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we are all geeks, or not

April 6, 2010

This refrain, “we are all ______,” is what people say when they’re trying to identify with the cause in question.  “We are all Palestinians,” for example, when in fact we’re mostly not.  I guess it’s a weird way of saying that an injury to one is an injury to all, a very useful sentiment for developing links of solidarity and understanding interlocked oppressions.
My problem with this is that if “we’re all _______,” then who will organize people that are not ______?  As people not part of a particular marginalized group, it’s possible to have a separate and powerful vantage point, one that shouldn’t be shuffled off so lightly.  To continue the earlier example, as someone who is not Palestinian, i can speak as a member of the non-Palestinian group.  As a non-Palestinian, i am still outraged by Zionism and global complicity in anti-Palestinian maneuvering, therefore i can speak to other non-Palestinians from a similar position; not assuming a Palestinian voice but using my own.
Maybe i’ll get into this more later, but i was actually trying to segue into this great posting by Arachne Jericho, “Thoughts on the Cultural Appropriation of Geek Culture and Race”.  This is a brilliant analogy for people on the internet, a large percentage of whom may consider themselves geeks, to connect with cultural appropriation.  It’s great, because most any marginalized person can think of times that any group that they may be a part of has been caricatured in larger society.  By drawing parallels between that experience and the alienation people of colour feel when their culture is used in such a way, i think it makes clear how damaging appropriative behaviour can be.
I also really like the branching into talking about “safe space.”  This isn’t a term i really love, though the way Jericho uses it seems to be close to what i would call “closed” or “exclusive space.”  I don’t feel strongly enough about “safe space” to dispute it here, but, by “closed space,” i mean space that is solely meant for a specific group of marginalized people (and when members of a privileged group do this, i would call it “segregation”).  The discussion around closed spaces is so close to that of cultural appropriation because it speaks to the need for oppressed groups to have boundaries, limits to where the majority can go and what/how they can create or perform.  Since colonizers by their very nature go and take whatever they want, we must draw very clear lines across which they/we cannot cross.
My family were european immigrants to what is called north america, Turtle Island or many other names, and so i am a settler.  As a queer and a skid, marginalized for my sexuality, gender failure and economic situation, i have had to disregard some of the culture i have inherited in exchange for new ways that make more sense to my life.  I can say from both positions how important boundaries are.  Some gross breeder jock that tries lisping like it’s funny clearly needs to be shown that boundary, as have i so many times in the past that i over-stepped a line i didn’t realize was there or ignored because it was easier.
So much of the problem with this consumer culture that chews up and spits out one culture after the next is that it constantly goes beyond the bounds of common decency in order to satiate it’s hunger for something new.  Like any person who has too infrequently been told “no,” it thinks the world is there for the taking.  All it would take is some good, strong disciplining to help people realize to be happy with what they have.

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