The word ‘hatred‘ is often used to describe what racism or sexism and other ‘..isms’ are. A man is sexist if he hates women. A woman is homophobic if she hates gay people.
Yes hatred exists. I am not denying this and it needs to be fought with ethics, care, commitment, and strength.
But hatred, as a way to get over and define oppressive behaviors, is over-used. Often, when racism, sexism, heterosexism, adultism, age-ism, classism, anti-semitism, able-ism, and other labels like these are used, hatred is seen as the only possible way in which these show up in our world. And further – what does hatred look like? Usually we have pre-determined and limited imagination around what hatred looks like. We imagine it filled with the no longer acceptable labels of people-of-color or gay people or women and other groups. If we are visibly ‘mean’ to them, then we can be seen as the ism that applies. Hatred is a very very very limited scope through which we define and recognize these terms that apply to oppressions.
Oppressions are often carried out on a normal basis in silence, without someone having to have hatred toward the ‘other.’ But often it is a form of demotion, exclusion, marginalization, and/or sadistic pleasure. To be above someone or group in position, does not require hatred. Racism can show up as a demoting of another ‘race’ but without an ounce of hatred. A group of people or animals or whatever, can be considered ‘less than.’ They do not require hatred. Some groups, by the privileged group, are just ignored.
The most difficult kind of racism, heterosexism, class-ism, and other kinds of oppressions are the ones that are carried out by ‘good people.’ As mentioned earlier, in my little musing and reflection that I shared with you on whiteness, the unspoken ‘normal‘ – that which many people don’t even know what to think about it or even know that it exists – carries the oppressive action as normal. What I mean to say is to deconstruct an individualism that defines oppression. Oppressions, in the United States and much of Europe, are defined as personal behaviors that are of a retarded or screwed-up morality or set of personal values. It is ‘an evil. Evils, in European and American popular imagination, are carried out by individuals. So – since racism is bad, it is a moral issue, an evil. That person needs to be put in their place. If we are to get rid of racism and sexism, and homophobia on the planet, then one-by-one, we fix the evil people and turn them to the Good God, the right way, the better way. It is missionary work.
I do not disagree with personal work on oppressions. Anti-oppression work has been one of the cornerstones of my own work in the world. But the imagination of oppression cannot stick with the liberal modern notion of life : that the world is made up of individuals that sometimes come together to form a group. There are structures, laws, policies, that have tremendous flexibility that wind up oppressing. Psychological work on racism is not enough. Racism did not come from inside of a child at birth, or a defective mother, perhaps (which speaks to the sexism of patriarchal societies), who passed it on to the child. Increasingly, we see life as biology and psychology. We must, please, remember that biology and psychology developed in the west, on western terms, purposely dominating, excluding and ridiculing the human systems of other cultures in the process. Science is powerful and has benefits, but it has also created problems. Limiting our notions of oppression based on these histories, can often become racist again.
And since most of us don’ t think about these things, we unwillingly re-create oppressions. We may not hate, but they are built into our everyday. Our school systems, political systems, family systems, and jobs are encoded with oppressions. And if we understand this as true, then perhaps we can work on it. But again, because we are busy and the world does not support our working on this, it becomes more and more of a burden. Often, sensitive people shut down, get ill. Look closely at our society. Do we address what is really going on? Do we even know what has happened and what has created our worldviews before we were born into it?
Hatred is over-used. Oppressions come with smiles and goodness, as much as loathing and sadism. Oppressions may come in blank stares, ignoring racist jokes, telling victims to get through their sadness while saying nothing to the perpetrators. On a system scale, the cultural forms that governments, through federal laws and mandates, combat oppressions through stop-gap methods. The structure that made them in the first place, is most often not looked at. So at any time, an amendment can be taken back, then returned to the previously horrendous policy that may really be genocidal in its quality and/or intent.
I write this to deconstruct and have more fruitful dialogues and interventions into injustices, for the people who care and are willing to take risks.