‘Palestinians understood well these arguments and always insisted and insist that their struggle is against Jewish colonisation of their lands and not against Jews qua Jews. When Khaled Meshal arrived in Gaza a couple of weeks ago and made a speech to that effect, he insisted: “We do not fight the Jews because they are Jews. We fight the Zionist occupiers and aggressors. And we will fight anyone who tries to occupy our lands or attacks us.”‘
Antisemitism – anti-Jewish bigotry – like other forms of bigotry and racism, serves noone except the ruling elite. Resist!
Have you come across any of these fallacious excuses? Ubiquitous themes employed by apologists in attempts to defend, conceal and prevent racist or bigoted behaviour being exposed publicly include :
You are being *divisive*, we need non-partisanship, a unified movement (yet to include racists and bigots discredits and divides any ethical human rights movement) AKA “Don’t deprive the movement of important activists!” (despite their racist/bigoted behaviour). This point includes protecting divisive people who have attacked entire segments of the movement with their racist rationale, even going so far as to call an entire population within the movement, by mere identification with their ethnicity, an enemy of the movement;
You are smearing [insert racist here] by identifying their racist behaviour;
You are bullying us by identifying racist behaviour. (Or eg. Why are you ‘singling out’ Israel? as if the bully/Israel doesn’t single themselves out with their behaviour.);
You are witchhunting those poor racists and in public too (as if their behaviour was only expressed privately);
By criticising this racist behaviour, you are being racist. (Doublethink – eg. ‘criticism of [racist] Israel is anti-semitic’);
You will alienate people “on the fence” by identifying racist behaviour; eg. ‘Don’t call Israel “apartheid”, it will turn off potential supporters of peace’.
Our support of [insert racist behaviour here] is just a ‘difference of opinion’ AKA “We have a right to be racist”;
You are ‘gatekeeping the discourse’ by identifying racist behaviour; (new variant is “you’re censoring. what about free speech?”)
We need “education” and/or “dialogue” not “confrontation” with racists and racist behaviour (variation on 1.). (Yes, we do need education about racism and bigotry and why they aren’t acceptable within human rights movements, so we can confront the behaviour when it occurs. Why would one engage in normalising *dialogue* with zionists or any other racists? Resistance, not normalisation!);
What gives you the right to determine what is racist behaviour? (As Raoul Wallender said, ‘every individual has a responsibility to fight against racism and other human rights violations’) AND corollaries “Racism is whatever I say it to be” or “‘Racism’ has no fixed meaning therefore we cannot identify racism” (in order to derail discussion away from racism)”;
Your attitude is aggressive and counter-productive. (The “tone” non-argument) – variation on 3.;
Why are you bringing up racism over and over and over again? we heard you the first time! (but still didn’t confront the racist behaviour);
“I don’t see race. By seeing race you are being racist.” (Variation of 5.);
“[Insert group] isn’t a race so nothing we say or do about this group is racist.” (ignoring the social construct of racism and reiterating the biological determinism inherent to racist ideology;
“Please move on” AKA “Give peace a chance” AKA “We have these wonderful anti-racist principles and declarations, so now we can bury further discussion about racism and racist behaviour and get on with our ‘activism’.” AKA “Look over there, at Gaza/Syria!” AKA “The situation is complicated!” AKA “Yes, they may be a racist, but they raise good points”;
“Race is culturally determined”. Now that biologically constructed racism has been debunked, racists are constructing race via culture. eg. ‘you come from a non-western culture and your race is suspect.’ This is really just a variant on biologically determined racism, since the target/s have been born into a culture/ethnicity.
To help end racism and bigotry, which are both tools used by ruling elites to divide and rule all the better to disempower any opposition, it is logical and essential to deal with these behaviours as they arise. Movements for freedom, equality and justice are strengthened when there’s zero tolerance within and without for the racism and bigotry they are attempting to end. Racism and bigotry belong on the zionist, colonialist and imperialist side.
“It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with. Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression, or accept it as the status quo that can be lived with.”
In Australia, neoliberalism is understood largely as an economic model, characterised by the sweeping privatisations that Carr championed in NSW. But, actually, it’s more than that. Neoliberalism differs from a classical free market orientation precisely because it extends beyond the economy to embrace the entire social world, which it then recasts on market lines. The neoliberal project doesn’t just assign to the market those roles previously understood as quintessentially responsibilities of government (such as, say, the provision of utilities); rather, it recasts governance itself as an entrepreneurial project, with productivity and profit increasingly normalised as the criteria to judge success and failure.
In other words, neoliberalism effects a thoroughgoing depoliticisation. Most obviously, this manifests itself in a belief, now shared by almost all mainstream politicians, that government should not intervene in the market. This conviction – a consensus about the role of politicians as simply economic caretakers – already renders out of bounds most of the policies that previous generations of social democrats would have taken for granted.
More importantly, neoliberalism also recasts governance and the democratic process in market terms. The resulting political culture casts citizens as autonomous economic agents, relating to each other and to the state as individual entrepreneurs. The politician no longer appeals to party members, unionists, religious believers or specific communities; instead, he or she addresses individual consumers, touting for their business in much the same way as any other corporation.
In the neoliberal polity, it makes no more sense for citizens to rally than in does for, say, users of Apple computers to hold a march. In both cases, their role is simply to consume, with the ballot box understood as an extension of the cash register. If the latest iPhone is a dud, buy an Android; if the Labor Party’s been in power too long, vote Liberal.
Because democracy is understood as a market, rallies, protests, demonstrations and strikes seem, to the neoliberal, not as expressions of the popular will but as outrageous assaults on the democratic system.
To be clear, we’re not seeing the end of the right to protest, so much as its hollowing out. In the neoliberal era, tightly-controlled top-down events are still considered legitimate – witness the staged spectacles at the recent Republican and Democratic conventions in the US.
I caught up on a twitter fight that happened yesterday. Someone called out someone else for using ableist language. I follow both users and find that I generally agree with the politics of one and the work of the other. I thought we all were on the same page, but the Syrian revolution has exposed many arab leftists to be unable to criticise a regime that appears to be anti-israeli. I say appears because of course the Syrian regime has done nothing for its people in the occupied Golan heights. They’re happy to talk about and support resistance in other countries but not their own.
Now I’m not saying that the other account falls within that bracket, it’s just that their position is suspect. I don’t like accusing people of something without proof, and so far I only have circumstantial evidence. All I can say is that their criticism of the regime and support of the revolution has been conspicuously absent. But anyway, that’s not the point. The fight was about the use of ableist language. As that account used the term “lame” to refer to a stand up comedienne who they think has very suspect politics when it comes to Palestine. While I used to agree that she had problematic politics (that view has changed since I first published this post because I talked to her and she clarified her position. I was wrong and misinformed. She is a one state supporter and very vocal in her support for Palestine), the point was about the language used.
It’s very interesting to see that people are still very unaware of ableist privilege. The problem is that ableist language is so ubiquitous within our parlance. We don’t think twice about using certain terms that are derived from or mocking the physically and mentally disabled. To use the word “lame” to describe someone or someone’s comedy is very ableist. It is wrong to use it to describe someone who does not have a disability, but it’s even worse when you use it against someone with a disability. Even if you don’t mean to be ableist, using it is highly problematic. It perpetuates the idea that there is something wrong with certain forms of disability. It always comes from a place of privilege. Once that is pointed out one needs to realise and change their behaviour.
I must admit that I myself used, unthinkingly, a lot of ableist language. In fact, if you go back through my blog posts, you will probably come across a lot of ableist terms. I did not mean to use them to abuse or mock the disabled, but they still do. I have since realised that those terms are unacceptable and stopped using them. At the end of the day, all you can do is realise that you’ve done something wrong and try to fix it as best you can. No body is perfect, but it’s important to try not to hurt people because you unthinkingly use terms that abuse them and their being.
The problem is that people with disabilities suffer from real oppression, be it in accessibility or recognition, and that oppression is invisible. People without disability do not see the person with a disability but see the disability. When faced with someone in a wheelchair say, people don’t really see the person in the wheel chair but the wheelchair, they conflate the person with their disability. Moreover, the struggle of the disabled for recognition and accessibility is very often ignored by the media and its coverage is not as prominent as other forms of oppression.
We have been able to rid our language of much of the racist, sexist, classist, etc terms. However, ableist terms are still used wantonly without people realising. What happens when someone is challenged for using such language is that they become very defensive, and deny that they are doing anything wrong. Ideally, they would then think about it and realise that they were in fact in the wrong and stop using those terms. However, that doesn’t always happen, and cries of political correctness gone mad are uttered. The problem is that people aren’t always happy to acknowledge their privileged position.
All of us without disabilities are privileged, not in that we are better than people with disabilities, but we reap benefits within our society because of our lack of disability. It is imperative if we consider ourselves to be fighting for justice, that we take on the cause of the disabled as our own. We must recognise our privilege and work against it. This involves changing our language and not perpetuating the power relationship that they embody. Those terms normalise the idea that disabled people are not equal to people without disabilities. There is something absolutely wrong with that attitude and it must be fought with as much force as all other injustices.
The fight against oppression isn’t a simple one. We aren’t fighting against a group of people but against a system that created hegemonic power relations. Those power relations are actualised in real physical violence or lack of accessibility but are also mirrored in our language. If we want to fight oppression effectively we must dismantle all the forms of oppression including our use of terms that perpetuate and normalise that oppression. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I’d like to hear what you have to say about it. It would be interesting to get your perspectives. Stay safe everyone. Live long and prosper.
Emma Rosenthal, MacArthur Park, Rampart Division-LAPD, Los Angeles
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today at this October 22 demonstration against police brutality on the theme, Resistance Matters, focusing on a segment of EVERY community– people with dis-abilites.
People with dis-abilities are specifically targeted by police for abuse and brutality.
People who are deaf, unable to heed orders they do not hear, unable to communicate with authority, often are killed or battered by a system that doesn’t take their communication needs into consideration.
People with visible dis-abilities attract the attention of bullies, including the bullies in blue who know that there are no consequences for our ostracism or victimization.
People who appear, walk, talk differently are often singled out, accused of being drunk, and often have trouble with law enforcement because of both misunderstandings and the outright hostility toward us, by the police.
People with mental health conditions come in contact with police on the street, when our behavior doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, or when police are called to respond to medical emergencies.
Homelessness and prisons ARE our society’s mental health care system.
Police often respond to medical psychiatric emergencies with brutal and often deadly force, claiming they felt that they were in imminent danger.
Imagine if health care providers said they had to kill a patient because the patient’s condition threatened the lives of health care professionals.
It is the job of health care providers to treat people who are ill. We must demand no less of emergency personnel, including police, when answering a call for medical emergencies.
There is a nexus of gender, class and race with dis-ability, compounding our experience with authorities. We are part of every community, not a separate group, or geographic. There is no organization or outreach that can fully succeed without our full inclusion. You cannot address the issue of police brutality without also addressing the role of people with dis-abilities in the struggle for social justice.
Yet many social justice organizations don’t include people with dis-abilities fully, in addressing many social justice issues, and often perpetuate attitudes and policies that contribute to our marginalization.
You can’t defend our rights without our participation, our full participation. Nothing about us, without us. Working on our behalf without us, simply appropriates our exploitation in the service of rhetoric.
A movement that isn’t informed by the victims perpetuates the abuse. Planning that does not take our specific needs and issues into consideration often puts us in significant danger. Too often event security responds to us in much the same way that the state does. I have been at demonstrations where the event coordinators did as much to endanger us, as the police do. This must be changed, this must be challenged.
We cannot fight a system by replicating its attitudes & practices. We cannot demand from society what we cannot also create among ourselves.
Expectations of people with dis-abilities merge with issues of race/gender and class to increase marginalization via expectations of behavior.
Thinking of people with dis-abilities as aberrant, undesirable, non-contributing and a burden have no place in the movement, these are capitalist attitudes.
Dis-ability rights isn’t charity. nothing short of full inclusion is justice. It is not your place to “help” us, but rather to work with us, to include us in ways that inform praxis.
It is NOT our job to make you comfortable with out conditions.
It is NOT our job to find our own way into your organizations.
It is NOT our job to say what you want to hear, and to leave our particular needs and experience out of the discussion.
Dis-ability inclusion is the collective responsibility of the entire community.
Additionally, agents of repression know to use dis-ability to divide the movement, like they use gender & race; by relying on our own prejudice & bigotry.
Infiltrators use ridicule of people with dis-abilities. Police have been known to “street: us into demonstrations to provoke an angry crowd that knows we are acceptable targets.
These divisive tactics don’t work when we check ourselves, our own entitlements that mask as privileges that defeat us all. We cannot build a sincere movement w/o including the most marginalized sectors, and we cannot address police brutality by ignoring its specific nexus with dis-abilty .
It must also be recognized that police not only target people with dis-abilities for abuse, but also, in their brutality, create dis-ability, leaving those who survive, injured and traumatized. Let us honor those comrades wounded in the struggle, injured by capitalism, with ramps, sign language & voice, as well as make room for all activists into the future, as any one of us can become a person with a dis-ability, at any time.
No more excuses. These are matters of resistance because resistance matters.
So, let us build the strongest resistance to police brutality and state hegemony by ever increasing the circle, by standing, sitting, signing, rolling arm in arm in solidarity, a strong movement that cannot afford to leave anyone behind, a movement that needs everyone’s voice, everyone’s story.