In the dawn of the fight for gender equality, as women started gaining more ground towards equality and pushing to join male-dominated workforces in many areas, many people…women included…had to start to shake their default instincts. Women sometimes were the worst about proclaiming that other women couldn’t do certain jobs because; not only were women brainwashed with societal misogyny about what women could and could not do, but they were also dealing with their own internal feelings about what they should and should not be doing.
As women started working outside the home more and more the conversations you would hear about Working Moms would often be delivered like this: (Hell, I’ve read work from some fundamental Christian women writers who still talk like this when discussing the biblical assignments of women to raise children and support their husbands.)
It’s not that I don’t think women can work outside the home, of course they’re capable of doing anything a man can do…it’s that I don’t think they should because women are just better at raising the kids. We all know that! We’re all different, men and women, and women are just better at nurturing!
And it was really hard to argue with this because, well, of course women seemed better at raising kids…IT WAS ALL WE HAD EVER SEEN HAPPEN. As a society we were brainwashed into thinking that women were the better option to stay at home with the kids because that was all we knew. But if you looked into how those cultural norms were set up in the first place…allowing only men to have power in business and in family…you knew it was all very sexist and misogynist. At least we can see that now with the historical dismantling of many of those structures behind us.
What I’m asking that we all do now is…try to see how cultural and society systems and structures have tricked us into having racist beliefs in the same way we were tricked into being sexist for generations before. Just like we didn’t think women could serve in the military…because they never allowed women to serve, we tend to discuss poverty in place of race without acknowledging the racist systems that kept black Americans from progressing at the rate white Americans did.
In the days of the gender revolution when people discussed how women were physically unable or mentally unskilled to do some jobs, we were voicing a cultural supported sexism that had framed our understanding of what women were capable of doing. To move past that we had to scrub the brainwashing done by society in order to dismantle the systemic oppression.
I am seeing similar hidden racism in how we discuss poverty and crime in America. Because of the systemic oppression of Black people via methods like Red Lining, and racist criminal justice systems, and racist hiring practices (and all of the ripple effects of these things)…we have built a country where a disproportionate amount of poor people and incarcerated people are black. This means white Americans can discuss poverty and crime without mentioning race and feel like they’re not being racist. The political and legislative and cultural systems that came before us to oppress Black Americans have made it so that we associate these things in the same way we used to associate women and weakness.
I just want to make sure we area all aware of how ingrained these structures can be to our own thinking. Our whole society used to think women were “too emotional” to do certain things even as dangerously angry men created cults or led wars. We were brainwashed into thinking the specific emotions of women were the bad kind while allowing the emotion of anger in men dictate our history and we never saw the sexism behind what we were thinking.
And now when we discuss moving school districts because of crime, or when we resist government housing in our neighborhoods because of poverty, we are really discussing race without realizing it. (And many realize it and hide their racist ideals intentionally behind discussions of poverty and race.) Societal and cultural conditioning is powerful and until we acknowledge that (specifically by looking into the political and cultural oppression in our past), we will be unable to see those oppressive forces in our own thoughts.
We see disciplinary problems go up in a school when the boundary lines are used to include the house projects and we see white parents yank their kids out of schools. They all say, “It’s not about race! It’s not white flight! It’s about my kids needing a quality education!” But we never sit down and question the inherent racist systems that drive more people of color into poverty, we don’t look at the racist criminal justice systems that create broken families which mean kids are left on their own a lot more. We hide our distaste behind discussions of poverty and crime and behavior and never face the hidden racism in all of it.
Which is EXACTLY the point of brainwashing. The white male colonizing oppressors never want you to dismantle misogyny or racism, because then the power is gone. Back then they wanted you focused on emotions and weakness. Now they want you focused on “crime” and “poverty” hoping we never dismantle the racist structures that built those issues. Just like the fossil fuel industry wants us hyper-focused on straws. The powerful forces that are taking advantage of us do not want us to look behind the curtain, because then the power dissolves.