"Blame", on the other hand? Well . . . . .
In the bare few days since the election, there's been a whole lot of . . . . . what's the word I'm looking for . . . . . .Coverage? No -- wait, I've nearly got it . . . . . . Media Exposure? No, that's not quite right, either . . . . Oh, here it is -- Shit! -- Yes, there's been a whole lot of Shit going around about how Teh Blacks are to blame for Proposition 8's passage.
I'm going to take this as the example in this installment of Shit Not To Do Because It Doesn't Work.
Let's start with a few basic principles:
Principle #1: "Laying", or "Placing" Blame may look quick and easy when you first go to it, but in fact, it usually takes quite a bit of mental gymnastics and twisting of logic in the end.
- Using our example: Consider that in order for the Black vote to be "to blame" in Prop 8, those of African American descent who were eligible to vote in California (including every queer black person) would have had to defy all election probabilities and the principles of simple math.
- Again -- using our example: First -- in this case, the major power behind the passage of Prop 8 was a huge influx of cash to fund a misinformation campaign -- so just Follow the Money -- go ahead -- check out that list, and do a google image search on the names of the top contributors. Of the top 4 contributors (those who funded Prop 8 with donations of more than $1 Million) -- 3 were not from California at all, but rather, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Go ahead -- check those individuals and organizations out -- see many faces of color there -- or any? Also, the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) was a major force in raising smaller donations, and mounted a huge signage and outreach campaign. The LDS -- you know -- that well-known seat of radical black-power?
Now, obviously, individual responsibility for each person's vote rests with the individual -- because that person had the power to pull the lever, press the button, or pencil-in the oval. So if you want to get mad at your neighbor, your mother, your friend, etc., who voted Yes on 8, go right ahead -- but get mad at them for their vote.
If you want to start placing responsibility at a more meta-level, better look for the ultimate source of collective power. (Clue words: Conservative, Wealthy, Patriarchal, Religious, and Predominantly White). Individuals who voted Yes on 8 may be like the cells in a body, but they would never have gotten to the polls without The Brain that was saturated in issues of control, repression, fear-mongering and intolerance.
Proponents of Prop 8 will be using this phrase a lot in the coming days, I imagine: "The People Have Spoken!!!!!!"
Well, not exactly. Since CA has a population of 36.5 million, registered voters of 17.3 mill, and a 62.5% turnout, actually only 29.6% of the people have spoken -- and 14.1% of them said "No".
Think of that. If California were a room full of 17 people (we'll just take the registered voters here), and they took a vote to do something important that would affect all of them in the future, and 6 of those people didn't vote at all (maybe they had a headache, were too busy at the canape tray, or were one of those "I hate meetings" people), and the remaining 11 voted 6-5 -- well, that's hardly a sweeping mandate, is it?
When the headache is over and canapes are gone, you've now got a group of people who are collectively responsible for a project that only 35% of them have clearly said they want to do, 30% of them clearly don't want to do it, and 35% of them don't seem to care. (BTW -- this is why I don't like our current democratic system.)
But back to the topic at hand: It seems to me that there's a tricksy-falseness going on with the whole thing in the aftermath of Prop 8 -- an odd, simultaneous --"THEY did it!" living side by side with "The people have spoken!"-- which I believe is all about an attempt to lay blame (shift responsibility) while retaining power.
Which doesn't, ultimately, work -- for the following reason: The neat thing about responsibility is that if you actually have it, it means that you also have power.
Which means if you don't like the consequences of your actions, when you take responsibility for them, you can change them. Cool, huh?
Of course, the bummer is that if you do shit that you can't really stand behind (I am so sick of hearing the phrase "I don't hate gay people, but . . . . . "), you are still responsible for your action, because you had the power to take it.
(And this post is not even touching on the intricacies of how The Brain probably courted and played quite intentionally on existing homophobia within populations that they normally don't give a shit about.)
Let's take this to a more mundane and familiar example: Teenagers.
Raising adolescents is widely reported to be a total bitch (I would confirm this). I think it's a power and responsibility thing.
Teenagers are all about coming into their power as adults. However, in our society, they are considered kids (for whom the parents have responsibility) until they are 18.
Ask a parent of a teen -- they will probably admit to you that they realize that they can't actually control their kid. The dance of teens and parents in this culture usually relies on a tacit agreement that we're not going to say out loud what we all know:
That we can't control them, and they know we can't control them, and we know they know we can't control them, and they know we know this.
Legally, the kid can't be completely responsible until they're 18 (unless they emancipate early) -- and so ensues the awful struggle for them to somehow wrest little bits of power away where they can. Shutting us out of their rooms. Sneaking out at night. Standing in the middle of an argument and speaking in the broad light of day the dirty little secret that is so carefully avoided when cooler heads prevail: "You can't make me!"
On the parental side, we are frustrated by our kid's insistence on increasing power while attempting to avoid responsibility. We chafe at the unfairness of being held responsible for the actions of someone else over whom we really do not have power.
I am intentionally using both a collective and an individual example of what happens when responsibility and power do not dwell firmly together, because I believe that this is an issue which runs from top to bottom in our culture.
I also find the second example a bit amusing, in light of the LDS' statement yesterday:
"The Church calls on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information."-- which, in this case -- since the Yes on 8 relied so heavily on erroneous information, is like a parent saying "Do as I say, not as I do".
Which will drive your teenager crazy.
But I digress.
This statement from the LDS came in response to protests which have been brought right to their doorstep -- and I believe that is an extremely effective tactic -- it indicates that protesters have located the site of responsibility -- right where the power is.
The LDS is squirming under this. LDS Spokesman Scott Trotter said Friday:
"Millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States - that of free expression and voting,"Well, yeah, but no other faith group that represents only 2% of the CA population provided 47% of the funding for Prop 8. No other faith group (that we know of) issued letters from the highest elders of their church designed to directly influence the vote, or broadcasted messages encouraging their members to "go viral". Whether this activity violates the 501(c)3 requirements of the LDS is yet to be seen -- but the wielding of power is undeniable.
It's kind of funny (in an "ouch" way) isn't it -- the LDS wants to be a bad parent (Do as I say . . . . ) and a bad teenager (You're so mean! All the others kids were doing it!) -- all at the same time.
You want the Power? Guess what comes with it.
[/end homo rant portion]
To apply this lesson more generally: If you're ever wonder whether you're "laying" Blame rather than letting Responsibility "rest" where it belongs, notice how much effort is involved -- and where the Power is.
Part IV in an ongoing series. SNTDBIDW -- Part One, Two & Three Here