Tuesday, October 25, 2005

thoughts on inside/outside: stay in your place boy...

I just read an article by Eugene Robinson about condoleeza rice over at Steve Gilliard and Jen'sNEWS BLOG which really struck me, both the article and Steve's commentary. From Robinson:

"As we were flying to Alabama, Rice said an interesting thing. She was talking about the history of the civil rights movement, and she said, 'If you read Frederick Douglass, he was not petitioning from outside of the institutions but rather demanding that the institutions live up to what they said they were. If you read Martin Luther King, he was not petitioning from outside, he was petitioning from inside the principles and the institutions, and challenging America to be what America said that it was.'"

What the fuck? In a very literal way perhaps that is true, but only if you are talking about our national institutions and the raceless egalitarian language found in them. Yes, they were calling for us all to live up to what are ostensibly our guiding principles, but that meant destroying and dismantling the institutions which were in opposition to that. Like slavery. Or jim crow.

Those were institutions in our nation once upon a time and the exclusion of blacks from public office was institutional throughout much of our country until not so long ago. It was aggressively opposing the institutional racism in this country, particularly in the south, that the civil rights movement in the 60's was about. That blacks were required to move to the back of the bus was not some quaint notion that folks had just fallen into. It was enforced by local government institutions.

But really this is nitpicking: what is her damn point? Douglass and King were both inextricably a part of their times and they didn't withdraw and take a circuitous route through it. They fought injustice head-on and pointed flat out what was wrong instead of accepting things as they were, but that didn't mean they joined up with the shit that was going wrong in the country. Did you see King or Parks (peace be with her today) applying to be bus drivers? No, the bus system was fucked up so they boycotted it, they didn't join it. The reason I say this is because, and perhaps I am drawing conclusions as there is not a whole lot of surrounding context with that quote, dr. rice seems to be defending herself for throwing her lot in with republicans.

Which sounds a lot like the damn log cabin republicans.

Or best little boy in the world syndrome.

Which brings me to Steve's point:

"But what I think Robinson misses and is clear is that Rice has always been the special girl. Her parents made her special, her mentors made her special. At no time was she obligated to help or assist anyone behind her. Because she was special. Everything is all about her. Rice also has benefitted from the approval of her elders. Why challenge those who help you along and praise your manners?

"Her parents raised her with the idea that achievement was good enough. If she was cultured and smart enough, it would be a sign that she could compete with whites and that was important. The problem was that Rice is blind to the fact that her position was only possible by the sacrifice of others. So while Rice played her piano, other kids were being beaten by the local police. She has never thought she owed them anything, despite her success."

Again, "She has never thought she owed them anything, despite her success." Maybe with the republicans IS where she belongs. This idea of I-got-mine crap is what pisses me off about republicans in general, but gay republicans in particular. It seems to also be what gets Steve Gilliard and so many other black people pissed off at black republicans. The idea that making it yourself is enough. The idea that others aren't left behind, didn't help you get there, that you are where you are because you just chose to take care of things and if you did it, why didn't all those other miserable people do it? If some folks don't like getting targeted by the police, why aren't they just more careful? Why do they think they should get special treatment? If they want to go to college, why don't they get a job or a scholarship or something? I DID IT, WHY CAN'T YOU? And why should I care if you don't, as long as you stay in your place, boy?

Because that is what the republicans say to black people and it is what they say to gay people. Just do what you're supposed to and everything will be alright. There is a remarkable difference, in that (most) gay people can 'pass'. We can pretend to be something other what we are and pay that price internally. So sometimes we have an option to hide our otherness when confronted with bigotry. And when our families don't reject us, many of us who are white and gay have the backing of families which have been integrated into the local power structures for generations and come from well-educated backgrounds and are expected and encouraged to go to college (not to say that there aren't black families with all these things, but not the same percentage, which is exactly the disparity that affirmative action is meant to address). I come from a middle-class family that I could depend on protecting and sheltering me and that I could retreat into when my being different was dangerous for me during my developmental years. Which I guess is much like condoleeza. Her family provided her with that retreat and protection, which is what families are supposed to supply for their children, but what of her choice to stay in a bubble as an adult? Which is what she has done. She has hidden in the patronage of the neocons and bushes, and never looked out to those who didn't have the same shelter she did. She was friends with one of the girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church? How does this not haunt her?

Really, and perhaps I am getting too telling here, but I remember those who didn't make it out on the other side. I don't mean folks just getting killed, but getting crushed. Watching folks struggling to get the hell out of the mess they had been told was their place and not making it. I don't just mean gay folks, though I certainly do include some in this number, and I don't mean just a geographic escape though sometimes that is what it takes. How do you turn your back on those you could have been? I could have easily, very easily been a junkie or a hustler or beat the fuck up for being gay or have contracted HIV/syphilis/hepatitus before I knew how the hell to protect myself. Before I knew that I was worth protecting, because even though, thankfully I was blessed with a family that told me everyday that I was loved and that I mattered, the world out there was telling me that I didn't and that my family wouldn't think so either if they knew the truth about me. I was valuable, but not if I was gay. I would catch AIDS and die and I would DESERVE TO. Don't for a second tell me that wasn't the republican message in the eighties. I was young, I wasn't blind or stupid. And I dare you to say that isn't their message to gay kids now. It isn't accidental. It is on purpose and it is institutional. Bigotry and greedy self interest are the right's biggest selling points.

How do gay republicans not see themselves when they look back at highschool kids today? There are plenty of kids who are coming out and being more accepted today than ever, but high school is still a very dramatic and traumatic time and we have a president and his party who control both house's of congress passing laws prohibiting educators from teaching anything about condoms except to stress failure rates. That is tantamount to an attempt to kill kids, particularly gay kids, and I'm sorry, but if you are in your late twenties/early thirties and gay and not HIV+, you owe a hell of a debt to public education about safe sex. Democrats aren't perfect, but you will never see a democratic candidate trying to keep youth educators from teaching teens the importance of wearing condoms.

This is what conservativism is about: keeping people in their places and reinforcing consequences to punish those who step outside of those bounds. That is what the abstenance ed is about: making kids who don't wait until marriage more likely to contract a disease or get pregnant. It isn't about protecting kids, it is about making them stay in the societal bounds that some assholes want them to and making them pay if they don't. Be the best little boy/girl in the world or else you deserve what you get. Fags and whores get what they deserve.

This is what racial profiling is about: making visibility more precarious for black people. If a black person gets pulled over by a cop in this country, more often than not his car is going to be searched. Even if he is polite, even if he has registration, liscense, no record, so if (s)he is breaking even a minor law, they are more likely to be caught. Adding consequence to black people stepping out of line. Be the best little boy/girl in the world or else you deserve what you get. N****rs that don't stay in their place get what they deserve.

I guess that is the same purpose of the new bankrupcy/credit guidlines. Best little or else. Po folks get what they deserve.

Keep them faggots/n****rs/po folks running. I deserved what I got, they deserve what they'll get.

I come from AL, too. My dad saw dr. rice's motorcade go rolling by last week. I could have easily been Scotty Joe Weaver or Billy Jack Gaither and she could have been Denise McNair, but circumstance and chance and family protected us both from that. The difference is that I don't work for people who play to the people who wouldn't have cared if either of us had ended up that way. I didn't spend the day shoe shopping while a whole hell of a lot of the people I could have been (and was in a position to help) were left to die.


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