Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the 2008 "honky awards"

Is there an annual award out there for "white people at their whitest"? For those moments when white people perform and exemplify common white tendencies especially well?

If there were such an award, would it be offensive to call it a Honky? (Probably not, since white people usually brush off and laugh at anti-white slurs.)

Who do you remember from the past year who deserves such an award, for somehow acting especially white?

I often think at such times of the artist and philosopher Adrian Piper. Her works include the following, a simple card that constitutes a work of art, entitled "Calling Card." In addition to displaying this work in art galleries and museums, Piper, who identifies as black but is sometimes mistaken for white, has also passed it out during social events. This card almost seems like an award of sorts--a "white award."

(click for a larger image)

So who else deserved a "calling card" this year, a Honky Trophy, as it were?

Joe Biden was caught enacting more than one common white tendency, back when he complimented Barack Obama for being "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." So was William Bennett when he claimed, like many other oblivious pundits and more ordinary white folks, that because Obama won, racism is over. I acted especially white when I failed to take action more quickly against the racist death penalty. Some friends of mine acted in a common white way when they associated non-white people with pollution.

Who do you remember in an especially white moment? It could be someone famous, or it could be someone you know or encountered in your daily life. The white tendency they enacted could have taken one of many forms.

Maybe it was a co-worker who reached out to a black colleague and started playing with her hair.

Maybe it was a teacher who paid better attention to the white kids than the non-white kids.

Maybe it was a family member who complimented a black person for being "articulate," instead of listening to what he or she had to say.

Maybe it was a classmate asking another, Asian American classmate where she's from (and then asking where she's really from).

Maybe it was one of your parents, claiming that interracial marriages prove that racism has been solved.

Maybe it was your white friend, using "ghetto" as an adjective again.

Maybe it was a white person you overheard mentioning the race of a non-white person for no good reason at all.

Maybe it was your neighbor, complaining about the supposedly racist things that Obama's wife and pastor supposedly said, but not about the actually racist things that John McCain and other Republicans actually said.

Maybe it was your boss, forgetting or mixing up the names of non-white people that you work or do business with.

Maybe it was you, holding your tongue instead of calling out someone on another racist joke.

If someone's recent "white" behavior comes to mind, please memorialize it in a comment here.

Although white supremacy and the racism it inspires are nowhere near "over," identifying and describing their virtually innumerable manifestations in such moments is one step toward their eradication. And also, if you yourself are white, towards being resolved, as another New Year arrives, to do such things less often.


  1. I nominate Chip Saltsman for a 2008 Honky.

  2. My entire maternal side of the family, for laughing and encouraging my 11-year-old cousin when he made a racist anti-immigration joke.

    My grandparents for...well, for a lot of things.

    My mom, for making an overtly racist comment in front of the whole family at Christmas.

    My childhood friend, for constantly using the term "black neighborhood" to describe areas she feels to be "dangerous."

    Myself, for feeling nervous when a black man walks behind me at night.

    Here's to a more aware New Year. Thanks for all you do, Macon D.

  3. my friend, who sent me a joke about obama & lynching & was surprised she would be called out on it since "[she] voted for him!" ie "i have a black friend!" excuse.

  4. just a quick note in the term "passing." it can be triggering/problematic when applied to light-skinned people of color because it implies an intentional deceit or attempt to hide (part of or all of) one's race opportunistically to gain the advantages of whiteness. the term puts the onus on people of color rather than those who fail to recognize us as POCs.

  5. I cannot point to a specific person but I would like to say the blame the blacks meme for the passing of prop 8. That was one of the most racist displays I have seen in a long time. I am not sure if an organization counts but the recent cover of the advocate, Gay is the new black, really set me off as well.

  6. Thanks for pointing that out, AB-WG, I see now that the sentence contains a bad choice of words. I've changed the original:

    In addition to displaying this work in art galleries and museums, Piper, who identifies as black but can pass for white, has also passed it out during social events.

    to this:

    In addition to displaying this work in art galleries and museums, Piper, who identifies as black but is sometimes mistaken for white, has also passed it out during social events.

    Please let me know if this phrasing still doesn't work for you.

  7. I agree with Renee's nomination.

    Jeez, the Will-and-Grace gays have really come down heavily on black Californians, because the majority of black California voters voted for Proposition 8--I think the number is 70% of the black voters.

    Anyway, blacks make up about four-percent of California's population. I'm on dial-up right now, and I don't have the patience to deal with the slow downloads that researching this would entail, so if what I am about to write is wrong, please correct me: If 100% of California's black voters voted for Prop. 8, those numbers would not have been enough to swing the votes to give the go to Proposition 8. I think that we got blamed for that proposition passing because a black man was running for president.

    Renee, I can give you the name of a specific person to nominate: Dan Savage. He is a sex advice columnist, who is white and male and homosexual, based in Seattle, Washington. He writes a weekly column that appears in many free-weekly newspapers throughout the nation. Dan Savage blamed blacks for the passage of Prop. 8, and he expressed his regret--because of the overwhelming support of Prop. 8 by black California voters--for voting for Obama.

    P.S. I am black. I live in California--in its gay Mecca, San Francisco. (All of my black male homosexual friends do not give a phuck about the marriage issue. The marriage issue, to them, and to me, is considered one of privileged white, mostly male, homosexuals. My two white lesbian friends, too, don't give a flying fajita about having the right to marry.) Having said that, I voted against Proposition 8, and I did not vote for Obama. Unlike Dan Savage, it was not his colour that informed my decision to vote for him or not, but his politics--he is not anti-war; he is not for universal, single-payer health care; he voted for the continuation of the Patriot Act; he used his position as leader of the Democratic Party to strong-arm his fellow Democratic Senators to give the go-ahead to the $750 billion bailout of the investment banks and insurance companies...the list goes on and on and on. Heck, I am not surprised about his choice of the anti-homosexual and pro-Proposition 8 Warren for the invocation. Neither have I been shocked by any of his [other] cabinet appointments--except for Hillary Clinton, because she did everything just short of calling him "nigger" to try to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination when he was her opponent.

  8. Hi Macon-
    First time commenter, long time reader. I recently just posted something on a newspaper website in the Detroit area about the extreme racism concerning a story about 16 yr old black kid shooting and killing a white cop.

    The racism on the comment boards is so unbelievable it almost makes me feel hopeless about the area I live in. That there are so many and they're so overt about their racism that working on being anti-racist in this area with other white people seems futile. Here is a link to the article and the comments are below.

  9. I think I deserve the Honky award for 2008. My New Year's resolution is to continue to learn about what being white means to me, become aware of how I enact white privilege, and to recognize that this is far more important in my anti-racist development than just being outraged by the racist acts of "those other white people."

  10. I agree with Renee and others that the *place anti-white slur here* award should go to folks like Dan Savage who clearly don't understand black culture and sentiment and who only want to identify with POC's in the sense of struggle against "The Man". Yeah, give that award to anyone this year who found it convenient to blame black people for any problem or controversy.

  11. I nominate those white folks who blamed the mortgage meltdown on Black people.

    Hillary Clinton gets honorable mention for recognizing those "hard working americans" in w. virginia.

    Finally, white sport announcers who continue to refer to Black athletes as athletically gifted performers, and White athletes as heady performers.

  12. Macon D,

    I believe you deserve a 2008 White Award for acting white. Although you've acted white in numerous occasions, your whitest performance was when you wrote Latoya Peterson's name as "Latoya Jackson".


  13. You're welcome, Lorraine, thanks for the suggestion!

    Yes, I am not Star Jones, Chip Saltsman is indeed a worthy recipient.

    You're welcome, Phoebe, and thanks for the examples.

    taylor, that's a common white-liberal response all right!

    I agree Renee and redcatbiker, that was a blindingly white episode, and Dan Savage seems as good a poster boy as anyone else for it.

    Thanks for the comment, Jason, and for the article link.

    Good thoughts, Anonymous, but in pointing out those who point out "those other white people," I wonder if you're really doing any more than they are.

    Thanks Restructure! When I finished this post, I knew that you'd be stopping by to point with delight, yet again, at that incident. (You even dug through this blog's archives to provide a link--impressive!) You're nothing if not predictable. Thanks for the reminder of what I've said myself here many times, that I too have been trained to enact common white tendencies.

    Mr. Noface and Imhotep, I agree that those are effective examples of the common tendency among white folks to blame their problems on others. Makes me wonder: if Obama proves to be an unpopular president with failed policies, will white folks will blame black voters for electing him?

  14. Two of my cousins (ages 17 and 18) can split the award for what I heard them say last week.

    "I think my favorite kind of racism is racism about Mexicans."

    (His brother wins a more positive award for his automatic response, which was, "Shut up and stop acting like an idiot.")

    "Barack Obama only won because of affirmative action."

  15. Hey Macon,

    You could have easily stolen my thunder if you had awarded yourself for that mindblowing and memorable performance.

    Happy New Year!

  16. Macon, I think I didn't do such a good job explaining my previous post, "I think I deserve the Honky award for 2008.".
    I wasn't trying to point out anyone other than myself. You see, in my anti-racist development I have had the tendency up until recently to focus mostly on the racism of others. As a result, I have become blind to my own white privilege and its enactments. So, the comment was really just about me, although I'm sure I'm not the only white person who has done this.

  17. Oh this was a good post! Brings back many memories. Sorry I'm late on the conversation. Anyway, Happy New Year, Macon.

  18. Dan Savage was an excellent pick as well as his cohort Andrew Sullivan and specifically Gay White men and the whole Gay is the new Black.

    I second the pick that once again black people were blamed on the meltdown of the mortgage crisis, yet no one blames Paulson or the Corporate execs from AIG and Lehamn that still manage to get off with millions. Madoff as well. They have destabilized and destroyed the eceonomy worse than anything Black people could do.

  19. I nominate all Trailblazers fans who call Joel Pryzbilla "The Vanilla Gorilla" and don't understand that this is incredibly offensive or what it would mean if Przybilla was a POC and got called a gorilla.

    I nominate my boss. She recently hired a POC in our department who goes by a nickname. When my boss was informing us that she had hired this person she called her by her nickname and said, "I can't even try to pronounce her real name."

    I nominate myself for not pointing out how ridiculous that was.

  20. This is in reference to the comment [see above] I wrote in response to this post:


    Black Voters Did Not Pass Proposition 8

    I said as much in Black Agenda Report on December 17. A widely reported CNN exit poll stated that 70% of black California voters supported the anti gay marriage proposition. The true figure is between 57% and 59%.

    A report released this week by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute reveals that Proposition 8 supporters were mostly older, over age 65, and regular church goers. It also states that the proposition was supported by every ethnic group to varying degrees. In other words, the argument in favor of gay marriage just didn't fly with enough people throughout the state. No one group can be blamed.

    I hope that this data based conclucion will get the same degree of attention as the phony 70% figure.


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code