I remember being in college and spending a lot of time doing/listening to debates about various -isms and inequality. (hint: we were against it). What is weird is, the teachers didn't give us the conceptual tools to discuss it productively.
For instance: any time there's a case of social inequality (the haves always do The Thing, and the have-nots don't get to do The Thing), there's actually TWO ways to remedy the situation. One: make the haves STOP doing the thing, and two: allow the have-nots TO start all doing the thing.
Both approaches result in equality, but through two totally opposite paths. And yet – as far as I can tell – for hundreds of years that people have been debating inequality, NO ONE HAS NOTICED THIS. You get idealistic people who will use every last bit of logic and passion and carefully-thought-out ideals (Jeffersonian republicanism! Pluralism! Transparency!) and spend a fucking hour advocating that we should make the haves STOP doing The Thing. . . . all based on a snap judgement that took a tenth of a second. Why should we make the haves STOP doing the thing? Why not allow everyone to ALL do the thing? You didn't even consider that for a whole second. . . .did you? Because, against all logic, BOTH FUCKING TOTALLY OPPOSITE approaches to justice are taught to you as THE EXACT SAME THING.
We're taught NOT to ask ourselves, "Which TYPE of equality should I advocate to remedy such-and-such an injustice?"
So, OK! Let me help the problem.
Let's call the "make the haves STOP doing the thing" approach LEVELING UP, and call the "let the have-nots ALL be able to do the thing" approach LEVELING DOWN.
Some instances are easy as shit: the overwhelming majority of domestic violence is done by men. You don't have to think too long to realize this is a LEVELING DOWN scenario: Men should STOP doing the thing.
Other instances are fairly easy: most senators are white, so most people would say that people of color should LEVEL UP. Unless you're an anarchist and think that NOBODY should have state authority, in which case you'd be all for LEVELING DOWN.
Then, a favorite of mine: farts. Men fart and burp, women don't. Are crude noises a form of oppressive male domination? Or are they a fundamental right which women have historically been forbidden to do by restrictive gender roles? In other words , should we get equality by LEVELING UP OR BY LEVELING DOWN?!?
Without these two concepts, you can't even begin to have that discussion!
Or song lyrics: a lot of rappers talk about killing young black men. Would the world be a better place if britney and lady gaga mostly sang about murdering white women? After all, that is more equal. And much much better.
Or this other thing, which I'm also surprised that no one has remarked upon: the american police / national security state's radical EQUALIZATION and ELIMINATION of racism. This is the single most equality-making development in government since King marched at Selma, and yet nobody even says thank you?!?? Consider this: government now treats upper-middle-class white people like Black Panthers: reading their mail, tapping their phone, strip-searches at airports without cause, "civil forfiture" of possessions without even an arrest, and "indefinite detention" without trial. Still waiting for a rapper to make fun of Occupy kids: "How's it feel, whitey? Oh, NOWWWW it's unfair, right, since it's happening to you! Welcome to the club, white kid."
Anyway, does treating whites as crappy as black people count as leveling up or leveling down?4 comments