Google has their well-known unofficial motto "don't be evil". However, as they have grown as a corporation they often run into issues living up to that motto. As a recent example, Google is a major sponsor of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Conservatism alone is not evil, however this conference gives platform to anti-gay and white supremacist bigotry. There's a Change.org petition which has more details on the issue. Do go read it, and please sign it if you agree with the points made there.
Ten years ago a large number of people died tragically. After a decade of colonial warfare, torture, and oppression, Americans are starting finally to come to the realization that maybe it would be good of us to stop killing. As so eloquently phrased in On 9/11 and the War on "Terror": Names, Numbers and Events:
The events that have been taking place since 9/11 are not something that came out of the blue, but rather they are best understood as a continuation of a long history of deception, racism of Western modernity, and the ways in which those who are not white/westerners have figured into this history.
On this day, so full of jingoistic pride at "liberating" humans from their life on Earth, you should read that article and take Ibn Khaldoun's message to heart. Do not think that you are somehow special and exempt. Who funded and armed Al-Qaeda in order to oppose the Soviets? Who put Saddam Hussein into power and supported his regime? Who supported the Shah in Iran and opposed the democratic revolution in the 1970s? Who has been a close ally and long-time supporter of Mubarak? Whose officials helped Gaddafi cling to power and advised him in stomping out the beginning of Libya's uprising? The uprisings throughout the Arabic world are not uprisings against "Muslim extremists". The uprisings are Arabic peoples who are finally able to free themselves from the shackles of western hegemony.
Today, right now, a large number of people are dying tragically. They need our help; and the help they need is for us to stop killing them.
An Atlanta area mother was recently convicted of vehicular homicide. Convicted for the crime of being a pedestrian hit by a drunken driver, a driver who was also on painkillers, also half blind, also convicted of two previous hit-and-runs. Her child was also hit, and killed, which is why she's now a criminal. In truth, she was convicted for the crime of being black and poor in America. I haven't been in the country six hours and this is the news story that greets me. Racism, the othering of people who take public transit, and the deadly violent car culture that dominates the US.
A (white) friend of mine was killed in a crosswalk in Portland years ago. The SUV driver couldn't be bothered to check if it was safe when making a left-hand turn across a busy street, at full speed without slowing at all. There were witnesses. He also fled the scene. She was headed to the corner to next to her apartment to buy a mop.
I've been hit three times in crosswalks, all three with the walk sign on and a red light for the cars. Only one of those times was it serious. But I was saved by the fact that the rich white man was driving a sporty little thing so I went over the hood instead of under.
What a welcome home.
As Glenn Greenwald helpfully pointed out, the editors of the NYT — America's allegedly liberal newspaper — reserve the word "terrorist" solely for use in conjunction with the word "Muslim".
All the hate mongering confirmation bias in the wake of the tragedy in Oslo just shows how much the extreme terrorism of the right wing has corrupted American culture. As Ahmed Moor says in zir excellent commentary on the situation,
But not all liberals are created equal.
It is a credit to the Norwegian people that their prime minister did not respond to the terror attack with scorched-earth rhetoric or a carpet-bombing campaign. A real liberal with strong principles, he did not succumb to fear or vicious speculation.
(As always, the hat-tip goes to homasse for cutting to the heart of the issue, as well as informing me of world news in my last week here in Canada.)
I've said it all before (and been harangued for doing so), but maybe it'll be heard better coming from someone else's mouth. Here's the shortest excerpt I can give from Why I'm leaving feminism:
My ‘issues’ being things like the rape of people in institutions, the fact that the average transgender person can expect to live for 23 years, forcible institutionalisation of people whom society doesn’t want to look at, ridiculously high domestic violence and sexual assault rates for transgender people and people with disabilities. The widening pay gap between white women and women of colour, the fact that the median net worth for Black women is $5. The fact that fat patients die without treatment due to fat hatred in the medical community. The fact that industrial pollution disproportionately impacts communities of colour, that class mobility is at an all time low, that the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer, that protections for worker safety are steadily being eroded, that unions are under attack in the United States.
These barely scratch the surface of ‘my issues.’ Because I believe that no human is free until all humans are free, no human is equal until all humans are equal, no gains for one group at the cost of another are acceptable. I believe in social justice, in liberty for all. These are my issues. And many people who identify themselves as feminists tell me the issues need to wait. They pay lip service to them until something more important comes along and then it becomes all-consuming. They repeat the same mistakes make by older generations and appear surprised at the inevitable outcome.
People who continue to be celebrated as feminist heroes leave a legacy of ableism, racism, classism, transphobia in their wake. The feminist movement has never gotten away from this, despite the best attempts of many of its members.
For a long time, I genuinely believed I could change the feminist movement from within. I thought if I fought hard enough, and long enough, feminism would make a place at the table for me, that I would be welcome in the feminist community. But it’s painfully evident I am not wanted, not in mainstream feminism, which is the ‘feminism’ most people are exposed to. I know well enough to know where I’m not wanted. The leaders of the feminist movement don’t just have a lack of interest in ‘my issues,’ they actively want to suppress my voice, and the voices of people like me. They want us to shut up and go away. It’s evident from the palpable sighs of relief when they manage to quash us, it’s evident from the total silence when a disabled women talks about why she is leaving feminism and not one person, not one, says anything about it.
So many disabled people, nonwhite people, transgender people, people of colour, poor people, adamantly refuse to identify with feminism in its current incarnation in the United States. ‘Feminists’ talk about this in the sense that we’re all really feminist in how we think, behave, and act, we just have some irrational resistance to the label. No, we’re not really feminist. The model of feminism we see is one where oppression perpetrated in the name of ‘activism’ is acceptable, where casual ableism, racism, classism, transphobia run so deep that many of us don’t even bother to point it out anymore. The model of feminism we see is one where a handful of people profit at the expense of others. And that’s not how we think, behave, and act. That is not what we believe.
I've always been a fan of the Metroid series because it was one of the few franchises with a strong female protagonist. From the first game, her being a woman was not a plot detail, but rather just a fact about the character. She can wield a gun with the best of them and wears real armor instead of prancing about in neglige. Being tough as nails doesn't mean you have to be a sexbot, the most competent and effective women can be practical too! But this well-done analysis of the latest installment calls all that into question.
August 31st marked the release of Metroid: Other M, the latest installment of Nintendo’s Metroid franchise, and the most aggressively marketed game in the series. Produced, directed, and written by franchise patriarch Yoshio Sakamoto, with game design by Team Ninja, it represents a significant change of direction for the series. Plenty of reviewers have already dissected its gameplay, with mixed but mostly favorable impressions.
But this is not a gameplay review.
I’m here to address the game’s writing — not so much where it failed artistically (though there are some legitimate complaints to be made on that front), but unfortunately where it succeeds. When it comes to the game’s story, there is an elephant in the room which very few reviewers have addressed head-on.
To put it bluntly, Metroid: Other M is a story that consistently portrays an abusive relationship between two of its main characters, and romanticizes it, painting the depicted behavior as justifiable, even laudable. No single moment in the game bears the blame for this (though a couple are problematic on their own); the entire story, taken as a whole, is the problem.
Or, rather, why the people who state that are usually wrong.
So this definition for racism was brought up again recently when yet another person claimed we live in a post-racial society. Which is usually the context it's brought up in: someone claims Racism = Prejudice and then declares minorities need to get over themselves because of their evidenced prejudice against white folks; and then someone more educated on issues of racism seeks to correct them (using R=P+IP to disprove R=P). I certainly don't believe R=P, but rather my point of contention is a meta issue about how R=P+IP is presented. That is, the theory of R=P+IP as it is customarily presented online is false, even though I do believe something similar is in fact true.
Why it is wrong comes down to one simple fact: there is no Institution. There is no single power structure in which we're all embedded. Even if we parameterize IP by country (as people often do), it's still wrong because there is no single power structure for the entire country. By stating R=P+IP there is an implicit theoretical belief in this singular notion of IP. And as if the implicit theory isn't enough, people often feel the need to be explicit about it. It is this totalizing discourse which is wrong. In addition to being inaccurate, totalizing claims transfer the problem of racism from individuals and individual actions to some external and ineffable "Institution" which individuals are not able to affect (due to its externality). So in addition to being inaccurate, it also serves to dissuade people from altering their personal actions in hopes of combating racism.
The fact of the matter is that we are, each of us, embedded simultaneously in multiple different and often conflicting power structures. I am not only in America, I'm also in Bloomington and I'm also a graduate student. (And anyone who thinks academia isn't a power structure orthogonal to real life is seriously misled.) More to the point, prior to moving to Bloomington I lived in Baltimore for two years. In Baltimore they have problems with racially-motivated black-on-white hate crimes. Now, when I can be hospitalized or killed for the crime of riding the bus while white, anyone who says it's merely "prejudice" has some very odd definitions rattling around in their head. In Baltimore, yes, blacks can be racist too. So when someone gets on their high horse and starts making totalizing claims about how the general disenfranchisement of blacks in America means they can't be racist, it's my turn to call them out for spouting bullshit.
My time in Baltimore was thankfully free of any (noticeable) racism. And I'm sure most other white residents receive less racism from blacks per annum than the average black person does from whites in most places. This isn't the oppression olympics, but rather it's an existence proof: When I was living in Baltimore there were numerous white people hospitalized and killed due to being assaulted on the bus by blacks because of their race. This happens in spite of the fact that everyone living in Baltimore is also living in America where blacks are typically the targets of racism. These two different kinds of hatred stem from being embedded in two different systems of power. In America whites have more power than blacks and use that to police racial borders. In Baltimore, which has different population dynamics (e.g., blacks aren't a minority), blacks have more power than whites and will use that to police racial borders. There is nothing about the power dynamics of America as a whole which precludes some part of America having opposing dynamics.
So IP is not a constant, nor is it a function only of the country. For the R=P+IP equation to be true, IP must be a function which takes in all the different power structures we live in and highlights whether any of those structures provide power in the given context. Whether my power as a white person in America or my weakness as a white person in Baltimore is more relevant will depend on the situation and is not simply the sum of the power from all structures. Similarly, whatever sorts of power I have as a graduate student are unlikely to be of any relevance in contexts that have nothing to do with education. Institutionalized power is both polysemous and contextually dependent. What is institutionalized in one structure need not be institutionalized in others, and which of these many "institutions" can be brought to bear is constantly changing.
By trying to totalize over these two dimensions, people prone to espousing R=P+IP as if IP were a constant are not only misleading those they are presuming to educate, but in so doing they are also failing to acknowledge that individual institutions can be changed, as can the dynamics of which institutions affect our lives. Institutionalized power can never be entirely eliminated. It can, however, be restructured so that it does not support the marginalization and oppression of racial minorities (or women, LGBTQ, disabled people, etc). And most importantly it is because of our own power within these different systems that we are able, through personal actions, to alter the systems in which we have power. We don't have racism because Those People Out There all got together and agreed to it; it is because our personal actions are complicit in preserving the institutionalized structures which support the oppression of minorities. But those very same institutionalized structures give us the currency needed to alter them; it is not enough to want equality, we must have the power to obtain it.
In 2006, Dr. Martin Luther King Day happened to fall on January 16. Below, I am reposting a small part of what I wrote for that day, slightly updated for 2008.
In three days' time, on January 21, the third Monday of the month, we as a nation will be celebrating the life, accomplishments, and blessings of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our nation and our society have truly been transformed for the better by his life. Many Americans regard him as the greatest peacemaker of our history. I believe him to have been the greatest American patriot of the 20th Century.
This weekend, while enjoying your day off on Monday, or listening to a sermon on the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., keep in mind that he was, first and foremost, an inspiring man of God, a man of peace who kept close to the words of his prophet, Jesus Christ. Please also keep in mind that at the time Dr. King was assassinated, most of his civil rights work was done. Almost two years earlier, he had turned his attention toward the injustice of the Vietnam War. I and many others believe that this is the reason he was killed, much more than for his stalwart work for civil rights.
This weekend, many people will be quoting Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I'll bet you that even President Bush quotes this speech sometime in the next three days. Many consider it Dr. King's magnum opus, but they neglect -- perhaps intentionally, perhaps not -- the speech he gave not long before his death, "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam". So that this is not forgotten, so that the words of this great patriot, America's greatest peacemaker, are not left to history, particularly in these days when we most desperately need to hear them, please download and listen to Dr. King's thoughts on the Vietnam War, which can plainly be applied to any war.
And do read the original. I know you are all old enough to remember that war. It was my first exposure to politics. I remember it. And I remember being ten years old and asking all the adults around me why we were there, and I remember noone could give any answers then either. I remember green-light videos of those missiles on the news. I remember people talking about Vietnam, a mythical word the wound too new to expose to some kid. And I remember losing power with those green lights when the hurricane hit Maine. It passed straight over us. I remember the eye, the deafening silence.