Archive for the '(anti-)oppression' Category

Black homophobia

3 October 2008

I’m down with my buddy Jamelle in this ongoing discussion of black homophobia. I have some thoughts on this for later, maybe. But it’s Friday morning, and there’s work to do.

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Polling racism (updated)

21 September 2008

Pollsters have, you know, training as pollsters, but I’ve got a question.

Marc Ambinder has a post up about race and the “Bradley effect,” which is the idea that support for minority candidates will be overrepresented in pre-election polls. I’m most interested in this AP poll (link goes to story which links to the poll results), in which white voters are asked how well various words describe most Blacks.

Now, I’m no scientist — my Physics 201 and 202 over the summer was probably the most intense scientific experience I’ve had — but it seems to me there’s no control in this study.

Yes, only about 15% of White Republicans described Black people as “determined” — but it certainly seems possible that those being polled are generally misanthropic, and would describe White people the same way.

Note: this is not to say that there’s not bias against Black people. I think certainly there is more and subtler racism than most people think. But this study doesn’t reveal it. There doesn’t seem to be any control here, asking about White people, or people in general. If the same 85% of Republicans who wouldn’t describe Black people as determined also wouldn’t describe White people that way, then we may have cynics, not racists.

Science people! Help me out here. Am I wrong?

Update: There are other problems with the poll.

Empowerment and entitlement.

8 March 2008

Like Scott Wells, I’d been reluctant to wade into the discussion about youth and young adult funding within the Unitarian Universalist Association, mainly because I care only slightly more about intradenominational politics than other people do. And most of you who read this aren’t Unitarian Universalists, anyway.

But this whole mess is a nice excuse for me to talk about organizing, which I love. Back to youth and young adults in a bit.

In organizing, we spend a lot of time talking about self-interest. Self-interest is distinct from selfishness (concern exclusively about the self) and selflessness (concern exclusively with others); a working definition might be “concern for the self in relation to others.” I have short-term self-interests: I’m hungry, so getting some food is in my self-interest. I have other, deeper self-interests: I want to have a family. I want to be respected. I want to be right with God.

The only way to relate honestly with other people is by finding common self-interests. Read that sentence again, and then again until you believe it.

A simple example: It’s in my self-interest to eat. It’s in the self-interest of the grocer to sell me food. So we come to an arrangement that satisfies both self-interests (namely, me buying food and paying for it) and then we’ve had an honest interaction. Viola! Our self-interests are different, but they come together in ways that are mutually satisfactory. The same is true of all honest interactions; they’re just more complicated or subtler. With me?

Now, power is just the ability to engage other people’s self-interest. The power that large groups of people have relative to elected officials is that officials have a self-interest in not ticking off people who vote for them. The power that my boss has relative to me depends (in part) on my self-interest in not being fired.

All of that stuff is in the first day of organizer training. So what does that have to do with Unitarian Universalist youth and young adults? If y/ya want to be “empowered” – which I can only assume means to be, well, powerful – they need to stop whining and find ways to engage the self-interest of the rest of the Association. Funding is being cut because y/ya “leaders” have not managed to engage the self-interest of the people who control the UUA.*

So what would a process leading toward real y/ya empowerment look like? Well, off the top of my head, it would involve introspection, one-on-ones, small group meetings, etc. — whatever was necessary to identify the individual and collective self-interests of UU Youth and Young Adults. It would, as Scott said, involve “creat[ing] institutions that create the desired goals.”

Then, with a clear understanding of what they want, they would meet with the key power people in the Association, and try to figure out how they could make what they want be in the self-interest of the power people in the denomination. They would need to be very clear in their own minds that denominational politics, like all politics, is about power. And political power is the ability to induce and/or engage the self-interest of whomever can give you what you want.

 

* This resolution uses the language of “investment” in y/ya programming, but doesn’t tell the rest of us what the dividends will be. It could be any number of things: Maybe the self-interest they engage is our desire for there to be strong UU institutions after we’re gone. Maybe it’s something else. But to be “empowering” for everyone involved, it will have to be negotiated out of our respective self-interests, not whined into existence.