemisin and Beale haven’t gotten it yet.
Beale redet davon, Jemisin zu erschießen, weil sie schwarz ist. Shetterly redet davon, dass Jemisin Beale nicht respektiert. Und er glaubt allem Anschein nach, dass letzteres eine adäquate Reaktion auf ersteres ist. Ist das naiv, heuchlerisch oder dämlich? Da es sich um Shetterly handelt, tippe ich auf letzteres.

* Es ist nicht meine Absicht, durch Einengung meines Beispiels auf die Kategorien »Rasse« und Geschlecht zu sagen, diese seien die einzigen oder auch nur die wichtigsten Formen sozialer Ungleichheit. Ich halte aber auch nichts davon, möglichst viele Formen von Ungleichheit aufzuzählen und mit einem lapidaren »etcetera« zu beschließen, da dies die Illusion einer vollständigen Beschreibung von sozialer Ungleichheit erzeugt. Ich beschränke mich auf die Kategorien »Rasse« und Geschlecht, weil sie in Beales Angriffen auf Jemisin zum Tragen kommen.
** Shetterly hat einen Blogpost angekündigt, in dem er sein Verständnis von Sozialismus erläutern will. Ich weiß nicht, ob ich mich darüber freuen soll.
*** Trigger-Warnung: Shetterly verwendet in seinem Blog rassistische Ausdrücke.  

Kommentare:

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…
Der Kommentar wurde von einem Blog-Administrator entfernt.
Anubis hat gesagt…

Will Shetterly, you wrote:

»I did not publish the name of a pseudonymous person, and I have a screencap to prove she was not being pseudonymous on her blog ...«

I deleted your original comment because it contained a URL to the full name of a person who apparently wishes not to have her name published on the web, and I want to respect that wish for privacy (she may have published it herself in the past, but she’s free to change her will). As I see now it was a mistake to even mention the issue, I will also remove the paragraph to which you objected.

We can talk about the subject of my blogpost (your stance towards the Beale affair) and everything that relates to it politically, but this is not a space for you to pursue your personal vendettas.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

My vendetta? I'm not the one promoting a lie.

Yes, she is free to become retroactively pseudonymous. But when she does that to slander the people who originally posted her name, the truth matters.

Thank you for deleting that paragraph.

As for the rest, I do find it odd that some socialists have accepted a bourgeois concept of privilege that conveniently excludes wealth. But c'est la vie.

Anubis hat gesagt…

I would have believed you that she wasn’t fully pseudonymous without providing the URL to a screenshot. As to your assumption that she stated her wish not to have her full name mentioned because she wanted to slander you—that was not the reason she gave. Which makes it rather understandable that a lot of the people involved believe that you are the one who is promoting a lie.

But could we please stop this now? As I said, I’m really not interested in having this issue re-examined here and it was a mistake to bring it up, because it hasn’t got anything to do with the political problem that I tried to outline in my post.

Could you explain who do you mean by socialists who accepted a theory of privilege that excludes wealth? It seems obvious to me that you can criticize all kinds of privilege without being a socialist, and why not? On the other hand, recognizing the fact that there are certain kinds of privilege attached to wealth is hardly a sufficient reason to become a socialist.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

If you wish to stop this, all you have to do is stop defending the proposition that I outed her. To address the points in your first paragraph: She charged other people besides me with "outing" her. The whole "outing" business is rather ironic since a year before, she was part of outing Zathlazip, who actually made an effort to be pseudonymous. The reason I provide the screencap is to give proof to people who think I'm promoting a lie.

Yes, bourgeois folks can criticize racism and sexism. What people fail to miss is that given the US's awful rate of class mobility, if you don't share the wealth, the racial and sexual statistics of poverty won't change. More importantly, by focusing on racial and gender inequality in poverty, you miss its scale: there are still twice as many poor whites in America as blacks. That's why Martin Luther King said, "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

King was right. Critical Race Theorists are not--but they do get a nice paycheck at private schools for the rich by promoting an ideology that, as David Harvey and others have noted, is extremely compatible with neoliberalism.

Anubis hat gesagt…

I don’t defend the proposition that you outed anyone. I said that you made public the name of a person who didn’t want people to do so (and I don’t see how in this case her wish would be overruled by the fact that she has technically outed herself several years ago). You might want to read more carefully, so that we don’t have to senselessly dwell on the issue.

So, do I understand you correctly that by socialists who have »accepted a bourgeois concept of privilege that conveniently excludes wealth« you mean critical race theorists? Or some other political group or theory?

»What people fail to miss is that given the US's awful rate of class mobility, if you don't share the wealth, the racial and sexual statistics of poverty won't change. More importantly, by focusing on racial and gender inequality in poverty, you miss its scale: there are still twice as many poor whites in America as blacks.«

Well, of course you miss the scale of poverty when you claim that only black people are affected by it (which would be absurd anyway). Still I believe it might give you valuable insight to try to find out how specific groups are affected by poverty.

Also, I find your expression »to share the wealth« kind of vague. I mean, it is obvious to me that the only way to ultimately overcome poverty is to establish a classless society, as it is capitalism with its class antagonism that creates poverty. That said, I find nothing wrong with pointing out that in the present society, members of some social groups are statistically more likely affected by poverty than others. Here in Germany for example, it’s a fact that single mothers are much more likely to be poor than other people.

All I gather from your words is that somehow you find it wrong to focus on inequality in poverty and that you propose to »share the wealth« instead. Is that right? And if so, could you explain how focusing on inequality in poverty prevents you from addressing the problem of poverty in general, and what exactly you mean by »sharing the wealth«?

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…
Dieser Kommentar wurde vom Autor entfernt.
Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

She accused people of outing her. How can anyone prove she was already "out" without screencaps? Do note that the screencaps are not googleable, so I'm not sharing the information as freely as she had.

Bourgeois concepts of privilege are found among liberal antiracists and feminists who want to treat the symptoms rather than the cause.

"All I gather from your words is that somehow you find it wrong to focus on inequality in poverty and that you propose to »share the wealth« instead. Is that right?"

Yes. I am a socialist. Perhaps you're wondering if I'm a social democrat. I am not; I'm a libertarian democratic socialist. Or a Christian. Or a follower of Robin Hood. Or a leveler. It's all good.

"And if so, could you explain how focusing on inequality in poverty prevents you from addressing the problem of poverty in general, and what exactly you mean by »sharing the wealth«? "

I agree with Martin Luther King: you do not solve a problem by focusing on a small part of it. For example, you mention single mothers. Why focus on them when you can focus on poverty in general? Do you want to punish some members of the poor by excluding them?

By sharing the wealth, I mean working toward a classless society that shares its resources. Louis Blanc said it well: From each according to ability, to each according to need.

Anubis hat gesagt…

So, what are the causes of racism and sexism?

»Perhaps you're wondering if I'm a social democrat. I am not; I'm a libertarian democratic socialist.«

No, I didn’t think you’re a social democrat. I said on my post that »let’s share the wealth« is something a social democrat could say (and mean »let’s tax the rich a little more« or »let’s instigate a welfare state that softens some of the worst effects of poverty«). That’s why I didn’t find it a very satisfying thing to say, at least not without further explanation.

I prefer the term communism myself. It wouldn’t matter to me, but in Europe the word socialism tends to be associated with all kinds of bullshit, including authoritarian regimes and Schröder/Blair social democracy. In Germany, the party that introduced the most far-reaching neoliberal reforms since the founding of the Federal Republic acts in the name of democratic socialism. Of course, the word communism has its disadvantages too, but at least it doesn’t have that compromising flavor that social democrats gave to socialism.

»For example, you mention single mothers. Why focus on them when you can focus on poverty in general? Do you want to punish some members of the poor by excluding them?«

I don’t exclude anyone by focusing on single mothers. I would if I said that the poverty of other social groups doesn’t matter, or if I said that solving the problem of single mothers’ poverty would magically solve the problem of poverty for all. That would be focusing on a small part of the problem and misinterpreting it by ignoring the rest. As I said, it’s clear to me that capitalism is the cause of poverty, but why should this keep me from trying to find out how the class antagonism specifically affects a certain social group? The two questions are not mutually exclusive, and the important thing here is not to take a reductionist standpoint.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

On the origin of racism, these are good:

http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/spl/thandekawhiting.html

http://www.isreview.org/issues/26/roots_of_racism.shtml

Sexism is trickier. Engels wrote "In an old unpublished manuscript, written by Marx and myself in 1846, I find the words: “The first division of labor is that between man and woman for the propagation of children.” And today I can add: The first class opposition that appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male."

Marx and Engels considered socialism and communism to be synonyms. I do, too. But in much of the world, communism = Stalinism and Maoism, so I accept the distinction that socialism is the more democratic and gradual form of communism.

"The two questions are not mutually exclusive, and the important thing here is not to take a reductionist standpoint."

Full agreement. That's why I reject the race reductionism endorsed by comfortably middle class people like Jemisin.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

Oh, I generally admire Sharon Smith's writing. You might like this, about women's oppression:

http://isreview.org/issues/02/engles_family.shtml

And this on whiteness theory:

http://www.isreview.org/issues/46/whiteness.shtml

Anubis hat gesagt…

Thanks for the URLs to the articles. So far, I’ve only found the time to read the first one and skim through the rest, but regarding the »origin of racism«:* The UUA article is good, but hardly comprehensive. Racism, as I would define it, historically came up in the context of colonialism from the 1500s onward. By the way, the definition I use is based on Paul Mecheril’s: Racism is the (institutionalized) power to differentiate groups of people by physical and/or social traits, and to ascribe these traits to national, ethnic or cultural origins.

The article is right in pointing out that racism was an important factor in the establishment of slavery and served to seperate poor whites from enslaved blacks, but that was not the only historical mode of oppression in which racism played a part. Racism was there before Africans deported to North America legally became property, and it didn’t vanish when slavery was abolished. It served to justify the conquest and colonization of the world by European powers, and it still serves to justify the neo-colonial international division of labor today. Also, the history of the nation state is so closely linked to the history of racism and eugenics, that I am convinced that a world without racism can only be a world without nation states.

So yes, from the perspective of social theory, racism is a means to an end (I am referring to the article’s first sentences with emphasis added), but the defense of the class structure of modern North America is not its only end, and any definition of racism based on this historical context alone is too narrow. And of course, from the perspective of subject theory, racism is not a means to an end at all, but something that shapes people’s perception of themselves and others.

»That's why I reject the race reductionism endorsed by ...«

Race reductionism I would understand as the idea that all prevalent forms of oppression and inequality can be traced back to the social construct of race or to racism as their main cause. Can you prove that N.K. Jemisin holds this view? Or what is your understanding of race reductionism?

»... comfortably middle class people like Jemisin.«

You see, I think I understand what makes it so attractive to you to play the working class hero, but you really don’t have to put up that show for me. It’s simply not convincing. If you believe that intersectionality theories are insufficient or misleading, then don’t paint a picture of yourself as an underdog who has all the right ideas but fights a lone uphill struggle against the evil identitarians who sneer at you while they dote on their paychecks. Present a theory, not a ressentiment. Make an argument instead of claiming the standpoint of orthodoxy for yourself by putting your opponents in a box.

Concerning arguments: Not only did I find your attempt to establish that Beale’s fascism and Jemisin’s anti-racism are somehow the same remarkably stupid, I also think your own proposal (»Discard the idea of race«, because it is a foolish notion and a social construct) is unconvincing not only from an intersectionalist point of view, but also from a historical materialist one. Also, you haven’t explained how ending poverty will automatically result in ending racism.

* Without wanting to disregard the sexism in Beale’s attack on Jemisin, I’d say that it is primarily motivated by racism, so I suggest let’s talk about racism here.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

Mecheril's definition may work in Europe, but in the US, racism continues to be based on physical traits; tribalism and bigotry are based on social traits. While I agree that the goal is to end the nation state, that's not to end racism; that's to end tribalism. Racism is a very distinct concept, the idea that whiteness is good or bad. For example, people who like Christian Africans and hate Muslim Africans are not racist in US terms (though you could speak poetically of the race of Christians and the race of Muslims). People who hate Muslims, regardless of their race, are bigots. Their bigotry has nothing to do with the nation state, because it's targeted against a religion that transcends nation states.

As for the notion that I present myself as a working class hero, please quote me. My class background is unusual--see my Blogger bio--which gives me a first-hand experience of the US's class system. But to socialists, class background is irrelevant. What matters is your class alignment. Engels and Marx, as I trust you know, were both middle class.

Which is why it's so odd when socialists choose to adopt concepts like CRT that were developed at exclusive schools by well-paid academics from the middle classes who wanted to shift the problem with capitalism from exploitation of all working class folks to exploitation of dark-skinned folks.

As for Jemisin and CRT, she uses the terminology often, and she has referenced CRT online. I linked to an example in the post about her and VD.

Of course discarding race is "unconvincing" from an intersectionalist point of view. But from a historical materialist one, it's only relevant as a concept used by our opponents, just like Scientology's and Nation of Islam's concepts. Race is an idea to divide us, which just makes rich folks laugh and laugh when they bother to think about us at all.

Ah, well. Good luck fighting whiteness and maleness. You'll get a lot of help from capitalists on those fights. I'll stick to the war they're not interested in, the one that they continue to win.

Anubis hat gesagt…

The reason why it’s good to work with Mecheril’s definition is that it comes very close to the definition used by (primarily Latin American) theorists who are concerned with the question how racism shapes international relations. So I don’t think it’s a definition that works only in a local context, although I live in Europe and I’m primarily concerned with racism in Europe. To be sure, a different definition might be needed in the US context (which I don’t know personally). Talking about the historical origin of racism, it is important to note though that racism wasn’t invented in the US (or the North American colonies).

The talk about tribalism doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because it sounds unscientific, to say the least.

»My class background is unusual--see my Blogger bio--which gives me a first-hand experience of the US's class system. But to socialists, class background is irrelevant. What matters is your class alignment.«

I wasn’t interested in your class background, but rather wanted to point out the fact that the class background of your opponents seems to be very relevant to you. You basically say they must be wrong because they went to private universities (while your own class background gives you first-hand experience, of course ...). Which may be true or not, but in any case it doesn’t explain anything. That’s part of what makes your arguments so unconvincing.

Although I believe it matters where and by whom a theory was developped, it’s much more important to point out what the theory leads to, and why a different theory might be better to achieve your goal. It’s a pity you don’t really seem to care about this, because you are mostly preoccupied with pointing out how your opponents are privileged bourgeois SJ warriors and you are not.

»As for Jemisin and CRT, she uses the terminology often, and she has referenced CRT online. I linked to an example in the post about her and VD.«

I know you presented a tweet in which she references critical race theory, but the question here was whether you were right in calling her a race reductionist, i.e. someone who holds the view that social inequalities can be reduced to racism, or that the whole of society is determined by race constructs. Can you prove that? I don’t think so.

»Of course discarding race is "unconvincing" from an intersectionalist point of view. But from a historical materialist one, it's only relevant as a concept used by our opponents, just like Scientology's and Nation of Islam's concepts. Race is an idea to divide us, which just makes rich folks laugh and laugh when they bother to think about us at all.«

There are two sides to pointing out that something is a social construct: an epistemological and a sociological one. Of course it is true that racism as an idea is wrong and that we shouldn’t base our thoughts and actions on it. But if you think that’s all there is about it, you see only the epistemological side, while at the same time racism continues to be a social reality that shapes and structures society and the individuals that live in it.

It is very important to point out that race is a social construct, that it is not natural to classify human beings into different races, but it is even more important to find out how a racist system can effectively be transformed into an egalitarian society. The post-racial attitude of »racism is outdated and wrong, so let’s discard it by pretending to be colorblind« is an idealist fallacy that very easily leads to wishful thinking. That’s why it is unconvincing from a materialist perspective. Racism is not just an outdated notion that some ignorant people have in their heads. The notion of racism is alive because we continue to live in racist social relations.

»I'll stick to the war they're not interested in, the one that they continue to win.«

The reason why I wrote my blogpost is that I believe capitalism (not capitalists, incidentally) will continue to win if people keep fighting that war the way you do.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

We simply have to disagree on whether racism was invented in the Americas. Yes, tribalism is ancient. But racism was an Age of Enlightenment rationalization of the African slave trade: if people of the time wanted to believe all men are equal but some should be enslaved, they had to conclude that there's a racial hierarchy. It is significant that the first appearance of "white people" in North America's historical record was around 1680.

Jemisin's class background is significant because most people stay loyal to their class. Has Jemisin ever said anything in favor of socialism? If so, I've missed it.

"at the same time racism continues to be a social reality that shapes and structures society and the individuals that live in it."

Of course. The greatest problem with Critical Race Theory is that it accepts the divisions of an evil social reality. You cannot create a "separate but equal" egalitarian society. You can only create an egalitarian society that rejects racial and gender division.

And our greatest disagreement: I believe that so long as you're helping capitalists fight the war they want to fight, they will continue to win.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

I realized that part of this discussion might deserve a broader audience, so I made a post here: http://sjwar.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-privilege-theorists-anti-scientific.html

Anubis hat gesagt…

Thanks for making me aware of this, but I won’t answer there, because I don’t have a Google+ account. You misrepresented my views in your post, because I’m not a »privilege theorist« (I don’t think I even used it as a theoretical category here), and I never said that you can’t distinguish tribalism from racism. When I said you sounded unscientific, I was referring to your implication that the nation state was somehow based on tribalism, and therefore the nation state couldn’t have anything to do with racism. The meanings of tribalism known to me are a) people living together organized as a tribe, and b) the idea that people who live in tribes value their fellow tribal members higher than outsiders. None of which is true of the nation state. Can you explain what you mean by tribalism, and how you think it relates to the nation state?

It goes without saying that I never claimed that »failing to distinguish between very different things is scientific«, as you assert in your post. Next time you decide a discussion with me »might deserve a broader audience«, pay a little more attention to what I actually say. And there’s always the possibility to ask someone to clarify a position, as I have done several times during this discussion (sometimes without receiving an answer, but that won’t stop me from trying).

Anubis hat gesagt…

»Yes, tribalism is ancient. But racism was an Age of Enlightenment rationalization of the African slave trade: if people of the time wanted to believe all men are equal but some should be enslaved, they had to conclude that there's a racial hierarchy.«

I never said that racism is ancient (unless you believe »from the 1500s« is ancient). Racism is a distinctively modern concept. All I said is that even before the Atlantic slave trade, people wanted to believe that the native populations of Africa and the Americas were human beings who had a soul but should be subdued under colonial rule, so they had to conclude that there’s a natural hierarchy. Even today there are certain individuals who believe that, although we are all Homo sapiens, some of us deserve to be shot like rabid animals because by their nature they lack the intelligence to behave in a civilized way. And while Beale might be a fringe phenomenon, you don’t need to go far to hear someone give a similar explanation why immigrants should do all the lousy jobs that no one else wants.

As I see it, the immediate predecessor of racism was when in late 15th century Spain the Christian authorities began to consider conversions of former Jews und Muslims as unsincere and ascribed this to the conversos’ blood. The first real instance of modern racism then occurred when in the Americas the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors established that people of purely European descent had a higher status than the »mixed« and native population. You should read The Aryan Myth, Léon Poliakov’s work on the history of racist thought, which argues this case in great detail. It’s an interesting book even if you don’t agree with its premises.

»Has Jemisin ever said anything in favor of socialism? If so, I've missed it.«

As far as I know, she hasn’t (or I’ve missed it too). But neither has the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. But has this got anything to do with your assertion that Jemisin is a race reductionist?

»I believe that so long as you're helping capitalists fight the war they want to fight, they will continue to win.«

I really hope you’re speaking figuratively here, because if not, I’d have to assume that your thinking borders on conspiracy theories. I see the attraction in regarding your opponents as part of an evil masterplan, but so far, I’ve never met a single capitalist who wanted me to get involved in anti-racist struggles (and I’ve met several). If you want to say that many of the concepts that have been developped by the new left conform to neoliberalism (just as many of the concepts developped by the old left conformed to Fordism), fine. That’s the historical materialist way of thinking. But people aren’t brainwashed, and you shouldn’t overestimate the ideological factor in people’s conformity.

I think the main factor in people’s conformity to capitalism is that they are consumed by dull jobs and worrying about their health and old-age poverty, and not that they are really convinced by academical theories or have a clear-cut ideology.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

I'm always a bit amused when people merrily attribute to me anything they please, then complain when I misunderstand them. But I'm also sorry when I misattribute something. I've run into Mecheril's conflation of different kinds of prejudice from privilege theorists, so that may've been why I thought you were one, too. I've added a comment to the post that you clarify your position here.

The first definition of tribe that I could google is close to what I'm talking about: "any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc." The Roman Empire's concept of citizenship was tribal: if you were a citizen, it didn't matter which of the official languages you spoke, and it sure didn't matter what race you were: you were Roman. Nazi Germany's concept of citizenship was racial. Historically, the US has been a battleground for tribal and racial understandings, but the institutional power of the racialists was broken in the 1960s, and now we're dealing with the consequences of the war.

To understand prejudice in the US, Mecheril's definition, "physical and/or social traits", is sloppy. Physical traits are racial and social traits are tribal. The white person who likes African Christians and hates white Muslims is not a racist--unless you're using "racist" in, to use your term, a unscientific way, to generally refer to any distinction of us and them.

As for your wish for me to clarify points I haven't addressed, I will be writing more about my understanding of socialism on my main blog.

"even before the Atlantic slave trade, people wanted to believe that the native populations of Africa and the Americas were human beings who had a soul but should be subdued under colonial rule, so they had to conclude that there’s a natural hierarchy"

No one ever needed a racial understanding of humans to conquer and enslave other humans until the African slave trade developed. There's a reason why Irish rebels could be enslaved in the 1600s but not in the 1700s, and that reason is the development of the pseudo-scientific idea of race.

"you don’t need to go far to hear someone give a similar explanation why immigrants should do all the lousy jobs that no one else wants"

That's a perfect example of tribalism or nationalism, not racism. There's an amusing discussion of race and class in England by a black American comedian here: http://youtu.be/NlmVyW0Or6g

I'm making the mental note about The Aryan Myth. As for your examples, there are places that had beliefs that gave some groundwork to the idea of racism. You can find Muslim and Jewish writers saying that African slaves were best, but that didn't preclude enslaving people besides Africans. Romans thought northern Europeans made excellent slaves, and Catholics thought it was better to kill than trust Cathars, but that hardly made them racist.

Jemisin is a race reductionist because she discusses race in a vacuum, as a distinct thing that only sometimes intersects with other things. She's among the people who get upset if you mention class in a discussion of race. She's written a great deal about race, so noting what's absent really isn't that hard to do.

"I think the main factor in people’s conformity to capitalism is that they are consumed by dull jobs and worrying about their health and old-age poverty, and not that they are really convinced by academical theories or have a clear-cut ideology."

Agreed. The exceptions are people like fandom's social justice warriors and identitarian journalists who love to attack those who do not support their neoliberal-friendly academic theories.

Anubis hat gesagt…

»I'm always a bit amused when people merrily attribute to me anything they please, then complain when I misunderstand them.«

Well, here’s something that helps: Don’t regard people you talk with as »them«, the mass of scheming SJ warriors who attribute to you »anything they please« (which sounds bitter, not amused, if I may be frank).

»The first definition of tribe that I could google is close to what I'm talking about: "any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc."«

The main difference between a tribal system and the modern concept of the nation is that in a tribe, most people know each other personally, and if not, two members of a tribe who haven’t met before need only enumerate some of their respective ancestors, and they will know exactly who the other person is, what’s their status in the tribe etc. They are related to each other in a way that’s perfectly clear to them. There is no equivalent to that in the idea of the nation, because the bonds that members of a nation supposedly share with each other are almost completely imaginary. I attend a university, I’m a protestant, and I spend my life commuting between the two largest cities of Germany. According to the concept of the nation, I share a common identity with a Roman Catholic Bavarian villager, who I’ve never met and about whose life I know close to nothing (and vice versa). There are no common ancestors that I could possibly know about, and only few common customs and traditions (and I don’t adhere to any leaders at all). The nation is the mythology of the state, while the power structure of the state is what really binds the Bavarian villager and me together (and seperates us from the immigrants who drown in the Mediterranean sea before they even arrive at the German borders).

This is why I don’t see how the concept of tribalism could be used to describe the problem of the nation state in a way that makes sense. Perhaps the disagreement here is that while I talk about nations and nation states, you talk about concepts of citizenship, things that are closely linked to each other but not quite the same.

»To understand prejudice in the US, Mecheril's definition, "physical and/or social traits", is sloppy.«

To clarify this: The definition I gave is my own. It is based on (or inspired by) Mecheril’s work, but the words are mine, and if there is any sloppiness, it must be attributed to me, not to Mecheril.

»The white person who likes African Christians and hates white Muslims is not a racist--unless you're using "racist" in, to use your term, a unscientific way, to generally refer to any distinction of us and them.«

To use the word racism to refer to any distinction of us and them would be unscientific, sure. But the other extreme is when definitions become positivistic and tautological (»racism is when people talk about races«). When someone talks about inferior cultures (or inferior ethnic groups) instead of inferior races, but uses the same rhetoric of exclusion, and the same power mechanisms are involved, then it’s still important to note the differences, but more decisive is that both discourses function in the same way.

Anubis hat gesagt…

Beale, according to Beale, is not white and not a white supremacist. In his worldview there are races, but he finds it more accurate to speak of subspecies of Homo sapiens, of which people of African descent are the most genetically pure. He claims he differentiates people not primarily by their pigmentation, but by what he assumes is their average I.Q. He feels the stability of the US is threatened, not by a race, but by »savages« and »Aztec« invaders from the south.

He could say all this drivel without ever referring to the pseudo-scientific race theories developped in the 18th century. When you engaged him on your blog, he rubbed it in your face that your definition of racism doesn’t fit on him. Not that he wouldn’t try to do that anyway, but I think this serves as an example why a too narrow definition of racism is problematic when it comes to exposing racism.

»"you don’t need to go far to hear someone give a similar explanation why immigrants should do all the lousy jobs that no one else wants"
That's a perfect example of tribalism or nationalism, not racism.«

Actually no, because no one ever says that about white immigrants from Switzerland or Denmark. People who rant about immigrants (or believe it’s okay to let them clean houses for ridiculously little money) almost always differentiate among immigrants (again, based on physical or social traits) without explicitly saying so.

»Jemisin is a race reductionist because she discusses race in a vacuum, as a distinct thing that only sometimes intersects with other things. She's among the people who get upset if you mention class in a discussion of race. She's written a great deal about race, so noting what's absent really isn't that hard to do.«

So I understand you called her a reductionist in a purely polemical sense, which I don’t think is a good idea. Well, none of this was a good idea, because it slandered Jemisin and presented Beale with another opportunity to play the smart guy.

»... people like fandom's social justice warriors and identitarian journalists who love to attack those who do not support their neoliberal-friendly academic theories ...«

Has this kind of rhetoric ever convinced anyone that your strategy to overcome racism might be the better alternative?

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

I'll be dropping out of this soon, because this discussion is keeping from making my socialism posts. But:

"which sounds bitter, not amused, if I may be frank"

Tone is often misunderstood on the net. Racefail 09 would've never happened if people had been talking to each other in person.

"in a tribe, most people know each other personally"

You're using tribe in a much smaller sense than I do, maybe because in the Americas, there have been tribes that were enormous. I'm using it in the broadest sense, to describe identities that may be joined or rejected, like religion and nationality. The Cherokee do not all know each other, or know someone who knows someone, but until they voted to adopt the US concept of race (google Cherokee freedmen for more info if you're curious), being Cherokee was about culture, not race. As I may've already said, you can join a tribe, but you cannot join a race.

I suspect we agree that nations are granfalloons.

"When someone talks about inferior cultures (or inferior ethnic groups) instead of inferior races, but uses the same rhetoric of exclusion, and the same power mechanisms are involved, then it’s still important to note the differences, but more decisive is that both discourses function in the same way."

I'm having trouble with that sentence. The "rhetoric of exclusion" is used in so many ways by people who love hierarchies. People who support one football team may talk of the other team's supporters as inferior, but that's not racism. Do you think class prejudice is racism?

And I must stress that the solution for humanity's prejudices are very different. The only way to end racial and sexual prejudices is to convince people that the differences between the races and sexes are insignificant. But the way to end the many different tribal prejudices is to convince people that those differences should be accepted and respected. You say you're not a privilege theorist, but with class prejudice, neither of those approaches is appropriate: the solution with class oppression is to end the class system.

Beale's insistance that my "definition of racism doesn’t fit on him" is irrelevant. Racists and racialists always insist they're only being scientific. Trying to reason with them is as silly as trying to reason with any cultist.

"no one ever says that about white immigrants from Switzerland or Denmark"

Did you play the video I linked to? If what you say is true of Germany, do they also never say things like that about white immigrants from further east? Or do Germans think the Nordic nations are one race, and white people from elsewhere are another race?

"you called her a reductionist in a purely polemical sense"

If you can give me one example of her discussing race in any other way, I would be infinitely grateful. But the burden of proof here is on you: finding examples of her speaking in race reductionist ways is as easy as googling her name plus "race". Try googling her name and "class" and I doubt you'll find anything significant, though I confess, I got bored, so I didn't google long.

"Has this kind of rhetoric ever convinced anyone that your strategy to overcome racism might be the better alternative?"

Of course not. The internet is not for convincing people, a lesson I've finally learned. Only a change in life will make people question their worldview.

Anubis hat gesagt…

»I'll be dropping out of this soon ...«

Me too, because from Thursday on, for two weeks I won’t be spending much time on the internet.

»You're using tribe in a much smaller sense than I do, maybe because in the Americas, there have been tribes that were enormous.«

Yes, I derived from other contexts what I said about tribes here, and it might not be applicable to North America. As I said, I’ve never been to the US.

I’d like to stress the point, though, that nations (as in nation state) are not tribes, and are usually not joined or rejected at will. The state decides who gets in and who doesn’t, and the state is an oppressive structure by its very nature. In a world without states, there would be no need for the imagined communities called nations, who supposedly constitute the state. Of course, you would still be free to identify as a member of a tribe or a people.

»You say you're not a privilege theorist, but with class prejudice, neither of those approaches is appropriate: the solution with class oppression is to end the class system.«

Classism as a category is a fine tool to analyze how class background influences people. It is especially important since many radical leftists have an academic middle class backgound that strongly affects the way of thinking and interacting among leftists. Classism shouldn’t be confused, however, with the class antagonism described by Marx, which will end only when capitalism ends.

»Beale's insistance that my "definition of racism doesn’t fit on him" is irrelevant.«

His insistence is irrelevant on theoretical grounds, sure. He may convince others, though, and then it’s important to be able to counter what he says.

»If what you say is true of Germany, do they also never say things like that about white immigrants from further east? Or do Germans think the Nordic nations are one race, and white people from elsewhere are another race?«

Hardly anyone in Germany thinks in terms of race, since the concept has been thoroughly discredited for obvious historical reasons. Even some (not all) fascists in Germany prefer to avoid terms like racialism or aryanism or white supremacy, and call themselves ethnopluralists instead (a concept that comes very close to what Beale is saying).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there’s no racism in Germany. I’d rather say that Germany is a particularly interesting place to study what great lengths people go to stick to their racist beliefs when they cannot use the word itself.

Immigrants from Eastern Europe are largely met with prejudice and sometimes outright hostility (ironically, this even happens to ethnic Germans who immigrate from Eastern Europe). Germans have racialized Eastern Europeans in the past (after all, the Nazis’ war of annihilation against the USSR was inspired by the belief that Eastern Europeans were racially inferior to Germans), and although few would admit to it, the idea certainly lingers. There’s an ongoing debate whether this constitutes actual racism today, because many Eastern Europeans can pass as Germans, an option that people of color don’t have.

»If you can give me one example of her discussing race in any other way, I would be infinitely grateful. But the burden of proof here is on you ...«

The burden of proof is certainly not on me, because I’m not the one who says she is a race reductionist, and I’m also not a member of the Church of Saint Popper. Nonetheless, when I googled her name plus »race«, I didn’t find anything on the first pages that indicated she was a race reductionist (i.e. the belief that all social conflicts and subjective identities can be reduced to racial differences).

Fun fact: When I googled her name plus »race reductionist«, all that came up on the first page were posts written by you, with the single exception of my post, which criticizes yours (on the pages that follow seem to be links to texts with the word »reductionist« in contexts that clearly don’t refer to Jemisin’s positions).

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

"nations (as in nation state) are not tribes, and are usually not joined or rejected at will"

Nations are not tribes in the narrow sense, but they are in the broader. Most nations, like most tribes, have ways to join and ways to leave.

"Classism as a category is a fine tool to analyze how class background influences people."

I'll never understand why we need a new word for snobbery. But I do understand why bourgeois academics disagree.

"He may convince others, though, and then it’s important to be able to counter what he says."

He'll convince people in the same CRTers convince people: people who are predisposed to see the world that way will accept his model, but most people will just roll their eyes.

"I’d rather say that Germany is a particularly interesting place to study what great lengths people go to stick to their racist beliefs when they cannot use the word itself."

Or perhaps you're clinging to the concept of "racism" where xenophobia is the more accurate explanation.

"The burden of proof is certainly not on me..."

If you got nothing, no big. I didn't expect you to come up with anything.

"When I googled her name plus »race reductionist«, all that came up on the first page were posts written by you"

Of course. "Race reductionist" is my phrase, because i'm so bored by intersectionalists who reject considerations of class by accusing anyone who brings it up of being a class reductionist. I'm with Adolph Reed Jr. here:

"Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it. There can be only Todd Gitlin (the sociologist and former SDS leader who has become, both fairly and as caricature, the symbol of a “class-first” line) and their own heroic, truth-telling selves, and whoever is not the latter must be the former. Thus the logic of straining to assign guilt by association substitutes for argument.

"My position is—and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this bluntly, yet to no avail, in response to those in blissful thrall of the comforting Manicheanism—that of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism."

Well, it's been interesting. Have a nice vacation from the web!

Anubis hat gesagt…

As I still see the need to clarify some things here, a belated answer:

“Do you think class prejudice is racism?”

Of course not. As you might have seen, it doesn’t fit the definition of racism I gave above.

“I’ll never understand why we need a new word for snobbery. But I do understand why bourgeois academics disagree.”

Classism, as it is commonly used, is not a new word for snobbery, so you might want to reconsider both your non-understanding and your understanding.

“Or perhaps you’re clinging to the concept of ‘racism’ where xenophobia is the more accurate explanation.”

As I already explained, xenophobia (in the sense of prejudice against foreigners) is not the issue here. Racism in Germany is not directed against white people from Belgium or Sweden who work or travel or simply live here. It is directed against people of colour and people with an Eastern European background, whether they be German or foreigners.

“‘Race reductionist’ is my phrase, because i’m so bored by intersectionalists who reject considerations of class by accusing anyone who brings it up of being a class reductionist.”

As I said, you’re using the phrase in a purely polemical sense. Which makes your asking for examples “of her discussing race in any other way [that is not reductionist]” even more pointless.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

I hope you had a nice vacation.

Classism is "unfair treatment of people because of their social or economic class". At least, that's what I get when I use a dictionary, in this case, Merriam-Webster. It's not about ending the class system. It's like noblesse oblige: be nice to the lower classes if you want to seem like a superior member of the superior class. Jemisin is pretty much the definition of a bourgie black woman, so far as I know.

Re "It is directed against people of colour and people with an Eastern European background", does that mean there's an Eastern European race now?

Anubis hat gesagt…

Thanks, apart from some unpleasant experiences of police brutality I had a very nice vacation.

“Classism is ‘unfair treatment of people because of their social or economic class’. At least, that's what I get when I use a dictionary, in this case, Merriam-Webster.”

Well, dictionary definitions ...

“It's not about ending the class system. It's like noblesse oblige: be nice to the lower classes if you want to seem like a superior member of the superior class.”

Whereas snobbery is an attitude of outright disdain for people of a perceived lower status. I thought science is about finding “both differences and similarities in order to be precise in addressing problems”? Or is this not about science at all, but another polemical choice of words?

My view of the classism concept is not as pessimistic as yours. A critique of classism can help the left to be self-critical, to overcome its own virulent class prejudice. Ending the class system is a different matter, of course, tantamount to ending capitalism.

“Jemisin is pretty much the definition of a bourgie black woman, so far as I know.”

If Jemisin being a “bourgie black woman” is your real problem with her (which would be telling in itself), and the clamor about “race reductionism” is merely a reflex of that, then it is even more disgusting that you equated her with Beale.

“Re ‘It is directed against people of colour and people with an Eastern European background’, does that mean there's an Eastern European race now?”

There is an Eastern European race as much as there is an Eastern European tribe. Of course, that didn’t prevent racist ideologues from inventing an Eastern European race—in the writings of the early 20th century race theorists variously called the alpine race or the ostic race. Not to mention the Nazi propaganda talk about “Slavic subhumans”.

The concept of the Eastern European race is now regarded as outdated. The stereotypes associated with it and the willingness to treat people with an Eastern European background like serfs persists. Which shows that racism doesn’t depend on the belief that human races actually exist.

Will Shetterly hat gesagt…

Police brutality? Have you written about that?

Yeah, I confess it: I use dictionaries. It's a weakness that comes for a neurotic desire to be able to communicate with others. I'm trying to get over that.

And yes, to be a classist is to be a snob. The people who oppose classism, the anti-classists, are like the people who promoted noblesse oblige. I used to think that the term could be useful, and defended it to Steve Brust at least once, but I've given up on it.

I have problems with the self-serving beliefs of bourgie folks of all genders and hues. Having a protective streak in me, I used to be more forgiving of black women, until I realized that was both sexist and racist. Now I cut them no more slack than I cut anyone else.

In addition to the Slavic subhumans, who are probably seen the way the Catholic Irish were seen in the US in the 19th century, do you have a German equivalent of white trash? Meaning the people whose identity group should give them white privilege, but because they have never had money, they have suffered from generational poverty and are therefore despised by the middle and upper classes?

Anubis hat gesagt…

“Police brutality? Have you written about that?”

On this blog, I only write about political stuff when it has something to do with fandom or with literature in general. In short: I was on a protest march (against police violence, ironically). We were right under a highway bridge, when plainclothes officers shot tear gas shells from both sides of the bridge, so the only way out (backward or forward) was through a literal wall of gas. Luckily, no one panicked and we got out there without any permanent harm.

“[D]o you have a German equivalent of white trash? Meaning the people whose identity group should give them white privilege, but because they have never had money, they have suffered from generational poverty and are therefore despised by the middle and upper classes?”

An interesting question. There is a disparaging middle class discourse about Unterschichten (translates roughly as lower classes). The stereotypical Unterschichten member are teenage parents or school dropouts with very little formal education (because they staunchly resist the heroic efforts of a host of teachers and social workers), who buy a new television set every two months (because they receive gigantic sums of welfare money that the state takes from hard-working tax payers), cherish only the most cheesy forms of entertainment (because they don’t grasp the significance of Germany’s outstanding cultural achievements) and are unwilling to work (because the country is run by do-gooders who don’t know how to make them work).

But I don’t think the Unterschichten are an equivalent of white trash, because this discourse is directed against poor POCs and whites alike. In many ways, it resembles the chav_ette stereotype from Britain (although the Unterschichten are not necessarily accused of being too violent, rather of being lazy—after all, we’re in Germany).

East Germans are often regarded as being not only poorer, but also more susceptible to racism and bigotry than West Germans. This is not totally made up, because neo-nazism is more prevalent in East Germany, but the fact is often used by middle and upper class people to divert from their own bigotry. I’d say the image that white inhabitants of economically disadvantaged, mostly rural areas in East Germany have comes closest to white trash in the US.

Foto-Disclaimer

Das Foto im Blog-Header wurde freundlicherweise von Sandra Rugina zur Verfügung gestellt. Es zeigt den Bâlea-See in den rumänischen Karpaten. Alle Rechte liegen bei der Autorin.