We’ve talked before about Angelou’s whole “change v. exchange” formulation in terms of power structures and I think there’s something more profound here than just that people don’t want change, they want exchange. I think that it’s very easy to slip into believing that, when people are calling you on your bullshit, they are looking to make a deal. See that? I think it’s a self-defense measure. Something you say hits too close to home (and I get an inkling that I need to change) and so I react by assuming that you want something from me (that you just want to make some kind of exchange). And then, I move the conversation away from something that puts me on the spot into something that puts you on the spot by complaining that the bargain you want me to strike is unfair.
Even last night, as I was laying in… lying in… bed thinking about this stuff, I kept coming back to this as the hump I couldn’t get over: But I like Amanda Marcotte and I don’t want to give up reading Pandagon.
I defy you to find a place in the whole universe where anyone has asked that of me.
But we’re talking about things that make me uncomfortable and make me feel like a fuck-up and make me feel like I don’t understand even what’s going on with myself and even after I fucking articulate to Mag my understanding of this, I’m refusing to let it sink in, to see not just in other people how this works, but to see in myself how it works, and so I’m looking to deflect, deflect, deflect.
And there’s another thing that thread brought up for me that I realized I do not have a good enough hold on at all and that’s how white class mobility (or lack thereof) plays into white feminist bullshit.
It’s funny because Mack and I are all the time talking about why poor white people vote Republican and he’s got more time in as a community activist than I’ve even spent as a human being, so he’s got some ideas and they seem to me plausible, but I still am convinced that it comes down to how we’re lead to believe that we poor white people are just like other white people except for [whatever, immigrants stealing our jobs, black kids ruining our public schools, etc.] and if we only vote for the politicians who rightly recognize that we should be able to send our kids to private school just like any other respectable (read: white) parent or that we shouldn’t have to give our hard-earned tax dollars to help people who aren’t like us to the detriment of us, those politicians will work to make sure that we move easily into mainstream middle class White America.
I mean, think of it this way. From a personal standpoint, what does it matter to me if the Middle Class is shrinking or already gone except as to whether I will ever be able to join it?
But, of course, as we talked about, we live in a social pyramid and, despite the impression we’re given, white people are still the majority and white people still make up (in actual people, not percentage of population) the largest group of poor people in this country. Well, it’s not a social diamond. We can’t have a very few workers, a very few bosses, and millions and millions of middle managers.
Most lower class white people are not going to move up. Not even the ones with the college educations and the cushy jobs, because it’s not just about income but about a lot of intangible stuff, like knowing what constitute the right wardrobe for work, or not having to use personal days to go bail your brother out of jail, or, fuck, not having to worry that the kind of dog you have is so evil that legislation might be passed at any moment that would get it taken from you.
I mean, look at my grandpa, going from being born in a building whose primary function was as a barn to being a wealthy insurance salesman and yet, as a family, we face the same problems as many families of color in that one or two generations of success have not been enough to bring the whole family out of the lower class or even keep us from sliding back into it.
I know this seems like a tangent, but I think it’s actually right on point to what’s going on for me. I assume that these popular white women bloggers are like me and I feel compelled to defend them as if any perceived threat to them is a threat to me.
And on top of that, it’s very hard for me to sit down and critically look at where I am and what my concerns are and where they are and what their concerns are and to say to myself a.) I have little proof that they share all of my concerns and b.) I have no proof that, if I help them further their agendas, they will help me further mine.
This is what’s hard for me to see, so I want to write it down where I can come back to it: I assume that WOC bloggers should get with the middle class white feminist agenda because I still believe, in my deepest heart, that when the middle class white feminists get what they’re after (or even as they’re getting what they’re after), they will not forget me and what I need.
Even though that’s demonstrably not true.
And, being as honest as I can, I think that’s what freaks me out about what the WOC bloggers are doing and how they’re doing it, because I believe that the white women above me get that I’m one of them, that I’m like them (probably even that I’m white like them) and what the WOC bloggers are doing and how they are doing it is forcing me to look straight at myself and see that what I believe to be an implicit promise of solidarity based on similarity with these white women bloggers is bullshit.
I about can’t stand that and so in my own mind and then here in writing, I’ve been clinging to this idea that, if only the WOC would get on board with the white middle class feminist agenda, goodness would trickle down to them like it’s going to trickle down to me.
And when they say, “How many times do we have to say that the trickle isn’t coming and, even if it does, that it’s probably not going to be a pleasant trickle?” that’s a direct threat to the lie I tell myself about when my good feminist shit is coming.
That’s something I need to give some serious thought to–to how my notions of how the privileges of being white shape me and my expectations of feminism and how the promise of spreading around more of that privilege keeps poor white people in line and keeps me in line.