Monday, July 27, 2009

busted: my knee and race relations

I sat in the Northwestern ER for 3 hours yesterday because I misjudged the distance between a curb, a flowerbed and a sidewalk at 2 am on Sunday morning. I fell, bounced and landed so hard on the edge of a concrete step, a divot of flesh was wedged from my knee and I barely avoided smashing my kneecap.

Some moments from the past 48 hours:

Sitting in my kitchen, both of us ready for bed, my leg in his lap, while we both look at my divoted knee, getting totally grossed out at all the bloody flesh. He looks up and says, 'It'll be ok, babe.'
I say, 'I might need stitches.'
He says, 'Do you want to go to the ER?'
I say, ' can't be that bad, right?' Despite how wrong we both were, it strikes me that, other than my parents and my very close friends, no one has taken care of me before. Correction: I have not allowed anyone to take care of me.

Post-makeshift bandage, kissing in my kitchen, while the thought runs through my head that blood or no, busted knee or no, there is always room for a frolic.

The next afternoon, hobbling and exhausted after 3 hours in the ER, hearing a knock at my door and there's M- on his bike who dropped by to check on me and feeling a little, 'awww!'

And before the fall (heh), waiting for my hot dog at the Portage Theater during the monster flick triple feature, while M- runs into an acquaintance and hearing him introduce me as his girlfriend.

A milestone? Or is it a milestone when *I* start introducing him as my boyfriend, instead of 'my friend, M-'?
In other, more serious, news that has nothing to do with Ding's new relationship, here's a post on the Gates/Crowley Affair from the Tenured Radical about the 'danger' posed by white folks. (Thanks to SybilV's Tweet at Bitch, Ph.D.)

This whole thing has only made it obvious to me that conversations about 'race,' 'race relations', etc. are woefully uneven and won't ever get to any useful point because, frankly, we're all at different reading levels. It has also made it clear that the training I received from UCLA re: semiotics comes in handy. Because when we talk about race, we are really talking about conflicting systems of knowledge and conflicting mythologies that form the foundation of that knowledge.

There is a mythology (of history, of human interactions, of experience) that most North American white people unblinkingly buy into and which people of color (unless they have been privileged by class - and even then, only very rarely) have never had the luxury to believe.

Like, the policemen are our friends. Or, Bridgeport is a perfectly nice community to live in. Or, missionaries just want to read the bible to you and give you blankets. Things like that.

Using Pat Buchanan as an extreme example, there won't be any common ground wrt race relations until we first see the Buchanan mythology of America as intrinsically flawed, one-dimensional and, at its core, the product of white supremacist ideology. Or, if that phrasing makes one uncomfortable, then perhaps White Racial Frame is more palatable.

(what Feminism 101 does for basic feminist discourse, RacismReview does for academic studies of race/anti-racist work and is a gem of a site if you're honestly interested in anti-racist discourse.)

I remember using one of Pat Buchanan's early essays about the 'manifest destiny' of America, waay back in the early 90s, as an extreme tool to challenge the idea of 'neutral' values (as well as provide the ideological backdrop of cowboy narratives.) Values are never neutral. Some ideology, or interest, is at play. And, frankly, since the White Racial Frame constitutes the foundation of our western culture it is, unfortunately, everywhere. Right thinking people naturally distance themselves from a Buchanan because he is so blisteringly and overtly racist (and his Southern accent doesn't help) but fail to see the how the White Racial Frame invisibly informs our culture and our experiences and, consequently, makes them complicit in disseminating it.

Which brings me back to the Gates/Crowley Affair. Listening to our national media, and the pundits - as well as the folks around here - speak so simplistically about it makes me think that, unless all parties get on the same page, 'talking about race' with most non-people of color will continue to be like speaking to a Stockholm Syndrome victim.


sjc said...

Listening to our national media

That's the problem right there. The Gates affair is basically this summer's shark attack or Chandra Levy: a late-summer story that they can run with. After all, black president + cops + stirred undercurrents = ratings magic!

There will be no "national conversation" on race on CNN, and they only trot out Pat Buchanan because they need someone to fill airtime. There are deep foundations (from History!) of racial tension in the U.S., but expecting any media enterprise to have anything meaningful at all to say about them, and being shocked when it doesn't happen, is like being disappointed that your can opener doesn't dance.

ding said...

The problem I have with that position is that it absolutely abandons agency and work of ideology. Somehow, BigMedia just happens to disseminate and perpetuate problematic ideologies and we can't expect anything else from them?

Well, no. People are involved in media and what drives forward forward is more than just profit motive. Explicit and implicit biases come through the choices institutions, or the people who inhabit them, make.

Tim Wise has a really good piece about the depth of these implicit biases and the research behind them here:

There are different levels to the Gates/Crowley Affair. Yes, on one level, it is merely a media circus - a perfect example of how a complex event gets reduced to a dubm soundbite. But there are other levels. And it's at acknowledging those other levels that our culture consistently disappoints me.

ding said...

dammit. 'dumb.'

ding said...

And here's a piece about the overt white supremacist rhetoric coming from FOX:

Accident? Not really.
Conscious choice.

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