The Break Down, Part II
I read the comment from Damali Ayo first, then your post promising a
…Just so you know, there were a couple of parts of that email that
especially stood out for me in big neon flashes:
“the truth is that it is your kind of totally dimsissive negative painting of
people who are working hard to make change that slows down progress.”
“Seeing what is” = “negative”? I’ve heard that over and over and over and
OVER again. IMO it is a common classic defensive tactic in response to the
threat that your perspective poses.
“Seeing what is” = “totally dismissive”? Same as above. And: there is an
unspoken rule that we are not supposed to challenge the underlying
structure and assumptions. If you question the underlying stuff, you are
breaking the rules. To dismiss the “value” of what she is doing is not okay
in her terms, and to appreciate the “value” means not questioning the
underlying. Questioning the underlying calls the whole thing into question,
which then she would call “totally dismissive” and gives her this platform to
lash back at you on the basis of not appreciating the value of her work.
“Progress” — well, that is a very interesting word indeed. Very interesting.
What are the assumptions of progress? I actually like the breakdown that
Marimba Ani does of those assumptions. And — “slows down” progress — in
line with Ani’s analysis, that assumes that there is a movement toward
change already happening that would be able to be slowed down.
Enforcing the terms: in my experience these struggles often turn into battles
over what reality is. Defensiveness means pushing specific ways of seeing
things. So she is pushing her view of reality with this phrase: “people who
are working hard to make change.” You have questioned whether her work
makes change. She is re-asserting her unquestioned role or identity as a
changemaker here and then positioning you in relation to it.
Another part of her comment:
“reading your post, it seems like you want racism to stay around so you can
complain about it.
check yourself, before you wreck us all.”
In line with pushing a particular version of “what is actually going on” she is
also positioning you in a particular way. You have questioned her work.
Instead of responding to the actual content of your questioning, she is
attacking you. Psychologizing you.
And, positioning you as someone whose questioning will “wreck us all” — I
have experienced these kinds of attacks when I have questioned too close
to the bone. It is again a struggle about the deep terms of “what is going
on.” In this picture she’s painting, your questioning makes you a negative
destroyer while her work is positive and progress-oriented.
Also, since you are someone who does, for your own sanity, need to be
open to critical self-examination, this kind of statement can pose a real
difficulty. I say this because I would guess (I may be wrong but I would
guess) that it gets to the part of you that wants to be open to learning about
any ways in which you collude with white supremacy. Critiques can be
really useful. But when people are being defensive (in this case about her
work), it’s hard to deal with their critiques because the critiques usually don’t
come in good faith. They are part of defensive struggle and any critique of
you is about re-asserting the other version of what is going on. But then —
you can also be positioned into an overly-defensive mode yourself, which
can feel like shit inside. (do you know what I am talking about here? I am
making some assumptions and of course I may be wrong).