In Which I Have Learnt About Racism in the US

I wasn’t going to comment on the Charleston terrorist because I knew that a lot of people would automatically take umbrage with the term ‘terrorist’, and more might expect a ‘not all atheists’ blog. Both of those potentials are weird and exhausting so I figured I’d just share some posts by people smarter than me. Like this and this:

I think between them they express my opinion enough that I don’t need to waste Internet space trying to say the same thing. What I would like to talk about today is what I’ve been learning about the American south recently. I have never actually been to the States and I suppose I’ve been quite lucky in that the American culture I’ve absorbed over the years is as intelligent, if not more so, than the culture I’ve experienced from anywhere. MCR, Mindless, a million and one novels, the civil rights movement et al is all really fucking smart. No racism allowed, no sexism allowed, don’t be a piece of shit to other people and what in God’s name is wrong with letting people get married.

In the wake of this Charleston murder spree I’ve learnt that I’ve been really lucky, and blinkered, to only experience the smart people. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there are stupid laws about letting idiots own guns and letting police officers shoot unarmed suspects… and I have a Tumblr account; I read the ‘white privilege’ posts. I just didn’t fully understand them until recently. I try really hard not to be a ‘all x people’ – when the English say ‘Americans are stupid’, I’m usually the first person to say ‘maybe you just haven’t met the smart ones. There’s a lot of people in that country, statistically they can’t all be as thick as this fucker on Fox News’.

By the same token when I see a post screaming about all the white people, promoting misandry or being rude about straight people, I think ‘you’re tarring a group the way some people tar your group. Kindly look out of your fucking window and understand that being discriminated against does not give you leave to discriminate’. Judge people based on their shitty personalities for Christ’s sake… So that’s me trying to be less of an arsehole than the dregs of Tumblr.

I just had no idea that the Confederate flag flies over the South Carolina or that roads are named for Confederate generals who fought for slavery that descendants of slaves have to pass through every day on their way to work. Those Tumblr users still need to grow up, but I think I understand more about why they’re so angry. I’m angry, and I’m white and live thousands of miles away from where this shit is happening. There is an inherent race issue because it’s fucking ingrained into the nation’s subconscious. Changing laws is one thing; changing culture is quite another and I must say, American government, I can’t believe you have the gall to invade other countries to teach them how to deal with racially-motivated terrorists when you have the problem within your own boarders.

I also didn’t know that being an atheist in the South is a really huge deal. Until I saw this:

There are two schools of atheist thought? Some atheists are against feminism? Whut. I think I’m beginning to understand why Dustin Lance Black makes a point of going back to Texas… Liberals in the States are dealing with a lot more shit than I ever appreciated and they have a massive job on their hands politically, socially and geographically. (Seriously who decided Texas should be the same size as the entire UK. Scottish independence just looks like if Dallas wanted fiscal autonomy.)

So that is what I’ve been learning recently. What about you?

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Saving Face: Girls Girls Girls (and everyone else)

The first question I asked last week when I started the Saving Face project was about gender inequality in the skin care industry. Things might be a bit different for children and preteens now, but here is a brief summary of how I understood things in primary school:

Girls wore products and makeup as a rite of passage in our teens even if it pissed off our conservative parents and even if we were much more interested in spending time and money on things we actually gave a shit about. If we didn’t, we were tomboys and/or lesbians. If we wore a lot of visible products when we were young, we were slappers. Boys shouldn’t wear make up because it’s effeminate, so if they did they were gay. They should, however, take pride in their masculinity and buy products to look like a proper dude.

Aside: did anyone else have the playground rumour that boys having a pierced ear on a certain side made them gay?

Thank God for rock ‘n’ roll… and exposure to the Internet. Men can use products. Women don’t have to. The gender binary is actually a spectrum, and cosmetics shouldn’t be gender-specific because a man will not morph into his wife if he borrows her face cream, and a straight woman will not turn gay if she starts using men’s razors (she will, however, save a lot of money. More on that in the next post).

I’m less inclined to buy into early-2000s school gate ignorance now, but my biggest issue with cosmetics has lasted for years, and I’m not sure if it’s a gender equality issue or just me. Remember when Ellen and Isobel gave me a makeover? It was a lot of fun, but I resented hints that I should always straighten my hair, or wear make up more regularly. The way compliments about how I look get phrased always seems to be “you look great with that make up/hairstyle/clothes on, you should wear it all the time!” Wait, so I don’t already look great? I’m way too stubborn to cave into those implications (especially when it’s from friends and family who are paying me compliments that I might just be incapable of receiving) but pressure from friends and family can have a detrimental effect. Maybe it’s not just me, because someone’s even made a video about it:

This post was nearly done, but then I went on the ‘natural hair’ Tumblr tag and found this (along with some brilliant examples of afro hair):

BLACK shesgotsomuchsoul.tumblr.com

It made me sad, because it’s true. We are all taught to be dissatisfied with what we have so we’ll pay to change it. Women seem to be targeted more, and at risk of sounding like a disenchanted radical, I reckon it harks back to that pesky opinion that men are naturally perfect and women naturally inferior. But it’s evolved into a race inequality issue, because the companies selling products need to make us all feel as though there is something wrong with our natural aesthetic, so we’ll be willing to pay for something new. We’re made to want what everyone else has while despising what we have.

The funniest part is, we can dye our hair or wear a product to express ourselves, to tell a story, to make us feel more confident. If you’ve got acne that you dislike or hair somewhere that makes you shy or insecure, you can buy concealer or get hair removal. But what they don’t tell us is that you should do it because you want to look good for you. Not for a boyfriend who wants you to shave your bikini line, not because an advert has implied you’ve got the wrong hair type or skin colour, not because friends of family have hinted they prefer one ‘look’ over another. The writers over at Rookie are doing an amazing job of explaining and demonstrating that cosmetics are a brilliant way to help you be yourself, but that attitude seems pretty limited to the Internet.

I feel like I’ve asked more questions than I’ve answered. Why aren’t all women of all races, or backgrounds, or hair types or whatever, telling the media and social opinion to go fuck itself and concentrating on complimenting each other’s natural look?  Am I overreacting to people’s compliments when I do my hair differently? Are men targeted by the cosmetic industries as much as women? I can only speak from experience as a cisgender girl (told you I read up on the spectrum!). I kind of feel like companies use consumers’ ignorance (and maybe indifference, actually) to sell products we don’t need, and it’s fueling social inequality.

A Quick Question About Racism

This time in a week, my office won’t be my bedroom but will be my balcony, or a local restaurant, or… my bedroom (I’m staying in a studio flat and would put money on having exactly the same set-up as I do now, except with a closer bathroom). I was going to write a post just gloating about that, but then I went on Tumblr…

I’ve been treating the site gingerly since Uncle Rick posted about Blood of Olympus spoilers, so I glanced down the page as edgy as Hermione when she realised the Basilisk was in the pipes and saw this:

Racism on Tumblr

It might have been just me and a couple of inspirational billboard writers who thought this, but I was aware from a pretty young age that racism is learnt. One is not born as racist any more than one is born believing in God or born thinking Saturday night TV is occasionally contrived. When we first spill out into the world, we have no concept of anything. Then we are taught things that the people raising us think. We learn theism or racism or TV opinions as we grow, either by believing other people or thinking about things then coming to our own conclusions. Then we say what we think to our sprogs or students or blog readers.

That’s probably how most ideals have survived. You know, Mr Caveman Sr. realised that fire is useful but hurts if touched, and he taught Mr Caveman Jr., who taught Miss Cavewoman. Over the street, Mr and Mrs Cave were learning the same thing and told Baby Cave Kid as well.

Haha, baby cavepeople. (Alternatively, as Jacki pointed out, Ms or Mrs or even Miss Cavewoman may have discovered fire. I bet it was Village Idiot Caveperson who twigged that it hurt. Unfortunately – or luckily for this analogy – we may never know.)

My point is, lots of us are taught racism. I was. Most of us are taught sexism as well (hey, I wrote about this last week!). My parents were raised disliking Germans because their parents sat through the Blitz. Back when slavery and colonialism was a thing, most white people were raised to consider all non-white people to be inferior. Most non-white people were then raised to think that all white people were racists, and back then they were almost definitely right.

But it’s 2014, snowflakes. We’ve all been raised in part by racist, sexist, homophobic people – and we’ve also been taught by intelligent people that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid. Some of us have weighed up the evidence and concluded, independently, that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid.

So is the above Tumblr post actually just as racist, narrow-minded and indifferently ignorant towards white people as some white people are towards non-white people? Does anyone else get really upset by any mention of new book spoilers? Should I just stop using social media completely if it continues to find new ways to piss me off?

Well, I know the answer to one of those questions at least!

The Six O’Clock News: It’s Okay, USA

How many of you guys are from Missouri, USA? Me neither man, I’m not totally sure where Missouri is. But I do know that a load of shit is going on there at the moment, in the town of Ferguson. This BBC article has a good (detailed) explanation about what’s gone on – I think that essentially a black kid got shot by almost-definitely racist police and when locals protested they were deemed a riot, so now there kind of is a riot.

It’s brought up another debate about racism in the US – it exists, yuck – and has had relatively little UK media coverage, probably because the whole of the middle east is currently trying to kill everyone else in the middle east. But if Americans were worrying that only their country is home to a less-than-stellar police service, it’s okay! Look what this fortnight’s Private Eye has reported!

Private Eye 1372 Met Shooting

So it’s okay, America. We get you. We have Stephen Lawrence and we all remember what cased the 2011 riots.

From theyuniversity.tumblr.com
From theyuniversity.tumblr.com

But do yourselves a favour and don’t actually have a riot, because they are messy. Maybe stick to vigils and legislature change? I’ve been learning a bit about the US court system lately and you guys seem to be into suing each other – can you take the police to court for dickheadedness misconduct of duty?

If anyone has any suggestions to combat police dickheadedness and/or racist dickheadedness, please share. I’m kind of stuck for intelligent suggestions that don’t involve painting swearwords on people’s houses

The Ten O’Clock News: Celebrating D Day (and by D Day I don’t mean the one where they stormed a beach)

If I’m being totally honest, I’m at a point in my life where the first thing I think of when someone mentions World War II – specifically D Day – is this gem of a music video. Then I think of Saving Private Ryan and then I think of my grandmother, who remembers seeing troops come back. Yeah okay let’s not discuss my priorities… the thing is, I know my priorities are a lot better than the Internet’s. Tumblr is celebrating National Donut Day and apart from on actual news websites, I’ve seen relatively little coverage  (of D Day in 1944, not Donut Day in mildly obese 2014).

Given that only a few countries were involved directly in D Day, it’s understandable that social media isn’t making a huge flap – especially since it’s commemorative of a time when loads of people were getting bombed or shot, and when most of Europe was a totally shit place to live. But – and this could be Politics revision stress showing itself – I kind of feel like it’s being ignored a bit by the public as a whole. If you think about it, every anniversary of 9/11 gets splashed across every news outlet available. When Osama bin Laden was killed, logging onto Twitter was like seeing the American flag dance. I’m not begrudging the American people their right to celebrate or commemorate events as they see fit (although celebrating with fireworks the death of one dude who was one part of an organisation which almost definitely isn’t as big as the US government made out does seem from a reasonably neutral standpoint to be slightly disproportionate given by that time the impact of the War on Terror on middle eastern states). I’m actually pretty jealous of Veteran’s Day, which let’s face it all countries should have, and hey, Doggles.

From kyousaya.tumblr.com
If all armies don’t actually use these then GET ON IT PEOPLE. From kyousaya.tumblr.com

But how often do we hear about the German casualties of the Blitz? Or the non-Western families torn apart by the War on Terror? Fun revision fact: between 80 and 90% of terrorism victims in 2012 were from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As part of learning about humanitarian intervention in Politics we looked how 1971 Pakistan was called West Pakistan and East Pakistan – all the way across India but the same state – wanted independence to be Bangladesh. The East Pakistani government sponsored a genocide which killed between one and three million people in West Pakistan over a little less than a year. This is why a lot of Bangladeshi people moved to the UK around then. As someone with amazingly racist family members, it’s quite useful to know that those people weren’t benefit scrounging immigrants. But the thing is, would so many people be racist if they knew about the genocide? Quite a few probably would and we must console ourselves by hoping that they one day owe their lives to non-British-born doctors, or failing that fall in a puddle of mud somewhere public… I digress from D Day.

My point is, the bittersweet fuzzy feeling I get when I read stories about this guy should occur way more often because I should be seeing way more stories about people who fought for their freedom, and the freedom of others, to celebrate National fucking Donut Day, as started by – I presume, since every other nation knows biscuits are better – the good people of the USA.