11th comment: sage; December 8, 2011
“The difficulty with the language here is that it feels, even unintentionally, like an attack. It’s very, very difficult to explain to white people that by calling out systemic white supremacy, you aren’t throwing specific blame at the feet of all individual white people. ”
Feelings do not work best, in my experience, when they attempt to or in actuality exist in a vacuum and/or when they are allowed to exist in an unexamined way. If someone or even a very large group of people feel attacked by something, that does not, in a carte blanche manner, necessarily mean that such feelings are correct or helpful or beneficial. The feelings are legitimate, as all feelings are. Legitimacy and accuracy and beneficial however, are very different things and are not the automatic end points of all feelings. Feelings have to be investigated. They do not exist in a vacuum.
I am uncomfortable with what I am reading in this thread as a defense of one action over another based on people’s feelings of being attacked. Feelings are often heavily informed by conditioned responses (reactions) that have been learned or ingrained over a lifetime. This is especially true of feelings that can almost universally be seen as “difficult” feelings such as the feeling of being attacked. And, of course, with most feelings that are expressed with an “ed” at the end of them, the “ed” indicates a presumption that something is being “done to” the person who expresses feeling “attacked.” This in itself can easily become a way of not owning the feeling and doing the appropriate investigation. It can become an excuse for simply feeling victimized by another and having the process stop there. Feelings need to be examined and not simply and automatically used as a weapon of sorts to shut down the deeper investigation of what may be truly inspiring such “feelings.” This process requires examining from an internal locus of control rather than an external one. Once that is at least an potential part of the process, it becomes far more possible to be open to the possibility that the usage of a word like decolonize may not in fact at all be a process of “throwing specific blame at the feet of all individual white people.” And, here is a revolutionary thought: What if it *is* that? Does that *have* to be nothing but an awful, terrible, completely horrifying thing that in no way can be navigated and resolved? Maybe even that realization can be used as an opening for building trust, connection, intimacy and communion. It would not be the first time in human experience that something that seems absolutely intractable is used as a point of reconciliation. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation” hearings is a good post modern example. The beneficiaries and purveyors of apartheid were being held accountable for some of the most egregious acts to befall humankind. And yet, reconciliation was one of the stated objectives and…one of the tangible outcomes. Again, such a thing is far less able to be navigated or even imagined if internal investigation is left out and the only thing that is allowed in is unexamined reactivity.