Reflections on Invisibility

Despite my horror at the multi-ring circus called the 2016 Presidential Election, I am committed to seeing it through to the end and am therefore tuning in to the debates between Donald (who I affectionately refer to as Trumpiewumpie) and Senator Clinton. As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough to call oneself a United States citizen this century, we have now gifted the world’s stage with a reality-TV-show-style election. Sigh.

On Monday evening, Trumpiewumpie and Senator Clinton debated (can we even use that term?) the issues… or rather, Senator Clinton attempted to articulate her stance on national security, foreign trade, and racial tension while Trumpiewumpie sniffed, snorted, and made fish faces into the microphone. I am not a die-hard Clinton supporter (shout out to Bernie), but at least she has a modicum of decorum and poise and is undeniably intelligent and capable of being the Commander-in-Chief. And she deals with a heck of a lot of sexism, microaggressions, and discrimination. Hey Trumpiewumpie, if she has a face, she has a presidential look.

I am used to being invisible when it comes to our nation’s ideology. President Obama mentioned trans people for the first time ever in the 2015 State of the Union address, but it felt more like throwing us a bone than highlighting all the issues we face. I’m fairly certain most people on Capitol Hill don’t have a clue what non-binary means and if they do, they certainly wouldn’t acknowledge our existence. For today, I’m going to let that go. Cause watching the debate on Monday illuminated all the other people in this country who are invisible.

The two candidates were asked a question about the current tension between races in this country and both candidates responded as if African-Americans and Latinx were the only people of color in the United States. Trumpiewumpie referred to them as one group: “Africanamericanhispanics” and Senator Clinton fared only somewhat better by giving them their own and slightly less colonial labels: African-American and Latino. But if memory serves, neither candidate mentioned any other race (someone fact check me, please!).

Hmm, am I wrong in noticing that there are many, many races of people represented in United States citizenship? Aren’t there Chinese-Americans, Filipino-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Iranian-Americans, Korean-Americans and (gasp) NATIVE Americans (goddess forbid we mention the people whose land we stole and now reside on) etc…? Maybe I see people who aren’t really here like the kid in The Sixth Sense who sees dead people (I see racial minorities), but I’m fairly certain I’m not wrong about this. So why is it that when our politicians discuss race in the United States they only talk about Africanamericanhispanics?

It makes sense to some extent, considering the rampant killings of unarmed black men by police. There is definitely a major issue with the ways white supremacy specifically targets and discriminates against the black community and the candidates should address this, but when asked about the racial divide, shouldn’t they at least acknowledge that there are more than three races in this country?

Politicians, Senator Clinton and Trumpiewumpie included, perpetuate white supremacy when they fail to acknowledge their racial privilege. When a politician gets on stage and says, “I have racial privilege and therefore have many unearned opportunities because this nation was built on white supremacy” then I will be excited to vote. But wait, I WANT our country to change in ways that will actually create equality, not just give it a head nod and I’m guessing most white politicians want to retain their unearned white power soooo I suppose I will wait a long time before I hear the above phrase.

I shall save abelism, classism, and heteronormativity for another post.

So while my gender and sexual orientation are completely invisible at the ideological and institutional levels and nearly invisible at the interpersonal level (a barista just “ma’amed” me), there are plenty of people who are also invisible for other reasons. I have race, class, and ability privilege. I am represented in that regard.

“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

-Toni Morrison

 

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2 thoughts on “Reflections on Invisibility

  1. Thank you for articulating this so clearly. As a Native American, I can attest that the systemic oppression is felt but rarely acknowledged. Not only did my tribe lose its language in the assimilation process, but many have lost their voice in the decades that followed. My family has rarely spoken of such issues and their negative experiences, except when using Indian jokes -which are pointed against themselves. I dream of a world when politicians and those with privilege and power, use their platforms to empower those who most need it. Politically, I dream of altruistic candidates who make it hard to choose between them because they are both so fantastic! (-let me have my absurd dreams).
    This invisibility principle at work towards oppressed identity dimensions-excuse me, oppressed PEOPLE, must end. Thank you for doing your part in this.

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  2. Rachel,
    Thank you for your comment. I got chills as I read about your tribe’s loss of language and your family’s experience of marginalization. Your comment came on the heels of hearing about the “Black Privilege” movement pushed forward but yet more oppressive white people. I wish people could understand that recognition of privilege is not a bad thing! Acknowledging the way we have oppressed others is simply illuminating truth. Then again, I have a strong bias towards truth and justice whereas it appears that others would rather hold onto their power via self-deception.

    And for the record, I love your “absurd” dream. Let’s see if we can make it a reality in your lifetime. 🙂

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