Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Man Who Changed Middle-Class Feminism, or Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory, Where Racism and Anti-Racism Intersect

“This is the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention. WisCon encourages discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class.” —from WisCon’s web site

When Emma and I went to WisCon in the 1980s, the convention used a simple definition of feminism like my favorite, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” It recognizes that people of any political stripe may be feminists—only a fool would argue that conservatives like Maggie Thatcher and Condi Rice are not the equal of any man.

But feminism changed, thanks to Derrick Bell, the man called the Father of Critical Race Theory.

According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs’ “What is Critical Race Theory?”:
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.
One of Bell’s harshest critics, black conservative lawyer Winkfield F. Twyman, Jr., acknowledges that Bell’s early work was impressive:
Bell had come out of the litigation struggle during the 1960s. Rightly concerned with the “snail pace” of racial progress, he began writing arguments critical of traditional civil rights law. He continued his provocative work after his appointment to the Harvard Law School faculty in 1969 and tenure in 1971. ... Because he taught at the premier law school in the country, Bell’s thoughts had a disproportionate impact on the best and the brightest black law students. Bell became more of a fiction writer than a scholar of constitutional doctrine. He devised more and more imaginary narratives that infused the law with the experience of racism. He wrote about space ships that came to take blacks away. He wrote about imaginary civil rights lawyers, to keep it real. And the bright ones took their lead from Bell’s troubled sojourn into irrelevance. Kimberle Crenshaw graduated from Harvard Law in 1984 and began to expand upon the mysticism that became loosely coined ‘Critical Race Theory’.
Crenshaw gets the credit for CRT’s name; Bell originally called his theory “Racial Realism”, the same name former Klan leader David Duke uses for his beliefs. In both cases, “racial realism” means “I divide people by race because I’m a realist, so don’t call me a racist.”

Bell believed:
Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those Herculean efforts we hail as successful will produce no more than ‘temporary peaks of progress,’ short lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance ... white self-interest will prevail over black rights.
Critical Race Theorists say their realism about race explains why the wealth gap between whites and blacks changed very little after the civil rights movement, a question that matters to anyone who cares about justice.

In 1967, Martin Luther King wrote, “In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.” Believing the problem of poverty for all race lay in unregulated capitalism, King said, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

Malcolm X targeted the problem bluntly: “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

But Bell was no follower of King or Malcolm X. He said, “I think there must be value in Marxist and other writings, but I did not really read them in college and have had little time since.” Since Bell’s heroes included black socialists like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, his lack of interest in socialism is surprising until you remember that many middle and upper class black folks celebrate King’s and Malcolm X’s opposition to racial privilege and ignore their opposition to economic privilege.

The most criticized aspect of Critical Race Theory may be its embrace of subjectivity. Because there’s no data to support it, its believers rely on stories, both memoirs and fiction. Bell’s “The Space Traders” is a CRT sacred text about an alien race that offers wealth to humanity in exchange for carrying off the Earth’s black folks. Whites—and, I assume, Asians—make the deal. It’s a parable that only works if you already accept its premise. (Full disclosure: I tried to read it, but Bell’s storytelling didn’t impress me. My summary is based on what I’ve read about it.)

Bell’s capitalism-friendly model of power may have been essential to his success in academia. Instead of teaching upper class students to share the wealth, he taught privileged whites to apologize for their white privilege and privileged blacks— Well, Adolph Reed Jr.’s comment about Barack Obama and his black supporters applies to all Critical Race Theorists of color:
...the modal type of Ivy League POC students I’ve been teaching for the last 30 years. That same mastery of performance of a cultivated, yet at the same time empty and pro forma, intellectuality, conviction that one’s career advancement literally embodies the victory of the civil rights movement...
Because CRTheorists think dark-skinned folks are best qualified to discuss race, here are critics of color from the left and right rejecting the approach to racism that comes from Bell:

 Adolph Reed Jr. wrote in “The limits of anti-racism”:
The contemporary discourse of “antiracism” is focused much more on taxonomy than politics. It emphasizes the name by which we should call some strains of inequality—whether they should be broadly recognized as evidence of “racism”— over specifying the mechanisms that produce them or even the steps that can be taken to combat them. And, no, neither “overcoming racism” nor “rejecting whiteness” qualifies as such a step any more than does waiting for the “revolution” or urging God’s heavenly intervention.
Rev. Thandeka said in “Why Anti-Racism Will Fail” that anti-racists “make an erroneous assumption about the nature and structure of power in America…The privilege that, according to the anti-racists, comes with membership in white America, actually belongs to a tiny elite.”

Priyamvada Gopal wrote in “Anti-racism has to go beyond a facile representation game”:
Anti-racist politics has become a facile “representation” game that involves appeasing the fragile sensitivities of a vocal few claiming to represent the whole community. It is about harassing artists and writers, demanding that they conform to “right” ways of representing the community.
Winkfield F. Twyman, Jr. wrote in “The Lightness of Critical Race Theory”:
Our best and brightest … should not be spending their energies planning the next hot Critical Race Theory workshop where the irrelevant write for one another. ... For all intents and purposes, Critical Race Theory is a non-issue in the real world.
Bell’s effect on feminism came through his protégé, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. Late in the 1980s, she fused middle-class feminism and Critical Race Theory with a concept that’s loved by identitarians, “intersectionality.”

Crenshaw wrote:
Among the most troubling political consequences of the failure of anti-racist and feminist discourses to address the intersections of race and gender is the fact that, to the extent they can forward the interests of “people of color” and “women,” respectively, one analysis often implicitly denies the validity of the other. The failure of feminism to interrogate race means that the resistance strategies of feminism will often replicate and reinforce the subordination of people of color, and the failure of antiracism to interrogate patriarchy means that antiracism will frequently reproduce the subordination of women.
In Crenshaw’s model, different forms of oppression are unrelated and only sometimes intersect. Identitarians now include class in that model, but social justice warriors are not interested in ending the class system. Like 19th century promoters of noblesse oblige, they’re only concerned with ending “classism”, the prejudice against people lower on the class ladder.

Which is why WisCon’s FAQ now says
We define “feminist” broadly to include race and class issues, gay/bisexual/lesbian/transgender issues, and anything else that touches on strong women (authors, artists, readers, characters) in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
The most interesting claim in that statement is that their definition is broad. Withdrawing their Guest of Honor offer from Elizabeth Moon suggests their definition of feminism is so narrow that only believers in Critical Race Theory need apply.

Derrick Bell would be very proud of what WisCon and third-wave feminism have become.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

socialist Bible verse of the day: Proverbs 21:13

"Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." —Proverbs 21:13

Monday, July 23, 2012

what should Goodreads—or anyone—do about pseudonymous jerks?

From my comments at Stop the GR Bullies - Goodreads Doesn’t Care:

1. Goodreads shouldn’t care. They’re a forum for free speech about books. So long as no one does anything illegal, they should stay as far away from this entire business as they possibly can.

You’re entitled to share information about the people you think are bullies, so long as those people have made that information public. The bullies are entitled to be vicious and slag books without even bothering to read them. Free speech is messy, but it’s better than the alternatives.

The best thing to do is to keep calling for kindness and honesty. If Goodreads had a solution to the problem of abuse on the internet, I’m sure they would’ve shared it with Youtube by now.

2. More moderation seems like a nice idea, but moderators tend to take sides. Sometimes they make a problem worse.

I like systems in which people can downvote comments, but that has problems, too. People will downvote comments for fun, or because they’re on vendettas.

Friday, July 20, 2012

about Stop the Goodreads Bullies, pseudonymity, and cyberstalking

Stop the GR Bullies is an attempt to stop "bullies" from posting cruel reviews at Goodreads. One of StGRB's tactics is to find information online that the "bullies" made public, then share that information at their site. The "bullies" and their supporters say they are being "cyberstalked" and "outed" by StGRB.

A few things I should state first:

1. Reviewers should feel free to say whatever they like about books and authors.

2. Reviewers should expect their readers to say whatever they like about reviews and reviewers.

3. Cruel reviews have always struck me as pointless. When so many good books are overlooked, why waste time slagging books you don't like? Ignoring books helps them disappear. Adding your negative attention to the positive attention a book has gotten only increases the attention that book will get. It's more effective to promote what you love than to attack what you hate.

4. Pseudonymity and anonymity matter. Anyone who is concerned about their privacy should have their privacy respected. Bradley Manning is one of my heroes, and I despise the people who outed him.

If the StGRB uproar was only about cruel reviews, I probably would not be writing about them.

But it's also about free speech:

Reviews should be honest. When reviewers give one-star reviews to books before they're published, the writer is a liar, not a reviewer. Though Fox News legally established its right to lie, lies are not and should not be defended as "free speech". Free speech is the right to share what you believe is true; it has nothing to do with saying what you know is false in the hope of hurting someone.

It's about metaphors:

If metaphors matter, "outing" and "stalking" should not be used lightly. In real life, people who were "outed" did their best to keep their identities private because they feared the sometimes-fatal consequences of being identified as a homosexual or a socialist. "Stalking" is about following people who are trying to go about their daily lives; it has nothing to do with reading or sharing a writer's public writing.

It's about bullying:

Some of the "bullies" are crying that they're being bullied, and that their reviews were not bullying because they didn't physically hurt anyone. But long before the internet existed, people knew that intellectual bullying existed and could be worse than physical bullying. Physical scars eventually fade, but mental scars last forever.

It's about censorship:

Some of the "bullies" are looking for ways to shut down the StGRB site, by appealing to the law or GoDaddy, the site's host.

It's about how to be pseudonymous on the net:

If you want to be pseudonymous, you have to make an effort. What you share in public is no longer private information; when you share it, it becomes public information. (Apologies for spelling out what should be obvious to everyone, but I'm constantly astonished by how many people haven't grasped that concept.)

The easiest way to be pseudonymous online is to be nice. No one tries to "out" anyone for being wonderful.

This doesn't mean you have to be nice. If you want to be abusive, that's your right. But if you want to be abusive pseudonymously, take your pseudonymity seriously. Don't cry that you've been "outed" if your targets, or their friends, or people who don't like abusive people, decide to share information that you've already shared. It may not be nice of them, but the hard version of the Golden Rule applies: Others may do unto you as you have done unto them.

ETA: On G+, I was asked why I mentioned Maning at #4, so I added "and anonymity". Privacy should cover all forms of withholding one's legal identity. Whistle-blowers often want to be anonymous or pseudonymous, and embarrassed people always want to expose and punish them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

real Indians and wannabes

Social Justice Warriors: Do Not Engage: real Indians and wannabes

If this quiz is accurate, I'm voting Green this year

I tried the isidewith quiz and got these results:

Jill Stein
Jill Stein
on immigration, healthcare, social, environmental, science, and foreign policy issues. 
Barack Obama
Barack Obama
on social, immigration, healthcare, science, and foreign policy issues. 
Stewart Alexander
Stewart Alexander
on immigration, healthcare, and social issues. 
Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
on domestic policy, foreign policy, and immigration issues. 
Jimmy McMillan
Jimmy McMillan
on domestic policy, social, healthcare, and economic issues. 
Ron Paul
Ron Paul
on domestic policy and foreign policy issues. 
Virgil Goode
Virgil Goode
on domestic policy and foreign policy issues. 
Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney
on domestic policy issues. 

Pennsylvania Voters
on domestic policy, economic, science, social, and foreign policy issues.

American Voters
on domestic policy, economic, science, social, and foreign policy issues.
I am surprised that I'm 1% closer to Obama than the socialist in the race, but the questions I answered didn't focus on sharing the wealth.

If I was in New York, I'd be tempted to vote for Jimmy McMillan purely for the great beard.

Friday, July 13, 2012

the least sexist countries have gendered languages

The title of Gendered Grammar Linked to Global Sexism is misleading; the short article is worth reading because it notes that the link is weak and many exceptions exist.

I googled for a simpler test of the relationship between gendered language and sexism.

Here are the top 20 least sexist countries in the world
20. Canada 19. United States 18. Latvia 17. Netherlands 16. Sri Lanka 15. United Kingdom 14. Belgium 13. Germany 12. South Africa 11. Spain 10. Switzerland 9. Philippines 8. Lesotho 7. Denmark 6. Ireland 5. New Zealand 4. Sweden 3. Finland 2. Norway 1. Iceland
And here's a partial list of genderless languages:
Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Persian, Basque, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Quechuan, Tagalog, Dravidian languages, Turkish
Only the Finns make both lists. They're great, but the evidence suggests it's not because of their genderless language.

So if I re-embrace the generic "he", you know why.

PS. The Tagalog peoples are a third of the Philippines, so you could argue that language is a factor there, but they're still outnumbered by people speaking gendered languages.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Robespierre executes the last executioner

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pulp - Common People - YouTube

Pulp - Common People - YouTube: "

linkfest: race, class, gender, censorship... you know my obsessions

The Reproduction of Privilege - "Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income."

linkfest: race, class, and the Social Justice League

If the Justice League behaved like the online Social Justice community

do words change reality?

Language Wars : The New Yorker: "as David Foster Wallace points out in his essay “Authority and American Usage,” it’s not at all clear that “society’s mode of expression is productive of its attitudes rather than a product of those attitudes.” In other words, Wallace continues, it’s bizarre to believe that “America ceases to be elitist or unfair simply because Americans stop using certain vocabulary that is historically associated with elitism and unfairness.”

about Witch Blood

Witch Blood was my second novel. I was totally blocked on what to write after Cats Have No Lord, so I decided to write a simple sex-and-adventure sword-and-sorcery disposable novel. I figured whenever I didn't know what to write next, I could yell at Emma, "I'm stuck!" and she could yell, "What did you write last?" and if it was an adventure scene, I could yell, "Adventure," and she could yell, "Sex!"

Which worked fairly well when I started writing, but then the story started becoming more interesting than I had expected. So I made it a little more ambitious in the next drafts, and Terri Windling bought it. It got nice reviews:
"Shetterly is a genuinely witty writer." —West Coast Review of Books 
"A funny, exciting adventure story that delighted me from beginning to end." —Orson Scott Card in Worlds of If
The current draft of the short sales pitch goes like this: Rifkin Outcast, hunted by the assassins of Moon Isle, becomes trapped in a ruined castle where a tiny band of witches are besieged by an army that's ten times their size. His choices? Save them, betray them, or die with them.

And here's a lightly revised version of the original back cover sales copy:

When I was a boy in the western fishing village of Loh, I was chosen by the wandering priests of the Warrior Saint to master her Art. Though no one would think me a priest or a saint, I learned my lessons well. I've had half the assassins of Moon Isle on my trail, and still I survive.

After all these years, the art of war runs in my blood. And now—without warning—the art of magic as well...

It's available:

In Kindle format at Witch Blood

As an epub file at BARNES & NOBLE | Witch Blood

In multiple formats at Smashwords — Witch Blood

And it'll be showing up at other ebook sites soon.

People have been nagging me to do a sequel for ages. This may be the year that finally happens, if life doesn't throw any major surprises.

white trash names

"White trash" is the only insult I know that's often used by people who pride themselves on being exquisitely politically correct. Here are two manifestations that might actually be useful to writers writing about working class white folks:

The White Trash Name Generator | Rum and Monkey

And, from Ted:

PS. My niece's name is Brandi, and she's a better human being than anyone who's amused by her name.

ETA: Poor whites in the USA

Friday, July 6, 2012

civil rights vs. social justice

I'm fascinated by the differences between the civil rights movements of the '60s and '70s and the social justice movements that followed. Superficially, only the names changed, because to most people, civil rights and social justice are both about treating everyone fairly. But if you think word choices matter—which the social justice community does vehemently—these changes must be significant.

1. Civil rights workers defined their causes by what they supported: equality, integration, peace. Social justice activisits define their causes by what they oppose: anti-racism, anti-war, anti-capitalism, etc.

2. Civil rights workers spoke of humanity as brothers and sisters. Social justice activists divide humanity into groups based on physical or ethnic identity and their "allies".

3. Civil rights workers had goals that could be legally accomplished. Social justice activists bristle when asked what specific measures they support.

4. Civil rights workers worked, and social justice activists are active. Examining that single difference could result in a book, but I'm not fascinated enough to write it.

Feminism bridged the change, which is why contemporary academic feminists kept the old name that says what they support and adopted the recent terminology of women and "male allies".


Two examples of the inclusive language of the civil rights movement:

"The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone." —Martin Luther King

"I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being, neither white, black, brown nor red. When you are dealing with humanity as one family, there's no question of integration or intermarriage. It's just one human being marrying another human being, or one human being living around and with another human being." —El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

free on the web: "Never Come Monday" by Eric Knight

"Never Come Monday" by Eric Knight, the creator of "Lassie", made me grin more than once. Emma forwarded it to me, knowing I would appreciate the humor, which takes the right side in the class war.

writing strong women: political act or realistic art?

A few days ago, Steve Brust said that with a few exceptions, he tried to keep his politics out of his writing. Elizabeth Bear told him that wasn't so; he wrote strong women, and that was political.

Which made me see a difference in people's definition of political. For Steve and Emma and me, a political act requires choice. We never sat down at the beginning of our careers and asked, "Should we write strong women or weak ones?" We wanted to write realistic women, which meant our female characters had to be as capable as the women we know. For us, writing strong women isn't a political act; it's an artistic one.

To be blunt, some writers don't write any characters convincingly, and some only write one sex well. If you have simplistic ideas about gender, your characters will reflect the limits of your ideas. If your audience shares your simplistic ideas, that won't hurt your career, of course—there are always people who want their facile ideas about men or women validated.

But if you want to write men and women well, you must always test your assumptions. A fine place to start is Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender.

Apocarteresis, a natural way to die, and strangulation, a good, quick way

Another of this blog's greatest hits, updated with bonus links:

If I ever choose to kill myself, my preference would be apocarteresis, a word I hadn't known until I saw it in Suicide methods:
Starvation has been used by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monks as a ritual method of suicide. Albigensians or Cathars also fasted after receiving the 'consolamentum' sacrament, in order to die while in a morally perfect state.

The explorer Thor Heyerdahl refused to eat or take medication for the last month of his life, after having been diagnosed with cancer.

A hunger strike may ultimately lead to death.
I had once thought I would try to get lost in the snow, but people don't just go to sleep in the cold. Often they tear off their clothes. Most likely, they feel like they're burning up.

Strangling may be a better choice for those who are afraid someone will find and force-feed them. Most other methods seem awfully inconsiderate to those who have to deal with the body. Suicide is your last chance to live well, so choose wisely.

Possibly of interest: More Patients Choose Starvation Than Assisted Suicide:
"We were surprised that patients who chose this means to hasten death were, according to their nurses, more peaceful and suffered less in the last two weeks before death than patients who choose assisted suicide," Ganzini said.
See also: The New York Times > Experts Say Ending Feeding Can Lead to a Gentle Death

Daily Kos: Schiavo: Bothered by the Starving to Death? Don't Be.

Santhara - Wikipedia

Death from Dehydration Is Usually Serene - ABC News

Terminal dehydration - Wikipedia