James Baldwin

Oppression and Bigotry

Let me say something right up front. I think oppression sucks. Whether it’s in the form of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-semitism, misogyny, transphobia, ageism, etc.

Blackface in 1984

Progressives/liberals keep calling for the resignation of the Virginia governor. He appeared in blackface in his 1984 yearbook.

I’m a white man who grew up with a lot of racist ideas, so I really don’t think I have a say in the matter.  Except to full-throatedly support those he know most about this.  I do support civil rights in all forms. And, I support those who push for making the World a fairer, more just place.  So I’m with you in calling for Northam’s resignation.

The thing that I keep hearing that makes me wonder, is how the pundits keep mentioning that Northam did this in 1984.  “He must have known how racist, hateful and hurtful his actions were.”  My experience and memory of racism and its acceptability in 1984 was different. I grew up in mostly white suburbia, with little exposure to racial diversity.  And honestly, I don’t think people in my circles back then would have batted an eye if they saw someone dressed in blackface for Halloween, for instance.  Distinguishing between ignorance and hatred would have been difficult for me back then.

My experience has changed significantly since those years.  I would never sit silently if I saw racism or oppression displayed.  Calling for Northam to do the right thing and resign is the only thing that makes any sense.

The Homophobic Equivalent of Blackface

I know this isn’t a competition.

However, Thaddeus asked an interesting question.  Would the outrage have been the same if Northam had disparaged the LGBTQ community in 1984.  It seems to me that the acceptability of “minstrelizing” queers back in 1984 might not have been a career-ending activity for the Virginia governor.  I think back to “In Living Color” in the early 1990’s. Offering “two snaps up in a circle” as something acceptably mocking effeminate behavior. It seemed to be very popular.

Two snaps up in a circle gif

Even “Just Jack” on Will & Grace seemed to have a self-defecating quality that seemed to indicate that gay men needed to entertain for acceptability. Like a minstrel.

What do you think would have happened if a video of Northam had surfaced of him in a college skit where he mocked queers? There’s less equivalency in comparing this hypothetical.  I recognize that blackface and references to lynching were both present in Northam’s yearbook.  The same threat-to-life isn’t present unless someone were to reference Matthew Shepard perhaps.  But I’d like to hope the same outrage would be there for examples of oppression for everyone…even back in 1984.

I’ve always loved the Emma Lazarus quote:

“Until we are all free, we are none of us free. ”

Current Knitting

Almost one more 14-row repeat was completed on the Tilt Cardigan.

Tilt Cardigan 02-06-19

Shaping for the sleeve holes and the front v-neck opening won’t start until I’ve hit 16 inches or so, so I still have a while to go before adding  two more steeks and shaping.

4 comments on “Oppression and Bigotry

  1. First thank you for making me reflect today. I wasn’t going to leave a reply, but I was thinking on your words and then I remembered something said, I believe, by Gandhi, when he was questioned about changing his position from something he had said in the past. “But now I am wiser than I was then.” Isn’t that what growth is all about? Being wiser than you were, as an individual, as a group, as a nation, as a world?

  2. Joe-I saved this for the weekend. What a heartbreaking week! I am over American politics. And I am 100% American. I am embarassed by 45 and ashamed of my country.

    The highlight of my week was, funnily enough, Thaddeus. The Virginia governor made me ask the question”How would my world have reacted to being confronted by someone in blackface?” And, “What was my corresponding issue?”

    In 1984, in Minnesota, it was abortion. It was the year I attended my first political rally. It was the first issue I was challenged by morally. I did not appear in my school yearbook as a fetus. Nor Did I dress as one for Halloween. Regardless of the issue, poor taste is just that-poor taste.

    Time and Newsweek made retro virus and saliva topics of conversation.

    1984 was the year I picked up my knitting needles again (my brother was born that fall—is there a better excuse than a baby to knit). Knitting mojo hit and has not let up.

  3. I’ve honestly been surprised by the appeal of “Will and Grace” amongst gay people, and the claims that it was so huge influential in gaining acceptance of LGBT folk in the broader USA opinion.

    I’ve always seen Will and Grace as stereotypical portrayals of gay men who never find love (Will), and a bundle of behavioural stereotypes of showing gay men as shallow, vacuous, and necessarily effeminate (Jack). Why the gay community saw this as acceptable and beneficial is a puzzle to me. Perhaps it’s considered a sign of the times and necessary start to a great end — I dunno.

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