A facebook friend linked to this article
I think I have differences with the author, but find a lot that is useful here, especially this:
The conception of the systemic roots of injustice--and the possibility of achieving systemic change--were replaced by a focus on subjective, individual and cultural relations as centers of struggle, including reclaiming or re-appropriating oppressive language as a tool to combat oppression. In this process, postmodernism--and the accompanying post-structural and post-Marxist--theories achieved dominance by the 1980s.
Yes, one of the things I find uncomfortable now is the emphasis on individuals and individual guilt. The system is racist, and that influences everyone in the system. It is very difficult to be non-racist in a racist system. The point is to change the system.
Calling out racism, sexism, homophobia and other reactionary attitudes is obviously a necessary part of fighting oppression in daily life--and apologies from the offending parties are surely welcome. But this is also a far cry from what is needed to end oppression.
Apologies from individuals in a racist system do not go far. Are these apologies going to create good jobs, fair policing, safe neighborhoods, an end to the war on drugs, which is a war on people of color?
(Challenging racism, sexism and homophobia within the SFF community may do some good, since it's a small community and working on individuals may result in community changes. I still dislike attacking individuals. It's a lousy way to educate and organize.)
I think the article's author has an excellent point when she says that many young or youngish activists have no knowledge of what a big movement looks like. They never experienced Civil Rights or the anti-war movement or the years when the cities burned and the US government had to send in the army (which was dicey, since there were many black soldiers, and they had been politicized by the war and Civil Rights. It was not clear that they could be used against the brothers in the burning cities.) As she says, the young activists have never seen a strike or a rank-and-file union movement. This may explain why my vision is so different from theirs. I lived through the 60s.
I see a profoundly oppressive and destructive economic and political system, which uses prejudice as a tool against ordinary people. This is obvious in some cases: the Republican Party has adopted racism, sexism and homophobia as a way to get white votes. They are pretty upfront about this. Often, the uses of racism are less obvious. The system chugs along, and people spend their time hating their neighbors, rather than the boss who pays them shitty wages and whose crappy jobs make their lives inhuman.
As the article says, it's always important to recognize and challenge oppression and prejudice. But it's also important to look at the system which is -- no kidding -- destroying the planet.
Right now large numbers of Americans know they are getting screwed, and they know the government is owned by the rich, not by them. There is an opportunity to build coalitions. Movements are emerging. Occupy. Ferguson. The organizing of fast food workers. They may disappear. Some may persist and grow.
P.S. I can imagine a younger-than-I-am aspiring activist reading this and being furious. What do I mean by the system? Behavior that causes pain needs to be confronted now! Yes, but there is more.