Clueless White Woman

July 9, 2008

AMA and institutional discrimination

Heard on NPR this afternoon: AMA To Apologize For Past Discrimination

The American Medical Association plans to apologize for past discrimination against minority physicians. The group did not take a stand against discrimination by state medical societies — including the exclusion of African-Americans — until the 1960s.

Apparently the audio will be available online in a few hours. I can’t find any press release on the AMA’s website confirming this, although I don’t mean to cast doubt on NPR’s reporting by saying that UPDATE July 10: the AMA press release is now available on their website.

This is a story to which the clueless person — by which I mean me — says, “Holy crap, that was recent! How could it possibly have gone on that long?”

Yes, I know, I’m really fucking clueless.

In practice, apparently, this wasn’t actively stating that black physicians were not eligible for membership; the central AMA left such “policy” decisions up to local branches. And despite my shock at discrimination being so recent, I was not particularly surprised to learn that the Southern branches were the ones who continued to insist on “autonomy” in such decisions. (How very neo-Confederate. What a shame they don’t believe in such autonomy when it comes to subsidizing religion on license places.)

The complete chronology of “Race and the AMA” is available at at their own site. This part seems a textbook example of historical patterns of discrimination having long-term effects:

Demographic survey results [from 2000]: House of Delegates: 88 percent male, 84 percent White, 2 percent Black, 1 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian, 0 percent Native American, 11 percent Unknown All physicians and medical students: 75 percent male, 51 percent White, 2 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic, 7.9 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Native American, 33 percent Unknown.

Note not only the racial disparity in the overall population of physicians, but also the disparity between those statistics and the percentages which make up the AMA itself. No white privilege there… o_O

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July 4, 2008

Melting pot problem

Filed under: cluelessness,confusion,white privilege — by clueless @ 1:29 am
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Yesterday I was reading Diversity Inc’s “Why Whites Can’t Get Over Color“, a response to a letter they received. It’s very educational; the letter writer gave the laundry list of what I hear from thinking-they-mean-well white people at work — and Visconti concisely and politely rebutted each point. I’ll shamelessly borrow from it whenever I next have to endure a conversation about how the special BET channel is so racist because if whites did it (yada yada yada)…

The portion I’m going to discuss in detail today, however, was a sentence that I initially passed over as not terribly central. The letter writer said:

I love the fact that America is a big melting pot, full of color and different cultures. Why not embrace that instead of constantly bickering over it.

And the response:

You close with an illuminating contradiction. You can’t celebrate “color and different cultures” and embrace the “melting pot” at the same time. The “melting pot” is about subjugating your culture and forcing a person to “melt” into the white culture.

Melting who you are into a pot is not what makes a person American. What makes a person an American is embracing our Constitution, which empowers and protects our individual ability to remain ourselves.

My husband, who was reading over my shoulder, snorted. “That’s not what the melting pot is supposed to mean. Why are people upset about the term ‘melting pot’?” So, we had a good discussion contrasting the two interpretations: (1) the “melting pot” has lots of ingredients put into it and is tastier as a result, versus (2) the “melting pot” dilutes its various components, thus tending to marginalize minority “ingredients”.

I don’t think the first interpretation is completely invalid. I like having diverse cultures around, especially when they open restaurants near me 🙂 However, “melting pot” is almost never used on its own; it’s used in sentences like “this country is a melting pot, why are you being different”. And that is a huge contradiction. You can’t pick and choose the things you like about different cultures (in my case, usually food) and then say the rest is “just being difficult” or something.

Part of me feels like there’s a labeling problem. The simple definition of “melting pot” (lots of cultures in one space) is rather like the simple definition of “racist” (somebody who hates other races) — it gives a vague idea, but completely misses out on a lot of subtleties. Exploring the problem of racism nowadays is often about subtleties, little things that add up to big problems. Getting into a healthy, productive discussion can be hard because people get defensive. In my husband’s case, it was more that he’d never really given the alternative interpretation any thought. Both defensiveness and cluelessness are barriers.

June 25, 2008

Durrr

Oh, Nader, Nader, Nader. Come on. As a consumer advocates, you’re helpful. But what is this bullshit?
Durrr

The number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law… Haven’t heard a thing.

Nader also says Obama wants to show he’s not “another politically threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he’s coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it’s corporate or whether it’s simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up.”

So black people (aka poor) care about payday loan crooks and white people care about white corporate and oligarchical strength. Way to lump us all into categories. (Let me guess — Jews care about Israel, Hispanics care about immigration, Asians care about China…)

I’ll confess that part of my white self’s comfort with Obama is that he feels like somebody I could have a conversation with. He’s reasonable, intelligent, articulate, and open-minded. No, he’s not threatening. But I also don’t believe that if he was talking about “black issues”, I’d feel particularly threatened. (Seriously, “oppressed white male”, are you that afraid you won’t measure up if you’re judged only on personal merits instead of skin color? Must suck to be so lacking in self-confidence…)

If you’re going to bitch about a lack of attention to issues for the poor, don’t make it about race. It muddles your point and makes you look clueless, but then why would you stop making yourself look clueless now after all these years…

June 20, 2008

SO HARD being rich!

Filed under: obscene wealth,white privilege — by clueless @ 6:38 pm
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Hooooo boy… Nothing says “privilege” like including botox in a list of necessities (NECESSITIES!) you can pass on to save money. What a crisis. People will have to be wrinkly. ZOMG.

It reminds me of an article in the New York Times (style section of course) which waxed tragic about how the rich are having to make huge sacrifices. “It might be hard for the average person to feel sympathetic,” the article admits; it then proceeds for another thousand words describing how the rich are selling second houses, buying less shoes, blah blah blah blah blah. Really, I do not have any ability to feel sympathy if you’re complaining about only having five million when you once had twenty million. Boo fucking hoo.

Something tells me that these are not the people who need help in a receding economy. Although people who need to be reminded that botox is pricey, maybe they do need help. “Swift smack upside the head” kind of help. “Beating with a reality stick” kind of help. That kind.

June 16, 2008

Really, it is time to let go, NOW…

Filed under: 2008 election,racism,sexism,white privilege — by clueless @ 12:59 pm
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I learned a sad little lesson from reading Your Whiteness is Showing: An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who are Threatening to Withhold Support From Barack Obama in November

For those of you threatening to actually vote for John McCain and to oppose Senator Obama, or to stay home in November and thereby increase the likelihood of McCain winning and Obama losing (despite the fact that the latter’s policy platform is virtually identical to Clinton’s while the former’s clearly is not), all the while claiming to be standing up for women…

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and increase the odds of his winning (despite the fact that he once called his wife the c-word in public and is a staunch opponent of reproductive freedom and gender equity initiatives, such as comparable worth legislation), all the while claiming to be standing up for women…

For those threatening to vote for John McCain or to stay home and help ensure Barack Obama’s defeat, as a way to protest what you call Obama’s sexism (examples of which you seem to have difficulty coming up with), all the while claiming to be standing up for women…

Your whiteness is showing.

Seriously, ladies — I am fucking shocked that there would be anybody thinking this way. You’re planning on protesting sexism by voting for McCain? You’re planning on protesting sexism by not voting at all?!?

Refusing to participate in the process can not improve sexism. The Republican party would have been just as full of sly sexism — and indeed, they have been throughout this race, if you’d bother opening your eyes and looking past the primaries. But they didn’t even need to bring their sneering up to full force, since Clinton and Obama were hashing things out without the GOP’s help.

Is this a race problem? Yeah, I’ll agree it is — not a blatant one, perhaps, but yeah, it’s racial. If you’re so damn blind to reality that you can’t consider the greater good, then you do have a white privilege problem. Will defeating Obama make your life better? Will it make life better for the average woman — black, white, or whatever? Will it teach anybody a lesson about gender equality, or will it make you look like a lot of spoiled hardline women?

Electing a president is about more than just one issue. It’s about four years of leading a fractious, struggling country. I think that Hillary Clinton could have done a good job, and it’s sad that sexism was present, but sexism is not what defeated her. Nor should feminism be the force that defeats Barack Obama. If you disagree with the Democratic party, THEN vote for McCain.

Personally, I actually am going to give some serious thought to Cynthia McKinney, because I think Obama can win without my vote and she looks promising 😛

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