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Put this one in the category of signs of change, or maybe amazing things happening in unlikely places.

It started at Costco on Tuesday. James and I usually go through the self-serve checkout, but they were all busy and there was a full-serve line open, so we indulged ourselves. The checker, Denise, and her assistant, Angela, made the usual small talk. Then, I asked my husband whether he was paying or I was. Denise laughed, saying, "I always have the same discussion with my spouse." And we kept going, as if nothing unusual had happened.

On Wednesday, our dog become ill, and by evening it seemed clear that we needed to do something sooner rather than later, so we took her to the emergency vet (since it was past our regular vet's hours). At one point, while waiting for something to process, James went out to the parking lot for a few minutes while I stayed inside with the dog. The technician was in the room with me, chatting, when the bell rang to indicate that someone was at the door. As she headed to answer, she said, "That's probably your husband wanting to come back inside."

The extraordinary thing, of course, is that both of these individuals, with no prior knowledge of us and no prompting, not only presumed that our relationship was exactly what it appeared but made reference to it as though it's no big deal.

And that's a big deal.

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Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 08:39 AM PDT

Who defines racist?

by pragmaticidealist

I have been impressed (as I often am) by the intelligence shown by most responses to the recent post concerning the use of racist language in describing the President -- and dismayed by the pushback from folk who don't seem to understand a basic fact of social intercourse. So, with apologies if it's been said elsewhere better, here it is:

The oppressed community gets to decide what is offensive.
This is true of racism. It is true of sexism. It is true of homophobia. It is true of ageism and antisemitism and whatever other -ism you care to name.

Often, when we listen to the voices of the wronged, we learn a lot about what we take for granted. For instance, until I read the original diary, I had never considered the historical implications of saying a black man "has no balls." It's a term I wouldn't use anyway, since I usually try to avoid needlessly vulgar phrasing -- it can undermine your argument to unintentionally offend your reader -- but it was certainly instructive to realize why this seemingly unrelated term would be heard as racist by the African-American community. I learned a bit about language, certainly, but I also had a hitherto invisible (to me) point of privilege identified, so I learned a bit about myself, too.

Similarly, I have over the years learned similarly from women, members of religious minorities, etc. As a gay man, I have helped educate a few folk on just why certain comments are offensive to me. In each case, the same dynamic held true: the oppressed party gets to define what is offensive.

Note that for this to be true the offended party must be, not simply offended, but oppressed. The powerful don't get to define language use to those over whom they exercise power -- or, rather, since they already get to do so, they get no additional such privilege.

So, is it clear now?

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Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:56 AM PST

On Raising Human Beings

by pragmaticidealist

While reading shanikka's extraordinary diary about the ongoing slaughter of young black men in this country, I had two visceral reactions. The first I hope we all had -- an overwhelming sense of horror and sorrow at the utter pointless waste of lives. This reaction is, I think, baseline human; you'd be hard pressed to qualify as a human being if, reading once more of the violent deaths of scores of young men, deaths attributable solely the expectations of their killers based on the color of their skin, your first reaction isn't one of overwhelming sorrow and horror. So that, in and of itself, wasn't particularly notable, and isn't a diary.

My second reaction, I think, may be worth a diary. Because my second reaction was to wonder what my parents did that was so different than so many other parents of kids in my demographic. I was raised in a white, middle class, Protestant family in the suburbs of Detroit. There were no people of noticeably darker hue within several miles of my boyhood home. Yet my parents raised three kids who all manage NOT to react to others based on the color of their skin, or their non-Western dress, or any of the myriad markers of the "other" that identify the targets of middle-American violence these days.

I'm grateful, of course, that they did so. This diary is an effort to identify what it was that they did, and how they did it. My goal isn't a parenting primer (as a non-parent, I'm not qualified) but will, I hope, add something of value to the ongoing discussion of racism and violence, and how we might decrease and, ultimately, end them.

To some extent, I'm also responding to this diary, which asks some very useful (and pointed) questions about how we can battle racism. The diary challenges readers to become "anti-racism warriors", and encourages confrontation. There is certainly value in that approach, but in my experience confrontation is rarely successful in changing people's minds, even if they moderate their behavior or language in the presence of the person doing the confronting. (For instance, I've been confronted by folk I consider religious extremists, who informed me that I was wrong to so describe them. I still do, but not around those specific individuals; it's not worth the annoyance. I've also confronted extremists, and members of the Klan, and members of Westboro Baptist Church, not expecting them to change, but because they and their ideas needed to be challenged.) This diary is about something different: raising kids to treat people as universally human. It may not feel as activist as confrontation, but I believe it is just as valid an approach, more proactive, and in some ways far more subversive.

The two approaches can also be effectively combined.

More after the orange arabesque.

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NOTE: This diary is a response to the discussion prompted by Evangelicals get it; GOPers still don't.

Essentially, original diary cites two recent stories about the responses to the recent election by Republican and Evangelical leaders. The political leadership is described as focused on the need to develop a new set of tactics for spreading the party message, rather than a new message. Evangelicals are described as understanding that their message, not their tactics in spreading it, has been rejected:

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Discussion followed along a variety of lines, including one that worries me. It focuses on the question of how the Evangelicals will now address this failure to gain traction with their message. A theme running through much of this part of the discussion was basically that we don't need to worry about the Evangelicals if their major response is to redouble their proselytizing, that the problem is the politicization of Evangelical belief and efforts to impose a particular religious point of view through law. It's politics, not proselytizing, that's the problem.

The trouble is, while this idea is comforting, it's dead wrong. Proselytizing is the very heart of the problem, and an increase in this activity may well make things much, much worse before they get better.

I'll explain below the arabesque.

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