Saturday, August 22, 2009

wonder where to start when they join the fight against racism


This is a guest post by Robin F, who lives in Toronto. She writes at Dragon Life, and offers the following in the hopes of helping white anti-racist newbies, and of relieving PoC from the burden of said newbies.
Since Robin chooses to write about what she knows and the only countries she's lived in are the United States and Canada, this is written from a North American point of view, but in general, the principles also apply to other countries such as the U.K., Australia, etc. As this guide is a work in progress, she asks that you please offer any suggestions and thoughts you may have. The original post is here and that's the version that will be updated on an ongoing basis.


Racism 101 for Clueless White People, Written by a Slightly Less Clueless White Person

People of Color (PoC) encounter the following on a regular basis: they're online or in real life and suddenly a white person, who barely understands privilege or racism, is demanding that they educate them regarding the topic. The white person says, in essence, "Hi! What can I do to help fix racism?" or "Hi! Can you explain racism to me?" or "Hi! What's this 'privilege' stuff?"

Understandably, the PoC says, "Google. You know how to use it." They say this because they're real people, who have real lives and commitments and other things they need to do, and they weren't born to go around educating white people who want to sit on their ass and have an education handed to them on a silver platter.

And then the white person gets butt-hurt because all they want to do is learn and they're trying to educate themselves and that PoC is being so mean to them! And then they sulk about it and often post about how they're trying to learn and become better people but damn it, PoC are so hostile, all that does is teach whites to shut up and sit down! And the white person fails to understand that the PoC wasn't saying, "You're a moron, shut up and sit down," they were saying, "Look, I don't have time to teach you. It's not my responsibility to give you Racism 101. Go educate yourself, the resources are out there."

(Of course even if a PoC says the latter, the white person often will respond with, "But it's such a big subject! I don't even know where to begin looking!" PoC just can't win in these discussions.)

Anyway, I'm familiar with this scenario because I was once That White Person myself, and I've since come across it repeated over and over and over. So, I have decided to make a Guide to Racism 101 for Clueless White People, written by a Slightly Less Clueless White Person.


1. Put some cream on your butt and get over the hurt. The PoC weren't angry at *you* per se; they're frustrated because you're the thousandth person who has made the same demand on their time. They're tired of being seen as objects that exist for the edification of whites, and even if you didn't realize that's how your question came across, the fact is that that's how your question came across.


2. If you're a LiveJournal user, go join [info]racism_101. Read the articles and posts linked to from within the userinfo and then start reading through the entries. It's an excellent starter-level community. Even if you don't have a LiveJournal account, you can still view all the public entries on the community.


3. Make sure you understand the definitions of the terms that are going to be used. The first thing you really need to understand is that the definition of racism that you probably have (which is the colloquial definition: "racism is prejudice against someone based on their skin color or ethnicity") is NOT the definition that's commonly used in anti-racist circles.

The definition used in anti-racist circles is the accepted sociological definition (which is commonly used in academic research, and has been used for more than a decade now): "racism is prejudice plus power". What this means, in easy language:

A. Anyone can hold "racial prejudice" -- that is, they can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial characteristics. For example, a white person thinking all Asians are smart, or all black people are criminals; or a Chinese person thinking Japanese people are untrustworthy; or what-have-you. ANYONE, of any race, can have racial prejudices.

B. People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment, ostracizing, etc., based on their racial prejudices. A black kid can beat up a white kid because he doesn't like white kids. An Indian person can refuse to associate with Asians. Whatever, you get the idea.

C. However, to be racist (rather than simply prejudiced) requires having institutional power. In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In short, we control the systems that matter. "White" is presented as normal, the default. Because we have institutional power, when we think differently about people based on their race or act on our racial prejudices, we are being racist. Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power.

D. People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because they don't have the institutional power. (However, some people refer to intra-PoC prejudice as "lateral racism". You may also hear the term "colorism", which refers to lighter-skinned PoC being prejudiced toward darker-skinned PoC.) However, that situation can be different in other countries; for example, a Japanese person in Japan can be racist against others, because the Japanese have the institutional power there. But in North America, Japanese people can't be racist because they don't hold the institutional power.

E. If you're in an area of your city/state/province that is predominantly populated by PoC and, as a white person, you get harassed because of your skin color, it's still not racism, even though you're in a PoC-dominated area. The fact is, even though they're the majority population in that area, they still lack the institutional power. They don't have their own special PoC-dominated police force for that area. They don't have their own special PoC-dominated courts in that area. The state/province and national media are still not dominated by PoC. Even though they have a large population in that particular area, they still lack the institutional power overall.

F. So that's the definition of racism that you're likely to encounter. If you start talking about "reverse racism" you're going to either get insulted or laughed at, because it isn't possible under that definition; PoC don't have the power in North America, so by definition, they can't be racist. Crying "reverse racism!" is like waving a Clueless White Person Badge around.

G. If you go into an anti-racist discussion and start trying to claim the colloquial definition that "racism is simply viewing or treating others differently based on race", you're going to get a negative reaction. Stick to "racism = prejudice + power". Anti-racists aren't going to take it well if you wander in halfway through the debate and start trying to make them abide by your definition rather than the commonly accepted "prejudice + power". Imagine if everyone in a classroom was chatting about a particular subject and then someone walked in and said, "No! You're all doing it wrong! The REAL definition is ABC and I don't care that all the rest of you think it's XYZ!" -- do you think that would go over well? Of course it wouldn't; the newcomer would be considered rude. (Also, making an appeal to Dictionary.com is not going to work. Pointing out that the colloquial definition is how Webster's Dictionary defines racism is not going to make anti-racists suddenly say, "Wow, you know what? You're right! I never realized it, but now that Webster's has backed you up, I see that you're totally right and racism really is just judging people based on their skin color!" Actually, they may say that, but they'd be saying it sarcastically.)

H. I'm under the impression there are a number of different reasons why anti-racists use the sociological definition as versus the colloquial one, but the major reason I'm aware of is that anti-racists aren't just focusing on individual acts of racism; they're looking at racism as an entrenched system that pervades every layer of our society. The colloquial definition reduces racism to an individual level; the sociological definition focuses on the systemic level. The systemic level is actually more important, because even as individual/obvious acts of racism become less socially acceptable, the systemic effects of institutionalized racism continue to work quietly, efficiently, and powerfully. Think of it like a body; it's easy to find a cancerous lesion on the skin and remove it, and then you'd look like you were cancer-free. But even as you looked fine on the surface, the real cancer would be inside your body, spreading from lymph node to lymph node, and invading your bones and organs. Individual and overt acts of racism are the lesions on the surface; the invisible cancer is the systemic racism. Unless you're addressing the underlying disease, eradicating surface symptoms isn't going to accomplish much. But that's enough about the definition of racism for now; let's continue.


4. Start learning about privilege. You need to understand what it is, and how it works. Read Peggy McIntosh's essay, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. (If that link is no longer good at some point, just Google it.) Acknowledge that you have privilege, through no fault or worth of your own; it was accorded to you at birth, and there's no way to get rid of it. It just is, under the current system of institutionalized racism.

If you feel like doing so, spend a little time coming up with your own list of the ways that privilege works in your life; this will give you a greater understanding of the disadvantages that PoC face. Understanding your privilege will help you learn how to:

A) use it for good when possible (for example, when I write this I am taking advantage of part of my white privilege, which is that whites tend to listen to other whites and afford them more credibility than they extend to PoC), and

B) not use it to hurt PoC inadvertently (for example, by going into a PoC "safe space" and taking over the conversation).


5. Put down that strawman! Nobody's asking you to feel guilty over having privilege. Guilt doesn't get us anywhere. We just want you to be aware of it. Just acknowledge it and be aware of it and move on, for now.


6. Next, learn about derailing. "Derailing" refers to the many ways that white people take a conversation about racism and privilege and, well, derail it -- make it all about them, rather than the PoC. This is almost always an unconscious act. Learning about how derailing works will help you learn how to avoid making the common derailing mistakes. Derailing for Dummies is a great resource. (Notice that the first two entries in Derailing for Dummies actually address the whole "educate me, PoC!" concept. It's THAT prevalent.) Then go read this post: The Art of Defending Racism. (You will also notice both the article and the post are written with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Sometimes it feels like you have to laugh so you don't cry, and sarcasm is a defense mechanism. Some people find sarcasm to be upsetting, but even if it bothers you, don't allow the tone to keep you from absorbing what's being said. It's important stuff.)


7. Do not make the mistake of believing that because you have a lack of privilege in one or more ways (examples: "I was/am poor", "I'm gay", "I'm female", etc), this means you understand what PoC go through.

A. We're all privileged in some ways and have lack of privilege in other ways. A straight black man has straight privilege and male privilege, but lacks white privilege. A gay white woman has white privilege, and lacks straight privilege and male privilege. (A straight white cisgendered male with no handicaps, born to wealthy parents, has all sorts of privilege.)

B. By saying that "you have white privilege", they're not saying "you don't know what it's like to be oppressed" -- they're saying "you don't know what it's like to experience racial oppression". You will not win points by saying, "But I'm gay/female/handicapped/etc, so I totally know where you're coming from!" Nor will it win you points to say, "But I live in an area of town dominated by [insert PoC group here] and people are always threatening me because I'm white, so I know what it's like to experience racism!" You don't. If that's your situation then you know what it's like to be on the brunt end of racial-based acts of prejudice, but you still don't know what it's like to live in a racist system day in and day out. (If you haven't yet read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack as linked above, go do it now.)

C. To use an example of how racial privilege and class privilege are different: If you (as a white person) were obviously poor and at a country club, people would assume you’re a server. But if you were obviously rich and at a country club, nobody’s going to assume you’re a server. But if you’re a person of color and you’re at a country club, even if you’re obviously rich and dressed just as well as all the white people there, there’s still going to be some patrons assuming you’re a server and asking where their drinks are. Even if a PoC has ‘class privilege’ -- which means they’re rich or at least upper-middle-class -- that still never erases their lack of white privilege. They will always be seen first and foremost as a PoC. You, on the other hand, get to bypass that; people may judge you on your clothes or other visible markers of wealth, but they’re not going to judge you on the color of your skin en masse. That’s part of your white privilege.

D. To use another class/race example, if you were driving a really nice car, it's highly unlikely you'd get randomly pulled over (unless you were breaking the law, speeding, whatever), even if you're young. On the other hand, if you were black and driving a really nice car, you may well get pulled over just so the cop can check that it's really your car (and not just something you presumably stole).

E. You're going to come across the term "intersectionality". The definition is "intersectionality holds that the classical models of oppression within society, such as those based on race/ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, class, species or disability do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the 'intersection' of multiple forms of discrimination." In easier terms, this means that often different types of discrimination reinforce each other. Trying to tackle one system of oppression without dealing with other systems as well is going to leave some people in the cold. (This is a criticism often leveled at the current feminist movement; it's primarily working on issues that pertain to white women.)

F. For another way of thinking about how privilege works, here's an analogy. Imagine a racetrack with all those little divided aisles for people to run. Have a rich, white, cisgendered, straight male on the farthest aisle, and he has an aisle that only has a few hurdles. Have a rich, white, cisgendered, straight female on the next aisle, and she has a couple more hurdles. Have a rich, cisgendered, straight female of color on the next aisle, and she has a few more hurdles than the rich, cisgendered, straight white female. Keep going down the line, adding more and more hurdles as you add each form of lack of privilege. And if you've got a situation where intersectionality is often at work -- for example, a PoC who lives in poverty -- throw an additional few hurdles into their aisle beyond what they already had.

Now, let everyone run the race. It's likely that straight rich white guy is going to finish first. And as for everyone else -- well, many of them will still make it over their hurdles and get there too, but it's going to take some people a lot more effort than others. And some people have so many hurdles that they're going to be psychologically beaten from the get-go. No, being white didn't get you where you are now -- nobody showed up in a car and drove you to the end of the race simply because you're white. But being white made it easier to finish that race, even though you will have had additional hurdles from the other ways you may lack privilege (being gay, poor, etc). No matter how many hurdles you had, at least you didn't have the additional hurdles that the PoC faced.

Also, what's even more unfair is when that white guy finishes and says, "Well, I got here on my own two feet, so I don't know what you all are whining about! If I can do it, so can you!" That's the nature of privilege, both to discount the ways it helps us and to refuse to see the ways a lack of privilege makes it harder for others.


8. Read. Read read read read read. I suggest starting with these blogs: Angry Black Woman (http://www.theangryblackwoman.com), stuff white people do (http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/), and Resist Racism (http://resistracism.wordpress.com/). There's a lot of other amazing anti-racist journals too; try checking the blogrolls on those sites for links to other blogs. (If you're a LiveJournal user, there's syndicated feeds for the blogs I recommended: [info]abwoman_feed and [info]whitesdostuff and [info]resist_racism .) Also, go read the public posts on the LiveJournal community [info]debunkingwhite. (If anyone else has good resources to suggest, please do so.)


9. Accept that you will make mistakes and you will show your privileged ass and people will get upset at you about it. It doesn't feel good to have people upset at us; we're social animals and we don't like it when we hurt people and people get angry. But don't get defensive; relax, take a deep breath, and know that however upset you're feeling about being jumped on, the people on the other side of the exchange are probably even more upset about what you said. (If you're feeling very defensive and angry, the best option is not to respond right away; give yourself a little time to cool down and think things through. It's a natural reaction to want to dig our heels in and defend ourselves, but it's not the most productive path to take.) What you need to do now is accept that you screwed up, make a sincere apology, and figure out what you did wrong so you don't do it again. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and it won't kill you, so don't get butt-hurt about it. Just make a sincere apology, figure out your mistake, and keep learning. (If you don't know how to make a sincere apology, it goes like this: "I'm sorry I hurt you by saying XYZ." Statements like "I'm sorry I did XYZ, but [offer excuse here]" or "I'm sorry if I upset you" or "I'm sorry you found my statements offensive" are not sincere apologies and they won't help the situation.)


10. Once you reach a place where you are somewhat less clueless, start reaching out to other white people and trying to educate them about these issues. The weight of educating white people does not and should not rest on the shoulders of PoC; as a white person, you're in a good position to educate other whites. White people generally listen to other white people (who are seen as being "more rational" about the topic of race, but that's a whole other topic), and it's less frustrating/upsetting for us because we're choosing to educate others, rather than it being demanded/expected of us.


11. No, you can't erase your privilege, or dismantle racism. But you can do as much as you can. That's all any of us can do.


So there! Now you know how to start educating yourself on this topic, and the more education you get, the easier it will become for you to find ways to apply it. :)

118 comments:

  1. White folks ask me where to start all the time - this is such a good to-do list! I'm surprised, though, that you didn't mention Tim Wise - "White Like Me" and his other works address white privilege in very convincing ways. Plus, when a white person sees that another white person (Wise, or any other white anti-racist activist for that matter) is actively working against racism, it's easier to see how they can fit into such activism.

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  2. You have no idea how happy I am about this post right now. I've tried to explaining racism to whites and usually they'll mention how someone else, or I am, racists for wanting to see a movie or show that has a cast of all people of color. The show Friends was able to do it, why not us?

    But I'm going to post this up so all my friends who don't understand racism can at least read it.

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  3. There is a lot here to think about. Thanks for posting.

    Racism = prejudice + power. I agree, but I wish the author had given some links and footnotes to support her claim that this is indeed the accepted academic and sociological definition.

    It is probably more accurate to say that racism = prejudice + institutional power, or even racism = negative prejudice + institutional power. I do like the simplicity of the original equation.

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  4. Wow! You are one smart cookie!

    I'm black and female and I have learned a lot from what you have written (although, I have not finished reading the entire post).

    Your definition of racism is quite clear. I do agree with Jawad that the equation should be:

    racism = negative prejudice + institutional power

    Because some prejudices that one has about a group of people may be positive.

    I like no. 7: "Do not make the mistake of believing that because you have a lack of privilege in one or more ways (examples: "I was/am poor", "I'm gay", "I'm female", etc), this means you understand what PoC go through."

    I live in San Francisco, which has a very large homosexual population, and as a black heterosexual woman I am very aware and struck by, regardless of my sexual preference, at how racist (and sexist) the "gay community" is here: Whiteness and maleness dominate and sets the tone and political discourse for homosexuals here.

    I've asked white men homosexuals:

    Q1: "Where do the lesbians go to find anyone?" Pretty much all of the clubs and the bars are for homosexual men. Most of the gay events are white male dominated, with very little participation from women homosexuals. The only "women" who seem to be included in the gay club are the trannies!

    Q2: "What about black homosexual men--where do they go?" This town is pretty much white gay boys, with a sprinkling of the Asian (Thai, some Chinese, Filipino) boys who "love" them. You rarely see black/black gay male couples, nor black/white or black/anything else couples. And two bars in the Castro (which is the primo gay neighbourhood) were carding black men who tried to enter; often these men would not have ID, or proper ID, thus the management would deny them entry--consequently, keeping the club pretty much all white with a sprinkling of the yellow/golden (Asian) or the brown (some Hispanics/Latinos).

    Yet, these white homosexual men (many of whom are middle class; live in households with the income from two white men!) always compare--particularly, around the gay marriage issue--that their experience of prejudice is the same as blacks.

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  5. This was an exceptionally well-written, informative post. I admit, the sorting and subsequent understanding of "isms" is complicated business. As a WoC, I am careful- patient even, to present my thoughts and myself in a way that invites question and dialog-education is power, and I thank you for doing your part.

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  6. I wish the author had given some links and footnotes to support her claim that this is indeed the accepted academic and sociological definition.

    It's not. It is a definition used by some sociologists, but it is far from being the accepted definition in the field.

    Robin F. is quite right that this is the definition of racism most commonly found among those who consider themselves to be "anti-racist," and she does a great job of highlighting the type of analysis which this definition reinforces. Precisely because the two definitions focus on different issues, each one has advantages and disadvantages in the analysis of race.

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  7. "In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In short, we control the systems that matter."

    All those things are done, or held, by upper-class whites. Every one. Try making your case using only lower-middle-class, working class and poor whites (altogether forming the majority of the race you are bashing) and recent data. Good luck.

    "White" is presented as normal, the default. Because we have institutional power"

    You upper-class whites you mean. That's why lower class whites are openly mocked in the media with impunity. They are not the ones with power. And they don't fit the default presented in the media (at least the admirable one) even though they are the majority.

    "Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power."

    Okay then, only upper-class whites can be racist because only upper-class white people have institutional power. I'll agree with that.

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  8. " we have the money;" Asians have a much higher median income than whites in the US, and Asian countries hold most of our debt and own many of our most famous buildings etc. They are also the dominant race on the planet, are way over-represented at top American universities, under-represented in US prisons, and lead in the sciences even here in the US.

    A recent article in the New York Times about college students of different races rooming together rated Asian students most racist going in to a mixed-race roommate situation, unchanged by the experience and even most likely to influence their roommates to become more racist.

    I guess there are not enough Asian celebrities in the media or something, so they get a free pass in your eyes...to you Asians can only be victims of racism. Well, Asians certainly seem to be positioning themselves to take on more institutionalized power and by all accounts are poised to tip the global power balance in the not-too-distant future, so it will be interesting to see if and when perceptions change.

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  9. Thanks for all the positive comments, everyone! :) The guide took a fair amount of time to write and I know it'll be an ongoing project. Writing it has been forcing me to examine my own assumptions and add to my own knowledge, so it's been a really helpful project for me to work on.

    @Arelle: I have to admit I've never actually read any of Tim Wise's writing myself; I'm adding him to my list and will rectify that. :) And you've got an excellent point about the visibility of white people working against racism being a positive thing for other whites to see. I'm going to add a link to his website to my resources section, thank you. :)

    @Anya: I know where you're coming from. I've gotten into plenty of arguments where people have tried to accuse me of being racist for bringing up inequities in media, and then they invariably trot out the whole "colorblind" thing and say that if I wasn't racist, I wouldn't even notice the lack of PoC. After all, _they_ don't notice the lack of PoC! *headdesk* With regards to my guide, I suspect in most cases it's going to be a "lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" situation; but you never know, some people may be ready to read and actually absorb some of it. And even if they're not ready yet, maybe it'll plant some seeds for future germination. :) I remember when I got into a big fight with some anti-racists (and I was trotting out all the usual "but what about reverse racism?!" absurdities) and they told me to research it myself. I probably spent 2-3 months butthurt and sulking about it before I did go research racism on my own and started learning. In my case it took a few months for those seeds to germinate, but they did eventually. :)

    @Jawad: I did get asked about the definition by a commenter in my other post, and my response was: "As far as I was able to determine, the definition was first advanced by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva in 1996 and has since become a widely used definition in the field of sociology in research papers and such. As much as I hate appeals to Wikipedia, it must be said that all I'd be doing otherwise is essentially repeating what's been said there already." But you're right, it would be useful for the guide to have some footnotes with that information. I'll add that into the next revision. :)

    @Jawad and redcatbiker: I can see the point about "racism = prejudice + institutional power", but as this is a basic guide, it's probably best just to stick to the definition they're going to be seeing over and over (which is the more simplistic "racism = prejudice + power"). I do find the thought that positive associations about a group of people wouldn't be considered racist to be interesting - the perception I had thus far is that holding _any_ stereotyped belief about a racial group is unacceptable, even if it's positive (such as, for example, people thinking that all Asians are super-smart).

    (continued in next comment since I'm not sure how long these comments are allowed to be)

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  10. @redcatbiker: Toronto has a strong gay scene as well, and as a bisexual woman, I've noticed many of the same things you have in SF. Although we do have a somewhat stronger lesbian representation (we have women's-only dances, occasional women's-only bathhouse nights, and a couple clubs that are oriented toward lesbians), I've noticed it's also quite white-centric up here. Despite Toronto having a large population of Islanders (Jamaica, Trinidad, etc), when I've gone to gay clubs it's mostly white men and some Asians. Interestingly though, I did notice a lot of WoC (including a good number of black women) at the last women's-only dance I attended, so maybe the lesbian scene up here is somewhat more inclusive than the gay scene? Or perhaps there's a difference between some WoC being willing to be openly gay and MoC from those same cultures not being as comfortable being openly gay? I have no idea.

    But yeah, I couldn't agree more re: gay people co-opting the civil rights struggle. I've had serious arguments with friends over this, because a lot of them see it as being equivalent. A few of them have come around when I've pointed out that gay people don't have a history of being lynched in large numbers (although there are sometimes tragic cases like Matthew Shepard, it isn't a widespread phenomenon the way that violence against black people was and, to an extent, still is socially acceptable) and enslaved; while some courts have taken children away from gay parents, it isn't the same as having a history where your biological children were sold, etc. We may well get fired from our job if it's discovered that we're gay (although the official reason would be something else, of course); but we won't be discriminated against for job interviews because we have a "gay name" (such as PoC who get fewer job interviews due to their names). It just isn't the same.

    @T.Allen: Thank you. :) I spent a lot of time shuffling sentences and paragraphs to try to make it as coherent as possible, LOL. It ended up somewhat tl;dr but there's just no way that I could have written it any shorter. It is indeed complicated business.

    @James: I'll add links into the next revision. The paragraph about the different aspects that the two definitions address was actually something I added a week or so after writing the original guide - I was trying to read it over as if I didn't know anything, and it occurred to me that a reasonable question would be, "Why would we use this new definition if we already have a definition?" So I felt it would be good to clarify why the different definition is used. I'd certainly agree that both definitions have advantages and disadvantages.

    @baby: Thanks! I hope you and everyone else finds it useful - at the very least, it'll provide a quick link to throw at people when they're being clueless, LOL.

    @Isabel: I'd suggest rereading the section on privilege and the differences between class privilege (which is what you're discussing) and race privilege (which is what I'm discussing). Also, read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Even whites that lack class privilege still have white privilege. There's at least two analogies used in the article that illustrate the difference.

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  11. Isabel, the KKK was not created by upper-class whites; yet, they held (and, in some areas, social justice power (which was upheld by the First Amendment) in many regions of the U.S. So yeah. Also, many suburbs and rural areas throughout the U.S. not populated by upper-class whites, but rather, lower and/or middle-class whites hold institutional power (e.g. school boards, churches) as well. So, institutional powers doesn't necessary automatically include class as a creation attribute. S yeah, derailing the argument again proves to be the forte. The "It's not me, it's them" technique really works for you - until someone stops it.

    But, anyway, RedCatBiker, I couldn't agree with you more. Usually, when I bring the topic of hypocrisy or unacknowledged privilege among my gay friends, it's usually so quiet you can literally hear a pin drop. Here in L.A., apparently this lesson stays on the review board.

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  12. Redcatbiker said:

    "The only "women" who seem to be included in the gay club are the trannies"

    ------

    "Trannies" is a pejorative term for members of the transgender community. Encompassed within this umbrella are individuals who identify as transsexual, drag queen, cross dresser, genderqueer, co-gender, gender ambiguous, third gender, two spirited, ad nauseum. "Tranny" is insulting to all of the above.

    I assume that when you talk of these "tranny women" in the clubs, you are referring to either transsexual women or drag queens (in a trans-misogynist way). There is no need to use quotation marks when using the word "woman" to refer to trans women. They are women. No quotations.

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  13. Nice clear explanations. I don't think it matters whether academics, sociologists, etc. agree on the definition, as one commenter pointed out. The one here is accurate and teachable. You'll find it in any real resource on racism.
    The concept of institutionalized power is difficult for some (many?, most?) white folks to wrap their heads around because whiteness is invisible.
    So the added piece about privilege is important because it clarifies the issues a bit more.
    Finally, the race analogy is outstanding. It really drives it all home and finally, finally, yes chuck the guilt PLEASE!

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  14. This is a great post! Thank you for writing it.


    redcatbiker -
    "I've asked white men homosexuals:

    Q1: "Where do the lesbians go to find anyone?" Pretty much all of the clubs and the bars are for homosexual men. Most of the gay events are white male dominated, with very little participation from women homosexuals. The only "women" who seem to be included in the gay club are the trannies!"


    your comment is both homophobic and extremely transphobic.

    the preferred word is "gay" not "homosexual". you've asked white gay men...

    also, trans women are real women. with or without quotation marks.

    and using transphobic slurs is just plain offensive.

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  15. @pianodreamer


    wow friend, did you actually read the article. DERAILER ALERT!!! classic.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great guide, Robin! If only I'd had this link a couple of days ago :-(

    Jawad and redcatbiker, I don't really agree that stereotypes have to be negative to be racist. A lot of seemingly positive stereotypes are really meant to deny certain groups their individuality, and hence their humanity, and many other positive stereotypes are just ways of hiding negative opinions. For example, "Native Americans are spiritual and in touch with nature" leads you pretty quickly to a Noble Savage stereotype, which is a fancy way of saying Native Americans are primitive. "Jews are good with money" is a "positive" way of saying Jews are stingy. And I think a lot of white people use the idea that "Third World people know how to be satisfied with the simple life" as a way of Othering and a roundabout way of justifying their exploitation.

    I guess I would agree in theory that a truly positive stereotype might not be racist, but I can't think of any that don't actually mask or indirectly serve some negative idea. Do you have any examples of true positives?

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  17. it would be a shame not to do this.

    @Isabel

    Asians have a much higher median income than whites in the US

    your previous post just broke down the difference between "upper-class" whites and other whites, yet...where's the nuance in this statement and the ones that follow? or are only white people allowed to be diverse?

    there are reasons median incomes skew higher for asian americans but don't actually represent economic power, some of them here:
    - asians in the US tend to live in big cities, where salaries are generally higher, but when viewed in context with standard of living, the value of their dollar falls
    - asians in the US tend to have more ppl per household
    - asians tend to hold more jobs, and also tend to get their first job at an earlier age

    and Asian countries hold most of our debt and own many of our most famous buildings etc.

    again, i just think it's hilarious how it was so important to differentiate between poor and working and middle class white people etc, but not at all among asians - not by class, ethnicity, or even what country they live in.

    They are also the dominant race on the planet,
    in sheer numbers maybe, but the vast majority of asian people on the planet are poor. that hardly constitutes a "dominant race."

    are way over-represented at top American universities, under-represented in US prisons,
    these are both true. (although these are true for whites as well.)

    and lead in the sciences even here in the US.
    starting in the 1960s, the US specifically targeted students from asia to study science and engineering in this country, so the US would not fall behind. this led to what is often called the "brain drain" of asia. this led to the majority of asian immigrants - for a period of history - being educated and working. but who holds the power in that dynamic?

    conjecture is not fact; hyperbole does not make for a convincing argument.

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  18. Just wanted to say thanks for the post! I'm hoping to educate myself to become an ally and I'm looking forward to reading all the resources you've suggested!

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  19. @Isabel: to add to what honeybrown1976 said, I'd also like to mention the hundreds of thousands of working-class white people [in America] who have EXTREME levels of power-over. They have badges and carry guns and tasers and fast cars and have a license to kill (with virtual impunity) and kidnap people off the street and keep them in cages (with complete impunity). In fact, the cops (who are overwhelmingly white and NOT paid very much at all) have done more for keeping white supremacy the status quo than the KKK could probably ever dream of.

    Isabel, why are you so defensive of poorer whites in this forum? Is anyone suggesting that those of us who benefit from the privileges of "white" skin or who have been taught racist ideas should be ashamed or beaten or something? My understanding of the idea behind anti-racism is for white people to begin to progress down the (perhaps endless) process of unlearning their prejudices and the way that they act on them, if they choose to do so; and for people who are not white to engage in the process in ways that they hope will be helpful, if they choose to do so.

    If you (and anyone else reading this who this applies to) don't wan't to attempt that process with us, then could you please step aside so that WE CAN? If you DO wan't to unlearn racism, then why not consider the things being written here for a while rather than challenge them constantly? If you don't think you are racist, then lucky you. Must be blissful. There are however poor, rural white folk who do believe themselves to be racist and do not appreciate your speaking on their behalf while they try to recover from the indoctrination of their youths.

    @Pianodreamer and Fetus: I'm not seeing the phobia that you refer to in red_cat_biker's comment.

    It's not clear to me whether r_c_b was referring to people born with male or female anatomy. If r_c_b meant male-body-born women, then I agree with you that the quotes are not necessary. However, I'm not convinced that r_c_b's use of the quotes implied misogyny or phobia. It may have just been ignorance. I think non-heteronormativity is a rather diverse collection of really difficult ideas for many straight people (I don't know if this applies to r_c_b) to fully understand.

    Regarding "homosexual/gay/tranny": I believe you are correct that the terms "tranny" and "homosexual" are offensive to people, however I have also shared a home with two people who regularly referred to themselves and their like-gendered community as "trannies" and expected of other to do likewise. Although I consider myself "queer" (a term that some other people are offended by) I by no means believe I am an authority on what every non-heteronormative person out there prefers. Do you think that you are?

    My apologies to everyone for my digression into a non-racial issue.

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  20. It is not a digression to point out that "trannies" is a pejorative term. Remember what the OP mentioned about intersectionality. Just because it is a post about race does not mean you can disregard other oppressions and use othering language against other groups, in this case transfolk. Remember that many transfolk are also people of colour and they have to deal with racism in addition to transphobia so how do you think it feels when you not only face oppression because your a POC, but cisgendered individuals who think it is acceptable to use language that is hurtful? If this is an anti-oppressive space...if this truly is an anti-oppressive space we should have respect for ALL marginalized peoples.

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  21. Why is positive prejudice+power not racism exactly?

    Positive prejudice towards one group will lead to favorable treatment towards that group which will lead to less favorable treatment of all other groups by comparison.

    Prejudice is prejudice. Too many people think positive stereotypes are a positive thing. They are not.

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  22. >>Prejudice is prejudice. Too many people think positive stereotypes are a positive thing. They are not.<<

    Isn't the model minority stereotype a perfect example of this? I mean for whiteness, it is ultimately self-serving is it not? "Bad" minorities are made to look like their failure is entirely inherent and that way society never has to examine systemic inequality. But also also means that for the model minority many of the problems facing their own communities might get ignored to bolster the idea of a level playing field.

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  23. Thank you llama, I was just about to say something similar. In fact, the understanding that the common idea of Asian Americans as a model minority is wrong is so well-established, especially in informed racial conversations of the sort that Robin's guide is about, that there's a term for it -- "the model minority myth." Solid debunkings of the shoddy statistical analysis used to promulgate this myth abound -- here for instance. (I wonder if Snopes.com debunks this myth too? I think they should.)

    Of course, other "positive" stereotypes are also pernicious -- Asian women are also thought of "positively" as "hot" and "exotic," Native Americans as "spiritual," and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Wow. That was a good read. Robin, you handle the topic so very well. I wish I read it 3 weeks ago before I did the 'Please educate me' blunder with a fellow PoC of a different ethnicity. Now, let me just skip to the parts I'd like to add.

    >Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power.

    On one hand, I believe this applies globally as well because 'white/Western countries' hold global power. In the case of Japan, I believe a Japanese person can be racist towards their own people (regardless of color - black or white (eg East European) or Eurasian), but I don't think it is possible for them to be 'racist' towards white people from 'Western countries' who have gone to Japan of their own accord and have the ability to leave should they wish to because these people would carry their 'Western/white country' privilege with them to Japan. (It may be different for white kids who go to Japan because their parents took them and get put into a local school. They cannot choose to leave of their own accord.) They may experience discrimination from time to time, but they still have white privilege and can leave if they want to.

    On the other hand, you do not have to be white to share in some of the white privilege. So I believe PoCs can be racist too in so far as they draw on the white privilege they have gained. For example, an Asian Canadian who was born and raised in Canada and is fairly assimilated can be racist towards Asian international/overseas students. Many of them use the term 'FOBs' to describe their fellow Asians. It is also an attempt to ensure that mainstream society don't mistake them for 'FOBs'. Another example: A South Asian American can go to Japan and be racist towards the Japanese by complaining how things are so [insert negative comment] and how things are so much better back in the US and 'look down' on the Japanese. They can be racist because they can draw on the white privilege that they share in by virtue of being American.

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  25. Interesting post and discussions. No doubt it's difficult to be a person of color, but it could benefit people of color to see the plight of other minority groups. I think this translated poem from Chrystalnacht says it best.

    First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

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  26. The 'racism=prejudice+power' thing has always made intuitive sense to me. However, I find it hard to believe it was first given in 1996 as Robin says, as I'm quite sure I remember hearing it, and finding it a logical idea, as a kid back in the 1980s. I seem to remember it was pretty common currency then. I'm pretty sure it has a much longer vintage than that.

    Is this a generational thing, young folk thinking they invented everything? :)

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  27. @fromthetropics

    I don't accept that 'only whites can be racist'. It seems a patronising notion that puts white people at the centre of everything, across all history and all the globe.

    European 'scientific' racism, used to justify slavery, does have a globally pernicious influence, but I think there are other racisms, and other power imbalances, that would exist entirely independent of that variety. For example, Han Chinese are quite capable of being racist towards non-Han citizens of the PRC, Japan has its own recent history of murderous imperialism and racism, and I'm not at all convinced that the skin-tone issues of South Asian countries are purely the result of recent colonial history.

    White-on-black racism is clearly the globally dominant form, thanks to European/American imperialism, but I don't accept all local racisms can simply be reduced to that.

    Unless you circularly define 'white' as 'whatever racial group happens to have the power'.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "NOT paid very much at all)"
    HaHaHahaha Cops are very well compensated, have retirement benefits the rest of us can only dream of. So cops and KKK members? That's all you guys have got to represent institutionalized white power below the upper-middle class? Kind of pathetic. Robin's list sounded so much more exciting.

    Robin - you missed my entire point. All the characteristics YOU listed defining white privilege were characteristics also of class privilege, which you did not acknowledge, and were largely inapplicable to the white majority. YOU brought class into into, yet did not acknowledge it. So don't blame me. And please don't refer me to that stupid, outdated piece again.

    And those ruling class whites can be surprisingly 'color blind' when it comes to the lower class loyalties - throughout history happily playing the lowers orders against each other and persecuting ethnic whites such as Catholics. I would use a lot more caution when it comes to lumping all whites together.

    Giles, I understand what you are saying. I was using Asians as an example of a group that fits many of the exact characteristics used to define white privilege, but pointing out that the characteristics are only applicable to whites.

    And I wonder - can the alleged racism of the majority Asian students in some top programs (which I have been a witness to) make black and Latino students uncomfortable in those programs, and could that not constitute institutionalized racism? I suppose someone is going to counter that the Asian students are acting under the banner of the university's white privilege...

    The figures are skewed for white workers also btw, by the disproportionate higher earners esp. entrenched members of the ruling classes.

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  29. Isabel, I have a question for you:

    Consider an ordinary white household of four with a gross annual income of $45,000, and an ordinary black family of four with the same gross annual income.

    Do you think such a white family is likely to be better off in any way or ways than such a black family?

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  30. One of my closest friends, a black man homosexual, who is 72 years old, who has, in his life, done much to make the road a whole helluva lot smoother for you younger whippersnappers here who are jumping all over me for using the word "homosexual", and who was active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the US, does not like to use the word "gay." I use "gay" and "homosexual" and "lesbian." I don't use "queer" or "dyke" or "fag" (even for cigarettes) or "faggot."

    Yes, I use "tranny," too. Not one of the trannies whom I have had a conversation with, when I have used that term (even they have used that term with me!), has ever gotten her (I know only male-to-female trans) bra in a twist about it. Never have I been told, until here, that the word "tranny" is an insult.

    As well, to make my point in my previous comment, I used the "tranny" line as a bit of humour to point out the ugliness that is sexism in the gay community here in San Francisco, which defines itself, shows itself to be one that is white and male and middle-class--what I call the "Will and Grace" gays. It is those television identity derived gays who exclude the lesbians/women, the blacks, and those homosexuals who are not educated, well-paid professionals from being part of the "gay" community: That doesn't seem very gay-like behaviour to me! And it is those "Will and Grace" homosexuals, who are mostly white and male and middle-class who actively work to make their bit of oppression (mainly, only within their families, by the way, "Oh, what will my father do if I come out?" many of them whine) for liking boys into being the same as the suffering that blacks have endured (continue to endure) for centuries in this fuckin' country! Give me a goddamned break, folks!

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  31. thanks for trying... part of the challenge will be un-becoming "white." white anti-racist is an oxymoron, since with means racism, colonialism, normative, etc. in addition to educating other white people about white supremacy (racism), the more important goal is global white existential conversion. in other words, white people have to find meaningful identities other than being "white," which is a symbolic and actual violent identity whose performance has been and continues to be destructive. learning how to live outside of whitely performance and invisibility may be the most terrifying task at hand.

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  32. As well, to make my point in my previous comment, I used the "tranny" line as a bit of humour to point out the ugliness that is sexism in the gay community here in San Francisco, which defines itself, shows itself to be one that is white and male and middle-class--what I call the "Will and Grace" gays.

    The humour being that the only women that they allow in are those who have penises! If that ain't irony for you, I don't know what is.

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  33. @redcatbiker

    It might help if you follow Transgriot or Questioning Transphobia assuming you don't already

    Here is one post by Monica Roberts of Transgriot on terminology:

    http://transgriot.blogspot.com/2009/06/nothing-fracking-funny-or-respectful.html

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  34. @llama,

    Help how? Help what?

    I shan't be following that blog, for I have too much on my internet-reading plate already.

    Also, why should I, based upon the comment/opinion (you) of some unknown to me virtual-person, with whom I have had no interaction (other than here, which is not saying much), allow that to override, be more important than, those friendships and interactions that I have in my day-to-day life?

    Perhaps you already know this: You cannot make everyone who doesn't think or believe or act as you do, think or act or believe as you wish that person to. Some "fights" just ain't worth having.

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  35. Isabel,

    It is NOT my job to teach you the attributes of white privilege or racism. I gave an example (e.g. the KKK) - not THE example. Living life as a constant wall-banger isn't something to express pride in. If you truly wish to educate yourself on the topic and not use the cliched derailment techniques, you'll have to do it yourself.

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  36. BlkSmarTee -

    wow friend, did you actually read the article. DERAILER ALERT!!! classic.

    Yes I did, and I highly praise it. As I said in my comment.

    Calling a commenter out for their homophobia and transphobia is not derailing.

    I also call out racism when I see it on GLBT blogs. The fact is that redcatbiker is right and that the feminist and GLBT rights movement has very much been led by white people, and the needs of POC have been ignored.

    All forms of oppression intersect. We can acknowledge this and work to end it without turning it into some sort of competition of who is the most oppressed.


    redcatbiker -

    "Yes, I use "tranny," too. Not one of the trannies whom I have had a conversation with, when I have used that term (even they have used that term with me!), has ever gotten her (I know only male-to-female trans) bra in a twist about it. Never have I been told, until here, that the word "tranny" is an insult."

    The fact that the transgender people you know don't find the term offensive doesn't mean that there aren't large numbers of transgender people who do. Some of whom I personally know.

    I second llama's recommendation that you start following transgriot or questioning transphobia.

    Or if your too busy to educate yourself about trans issues, which by the way is a sign of cis-gender privilege, then at least stop using the term "trannie" in public spaces as a matter of basic respect.

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  37. @redcatbiker

    I have a myriad black friends who choose to call each other the n-word. I have many friends who are women and who call each other the b-word. I have many gay male friends who call each other the f-word. Would you agree that it is still not acceptable for a white person to call an African American the n-word, a man to call a woman the b-word, or a straight male to call a gay male the f-word?

    Since you seem to think that every trans person in the world finds your use of the t-word acceptable because a handful (if that) of your trans friends have allowed you to refer to them using such a term... let me be the exception to the rule: as a trans person of color, I find it insulting and unacceptable be referred to as a "tranny", by you or any other cisgender individual without my express consent (which I do not give).

    As a Latin@, I also find it insulting and unacceptable for you or any other non-Hispanic/Latin@ person to refer to my community as a community of "spics"... But wait, you probably wouldn't do that, because it's unacceptable to use racist slurs (gee, I wonder why you feel entitled to spout cissexist slurs... could it be cisgender privilege?)

    You may either want to educate yourself about trans issues, or take the word of the people telling you "tranny" is a pejorative term and save yourself some embarrassment by policing your transphobic/cissexist mouth.

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  38. @redcatbiker

    It was just a suggestion. Please don't get so defensive. I know I can't force you to change. I wasn't trying to.

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  39. "Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power"

    Yeah, I stopped reading there. That is absolute idiocy. Thanks for proving that you have no clue about how reality works. Racism doesn't have to have an 'institutional power' component. To even think that shows how disconnected you are from reality and how far you will go to further your agenda of white guilt.

    You are clearly an ignorant white person who has nothing better to do than self-hate and proclaim that you are now better than everyone else. Go back to your box and stop preaching your garbage to those of us who want this society to progress... as opposed to regress (which is what your filth is hell-bent on doing).

    Sigh. Another liberal that finds himself on the wrong side... while still proclaiming that he/she is sticking up for the good of the peopl, you are still objectifying those you seek to help. Idiocy at its finest.

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  40. You know what would be totally fun? If I had even half as much power as PoC seem to think I do. That would be AWESOME! In fact it would be a little something like this:

    http://www.jokeroo.com/video/funny/white-eddie-murphy.html

    It's a JOKE.

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  41. @redcatbiker - I'll also recommend the sites that @llama has mentioned. Not only does Monica of Transgriot really gets into detailed analysis of transgender issues both USA based and globally... she's also a fascinating and funny person, you should pop by to see for yourself :)

    @T and @U - all humans regardless of colour are capable of prejudice, racism is basically prejudice with the bonus of institutional power... they are close but not quite the same.

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  42. T/U (Considering that you are the same person),

    Anytime one throws up the term liberal as some ridiculous pejorative, that person pretty much nulls and voids their presented argument.

    So yeah.

    Claiming that you don't have any implicit or explicit power when so many venues prove that you do and continuing to argue that you don't nulls and voids your argument.

    So basically yeah. Try again.

    To the others that did derail the topic's conversation, RedCatBiker pretty much didn't mean the term, "Tranny" as a pejorative. It's not well-known to a vast number, if not the majority of the world, as such a word.

    I know that you will argue that you didn't derail the conversation; but, you did. Not only did you get upset over the term and focus on your offense of the term; but, you really didn't comment on the topic at hand nor did you truly comment on the case of white gay male privilege in-depth. It's still derailment. I'd much rather discuss that privilege than whether or not "tranny" is a pejorative as transsexuals face a hell of a lot more crap than whether or not they are called such a term.

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  43. Robin, thank you for this guide. It's obvious you put in a lot of time and energy.

    @macon d:

    (Preface: I just reread macon d's comment and realized that I, as a former Seattlite, had not heard the pointed intent of the question, and just answered it. I know, I know! Or maybe it's just my White person/inner A student trying to get to the head of the class talking. Oh well.)

    Something I just understood better by reading the newspaper:

    One difference b/w a White and a Black family both making an average income is inherited wealth. The GI Bill (after WWII) made it possible for veterans to go to college and buy homes. BUT, the real estate practice of Racial Steering forced Blacks (and other minorities, including ethnic Whites, see the excellent book _Middlesex_ by Jeffrey Eugenides, which is also about a Hermaphrodite and the Detroit race riots in the 60s) to buy homes in areas that did not appreciate like the areas that were exclusively White. White Flight heightened this. Thus, the Black family's grandparents and parents would have had less equity and less wealth (from selling the homes) to pass along to their children. That's one difference.


    Another difference to consider is the health problems the members of the Black family will suffer due to the everyday stresses of dealing with racism. These include high blood pressure (a common reaction to stress that must be suppressed in order to go about everyday activities such as working and parenting), for example. Chronic health problems cost money, not to mention shorten lives.

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  44. >I don't accept that 'only whites can be racist'. It seems a patronising notion that puts white people at the centre of everything, across all history and all the globe.

    @p: I mentioned that PoCs can be racist towards other PoCs. And when I talked about how Japan can be racist towards their own people I didn't refer to 'white privilege' at all.

    You sound like you only read one line from my comment. Can you please read all of it and make an attempt to understand it before accusing me of something I haven't done? Thank you.

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  45. Really, Fetus, you have "a myriad [sic] black friends"? (Myriad means "countless or extremely great number." You must be uber-popular amongst black people.) Well, I don't have a myriad of black friends; I only have a few. It is not surprising that I have a few black friends, given that we humans have a proclivity for hanging out with our own kind. My few black friends and I do not call each other "nigga." Oh, well, my world ain't yours. I wouldn't socialize with a black person who would want to greet me that way.

    Comparing "tranny" to "nigger" is like comparing apples to oranges--each one carries a different historical weight, and I'm sorry that I have to inform you of this little reality, but "tranny" is a pebble, and "nigger" is a boulder!

    First, blacks were enslaved in this hemisphere for centuries. And then, after emancipation (in the United States), we were allowed to be, at best, second class citizens. I've got a few relatives who were hung from a tree or two (a.k.a. lynched) if you want evidence of our second class status in this country!

    Second, the ability for a man to change his body to a woman's is only a few decades old. If it were not for modern medicine (hormones), plastic surgery (breast implants and the like), and reconstructive surgery (converting of one's penis into a pseudo-vagina -- you can't be impregnated/give birth, and you won't slough off the lining of your uterus monthly -- which are only a few womanly things you will be incapable of with your medically-given woman's body), transsexuals would not even be on the radar screen. And unless you have the money for the hormones and operations, a man desiring to turn himself into a woman would just have to content himself with dressing up in culturally sanctioned women's clothing and putting on a wig, some makeup, and wearing a stuffed bra.

    Nonetheless, I shall do you a favour: I promise, when I am in your presence, not to use the word "tranny." Oh, and maybe you male-to-female transsexuals can do me, a woman, a favour, too: Stop addressing each other as "bitches." Most women do not do that with one another; so if the trans-women want to be taken for being a real girl, you might want to start acting like one. Thanks.

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  46. honeybrown1976 -

    "To the others that did derail the topic's conversation, RedCatBiker pretty much didn't mean the term, "Tranny" as a pejorative. It's not well-known to a vast number, if not the majority of the world, as such a word.

    I know that you will argue that you didn't derail the conversation; but, you did. Not only did you get upset over the term and focus on your offense of the term; but, you really didn't comment on the topic at hand nor did you truly comment on the case of white gay male privilege in-depth. It's still derailment. I'd much rather discuss that privilege than whether or not "tranny" is a pejorative as transsexuals face a hell of a lot more crap than whether or not they are called such a term.
    "

    Whether RedCatBiker meant to be offensive is entirely irrelevant. Ignorance is not an excuse. If someone calls you out for being offensive, the proper response is "I'm sorry" not "but I didn't know I was being offensive!"

    As for not commenting on the topic of the original post, I'll admit that I contributed nothing other than generic praise in my first comment. The reason being that the post was so well written that I didn't feel I had anything useful to add in that regard.

    I'll make this point a second time: all forms of oppression intersect. (and this point actually was discussed in the original post.) For example, the feminist movement (of which I am a part) has been so dominated by whiteness, that WOC had to create the womanist movement just to have a space to discuss and fight for feminism that is actually relevant to their lives.

    We cannot simply compartmentalize different forms of oppression, then disregard the other forms just because we don't think they are directly relevant to us.

    Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism... It's impossible to fight one without fighting all.

    This doesn't mean that we can't focus on the issues that most directly effect us personally, and it doesn't mean we have to treat every form of oppression as equally severe.

    It does mean that racism can't be fought against in ways that are sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or ageist - such as by making homophobic and transphobic statements on a blog about racism.

    Here's why:

    If this type of behavior is accepted, discussions of racism will become dominated by straight, able-bodied, neurotypical, young, cisgender men. Has this not already happened?

    Real discussions about racism require that the voices of all POC be included.

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  47. "In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In short, we control the systems that matter."

    Honeybrown, I never asked for your help. And I do not want it believe me. Your know-it-all personae is irritating. And btw which part of the above list refers to whites below the upper-middle class? That's what I was calling into question, and this happens all the time. I don't need lessons or referrals. Jeez.

    There is way too much ignorant anti-white racist venting on this blog, and too little awareness of the discrimination faced by ethnic whites. It's ugly. All these smug, judgmental people are a major bummer. And macon d, what someone else said recently - you need to back up the sweeping generalizations you make.

    And when you are complaining etc just start paying attention to class. I think you'd be surprised how often you actually are specifically talking about upper-middle class whites.

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  48. @Isabel: I rarely (if ever) meet upper-middle class white people, but I still experience racism from both middle class and working class white people. How would you explain that?

    (I'm not saying that working class white people are not disadvantaged compared to upper-middle class white people. But I don't quite understand what the point is in separating them when we're talking specifically about racism here. It's starting to sound as if non-upper-middle class white people do not benefit from a white dominated system and therefore are incapable of practicing racism. Is that what you're saying? Or have I misunderstood you?)

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  49. Robin, thank you for the lovely post. As you said, everyone holds some biases towards other groups, but to be a true racist you have to be in power and prejudiced. The truth is in our society I will probably get a pass on many things just because of what I look like, no matter what my economic status or gender (I am a white woman).

    For example, if I am driving a car after last call I will likely not be pulled over unless I do something obviously stupid. When a PoC friend does the same she is often stopped, even if she is the perfect driver (I have witnessed this and became last call driver to avoid this). Or when I go into a market the owner does not automatically give me the eye, but when a PoC friend does there are good odds they will be scrutinized.

    That is privilege based on institutional power.

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  50. Regarding who can and cannot practice racism, I like that instead of insisting on one set, "correct" definition of the word, Robin specifies contexts in which racism is defined as "prejudice plus power." In other contexts, and for people in them, that's not what the word means.

    I thought of this issue again when I saw today's post on it at AverageBro, where he asks his readers, "Can Black people be racist?"

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  51. Re: the ongoing discussion of terms: I would absolutely agree that discussion of terms is fair game - as llama said, that's what intersectionality is all about. We're working together to create a space free of obvious oppression. (As a brief digression, I often use the term "homo" to refer to myself, but while it doesn't trigger/upset* me personally, that certainly doesn't hold true for everyone. But yeah, it's a term that I don't tend to notice because it isn't jarring to me like the heavy-duty perjoratives for gay people.)

    @fromthetropics: Those are very thought-provoking points for me. The concept of carrying white privilege elsewhere should probably have a paragraph in the guide. But I'll have to give it a lot of thought and processing before I can figure it out well enough to distill it, and do some research to determine if there's anywhere in the world where that might not hold true.

    The concept of PoC sharing white privilege when compared to others of their racial group is also extremely thought-provoking but I'd probably want to stay away from it in the guide - since the guide is aimed at people who either don't understand racism or are just beginning to, I don't want to risk derailing them into a "but PoC do it too!" thing (not that I'm saying _you're_ derailing by bringing that up, because you're not; it's perfectly appropriate in the context of a more informed discussion such as we're having here; I'm just saying that with the clueless-about-racism audience I'm aiming for, I don't want to risk giving them anything they could latch onto as a way of not confronting their own biases).

    ISTR a discussion (I think it was on this blog) between a few people where an Asian woman was discussing receiving some white privilege by having white boyfriends - I'd think that would be another example of the "sharing white privilege" phenomenon.

    And of course we're going into total tangent here, but I'd love the benefit of your thoughts: do you think that sharing white privilege would generally go along with internalized racism? (IOW, that it wouldn't be possible to use borrowed privilege against others of the same race unless there was some form of genuine internalized racism that would support their view that "FOBs" weren't as worthwhile as Western-born/Westernized Asians?)

    @P: 1996 was the first official reference I could find to the "racism = prejudice + power" definition being used in a sociological term, but if anyone has further information on when it originated or who may have originated, I'd love to hear about it. :) I don't have a large library of anti-racist resources at my fingertips other than what I can find on Google, and it's definitely a fact that there's plenty of older texts and research papers that aren't Web-accessible.

    @p: As I explained in the guide, racism is contextual based on the area where you are; only those who hold institutional power can be racist. In Japan, Japanese can be racist. Chinese people can be racist in the PRC (to use one of your examples). However, transplant that same Japanese or Chinese person to North America and they can no longer be racist, because they're not backed up by institutional power anymore.

    --

    * I've used "trigger/hurt" here as a shorthand for "trigger and/or hurt", but I want to clarify that I don't see them as equivalent. Being triggered is a very different thing than being offended or upset. If you don't have a real understanding of how triggering works, I recommend the following essay - and as requested by the author of that essay, a warning first: "Warning: Very explicit discussion of sexual assault and the nature, anatomy, cause & effect of triggers. Is itself triggery." Essay here.

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  52. @Isabel: The reason I keep referring you to what you refer to as that "outdated" article is because almost all of it still holds true and it holds true for white people _regardless_ of class. To use just a few examples, when you open the newspaper you see a majority of people of your own race (and they aren't often being portrayed as criminals). When you face a person in power, it's likely to be someone of your same race. You're not going to get discriminated against for a job interview based on your ethnicity. You're not as likely to get randomly pulled over by a cop. These are all parts of white privilege, and they apply _regardless of whether you are a rich white person, a white in poverty, or anywhere in between_. You seem to be trying to argue that white privilege rests only with upper-middle-class-and-above whites, and that's just not true. Nowhere have I argued that lower-class whites don't face discrimination from upper-class whites, but whether you're lower-class or upper-class, when you're white you share in white privilege.

    T: It's a shame that you felt too defensive to read further, because if you had, you would have reached 5. Put down that strawman! Nobody's asking you to feel guilty over having privilege. Guilt doesn't get us anywhere. We just want you to be aware of it. Just acknowledge it and be aware of it and move on, for now. Maybe at some point it'll feel less upsetting to you. :)

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  53. redcatbiker -

    "Second, the ability for a man to change his body to a woman's is only a few decades old. If it were not for modern medicine (hormones), plastic surgery (breast implants and the like), and reconstructive surgery (converting of one's penis into a pseudo-vagina -- you can't be impregnated/give birth, and you won't slough off the lining of your uterus monthly -- which are only a few womanly things you will be incapable of with your medically-given woman's body), transsexuals would not even be on the radar screen. And unless you have the money for the hormones and operations, a man desiring to turn himself into a woman would just have to content himself with dressing up in culturally sanctioned women's clothing and putting on a wig, some makeup, and wearing a stuffed bra.

    Nonetheless, I shall do you a favour: I promise, when I am in your presence, not to use the word "tranny." Oh, and maybe you male-to-female transsexuals can do me, a woman, a favour, too: Stop addressing each other as "bitches." Most women do not do that with one another; so if the trans-women want to be taken for being a real girl, you might want to start acting like one. Thanks.
    "

    Summarized:

    Transsexual women are really just men pretending to be women and they should stop complaining and be grateful that we now have the technology that allows them to create pseudo-female bodies that cant even menstruate.

    But if they stop referring to themselves as "bitches" I'll start respecting them.


    Somehow, I don't believe you...

    Has anyone else noticed that whenever someone has a problem with an individual who is a member of a minority group, it always seems to become about their minority status? For example, if swearing bothers you and a white person does it, you're just bothered by the swearing. But if a black person swears, it becomes reflective of their entire race? Or, if you don't like loud people and a straight man is loud you're just bothered by their raised voice. But if a woman is loud she's being a shrill bitch, and if a gay man is being loud he's being in your face.

    prejudiced people simply cannot separate the actions that bother them from their prejudice.

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  54. >"do you think that sharing white privilege would generally go along with internalized racism?"

    Yes, definitely. I think the post you're talking about is the July 18 one on swpd. And I must confess, I borrowed the Asian Canadian vs. 'FOBs' example from Restructure who commented there.

    >"However, transplant that same Japanese or Chinese person to North America and they can no longer be racist, because they're not backed up by institutional power anymore."

    I think it depends on whether they are temporarily in North America, or whether they are there to stay. If they are there to stay, then they are both just migrants in a white dominated society. If they are, say, Korean and Japanese expats sent by their companies to North America, then the Japanese, I believe, can practice racism towards the Korean, but the Korean cannot practice racism towards the Japanese. The Korean can hate, resent, have racial prejudices, etc towards the Japanese and practice discrimination, but I don't think they can practice racism (prejudice + power). The institutional power that the Japanese is drawing on comes from the position of their country in the global structure (and of course, the burden of the history of imperialism referred to by p, which I never said didn't exist). But neither can practice 'racism' towards white people while in North America.

    Here's another illustration: A Korean American in Japan can be racist (as an American) towards the Japanese or he/she might experience racism (as a Korean) from the Japanese. It depends on how he/she positions themselves, and/or how they are perceived by the Japanese. But a Korean from South Korea cannot practice racism towards the Japanese whether in Japan or elsewhere (though they can hate, resent, be prejudiced etc).

    And when I say that someone is able to 'practice racism', I mean that they have the ability to 'look down' on someone and make that other person feel 'looked down upon' based on their race/ethnicity/culture because they have the institutional power behind them whether locally or globally, depending on context.

    Some people may feel inferior when they experience racism, others don't. Those others, I think, are the ones who know who they are and don't suffer from internalized racism or the worship of those who they think are above them in status (e.g. white 'worshiping' that happens a lot in Asia). Basically, the ones who know what they're worth.

    I might change my mind in the future on this, but at least that's what I think right now.

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  55. I think this definition is a bit too loose, and heavily ignores the issue of anti-Semitism, which to many is racism (and yet, must exist entirely outside of this definition because of the fact that most Jews in America are white and on the upper side of institutional power).

    It also ignores the rural/urban divide in this country - I agree of course that if you compare a white family that makes $45,000 a year to a black family with the same circumstances it's obvious who has the institutional upper hand, but what about a black urban family with $12,000 a year and copious local resources vs. a rural white family with the same. The racist/prejudiced attitudes coming from those poor white people are significantly different than those coming from a wealthy, suburban or urban white person.

    Just something to think about. Otherwise, I think you're spot-on.

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  56. To add to my last comment...This definition also clearly explains why Israel's behavior toward Palestine is indefensible. Who has the power there? Does it really matter if a Palestinian Arab says something anti-Semitic when Israel has the upper hand?

    (Just so we're clear, that's not sarcasm)

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  57. @fromthetropics

    Where I disagree with your original comment is that though you did indeed acknowledge that POCs can be racist to other POCs, you implied that this only happens insofar as the former have acquired a share of 'white privilege'. It seems to me you are thus reducing all forms of racism to manifestations of a single global form, in which all that matters is how 'white' you are. I'm merely suggesting that there are some forms of racism which are independent from the globally dominant one.

    I don't think we disagree that much, but I am confused, for example, by your comment that "Japanese people can be racist towards 'their own' people". What are 'their own' people? Japanese people have a recent history of appalling racism towards other East Asian peoples, who are not 'their own people'.

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  58. @Jillian

    Hmmm... you mentioned Israel/Palestine, I was thinking of that myself but thought it might hopelessly derail the thread. I was going to mention that it was an example of how its not always entirely clear to me who has the power and hence who can be racist.

    Yup, in the region itself the Israelis have the power, but when you get the spill-over conflicts between Muslims and Jews in other countries, its not at all clear to me who has 'the power' and so who is 'being racist'. When POC Muslims make Anti-Semitic remarks are they speaking as POCs (and hence from a position of no power) or are they, in fact, speaking as primarily as non-Jews (and hence from a position of considerable power)?


    In general I am a bit dubious that there is one single heirachy of power that is valid globally and throughout history. Yes, thanks to European colonialism, the white-on-black one is predominant (and actual black people, i.e. of African descent, tend to be on the bottom of the heirachy almost everywhere), but I don't think every conflict fits easily into that template. E.g. Han Chinese vs Uigers or Tibetans - to say the Chinese have 'white privilege' in that context is to use an entirely circular definition of 'white' to mean 'whatever group has the power'.


    That's the only point I was trying to make to Fromthetropics and I'm sorry if it has led to acrimony because I am not clear whether we disagree or not.

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  59. I still say that the PoC could simply not respond if they don't have time/inclination rather than give a nasty response.

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  60. p,

    Thanks for your response. First of all, we're not talking solely about Muslims, as Palestinians are also Christian, Druze, and other. We're talking about Arabs, who are POC (and yes, I am aware that in some contexts, Jews are POC too, though not really in this one).

    Also, I'm not talking about Arabs on the whole, but Palestinians living in greater Palestine, who DO NOT have power (Egyptians, on the other hand, you could argue, do have power in this context, which they often use against Palestinians themselves).

    Lastly, I would never in a million years assume that Arabs have a considerable position of power. Even the most powerful of Arab societies (UAE, Saudi Arabia) are run by white folks.

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  61. @redcatbiker

    Gay is not the new black. Neither is trans. They have been abysmally different struggles historically, and neither will be replacing the other any time soon.

    BECAUSE they are such different struggles (and comparisons must therefore be made carefully), I think it is a telltale sign of ignorance to claim that one pejorative term is a boulder and the other a pebble. I'm sure Angie Zapata didn't think it was a pebble when she was being hurled the t-word as she was being murdered. When I am called the t-word, I can assure you I hear a history of violent oppression in those 6 letters. And you can believe that trans people are still getting lynched, my dear (with trans people of color being overrepresented in these attacks and, as usual, often invisibilized in the discourse).

    When you talk of transgender individuals, don't forget that many of us are people of color. Don't whitewash us with your language. The community belongs to people of color too (and people of color to the community). That white individuals with non-normative gender identities have taken over the leadership positions in the struggle against cissexism and transphobia should not surprise anyone with the slightest knowledge of non-racially-based social movements. Whiteness likes a stage.

    What about us, redcatbiker? Are you making us choose between our ethnic heritage and out gender identity? Are we supposed to forget some parts of our brains and bodies in order to focus on others? Have we less color because of our gender identity? Is our voice less worth listening to because we were not afforded the simplicity and privilege of living with only ONE category of oppression?

    Clearly, since the trans struggle means so little to you, you feel entitled to TELL me exactly the brand of trans I am. I am not MTF. I am, however, a staunch womanist who does not believe that gender identity must be medicalized in order to be valid. Riki Wilchins is a fabulous transactivist who explains the surgical/medical (pre-op/post-op/no-op) debacle in a very accessible way. I will MAIL you one of her books for FREE if you ever decide to educate yourself about trans issues. When you imply that MTF transness is ONLY as frivolous as "dressing up in culturally sanctioned women's clothing and putting on a wig, some makeup, and wearing a stuffed bra", that is transmisogyny (Julia Serano's Whipping Girl is a good read about transmisogyny).

    Thank you for agreeing to censor the pejorative terms around me. I will pass on the message to any trans women I hear calling each other the b-word. In my previous post, however, I was referring primarily to cisgender women (although, honestly, I rarely make the distinction between women, as self-identified women of all varieties are nothing less than women to me... and I don't think it's fair to make one jump through hoops for something that is real enough to not necessitate moral validation by individuals). I'm half Maya and half Caucasian, and I still consider myself (and all biracial individuals who choose to identify as brown) "brown enough". Trans women, you'll find, are "woman enough" regardless of their language, surgical status, or birth certificates... even if members of the cisgender community wish to take their trans membership away.

    I think that there's a possibility that you recognize your lack of knowledge about trans issues. I also think you're too proud to acknowledge this publicly. Sometimes, though, it really does help to mend those you've hurt with your carelessness to just say: "I have no excuses. I'm sorry." :)

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  62. @fromthetropics and p, et al:

    fromthetropics said: "Here's another illustration: A Korean American in Japan can be racist (as an American) towards the Japanese or he/she might experience racism (as a Korean) from the Japanese."

    Are both of these examples about racism? The Japanese v. Korean one is easy for me to grasp, but the American v. Japanese example is confusing to me. I just looked up "race" and it seems technically/linguistically that would be accurate, however I've never heard anyone actually USE a term like "the American race", well... ever. I'm trying to compare it to terms like "nationalism" (which is technically inaccurate in this context and which is already claimed by the perhaps more ominous use of that word that we are all familiar with), "statism" (more accurate, but also already in use by a different common meaning), "countryism" (sounds just plain weird), various sorts of "___-centrism" and "___-supremacy", etc.

    If a person (in North America, at least. I don't know about elsewhere) refers to the "Chinese" race they are likely to be excluding various citizens of that country. Same with "Italian", "German" or any other country named after it's dominant (though not it's only) ethnic group. On the flip side, some racial labels like "Black", "Mexican", "Indian" or "Asian" lump all sorts of folks together based on sweeping geographical roots.

    Maybe it's a colonial thing. (And of course I'm speaking from the perspective of a colonial person) I've also never heard anyone refer to an "Australian" race or a "Canadian" race, for example. Are those of us from powerful colonial countries avoiding the r-word when referring to all of us? Are white Americans afraid of being part of the same race as black Americans, and vice versa? Or is the common usage of the word more important than the dictionary usage (as Robin's post discussed)? OR, should the dictionary meaning [of "race"] BECOME the common meaning if we are going to confront this this issue thoroughly?

    I worry that I'm nitpicking semantics, but then so much of racism/prejudice revolves around labeling, as other comment threads have been pointing out. Maybe someone else has thought this through more than I have.

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  63. @jillian

    As I said, I don't disagree with regard to the immediate region itself. I consider myself sympathetic to the Palestinians.

    And, yes, I am quite aware many Palestinians are Christian.

    What I was thinking of though was the way that conflict spills over very much into the UK, where the Muslim community (_not_ specifically Arab, though some are) tends to identify very strongly with the Palestinians, and much of the Jewish community identifies likewise with Israel. Whenever anything erupts in the middle east you get an upsurge of tensions here, and I find it tricky to decide on the competing claims as to who is victimising who.

    My own prejudices make it hard to entirely accept claims for Jewish victimhood in the UK context, as they are economically an entirely mainstream group, as opposed to Muslims who clearly aren't. But it seems to me that the issue with Jewish people is that their history means their sense of vulnerability transcends economics. German Jews were entirely integrated, economically successful and mainstream, right up to the point when they weren't. There _is_ a history of vicious anti-Semitism in Europe, and when Muslims (and it is Muslims, some Arab some South Asian, who do it, rather than 'Arabs' as such) tap into that I don't accept they are any longer speaking 'as POC'. They are speaking as part of a powerful and dangerous tradition.

    I also disagree with you when you say that Arabs can never have power - when Jews were expelled from Arab countries post 1948, the Arab rulers of those countries did indeed have considerable power over those Jews. When Arabs staged pogroms during the Ottoman empire (which may have treated the Jews better than the Christian world did, but that's really not saying much), they did indeed have power. Seems to me you are assuming there is just one single global heirachy of power and everything fits into that. I'm just not convinced of that.

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  64. p,

    First, allow me to correct myself, and your understanding of my statement. I said that there is no context that Arabs have power - I meant "currently" and should have said so. I'm not suggesting Arabs CAN'T have power, and certainly not that they have NEVER had power!

    So no, I'm not at all suggesting that there is one system of global hierarchy rather, that in our current time (2009, for argument's sake), Arabs are among those at the bottom of the totem pole. That's a major reason that I don't buy TODAY'S Jewish victimhood (among other reasons relating to historical Palestine, which I shall not get into because they have little to do with this context).

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  65. Also, p,

    I don't live in the UK and therefore can only assume that your claims to that area are correct. To also clarify, I was speaking solely of the Middle East region, not as much about Arabs and Muslims elsewhere (though I do maintain that in most countries where Arabs are not the majority and even some where they are, they are POC and at the lower rungs of global society even)

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  66. Part I

    BECAUSE they are such different struggles (and comparisons must therefore be made carefully), I think it is a telltale sign of ignorance to claim that one pejorative term is a boulder and the other a pebble. I'm sure Angie Zapata didn't think it was a pebble when she was being hurled the t-word as she was being murdered. When I am called the t-word, I can assure you I hear a history of violent oppression in those 6 letters. And you can believe that trans people are still getting lynched, my dear (with trans people of color being overrepresented in these attacks and, as usual, often invisibilized in the discourse).

    I know only a little about the Zapata murder.

    As honeybrown stated in a comment above, most of the people in this country, and the world, do not know what "tranny" means; they have no knowledge of a transsexual person or community. (By the way: What the heck does "cisgender" -- all those words you use with "cis" as the prefix -- mean?) When, and if, your non-acquainted-with-the-LGBT-community-and-its-terms person hears the word "tranny," most likely he is thinking that you are talking about a motor engine part.

    It was probably most likely that as she, Zapata, was being killed, that her murderers were calling her a "fuckin' faggot," "you damn fuckin' faggot trying to fool us that you are a bitch!" I doubt -- and I could be wrong , for as I stated, I know only a little about the Zapata murder -- those men were calling her "tranny." It is my experience that straight men are unable to tell if a woman is a transwoman. And if a transwoman comes upon a straight man, in a social setting, who thinks she is a "real" woman (if that transwoman has not told him that she used to be a boy) well, there is a chance, because of his hatred towards such people, that she could come to harm. Some of those men will consider themselves to have been duped,or conned, by the transwoman; and if he believes such he will take it that his pride has been bruised. No one likes to believe that he is vulnerable to a con. That is why I doubt her attackers were calling her a "tranny" whilst killing her.

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  67. Part II

    I think that there's a possibility that you recognize your lack of knowledge about trans issues. I also think you're too proud to acknowledge this publicly. Sometimes, though, it really does help to mend those you've hurt with your carelessness to just say: "I have no excuses. I'm sorry." :)

    I don't appreciate your condescending tone, but you are free to express it -- nothing that I can do to stop you. And, no, I have not been careless, so I shan't be apologising, for I am not sorry. Perhaps, my refusal to apologize is me displaying my heterosexual-privilege...I don't know, but if it is so, then so be it, for I am sure you wlll inform me of the "ism" or "phobic" that I am showing here on this comment board.

    Opinions are just like eyes, everybody has a couple of them. Unlike most Americans, because I live in a neighbourhood that has a large transwomen population (two of the 20 units in my apartment building are occupied by transwomen), I am familiar (although, not steeped in) with trans and some of their issues, and I have formed my opinion based upon being smack dab in the middle of a transwomen community, and on some of my interactions with transwomen.

    Publicly, I show respect towards those men who now consider themselves women. I call them by their [female] names. I refer to them as she or her. I acknowledge them for who they consider themselves to be -- women. But, no, I don't consider them real women. Unlike straight men (and even before I moved to this neighbourhood), I can tell a transwoman when I see one. You are not one of us, in my opinion. You were not born a girl baby. You were not raised as a girl. You [men] know very little about what it means to be a girl, a woman. You may have felt, all your childhood, that you were a girl inside, but I think you have a fantasy image of who women are. You never really get it down how me move. Your bodies, no matter how many cuts and reconstructions and hormonal cocktails you sip, will not behave like a girl-born woman's body (specific to your culture) behaves. (Note: All throughout this, I'm referring to male-to-female trans.) You were born boys, you were raised as boys, and you think as boys do. No matter how hard you try you cannot erase that mentality. As boys, you have to dominate, always be right, never consider any one else's opinion; you were raised to be "sexist", to consider yourselves superior to women. (Even here, in this comment board, a transwoman from man, has turned this racism post's comment section into a transgender comment section, and jumped all over a biological-woman in the process. Yet, another example of "men" doing what men do: dominating the conversation/debate!)

    Well, there is so much more that I want to respond to of pianodreamer and Fetus' (and the like, who have posted here) comments, but I am getting tired of typing and I no longer wish to talk/type about this. So, even if one of the trans, or all, hurls accusations at me, after reading this comment, wherein you accuse me of being "transphobic", or diaplaying an "ism" towards transgenedered people, I have decided that I ain't gonna respond any more. Plus, I am sure that the blog owner is tired of seeing my essay-length comments.

    Ciao.

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  68. You people do realize that many of your recycled thoughts sound no better than they did 20 years ago?

    Truthfully, many of the views expressed by the poster are garbage. The same goes for many of the commenters.

    Referring to others as PoC and going out of your way (i.e. giving them special treatment as a method of appearing anti-racist) makes you racist.

    You ever hear of just being friends with people of a different skin color from your own?

    What you're doing is another form of racism in itself. You think they're going to respect you if you're doing nothing but groveling at their feet?

    I know i wouldn't and I'd get annoyed with you people always being around trying to identify with, adopt and feel for their culture and life experiences. You're like little friggin' kids trying to go out of your way and\ do everything to apologize for what you label, "white institutionalism".

    Try being a friend instead of apologetic leeches.

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  69. Isabel,

    If you don't want my help, do everything in your power not to ask for it implicitly. Why post statements that can be readily refuted and get upset afterwards? Yes, I'm educated; but, I'm not a know-it-all, by no means. Thanks for the compliment, though, I guess.

    Smug? Judgmental? I don't see any of that here with the posters or Macon D. What I see is a candid discussion on a topic for which you are uncomfortable because it reinforces your need to step outside of your self-afflicted box. Stepping out of it can be hard, which is understandable. But, it is a necessary step for progression.

    There's no harm desired here. But, ignorance won't be tolerated.

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  70. fromthetropics said: "Here's another illustration: A Korean American in Japan can be racist (as an American) towards the Japanese or he/she might experience racism (as a Korean) from the Japanese."

    Only just noticed this. I am not convinced that an American, of any hyphenation, could be racist towards Japanese in Japan (as opposed to Japanese-Americans, who have a very specific history of their own). Japan is an equal of the US, I don't see how it is any more possible for an American to be racist towards Japanese in Japan than to be so towards Germans in Germany or French people in France. Or the British.

    Bigotted, prejudiced, ignorant - sure. But racist? I don't see it. As irritated as I get with the subservient relationship our politicians have with the US, I would never dream of suggesting Americans could be 'racist' against Brits.

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  71. >>By the way: What the heck does "cisgender" -- all those words you use with "cis" as the prefix -- mean?<<

    If you had actually bothered to check out Questioning Transphobia or Transgriot like I suggested, you would already know the answer to this question.

    But here you go anyway:

    How to check your cis privilege

    Cisgender isn't an insult


    -Llama

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  72. @redcatbiker

    I know it wasn't posed as a traditional/polite question, but here is your answer:

    The prefix "cis-" is used to refer to a normatively sex-concordant gender identity* (so, a biological male who believes himself to be a man, or a biological female who believes herself to be a woman). Cissexism is the ideology that positions cisgender (those that are normatively sex-gender concordant) bodies as being more valuable than transgender bodies. Transphobia refers to the discrimination of transgender individuals (and is often fueled by cissexism). Transmisogyny is discrimination/prejudice specifically directed against male-born women (trans women), partly because they are trans, partly because they are women. Etcetera.

    The ways in which race/class/sexual orientation/etc intersect with gender identity are fascinating (though catastrophically painful), and I think you might become more interested in becoming educated about trans issues if you stopped considering transness a primarily white, middle class, able-bodied, neurotypical phenomenon. It's not.

    If you have any more questions/concerns, feel free to ask for my e-mail address, and I would be happy to work in solidarity with you on your way to a more educated and respectful existence. No condescension, promise.


    * Sex and gender have different meanings. Basically (though it's not as simple as this), sex refers to biological indicators of whether one is male, female, or intersex. Gender refers to a number of things (gender identity, gender presentation, etc) but is generally one's internal sense of being a man, a woman, or member of another gender category (such as genderqueer) as well as the culturally-specific way one performs this gender identity (through dress, behavior, language, etc).

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  73. redcatbiker -

    "What the heck does "cisgender" -- all those words you use with "cis" as the prefix -- mean?"

    A cisgender person is any person who is not transgender. a woman born with a female body is a cisgender woman, and a man born with a male body is a cisgender man.

    "if a transwoman comes upon a straight man, in a social setting, who thinks she is a "real" woman..."

    the term cisgender is used precisely in situations like these. If a transwoman comes upon a straight man, in a social setting, who thinks she is a cisgender woman.

    The point is that the gender identity of cisgender people isn't any more real or valid than the gender identity of transgender people.

    "Unlike straight men (and even before I moved to this neighbourhood), I can tell a transwoman when I see one."

    You think you can.

    It may be obvious with some people, and you may even have better "transdar" than the average person, but you can't always tell when someone is transgender.

    Some transgender people, including some of the ones I know, are indistinguishable from cisgender people. Including their physical appearance, the way they behave, the way they speak, the way they move, everything.

    The rest of your comment isn't really even worth getting into, given how blatently and unashamedly transphobic it is. So, I'll just leave it with this one thought:

    Its pretty obvious that you've had some bad experiences with transgender people. The people you've described do not sound like people I would want to spend time with.

    But why have you decided that these people speak for all transgender people? Especially when there is a transgender person here telling you that you're wrong?

    The anti-racist movement has been dominated by straight, able-bodied, neurotypical, young, cisgender men, and as a result the needs of many POC have been ignored.

    Do you think that POC such as Fetus feel safe in anti-racist circles that are hostile to them?

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  74. Dear Robin,

    Hi. Thanks so much for your post. I am so glad to see that some white people really get it and go the distance to do the research. This is the only way to find solutions that will help all of us heal and reach our potential.

    The definition of racism that you gave is the one I learned in college. Earlier this summer Prof. Henry Louis Gates was described as racist for the disagreements he had with a white police offer that led to his arrest. Although Gates' Harvard salary is many times more than Officer Crowley's, people just didn't seem to understand or didn't want to acknowledge, that Crowley's white privilege trumped Gates' upper middle class status.

    When a white person makes a statement, applies for a job, etc. they are considered more credible, trustworthy and of greater value than a PoC-even if all other variables, education, class, etc. are equal. Even PoCs who have ascended to a measure of gatekeeping privilege have adopted this belief. That is the root of the stress for PoCs today.

    Many white people think that minority scholarships and affirmative action represent reverse racism. However, I would argue that the majority of PoCs, specifically African Americans, who hold advanced degrees either are underemployed or start their own businesses because of all the stress involved with trying to make it in this passively racist American society.

    When it gets down to hiring practices in this society, it doesn't matter who has the degree or experience that best matches the job. In many cases, when a PoC and a white candidate are both up for a position, the job will go to the white candidate. (I don't have stats to back this up, I just have personal experience.) This culture routinely reserves the less desirable or support staff work for the PoC, even at the professional, highly skilled level.

    The only way a PoC can get some leverage is to have someone in the organization on their side and looking out for them. A lot of white people will point to this and say no fair, not realizing that at the institutional level, white America has the upper hand and the enduring white privilege.

    Thank you again Robin. This is the most productive online discussion I've seen on racism. I really credit the earlier posters adding comments without turning abusive.

    I will read your references and look forward to your updates. I also will send this post to people in my network. The more people who understand, the easier this subject will be to talk about.

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  75. Wow, this isn't 101, this is great, deep stuff that I will share with my minority friends. Things we may know in our heart and experiences, but may not fully know how to put into words.

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  76. @redcatbiker:

    Your ignorance and cissexism are astounding. Why don't you e-mail all your trans friends and send them a link to this post so that they know how you really feel about them?

    I doubt you will actually do that, as it is more convenient for you act as the mouthpiece and speak on behalf of your trans friends. It's so much easier for you to consider yourself progressive and educated instead of confronting the possibility that you're an ignorant bigot.

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  77. "Ignorant bigot"? You should step back, Restructure. I agree that redcatbiker's got some work to do, but name calling like that isn't going to encourage anyone to do anything you want them to do. In fact, I'd say your own ignorance is showing.

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  78. @AE - have you actually read any of @Restructure!s work? Perhaps you too should step back, your own ignorance is showing.

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  79. AE,

    Sorry, but there is no reason to sugarcoat unpleasant truths or pamper somebody who dehumanizes others. Why should we be "nice" to redcatbiker, given the vileness of what she said?

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  80. "You seem to be trying to argue that white privilege rests only with upper-middle-class-and-above whites, and that's just not true. "

    But that's how YOU defined it. Something you still refuse to acknowledge. I think you have some issues to work through. I could suggest some reading material if you'd like. Again, you are not even reading my comments. Instead you point me to an outside source when I challenge your definition of white privilege.

    "Nowhere have I argued that lower-class whites don't face discrimination from upper-class whites, but whether you're lower-class or upper-class, when you're white you share in white privilege."

    Do you have breakdowns by white ethnicity? You seem to have no understanding of this aspect of history.


    ?honeybrown1976 said...

    Isabel,

    If you don't want my help, do everything in your power not to ask for it implicitly."

    WTF? That's fucking hilarious! I think you are a little too full of yourself, Honeybrown.

    "a topic for which you are uncomfortable...it reinforces your need...step outside of your self-afflicted box...Stepping out...it is a necessary step for progression...ignorance won't be tolerated."

    No, you're not arrogant and full of yourself! Not at all.

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  81. @Shepherd, p, et. al on 'American': When I said, 'as an American', it's a short form for saying that one can draw on the white privileged that they've gained by virtue of growing up in the US. Hence the word 'racism' is appropriate.

    >"I am not convinced that an American, of any hyphenation, could be racist towards Japanese in Japan"

    If a white American can be racist towards the Japanese in Japan, then I don't see how hyphenated Americans can't. If you know how to draw on some white privilege (and especially if the other person is a 'worshiper' of white privilege), you can enjoy it too and be racist towards those who can't due to the global applicability of white privilege. It's the same principle as the Canadians vs 'FOBs'. Also, the kind of racism I'm talking about here occurs during personal encounters. And it's situational too (i.e. it doesn't always work, but it can).

    In fact, I think in some situations white privilege becomes magnified when overseas. For example, a Mexican American who is considered non-white in the US may be considered 'white' overseas.

    But if a white or Korean American decides to work for a Japanese corporation, the situation might be slightly different. They will most likely hit a glass ceiling. Even Japanese Americans would hit this if they don't know how to fully act Japanese. This would probably be classified as institutional racism...I think.

    @p - You're right, we probably do agree on most things.

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  82. >"E.g. Han Chinese vs Uigers or Tibetans - to say the Chinese have 'white privilege' in that context is to use an entirely circular definition of 'white' to mean 'whatever group has the power'."

    Uh, just for the record, I do not believe the racism of the Han Chinese towards the Uighurs or Tibetans have anything to do with white privilege. It doesn't.

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  83. Fascinating post. I was most intrigued by the part about re-defining the word "racism."

    I have to admit I don't understand the impulse that thinks it's a good or interesting idea to try and get the entire english-speaking world to change the way they've been using the word, when people are simply using it the way they have been their entire lives. Sounds like a frustrating project as well.

    Institutional racism is the real boogeyman left to overcome, so why not simply call it that? The two terms "individual racism" and "institutional racism" capture the distinction you're after - so why not go with that? ;-)

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  84. Sorry for the slow responses people, I just started a new job recently and have found myself zonked! But here we go. :)

    @fromthetropics: If they are, say, Korean and Japanese expats sent by their companies to North America, then the Japanese, I believe, can practice racism towards the Korean, but the Korean cannot practice racism towards the Japanese. The Korean can hate, resent, have racial prejudices, etc towards the Japanese and practice discrimination, but I don't think they can practice racism (prejudice + power). The institutional power that the Japanese is drawing on comes from the position of their country in the global structure (and of course, the burden of the history of imperialism referred to by p, which I never said didn't exist).

    Thank you for these examples - I found them clarifying my thoughts quite a bit! The idea of "traveling privilege" - as in, privilege that you carry with you pretty much anywhere you go based on your country's position globally - is one that deserves a lot more thought.

    @shepherd: Maybe it's a colonial thing. (And of course I'm speaking from the perspective of a colonial person) I've also never heard anyone refer to an "Australian" race or a "Canadian" race, for example.

    I find that an interesting thought, because we really don't attach the word "race" to it - even though many people clearly believe that American or Canadian = white. (I got this yesterday from my boss at work, who is Argentinean; he was discussing a call centre that he ran in a very whitebread area and he said, "I walked in there, and it was _all_ Canadians! All white people! I was the only one with an accent in the whole room!" But I found it interesting that he equated white with being Canadian, considering a great deal of the Canadian population is immigrant-based. I myself an white and an immigrant to Canada - do I qualify as "more Canadian" than an immigrant who is a PoC?) But I think this also ties into the fact that white people often don't consider Caucasian to be a race or an ethnicity - Caucasian is just the default, and all those other people have "ethnicity". (Hence why the average Marie Callendar's or Sizzler will never be referred to as an "ethnic restaurant", because white people aren't "ethnic".)

    @jadorto: Referring to others as PoC and going out of your way (i.e. giving them special treatment as a method of appearing anti-racist) makes you racist. You ever hear of just being friends with people of a different skin color from your own?

    Working toward treating PoC equally and making sure that they aren't automatically disadvantaged in society as a result of their race is no more "giving them special treatment" than giving gay people the right to marry is giving them "special treatment". We're working toward a society where everyone truly is treated equally, not a society where one group of people dominates over another. Also, although I don't want to put words into your mouth, it reads as if what you're suggesting is the whole "colorblind" phenomenon - that we shouldn't even notice race, we should just treat everyone exactly the same. The problem with doing that in the current day and age is that it ignores the effects of the societal construct of race; as others have put it, "Only people who aren't affected by race can afford to be 'colorblind'." I've got a more extensive post about it here if you're interested.

    @Z: Thank you again Robin. This is the most productive online discussion I've seen on racism. I really credit the earlier posters adding comments without turning abusive.

    Thank you for the compliments, and I'd definitely agree with the entirety of your comment. Also credit must go to the blog owner Macon, who does a good job moderating out the worst of the stupid and keeping it from becoming a wankfest. :)

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  85. @Isabel: "But that's how YOU defined it. Something you still refuse to acknowledge. I think you have some issues to work through. I could suggest some reading material if you'd like. Again, you are not even reading my comments. Instead you point me to an outside source when I challenge your definition of white privilege."

    I'm puzzled as to what you're talking about, and I'm trying to figure out if maybe you thought that my list (the corporations, the media, the government, etc) was supposed to cover the entirety of what I believe white privilege _is_. If that's the case, let me clarify: it isn't the list of _what_ white privilege _is_, it's the list of _why_ we have the white privileges that we all have if we're pale-skinned (regardless of actual ethnicity). I didn't feel the need to make a secondary list of what white privilege _is_, because Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack already does an excellent job of documenting many day-to-day white privileges. So I contented myself with making some analogies to make it easier to understand, rather than adding even more to the guide by repeating a list of privileges that's already been written well elsewhere.

    Is that what's been going on? Has this been a basic misunderstanding as to what you thought I was saying versus what I'd assumed I'd written clearly?

    "Do you have breakdowns by white ethnicity? You seem to have no understanding of this aspect of history."

    This post isn't about intra-white discrimination. It's about white-on-PoC discrimination (and the comments have gotten a bit into current intra-PoC discrimination in the context of clarifying who can be racist where). Discussing, say, nineteenth-century discrimination against the Irish in America's history is meaningless in this discussion because for all intents and purposes those groups have achieved "whiteness" at this point in time. They have become part of the dominant group. While looking at the dynamics about how some groups experience racism and then become "white" at some point later would most likely make for a fascinating post (why don't you write it?), it isn't germane to this particular discussion.

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  86. @Vick: "Institutional racism is the real boogeyman left to overcome, so why not simply call it that? The two terms 'individual racism' and 'institutional racism' capture the distinction you're after - so why not go with that? ;-)"

    I've no idea. :) All I can say is that this is the widely used definition in anti-racist circles, so it's the definition that people who are exploring the racism-awareness movement are going to encounter, therefore it's the one they need to understand.

    (For the sake of this next paragraph, we'll use the definitions as you described them.) I find the idea that 'institutional racism' is the 'real boogeyman left to overcome' quite interesting. It suggests that the two exist somewhat independently of each other, and that we've by-and-large managed to overcome 'individual racism', neither of which I believe to be true. I believe that institutional racism and individual racism are a symbiotic system where one reinforces the other, and that even if we've managed to largely get rid of overt/obvious racism (for example, people no longer using the "n-word" with abandon), that doesn't mean that we've touched what goes on behind closed doors (I've read plenty of discussions about the way some white people discuss PoC when they [the white people] think they're with a sympathetic audience). And more importantly, it doesn't mean that we've touched all the subconscious stereotypes that we carry around with us and that continue to be propagated through the media and other white-dominated systems. I was reminded of this a few weeks back with myself and wrote a post about it here. Those racist thoughts and stereotypes are still something I carry around with me all the time, often without my conscious awareness. Saying that institutional racism is the boogeyman left to tackle suggests that individual racism has pretty much been overcome; but to me, suggesting that individual racism has been overcome is like suggesting that someone has been cured of the herpes virus. They may not be having an active outbreak at this time, they may not ever have an active outbreak again, but the virus is still always sitting in their cells with the potential of reactivating.

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  87. Most of that article was fantastic! The crux of it, though, is something I have a hard time accepting, and that's the hijacked term of "racism" to only apply to White people, regardless of your position, class, compassion. You are inherently Racist if you are White, and have absolutely no racism if you are PoC? That makes absolutely no sense to me. That definition is one that is clung to, I know, but it helps ensure that divide among us.

    This definition might be true in terms of those limited arenas of Institution and Politics, but that's just not applicable to many intermingling in every day life. To use this definition seems to be just another prejudiced blanket statement that enforces the divide between White and PoC.

    Racism as Prejudice+Power is fair, but there are a LOT of White people who have no power. Privilege, yes. Whites can't help but be lumped into the hierarchy of privilege a lot of the time. But... Power, no.

    So by the very definition in this article of Racism, it can't be applied to all White people, and an absolute lack of Racism certainly can't be applied to all PoC, in my experience and opinion. Though I do get what the point of the article is, and I appreciate those insights into how people are using the word, "Racism."

    I think the definition of Racism as being "a stance of racial superiority as fueled by hatred" is the most accurate and valid definition. I know, I know, it's futile to suggest this in the face of the clearly-defined term offered in this article, so I'm just sharing; not trying to convince anyone.

    Prejudice is going to exist no matter how wonderful the world is. It's a default psychological means of navigating life built from limited experiences, and that can be risen above, but it will always be there.

    However, Racism is a specific stance of superiority and hatred, not just an innocent misunderstanding and/or fear of the unfamiliar. If I cross the street because a gang of thugs are heading toward me in my neighborhood, that's not Racism. Prejudice? Yes, but not Racism.

    And it seems the article didn't get the "Reverse Racism" phrase defined accurately, at least in the way it was intended.

    People think Reverse Racism is somehow about PoC being racist toward Whites, but it's not about that at all. It's when someone, anyone, PRESUMES he or she is dealing with a Racist based entirely on their difference in Race. For instance, some of the initial reactions of hostility toward my presence in my All-Black neighborhood was based on Reverse Racism; the presumption that because I am White, I am inherently Racist. Reverse Racism is a preemptive defense.

    Anyway, most of the article was great, but the whole situation is an unnecessarily complicated mess. To have something so simple be complicated by stances and definitions that permanently divide and corner each group doesn't seem to me to be a solution at all.

    I may be condemned to being a "Totally Clueless White Person" by definition of this article until I accept the distorted structures, definitions, and complications imposed on such a simple situation, but I do hope this kind of open discussion makes a positive difference. That's a huge step.

    Thanks for the article!!

    Troy

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  88. @CocteauBoy

    Dunno about the original poster, but that definition of racism struck me as intuitively reasonable when I first heard it, a quarter of a century ago. It struck me as perfectly reasonable that a Brit or Australian, say, telling jokes about each other isn't in the same category as a white Brit telling a similar joke about a South Asian or black person. It just isn't. Silly British jokes about the French or Germans might be rude or (often) unoriginal and unfunny, but it always seemed wrong to me to call such stuff 'racist'. It's racist when there's power behind it that makes it _hurt_ (and I don't buy what seems to be a very US definition, that 'race' is just about skin-tone, either - the Irish have been victims of racism in the UK, and Europe's history is full of intra-white racism).

    I wouldn't say 'whites are inherently racist', I'd say all white people have the capacity to be racist (and that an awful lot of us indulge that capacity). As I said before though, I think it can vary locally, its not always 'white' people who have the power to be racist. But most of the time, in the West, for the last few centuries, it is.

    I've had quite a few discussions about it over the years (e.g. with a south asian friend over whether his parents' embarrassing views of black people could be called 'racist', given that south asians in the UK then had no higher status than black people), so I know its not universally accepted, and yeah it has flaws (particularly, that power relations can be locally inverted), but I think it more or less makes sense. Fact is, usually, if I read a black person saying something bad about white people, if I think its unjustified, I can just shrug it off. If you can just shrug it off, is it really 'racism'?

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  89. Robin - I don't think you have a racist bone in your body, Robin. I think you care deeply about the issue and in your heart of hearts I suspect that you have tremendous goodwill towards all of your fellow humans. I think you loathe racism and that the idea of saying or doing something racist is repugnant to you.

    So, from where I'm sitting, I think you're "cured" of the "virus" of racism. Or to put it another way, I think you, Robin, have overcome "individual racism."

    Now, perhaps you've got some "subconsious stereotypes that we carry around with us," or some "racist thoughts... carried around... without conscious awareness." Speaking for myself, I would not fault you for stuff like that. I believe that in your heart of hearts you are not a racist, and that you are in fact an anti-racist. These thoughts and stereotypes are the effects of "institutional racism" - they get expressed against our will, in a way, as mistakes that we try to recognize and not make again. You might struggle with the pervasive effects of institutional racism, trying to stay on your guard and self-aware, but I believe that you have already won the struggle against individual racism.

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  90. thanks for this. i am frequently on the receiving end of misogynist concern-trolls and newbie-feminists demanding that i use my time to educate them on feminism. i hardly ever comply, for the same reasons you give. theres a feminism 101 blog out there that i link to on my blog, and i will link to this for a race studies 101. thanks.

    http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/

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  91. I just saw Sampson and Delilha last night (Australian movie) and I realised that I just have no idea. The more I study and read and talk, the more I realise as a white person of 'privilege' I just cannot know it. I can learn about it, but I will never experience what it is like. Being a female gives me a little bit of insight, but I can never imagine what it would be like to have my whole culture taken away from me. Jane Elliot's BLue Eye, Brown Eye experiment/documentary is really good for understanding the whole power and privlege thing.

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  92. Robin,

    Thanks for this post.

    I am white, and while I have done a lot of reading and attempted to educate my fellow white people on issues of racism, there was one time that a PoC called me out that I could not figure out the appropriate response for, and did not want to demand that they educate me, so I apologized and stepped out of the conversation. Perhaps you can help?

    In describing the definition of racism as prejudice plus power, this person accused me of infantilizing people of color by refusing to allow them to have power. I explained that I did not think that PoC were incapable of wielding power, but that in certain areas, such as North America, white people were in control and thus racism by the sociological definition was practiced by whites, not by blacks, Latinos, Asians, or other groups. I went on to explain that in a place where blacks were the group with institutional power, it would be possible for blacks to be practicing institutional racism. They continued to tell me that they found this definition offensive and that it was insulting to PoC.

    Is there a correct way to address situations like this? I learned this definition because I understood that this was the proper definition to use when trying to address race issues, and because I want to be a good ally to PoC. I certainly never meant to insult anyone. The problem is that I don't really know how to engage in a conversation if I have people telling me that my language is perpetuating racist views when I try to use the language that I see anti-racists recommend.

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  93. So this article is NOT saracastic?

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  94. No DMW, it's not "saracastic," and it's not satiric or ironic either. It's sincere.

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  95. It sounds to me like a lot of what is being nitpicked and debated over has more to do with nationalism than racism. For example, when referring to the prejudices between Japanese and Korean people, that is a prejudice between people of different NATIONS, not different RACES.

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  96. im a white guy...I just want to be around my own kind...I dont hate anyone but thats how I fell most comfortable...I don't begruge that of anyone...Its a natural desire. when blacks or any other group feel this way...Im cool with it...thank you.

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  97. You know, Pansy, the American/Western outlook on race is in some cases different than the perception of race in other countries. Using the definition of racism on this blog, racist acts can occur between say, tribes within a country or even perceived tribes (a prominent and obvious example is the Rwandan genocide - though there was no real difference between Hutu and Tutsi, the perceived divide caused a million murders, based on pure racism; another example is the genocide in Bosnia - although it was against Muslims, who were designated by religion, it has all the qualities of a racist act)

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  98. @Pansy

    Are you suggesting that there is some 'objective' definition of 'race', that is necessarily different from nationality? I think you are making a distinction without a difference. The attitude of British people towards Irish people, for example (especially if you go back centuries) could reasonably have been described as 'racism', even if these days they might be considered the same 'race'. Same goes for relations between many other nationalities within Europe (and, probably, other continents also).

    You seem to be talking as if there is some objective, clear-cut, definition of race that is agreed by every society on Earth.

    On top of that you seem to be confusing nationality and ethnicity, as, for example, some ethnic Koreans have Japanese nationality.

    As the definition of 'race' is pretty much socially and politically determined anyway (and varies from one culture to another), I don't think cases such as Korean/Japanese are as clear cut as you think.

    This is just a long-winded way of saying what Jillian said, though, ironically, I am not entirely sure the Hutu/Tutsi distinction is necessarily the clearest example.

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  99. You're right that the Hutu/Tutsi distinction isn't necessarily accurate - I was trying to think of this one great example from Japan actually, but couldn't remember the name of the minority (which is actually not even ethnically different, and no, it's not the Ainu)

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  100. While I understand the vital need for a term that describes "prejudice plus power," I disagree with using the word "racism" for that purpose.

    First, using "racism" in this context suggests that "prejudice plus power" is necessarily associated with race. Although institutional prejudice is very often racial, it can be argued that social institutions also discriminate against females, homosexuals, and other groups. Consequently, how would one describe "prejudice plus power" practiced on a basis that is not racial or ethnic?

    Second, if we are to use the "accepted sociological definition" of racism, we must be cognizant of the potential for confusing those who have neither the desire nor the insight to understand that the colloquial definition of racism is improper. Indeed, given that the definition discussed here is virtually unknown to the general populace, we may drive away those most in need of these lessons with statements such as "only white people can be racist." In essence, our efforts may be enhanced by sticking to the commonly accepted definition of "racism" rather than the academic one.

    Third, using racism to describe "prejudice plus power" is inconsistent with how we use similar words describing discrimination, including ageism, ableism, sexism, and heterosexism. Logically, "racism" should be used to describe prejudice based on race and ethnicity, just as "sexism" is used to describe prejudice based on sex and gender. Then, to ensure that the important concept of "prejudice plus power" is (1) not lost and (2) more easily applicable to types of discrimination other than race, we should use the terms "institutional" or "societal" or "structural" to precede whichever form of prejudice we wish to describe.

    All that said, however, I very much appreciate this article. The section concerning White Privilege is especially important given widespread ignorance of the concept.

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  101. I have problems with the "prejudice + institutional power" definition, because there are different types and degrees of power. Power can be situational.

    I'm mixed white Australian and Indonesian. I have experienced racism in a number of different forms from white Australians. I have also experienced racism from Indonesian students who told me I wasnt Asian enough to participate in their sporting tournament (despite letting non-Indonesian Asians in). I have experienced racism from the Indian parents who refused to let me date their daughter because I wasn't Indian.

    To me, all those things were racism, and made me feel powerless, wounded and disrespected.

    Another example: a high profile case in Australia several years ago involved a gang of Lebanese youths raping several white women, based on their view that Aussie girls are sluts and thus deserved it. Is that not racism? Rape is clearly about power, after all.

    But by your definitions, all these things are not racism.

    I'm confused.

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  102. Eurasian Sensation: power can indeed be situational -- institutional power, however, is not. Nothing justifies prejudice and I don't want to belittle your or any one else's experiences -- but the fact that they were hurtful and wrong doesn't necessarily make them racist.

    Indonesian students are not the institutional power in Australian educational institutions. It is the fact that Lebanese people don't hold institutional power that gave them the anger (akin to that described in Soul on Ice) to commit race-based rape. There acts are a manifestation of their powerlessness institutionally even if they have power in a sexually -- note, their acts were still inexcusable.

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  103. @ Musky Lounge:

    I get what you are trying to say, but I still have a problem with it.

    My main issue is that while the "prejudice + institutional power = racism" equation may be a sociological definition, it is a world away from the way the vast majority of people define and understand racism.

    Thus if we stick only to this narrow definition, it creates a barrier to discourse of racism with the general public. For the struggle against racism cannot be fought solely in academia or brainy blogs such as this one. We need to condemn racism in the public sphere. But when you tell the average person that "In America, only white Americans can be racist", they will call bullshit on you, and won't listen to anything else you have to say. This discredits the whole anti-racist movement. White anti-racists come across as stupid to the average person when decrying subtle racism by whites, yet being unwilling to outrightly condemn obvious racism when committed by nonwhites.

    Obviously, white prejudice in the West is more powerful, pervasive and destructive than the prejudices held by people of colour. But I would say it is a matter of degree, rather than a separate definition.

    It may just be semantics, but I fear that much of the discussion on this thread is too divorced from everyday reality to be practical.

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  104. I read through this with great interest and very familiar with the back and forth head butting that goes on with the understanding of privelege and racism.

    I liked the hurdle example, however in todays world expecially in particular areas, you will find PoC getting a leg up over a hurdle or two. There has been so much effort to make sure PoC are treated better regardless.

    I agree with isabel and T... Even if you profess to be white Robin, doens't make me listen to you any closer. And to assume that I do I think is wrong. I listen to people that I think are reasonable no matter what color.

    I think the word priveleged is the wrong word. I have said that in debat before. Because if I moved to Japan, I would not be taking my priveledge I was so called born with, with me... would I.

    I understand the concept but don't agree with all that you are saying or how the words are being used.

    I will say we all have different challenges we face. We all live in different areas of the world... so to be so cut and dryed about this system is a bit far fetched. IMHO.

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  105. Frankly I'm annoyed by lists or rather lectures like this. I'm a minority and an anti-racist. If someone who's white wants to support our cause, we should welcome them, not get high & mighty, and annoyed they "make demands on our time". How supercillious. Seriously, some of us need to get over ourselves. There are two kinds of anti's that hurt the cause: a) the "chip on the shoulder type": this person is so incensed by a life of wrongful treatment; while not their fault, their behavior is. They simply are the wrong people to build bridges with the majority; their reaction to someone who's white who wants to join the anti cause is 'its about time whiteboy. now since you're ignorant, you need to read these 10 books before you can EVEN talk to me. you're in my world now!!', and b) the "professional" - this happens in feminism too but this person has spent too much time in the classroom, reading pedantic studies and too little time in the real world. they obsess over semantics rather than substance. they can hardly reach and relate to other people.

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  106. White people would hold "Institutional power" if the Whites in power (Obama?) were REPRESENTING White people, if they were White activists; and this is clearly not the case; They do not represent White people. Institutional power is held by the "Citizen" (unlike the Illegal or the Foreigner), and they can be of any color. Bottom line, the premise of the whole White Privilege reasoning, "Whites hold the institutional power", is bogus.

    White people are supposed to be privilegied because they are not pulled randomly by cops and not systematically followed by security, and have systematically pleasant neighbours? These are not privileges, this is normality. Besides, are security/cops all White? Another bogus premise. What does "getting rid of White Privilege" mean? Forcing White people to be randomly pulled by cops and systematically followed by security, and forcing them to have unpleasant neighbours?
    Sounds like a pamphlet on reinforcement of an overpoliced paranoid state and of massive proletarization of the middle class to me, as well as a dangerous "Minority manifesto". See History.

    The problem of you all, is that you don't see Tim Wise, Jane Elliott etc... for who they are: dangerous demagogues with (not so) obscure agendas. They are fascinating, fatherly, almost guru-like figures to you all.

    "White people are privilegied because they are the normality", the sentence itself is comical in a paradoxal way. I didn't know normality was a privilege? You are either normal or privilegied.

    Now, you can argue that there is a Black Burden and I would understand any attempt to overcome it. But this is something else.

    The reasoning you are suscribing came from post-war social engineers who adapted the marxist concept of "Class struggle", and replaced it by "Race struggle"; In its rhetoric, the word "White (the heterosexual and the male)" replaced the "Bourgeoisie" class, and the word "Black" (or Minority) replaced the "Proletariat" class.

    Those racial agitators vulgarize history by claiming the tiny elite to be roughly simplified and symbolized by "White people", no matter how historically oppressed many white people were, while the oppressed lower class invariably and symbolically becomes "Black people", turning the original "Class struggle" into a "Race struggle"; and into "Sex stuggle" as well, see Feminism.

    "The Proletariat (the Minority/Women) should unite and overcome the Bourgeoisie (White Heterosexual Male)". This is where this ideology comes from.

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  107. I'm wondering if anyone will address Pistolina's question. I have a white friend who was recently in this same situation (I have lots of white friends ;) ). I've told him that not all arguments can be settled, but he seems to have taken his inability to be understood personally. I only found this place tonight, but I will pass the URL along to him in the hope that he can be helped by it. Maybe another white can tell him in a way he will understand. Thank you for your help in this matter.

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  108. Pistolina's question...do you mean, about white people feeling like we are the victims of racism when there are POC in (gasp) positions of power?

    The quick answer to this is:
    Due to the history and continuing occurances of white imperialism/colonialism, both military and cultural, white people are still the oppressing rather than the oppressed group. By cultural imperialism, I mean things like white beauty standards being forced upon/adopted by other countries--there was an article in...maybe the Washington Post? recently about a growing preference for white models in China. That's not b/c white people are inherently prettier. It's because we have built ourselves up to be prettier.

    I hope your friend can get to a point where he won't need "another white" to explain racism to him, and can accept the word of POC. ;)

    I also recommend Karen Brodkin's book How the Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America for a look at how white actions in the past shaped ongoing systemic racism today.

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  109. You missed the point of the post, I believe. I should have quoted the portion I was referring to.

    Pistolina said, "In describing the definition of racism as prejudice plus power, this person accused me of infantilizing people of color by refusing to allow them to have power... The problem is that I don't really know how to engage in a conversation if I have people telling me that my language is perpetuating racist views when I try to use the language that I see anti-racists recommend."

    My friend Abram was in this situation with an Indian I am only obliquely familiar with. As the guy's a self-styled "Rez Dawg" I knew Abram wasn't going to get very far and told him so. I know he's sincere, but he is zealous enough at times to give off a "White Messiah" vibe. At least he's finally given up calling me "Native American," though I can still see that he's uncomfortable saying Indian. :)

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  110. I just thought I'd share my thought processes as a newbie to all of this. For documentation, and for the empathy of future readers, so they know it's ok to think unpleasant thoughts if it cleanses you of unpleasant realities.

    I'm American, white, Male, 30, in good shape, a below poverty child that raised up to lower middle class.

    ......
    ......

    1. It's true.

    2. Thinking about white privilege makes me angry.

    3. Why?

    4. Because as a rational human being I am repulsed by injustice and it's an injustice that I can't "fix" and will never really be able to remove myself from.

    5. Who is to blame? Nobody ever took me aside and explained my privilege to me? How did these ideas get into my head?

    6. Why am I so angry?

    7. Because I feel deceived. By my culture... By my society... By my parents? No... They were as ignorant as I am.

    8. Because I feel cornered. yes. Because I can't hide

    9. Behind my privilege! dingdingding!

    10. Because I feel Villainized....? Nobody said that... Why do I feel that way? I suppose it's natural... let it go...

    11. Because I've always felt angry at my history teachers and black people as a whole about being made to feel guilty for a slave trade that happened before I was born.

    12. No one can make me feel guilty... would I have rather stayed ignorant? No...

    13. I truly am guilty of being self involved enough to feel that my guilt and anger over this is somehow worse than the actual impact of the history itself... That is remarkably stupid and insensitive.

    14. That was kind of random. What does slavery have to do with white privilege today? Slavery is a byproduct of it NOT the other way around. To think that the idea of white privilege is a byproduct of some victimization complex is to invalidate the position of millions of people. I'm not that kind of monster.
    This line of thinking is leading nowhere...

    15. If "they" are going to "take away" my "color blindness" and truly want to segregate things into us and them... Then why should I fight white privilege at all? Isn't it more productive to the future of my people to keep the ball in my court?

    16. Holy shit. I actually thought that...? I need to shave my head or something that was fucking awful. That swastika would clash with my wardrobe.

    17. Wow... almost all white people I know see the privilege "argument" as some "tool" to be used by people of color to "get back at the white man" ... They invalidate it in their minds before they really even know what it is. They have the audacity to feel persecuted (despite their privilege) without really evaluating anything... There's that guilt at work again.

    18. I'm still confused as to where "Normal" fits into all of this... A lot of the talk I've seen seems to be about knocking white people down some intangible (to me, because I'm white) ladder.
    If I'm privileged... And privileged is the majority, thus the norm... Shouldn't we work toward making everyone privileged rather than making white people unprivileged? It's not like there's a limited supply of privilege, there should be a system that makes room for everyone above the ladder, rather than stuffing everyone somewhere on the middle rung.

    19. I still want to fix it.

    20. I'm stressed and afraid, and I don't really know why.

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  111. Hi Robin and All,
    I've heard the definition "racism = prejudice + power" a lot and in general I understand where it's coming from - and of course, I understand that it's the accepted definition in anti-racist circles.

    Here's my question about it. The word "prejudice" for me implies the content of an idea about people of a given race. (For example, all black people are lazy.) In my own life, I think that if I were to get rid of the content of all my prejudices, the core of what's behind the prejudice would still be there. In other words, prejudice strikes me as a symptom of a deeper cause. It strikes me that prejudice is a justification for something - as in, I want all this privilege but I still want to think of myself as a good person so I'm going to come up with a way to think less of those with less privilege. (Of course, although I'm using the example of an individual to try to get my point across, this mechanism functions on a much larger scale as whole communities do this justifying.)

    I think the will to maintain privilege comes before the prejudice and is its cause. I think if you took away the content of the prejudice - even all of it - we would still be faced with the will to maintain privilege.

    (Or in other words, racism = power/privilege + the will to maintain them which often presents as prejudice.)

    Not that I'm really trying to change the definition. Which would be an impossible task anyway. :-)

    But I'm wondering what others think about prejudice as a symptom of a deeper cause.

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  112. Thanks so much for this list, its so clearly written and I found it really helpful. I will link it to my friends.

    Um, really not keen on the rape joke in it though. A trigger warning would have been nice :(

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  113. @Pwibble: I just reread the entire thing searching for a rape joke and couldn't find it. Can you please let me know where it is?

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  114. Hey Robin - first off thanks for taking the time to do so, I really appreciate it. I found the section "And then the white person gets butt-hurt ... Put some cream on your butt and get over the hurt" upset me because the whole butt-hurt meme is based on getting anally raped. Your point is absolutely true of course!!, it is wrong, self-centered, ridiculous and of course racist to be more upset about being accused of racism than *the fact that you just hurt someone by doing something racist* but uh the metaphor is kind of triggering. Thanks Robin,
    From Pwibble.

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  115. @Pwibble: The original FAQ (on my blog) is in continual revisions, so although it would be difficult to find something else that would get the point across as succintly and well as "butthurt", if it was rape-related then I'd revise it anyway. But I'd never heard that the origins of the term had a connection to being anally raped, so I did some research. All I've been able to find that seems even remotely academic, like the Rice Neologisms Database, suggest that it's referring to hurting one's butt, which is a temporary pain that will go away and therefore there's no use sniveling over it. Three of the twenty-four Urban Dictionary definitions (which is where the first known reference to "butthurt" was made online) make reference to anal sex or anal activities, but none imply rape (other than generalized homophobia like "if I had gay friends I'd worry about butthurtness", but it's UD, what do you expect).

    That being the case, I'm having a difficult time drawing a connection between the origin of the butt-hurt meme being a rape analogy when there seems to be a good deal of information online suggesting it's to do with being kicked in the ass or falling on one's ass. So I've decided to leave it for now. I do apologize for the triggery-ness.

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  116. Hi Robin,

    Perhaps my interpretation is less common than I thought it was, I have heard it from a few other people, but not that many. Thank-you for looking into it all the same, I appreciate you taking the time to do so. (Also, thank you for the apology :)).

    From Pwibble.

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  117. I love how this list is telling what people wanting to learn about racism what not to do...and then Isabel and T do exactly what they were warned against in comments.

    Is there a "SWPD-Accuse anti-racist people, especially whites of being Liberal without any further evidence other than them being anti-racist" yet?

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