When we talk about racism or sexism, we often use the construction “x is racist against y” or “y is sexist towards x” (genetic pun mostly intentional). We add a preposition to the verb phrase “is racist” or “is sexist” in order to clarify who or what is being discriminated against. By doing this, we give “is racist” or “is sexist” a directional component. Racism and sexism are going from one place to another; they originate in one location and travel to a different one.
We typically assume that racism and sexism travel certain paths, that is, from whites to minorities or from men to women, hence, the existence of phrases like “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism.” Racism and sexism become weapons launched from one camp into the massed forces of another. Direction begins to imply intent.
It doesn’t really work that way.
In real life, racism and sexism look less like x—–>y and more like this stock photo that popped up when I google image searched “chaos arrows,” except that this stock photo isn’t the frat boy at the CEOS and Office Hoes party who will someday write your 78%-of-what-your-male-coworker-makes paycheck WOMP WOMP WOMP.
Issues with the directional model of racism and sexism:
1) In this model, every time you use the words racist and/or sexist, you’re implying that an attack has occurred.
2) Instances of racism and sexism therefore look like attacks.
3) As such, instances of racism and sexism are intentional and obvious.
4) Racism and sexism, as attacks, must be directed from one group towards another group. You can’t attack yourself.
It may seem obvious that the statements listed above are, among other things, dead wrong, but unfortunately, this black-and-white (harrdeeharrharr) conception of what racism and sexism are seems to be popular, if not predominant, among the denizens of this earth, particularly those denizens who coined the terms “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism.”
Racism and sexism are not bullets, they’re an enveloping fog of tear gas that you can’t dodge, that you can’t outrun, that clouds everyone’s eyes and judgment, and yeah, that affects some people more severely than others, but regardless is screwing with everybody. Only, it’s been around for so long that some people don’t even know it’s there anymore, and some people think that since it’s always been there, it should stay there, and some people are rolling around on the ground choking, but half of the other people can’t see them, and the other half of the other people think they’re faking, and basically racism and sexism suck, so yeah.
The Tear Gas/Stock Photo Chaos Arrows Theory of Race/Gender Oppression:
1) Racism and sexism are friggin EVERYWHERE. Sometimes the arrows go x–>y, sometimes y–>x, sometimes you throw them straight up in the air and they come back down and splatter all over you and your friends and goshdarnit, you just ruined Becky’s favorite shirt, douchebag.
2) That’s right, folks, you can be racist/sexist against your own race or gender. Men are sexist against men alllll the time (some of these behaviors overlap with homophobia) and women are sexist against women alllll the time. Asians can be racist against Asians, blacks against blacks, and so on and so forth.
3) You can also send racist/sexist tear gas farts towards your friends, family, romantic partners, and/or favorite articulate black politician. JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE SOMEONE DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF FARTING ON THEM.
4) Sometimes when you’re standing in a huge fog of racist tear gas you do something to fan more racist tear gas into someone’s eyes, and maybe you didn’t mean to do it, but you still did it and now some guy is choking on his own mucus, thanks. Translation: you can be racist or sexist without intending to do so, but the fact that you didn’t mean to doesn’t make it ok. 90% of the time (in my experience) racist people are not sitting around thinking “I’m going to say something racist” when they’re saying something racist.
5) Sometimes the chaos arrows are INVISIBLE because there is SO MUCH TEAR GAS (I am mixing metaphors, deal with it). Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
6) Because racist/sexist tear gas is a gas, it’s kind of hard to contain/kind of impossible to get rid of on your own, but you can wear a gas mask, and you can get your friends to wear a gas mask, and maybe if enough people start wearing gas masks enough people will be able to see and breathe that they’ll be able to build some sort of huge anti-racist/sexist tear gas vacuum and suck it all out of the sky or something. So like, talk about shit. And call people on their tear gas farts, because maybe they don’t know they’re doing it and you can give them some Privilege-Pepto or maybe they do know they’re doing it, in which case you can ostracize them because no one wants to be friends with someone who farts on other people on purpose. That’s just not cool, man.