At a March Common Cause forum, blogger Brad Friedman collected applause when he marginalized gender and racial equality:
"I don't think we have the luxury to concern ourselves with these things. We're talking about remodeling the furniture in the house while the house is burning down."
Because these ideas were met with applause, I am compelled to illuminate the danger of internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. My hope is to remind those applauding-progressives of some very basic values we all share.
During the Q&A portion of a panel discussion, "Have the Media Undermined Our Democracy," Brad laid out his white male vision of how we should proceed:
Clueless speeches like these fragment the social justice movement and strengthen the dominant hierarchy. Our common enemy wants us fighting with each other, elbowing each other for a seat at the agenda-setting table.
There have been some questions about diversity -- gender diversity, racial diversity and so on and so forth ... I don't think we have the luxury to concern ourselves, in a certain sense, with these things, as important as they are.
We're talking about remodeling the furniture in the house while the house is burning down [Applause]....
We've, we're in a war without end. I don't know how we get out of it. I blame the media. Everybody in this room is being listened to and has their internet read every day. I blame the media. We have torture. We have thrown out the Constitution and called it 'quaint.' I blame the media. These are the things that I think we need to figure out how to deal with instead of enjoying the luxury of concerning ourselves at the margins...for now.
What better way to enable in-fighting than by unitarily removing oppression from the agenda? It certainly piqued me, and several women I know.
Marginalizing gender and race equality ("and so on and so forth") reveals an inherent inability to recognize the root causes of war. The "burning house" in Brad's analogy is not the Magna Carta, Geneva Conventions or US Constitution, as he would have it, but goes much deeper. What's behind these Agreements is the idea of justice and liberty for all. In the struggle for gender and race equality in a democratic world, these ideals are not the furniture, but the house itself.
This presbyopic worldview destroys unity in the democracy movement and serves to consolidate white male dominance. These ideas reveal an inherent and utter incomprehension of egalitarian principles embodied in democratic ideals. These comments relegate women and people of color ("and so on and so forth") to secondary status.
"Your cause is weakened by your prejudice," cautioned Rita Mae Brown in 1974 when the National Organization for Women ejected lesbians from membership. The same applies to those who would remove oppression from an agenda for peace, humane treatment of prisoners, or media reform. Speaking of media reform, how Orwellian is that?It is shortsightedness not to see past one's own privileged race and gender, blinding oneself from recognizing the source of human conflict since time memorial: hierarchical privilege based on race, gender, religion, bloodline, polydactyly, or some other construct.
Historically, those in the dominant caste often characterize the needs of the oppressed as marginal to some overall goal being pursued. They conveniently ignore that a hierarchical, patriarchal global structure IS the root of war (led by men), torture (led by men), and media consolidation into the hands of a few white males. We ignore this at our peril.
It's an old trick of the dominant hierarchy to ask for our support now, while removing our oppression from their agenda.
From the American Revolution: