Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why I'm White

(Luis Ricardo Falero)

Soon, I will have some photography to look at, pieces to consider framing and hanging. I have made a deal con el diablo. I have asked for prints for several years now and have been roundly ignored. 

We'll see. 

Today, I return to the city, where there is much moaning and gnashing of teeth. The unthinkable has become the unstoppable. Other cities will perhaps be hit harder financially by Trump's victory, though a Trump presidency cuts to the very core, and even suggests an extinguishing of, San Franciscan values. I have friends that can not even talk about it. Trump, for them, is nothing short of the anti-emancipator, the evilist demon of the apocalypse. It's easy enough to understand why. He was nearly hoisted into office by a mob, or so it seems from within almost any city. Had there been statues of Hillary, they would have been toppled and burned, dragged behind pickups. The celebrations and counter-protests have a deeply uneasy air about them. 

So far, I have heard nothing about Trump's election victory being anything less than legitimate. Hard to believe for many, but he stoked all the right fires, blew all of the appropriate dog and sports whistles, and suggested all of the ugliness that many would love to see come to immediate fruition. I am almost surprised that there were not more burning effigies. Now we must wait, prepare the fight against those he has validated with his victory. 

Many of us will miss the vaguely liberal-ease that was Barack Obama. 

As a white heterosexual* man I can shrug most of it off. I have gay and lesbian friends from a range of indeterminate heritage that may not be able to do so quite as easily as me. People know right away that I'm Irish because when they meet me I am drinking Jameson. You do hear a lot about white privilege and its associated phenomena, so much so that sometimes it's easy to tune it out, until something like a Trump assuming the presidency. It is then that you realize that it simply won't affect you nearly as much as it does some of the people around you, those that have been marginalized their entire lives and are deeply involved in a struggle for equality in rights. 

The only marginalizing that has occurred in my life is that which I've brought upon myself. I can see that, and more so, I can feel it. It would be a lie to claim otherwise, though I resist the notion that white privilege invalidates anything that I have to say, or that it should silence me, or render invalid my opinions. It is only a qualifier, one that I struggle with, having emerged from a white family with very little to show for it beyond my whiteness. How can a privileged father like me be anything other than patronizing, the word is nearly designed to describe me now, a patron.

Living in the Bay Area can make it sometimes too easy to forget how the rest of America treats those from the outer edges of the whole. It is one thing to claim that we are from a melting pot, it is quite another to fight the making of an American stew, to express open hostility towards the idea and practice of inclusion. I have always had an affinity for outsiders, even as I have been treated somewhat as an insider to most everything I've done in life, even by those same outsiders. 

Everywhere I go I have friends. I have people that would come to my defense, and have many times when I have crossed a line, or any number of lines. Others do not live with these same luxuries; impossible not to acknowledge that fact. Black, hispanic, brown-skinned from any number of global regions, gay, confused, overly certain, admittedly ambiguous - there are many who are marginalized through no real fault of their own, then there are those who wander to the peripheries because that is where they feel most comfortable. Then there are those like me, people who can wander to any area of the center or edges of the whole and never get asked for identification. 

I am not regularly treated with the same suspicion or derision as others. I have close friends who are and always will be. I have others friends who, given the opportunity, would likely be suspicious of some of my other friends. They don't seem to understand why such a thing is or should be shameful. They talk about other cultures as if they actually understand them, knowing what ails them most are their own problems and not the problem of the society that they are plaguing. Them doing so is not an informed observation, it is only an entrance for them to then question the legitimacy of others.

Sort of like this:

What too few of the marginalized seem to understand... is that the Right has perceived them as a sort of loosely organized Leftist Tea Party that has done nothing but work against them and "their rights." The right to have what should be the shame of others hidden in an open and free society. You know, those rights... What happened to mine?  Outsiders are an affront to the sensibilities of insiders, particularly as they seek to move towards the center where they can conduct their lives with more stability and demand acceptance from those that are already there. There is some natural resistance to any such a transition. I make no value judgments about the rightness or wrongness of such a dynamic. It simply is and always has been this way, to my perception of such things, it is quite natural. 

Of course there have been periods of exception, though those are usually short-lived and long revered, like the heyday of the swinging 60s. People look back fondly to those times, but are unable to recreate them or to create an adequate simulacrum of them. The spirit of such times emerges in pockets where people seek to participate in what they believe to be the recreation of that same space. There seems to be a Hegelian dialectic to it all, though I can't remember if Hegel was the thesis-antithesis-synthesis guy or if he was something else. 

Was Hegel white and straight? Of course he was. Certainly, that alone invalidates him, or his thoughts. Philosophy is classic white privilege. To attempt to describe one's own condition when white is or should be the crossing of a social taboo. 

You see?  

Being well-meaning is not enough, there should always be a stern rigidity to respecting the righteousness of others. 

It's easy to pretend to be harmless. You're just explaining how things are to those that are less "are" than you. I get it, the impulse is easy. Thought wishes to be expressed. Before you know it, you've repressed somebody by virtue of your existence and the luxurious heritage that you were born into. There is a great impulse to participate, and can you believe it... even white people feel that way, sometimes even when it's not convenient. 

To agree is not enough, to sympathize with a cause is insulting, one must match and then adopt the self-righteousness of others, without stealing any of their genuineness. There is a strict code, one which only affirms the obvious. Nuance of thought is the newest slippery slope, one employed mainly buy the enemies. 

You see? I can't stand all of this bullying and coercion. I don't care which side it comes from, there is an expectation of indignation that loses me, most of all when I am the one employing it. 

I don't have any answers for any of this. I try to be accepting and always note first whose rights are being violated or denied. I try to side with those people that are being wronged, even as they might struggle against me siding with them. You see, when white people support your cause it is only so that they can subsume your "culture" and adopt your victimhood for the purpose of stealing your group identity. Be warned: they'll try to take your picture, to snatch away your soul. It's the damage that well-meaning white people do, and nobody should question the premise that all white people have ruined everything for everybody. That much seems clear. 

I jest, but only a bit. I'm just and old hetero-whitey popping-off about the discourse that we've all suffered and enjoyed for a decade or two now. 

You see. 

I heard one time - I believe it was Germaine Greer - when referencing women's liberation: Nobody was ever granted liberation by asking nicely for it. It was won in a bitter fight. I'm paraphrasing terribly there and am too lazy to do the research, but I loved her stance on a number of things. She understood that asking for equality and then expecting that request to be granted was useless. It must be fought for if you wish to be treated as an equal at all. 

That's why I tire easily of most white-whining, even my own, and I gravitate towards those that are angry and willing to snap for a cause. I am just also tired of being made to feel as an intruder to the causes of others just by lending an ear. If they want support, I fail to understand why they're so angry at me once they have my attention and allegiance. 

Mostly, I like going home, closing my door, going to bed, and forgetting the struggles of others. You know, the sleeping white privilege. 

I came of age late, involved heavily in an underground musical culture where sexual and racial distinctions were made less severe by circumstance, environment, and collective agreement. It was that easy in an inclusive setting. Nightclubbing is not a very fertile space for racial or sexual hostility and intolerance. Quite the opposite, when at its best. I am of the deeply held opinion that everybody should experience it, though there are some that I am glad enough never tried. 

Odd, that inner hypocrisy, wanting everyone to feel something that I wish to also keep secret from them. To keep things safe and precious requires a type of exclusion, because when given the chance people will too often destroy what they do not understand, even through curiosity and support.

You see?

* - My label as a heterosexual is almost entirely speculative at this point. It's been so long since a woman has encouraged me to touch her that I am going only off of past experiences here. My assumption is that I would become aroused at a physical interaction with a woman, but that might not be as true as it once was. We might have to experiment a bit. It's is possible that the impulse towards sex diminishes as distance from it becomes a more regular experience. There should be a phrase that indicates: inactive heterosexual.