sábado, 20 de junio de 2015

Otherness isn't about you (yes, this is about race)

I started writing this a few hours after I learned of the Charleston shooting, but I was too angry and sad and ended up with a lot of fucks on the page and no point. Now I'm ready to say something. You ready? Here it is: the whole thing was about racism and most people don't know how to talk about that because they're too worried about how they'll look while doing it. Furthermore, this country has a racism problem and we need to grow the fuck up and deal with it.

You see, positionality is a powerful, strange, dangerous, inevitable thing. No matter where you go, you're you, and that has an impact on everything you receive and the way you decode messages. Unfortunately, most people don't know that the positionality should play a role in everything but only rarely become everything itself, especially when dealing with Otherness.

Every time a guy comes up and starts hitting on me at the gym, I feel a nice little ego boost. I process the event through my positionality: I'm not gay, but I have no problem with anyone's sexuality, so getting hit on is something nice. What I can't do is say, for example, that I understand the shit women have to go through daily. I don't have a clue about any of that. I can't let my experience stand in for a lack of comprehension. Women, in this case, are the Other, and their struggles with harassment are something I know about, not something I fully comprehend or can say I've been through. More importantly, when women tell me about men doing and saying horrible things to them, I can't turn the conversation around and make about me because dudes hit on me a few times a month. Why? Because Otherness is about Others, not about me. I can defend/protest/ask/console/punch a disrespectful fucker in the mouth, but I can't make it about me simply because it's not.

Charleston is proof that this country is full of individuals obsessed with themselves and thus not ready to talk about racism in a way that may lead to a few solutions or at least some steps toward a better future. When I came to UT, some assholes talked about post-racial America because Obama won. I couldn't find academically acceptable ways of telling them they were wrong, so I told them they were wrong in regular talk. They got angry and started debating. It didn't take long for that argument to turn into "Shit, Gabino, you're right." Sadly, not too many people are willing to accept when they're wrong. Nine respectable victims hit the floor because a racist asshole decided they had to be killed. All of them were black. If you're black, you understand this thing completely. If you're not, you need to shut the fuck up for a while and listen.

I grew up with black folks. My great-great-grandmother was black and her parents were escaped slaves. However, my skin is brown, not black. I've had people say things about my accent and ask me if I'm in this country legally, but no one has called me the N word or said something about interracial marriage. I know what Otherness is like, but I'm only an expert at my own kind of Otherness. Homosexuals, women, Asians; we're all on the same boat, but we have to deal with different shit. The way to do that successfully is by learning, by opening our ears to each other and trying to comprehend what the other is going through. Instead of doing that, nine bodies hit the floor because of their race and some folks decide to start screaming about how Obama's gonna try to take their guns, some decide that it was a religious thing and not about race because they don't want to talk about the fact that their country's institutionalized racism is alive and well, and others rely on humor to mask the fact that any discussion about race makes them profoundly uncomfortable.

Let's burn that fucking flag and then move on. Let's talk about how black people were hung from trees not too long ago and how many of your great-great-grandparents were angry because they wanted to own blacks. Let's accept that no matter how many black thinkers, scientists, actors, musicians, authors, and athletes have helped shape this young nation into what it is today, they're still stuck on the ugly side of Otherness. Let's talk about how we have KKK and Aryan Brotherhood members all around the country like a case of herpes that won't go away so we just ignore it. Yeah, let's talk about all that, but first, let's shut the hell up and listen to what black folks have to say. Let's read more stuff penned by blacks about this situation instead of sharing dumb shit some crazy Republican said. That makes us feel a little better in comparison, but contributes nothing. Let's look around and say: yeah, this was about racism and racism is a problem. Let's talk about race without getting angry every time someone says "white people." Let's accept that Others get choked to death and that someone who kills nine people isn't threatening enough to get at least beat up a little. Let's tell anyone who talks about post-racial America to quit it with the nonsense. Let's accept that brown folks and black folks and gay folks and women are not THERE yet and that when we tell ourselves we're all equal already we're just telling ourselves filthy fucking lies. Hey, I know none of that will fix things immediately, but it's a hell of a good start.  

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