Racism and the Spider Theory: part 2, The Theory

To read the background on this post, go here.
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This past month, there was a spider in my kitchen. I picked up a bag of trash to take it out and a large, black spider ran out from under the bag and across the floor.

I tried to stomp it. Without thinking, without guilt, and without any overt feelings of hostility. I didn't hate the spider, I just didn't want it running in my house.

Then I remembered this picture from Tea Party Jesus:


And I realized something. I'm a total racist when it comes to spiders.
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Most people are spider racists. and you can tell because they always say. "I just".
I don't mind spiders outside, I just don't want them in my house.

I'll catch spiders and put them outside if they're sitting still. I just don't like it when they run. 

Spiders fascinate me. Unless they're crawling on me and then I just want to squash them.
Inherent in these statements, (all of which I've said) is the firm belief that spiders don't have the right to exist in "my space". This is the heart of the Spider Theory.


The Spider Theory

It's okay, even cool, to be a spider, as long as you're not infringing on what I consider to be my private space. If you do that, then I have every right to squash you like the little bug you are.


Replace the word "spider" with the words "person of another race" and you have the essence of racism.
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In case you missed that, I'll say it again. The essence of racism is the belief that other people, for whatever reason, do not have the right to exist inside "your space".
It's okay to live in the same town with them, but I'd rather not share a restaurant.
It's okay to share a restaurant, but I don't want them on my street.
And the list goes on and on like some demented children's rhyme.

I don't want them in my family
I don't want them in my school
I don't want them in the library
I don't want them on my book covers

Of course, the Spider Theory doesn't just apply to racism. You can put anything in there, other faiths, other cultures, political parties, whatever you say you're not prejudiced against. Because this is where the rubber meets the road. To say that other people don't have the right to exist in your space implies that you are superior, that what you need is more important than what they need.

And that superiority can lead to some very dangerous behavior.
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The scary thing about this line of thinking, is that it doesn't have to be personal. When that spider crossed my kitchen floor, I didn't hate it. I wasn't after it personally, or angry at the spider world in general. But I was perfectly willing to kill it to get it out of my space.

And that's when racism gets dangerous. That's when it gets ugly. Because sooner or later, someone you don't want inside your space is going to be there.  And how you react to that will determine, once and for all, if you are really racist or not.

Do you live and let live, even if it makes you uncomfortable? Or do you squish?

4 comments:

  1. My family is multicultural and we do a lot about racial issues so my daughter, who is Chinese (we're not), feels comfortable in her racial identity. Her school is very economic and racially diverse. So I hope I'm not racist. I

    I definitely plan to say something about my cover if I ever get a book deal so that I don't have some of the issues you've raised. These are great posts Miriam.

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  2. Hmmm... very interesting post. I'm not racist when it comes to people: I have many multi-cultural friends... in fact, some of my family's best friends are from different cultures entirely. But when it comes to spider? Yeah, I guess you could call me racist then. And probably the same with snakes. I will try to squash them or shoot them if need be. Or take them down the road and let them out by the river.

    I do have a good excuse: my house is a little old farm house practically being overrun with spiders right now because the farmers are harvesting, and the fact that I am somewhat allergic to spider-bites... meaning I get huge half-dollar sized welts where ever they bite me. So... yeah. :D

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  3. Natalie- Thank you. And I love how concerned you are about your daughter feeling comfortable in her family and her community. That's wonderful!

    Star- You have a better reason to be spider racist than I do. I just don't like the way they skitter, it freaks me out. But I'm working on it. :)

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  4. What a fabulous, thought-provoking post.  I think you hit the nail on the head with this one.  

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.