thedeadparrot (thedeadparrot) wrote,

On Being Angry

I wrote this two years ago. I don't think I ever posted it. I cleaned it up a bit, but probs not enough. I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm angry. This post is About Me even though the current reminder that yes, America is very far from post-racial is not About Me. But some of the discussion around the behavior of the protesters reminded me of this thing, and I figured I'd post it. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates for the good stuff. This is just my meager rant about narratives.

I am not a good person. Quite frankly, I am mean, I am petty, I am lazy, and I can be pretty damn stupid.

I feel like there is this expectation, this narrative about people who have been oppressed, that we must be better, that we must be noble, that we must spend our days suffering. I feel like we have seen too many movies and books about the people who have been oppressed and how they are super good people who are the unfortunate victims of Evil People Who Need To Be Taught A Lesson In Tolerance. In the dominant narratives about racism, for instance, experiencing racism gives you a +12 in goodliness or something. It makes you inherently better in some intangible way, a fortifying experience, like you've gone to war as a boy and come back a man. Experiencing racism (most importantly, specific acts of racism done by the aforementioned Evil People) builds character, and gives a person strong moral fiber that they will carry around with them for the rest of their life. (Doubly so if a Nice White Person helps them out and helps them ~overcome~ racism.)

Yeah, that's pretty much bullshit.

Oppression isn't a one-time thing. When Racefail blows through, it doesn't mean that racism is gone a few months later, doesn't mean that we've overcome it, that we won't encounter it everywhere everyday. Oppression is something you experience every day in small, bite-sized doses, and it sucks. It flat out sucks and is horrible and I hate it. I think racism/sexism/etc has made me a worse person, to be honest. I am angrier, for sure, less patient, less willing to teach and debate and have arguments. It has made me way, way more resentful of privileged white dudes who have their heads stuck up their asses. Experiencing oppression is soul sucking. It is exhausting. It is not fun.

And yet, I see it again and again in discussions that this expectation of goodness prevails. Not just in terms of not-being-an-outright-shitty-person, but this attitude that we must be morally unimpeachable. if we are angry, if we are frustrated, if we are human fucking beings who aren't always kind, always patient, always willing to do the right thing, then we haven't really experienced oppression or the oppressions we face aren't worth fighting against. It's not worth it if you don't get a pat on the back in the end, amirite?

I think this is an issue that sort of lines up with the tone argument, but that specifically is a topic that's been done by people who are far more articulate than I am. I think I'm trying to get at "how do we change these narratives?" or like "how can we push for more stories where we are allowed to face oppression and don't react to it the way we're 'supposed' to?" Can we do that without coming off as angry/hysterical/unreasonable stereotypes? Is it worth it to push those stories? I want to be angry and have my stories reflect my anger, and no one wants those stories. Hell, I don't even want those stories half the time. I like stories about overcoming obstacles and becoming better people.

At the same time, there is a danger in saying that overcoming very small, very specific instances of oppression is anything like what it's like to experience it on a constant, everyday level. I want to be imperfect and flawed, and I want to feel like it's okay to be imperfect and flawed. I want to break out of these narratives that set up false dichotomies of how I'm supposed to act. I want to be able to be somewhere in between.

That's pretty much where the rant breaks off in my file. I cut out some repetitive nonsense at the end there, but that's all I have.

No wait, that's a lie.

I do also have this anecdote: A week ago, I ended up reading a story that described a Chinese character's skin as being 'yellow as corn.' It makes you wonder if this writer has ever seen an Asian person before. It makes you wonder if this writer has ever seen corn before. Jeez.

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Tags: racism

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