Micro-aggressions, Pelosi and Dailykos

There is currently a diary on top of the dailykos that I find troublesome. I worry it is one of the issues,if allowed to fester, that may keep Trump in office in2020.  issues, if allowed to fester, that may keep Trump in office in 2020.  The diary takes a tweet by AOC as its jumping off point.  AOC says that way Pelosi is attacking young women of Color recently elected to Congress is disrespectful. The dialogue is a long diatribe about why AOC should not do this, but the general gist to me is “Who do you think you are? How dare you!!!” I read it (mostly because I always read diaries at the top of the recommended list, and it sent a chill through me. Before I explain why, let related two recent experiences that inform my thinking.

Let me start out by saying I am an older white male who has lived in privilege most of my life, very often without recognizing it.

The two experiences,

Recently the chair of my faculty called us all together and said he had a meeting with a group of students of Color. They complained that they often felt the victim of micro-aggressions in their classes. The faculty he was talking to was mostly white and I think for the most part think they are progressive (at least when it comes to race and class). Much of the (white) faculty stared back uncomprehending. Were these students being too sensitive? Did they see micro-aggressions in what were meant to be harmless actions? Almost on cue the Chair said, “I know you think these are harmless actions but they really hurt and drive students of Color away.” Amazingly, no discussion followed. There was not one question (including from me). We all went on with the business of the meeting. Yet it has stayed with me, the growing fear that I might engage in these micro-aggressions and then rationalize them or skipped over them.

A second experience came with the busing debate that came from the Biden-Kamala exchange.  Immediately people said, “Nobody talks about busing, why do you think that is?” I am old enough to remember the coverage of busing in Boston. I initially agreed that it was too controversial. Thinking about it though, all the controversy came from the white perspective. Parents were protecting their children and did not want them to be sacrificed to political expediency. Really I did not remember any other argument. Feeling uncomfortable I did some research. I came up with two ideas that knocked me back. First, nothing had been done that supported Brown v Education until busing, and to this day it is probably the best vehicle for desegregation (which was supposed to be the law of the land). More important, people of Color did not see the white protesters as protecting their children. It was not self-interest that was the point of the spear of the protestors. It was symbolic racism. Individuals who would not use the word n….er would use busing to scream they did not want children of Color in their neighborhoods and life in a safe way in which everybody “understood” the motivation.

So back to the diary. AOC’s tweet seemed to me to be about micro-aggressions from Pelosi and the democratic leadership towards women of color. I believe that Obama suffered these as well but he comes from another generation. He was willing to suffer them in order to move his agenda forward. I feel like there was a lot of the “suffering servant” in Obama in his generation. AOC and the woman of Color of her generation are not willing to suffer and feel they work against their agenda and marginalize them. Our reaction to this tweet SHOULD NOT BE TO PROTECT PELOSI. Pelosi is acting from a position of power and privilege. Instead we should think about why AOC is saying this (and it took an enormous amount of courage to say it publicly – she is smart enough to know the blowback). Why aren’t we asking why AOC feels this way? Are micro-aggressions occurring on an almost daily basis? The democratic leadership will say it is because the young freshpeople are acting out of turn and (as the diary said) “sucking up to much oxygen.” One of the things I have realized is that we always have rationalizations for micro-aggressions. But instead of a knee jerk reaction this is something we need to think about seriously. That does not include saying like some of my best friends are women of color. It means taking AOC and the other women of Color seriously and doing everything we can not to marginalize them.

I hope I have not offended anybody with this. As I said, sometimes I don’t recognize my own privilege. I will say that if the purpose of Dailykos is to elect democratic candidate we have to realize that women of Color are the backbone of our party.  

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