"What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable." - Audre Lorde, 1984when Audre Lorde spoke at NYU in 1984, she was challenging white feminists that without addressing their own racism and homophobia, they would change little. that metaphor is powerful beyond compare.
the master's tools.
of all the tools used to maintain and institutionalize inequality, oppression, poverty, racism and genocide - language is the most pervasive and most culpable.
I wrote a post the other day that some people here really didn't like. this post is not about that diary but about what I started thinking about afterward. namely, just who makes up the Daily Kos community and does that support what Daily Kos out to do?
regarding who makes up the Daily Kos community, my assumption has been that this site is made up of people from various demographics within the Democratic Party. I think I read someplace years ago that the purpose of this site is to elect better (progressive) Democrats. I am not sure if that's the guiding principle still, but it attracted me and keeps me here.
so, here is what I found when I looked at the dailykos quantcast website stats:
so, the average reader of this site is a white male, with money, no kids and at least one college degree living primarily in New York or any of another dozen cities.I looked at the demographics of the Democratic Party for comparison:
Not only does the readership demographics of dailykos not match up with the Democratic Party, in some ways it looks a lot more like the GOP. in the 2012 election cycle, the Democratic party struggled to get the votes of white males. the demographics of this site are the opposite of that.this is not a new observation, as seen in a 2011 diary, Daily Kos Demographics: Still White. Over 50. Well Off. Male.
So, why is this site so 'white, english speaking, college educated, well to do, male' when it is serving as venue for speaking in support of a political party with vastly different race / gender / class proportions?
one thing I assert is that the common language spoken here (white male-ese) communicates to people:
▪ how they should speak to be welcome here / to be heard here
▪ the active class dynamic
▪ the expectations of how people outside the preferred group will / can be treated, based on the language they use
▪ and something is communicated by not even mentioning overtly this very dynamic - namely that there is no means or invitation to even address this. it's non-negotiable.
▪ these messages have been given for centuries by universities, newspapers, magazines and publishers: speak white male-ese or you will not be heard.
it's no wonder why the site is so rich, educated, white & male.
white male-ese (as I define it: roots in journalism, formed in colonial / military society, white male power holders / gatekeepers)…didn't form in a vacuum. nobody walked up and found a grove with the language conventions of journalism, university and other elite institutions just "lying around". this language is not a molecular compound, forming in the birth and death of stars. language is comprised of metaphors: sounds and images and words we exchange between one another in order to convey messages. the conventions of thesis & argument are not physical objects - they are agreed upon ways of speaking and listening.
when other forms of communication are dismissed because they differ, access is restricted by the class holding power differential advantage. people in differing race / class / gender / age / culture / brain function have widely ranging thought patterns and forms of expression. making an assertion, supporting it with 3 facts including links and summarizing the point in closing - that's all well and good - but it exists in agreement only. it's not solid like rocks on a beach and it's not the only way of communicating. metaphor, prose, lyric, painting the opposite, dramatizing, reducing to three word sentences…there are so many ways to communicate, provoke, invite, orate and spur discussion.
white male-ese can be spoken in several european languages, English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German - the language of the colonizers - of the takers of wealth. During the reign of the British Empire and its subsequent replacement by the American Empire, English spoken, white male-ese has been the language of global wealth holders for 300 years. during this time, the global elites formed empires, laws, newspapers, magazines, universities, charities while headed by mostly white men, speaking white male-ese. conventions in education, journalism, prose and critical thinking published during the last three centuries were selected by elite gatekeepers. professors, editors, politicians, CEO's and so on, all choosing what receives a passing grade, a publisher's contract, the marks of an editor, placement on the front page. even the words in an english dictionary are selected by elites. they say that history is written by the victor. white men have been winning and writing history - and choosing what is and is not acceptable language for print - for a very long time. history books choose what to tell and what to ignore.
the unacknowledged insistence on speaking white male-ese, I posit - is at the very least a significant factor in the dwindling participation at this site by Democratic voters in proportions similar to the make up of the party itself, if not THE factor.language is not a neutral element. language is controlled by those can afford to speak it. anyone can open their mouth on a street corner or in a room. but very few can control the selection of words in a dictionary, words chosen as passing grades, words in radio, television, newspaper, magazine, online information and reference, words to make the law of the land or to uphold the law of the land. to choose those words is very expensive and the people holding those reins have just as much a desire to see their influence and wealth grow, as the person on a corner with $10 to their name.
the difference is, the control of what a nation hears vs. what a passer by on a corner hears. the select few who pay to control what the masses hear and speak, know the power of language and why they gladly pay every penny for it. this is because language requires someone to be listening. for people in positions of power, if they can also ignore or limit the voices of the same people they are broadcasting to, then this is another advantageous tool.
for those of us, in the business of challenging such inequality, we would do well to deal with it every day in ways that we do not currently do.
the point is that with every sentence we construct in our efforts to challenge racism, sexism, wealth hoarding and a world dominated by and benefiting white men over all others - we are are reasserting and inserting more of the same. the impacts of inequality, racism and sexism that are 'baked into' white male-ese can be seen in the racial slurs against our own Democratic President, as discussed in these recent diaries: The racism (and uprating) that haunts Daily Kos and Statement of Opposition to Racist Labels Used by Kossacks to Criticize President Obama. our language, our words, our rules for how we organize our conversations and the words we use - were all selected in a system of institutionalized racism and sexism and they are the master's tools.
for me, I don't want to have to choose between the white men with money talking GOP speak or the white men with money talking Democratic speak. I spend less time here now than I used to, and after this recent disconnect, I begin to see why. dailykos may be happier than a pig in shit being just exactly this way and see no need to alter a thing except for my account status. I hope that's not the case but, it's not my site and I make no claim to this being my site.
so, what do I want from anyone for having read this post? I'd like this site to say if this is just the place for rich white men who vote Democratic or if this is a site by, for and of the Democratic Party. if it's the latter, then I really invite you to own the unspoken and constant role that the language spoken here plays in determining who participates here - and then start doing things about it.
I'm fairly certain that I will get a shit-ton of 'manpain', denial, accusations and probably kicked off the site. I will probably not turn this into a debate. I am not defending my experience, observations or the demographics of this site and the Democratic Party.
I ask you all to look to see why this site is so chock full of white men with money and then do something about it: own it or change it.
I'll leave you all with these words from someone not served by this site, a voice and a language construction that is not prevalent here, from experiences and bodies that are the exception here and not the norm. people not served by this site are going on without you and without adding their voice to this place. you might say "OK, fine", but if those people are the rank and file of the Democratic Party, then how will you make something other than the most narrow perimeters of change possible and allowable? and can you do that while talking predominantly to a bunch of white guys with money?
immigrants, poor people, queer people of color, disabled folks, women (esp trans women of color) and gender-nonconforming folks if you are in academia and you don’t feel smart enough, remember that you are in the playground and training grounds of the elite. academia was not designed to include you. you are surviving something that has been systemically designed to exclude you in order to keep power in the hands of white, middle class, able bodied cis-men.
knowing this, don’t let academia train you to believe that elitism is the right way to make it through school. you can learn shit, hold the knowledge of your people in your heart, discard shame for your humble beginnings and/or marginalized identities. move through this experience knowing that the changes it offers you don’t have to include accepting academic elitism, inaccessible language or superiority. you can can simultaneously own the privilege that comes with being college educated and connections to your roots. academia does not have to kill your spirit.
- fabian romero- indigenous immigrant queer boi writer, facilitator and community organizer