Rape, Murder and the Laughter of the Club

by Ulises Subida Late last week I had a realization in one of my classes. We were dealing with the issue of crimes of omission. The professor gave us a hypothetical:

“A young man falls down the stairs and severely injures himself. His father comes home. Seeing his son bleeding from his head at the bottom of the steps, he walks right by.”

 

I found this hypothetical amusing, and even chuckled to myself.

In the next moment my professor changed the hypothetical. He went through all the theatre of retelling the drama, but he added a twist. This time instead of the man’s son, it was his wife at the bottom of the stairs. Just as in the first scenario the man walks by in total disregard.

My blood ran cold at this. Not because of the situation described, but because of the sudden muffled laughter of some of the men sitting near me. They hadn’t laughed at the first account, but they did find the second one amusing. Why? I think they found it funny because it was a woman at the bottom of the stairs.

It was a moment the likes of which has crossed my path many times. It was “the club” announcing its existence, confirming a not-so-secret society of male right.

I have been an on-again off-again member of “the club”. In elementary school I was trained, and helped to train, my peers in the logic of male chauvinism and masculinity. It was very important not to be a “faggot”. The only way to avoid ridicule for not being masculine was to join in the ritual harassment of others. When the test came your way, you had to send it back at your inquisitor to ensure that it ended there. Some people never had a chance.

Why did I do it? What do you do when your father ridicules an effeminate man as “a queer” in one moment, and then in the next moment he’s whistling at women out the window of his car? What do you do when the greatest insult on the playground is the accusation of being girlish? You learn.

This is not a story about me

This story is about an insidious social relation that passes from one to another through jokes and taunts creating an atmosphere of casual terror, which is cemented into place because “it’s always been this way”. It’s about how these jokes killed a young woman named Marcella.

Marcella Sali Grace was raped and murdered by an acquaintance. Her body was found abandoned in a cabin in San Jose del Pacifico, in Oaxaca.

A post at Angry White Kid describes what she was like:

"Marcella Sali Grace was born in the United States, with a big heart in solidarity with just causes. She had many friends because she was always inclined to help, using her artistic talents to paint a banner or a wall or doing Arabic dance to raise funds for the struggle, or putting on punk shows, or giving self-defense courses for women because she knew very well how the men accosted them. This was one of her struggles, that women were free and respected. Sali was so involved in the struggle that she was an international accompanier of brothers and sisters who felt harassed by the bad government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz."

 

The news of Marcella’s rape and murder shocked me with anger.

I was certain that I knew her, that I recognized her as a person who moved on the periphery of my small circle of friends. The proximity of the murder thrust into my face my own complacency with respect to violence against women.

I’ve known full well about the infamous murders of Juarez for years. Hundreds of women brutalized and murdered spaced out over weeks and months and years. This is the slow grinding under of human beings, so slow that it seems as if it isn't even happening, until it hits near you.

It reminds me of the story of the woman who was gang-raped in a Massachusetts bar as the patrons cheered on. I feel as if I’ve been sitting in that bar watching this happen, and doing nothing, saying nothing.

The bar is our society. It can turn violence against women into a perverse spectacle to be cheered at, for instance in Eli Roth’s fake movie trailer “Thanksgiving." Or it can work from the opposite end imposing a code of silence in the face of social hostility towards women, and enforced by a fear of becoming a target of that hostility. I imagine our world as a place where millions cheer rape and destruction, where thousands secretly laugh to themselves to see a woman violated, and where those who disagree fade into the back of the crowd for fear that otherwise they may be victimized.

And this is where the violence aimed at women becomes more complicated than a simple "he said, she said." Patriarchy doesn’t work because men are natural predators, or because they are naturally inclined towards violence. It works because men have a set of privileges that are defined in relation to the gender line. Just like the playground, men collude to define themselves in opposition to femininity. Disrupting that social bond puts you on the outside of it, and in many cases makes you the target of the same oppression that is aimed at women. Solidarity amongst men, as men, is enforced through the implicit threat of social isolation and even violence. This violence gets played out constantly between men, the sharpest example being the stories of prison rape, the ultimate in emasculation.

That muffled laughter I heard was the echo of this social dynamic. At its extreme edges it is implicated in murder. It is a reflection of the systematic training of many men to approach women as less than human, that is, less than men. As the generally callous response of the Authorities to the murders in Juarez shows, responsibility goes straight to the top of society.

The social relation of patriarchy is not an isolated oppression. It is part of “how things are done” in the normal workings of modern society. It is not simply a question of violence against women, but a question of how a stabilized system of social violence allows for the functioning of society in general. It takes particular expression in the forms of violence aimed at people defined as being on the other side of the line demarcating "us" from "them," but these particular expressions are merely trees in a forest of oppressions.

The line between "us and them" isn’t static. It moves in relation to the needs of social stability, a particular kind of stability, a capitalist stability. The oppressions aimed at specific sections of the people are explicit moments of a larger and more generalized web of violence and threat stabilizing the ground upon which those who rule must stand.

In this sense we can take their “us versus them” and reverse it. But it's not really a matter of “us versus them”, it is a matter of us versus these conditions in which we live, and a realization that if we are to overthrow these conditions and create a world fit to live in, then we must go through “them”, the guarantors of this system.

Just as these oppressions combine to build a sound basis upon which to rule, that rule becomes the concentration of these oppressions. And it is never more concentrated than in the State, the greatest patriarch of them all, and a social fiction designed to mobilize the rule of one section of humanity over the other.

The "custom" of patriarchy in society intertwines with the State’s institutions of social control. An example is in the law where until relatively recently the promiscuity of a woman was an acceptable defense against a charge of rape (it may still be in some places). Another gruesome institution in the law is the existence of a legal excuse for murder when a man is propositioned for homosexual sex. For many crimes, including murder, the requirement of a suitable state of mind on the part of the offender is measured by a “reasonable man” standard. Often times a “reasonable man” in our society believes that a victim is asking for it. In the case of homosexual propositions, the law (in some states) allows murderers to plead down to lower penalties because a “reasonable man” would have been so outraged at such a proposition that he would lose control. This is a reflection of the way in which the State itself is driven by “custom”. These “customs” outline the limits of the State as a tool of reform, or revolution. As a police officer questioned about attempts at reform of rape laws in Michigan said, such reform “mess[es] with the folkways”.

This is the larger scope for the violence that seems to strike us so suddenly. The bottom line is that this costs lives. It nurtures an atmosphere of brutality, and it creates a deep sense of fear about “stepping out of line”. It is part of a society that uses this fear to force people into unhappy and unrewarding lives. It has created a situation where a bar full of people would cheer on a rape, while others in the same bar would watch in silence. It has created a situation where untold numbers of men, women and children are brutalized, murdered, or sold like chattel. This is how a young woman who spent her life defending and serving the people could be murdered in such a senseless manner.

I come back to Marcella to make a point. In the process of writing this article, and investigating more about who Marcella was, it became clear to me that I probably didn’t know her, that she was not the person I thought she was. My anger dissipated. She became just like the faceless women of Juarez to me. And I had to ask, how close does it have to strike before I do something to end it? When your complacency is thrown in your face every time another horror happens, at what point does the shame burn so hot that you can't stand by in silence?

If we hold the institutions that guard these murderous social relations responsible, those that allow these crimes against the people to continue, whether in Oaxaca, Juarez, or the U.S., then at what point do we hold ourselves responsible for failing to sweep such institutions into the past? Taking up the responsibility to end patriarchy requires taking responsibility for a thorough and radical revolution. This goes beyond whatever sacred "ism" we subscribe to. It is a simple practical necessity, if we are to live like human beings.

How much longer can we live this other way?

Dig in.

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  • Guest (Zancudo)

    “A young man falls down the stairs and severely injures himself. His father comes home. Seeing his son bleeding from his head at the bottom of the steps, he walks right by.”

    (You) found this hypothetical amusing, and even chuckled to (yourself).

    Your piece is well-taken, particularly as you lead with a "teachable" scenario, and then expose and challenge the constant acceptance of the constant violence against women. Visceral reaction to these kinds of scenes is good insofar as it leads to action.

    But. Did/does the first hypothetical amuse you? Why? How am I misinterpreting this?

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Without getting into the various things Ulises raises in this post, I do want to relate what I thought ANOTHER shocking “moment” that happened to me in El Paso, the night before crossing the border to Juarez.

    Was asking a male worker at the hotel where I landed,, who was Mexican but had been living in the U.S. for several years, about how “safe” it was for me (driving solo) to be crossing the border there during the day? This man said to me, straight up, “Oh no…you won’t have a problem because, ya know, those women who have been kidnapped and killed,” (last report 420!) “were, not like you. Tu sabes, they’re all ‘putas’.” [prostitues, whores]

    “That’s not true!!! But even if it was….so (fucking) what?” Well, I don’t have to explain to the audience on Kasama what an outrage this was, nor do I have to say that I spent the rest of the evening screaming at this hombre. NOT that this is the point, but it is documented by Amnesty International, Org. of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, etc. that the majority of these women (and young girls), ranging mainly in age between 12-22, have migrated from other cities and pueblos in Mexico to Juarez to work in factories--maquilas. (“maquila is a factory that imports materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly or manufacturing and then re-exports the assembled product, usually back to the originating country. A maquila is also referred to as a "twin plant", or "in-bond" industry.”—Wikipedia) Even NAFTA rears its ugly head regarding women’s oppression.

    If people are interested in learning more about Marcella, check out:

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/09/30/18542076.php

    San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

    "Marcella “Sali” Grace Eiler Raped and Murdered in Oaxaca"

    (Also, another activist Kirstin Brydum murdered in New Orleans)

    Must admit, even though Ulises' post was thoughtful, I have the same question as Zancudo:

    “But. Did/does the first hypothetical amuse you? Why? How am I misinterpreting this?”

  • Guest (JB Connors)

    What a brilliant essay. Thank you.

    Linda D. says:
    "Without getting into the various things Ulises raises in this post..." On the contrary, i think we should dive into exactly that. Understanding complicity, passivity and privilege is something we really need to get a handle on.

    This society has a million ways to numb you to the suffering all around you. So much so that it often only breaks through for people when it touches them personally. We need a movement that is about human compassion and solidarity on an entirely new level.

    Let's find ways to post and circulate this widely. I'm going to email this to my friends.

  • Guest (Ulises Subida)

    Zancudo and Linda ask, "But. Did/does the first hypothetical amuse you? Why? How am I misinterpreting this?"

    I think that the disconnect between these two hypotheticals, and the reactions to each, is essential to this essay. In fact, this disconnect IS the realization that I'm referring to in the introductory sentence. It is not that I suddenly realized that I live in a patriarchal society, but rather that general assumptions about violence are deeply interconnected with the specific form of violence against women. My blood ran cold not simply because I recognized male chauvinism in my midst, but because I recognized the connection between that and my own thinking in relation to the young man at the bottom of the stairs.

    The discussion about the relationship between violence amongst men, and violence aimed at women is what is at issue here, not whether I personally (individually) thought the first hypothetical was funny. That was simply a way of introducing the broader discussion by, again, introducing the displacement between violence amongst men, and that against women. The only reason this can even be seen is because the laughter aimed at the second hypothetical retroactively exposes the assumption that the first hypothetical was funny.

    In other words, your question is its own answer. The point is that it is just as wrong to think that it's funny when a young man lies dying at the bottom of the stairs as it is to think that it's funny when it's a woman. The two logics are formally the same, the only difference being the gender of the injured party. I go a step further and argue that these two logics are actually inextricably bound together and reinforcing, one even giving rise to the other. Thus the discussion of the formation of patriarchal thinking on the playground and elsewhere, where much of the violence and coercion is an operation between males to create the boundaries of gender, and then police those boundaries.

    There is the problem that the analogies are not clear cut. There are several leaps and stretches that I make throughout this essay to drive home the various points. This is because the essay is based upon "experiences" of mine (things I have witnessed, things I have done, or had done to me). If I wanted to step outside of that I could have constructed an analogy about a man being actively beaten, and a woman being actively beaten, that would have made the whole thing much clearer, and it would have required an explicit repudiation on my part of any humor in the hypothetical. But laughter at such hypotheticals would be exceptional, and the whole point of discussing this experience was to discuss the unexceptional, and to put it under close scrutiny.

    The central aspect of the two hypotheticals, what is wrong about them, is not that someone has been accidentally injured, but that the patriarch of the house reacts with utter disregard. This is where the "humor" lies, exactly because it is in such contradiction with what people should do. But the laughter is also insidious as it suggests a certain attitude towards those granted social privileges, in relation to those whose exclusion is the basis of that privilege. Instead of being outraged, people laugh. But who wouldn't be outraged if this was something which was real, and not safely distanced through an analogy? It is not clear that anyone in that moment was consciously connecting the dots in the way in which I am doing in this essay.

    [Humor is of course extremely complicated and relates not just to irony, but to desire and fear, so make of that what you will.]

    This ambiguity in the analogy, and the situation, is an example of the insidious nature of these oppressive social relations. The problem being that they do not typically give rise to "visceral reactions". The day to day of violence and patriarchy sits beneath the surface of "normal" social relations. Where it doesn't pop through explicitly in an easily recognizable form that would give rise to a visceral reaction, it does come through in distorted and mixed up forms constantly.

    Zancudo writes: "Visceral reaction to these kinds of scenes is good insofar as it leads to action."

    There is a whole system of oppression going on that DOES NOT give rise to visceral reactions, and is considered normal and separate from those extreme moments that DO give rise to visceral reactions. One of the questions I raise is of distance from experiences that would give rise to a visceral reaction. This distance is not simply measured in miles (for instance the murders of Juarez), it is also measured (in this case) in the distance between reactions to two hypotheticals, or the distance between a stranger versus an acquaintance being murdered. For this reason I did not explicitly repudiate my initial reaction to the first hypothetical because that would have been an attempt to create a false distance by putting myself on the outside of the social relation under discussion, and creating a safe moral high ground for myself AND the reader to latch onto, instead of instigating some internal turmoil. The essay is intended to cause people to think.

    A superficial reading of this essay would see it as a simple anti-patriarchy pep talk. This is apparently where you've misinterpreted things. Your confusion is understandable, but it rests on the assumption that the author intends to speak from a simple moral superiority when in fact I consciously do the exact opposite at several different points. I do this for the sake of honesty, and to avoid writing a cliche that immediately turns off people's brains. I do not want people to read this and get nothing but the message that patriarchy is bad. No shit it's bad, it's fucking killing people. But there is more to it, and simply knowing that its bad in the abstract, and repudiating its sharpest expressions in society, is not going far enough.

    The larger point of this essay is not patriarchy=bad, and that's the end of it. It is that patriarchy runs a lot deeper (and the system of violence is much broader) than many people think. It is (as JB notes) about understanding complicity, passivity and privilege, but it is also about understanding how coercion sets the ground for complicity, passivity and privilege. Ultimately, it is about thinking and struggling these things through as part of the road to a revolutionary society, and it's about how deep that revolution has to go.

  • Guest (Ulises Subida)

    Correction:

    3rd ¶ 2nd sentence: "It is just as wrong to find humor where a man acts in callous disregard to the suffering of a young man as it is to find humor where it is a woman."

  • I think the first hypothetical struck the listener with it's absurdity. The second placed itself in a context of domestic violence--like this would be far, far more realistic, compared to the first. Both could be set ups for a joke, and the second would most certainly be sexist.

    It is a little weird though--the first could be 'chilling' because it's violence against children??

  • oh snap, i didn't see that post by ulises!

  • Ulises, have you ever read the book by Michael Messner, <i>Taking the Field</i>?

    It is one of the best I've read about the production of hegemonic masculinity among men, and the policing of this social norm--discussed from early childhood onward through the prism of sports.

  • it is profound how much this system works to distance people -- and to suppress compassion and especially solidarity. it is a hallmark of class society, but especially this atomized, privatized capitalist society.

    I often think of the raw ways that indifference is promoted.

    Imagine, the whole Republican party talks about "the bleeding heart liberals" -- as if having a "bleeding heart" for others is dispicable and ridiculous.

    This system's soldiers wear t-shirts that say "kill 'em all, let God sort them out" -- a deliberate in-your-face celebration of genocide.

    Even the play of children: Imagine this country has a tradition of having kids play "cowboys and indians" (reinacting the murder of native people). Imagine if German kids were taught to play "SS men and the Jews"?

    When I travel in the western mountain states I'm just amazed by the casual hatred of "tree-huggers" -- as if loving nature (instead of raping it) is just ignorant (and, well, similar to being a "bleeding heart.")

    Oppression is enforced by a deliberate hardness. Every Black person has heard talk of "that look" that some white people get -- that flinty, suspicious, "i'd like to kill you" look with its roots deep in the lynching culture. And how many people see in that Elvis Presley curl-of-the-lip the familiar disrespecting sneer of the white-racist-with-power?

    That laughter of the club runs deep. Go look at the Abu Ghraib pictures again! The moment this country goes to war, the names and racist mythology comes tumbling out. "Ragheads." John McCain uses the word "gooks" (and not just in his distant past.)

    In an <a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/didnt-you-see-that-spirit-descend-shackles-in-the-bible-belt/" rel="nofollow">earlier essay</a> i described a co-worker, Don, who i was teamed up with for many years, and described his religious and backward views.

    One more story about Don here.

    Don was a veteran of the Korean war. And one day he was telling me about his experiences there.

    And he said he was deeply moved by a scene he saw, riding on a troop-carrier truck through miles of Korean winter. And seeing a crew of Korea women, all older, like grandmothers, working in a ditch by the side of the road, clearing out the mix of muck and ice that had clogged it up.

    And I of course expected Don to say how much he felt for those women, and how he hoped that they would have a better life.

    But instead he said, "I realized at that moment that if we didn't win wars like this, OUR women and grandmothers might well have to work in ditches like this, while someone else's soldiers rolled by."

    In other words, his summation was not about the commonality of human suffering, or the need to "get out of here together." He just decided (rather consciously, rather coldly) that he was a supporter of U.S. domination, and of this war. He didn't believe all the crap about "bringing democracy and the Free World to Korea." He saw it as a war of conquest (which it was) and was participating ON THAT BASIS.

    And there is right with that the cold promotion of the capitalist view that really nothing connects people but the "cash nexus."

    "Ain't nothing happening but the rent."
    "I'm about getting paid."
    "No romance without finance."

    I say all this because I want us to dig into the point that both JB and Ulises are making:

    <blockquote>"Understanding complicity, passivity and privilege is something we really need to get a handle on. This society has a million ways to numb you to the suffering all around you. So much so that it often only breaks through for people when it touches them personally. We need a movement that is about human compassion and solidarity on an entirely new level."</blockquote>

    We need to challenge complicity (and not merely by shouting at people who don't yet agree with us). And we also need a movement that radiates human solidarity (in a way that the left often does not!)

    This society is so alienating. People are so alone, even when they are in crowds. They gossip about "celebrities" (marriages, affairs, cellulite, divorces, drug use), because they are no longer in communities where they can gossip about people they REALLY know.

    And there is that constant drumbeat (from the news and everywhere else): "Of course all our viewers are asking the same questions: What does this crisis mean FOR THEM? What does it mean for YOU and your family?"

    I often think of that Bob Seger song: "I used her, she used me, but neither one cared, we were getting our share."

    And i think of how we can stand against that whole view of things, and get to a place where all of society had risen above that.

    And I think that while some are trained to embrace "the club" -- or to silence their digust -- there are many who are looking for a sign that we can go somewhere else, and "be" in different ways.

    We need a movement that in its words, but also in its culture, defies and rejects all of that dog-eat-dog. One that promises a world of real human connections -- freed of mutual dependence, cold dollar exchange, and the callous abuse of mutual exploitation.

  • Guest (the divine comedy)

    I found the article confusing. Reading it felt sort of like I was being zipped through a power point at an auctioneer's pace, the content jumped all over the place, and then (I think?) concluded we need to smash the state.

    That said, I was wondering if someone could help explain to me what is meant by "privilege" here or in general? Is there a specific "privilege analysis"? I have heard the word thrown around a lot in certain activist circles in the context of race, gender, sexuality etc. I assume there is some theoretical origin that implies some sort of analysis or approach to society or a struggle or issue in society?

    I am not clear what is implied by it. Is it simply about understanding "the material basis of incorrect ideas" like one of Mike Ely's articles dealt with? Or does it recommend broadening the scope of who the enemy is? What privilege's are being referred to in this article, unpaid domestic labour? Preferential treatment in the job market? Or something else? If so, how is this clear to people who aren't experiencing these privileges? (ie they are unemployed, they don't have a partner or share the chores?). I may have missed the point completely, but it seems like it's a use of the word that isn't understood casually by the public (sort of an "in-lingo"), and I don't think I've ever heard it used by activists outside of North America (maybe other anglo-dominated countries as well).

  • On this question of privilege:

    In some strains of identity politics, oppression is seen as something that is fundamentally in the interest of one section of the people, so they enforce that oppression over others. And so privilege is often seen as the marker of the oppressor -- i.e. little comparison is made between privilege (which are real of course) and the "common oppression" that many different kinds of people suffer from this system (even those with privileges over each other).

    So in such politics, the discussion of privilege IS tied to an expansion of the "category of enemy." The assumption is that peole can't overlook privilege, or discard the corrupting influence of privilege, that they ARE what their identity dictates. And the target is sometimes widened until conflicts among the people are treated as conflicts with the oppressor. " And the result (far too often) is a fragmentation and build in hostility among people who could and should unite.

    * * * * *

    In communist views, privileges are often seen as relative and even petty. The oppression of this society is fundamentally in the interests of this society (and its ruling classes). The social system has an intricate scale of status and "relative privilege" that separate people, one from the other, and that allow some sections of people to extract service and deference from others.

    Mao argued for making a distinction between "contradictions among the people and contradictions between the people and the enemy."

    The reason most privilege is viewed as 'contradictions among the people" is that overall, much of this privilege is petty compared to the larger suffering that comes from living in this society.

    A Black soldier serving in Iraq may have relative privileges over his wife (or over the colonized people in surrounding villages) -- but oppressing his wife and brutalizing the Iraqis is not (because of those privileges) "in his interests." His "real" interests (meaning his larger overall historic interests as a part of the vast majority of humanity deeply oppressed by this system in a million ways) are for a radical change -- and for discarding views that come from "the material basis for incorrect ideas."

    In commmunist politics, most privileges are treated as "crumbs" from the table of oppression. though (lets not fool ourselves) the views based on privilege have proven politically quite tenatious and deeply rooted.

    Some people live more stable lives. Some people have impunity in their abuse of others. Some have easier access to work, education, money etc. This is not nothing. Some people cling to this (and are willing to brutalize and demonize others to cling to this).

    But objectively compared to the larger suffering of living in this society (with its wars, with its global warming, with the hateful alienating empty culture, and so on), these privileges are things that need not be clung to, as absolute obstacles for unity, as the possibility for radical changes emerges.

    I don't believe in "false consciousness" -- in the sense that I don't believe "wrong ideas" are just poured into people's heads by simple insertion from without (i.e. that they are not simply "false: because they arise or take root because of real experience or real, short-term interests (however perversely understood) -- not simply from indoctrination by "alien class forces." This society does codify and promote all kinds of wrong and reactionary ideas -- but they take root among the people because of the complexity of people's experiences and position.

    As was so vividly portrayed in Guney's communist film "Yol" people do (in countless ways) participate in the oppression of each other, and in the enforcement of the status quo (as if we are each other's jailers).

    But that is in many ways the situation we seek to transform, by fighting to help make clear who "the real enemy" is.

    Mao says "Unite the many, oppose the few, defeat our enemies one by one."

    Transformation requires successfully promoting a larger, generous sense of the world (of human solidarity and common purpose) -- and a much more materialist understanding of social reality -- and it also requires a living process of ruptures and experiences in the real world which help large numbers of people come to see their interests and allegiances in new ways (especially in connection with the creative political work of revolutionaries).

  • Guest (Linda D.)

    Am not trying to sidetrack this discussion , that is, in terms of “privilege”—but I can’t help but think that in the case of patriotism/national chauvinism (or anti-immigrants), there is a concurrent, insidious and dangerous ideology that leads to some group-think in terms of “privilege.”. We’re “taught” that the U.S. is the most privileged country in the world, including ideologically, and that that “shared” privilege equals entitlement or “our” right to destroy and conquer whole countries and peoples, even though those “privileges” and sense of entitlement are not in the interest of those very same people oppressed by this system “in a million ways.”

  • Guest (orinda)

    SF Activist Murdered in New Orleans

    No evidence in the story that this young woman was killed for sexual reasons but it seems relevant to post it here. I felt sadness when I saw this story. Bad things happening to an individual touch us more when that person has a name and a story. Plus she was trying to make the world a better place.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/03/BA1413AB64.DTL&amp;tsp=1

  • Guest (Dave)

    The news about Kirsten Brydum is very sad, but some of the comments on the San Fransisco Chronicle article are truly sickening. Some of the readers seem to basically take the stance that "Well, she shouldn't have been riding her bike in <i>that</i> neighborhood, anyway."

    When I was fourteen, a kid I knew was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting while he was riding his bicycle with his sister. When I mentioned this to some the kids at the upper-middle-class white high school I went to, their reaction was, "Well, that's too bad, but I guess that's just what happens in <i>that</i> neighborhood."

    The irony was that this happened to be the same day that the news of Kurt Cobain's suicide became known, and a large number of students were literally in tears about Kurt Cobain. They had more emotional connection to the suicide of a celebrity than to what went on day to day in <i>that</i> neighborhood.

  • Guest (Quorri)

    On privilege:

    I'm white. Whether I'm racist or not I have privilege over those people, within the U.S., who are of other skin tones. This is because it is factual, in our society, that people of color are more likely to be killed by cops, more likely to be picked up by cops, more likely to have to wait longer for service or be pushed back in a line for service, less likely to get a taxi, etc etc etc. I am privileged.

    I'm a female. Whether or not I'm as good at something as my boyfriend, faster at something, or worse at something he is more likely to get the job than me, he is more likely to get paid more while doing it, he is less likely to be attacked or raped, he is more likely to be taken serious, he is more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt as to his knowledge and believability, etc etc etc. He is privileged.

  • I think that what Quorri writes is true. And it is controversial: since a core argument of reactionaries is that racism is gone, over. And we need to develop (as a revolutionary movement) our means of exposing clearly all the ways that people are truly oppressed in this society -- because of the entwined institutionalized mechanisms that hit people because of their nationality, their gender and (of course) their class position.

    But we ALSO need to understand why these oppressions exist (and why they are so tenatious) -- and that too is controversial. There is a widespread theory that oppression exists BECAUSE of privilege (or that it exists in order to provide privilege). In other words, that "white people" (as a group) have invented and perpetrated racism IN ORDER to create this structure of privileges. Or that men (again as a group) have invented and perpetrated patriarchy (again) in order to create a whole structure of privilege.

    And i think that view of thing really embodies a wrong understanding "who are our friends and who are our enemies?"

    In fact, this structure of privileges may impact millions, and it may politically confuse quite a few. But it ultimately only serves a relatively small number.

    the oppression of Black people (as a people) through three hundred years did not exist (or change) in order to serve the interests of "white people" (as a group). It was created to serve a specific system -- and those who rule that society. Its purpose was to super-exploit African American people -- through unpaid labor, through the denial of mobility (both social and physical), and through the brutal suppression of their aspirations.

    Similarly modern patriarchy serves the dominant form of class society (capitalism) -- and emerged out of earlier, ancient forms of patriarch that serves previous forms of class society (slavery, feudalism, village life, etc.)

    What I'm arguing for is that we need to understand the ways these structures of oppression and relative privilege serve the dominant social order (and the ruling classes who dominate that social order). that analysis and exposure helps explain the larger interests that can unite different sections of the people for revolution (not just focus on the matters of relative privilege that inevitably divide them).

    These are difficult dynamics to pin down -- but I think that a starting point for us should be Mao's distinction between "contradictions among the people" and "contradictions between the people and the enemy." It is quite different from the view that "anyone whose position is relatively privileged compared to my own is my oppressor." The first one is a revolutionary view.

  • Guest (wellsmon)

    Interesting Read! Very detailed blog,thanks for sharing

  • Guest (observer)

    Here is an item about some folkis doing something positive on this front:

    Protest WORKS! -- Live Nation Cancels Performer Who Calls for Killing GaysAuthor
    Late yesterday afternoon huge concert promoter Live Nation announced that it was canceling all its concerts with "kill gays" performer Buju Banton. This includes House of Blues concerts previously scheduled for Chicago (10/2), Las Vegas (10/15), Dallas (10/20) and Houston (10/22).
    In early August, Chicago's Gay Liberation Network initiated a campaign for Live Nation and other concert promoters to cancel Buju Banton concerts because the performer calls for killing Lesbians and Gays in the lyrics of his songs. Thousands of flyers were distributed and protest messages started to pour into Live Nation officials.

    "Live Nation, owner of four House of Blues locations at which 'kill gays' singer Buju Banton was scheduled to appear, has done the right thing and canceled the hate monger," said Bob Schwartz of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network. "These cancellations show the power of protest to deliver the goods," said Schwartz, who has led several protests against "murder music" performers over the years.

    Schwartz had written Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino to demand that Banton not be rewarded with bookings for advocating the murder of lesbians and gay men. "We first wrote Live Nation several years ago following their purchase of House of Blues to alert them to the Jamaican Reggae 'Dancehall' singers who advocated killing gays, and had thought we wouldn't have to go down this road again. We hope they have finally gotten the message," said Schwartz.

    In Buju Banton's native Jamaica, anti-gay violence is rife and typically tolerated by the authorities. Gay sex is punishable by 10 years in prison. Buju Banton both feeds off of and encourages this violence. As Passport magazine reported,

    "When [Human Rights Watch researcher Rebecca] Schleifer visited Jamaica in 2004, Brian Williamson, the country’s leading gay activist, was violently chopped to death with a machete in his apartment in Kingston. Schleifer walked to his street shortly after the murder and found a crowd of people gathered outside Williamson's apartment singing and celebrating his murder and shouting the chorus of 'Boom Bye Bye,' a popular Buju Banton dancehall hit about shooting gay men: 'Boom bye bye, in a faggot's head. Rude boys don’t promote nasty men, they have to die.' Others were laughing and yelling, 'Let’s get them one at a time,' and, 'That's what you get for sin.'"

    While the Live Nation House of Blues cancellations are an important victory over Buju Banton, our work is not done yet.

    Other concert promoters in several other cities are still sponsoring his concerts: Philadelphia (Sept 12); Providence (Sept 15); Portland, ME (Sept 17); Revere, MA (Sept 18); Charlotte (Sept 23); Raleigh (Sept 24); Norfolk (Sept 25); Richmond, VA (Sept 26); Detroit (Sept 30); Denver (Oct 6); Aspen, CO (Oct 7); Salt Lake City (Oct 8); San Francisco (Oct 10); Tallahassee (Oct 11); Jacksonville, FL (Oct 12); San Jose, CA (Oct 13); Charleston (Oct 14); Los Angeles (Oct 14); Raleigh (Oct 15)

    AEG Live is the promoter behind most of the remaining concerts on Buju Banton's U.S. tour. You can sign the LA Community Center's petition to AEG Live at the following URL:
    https://secure2.convio.net/laglc/site/SPageServer?pagename=Stop_Hate_Lyrics />
    If you are in any of these other cities, please begin organizing your own protests! The Gay Liberation Network will be willing to assist you as best as we can. Email us at LGBTliberation@aol.com

    Related
    http://www.GayLiberation.net