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Mon Mar 4, 2019, 02:53 PM

The Leaders I'm Trusting for the Future: Women of Color

Standard disclaimer about this being my opinion which no one else is required to agree with, share, etc. Things I assert as facts, unless linked to references, are the facts as I experience them, so please save your reams of factual refutal, but you're welcome to express your differences in the same terms.

The longer I live, combined with the more attention I pay to what's going on in the world, the more I'm convinced that the root of most of humanity's collective problems is our stubborn reliance on hierarchies of privilege*. This is partly because of the festering anger and resentment they breed: In the excluded and oppressed, while the hierarchies hold unquestioned sway, and in those who benefit from privilege when the hierarchy is challenged and/or change is demanded.

But the other damage done by the hierarchies of privilege is one of lost resources and foregone benefits: How many creative thinkers, geniuses, dedicated public servants, brilliant ideas, innovations, and solved problems have we missed because of those excluded from full participation in our culture and our economy?

The hierarchies of privilege that affect Americans most ubiquitously and most powerfully are racism and misogyny. Based on physiological differences that are generally obvious, they're hard to escape. They've been around virtually forever- certainly since before the founding of the Republic. They shape and pervade all of our economic and social systems.

You can diagram the experience of these two hierarchies pretty simply in four squares: On one axis is gender: Cis male, and everyone else. On the other axis is skin color: White, and everyone else.

The square that includes white males is the square of exclusive privilege. (This is not to say that white males experience no oppression: they certainly do-- homophobia, class discrimination, religious bigotry -among many forms of exclusion- can all apply to white males. But with rare exceptions, they have no experience of living without the assumptions and privileges their gender and skin color bestows.)

Two squares, men of color and white women, live the experience of privilege AND the experience of oppression. We have a broader experience than white men, and a wide variety of options in how we will respond to our own privilege and our own oppression, and how we will use them in connection with others different than ourselves.

Then there is the fourth square, devoid of any privilege at all: Women of color. Their experience and understanding is entirely based in being excluded, being "other", being "not default" or, more simply, struggling against oppression. And that experience is uniquely valuable in a culture that must dismantle two powerful hierarchies of privilege if we are to survive.

I'm not idealizing all women of color as Perfect Warriors in the fight against privilege. The wide variance in life experience, ability, character, exposure to influences, that is a human norm applies to women of color also.

But women of color did not get us into this mess, and their stake in perpetuating it is as minimal as it gets. Their stake in change is greater, accounting for individual variance. And we have finally pried loose enough structural cracks in the system for women of color to wedge their own experience into.

All other variables being equal: Four people born into middle class families in a mid-size American city, bright and motivated enough to acquire good educations, avoid major pitfalls, with similar resume's and holding generally similar ideological preferences, and oriented toward leadership. One from each square.

My first inclination (hey, it's human nature) is to support and trust the one "most like me". The one who shares my experiences. My natural bias is toward believing that she would be the one most likely to 'understand' my needs and define 'what's best for America' in the terms most similar to how I instinctively think of it.

I'm not automatically going with my first inclination anymore. Because it's shaped not only by my lifelong experience of misogyny, but by my lifelong experience of white privilege. That gives me a helluva blind spot. I do my best to stay aware of that privilege, to counter it wherever possible, but I can't turn it off. It defines everything about me as surely as my experience of misogyny.

The disunity and policy chaos of America's current 'culture wars' is toxic enough to make me fear for my grandson's survival. If we can't re-prioritize and innovate radical new social and economic structures for a nation rapidly approaching 400 million very diverse people, everyone's grandchildren are at risk.

We got here because of the blind spots inherent in three squares on that four-square diagram. So, given relative similarities in other variables, I'm inclined to look for leaders who don't have the blind spots of a life of either type of privilege- gender or skin color. I'm inclined to trust their experience in the ways it differs from mine, as well as the ways it is similar to mine.

And therein lies a tremendous opportunity: Women of color share some type of experience with everyone who isn't a white male. Not all, but some. So I'm re-working my screens and re-weighting my filters. I'm looking at women of color who are applying for jobs, opening businesses, reporting the news, creating media, running for office, and above all, sharing their experience of life in America with attention.

I don't want to make demands or load expectations on women of color-- I expect they've had a bellyful of that shit. The expectations are on ME.

This is going in my Journal, because sometimes I think more clearly when I write things out. That's what this is. Me clarifying my own thinking. If you're moved to respond, I'm grateful for the opportunity to "think further on" in the process. But even if no one responds at all, I'm holding myself accountable for not stopping here.


*Hierarchies of privilege (my definition) are those created based on characteristics over which humans have little or no control, such as skin color, gender, place of birth and its attendant language or culture, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, etc. Religion is still included as many religions are associated with ethnic and cultural identity that transcends doctrine or practice. There are other hierarchies- I think of them as "Hierarchies of merit" that are established based on performance and cultural values for specific talents and achievements. They have their own functional value and inherent problems but they're not what I'm talking about here.

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Reply The Leaders I'm Trusting for the Future: Women of Color (Original post)
TygrBright Mar 2019 OP
Hermit-The-Prog Mar 2019 #1
TygrBright Mar 2019 #2

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Mon Mar 4, 2019, 03:51 PM

1. thanks for posting this

Good reasoning in there!

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Response to Hermit-The-Prog (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 4, 2019, 03:58 PM

2. Thank you! n/t

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