Friday, June 5, 2009

calling out the boos (open thread)

The many comments you wrote in response to last week's Boo Radley post revealed that a lot of people read this blog, but don't normally leave comments. I don't necessarily blame anyone for that -- different people have many different reasons for commenting, and for not commenting.

I haven't tried an Open Thread here for quite awhile, because I wasn't sure if many people would step out from behind the drapes like Boo Radley, and actually do something (by leaving a comment). But since this blog clearly does have a lot of readers, I've decided to try again.

Feel free, and invited, to leave a comment on anything relevant you like. I also invite links to other items, including your own posts.

What's been on your mind in terms of race and whiteness this week?

Will either or both come up for you somehow this weekend?

Have you been doing anything in resistance to racism? Or, do you plan to?

Here's one more possible discussion starter -- what, more specifically, can white people do?

I think that what this white person -- Walt Staton -- did is good. To me, Staton and his cohorts are heroic "race traitors," white people who resisted the messages and rules of their culture about what they should and shouldn't do as white people (which is not to say, of course, that all of the people working with Staton are white) . . .

Activist Convicted for Leaving Water Jugs for Migrants

In Arizona, a human rights activist from the group No More Deaths has been convicted for leaving plastic jugs for undocumented immigrants crossing near the US-Mexico border. The activist, Walt Staton, says the water jugs were left to prevent migrants from dying of dehydration. On Wednesday, Staton was found guilty of “knowingly littering” in the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. In a move criticized by defense attorneys, the jury was ordered to reach a verdict after initial deliberations ended in a deadlock.

Staton is a member of No More Deaths, which has worked for years to provide migrants with humanitarian aid. Over the past decade, nearly 2,000 men, women and children have died while trying to cross the border into Arizona. In a statement, No More Deaths said, “By penalizing life-saving work, the United States is showing callous disregard for the lives of our neighbors to the south, whose only crime is to seek a better life.”



* "No More Deaths Volunteer to Be Arraigned for Littering"

* No More Deaths / No Más Muertes ("Humanitarian Aid Is Never A Crime")

* No Border Wall (further background information and reactions to Staton's conviction)

Spring break volunteers for No More Deaths
prepare water jugs for desert distribution


  1. I have several posts up about KRXQ's transphobia, and what you can do about it:

    I also have a post about the racism being projected onto Sotomayor, and the threat she poses to white men:

    and just for fun (sort of), my review of Pixar's Up:

  2. I was with some friends today and we were talking about the events of the day. Sonia Sotomayor came up, and no one was trying to pronounce her name right. I bucked up myself and said we SHOULD try to pronounce it right, and other Spanish names and words too. I also said that I've noticed how Obama seems to do that and that I appreciate how he does that. My friends nodded there heads. Yeah, actually, they did kind of look at me like I'm a race traitor, good name, that! but I was glad I did it. Thanks for your regular reminders about these kind of things, Macon. And is there a post there for you? Like "rarely bother to pronouce non-English names and words correctly."

  3. Hey all,

    I'm currently a graduate student in sociology at Harvard, and blog with a colleague of mine. We call our blog Social Science Lite, and address a variety of issues related to race, culture, politics, and cities - all with the intent of doing public social science.

    I recently wrote a pretty personal piece on whiteness/racism/white guilt that I shared with macon a couple days ago:

    I deal a lot with whiteness on the blog, as well as other similar issues related to culture and inequality in America.

    We're worth checking out, post about once a day, and always provide fodder for deeper thinking. Check out our blog, and click on the links to our profiles to learn a little more about our respective (and very different) backgrounds.

  4. Last weekend, I was hanging out with a friend of mine who is really, really weird. He has a constant need to be making awkward, nervous jokes, which is usually hilarious, sometimes inscrutable, and occasionally offensive. When I say a constant need, I mean a 24/7 stream. If he can't think of a joke, he will make a funny beep-beep noise or something. It is like a nervous tic, and he is always nervous.

    At one point, his stream of mumbling jokes went into racial territory. I didn't fully hear or understand whatever the joke was -- he's often just mumbling punch lines that only make sense to him -- but I heard "Korean shopkeep" and "Jewish" and something else about Asians. I gave him a pointed stare and said nothing. After a moment, he mumbled sheepishly, "Well, it looks like somebody doesn't appreciate my racist humor," and I said, "My god, man! You're observant!"

    He quit with the racist stuff, though I don't think it penetrated that he should quit because, you know, it's racist, just that he should quit because oh my goaaaaad, Squeaky is such a, uh, is there a word for what I am that's not a racist or offensive stereotype? Oh, right; no.

  5. Linda,

    Bravo. It's a little but important thing you did.

    Something that I'd like to mention here that I think might help some white people in the courage department is historical perspective.

    Things you have to correct now will likely seem like no-brainers in the future. In other words, use the fact that you are on the right side of history to embolden yourself.

    Wouldn't you be proud of your dad if he told you that in the 1970's he got harassed and passed over for a promotion because he kept demanding his male co-workers stop making crass sexual comments to female co-workers?

    Wouldn't you be proud of your grandmother if she told you a story about how, in the 1950's, she got in trouble at school for writing an essay that said Blacks where just as smart as Whites?

    Give it some thought. What are you going to tell your grandkids?

  6. Diana Barry BlytheJune 5, 2009 at 9:13 PM

    Re: the water jug story

    The law is the law; if you don't like it then change it.

    Anyone who crosses into our borders from any direction, in any method, without permission from our government is breaking the law, and to say they are not is a flat lie.

    These "activists" should at least admit what they are doing - trying to "help" people who are knowingly breaking laws.

  7. Carradine has been on my mind. I loved Kung Fu, but that doesn't make yellowface right. I think Atlasien struck a fine balance with this:

  8. I write about social issues, sometimes involving racism, in the videogame scene at Stuff white people do is where I come for my reality checks as a white person.

  9. @Diana Barry Blythe
    Yes, the law is indeed the law. You have a point. But I think we also need to look at the bigger picture which these activists are probably getting at. The thing is, most of the advanced countries of today are former colonial powers. Most of the poorer countries were formerly colonized. Hence, the existence of illegal immigrants trying to go from a poor country to a rich country is in a way a symptom borne out of the global economic imbalance which in turn is borne out of the 350 years or so of history that happened before WWII. There are many things we take for granted today which have come about as a result of those years. e.g. Singapore wouldn't even exist or be predominantly ethnic Chinese had the British not been there. (Hence, the ethnic Chinese there often seem happy that the British came. But the native Malays probably aren't.)

  10. I'm a white person who's recently realized that - without my conscious permission - I'm racist. I've started a post series to explore my feelings and perceptions about race, so I can try to figure out how I got here and where to go from here. The series starts here - - and there's more yet to come.

  11. Thanks cdwriteme, that's encouraging. I hope I can tell later generations about good things what I did in a worse time.

    Diana, who got to you and ripped your chest open and tore your heart out? Sheesh! So, do you turn yourself in whenever you drive over the speed limit? Or fail to completely stop at a stop sign? Or when you litter? I'm sure those ""activists"" know that the people they're helping are technically breaking the law -- do you really think they are that stoopid? But they're gonna break it anyway, given what rich people in their country, (aided and abetted by rich people in ours!) have done to their lives. Like fromthetropics said.

    I've been reading these links, good to see others are out there focusing on white privilege and racism like that!

  12. Diana what the hell is wrong with you? Men, woman and children are out there dying for a better life. Where is your humanity???in the words of a time to kill-picture a little girl laying on the ground looking tired, exhausted, hungry and thirsy. She can't go on because the sun is beating down and she's crying. Now imagine that little girl was white with blonde hair and blue eyes and then tell me the people who leave water for them should go to jail

  13. Diana Barry Blythe,

    Screw you. I've seen you on a couple other sites, are you African-American/Black?????? I certainly hope not. I expect you're kind of talk from a few white people on some right-wing website, but not from a person of color.

    The activists are no going deep into Mexico to pick people up in their cars. They are putting f-ing WATER in a desert so the migrants don't DIE.

    I bet you would advocate leaving Chinese undocumented immigrants in the cargo container in 100 degree weather. You probably would have snitched on the people involved in the Underground Railroad network.

    The U.S. had Jim Crow laws, apartheid South Africa had its laws, Saudi Arabia has its own laws for women. I suppose those terrible "activists" that assisted/assist people despite these laws should have admitted the the awful lawlessness they were promoting, right?

    Yes, the movement of these Mexican and Central-American immigrants
    is illegal. So what? This is a human issue, not an immigration issue. You speak as if these humanitarians are a rogue group of ICE employees issuing green cards. They are keeping people alive; what happens with immigration officials after that is a separate issue.

    Your comments are disgusting. Shame on you.

  14. Hi everyone,

    I'm a white Irish women studying for a doctorate in social policy. My research is concerned with the impact of anti-racist legislation, more generally I'm interested in the roots of racism. I find this blog endlessly fascinating and informative from a personal, political and academic perspective. For me, it is refreshing to see the normalisation of whiteness challenged, and racism discussed within the context of this. I keep meaning to post comments, but much of my time is consumed with teaching, study, research and writing. Hopefully this is the first of many posts.

  15. Macon, I read your blog often and appreciate your insights (I've previously commented as "Deb"). I'm a grad student currently writing on Mab Segrest and antiracism.

    I said something to my students the other day that I now realize I'll need to apologize for in the next class. I have a pretty strong southern accent and am horrible at pronouncing names more complicated than "John" and "Sarah." I get pretty embarrassed about this and was introducing a video of a Nigerian doctor giving a speech and said something to the tune of "I'm going to butcher this, but I'm southern and that exempts me from the expectation that I pronounce just about anything correctly." I said it as a joke (we'd also just been talking about W), trying to cover my embarrassment at how ignorant I am about inflection, accents, etc. I probably offended several students in the course whose last names aren't "Smith" and "Jones" and definitely highlighted my white privilege. "I'm southern, I can pronounce your name any damn way I please, maam, and god bless you."

    Your blog made me realize what an offensive statement that was. I only hope my students will accept my apology and that I won't offend them again...

  16. And thanks to the commenters too for sharpening and challenging thoughts and actions :)

  17. What a fascinating blog I've tripped on! Wow. I grew up in a predominantly white, rural, economically depressed area. I have traveled a lot and lived in places where I was a racial minority but these experiences have been the exception in my life, rather than the rule. I've been an environmentalist pretty much as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I started to make the connection between social justice and environmental issues, and became aware of the whole field of environmental justice. I try to encourage my fellow scientists and policy wonks to remember to consider class and race when dealing with environmental issues. I feel that without the dimension of social injustice, environmentalists will always be missing a key part of the picture. The devaluing of certain types of people by the dominant culture is intrinsically related to the devaluing of animals, plants, natural systems, and so on. Glad I found this place...

  18. Hello Deb! Thanks for further identifying yourself; I've always appreciated your comments. There's a post on your blog that I'd like to ask more about -- could you please write to me?

    unmakingmacon @ gmail dot com

    Thanks for the links and notices of your blogs, FilthyGrandeur (and good to see you here again), Issa, Jeremy R. Levine, and Reidb, I've enjoyed perusing them.

    Squeaky, I hope that pointed stare got through to your weird friend.

    Diana, thanks for your notice of my blog at BlackSnob, but yeah, I agree with other commenters here; that's quite a heartless reaction you wrote.

    Thanks for the link on Atlasein's article, PixieCorpse, I agree that it's excellent, and I've been recommending it elsewhere. Amazing how his yellowfaced racism gets so little notice, let alone condemnation. Imagine if someone tried to do what he did with blackface!

    Hello to Valkyrie607, Linda, Moviegirl, cdwriteme, Research Student and fromthetropics, good to hear from you, and I hope that this blog continues to be useful for you. I'll do my best.

  19. I'm biracial. I read this blog for a variety of reasons, but mostly to look at the differences that sometimes arise between the two cultures I identify with.

  20. I'm mostly a lurker, but I commented in another thread when a link you posted led to me finding out that my (white, middle-class) hometown had once had a relatively large Chinatown that was burned by arsonists in 1886. I was still in shock mode when I posted that, but here's how the rest of that played out: I ended up searching for more information and found actually quite a few local history resources that mentioned the Chinatown, but not one of them talked about the fire. One politely stated that "by 1900, fewer than 100 Chinese remained" (oh, really?). I did find an Asian American history text on Google Books that mentioned Folsom's Chinatown and the fire in passing, and also put it in historical context. Apparently there were smaller Chinatowns in most of the towns in the area, and within the year of 1886 every single one was burned to the ground: Placerville in January, Redding and Chico in February, Folsom in March, and so on all the way down to Truckee in August.

    I thought I was pretty well schooled in anti-racist thought, but this led me to more realizations than I care to admit. The most obvious one is the point you were making by posting the link in the first place- that such overwhelmingly white towns as my hometown didn't get that way by accident. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I genuinely thought that Folsom was white just because the white folks went and settled there and no one else ever showed up- I knew it was an old mining town and I knew the role Chinese laborers played in the Gold Rush, and I even knew that Folsom had pretty much been the seat of the KKK in the area before Intel came to town and forced them all up to Placerville, but I somehow never made the right connections.

    I also think it's really interesting how the Folsom History Museum et al have decided to own this part of their history- there's even an elementary school named after Oak Chan, the first mayor of the Chinatown, although I had no idea that the name meant anything until I started finding out about all of this- yet they gloss over something as important as, um, the settlement being burned down and the Chinese being forced out of the area. It's as if they think it adds "flavor." Even a friend who I mentioned this to said something along the lines of "this is some of the most interesting stuff I've ever heard about Folsom." It is definitely interesting, but that was maybe the tenth adjective that jumped into my head, after "shocking" and "fucked up." So for now, I'm doing what I can to tell people (both my white friends from Folsom and my Asian American friends here in SF) that the settlement existed, and hoping that it brings them to their own realizations; I'm also thinking about writing about it.

    Anyway, I'm sorry for the novel! As for myself, I'm Japanese English German American and have really been on both sides of the fence with regards to white privilege, so this blog is enlightening to me both in terms of racism I have experienced and racism I have unconsciously perpetuated. Thanks for doing what you do :)

  21. Elizabeth, thank you for getting back about this, and I'm really glad to hear that reading about sundown towns here set you on this path of discovery. I agree, that's fascinating and important lost history, and I also think that getting it back in people's minds is a way of fighting the pervasive white erasure of non-white origins.

    If you do write more about this and would consider a guest post about it here, please write to me at

    unmakingmacon @ gmail dot com

    Best of luck spreading the word on this!

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