Wednesday, July 9, 2008

read "stuff white people do"

children dancing in Scotland,
circa 1900 or so


This blog has reached the 100-post mark, and it's great to see that the anti-racism effort I started here three months ago is steadily gaining a wider audience (the page-view counter at the bottom should reach 50,000 today). The readership here is clearly diverse, and in ways beyond race, as evinced by the lively Comments sections.

And as the sampling below from other blogs indicates, the word about "stuff white people do" is spreading--in a good way.

All of which makes me want to pause for a moment of celebration. In fact, it makes me . . . want to . . . dance! (Stop me when I'm starting to sound too much like Ellen.)

For instructions on how to dance along, see the video at the bottom of this post.

Regular programming of the serious sort will resume momentarily. . .


Changeseeker @ Why Am I Not Surprised:

[L]ast night, thanks to a comment by Professor Zero, I discovered a new blog called Stuff White People Do. The author is smart, right on the target, introspective and clever. He reads all the same books as I do, watches all the same movies, and shares many of the same opinions. And he's written almost as much in the past ninety days as I wrote all last year.

I was tired when I reached SWPD last night and after about an hour on the site, I decided that I'm no longer necessary to the blogosphere, after all . . . Then, I remembered what I had learned the night before (see this post), so I shook off the feeling and just celebrated the blog. . . . if you haven't read Macon D. over at Stuff White People Do yet, then let me send you on over there post haste.

Just recognize that you're probably gonna be there for a while.


Kelsey Atherton @ Plastic Manzikert:

Stuff White People Do: This is fantastic, and part of that is how the blog is still struggling to understand what it is about. I've written about the blog before, and rather recently. I've been reading it for much longer, when I saw it buried in a comment thread at Stuff White People Like. The blog then was rough, and a little glib. Now it's matured into something that is still rough, but does an excellent job of showcasing the uncomfortable discussions of race and privilege. The unspoken last part of the title is "Stuff White People Do (with privilege that enables them to ignore race and to affirm white identity while paying lip service to racial equality)". That's a lot of subtext, and the blog bears it in a properly uncomfortable way. And it does that in a really good way. It's hard to recommend something that sounds so unpleasant, but the experience is worth it, and it isn't as bad as it first seems. It's the learning kind of uncomfortable, not the terror kind.



Shaina Monfils @ The Feminist Writer:

Learning about race and sociology at the University completely changed how I view the world. Obviously, I still participate in the benefits of white privilege, because all white people get those whether they want them or not (which, by the way, is an important thing for all whites to recognize, lest we run around with the attitude of "I'm not racist, so therefore solving racism is about changing those other racist people"). But the thing that really gets under my skin is when people assume that racism is a dormant problem that is either already solved, or an issue that we can't do anything to change. The blog Stuff White People Do looks at the effects of white privilege from the point of view of a white dude named Macon D, in order to help people understand the ways in which they're participating in the continuation of racism. . . .

I also found it interesting that Macon D states that his goal in producing the blog is to write explicitly about whiteness. He says that
I’ve noticed, for instance, that when I ask white individuals to talk about whiteness, about what their being white means for them, they usually have very little to say, and they eventually end up talking about non-white people instead. White Americans are usually unaccustomed to talking directly about their own whiteness, and when asked to do so, they often shift to discussing it in relation to other races, and then end up talking almost exclusively about those other people instead. ("sit quietly in movie theaters - part two")
Personally, I think the reason that the reason white scholars try to stay away from examinations of whiteness is because they don't want to appear to be reducing the discussion to a white viewpoint. As in, "even though minorities have endured centuries of enslavement and abuse, racism is really all about white people in the end." But if white people are racist, and especially if they are unknowingly so, doesn't the solution to the problem lie in getting them to recognize their behavior as racist, and then encouraging them to change it? It seems to me that instead of white people "learning" to "accept" minorities, racism should be dealt with by demonstrating to whites that they are the ones that are flawed, because they buy into the idea that minorities are "different" in the first place.

Blogs such as Stuff White People Do are so instrumental in drawing attention to the blatant privilege present in our society today. It's good to see that readers are getting all riled up in the Comments section of the posts, because it gives me hope that perhaps there are still some individuals out there who are engaged in an ongoing discussion about racism and classism, and are committed to making a change.


Thank you, Changeseeker, Shaina, and Kelsey, and thanks also to others who have mentioned this blog on theirs.

As I said above, all of this is cause for a pause, a celebratory pause. And as regular SWPD readers know, I think white people should dance more often--so here we go.

And for my totally serious readers, there is a lesson here, especially for white parents: "Get them started young!"





To a Child Dancing in the Wind

I

DANCE there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?

II

Has no one said those daring
Kind eyes should be more learn’d?
Or warned you how despairing
The moths are when they are burned,
I could have warned you, but you are young,
So we speak a different tongue.

O you will take whatever’s offered
And dream that all the world’s a friend,
Suffer as your mother suffered,
Be as broken in the end.
But I am old and you are young,
And I speak a barbarous tongue.


William Butler Yeats (Responsibilities and Other Poems, 1916)

20 comments:

  1. This blog has reached the 100-post mark, and it's great to see that the anti-racism

    please define anti-racism

    ReplyDelete
  2. @ jw:

    please define anti-racism

    Working productively with one's particular capacities and talents against the myriad forms that racism takes.

    Please tell us if your definition differs--I assume you have one?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Woo! Way to go Mr. D!

    I think this calls for "D.A.N.C.E" by Justice and a 40 of Olde English.

    Congrats from the Head Bitches of PDDP! (and thanks for the link!)
    Keep it up!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Macon, and how do you define racism?

    ReplyDelete
  5. jw,

    In a generic sense: Discrimination against another/an Other on the basis of race.

    In the sense that concerns me: Discrimination by whites against another/an Other on the basis of race.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like that poem.

    Congrats on reaching 100 posts.

    I like your blog. I don't read all of your posts, because many of them are quite long, and I have a pile of books that I'm working my way through. Nonetheless, I respect your honesty and that you have decided to "struggle" with what whiteness means.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Macon:
    Please tell us if your definition differs--I assume you have one?

    Racism
    Racial discrimination is defined by the International Convention
    on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination as “any
    distinction, exclusion,restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin

    which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental
    freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.


    As such, racial discrimination is banned by the international community as a serious human rights violation.

    Racism plays a major role in the social processes that give rise to
    and entrench such racial discrimination.
    • As a doctrine, racism derives from theories and beliefs that
    establish a hierarchy of races or ethnic groups or base attributions
    of value on racial difference. Theories of racial difference are
    “scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and
    dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial
    discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere” (Preamble
    of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
    Racial Discrimination, 1965). Such theories are incompatible not
    just with the moral and ethical principles of humanity but also
    with international law, which recognises all human beings as
    members of one species, born equal in dignity and rights.
    • In its practical manifestations, racism includes “racist ideologies,
    prejudiced attitudes, discriminatory behaviour, structural arrangements and institutionalized practices resulting in racial inequality ... it is reflected in discriminatory provisions in legislation
    or regulations and discriminatory practices as well as in anti-social
    beliefs and acts” (Article 2 of the UNESCO Declaration on Race and
    Racial Prejudice of 1978).
    http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001453/145364e.pdf

    therefore for me anti-racism is combatting white supremacy, which makes equal rights and equal access to resources for all people impossible, not only within one nation but globally. Racism has to be addressed on an individual level as well as an institutional level with the ultimate goal to deconstruct white supremacy

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the usefully extended definition, jw. I agree, obviously, that racism has both individual and institutional manifestations. I also think that individuals make up institutions, and that changing those hearts and minds is one among many effective forms of anti-racist work.

    ReplyDelete
  9. To DavitaCuttita, cero, and redcatbiker: nice to hear from you, and thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  10. jw,

    I like the definition you quoted, but I'm a little confused about this:

    therefore for me anti-racism is combatting white supremacy, which makes equal rights and equal access to resources for all people impossible, not only within one nation but globally.

    I quite agree that white supremacy needs to be combatted, but how would that definition help you in the face of racism in, say, Japan?

    ReplyDelete
  11. How do you change someone else's heart or mind?

    How does anyone but the individual his/her self hold the keys of control over what they believe and accept in their heart and mind?

    With that said, I offer this for consideration (from Michael Eric Dyson's commentary, "No Small Dreams"):

    "...during the last three years of his life, King questioned his own understanding of race relations. As King told journalist David Halberstam, "For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." King also told Halberstam something that he argued in his last book, Trumpet of Conscience: that "most Americans are unconscious racists." For King, this recognition was not a source of bitterness but a reason to revise his strategy. If one believed that whites basically desired to do the right thing, then a little moral persuasion was sufficient. But if one believed that whites had to be made to behave in the right way, one had to employ substantially more than moral reasoning."

    ReplyDelete
  12. TLB
    for example:
    List of United States military bases
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_military_bases

    I don't talk only about individual racism but the impact of American and European foreign policies as well as capitalism

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think it is quite naive to believe that "changing hearts and minds" is possible. When all the attrocities committed in the name of white supremacy during centuries couldn't change people's hearts and minds. Germans didn't change on a deeper level, despite the fact that we don't glorify our history, despite the fact that we are taught at school about the Holocaust and what will happen when people are silent bystanders or easy to be manipulated.
    Even being exposed to the pain and suffering and death of other people couldn't change their hearts and minds, how then should this be possible with mere words?
    Nobody could stop the Holocaust by just talking.
    And despite the fact that there were two WWs, Europe is again shifting to the right with exactly the same ill mind-set. And America went on war against Iraq with that mind-set, with a dangerous attitude regarding American "patriotism".

    ReplyDelete
  14. Macon - Thanks for the link, and as you've already figured out, I really really like what you are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. JW,

    I guess what I meant was that your definition of anti-racism seemed to preclude working with the Japanese regarding racism, since it makes it sound like it is only a white problem. Does that make sense?

    ReplyDelete
  16. @TLB
    I guess what I meant was that your definition of anti-racism seemed to preclude working with the Japanese regarding racism, since it makes it sound like it is only a white problem. Does that make sense?

    what I want to make clear is that the impact of American and European policies is a global impact. Why do you think that America dropped 2 atomic bombs on a non-white country? Why is it that America can start and continue a war against a non-white country (Iraq) based on lies, while America herself believes to have the right to place her missiles wherever America feels comfortable with it, ignoring the people of the effected countries etc.

    ReplyDelete
  17. JW,

    I understand what you are saying, but it doesn't seem to answer the question.

    I can understand someone who wants to focus on white privilege because they see it as a source of tragedy both within the United States and between it and other peoples, and if you had said that, I wouldn't have questioned it. But you said that you understood anti-racism to mean combating white privilege, and that would seem to deny that there is racism that is not white, as well as devalue those working towards eliminating racism outside of white privilege.

    This is what I was questioning.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What kind of global reach does whatever racism Japanese perpetrate have that should even be in the same conversation as WHITE SUPREMACY which isn't about whether people of different races get along or the Japanese, in this case, being fair to people in a much more localized situation?

    JW said something about "not only within one nation but globally." I took that to mean "racism" of a particular form that's worldwide.

    But I can be educated on all the former Japanese colonies in Africa, South America, India, etc., etc.

    I mean, this is Stuff White People Do, last I checked.

    ReplyDelete
  19. TLB
    I can understand someone who wants to focus on white privilege because they see it as a source of tragedy both within the United States and between it and other peoples, and if you had said that, I wouldn't have questioned it. But you said that you understood anti-racism to mean combating white privilege, and that would seem to deny that there is racism that is not white, as well as devalue those working towards eliminating racism outside of white privilege.

    I don't talk just about white privilege, but white SUPREMACY. If you are unaware of the global impacts of American and European policies and how they affect the entire world, then please educate yourself.

    ReplyDelete

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