It happened again the other day. Someone I know and love a lot said something pretty messed up, and I didn’t say anything. In this case, it was about someone needing to “learn to speak English” when the person spoke with a heavy accent and was hard to understand. Whenever I bite my tongue in situations like this one, I want to punch myself in the stomach. I have committed a huge part of my life to working against oppression and the “-isms,” yet far too often I stay quiet when people say some stuff that is super “-ist.” Thus, I wanted to open this week’s blog entry as a discussion on how to best handle conversations like this!
I think one of the best approaches to this topic that I have seen was from Jay Smooth of the vlog Ill Doctrine.
Man! People HATE political correctness! In his column written in 2000, Bill Lind goes as far as to call it “Cultural Marxism,” exclaiming:
“It’s deadly serious. It is the great disease of our century, the disease that has left tens of millions of people dead in Europe, in Russia, in China, indeed around the world. It is the disease of ideology. PC is not funny. PC is deadly serious.”
Extreme? Perhaps . . . When most people hear the term PC, images like the following seem to spring to mind:
When my friend Nikkie suggested that I write my next blog on a form of bigotry that is not often discussed, I was a little unsure of how to approach this topic. I still am. I have been sitting at the computer for a few hours trying to figure out how to write this particular blog entry. I realize that my own prejudice is likely to weigh heavily in my writing seeing as it is a topic of such discomfort for me. When Nikkie brought it up, though, I immediately thought of one of my recent presentations of “The Wall” from a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership seminar this summer.
After I presented, a young woman came up to me and told me that she loved the presentation but that she thought it was lacking in one important way. I had left out an incredibly common form of bigotry that needs to be addressed: “weight hate” or prejudice and bigotry based on someone being overweight. Her comment struck me because she is right in that issues of “weight hate” are not ones I often consider in my anti-oppression work.
For me, my own prejudice and bigotry enters the picture so easily. I carry my own baggage. I remember being pretty young and having my friend Kyle constantly comment on the fact that my mom was fat. I carried a lot of shame in that . . . though I do want to throw a quick shout-out to my mom who, through healthy diet and exercise, has managed to lose 90 lbs in the last few years. Due to my own baggage, though, it is so common for me to simply think, “If you’re overweight, it is a choice that you have made to live an unhealthy lifestyle.” After all, we live in a country where 25% of folks are considered “obese.”
Lately I’ve been rereading one of the books on my list of awesome resources in literature. I had almost forgotten why I had put Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks on there in the first place, but it has been blowing my mind (as it did the first time I read it a number of years ago) and really has me thinking about issues of class in my life and our society, so I wanted to take some time on here to reflect on some of hooks’ points and how they relate to our wider struggle for class justice in our society.
One of the concepts that comes up a lot in her book is that of “class solidarity.” Indeed, the very notion of solidarity is key to my understanding of justice and social change. After all, I am a straight, white man from an upper-class, Christian background who is working to combat oppression. There is no real way in which I am oppressed, yet that does not exclude me from anti-oppression work. In fact, it simply means that I have to work in spite of or through my privilege to realize any change, and that often means working in solidarity.
Now, the concept of solidarity is perhaps a topic for a separate blog entry entirely, and I don’t want to get too distracted from my original purpose, but I am curious to hear from my readers. What does solidarity mean to you?
When I was reading the chapter “Class and the Politics of Living Simply” from Where We Stand: Class Matters, I was struck by hooks’ words about “class solidarity:”
To stand in solidarity with the poor is no easy gesture at a time when individuals of all classes are encouraged to fear for their economic well-being. Certainly the fear of being taken advantage of by those in need has led many people with class privilege to turn their backs on the poor. As the gap between rich and poor intensifies in this society, those voices that urge solidarity with the poor are often drowned out by mainstream conservative voices that deride, degrade, and devalue the poor . . . we need a concerned left politics that continues to launch powerful critique of the ruling class groups even as it also addresses and attends to the issues of strategic assault and demoralization of the poor, a politics that can effectively intervene on class warfare (hooks p. 46)