Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: White Male Supremacy

The Divide and Conquer Club


Thanks for visiting and commenting on Misfit and Misbehaving. And a big thank you to John in Australia who linked his blog to the post.

My grade-school experience began in my home. My father was the consummate divide and conquer ruler of the household. He made the rules. He called us out on the rules. He was the judge, jury and executioner of punishment. Four daughters. No sons.

My father ran a full-circle, all services provided under one roof enterprise. His best ally was my mother who couldn’t afford to go against him. She was already a wounded warrior—not just because of polio and its aftermath, but because of her own childhood deprivations and humiliations.

We four daughters learned early to survive by way of dividing and conquering. All we had to do was join forces against one of us. It worked wonders. The other way we survived was by not talking to each other about what was going on in our family. It was against Daddy’s Rules. No secrets. No chatter at night after lights out. No comparing notes or comforting each other. No plans to go against Daddy’s Rules.

What happened in my grade school classroom was a version of what I already knew. Only this time it was in a setting I perceived as safe. So much for safety.

The tactics of divide and conquer are so familiar we scarcely perceive them. Whether consciously or not, they cause division and divert attention from what’s really going on. Thus the divider has things his or her way.

Without knowing it, the girls in my classroom were reinforcing values of the upper class. Clarifying the dividing line between us and them. That may sound simple, but the other side of divide and conquer isn’t all that complicated once we understand how people abuse power and to what ends.

I’ve also experienced this in churches and in academic settings. It happens everywhere, often in ways that seem innocuous or even praiseworthy.

In the USA today, I see this tactic as a deadly weapon of non-warfare. No one wields it so skillfully right now as POTUS—with the possible exception of Russia.

But the subject I care most about is women. Women of all colors and nationalities have experienced the tactics of divide and conquer in the home and in workplaces, churches, organizations, academia, the government, human trafficking, prisons, retirement homes, and any other setting in which women work or live.

This constant division serves the interests of white male supremacy, not the interests of women no matter how fancy the rhetoric sounds. It’s no accident that the USA is steadily falling behind other nations when it comes to women having access to all levels of government, healthcare, and other vital services.

It pays, it seems, to keep women in their place. Especially if we do this by promoting them. Feeding them a little of what they want and watching them fight over it, while withholding equal and proportional participation in deciding what that is.

Not every male is a white supremacist. However, without women banding together across significant divisions, all the men in the world with good and noble intentions will never save us. We must speak and act for and with each other.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2018
Cartoon found at mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.com

Misfit and Misbehaving

It’s the early 1950s. I’m about 11 years old. I’ve just taken my assigned seat in my 6th grade classroom at a private church school. I look around the room and it hits me in the eyes.

All but three girls are wearing matching white skirts with a bold flower pattern around the hem of each skirt. The flower pattern is in five rainbow colors with not one, but two skirts in each color. My two best girlfriends are wearing blue flowered skirts.

Our teacher, clearly caught off guard, says there must have been a fire sale on this particular pattern. The skirts are homemade. Obviously this was a planned event.

I’m mortified. Why didn’t I know about this? My mother is one of the best seamstresses around, and could have whipped one up for me. I try to make it OK in my mind. Especially since only three girls in the class aren’t wearing the uniform. The other two are the least popular girls in the class. Surely there was a mistake.

My two best girlfriends try to make it OK. I wasn’t left out because they didn’t like me. It was because the club had decided there could only be pairs, and I was the odd girl out. Besides, I was at least a year younger than they.

Which wasn’t the full story. Along with the other two misfits, I was a scholarship student. My parents couldn’t afford to pay tuition. It didn’t matter that I was bright, intelligent, interesting, faithful, truthful or any of that.

Things got worse during recess. The club had designated certain parts of the public park (a lovely downtown square in Savannah, Georgia) as their special places. They had rules about who could play with whom during the first part of recess, and where they would meet for regular club meetings during recess.

The following day was a ‘regular’ day which meant the club didn’t wear skirt uniforms to class. My friends talked the club into letting me join as a substitute club member. I would have to have a blue-flowered skirt. However, I could take part in activities in the park only if one of my two friends was absent that day. And I would have to vote the way my friend would have voted. That way the voting wouldn’t be off-balance.

Long story short: My mother agreed to make a skirt, but couldn’t find the same flower pattern. I wore my painfully obvious substitute skirt once or twice before the club disbanded.

In the end, this episode wasn’t about how smart, friendly or truthful I was. It was about white money and white family history. Which is to say the white Protestant pecking order and the subservient pedigree of white hens.

What I now understand:

  • It’s important to divide white women from each other as early as possible.
  • This will serve the goals of white male supremacy.
  • The tactics of divide and conquer are cheap, easy and effective in almost any setting.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Women’s History Month. I wonder how willing I am to refuse being divided in order to change history?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 February 2018
1950s young teen fashion images found at pinterest.com

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