Monday, March 31, 2014

Suey Park, Racism, Whiteness, and Colbert

Oh geez. Great. Another twitter trend that leaves me wondering what the hell to actually think when it comes to being someone on the left, and a white male. Yes, this topic is terribly uncomfortable for me as a white male. I cannot lie. I do get defensive. I do feel hurt at times. I do feel like a punching bag. And, once again, this is the case. Yes, I am writing this from my own personal perspective and how it relates to me, my "race", my identity, my feelings, and so on and so forth. Let's make that perfectly clear. Yes, I am a human with feelings.

So, if you don't know the story by now, a new twitter campaign started by someone named Suey Park has emerged (and is subsiding) under the hashtag #CancelCobert. A good rundown of the controversy can be found in this New Yorker article. I'll give you a few minutes to read those before I continue. Done? Okay, good.

Okay, here is the deal. You can't tell someone who believes that something is racist towards them isn't racist. If they feel like it is racist towards them and they feel hurt or bothered by it, who am I or anyone else to tell them that they are wrong. But she is wrong. But it's bad to say that. And maybe she isn't wrong. I have no clue. From my perspective, my opinion, the joke was actually quite good and was also fighting the type of racism that Ms. Park is saying the joke is actually perpetuating. So, it sets off a nuclear explosion in my head. What the hell am I supposed to make of all this?? I'm on the left. How do I process this one. How do I reconcile of the fact that I don't think it's racist and want to call the whole campaign stupid with the fact that I also think racism is stupid. It's all just stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

One of the main arguements is that progressive white people are racist for not seeing the Colbert joke as a racist attack on an oppressed minority, of which Park sees herself. And because I don't see the joke as racist it turns out that I am racist...I think? I don't know. I'm guilty of something, that's for sure. I'm just not one hundred percent sure what I am guilty of. Therefore, I must resign from the whole conversation. But, I want to say a few things before I do. You know this whole fact that I am a white male? Screw it. I'm not. I'm tired of being accused of being a white male, and thusly part of a fascist system that oppresses everyone else. That's why I am not white...I am pink. And I am not male...I am human. So, just leave me out of it. Don't implicate me personally in any of this bullshit. I'm not part of any system. I'm just living my life, okay.

I'm not going to go into some grand thing about reverse racism, because that's stupid. But, I also hate the whole "Check your privilege!" garbage and the demonizing that too often goes with being a white male or whatever I am that I didn't choose to be and have no power over and must take all criticism of white maleness over or I'm not a good left winger that I think I am good at being. In other words, the whole thing is a mess and I have no clue where I fit in here, especially because I feel as rejected from most groups as it is and always have. I look at someone like Park who has more education, power and influence (and probably money and stature, or whatever) than I will ever have and can't help but feel horrible for oppressing her so badly with my whiteness. No, I don't know what it is like to be Asian. Has it been rough for her? Probably. I don't know. I haven't lived her life, just as no one else has lived mine. So, just as generalizations and jokes about her ethnicity can be seen as offensive, I think looking at me as a white male and making generalizations about that is offensive, and no one can tell me how to feel about it. I feel what I feel. And, yes, when it comes to the topic of me being part of a system and race that is the big oppressor, I have to stand up and say it does bother me because that means I am not being looked at for me...but as part of a group that I don't feel any strong association with! But, saying that turns me into someone someone else will say is saying, "Oh, I'm a poor oppressed white guy!" and will be told to check my privilege and shut up or whatever. Well...whatever, indeed. I know I'm not oppressed, although I have faced plenty of realities that have not made life overly easy. I hate the term privilege so much it makes me want to spit so I will just say I absolutely know that I have it better than so many people on this planet for a whole variety of reasons, not just my skin colour OR penis. I know these things. Privilege checked. Done. Complete. I understand this, okay. So, don't start on with that crap. Okay? Point clear? Good.

So, what am I trying to say here. Good question. Basically, I'm trying to say that issues around race, sex, heirarchy, oppression and all that jazz are more complex than sometimes it is made out to be by very academic approaches to these issues that too often want to categorize all this stuff into neat little groups and how certain people are supposed to feel, act and approach the issue, and that just doesn't sit well with me (but run on sentences do.). And I think that this whole #CancelCobert tag shows this once again even though some, including, I believe, Ms Park, want it to be a very cut and dry issue based on race and gender theory or whatever it is that this is all based in . And I refuse to be stuck in any of these categories and want to be able to make my own decisions about who I am and what I am going to think and hope, just hope, to avoid being labelled as something I don't want to be just as anyone else. Is that too much to ask? Probably, yes.

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