June 2009


I’ve been mulling over these thoughts for quite a while, and giving President Obama the benefit of my doubts. But comments from a prominent intellectual made me think I’m not the only Obama supporter doubtful and disappointed by some of his actions or lack thereof. Dr. Dyson articulated it best when he said “We don’t expect any more of Obama than [previous white male presidents], but we don’t expect any less either.”

I’d modify that by saying I don’t expect any more of Obama than other intelligent, thoughtful,and humane¬†American presidents, (which excludes G W Bush because I didn’t expect anything of him but the worst), but I don’t expect any less either. So while I understand and appreciate his vision of unity and collaboration, there are some issues where I don’t think centrism would be compromised if he did the right thing.

I don’t think I see politics through rose colored glasses. As great as Obama is, he’s had to get to the top somewhat like all other politicians, through powerful allies to whom he’s obligated, even though they’re not his ideals. His election was partly revolutionary but equally just regular politics. So I don’t expect him to be like Gandhi or Dr. King, revolutionary leaders who I don’t think would’ve been presidents. I have realistic expectations of President Obama. I also admire his continual efforts to unite people of different ideals and opinions, even though I think, and he probably knows, that those efforts won’t actually be successful. I disagree when some liberals say that Obama should just govern without regard for what Republicans/conservatives say, now that liberals are in power, just like what conservatives did when they were in power. I think it’s a great political move by Obama to continually reach out to people of the “other” opinion because it places the ball in their court. And as we’ve seen so far, Republicans haven’t been playing too well because now instead of just criticizing Obama, they have to come up with the alternatives. This reaching out also sets Obama apart from previous tyrannical presidents.

I also appreciate Obama for the things he did do right already: reverse the Global Gag rule, sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act, stop federal funding to the harmful abstinence-only “no safe sex allowed but spreading diseases and unintended pregnancy are A-okay” programs, propose the closure of Gitmo (though thwarted by idiotic, inhumane congresspeople – do they get off on watching the torture of unethically imprisoned “exotic” men?), as well as his nominations to the HHS, Dept. of Labor, and recently the Supreme Court.

If you’ve had the patience to read till here, you’re probably wondering what the hell disappoints me about Obama. Here goes, in no particular order of priority:

1) His comments on race and ethnicity in America, articulated well by Dr. Dyson in the video above, so I won’t repeat.

2) His pick of economic advisors and “czars.” Really, Obama, I mean REALLY?? Lawrence Summers??? Really? Thanks for saying a big Fuck You to all the human rights people who voted for you. Thanks. If you won’t appoint intelligent and humane people to direct American and world economy then we can’t expect any other president to do so. Exactly why do you have to appoint the wrong Clintonite people over many other great alternatives? Exactly why do you have to pamper selfish, evil executives of insurance companies and then crack down on the companies of blue-collar workers? Being Republican much? Why do you perpetuate this idea that somehow capitalism and the whole realm of economics are only understood and should only be directed by ignorant, inhumane oppressors like Summers and Greenspan when it’s understood just as well, and directed better by economists who don’t disregard human rights?

3) His direction so far of healthcare reform: American healthcare reform could’ve been started while the wave of change around Obama’s election lasted. But alas, that wave has almost ended and the chance for true reform is distant again. No matter how difficult the logistics of universal healthcare in America maybe, why is Obama so weak in articulating the ideals of basic human rights? Only some ignorant Americans think good healthcare for American citizens is somehow a liberal or conservative issue, that it’s somehow contrary to capitalism. Conservatives and capitalists of other industrialized countries don’t make healthcare a political issue. That’s because just like public education, public housing, public transportation (roads and highways), and public communication (mail), healthcare is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT, and not a product or a service of corporations. Good health of workers increases productivity, which serves both capitalist and human rights interests. Ignorant conservatives have a patriarchal, corrupt and oppressive idea of capitalism, which is not the kind of capitalism necessarily theorized by Smith, Keynes of Pigou. The American conservative’s idea of capitalism is just an oppressive application of neutral ideals, much like their application of neutral religious and spiritual morals to oppress poor people and women. As mentioned before, the logistics of universal healthcare is something to be worked out and there too, I don’t expect utopia. But that’s no reason to not be clear about what is ideal and what Americans should achieve. I can collaborate with people of different views who recognize the utterly disgusting human rights violations in American healthcare and the need for a good basic health coverage. But there’s nothing to debate with people who are so blinded by their privilege that they don’t see the suffering, or worse, those who see the suffering caused by oppression and don’t prioritize change.

4) His indifference to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:” This is just one more of of the things Obama should’ve taken care of in the first 100 days. It’s so simple I can’t believe he hasn’t done something about it. Although enacted during the Clinton years, this policy is not the intention of Clinton but the kind of harmful, idiotic policy you get when some stupid Democrats, after being the majority in Congress, think it’s alright to compromise on human rights. Now I understand that many people don’t care about the rights of non-heterosexual people, but at least they can care about their MONEY!! This policy has done nothing but wasted money after thousands of qualified gay servicepeople have been fired after money was spent on their training. So the American military is willing to let convicted criminals serve in the military, but not qualified gays? They’re willing to waste money on Blackwater Security, an unnecessary and criminal Republican business that is supposed to “protect American armed forces,” by employing violent criminals who have documented cases of rape and murders of Iraqis against them, but they’re unwilling to invest in enforcing safety and solidarity for female soldiers? BTW, Obama has renewed the contract with Blackwater too. Go figure.

5) His stance on the Israel’s occupation of Palestine: Now it’s refreshing to hear an American president say clearly that Palestine has a right to exist, and for the first time tell Israel to stop further “settlements.” And yes, Obama’s speech in Cairo was more nuanced than anyone of the previous administration could’ve dreamt of speaking. But it’s just not enough to say Palestine has a right to exist, because Israel doesn’t disagree there. It’s merely lip service and infuriating empty rhetoric. NO DUH, Palestine has a right to exist, and now let’s make it possible. Obama told Palestinians that they should not use violence to justify their cause. Great. Why did he miss telling Israel that the violence they use to justify their cause, so many magnitudes greater than that of Palestinians, is wrong as well? As ignorant as Americans already are about the Israel-Palestine colonization, why do you perpetuate the biased and completely wrong view of the situation, President Obama? You lead those ignorant people to continue to believe that Palestinians are the only ones using violence, that Hamas is the culprit, and if they only started being peaceful then the problem would be solved. No the problem would not be solved until Israelis stop violently destroying humble Palestinian homes to build their pristine mansions. It would not be solved until Israel stops destroying Palestinian roads with their tanks,until they stop cutting off electricity and water supplies to homes, schools and hospitals, until they stop bombing homes and hospitals of Palestinian civilians – they fucking bombed Palestinian hospitals in January 2009, though not reported by Rupert Murdoch’s media. Palestine can’t exist unless Israel stops making giant concrete walls cutting off civilians from their schools and work, setting up checkpoints just to harass Palestinians and non-Israelis. And Palestine sure as hell can’t exist if America continues to fund Israel’s terrorism, which it is doing even under Obama. Some people will equate my stance with anti-Semitism but those people can keep their heads buried in the sand. It wasn’t Muslims, Hindus, or any one else but a group of Europeans who slaughtered Jews during the Holocaust. Most people’s opposition to Israel today is against their occupation and colonization of Palestine, having nothing to do with a dislike for Judaism or Jews. Yet ignorant people continue to point to Ahmedinajad as somehow being related to supporters of Palestine, though he has much more in common with G W Bush. They continue to disregard the disproportionate amount of Palestinians murdered while focusing only on murdered Israelis. Isn’t one of the lessons of the Holocaust not to let another one happen? Do we have to wait for six million Palestinians to be killed before we change something?

Well, that’s enough for one post. I’ll give the black man in office more time to clean up the rest of the mess a bunch of stupid rich white frat-boys on “legacy scholarships” left behind.

-vidyarthi

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ISSUE 3) “I think classism (or sexism) is a bigger problem than racism.” How many times has a well-meaning white friend said this? ¬†This comment is misguided. Not because classism is a lesser problem than racism, but because those are variables you can’t compare. To use a cliche, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. When examining racism, you have to study it within every economic class, within every gender, within every sexual orientation and within every other identity. When you study sexism, you have to study it within each ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and so on. Ignorant people will always point to Oprah, a range of other colored celebrities and now President Obama, to refute the claim that racism is a problem today. Never mind that for one Oprah, you have many other white billionaires at or higher than her class – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the list is endless. Never mind that for one Obama, you have 43 other white male presidents. Never mind that for all the pop culture colored icons, you have many more white icons who are often paid more, and among colored people mostly the lighter skinned are represented, and paid more. It’s always those few colored people who’ve moved up the ranks that now make classism or sexism a bigger problem. Well, they are all problems. And for a poor colored woman, not one is bigger than the other, and not one can be prioritized. To make a logical judgment about an issue, you have to compare it with the right variables. And guess who’s losing among people of low economic status? Colored people, cis-women, gays, lesbians, trans-people, etc. Guess who’s behind among the rich Americans? Oprah.

ISSUE 2) “I’m a cool white person, not the ‘white trash racist’ kind!” I know I’m not the only one who has heard this comment in one way or another. These cool young white folks readily separate themselves from the “wrong” kind of white people, i.e. the “white trash,” and have a number of colored friends they speak of. It’s not unusual for these colored friends to be of South Asian descent, since we so readily grow up and socialize with suburban Americans (whites), yet maintain out exotic status thanks to traditional parents and summer trips to South Asia. Many of these white folks love the “stuff white people like” blog, and few of them don’t, both for the wrong reasons. Some don’t like the blog because it’s a kind of “reverse racism,” a wrongful stereotype of white people that is unacceptable because stereotypes of colored people aren’t politically correct either. What these folks might not realize is that in reality, even they themselves recognize many cultural commonalities and group identities among people of different ethnicities, and white people are no different. If the blog was a hateful creation by colored people that would be one thing, but it’s written by white people, mostly for white people. Now to the white folks who love the SWPL blog – my issue with them is that as much fun as they poke at having their privileges, they are nonetheless complicit in them, and do little to change the inequal structure of society. I mean, it’s funny and all to read the blog entries, but now what? What use is the privilege to buy a Prius, various scarves, and bangs at the expensive hairdresser, if you’re not aware of the structural inequalities and not doing at least a little to change them? My biggest issue with “cool” white folks’ disassociation with “white trash” is that their racism is what hurts colored people the most!!! The “cool” white folks are the ones with both race and class privilege, and their ignorance is much harder to deal with than “white trash.” Firstly, why call people “trash?” Why make it even more obvious that you think of poor white people as garbage, that you don’t see beyond the stereotypes of Jerry Springer or Maury’s show, and that you focus on those stereotypes and not the struggles behind them? Sure, many poor whites are racists and have prejudices that Republicans make good political use of. But just as that racism hurts colored people of the same economic status and allows rich white people to divide and conquer, so does the ignorance (= racism) of the “cool” white friends agonize richer colored people. In some ways, the cool white folks’ racism is even more unacceptable considering the formal and social educational opportunities they get. I wish before making another ignorant comment some of them used their iPhones to find the evidence against their claims. Can POC get an iPhone application of anti-racist ammunition?

Hi y’all! I know you’ve all been waiting eagerly for my next post (sarcasm alert) after a long break. It was a really distressing time – more on that later. But first on a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for quite some time. It will be refined as time goes on, kind of like the women and science topic – new challenges, new things to write about.

So most, if not all, colored people trying to move up the ranks in their lives, have encountered this phenomenon in “the land of opportunity.” The middle ranks onwards, professional communities are made up of white people, and in order to remain there, let alone move up, you have to socialize with white folks, fit in as much as you can with their culture, and still be their minority friend. If you’ve experienced racism in your life, and especially if you’re a feminist, you’ve got to grow a thick skin and get lots of de-stressing to deal with the phenomenon. The phenomenon is one where educated white people, those who readily differentiate themselves from “white trash” (who in their minds are the only racist white people), make such ignorant comments about the state of race and culture in the US, that you’re baffled about where to start your response. Needless to say this isn’t all of your liberal white friends, but many. And this isn’t just white people either, but some colored people ignorant to the oppression of other colored people (South Asians, anyone?). My purpose in writing about these issues is to gather my own logic, and make readers of this blog (the two of you) aware of the logic and plethora of evidence behind claims of racism. Perhaps it’ll help your next discussion with your well-meaning white friends.

This situation is encountered by members of many marginalized groups – women among men, LGBTQ among heterosexuals, B and T among anyone, really, mentally or physically handicapped among able people, etc. Each marginalized group experiences this phenomenon in unique ways and has to deal with them in unique ways. I have experienced the gender, race/ethnicity, and class intersections and so that’s what I’ll write about, in several posts.

ISSUE 1) “Racism isn’t a problem today as it was 50 years ago!” Bullshit. According to Tim Wise, only 11% of white people surveyed recently think racism is a problem nowadays. Majority of blacks and latinos think racism is still a problem today, because, of course, they’ve experienced it in their lives. So 89% of white people ignore and/or disbelieve what colored people say today about racism, even though they have no personal and/or academic evidence to back that disbelief. Now most of these well-meaning white folks will acknowledge that it really sucked to be a black in the olden times, like 50s and 60s. And, oh, slavery sucked too, but today’s white folks shouldn’t be paying for what their unknown ancestors did (!) (even though they enjoy the privileges). Well that’s all good and all, until you realize that about 2/3 of white people surveyed in 1963 also thought racism wasn’t a problem in their society. 1963, that’s before the Civil Rights Act. In 1963, most white people thought blacks got equal opportunity as whites, just like majority of white people think society is equal today. They also have this tendency of pointing out how progressive society is today, by reminding you that lynching, name calling, and overt segregation doesn’t happen today, which makes me wonder, how dumb do they think colored people are? I kinda already know that those things don’t happen today (actually do in some areas and isolated cases) and that’s not the kind of racism I’m talking about. Truly intelligent people recognize the oppressions in their own times, and try to do something about it, instead of just acknowledging the oppressions in history, which doesn’t take any merit. Even then, many people don’t consider the implications of that history, and know an incomplete history to begin with.

Most people would think it’s absurd to ask an able-bodied person what issues handicapped people face. Less people, but probably more than 11% of people today would think it’s absurd to ask heterosexual people about issues that gays and lesbians face. But on issues of race, gender and class, privileged people totally DISREGARD affected people’s experiences even though they have none of their own. I mean, why the hell would you contradict a person’s opinion from experience when you have NO experience or data to back your counter-opinion? I’m sure I do it sometimes too, but it’s still beyond me to understand how some people do it so often!