I don't 'see the gorilla'; am I thus a racist? I keep a promise to my partner in dialogue by continuing a broken thread.
A latecomer to the Gorilla Wars, I discovered that I had been classified, by default, as a racist. I saw that because I didn't 'see the gorilla', people who had never met me (but who could see into my mind and soul with keener eyes than Jesus) had assigned to me any number of heinous thoughts and motivations. I saw that any attempt to question or examine these assigned thoughts served as further proof that I did indeed harbor those heinous thoughts and motivations -- and that the effort to dispute those assignments 'proved' conscious intent to perpetuate those thoughts and deny others respect, moving me (and others) into deeper and more heinous categories of racism.
This kind of dynamic is and example of what Gregory Bateson named 'the double-bind'; in his thinking, living in the stranglehold of a double-bind poisoned families and led to schizophrenia. Joseph Heller named this same dynamic 'Catch-22'.
Still struggling for words to describe this double-bind, and to point out its necessarily pernicious on the dKos community, I entered into a lengthy dialogue with another Kossack. This Kossack (I'll use male pronouns for now) was also struggling to express his feelings. I promised him that I would stick with the dialogue until we finished or got timed out. Just at the point where he had broken free of jargon and expressed genuine feelings (as I perceived it), and while I was writing a response which (I believe) might have been able to let him see me as a human being (rather than a marker in a war-game) our thread timed out and I could not post the comment.
So rather than let my partner in dialogue think that I abandoned him right at the point where human contact could be made, I am keeping my promise to him by turning my last comment into a diary. I hope this diary will be of some help to all Kossacks who are struggling with emotional wounds from the last week's battles.
[Notes: I had intended to put only my last comment to my partner in the space below, then realized that some notes on method might be helpful. (1) Although my comment contains some quotes from my partner's last comment, I am choosing (for now) not to link to his comment. I am making this choice because I do not want my partner in dialogue to feel that I have gone behind his back and put him on public display without his knowledge. I am willing to reconsider this position, but for now it seems to me to be the courteous thing to do. (2) The comment-within-a-comment below was shaped by my pondering on the wording of the Warning that the cartoonist received. It seems to me that readers of this diary will be best served by having that wording at hand, so I am including it above my comment.]
Text of the warning sent to the cartoonist:
Your depiction of Barack Obama as ape-like is intolerable. Being critical of Obama, even ferociously so, is not the problem. Through British and American history, blacks have been subjected to racist depictions of themselves as monkeys and apes. No excuse is acceptable for replicating that history now no matter what your intent. If it happens again, your posting privileges will be suspended.The text of my last comment to my partner in dialogue, which I was unable to post due to the thread's timing out:
I have never said or implied this:[Final note: I can see where those who have established and support the 'parameters of debate' (as my partner said) might see this diary as just another attempt to 'whitesplain'. That is not my goal. However, I realize that the parameters of debate do not consider my statement that 'this is not my goal' to be valid -- in fact, I expect that statement to be used as proof that I am, in fact, whitesplainin. I would nevertheless ask the community to consider: Kossacks are not nails, and each of us has in our kit more tools than just a hammer].
You've implied the objections to the depiction are oppotunistic, which is to say, not real,That is, however, a corollary of the 'See the gorilla or you're a racist' meme.
Nor have I ever said or implied this:only some people, the offenders, get to set the parameters of debate. -- LogeI am attempting dialogue, not debate. And your choice of 'offenders' -- rather than, say, 'partners' or even 'opponents' -- makes the people you are trying to speak to into criminals or malefactors who have already been judged for their 'crimes'. How will these 'us against the offenders' parameters of debate do anything but harm to the dKos community in the long run? These 'parameters of debate' make bystanders into enemies, a kind of collateral damage. How can any community survive that?
You have this inside-out:You've made it clear you see everyone inherently in one camp or the other, so it's projection. -- LogeRemember, I came into this issue late Sat night 11/29 -- almost five days after the mess began, and well after the parameters had been established -- and found that I had been placed in a 'camp' by definition, not by any action of mine. Like David54, who also entered the issue late,
What I saw was an argument about whether he was drawing Obama as an ape . . . The other thing I saw was that anyone who disagreed with the "drawing Obama as an ape" opinion was a racist.
Thanks for getting around to this next bit. This sounds like a genuine expression of your thoughts and feelings, which is the basis for any respectful dialogue. This may be the point where we can begin to communicate.I genuinely perceive in your argument as indifference to the impact that cartoon has to minorities and others and hypersensitivity to pointing that out. That's where i see the racism, in not caring or acknowledging that enough people do see it, and that the feelings of the people who see it matter. -- LogeThe fact that you could write this suggests to me that you didn't go to the David54 link and read his comment and its replies. I was so thrilled and relieved to see someone finally articulate what I had been feeling since Saturday night that I immediately wrote a reply to him. I think that comment is the best reply I can give you to the points you raised in the quote above, so I'll include it here.
Reply to David54:This is what I saw too --
Although I don't agree with the whole of your comment, I appreciate your posting this, which has been my experience too:What I saw was an argument about whether he was drawing Obama as an ape . . . .. The other thing I saw was that anyone who disagreed with the "drawing Obama as an ape" opinion was a racist.'It's a drawing of an ape or you're a racist,' is a very 'you're either with us or against us' mindset seems [sic: 'that seems] to have taken over the community and made a great many people unresponsive to reasoned debate. We're capable of something better, less polarized, than that.
For example, what if the Warning had said:'Many members of our community are offended by what they perceive as a gorilla-like appearance in your drawings of President Obama'The same key result would have followed: The offensive images would no longer have been posted here. The violent and polarizing arguments of the last week would have been (at least) considerably lessened. People who saw something other than a gorilla in the drawings, or otherwise 'defended' the cartoonist, would not be being called 'racists' by their fellow Kossacks -- and a great many more of those Kossacks would have been willing to support the spirit and letter of the Warning.
'We understand that degrading images, some of them animalistic or simian, have been used as a weapon against POC and others in our history'
'We can understand that POC and others might see the drawings as racially offensive'
'As with sexism or disable-ism, the persons in the affected group have the right to have their feelings about offensive words, images, and actions respected'
'The dKos community will not permit words, images, or actions that offend portions of our community, so we can no longer allow your images of President Obama, as they are currently drawn, to be posted here at Daily Kos.'
Currently, this community is stuck in a tense and unsustainable divide. No one should have to 'see the gorilla' in order to avoid the label 'racist'. We're better than that -- I hope
[Update, 5:42pm. The comments have slackened, so I'll do a quick update before fixing dinner, but I expect to check in throughout the evening. My partner in dialogue, Loge, showed up in the Comments and wanted to be linked and identified, so I will make those updates as I promised him.
[The link to the top of that long conversation is first, below. I warn you, it is very long, clunky in places, snarky in places, and I make use of my old Radical Feminist skills in textual deconstruction. Just don't say I didn't warn you. Next, I'll put the link (below) to the comment of Loge's that I quoted in my diary. In the diary itself, I'll label each of Loge's quotes with his name, since he feels it's hard to tell who is speaking.]
Link to the long, complete dialogue:
Link to Loge's comment (the last one in the long thread), quoted in my diary: