09 February 2010

Words do things, and I get all emotional.

So apparently telling racists to fuck themselves is good for blog traffic. Which is kind of funny and kind of heartening. But there are now a couple of anonymous commenters attempting to call me out for, I don't know, being mean and lazy. (Now that I'm thinking about it, doing so anonymously is totally cowardly.)

Here's the bit of conversation we've already have, if you aren't obsessively following the comments like I am:

February 8, 2010 6:10 PM
"pointing out hypocrits (sic) said..."
I attended A&M for my undergraduate degree and completely acknowledge that at times many people seem to have come straight out of 1861; However, the opening to your blog is just as judgemental and wrong as the rude comments made by the bigoted people in the papers and on campus. I was part of the liberal movement at A&M (and yes there is one) and part of the Enviromental Issues Committee. If you are unhappy with something, instead of constantly whining and being rude, try changing things. After all, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" not just a jerk. Do not assume that ags are all racist ignorant fools, some of us are not. Please refrain from painting an entire populous with one brush based on the actions of some. You are simply doing the very thing you loathe in others...becoming a judgemental ignorant ass.
February 8, 2010 7:46 PM
"Courtney said..."
A little of my answer to that is: pfft. I'm not assuming that A&M is *entirely* made of a special kind of asshole. But lots of it is. And the Battalion and the Maroon Weekly are an almost daily proof of that.

I'm surprised that THIS particular post drew this kind of ire from you, because I'm specifically talking about one guy: Tony Listi. And he is clearly a racist douche.

I'm well aware that there is a liberal minority on campus. I'm also well aware of the fact that they are largely disparaged and unwelcome by the majority of A&M students. Maybe if I was a) not a graduate student with too much other shit to do and b) going to be at A&M for (hopefully) no more than two years, I would attempt to help change that culture of bigotry. But I can't battle everything at once, and frankly doing my schoolwork and blogging my rants to help keep my blood pressure down is more effective than me trying to undo years of the worst of Texas socialization on this campus.
Then another commentator (keep in mind, different person) upped the ante by accusing me of being hateful. (Ha! Did you know telling racists that they're assholes is hateful! Man, the world we live in.)

February 9, 2010 5:40 PM
"Anonymous said..."
I do agree with everyone that A&M is messed up quite often. I also agree with "hypocrits" that instead of simply criticism action is more necessary. You claim you do not have time to do something constructive because of your blog, this seems like a misallocation of your priorities. I know it gets difficult in College Station, but join the rest of us frustrated friends in action, not passive aggressive complaints.
We feel your pain, we've been there (or are there).
Won't you join us in attempt to make it better, instead of stewing the pot of rancore and hate?
Well.First of all I never said I don't "do something" because of my blog. I said that my blog is part of how I cope with the oppressive air of A&M without going crazy, and right now it's the most effective way I can do that. So, let me clarify: school sucks up my life. I'm fucking busy. Trust me, I don't even really have time for a blog. I know most of you don't know anything about the job market for English Ph.D.s, but let me tell you, it's fucking dismal. And I can do so much more in battling racism and other social evils by being a college professor than I can working at a book store for minimum wage and hating my life. So, I only have two years at A&M, and if I had any free time, I'd need to employ it by joining the graduate-level working groups, not by joining undergraduate liberal organizations on campus. So, let's all think about long-term effectiveness for a second before you call on me to join the revolution.

Second, how is telling Tony to fuck himself "stewing in a pot of rancore (sic) and hate?" Criticism is important when it comes to racism and bigotry. One of the great strides against racism made in this country is that is no longer socially acceptable to spew hateful racist nonsense in polite company. When public figures do it, they get unpopular and have to apologize. People call you out on racism, and that is awesome. This is even slowly (and thankfully) becoming the case with homophobia as well. So, it is not okay that Tony's article got published, and I don't think it would be okay for me to ignore it. I have a blog, so I wrote about it, but if I hadn't, I would also have pointed it out to my friends, talked to people about it (I've obviously done this, too). If Maroon Weekly accepted letters to editor, I would have written one shaming them as well. Calling out racism is important. Which is so obvious I don't know why I'm even writing it. But both of these commentors seem to think that "doing something" involves not shouting from the mountaintops that racism is not okay and that Tony is not okay for writing racist things. They're wrong. I don't have a mountaintop, obviously, but I do have this blog, and for what it's worth, I used it to do something I think is important.

I'm open to suggestions as to doing "something constructive," but, man, you guys were vague. Joining an undergraduate liberal organization is not going to make Tony and other students like him not-racists, and it's not a practical use of my time. Other than that, I don't know what you guys even mean. Frankly, I think the most effective way for me in particular to battle a culture of bigotry at A&M is to (right now) write and teach undergrads. And, what to do you know, I get to do that next semester! And you can be sure that if Tony had written this article next semester, we would have been discussing it critically in my course, minus most of the cursing and sarcasm. And when it gets written in some other form by some other person next semester, we will. And I'll tell you all about it here, adding that missing cursing and sarcasm. Everybody wins.

So, racism makes me angry. And I think it damn well should. This does not mean I'm stewing in hate. You make it sound like I accused him of killing his mother, or burned his house down. All I did was call him a racist, a terrible human being, and told him to fuck off. All of which were the direct result of him writing an article blaming black people for their own social inequalities, so I think it was all justified. I was angry. I still am angry. Thinking about this article being run makes me angry. But anger is a useful tool, and it is not the same thing as hate. I will not be apathetic or just sad about bigotry; anger is the emotional reaction that leads to action, that keeps you sane, and staves off despair. Anger is useful and productive, and it has driven many a progressive social movement. It is not hate, so don't make that mistake. Hatred is destructive and eats away at you. That is not me.

Also, both of these comments seem to suggest that blogs aren't important or effective tools in battling racism or other bigotry. To which I say: get with it, gramps. My personal blog may not be that important, because few people read it, but your underestimation of what words can do on the interwebs completely ignores that this has, by far, been my most commented on post and has received the most page views. I'm starting conversations that otherwise may not have been started. Me! Shitty little blog with, like, ten regular readers. And that, my friends, is powerfully inspirational shit. Or something.

Your calls to "do something" might be admirable if you both weren't ignoring that I'm already doing something. I'm writing, I'm thinking, I'm talking about bigotry, and I will be teaching soon. I'm challenging racists where I find them and I'm encouraging people I know (not just students) to think critically about race (among other things). I'm staying sane in an environment that alternatively makes me want to punch a hole in the wall and cry. And I think it's rather rude of you to suggest that this isn't enough. There's not going to be a revolution that ends racism. If there was, fuck school. I'd be there, on the front lines. But we have to pick at it a little at a time, and I'm doing my part the best I can.

Ha! Bet you didn't expect me to get all personal on you, right? If that makes you uncomfortable, I'll write an alternative response: Suck it, anonymous posters.

6 comments:

Lane said...

I hope you realized that my comment on that particular post did not mean to belittle your blog or racism or anything like that.

Blogs and other technologies can go a long way in challenging racism and bigotry, and I mean you make it entertaining. That's what I meant.

Courtney said...

Of course I didn't, Lane. Thanks though!

Rachel R. said...

Courtney, I love you. This post and the last post were super enjoyable to read. I think it's awesome that you're speaking up and I was impressed by your thoroughness and deft handling of his article (although he did make such poor arguments, I'm sure they were shockingly easy to dismantle...).

Just think of all the character building A&M is giving you, as if grad school wasn't enough! :)

Victor said...

Ok, so what I think we have here is a MAJOR breakdown of communication.
"Hypocrite" is not critical of that fact you criticized racists, s/he is upset that you lumped the entire school into a negative/racists group.
anonymous grow a pair and don't post anonymously.
Courtney, is it?
It is totally okay for calling out a racists, go for it, their jerks. However, do not lump the school together. Texas A&M is the number one public school for hispanic students based on culture/enviroment and money given. I can personally attest to how great this school is for Hispanic Aggies.
This does not mean, however, that racism does not exist. It is everywhere, and yes even in austin and probably georgetown as well (where your from).
I truly think this is just miscommunication and not a true argument. Maroon Weekly should not have given that fool a place to write (what idiots) and CS can be backwards.
We all are against racism...hopefully...
yet, when you rightfully criticize bigots, please, leave the rest of us out.
So you see, you are all on the right side, just not great at expressing yourselves, ha!

paz y amor para todo la mundo
victor

Courtney said...

You're right. There is a miscommunication, so let me clear it up.

I am NOT accusing all of A&M of being racist. That would be silly and reductive. But there is a culture at A&M that tolerates bigotry and racism, and that culture is what allows articles like Listi's to be published. And this is not the first nor the last bigoted article that will be published in either of the school newspapers.

So, to be perfectly clear and repetitive: A&M has a problem, and that problem is not entirely because of racist individuals (which of course are there), but a culture that tolerates and sometimes even encourages bigotry of all sorts. I think part of this comes from the "tradition trumps all" attitude many students and the administration have, and part of it is from the pride many have that A&M is so conservative. But I have never and will never say that all A&M students are racist. They're not.

How much outrage did this article create? Frankly, I haven't seen much besides my own. Now, I'm in a fairly small part of campus, so I would be glad to hear that that is just the result of my isolation. But at a school that didn't have this culture of tolerance, I think something like this article should be denounced officially, by the president of the school or something. Or even a lower-level administrator. It is not okay that this was published. Period. But no one in charge and probably most of the student body thinks it's a big deal. That is what I'm critiquing. I'm not "lumping the school together."

Candied Yams said...

Raising awareness and educating people is a great form of activism. Keep it up.