Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stuff Progressive Anti-Racist White Guys Do: Erase Sex/Gender

We have seen before how white male anti-racist writers have a tendency to erase issues of sex and gender from their critiques of society. For as much insight as some progressives, liberals, and anti-racist folks have with respect to race, some people have remarkably little insight when it comes to their own blind spots with respect to sex, gender, and other privileges.

We all have our blind spots, to be sure. I certainly do. The trouble with blind spots is that, by definition, we can't see them. And so, I write this post with all due respect to macon d. and his stuff white people do blog. He's often spot on in his posts. Importantly, he's a white guy thinking about race in a thoughtful, non-hyper-defensive way.

Yet, generally, the biggest blind spot that some anti-racist (and liberal and progressive and leftist) white guys have is that they collapse the white female experience and the white male experience together as though the two are sufficiently similar enough to be presented as the experience of White Personhood. I know that all of the various "Stuff [insert group] Do/Like" blogs are not truly intended to represent the experiences of all those who belong to the relevant identity group. Yet, unless they are obviously cheeky and fun, there is a real danger in coming off as though one is deigning to represent the [Insert Identity] Experience.

So, while I generally appreciate macon d's stuff white people do blog, I was disappointed in the way that his post regarding how one of the things white people do is "recreate jesus in their own image" so blatantly ignored gender. I think we need to be very clear about in who's image white "people" have created Jesus because this supposed representative of god certainly was not created in the image of all of us white people.

Here, I should be clear about something. Assuming for the sake of argument that Jesus existed as a historical figure, I am not disputing that he was a man, as opposed to a woman. Where I take issue with Christianity, and one large reason as to why I am not a Christian, is that I do not believe that the historical Jesus was imbued with divinity (at least as Christianity conceives it). In fact, I think one of the greatest failing of Christianity is that it has gendered God Incarnate, as represented by Jesus, as a white male.

Given the degree to which male-centrism is built into Christianity (and Judaism and Islam), erasing gender from a critique of the creation of white Jesus does a real disservice to the alienation that so many women and girls experience because of god and "God Incarnate's" alleged white maleness. So, with respect to white people re-creating "jesus in their own image," I'm not sure that white women had all that much to do with the re-creation or that they benefit from it to the extent that white men do.

My criticism here is not a petty one and I don't write this to "let white women off the hook," as it were. Rather, the gendering of god/Jesus as male is, I believe, one of the greatest purveyors of male privilege and sexism in the world. Yes. In the world. What a sense of entitlement white men and boys must learn at such an early age to know that, not only the greatest being in the sky looks just like them, but so does his incarnate son. And, because men have gendered god and god incarnate as male, Christianity tells us that it was men who were created in god's image and that it was women who came from men, rather than what we know to be the biological truth. It is yet another way we learn that white men are the standard human being and everyone else is an aberration from that.

As the links within macon's post rightly note, we do most certainly learn from the white Jesus that white is good and non-white is not good. But to build on that, we also learn from white male Jesus that maleness is good and not maleness is not good. In fact, from various sects of Christianity, we learn that the maleness of Jesus was so integral to his identity that it precludes women from being priests.

In short, men and women do not- indeed cannot- experience Christianity in the same way. What has been to white men a great privilege- the white maleness of Jesus- is to women an oppressive force.

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