Sunday, October 4, 2009

question non-white knowledge and authority

This is a guest post by RVCBard, a Black woman and HBCU graduate too close to thirtysomething for her own comfort. Playwright, web marketing strategist, and sometime film and theater reviewer, RVCBard identifies as a lot of things: queer, Black, Jewish, woman, and more. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Observation: White folks seem to be comfortable with non-Whites as long as we indulge the fantasy of subservience, but when we exert any form of authority or influence, they become uncomfortable, even hostile. That is, if they even acknowledge us as being any kind of legitimate authority at all. It doesn't matter how great (President of the United States) or trivial (intellectual discussion) the situation, White people seem to default to undermining, questioning, scrutinizing, or outright denying the expertise, ability, and power of people of color.

Experience: My roommates (mostly White men) had gotten into a small debate about using pesticides in our living area. Several of them were going on and on and on about how it's perfectly safe, won't hurt anything, blahblahblah, while my friend (an East Indian woman) was saying that the chemicals were harmful when used in close proximity to humans and animals. BTW, she has 2 Master's degrees -- one in chemistry and another in environmental science (I believe). The people arguing with her? Several never so much as took a college course, and quite a few may have graduated with a Bachelor's in something decidedly not focused in chemistry, biology, or environmental science. Nevertheless, instead of deferring to her expertise, they still ran their mouths about what they "knew" about these things.

Observation: White people seem to have this need to be first, most, and best of everything. They're all about individuality when it's about them being special, but when people of color try to express their own extraordinary traits, there's a tendency to respond in a way that places the White person on par with or above a person of color.

Experience: Too many to count. But a recent example -- dog training. I've been breeding, raising, and training large breed dogs (particularly rottweilers) from birth to death for my entire life. For a brief time, I was even a pet trainer at PETsMART. So I have the theoretical and practical knowledge to assist people with most dog rearing and dog training needs, especially with large dogs (65+ lbs).

My roommates became the de facto owners of a lab mix. But they were having problems with teaching him good behavior. They tried yelling at him, rubbing his nose in his mess, spanking him, and so on. I made it clear that I knew what to do and I'd gladly offer my tips and advice to make things easier. I knew gentle training techniques that work for big dogs. I knew what they should eat. I knew how to make a potty schedule. And what I didn't know, I could ask of even more experienced people.

Did they take me up on it? No. Somehow, none of my knowledge or experience means anything to these guys who think rearing a puppy is all about establishing dominance as the alpha male. Cue me rolling my eyes really hard. But I did get endless amusement out of my friend when he nearly pulled his hair out trying to teach his puppy to roll over while I very quickly and very calmly achieved what he was attempting. Again, did he ask me how I did it? Did he come to me about teaching the puppy to do other things? NOOOOOO! Apparently, it's not my combination of knowledge, experience, and patience. It's just some sort of fluke!


  1. this reminds me of being mistaken for staff/the help. b/c a poc (a most definitely a woc) could not be anything else

  2. I know exacly what you mean. That's part of the reason it can be hard for people of color to move up the ladder. In my observation, even the most liberal whites, even the progressive, college-educated ones who are or have been in interracial relationships, still have a "need" to be in control, to lead "their flock" of colored friends.

    I think that what's happening is they just can't shake the "this isn't the way it's supposed to be" idea. It's a kind of arrogance that causes one to close their ears and eyes to important ideas due to the identity of the people who come up with them.

    Examples: a doctor who won't listen to his patients, a sergeant who won't learn from the good ideas of his privates, an mother who won't listen to the good ideas her daughter has.

    The underlying cause is excessive pride. Their privilege and the landscape of power dynamics in America cause them to misjudge their own efficacy. Simply put, it's "progressive" and "open-minded" to "choose" to spend time and collaborate with people of color but its "personally insulting" to "need" to do so.

  3. Devil's Walking StickOctober 5, 2009 at 4:34 AM

    Is this really a racial thing? Maybe they're just incurable know-it-alls, and wouldn't take advice regardless of who gives it. Or have you seen a pattern that they are more accepting of input from other white people?

  4. Not that I doubt that this is something white people do to POC's, but these two anecdotes also sound a lot like stuff men do to women. I would be more convinced of racial as opposed to gender bias if both parties were male.

  5. Hemlock- I have to agree. I've experienced this with men of color just as I do with white people, and equally so. Combine that with age, and you get a recipe for disaster and many years of getting passed over for promotion.

  6. I agree with Hemlock's comments. I'm certain that it happens, but I've seen plenty of POC do that to one another. I've seen it so often in many races that I never linked it to race. I've linked it to men. And I'm not bashing men, I love men ...a lot. It has just been my observation (at the 7 schools I attended, in the twenty-odd neighborhoods I've lived in, and out and about in the cities I've lived in). I've mostly noticed it as man-over-woman, but I've seen man-over-man before... and just about never woman-over-woman unless both women are highly educated or very affluent, or working in very close quarters.

  7. I have a question for POC reading this post -- what do you think and feel when you take the time to point out and explain an example of racism, and then white people say something like the following?

    "Hmm, yeah, maybe that happens, but I HAVE seen something like that happen to me, in other ways. It may be true that white people do that to black people and other races, but ya know, men DO do it to women, young people do it to old people, and so on."

  8. I feel they're deflecting. I feel that by them providing those types of unrelated examples, they're trying to somehow dilute the situation... sort of like a "it happens to everyone, so suck it up."

    As for what I think, usually it's "I'd like to jump off a roof right now..."

  9. I suspect this not-listening happens to varied degrees as a result of a lot of factors(race, age, class, gender, disability, etc) being present in interactions. Also, a lot of people try to link back ideas others present with concepts they have personally encountered. On one hand, I might be better able to approximate an understanding of the PoC experience here by comparing or equating it to my young white woman experience.

    On the other, this post is *not* *about* *me* or my understanding, it's about the OP's opportunity to vent. Further, re-centering the discussion onto age or gender or some other issue is disrespectful of the OP's presumed desire to speak about race.

  10. (responding to macon's Q) Not so great. But the degree of 'not so great' depends on the situation and who's saying it. It's worse when it's someone you trust. Insulted. Angry. Hurt. Feel disregarded. Made to feel stupid, over sensitive. Discouraged from saying anything in the future. And perhaps encouraged to move to another country if it happens enough times to get away from the stress of having to keep silent.

    It's a very good way of telling ppl to keep their mouths shut. And if we're not allowed to express our hurt about racism, what it does is it causes anger and distrust to get buried deep within and turn into long-term resentment. This then turns into a formula for a permanently divided society.

  11. @Victoria , I've seen this happen several times with women on women and have personally been subjected to such behavior by white females on many, many occasions. So at times, this makes me a little less willing to clasp hands in sisterhood with some of them when they bring up these things in relation to men b/c I see them do the exact same thing with women of color. I even had a girl in a class with me in college who constantly complained about men taking away women's voices, etc, etc, but the first chance she had, she purposely did something to take my voice away.

  12. Oh, and Macon, to answer your question, I've seen that happen so many times that I'd be sitting pretty if I had a penny for everytime I've seen that. Instead I just roll my eyes almost out of my head (sometimes I'll close them first b/c I don't want to fit the stereotype of the black woman rolling her eyes at something).

  13. Why thank you for asking Macon? I feel like it is being very dismissive. This is a phenomenona that happens intermittently across the human spectrum. The focus here is on a greater tendency of white-on-POC.

    Also, a note to ladies (white and non-white). I would appreciate your backing off the male bashing sisterhood thing. I'm certain none of you would like it, for example, if the discussion were about people that tend to try to shirk accountability by making excuses and I were to point out that women have a greater tendency to do that.

    So, I would like to suggest we stay on point and, if using outside examples that we feel relate to the topic, we do so without totally losing focus and, to coin a phrase, "getting our panties in a wad".

  14. Macon,

    I normally count the number of posts on a topic like this before that statement actually appears.

    It serves as a very subtle tactic by which the poster, whether they consciously realize it or not, lights the torch of the Oppression Olympics - thus the privilege being questioned ducks out of the room when the games begin.

    Even if the oppressions are similar, they also happen to be off-topic to post at hand - and worse, the oppression is not mentioned to further the discussion, but often to shut it down. This is because the "second" oppression - in this case, Men Questioning Women's knowledge and authority - is used to reduce or eliminate the acknowledgment that the events posted beforehand (white people questioning PoC knowledge and authority) actually exist.

    It's a thread derail tactic, and the more it's called out for what it is, the better.

  15. I have a question for POC reading this post -- what do you think and feel when you take the time to point out and explain an example of racism, and then white people say something like the following?

    While I do agree that this piece leaves out the roles of gender, I don't agree that that is what is needed to make this piece more "convincing", and therein lies the difference I suppose.

    It's mostly meant to cast the situation as common, as a shared struggle. But as a person of color this is "the response" of today's America. It's marginalizing- almost to say, "we'll get to the racial issues later." But as a POC, I'm taught to believe this is people's way of relating to my situation; and hope that people will want to do something about it when the situation comes around. In conversations of race, POC are taught to make white people as comfortable as possible.

  16. I can relate to this. I remember when I was in a Master's program in Creative Writing at a prestigious school in NYC, and I wrote a piece about a Puerto Rican family for a workshop class. As you know, some words for PR Spanish and Spain Spanish might have different meanings. I have family from Madrid, Spain so I know this and also have some Puerto Rican friends. This white woman in my clas, who lived for 2 months in PR and a week in Spain thought she was the expert in the language. I felt she was trying to embarrass me, by making it seem that I wasn't "as world cultured." I politely informed her that PR Spanish and Spain Spanish have different meanings for some words, just like American English isn't the same as British English. That shut her up.

    Also, another black woman in my class said that she felt the same when she was writing from a different perspective other than black. However, we both noticed that when this white guy wrote from a non-white perspective, they never questioned him like they did us, which made us wonder. I always feel that POC writers are expected to write from the POC perspective, but when white writers write from the non-white perspective, it's easily accepted without question.

  17. Macon D

    Isn't it funny how some posters actually implemented the topic to others?

  18. I think this is a good post. I am sure this is something that white people do to POC. I am also sure that this is something men do to women. I remember situations I have been in where I have been around white men and men of color and offered a piece of information that I 100% knew to be true, and then was ignored even though I continued to assert my point (and not just point, but factual statements - like "a shot is 1 ounce"...)

    Just my 2 cents. But great post.

  19. as a queer poc, i've seen this happen many times, to myself and others. Mostly I've seen this kind of arrogance and stubbornness because it was males looking down upon me (female born, and noticeably female but not female identified) or some other woman. To deny that there was sexism in this case, is to shut out a huge fact that also oppresses people. I'm not much of a feminist, but I've had many men not take my advice (even though its damn good advice) into account. These have been white men and men of color, both. It's not male bashing, its just facts.

    good post though

  20. It strikes me that by saying, "Actually, white people don't do this to POC; men do it to women," what is going on is the perfect demonstration of white people questioning non-white knowledge and authority.

  21. I'm not using examples outside of topic, I'm looking specifically at the examples presented by the author and noting that both examples involve white men interacting with women of color. I am asking whether it would be more persuasive to the author's main point about racism if the examples involved white men disregarding the opinion of men of color, as opposed to women of color. Or if the white men continually accept the opinions of white women, but reject those of women of color. Because otherwise, the motivation of the actors (the white men) can be questioned as to whether they are reacting to the author's race or gender. Thus the qualifier, I am not suggesting that this never happens, but just that in these two specific instances cited by the author, its is not immediately apparent to me that racial animus is the primary factor.

  22. This happens in the workplace all the time. I was part of a leadership development program in my job right out of college. We were working on a project and I would bring up ideas, they would get shot down. The very next day a white guy would come up with the same exact idea, and everyone embraced it. One person actually stood up for me, and asked why they thought it was all the sudden a good idea when someone else would recommend something. They dismissed it as the situation had changed. That was my 1st hard lesson in corporate America, that it doesn't matter my experience or my ideas, it would fall on deaf ears, because as a black woman, my ideas weren't as valid as a white males.

    Often at work, people would mistake me for the secretary. For some reason even though I didn't sit where the secretaries sat, I must be one, being black and all.

  23. And Willow, that's what we who teach English call irony.

  24. This perceived superior white knowledge is why Tim Wise is a leading figure in the anti-racist movement. He as a white male brings legitimacy to the argument.

  25. I love how when someone explains their experiences with racism, it is quickly dismiss and minimize their experience as something else. Add that to the list of "stuff white people do".

  26. Perhaps, so long as they are not mentioning white women, they are merely pointing out that black WOMEN get it worse, i.e., pointing out an intersectionality that IS on point? Or am I getting my "panties in a wad here"?

  27. "just that in these two specific instances cited by the author, its is not immediately apparent to me that racial animus is the primary factor."

    It may not be apparent to YOU, but it is clearly apparent to the OP. You weren't there; she was. The issue is why you think you can make an independent (and better?) assessment of the situation than she can.

    What would happen if you took her at her word? I dare you to try it...

  28. Quite a few posters here are illustrating the main point of my post.

    As if I, as a queer woman of color, who's lived with this my whole life, cannot tell the difference between racism and sexism and need someone else to set me straight because I'm "confused." As if by some fluke, they're some sort of so-called neutral observer and not an active participant in the dynamic I'm talking about.

    I find it quite intriguing how people decide that it's my job to convince you that the dynamic I'm talking about is real and that White people are overwhelmingly the main culprits.

    I also find it interesting that my using an experience to illustrate my point is being critiqued as though I am drawing my point from these isolated incidents instead of picking my most recent examples from a lifetime of similar experiences.

    You all seem incapable of believing that I actually know what I'm talking about.

    It's hard to put into words how hurtful and irritating that is.

  29. @macon d,

    Thank you for pointing out that white folks have hijacked this conversation.

    This happens ALL THE TIME, as they try to interpret FOR YOU what THEY THINK happened, and they don't usually get called on it.

    White folks...we're not stupid. We know what we've experienced, and we KNOW what we're seeing. Please stop trying to interpret our lives as you see fit.

  30. Hemlock - the problem with what you're saying is that you, who weren't present for these interactions and don't know the people in question, are coming across like you're trying to educate the writer, who was and does. Is this a phenomenon one also sees across gender and a bunch of other traits that have an average power difference in our society? sure. but people who are on the lower end of those power differentials have experience recognizing that shit, and people who are on the lower end of multiple imbalances have experience in recognizing which one is in play at any given time (or when they are working together). Doesn't make a person a mind-reader, or mean they're 100% accurate, but it's still incredibly condescending to come in and say "maybe it's about sexism" as though she's not aware of sexism and it never occurred to her that some shitty treatment she gets is because she's female.

    The writer thinks these are good examples of people not listening because of her race. Her opinion ought to be worth something. (Unless, of course, you have a problem accepting the authority or knowledge of POC.)

  31. I love how when someone explains their experiences with racism, it is quickly dismiss and minimize their experience as something else.

    Not minimized per se. More like, turned into "something at which I, a white person, am an expert." Thus minimizing the original person. Which is even worse.

    @RVCBard: You were ridiculously, wretchedly clear in the second part of your post when you said: "Experiences: too many to count." Perhaps there is a second level operating here, wherein your use of *your* personal experiences, not just experiences in general, as a basis for authority is being questioned? I mean, earlier commentors essentially asked you to provide examples from someone ELSE's life. I am soooo hesistant to bring up anything related to sexism now, and this is in reference to the thread and not the original post, but I can't help but see an anti-WOC slant in a comment like, "If this happened to a man, I would believe it!"

  32. RVCBard, seriously. It is fucking ridiculous (I say as a white person) that white people are using the comments section of this post to do EXACTLY WHAT THE POST IS ABOUT.

    It's nice of them to prove your point for you, but it would be nicer if they just believed you when you told them about YOUR life and experiences. But that would mean taking the word of a POC as authoritative and then...hey, look, we're back to the point of the post again.

  33. This is a genuine question, I'm not trying to stir. It seems to me that racism and sexism are so deeply intertwined that one cannot be discussed without the other. White women put black women below them in the social hierarchy, and black men put black women below them. I don't believe that you could explain the situation here without recourse to some feminist thought (but I am happy to be corrected). My initial thought when reading this post was that, as a female biologist, this happens all the bloody time. However, having read the comments, I accept the patronising slant of my thinking. So, if I am right about the sexism/racism link, how do you gain a full understanding of what has happened without derailing the conversation? Would you put a caveat at the beginning of the conversation to say we will only discuss the race aspect? Do you discuss separately? Do you discuss with the caveat that you are only dealing with sexism that is directed at black women?

  34. You do harm to your cause by referring to us as "White Folks" instead of "White People."

  35. This post made me want to share a little story that finally dawned on me very recently:

    I'm a returning student in a science major. There are two guys in the major. Both guys are pretty smart, and always participating in class. They seem quick with their answers, get decent grades and are passionate about the subject (geoscience). The department is small, and most people in the major know each other. Of those two smart guys, one is white, the other is Hispanic. One is perceived as the "know-it-all douche", the other is constantly praised and admired among the other students for being "so smart" and is often sought after for help in tough topics. Try to guess which is which? (I don't think I need to answer this for the readers, but I'll give it away: The Hispanic guy is seen as the know-it-all). Honestly, I think the Hispanic has a higher overall intellect, based on his references to historical topics and classical music.
    It seems whites, even the more liberal ones, feel threatened by, and opinionated towards, a knowledgeable POC.

  36. Sara,
    You asked:"how do you gain a full understanding of what has happened without derailing the conversation?"

    I think the point is that RVCBard has provided HER full understanding of what has happened. The salient issue FOR HER was race, not gender. There is nothing else to understand. It's about completely accepting RVCBard's perspective.

    You also wrote this: "My initial thought when reading this post was that, as a female biologist, this happens all the bloody time." This response seems to me to be a way that you try to relate to the experience of the author. As in, I can understand a little bit how that might feel because I've had x and y happen to me. I think that's fine, as long as you don't impose your experience on the author (i.e., because your experience was about gender, her experience must have been about gender too). Your experience is about gender, her experience is about race, but you're using your experience as a sort of bridge to empathy.

  37. >So, if I am right about the sexism/racism link, how do you gain a full understanding of what has happened without derailing the conversation?

    Good Q. I had an experience where I felt that my being a woman was more of the problem than being a poc in that particular instance (though being a poc didn't help). It was a rare case where I felt that gender was more of an issue than race. But I'm not sure why I felt that way.

    How about: Yeah, and being a woman probably means you're getting a double dose there. I experience similar things as a white woman, but if you're a poc, I can imagine how that would give them even more reason to treat you like that. Do you think being a woman on top of being a poc made it even worse?

  38. @ Macon's question,
    I wonder if the derailing is a common debate technique, I'm not sure. For those familiar with debates and winning arguments, is bringing the experience back to something that happened to you and then dismissing it, a common technique, almost like a straw man, attacking something that was wasn't said and thus attacking the original person's argument.

    While I'm not proficient in this area, Tim Wise stated in his book that he found structured high school and college debate teams dismissive and racist as it reduces real world problems to points won and lost by opposing sides. It takes issues like homelessness, racism, environmental issues and reduces them to philosophical arguments not something that actually happens to people every day.

  39. I wonder if the author of this post realizes their own faults while attacking those of "white people".

    This has to be one of the most racist and sexist posts on here. But, no, it can't be! It was written by a feminist way could they ever be racist or sexist!!!!

  40. Honestly I'm not sure this particular incident isn't more of a sexist thing. I am a white woman and a software engineer. I can't count the number of times when I've been around men (who did happen to be white... so there may be some correlation there) who were having computer problems and completely ignored anything I said. Needless to say these men were not software engineers or anything remotely related to that field. It is VERY frustrating that they refuse to listen to anything a woman has to say ... especially if it is about something they consider to be a male domain (like technology). Not sure if men of other races are similar or not, however, due to my limited experience.

  41. I have a question for POC reading this post -- what do you think and feel when you take the time to point out and explain an example of racism, and then white people say something like the following?

    I feel-KNOW- that they have just behaved in a way that this post was intended to criticize.

    They have also tried the race/gender swap, when these intersect.

  42. Confession - I only read through enough comments to get to Macon D's question. So if I'm repeating someone, I apologize.

    Oh, I did skim a few.

    To RVC - So true! I mean, is it just me, or are people having a bit of a tough time respecting this president? And I've encountered it. My trick is two part: 1 - I usually outperform white FOLKS, along with everybody else, so I don't worry on that front. If I'm not the smartest person in the room (Everybody has to visit the doctor's office.), I can usually manuever things to my advantage. 2 - I just ignore them. And I don't mean ignore them as in ignore the bully and s/he'll leave you alone. I mean the dehumanizing ignoring as in everytime they open their mouths, all I hear is static. And again, it usually doesn't come back to bite me cause often, I'm among the sharpest crayons in the box. And to other poc's, remember, you don't have to be the brightest star in the sky. Just keep silent on the topics you're not familiar with; come down hard on the topics of your expertise; and complete ignore whatever bad advice comes your way. And before anyone starts screaming about reverse-racism, you have to remember that we're talking about situations where the white FOLKS in question don't know nearly enough to be of any benefit anyway. There are white people I do listen to.

    Yes, this whole "know-it-all" phenomenons occurs not just from white FOLKS to pocs, but men to women, upper class to middle class (Except, I gotta say, low mid-lower class whites,this summer and all the elections after 1978 don't bode too well for you.), old people to young people, etc and so on. But since the post was about how white FOLKS question non-white knowledge and authority, let's just stick to that.

    To Macon's question - It makes me feel not so hopeful about the future of race "relations." It's not anything new. And the comments that only prove RVC's point are depressing, but not new.

  43. Thanks for the replies, that makes sense. But, Julia, I see why it would be patronising to not take the author at her word in regular conversation, but here the post seems to be a launching pad for a broader discussion about questioning non-white authority. So in mentioning other issues in the abstract, I'm not sure that you're questioning her perspective regarding that particular incident (though some comments here do seem to do that).

  44. I do understand that in some cases these things may not always be racist but I would like to cite two personal examples:
    When I was back home in the Caribbean a few tourists from the UK were saying how hard it was for them to sleep because of this constant shrill noise that kept them up at night. They asked me about it and I told them that what they were hearing was either 1. Crickets 2. Whistling Frogs. 3. Grasshoppers. They explained the whistling noise they were hearing more in depth and I knew right away that what they were hearing was the grasshoppers. Because when you have lived here all your life you get to know the different sounds that the insects make, although, as in the case of crickets, whistling frogs and grasshoppers, they sound similar to a person not accustomed. They immediately said that no way could a grasshopper make that noise and it must have been something else they heard. I tried to explain to them the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket whistle but they weren't having it - they then started to debate the noise they heard among themselves and ignore me, even though they asked me for my opinion. I didn't bother to let them know that the grasshoppers here bite too!
    I just feel like even though I have lived here all my life they feel that my knowledge and wisdom on the nature of my island doesn't matter and that their's is more important.

  45. And the second example was when my sister was visiting Malawi. She was the only black person in the group. They were having a conversation and the white people said that my sister did not look like the Malawians. My sister said well not all Malawians look like each other either! She told me that earlier she had seen and spoken to a particular group of Malawians in person and that she does indeed look like them - they told her so too. She showed me some photos and she does! She was mistaken for a Malawian quite a lot while she was there. But when she tried to explain this the white people in her group just kept saying: "No, No, you don't look like them!
    I just feel that sometimes some white people feel that they know more about black people's countries than black people know themselves and they feel they have the authority to correct us.

  46. I think this is a "man" thing, not a white thing. I've been in the company of multi-cultured men - and I since patriarchy teaches them that they should know everything (including how the world works) they often discount what women say.

  47. I won't speak for anyone else who "yes it happens, but..." commented this post, but I can say that my comment was definitely not made with the intention to derail the topic.

    I think we can address this topic AND note that, yes, this also happens to women. It happens SO frequently that a few of them/us (and even men) felt inclined to post about it because they're pretty tired of it too. I can understand not actually addressing the gender issue, don't get me wrong This site IS about race. But let's not say that we talk about topics totally unrelated to the post in the comments all the time. In fact, it's done on this page.

    Just as you, RVCBard, feel like your point was made with these comments as proof - I feel like mine was made as well using these very same comments. However, I wasn't looking to PROVE a point, but to MAKE a point - that the issue encompasses more than race. I'd know because I'm a woman before I'm white. I've had my knowledge downplayed, despite my education and experience, so many times that I've actually stopped thinking about it anymore. I apologize if *my* comment in particular implied that YOU should stop getting upset about it too. Or that your feelings about the issue weren't important.

    Your point was thoroughly received and is something I will hang on to as I do many of the posts on this site. I have a feeling the excitement was more the collection of back-to-back "yeah but" comments rather than any single one in particular. But just in case something in mine had you shaking your head, I wanted to clarify.

  48. Are some of you completely slow? If you're a Black woman(or another WoC)something can be racist and sexist at the same time. Racialized sexism isn't anything new.

  49. Great post RVCBard, thank you!

    My first thought on reading this was 'I'm not alone!' I haven't experienced this as a result of race, but I have experienced it as a result of other things, and for me it was crazy-making - sometimes I couldn't even spot why it was happening, no obvious race or gender link to point a finger at.

    But while I got something for myself out of this post, that doesn't mean I don't think it is about race when it happens to RVCBard, or any PoC. OF COURSE it's about race! I don't understand why some white people think that just because it happens to them for a different reason, that means it's never about race! It's Sociology 101 that there are numerous factors which make someone 'invisible' in certain situations, but they don't cancel each other out, for heaven's sake. Just because someone in a wheel chair is dismissed and rendered invisible, or a woman, that doesn't mean racism has instantly vanished from the world.

    Macon D, I really appreciate you asking that question, as I was offended by the dissmissiveness that some of the commenters here have shown towards RVCBard. I would like to ask my own of the PoC's here.

    My response to this post is: 'hey, of course it's racism! I can identify with being silenced and dismissed because it happens to me for these other reasons, but it's sure happened because of racism for you! I bet ya cop a dose of what I get on a daily basis too just to top it off. Thanks for writing it so clearly, because your words have clarified in my head something about what happens to me and how I feel about it.'

    So my question to RVCBard and other POC is - what do you think and feel reading my kind of response? I hear you that it's frustrating and annoying (to put it very mildly) when white people minimise or deny the central position race has in this by saying 'but it happens to me too!'. Is my response any different, since I am not denying that race is the central factor when this happens to you? Or does it feel like just another attempt to derail and make it all about me?

  50. @Red Maple, everyone else:

    I am a white woman who has had her ideas ignored by men. It sucked.

    This does not mean this thread should become about the sucky experiences non-PoC have had - PoC should be able to raise issues of PoC marginalization without being marginalized *again* by people re-centering the discussion onto white people's issues with sexism or any other thing that sucked. That re-centering? Is a bit like guys coming into feminist spaces and going "Well men suffer from sexism too! Listen to me! Hear about my problems!" It is *rude* and needs to stop.

    Oppressions are sometimes like other oppressions, yes. But dragging in white people's issues when PoC want to talk about race is a derail and an insulting one. I am one of these white people who has had gendered issues a lot like those of other posters here. This isn't the appropriate time and place for them.

  51. This has happened to me, but for two very distinct reasons:

    - The people were arrogant know-it-alls or generally ignorant

    - The people were male and treating me like "the little woman"

    I will agree that there seems to be a "white male privilege" dynamic. I recognize it in my own husband sometimes. However, I don't think it's intentional. When you are the dominant culture and you're surrounded by examples and images of people who look like you in authority - from birth - you're likely to have a bit of a superiority complex, even if you don't realize it. Even if you mean no harm.

    We non-WASPs are no more noble, decent, or kind. If the roles were reversed, white people would be saying the same things about us.

  52. What amazes me is how everyone is supposed to take the OP for gospel. Yet when others make their own observations, or pose alternate possibilities, (specifically white people) everyone seems to jump all over them.

    The sexual discrimination suggested is not out of line by any means. It is a distinct possibility. Hate to say this, but perceived racism is not always real racism. Sometimes people already have their mind set that it's racism, so that's what it has to be.

    Granted, they probably have experienced the racism before, but that doesn't mean that every case thereafter can be attributed to the same origin of racism.

    To paraphrase macon, "these are merely your own personal anecdotes and they don't have the validity of research and studies".

    Of course, he was saying that to a white poster at the time. I can't honestly say I've seen him question a PoC's anecdote or point of view. Because we all know that a PoC can't possibly be biased toward a specific conclusion based on prior experiences that pointed them in that direction, could they?

    Kind of like when a kid brother or sister always took something of yours, time after time. You just KNEW they took it, until that one time when your mother moved it for some reason. Oops.

  53. Caitlin, you beat me to it.

    It's happening RIGHT HERE IN THIS THREAD.

    And you'd think allwhite people would be embarrassed, but they never are.

    Do you, and the OP, think it's so bred into them from birth that it's their Manifest Destiny (pun intended, you bet) to be IN CHARGE that they don't even see it?

  54. Okay I made a post under 'Anonymous' and was given the name Red Maple ... which is cool just not sure if I'll show up as that again and I wanted to follow up after reading the other posts (which I hadn't done previously). I honestly do apologize to the OP if it seems that I tried to derail the conversation. I'm on a high horse about sexism right now (due to work issues) so I'm super sensitive to that at the moment. This issue of 'derailing' a racial argument is something I'll try to be aware of more in the future.

  55. @cdwriteme: as a Latina and an avid anti-racist, I'm sometimes troubled by the fact that I've ended up dating a succession of White men.

    By posting here and validating the regrettable stereotype that Latino men are blue collar sexist primitives, you've made me feel a tad less guilty about the occasions on which, I fear, I may be subconsciously influenced by such stereotypes.


    But also, :(

  56. So my question to RVCBard and other POC is - what do you think and feel reading my kind of response? Is my response any different, since I am not denying that race is the central factor when this happens to you? Or does it feel like just another attempt to derail and make it all about me?

    It's different because your baseline assumption is that each person is the primary authority of their own experiences.

    Do you, and the OP, think it's so bred into them from birth that it's their Manifest Destiny (pun intended, you bet) to be IN CHARGE that they don't even see it?

    Not in those terms, no. I don't believe there's anything biological or inevitable about the layers of delusions governing the typical White American, but I do lean towards thinking it's a result of similar delusions being systematically visited upon each generation. Have you seen a movie called "Sybil"? It's sort of like that but it happens generation after generation and on a much broader scale. And in a way, far more horrifying.

  57. @ hoptree - I didn't find his comments that offensive. I agree that it's not about "male bashing" but addressing sexism. I agree with you there. But I don't think it warrants the generalization.

    @ brotherofanothercolor - You're mistaking symmetry for genuine equality. You can look into it yourself, or you can take this as gospel: it's well documented that when it comes to race, poc have a more accurate account and interpretation than white folks. Macon isn't engaged in a double standard to the extent that he recognizes humanity in one group that he doesn't in another. He's coming from the perspective of understanding that the a "double standard" is already embedded in experience.

    @ Hawkmom - And oddly enough, the reality in America is that white people have this privilege and intentional or not, it has a negative impact on people of color. No one's suggesting that nonWasps are more noble; just that we don't blithely engage in such skepticism based on privilege. Whether or not white people intend for their comments/actions/skepticisms to be harmless doesn't change the eventual impact. We're just as ignored as if it were done to be purposefully harmful. And we'd get much farther in extracting racism from society if white people and enablers of color stopped excusing racist actions/comments/behaviors.

    @ cinnamon - I think the difference is one of conjugation, right? "And" adds to. "But" negates the first clause. So you're okay with me. I think it's important that white women and/or men of color began to realize that their experiences with sexism mirron that of poc's and racism. Much like when it comes to class, the experience of poor whites in dealing with well-off whites approximates that of sexism and racism. It has to do with intersectionality and common humanity.

  58. @no1kstate: hoptree here. I don't purport to speak for all WOC or all females ITT, and instead can only articulate my personal feelings in response to his post. In case I didn't make that clear above, I want to make it clear here.

    That said, his post enraged me far moreso than any of the White "gee I dunno, guys, one time at a Dave Matthews concert someone mistook me for a ticket guy..." posts I've encountered here. Perhaps it was the condescending tone (the very same tone, in fact, ascribed often accurately to White people in the OP), crystallized particularly in his use of "you ladies," "sisterhood" and, oh yes, "panties in a wad." Perhaps it was the derogatory generalization he made about women. Obviously I made (well, didn't really make...simply noted that his post supported) a derogatory generalization about Latino men, in response. But even if we'd leveled our respective generalizations at one another with an equal degree of commitment and sincerity, our statements would not be comparable ("fallacious flip").

    The following is merely designed to encourage empathy and is not intended to promote any kind of Oppression Olympics dynamic, but: men of color, ITT, how would you feel if a White person came by and posted,

    "Also, note to you minorities (both black and Hispanic): I would appreciate your backing off the whitey bashing brotherhood thing. I'm certain none of you would like it, for example, if the discussion were about people that tend to rape and steal and I were to point out that minorities have a greater tendency to do that.

    "So, I would like to suggest we stay on point and, if using outside examples that we feel relate to the topic, we do so without totally losing focus and, to coin a phrase, 'going loco' or 'chimping out.'"

    Okay. Sorry for the grossly offensive language above. Moreover, I recognize that this is somewhat derailing and in that vein I also want to apologize to the OP. But for me (and this is in line with Sara's post), racism and sexism often intersect inextricably. That isn't to say we can't respectfully acknowledge OP's focus on the race dimension and try to steer our comments accordingly. But to archly dismiss and condescend to perspectives that even recognize the role of sexism is, well...sexist. I wouldn't tolerate it or respect any discussion community that did.

  59. @Hoptree: I had a clear and direct, rather than your smarmy insult technique, message for you. Unfortunately, it didn't get past censoring here. Bottom line, as Bill Maher said, currently "it's politically incorrect just to be male in this country". You're not courageous when you parrot politically correct ideas with no thought of your own, particularly if they happen to benefit you. You dont impress me at all. You are empowered in the same way a spoiled rich kid is empowered, by having the deck stacked in his/her favor. So, keep on with your "you go girl" and "boys are stupid, throw rocks at them" mentality and call me in 20 years after a string of unhappy relationships and apologize.

  60. Thanks for your responses to my question, RVCBard and no1kstate, I appreciate it.

    'It has to do with intersectionality and common humanity.'

    Beautiful, that's a great way of putting it.

  61. I wonder if the author of this post realizes their own faults while attacking those of "white people".

This has to be one of the most racist and sexist posts on here. But, no, it can't be! It was written by a feminist way could they ever be racist or sexist!!!!

    More things white people do, try to dismiss someone's experience with racism, by using the "you do it too" excuse, without looking at the history, personal experiences, and current situation that might lead POC as well as white people to their perceived prejudices.

    She explained her experiences and the only thing you have to say is that she could be racist too.

  62. This whole argument makes a huge assumption that racism and sexism can't happen simultaneously. It does. Why is it assumed it is only one by so many quick to dismiss her experiences?

  63. @Sarah,
    I hear what you're saying, and I appreciate that there's often complicated intersection of gender and race bias. I think it was your use of the phrase "full understanding" that rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with your larger point.

  64. Hmm. I have no doubt that white people question POC knowledge and authority all the time. It was pretty striking, for example, when a bunch of people commented on various articles about Skip Gates saying how shameful it was that someone like him could become a Harvard professor, instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt because he's a Harvard professor.

    However - and I am addressing this because discussion about it has become a major issue in this thread - I don't think the example given in the OP adequately demonstrates your main point to an outside observer with no direct experience of racism.

    Partly this is because of the confounding factor of sexism, which many posters have already pointed out. Women of all races do in fact get the same treatment from men of all races. There is absolutely nothing in the original post that makes it obvious to an outside observer (not more neutral, or more knowledgeable, just outside) that racism was the primary factor.

    RVCBard, you say that you can tell the difference, and I have no particular reason to doubt you. It's just that I'm white, so I have no experiences with racism, so I can't even imagine how you could tell the difference between a primarily sexist incident and a primarily racist one, unless those guys did something really obvious like use racial epithets. I'd be interested to know how you can tell the difference, if you feel like explaining.

    There are other factors, too, that confuse your point. For example, as a white person, I have seen events similar to this one from a different perspective, and I'm afraid that does predispose me to wonder whether you're interpreting the motives of the white guys correctly. Because I've definitely had people suspect me of racism when really I was motivated by something else completely.

    That's the thing - different people come to the same set of facts with completely different perspectives, interpretations, and predispositions. Bridging that gap can be hard, and it is almost never accomplished by arguing that the other side should just see it the way you do... just because.

    Hence the role of evidence and logical argument.

    Also, my patience for cries of derailment decreases daily (I'm looking at you too, Macon). It seems the only way to avoid "derailing" a discussion is by either agreeing completely with the OP or by not commenting at all.

    I mean, asking a question or bringing up a possible contradictory point is not the same thing as questioning your knowledge or authority. For example, what would you think if you (politely, and in good faith) asked Paul Krugman a question about economics, and he blew up at you for questioning his econ knowledge? Probably you'd think he was either an asshole or having a bad day.

    So the guys in your example definitely were doubting your demonstrated knowledge regarding dog training, for whatever reason, but I don't see questions like "How do you know it wasn't pure sexism?" as being in the same vein. We white folks aren't (always) being deliberately obtuse. A lot of the time, we just don't understand, because there is no way short of explanation for us to understand. I think that's coming into play here.

  65. bluey512 wrote,

    Also, my patience for cries of derailment decreases daily (I'm looking at you too, Macon). It seems the only way to avoid "derailing" a discussion is by either agreeing completely with the OP or by not commenting at all.

    You don't seem to have a solid grasp yet of the concept of derailing. Have you read "Derailing for Dummies"? The section entitled "But that happens to me too!" strikes me as especially relevant to the discussion in this thread.

    I mean, asking a question or bringing up a possible contradictory point is not the same thing as questioning your knowledge or authority. For example, what would you think if you (politely, and in good faith) asked Paul Krugman a question about economics, and he blew up at you for questioning his econ knowledge?

    That's a false analogy. In this post, RVCBard took the time to point out and explain something she's clearly experienced many times before, and provided some supporting examples. Several apparently white commenters jumped in to basically say, as white people so often do when they hear such things, that they weren't convinced -- that based on their own experiences, it could've been something else instead. That in itself is a common white tendency -- to demand further evidence of racism, rather than crediting a person who's clearly experienced many instances of said form of racism with an experienced and informed perspective. Instead of coming across as basically saying, "Okay, I didn't realize that, please tell me more so I can better understand what you're saying," the common white approach in such situations is more along the lines of, "Oh, come now, surely something else accounts for what happened." That's a challenging of non-white knowledge and authority, which is, ironically, what this post is all about trying to expose.

    As for Paul Krugnman the economist "blowing up" when asked a question about economics (who here, btw, "blew up"? stereotype black women much?), I call that a false analogy because several commenters here did not question this post about race by asking a question about race -- they instead asked a question about gender, and it was in some instances a rhetorical question at that (one that basically said, I bet this was about gender instead of race, because as a woman, this has happened to me too). Asking an economist a question about economics is not a form of derailing; asking someone who's explaining an example of racism a question about gender is a form of derailing.

    So the guys in your example definitely were doubting your demonstrated knowledge regarding dog training, for whatever reason, but I don't see questions like "How do you know it wasn't pure sexism?" as being in the same vein. We white folks aren't (always) being deliberately obtuse. A lot of the time, we just don't understand, because there is no way short of explanation for us to understand. I think that's coming into play here.

    I think that's coming into play here too, sometimes. But can you see something else coming into play here as well, something more insidious and exasperating? That something is racism (in most cases, no doubt, an unconscious form of racism), and it's come into play here in the form of the common white tendency of doubting non-white explanations of racism; claiming something else is going on instead; expressing skepticism while demanding further evidence before feeling convinced; and so on.

  66. Hypothetically, if the OP had been about sexism instead of racism, and the OP has attributed the actions of the white men to sexism instead, do you think a bunch of people would have jumped on here and said, "hey, maybe it was racism instead, did you ever think about that?" Doubt it.

  67. This also makes me think of the Birther movement against President Obama. It's like the ultimate questioning of non-white knowledge and authority. Or at least the one that is easiest to see in the media.

  68. @Tangerine: It's obvious to anyone reading this thread that RVCBard's experiences reminded many female readers of their own experiences of sexism. And so they chimed in. Some did it in a confrontational way, doubting RVCBard's interpretation of what happened to her, some merely wanted to tell their own stories.

    You talk about "re-centering the discussion," guys wandering into "feminist spaces" and "appropriate times and places" for talking about certain things.... well, I don't see any proverbial sign on the door of this blog saying "don't talk about your personal experiences unless they perfectly correspond to the scenario described in the OP."

    Look, the name of this blog leeches off the notoriety of "Things White People Like" and I bet a lot of people wander onto this site, looking for the other one. Maybe you see the blog as an "anti-racist space," a private clubhouse, but I bet most don't. Hundreds, maybe thousands, randomly happen onto this site, see racially charged issues being discussed and want to weigh in with their own opinion. I don't care what color a person is, people in this country love to tell their own stories about being the victim of racism. Everyone's got their stories. You might want to control that discussion in the way you might be able to in a college class, but on the internet... good freakin luck! I say, let a thousand flowers bloom!

    If you want this blog to be about highly focused discussion by people familiar with anti-racist lingo who are all going to agree for the most part, then you would have to change the name of the blog and put it behind a username and password and make people prove their anti-racist bona fides. As is, this blog sets people up to be "derailers" and it's amusing to see post after post after post of people wanting to share their personal stories but get shot down for not doing it in the "right way at the right time." It's especially amusing because there's a whole group of people that are by definition excluded from ever telling their stories of being victims of racism, and yet they keep trying, bless their hearts. It doesn't take long before you can see the train wrecks before they happen. Funny blog.

  69. @ hoptree - Thanks for keeping your head and walking me through your perspective. After reading cdwriteme comment above, and re-reading the initial problematic comment, I realize you were spot on.

    @ cdwriteme - Oh stop your whining. "Wah, wah, wah! Your words, they bash me!" The problem with the hypothetical, "women make excuses and skirt accountability," is that it's inaccurate. I'll say to you what I would say to a racist white person: the "male bashing," as you call it, will stop when sexism stops.

  70. @no1kstate: Oh, relax with your estrogen. The calling out will stop when the maturity and accountability start.

  71. wow. a WOC's experience and knowledge questioned and dismissed followed by WW tears...smh

    thing is, this post by RVCBard isn't a new phenomenon. hell, it's even been pointed out enough times that some POC are quick to dismiss their own in favour of white opinions. internalized racism and all that.

    double hell, POC can't even depend on being asked about things like racism anymore...

    i do find it interesting that some think it's exclusively/largely a 'man-thing'. that would mean, once again, dismissing all those WOC womanist and feminist that haven't been shy to point out the same thing happening in those respective movements and others.
    nevermind that, yes, even men of colour have had their knowledge and experience dismissed by white women (and not just by the repug schlafly type)

    i'm wondering what some would have said if this was posted by a man of colour instead.

  72. I'm always amazed how many times as a white male, I've deliberated repeated something a POC coworker has said to a group of peers because the white folk in the group didn't get it.

    And I apologize to my POC coworkers and they've now dubbed me "The Face" ala the A-Team.


  73. @no1kstate: I'm having a hard time responding because my comments get censored, which makes my point. Women are held to a lower standard. You can insult me, but I can't return fire. If you or anyone else wants to take this conversation to a more unrestrained domain (e.g. email) let me know...I'd like that.

  74. Most of the white commenters here don't seem to understand the difference between sharing your own experiences, empathizing and invalidating another's experience. Examples (combinations of previous comments:

    "Is this really a racial thing? I would be more convinced of racial as opposed to gender bias if both parties were male. I don't think the example given in the OP adequately demonstrates your main point to an outside observer with no direct experience of racism." = Invalidation, derailment.

    "I can relate to this. Examples: a doctor who won't listen to his patients, a sergeant who won't learn from the good ideas of his privates, an mother who won't listen to the good ideas her daughter has. But since the post was about how white FOLKS question non-white knowledge and authority, let's just stick to that." = Empathizing.

    Also, as it's been pointed out before, racialized sexism does exist. Since the OP is a Black person and a woman (and a queer person, a Jewish person, "and more"), she has the experiences from living as both. She also has the experience of being a Black woman, and that's the point that almost everybody in the post is missing. Her experiences and osbervations as a Black person, as a woman, and as a Black woman, has taught her that, in those instance, the actions of the other people were racist. If I were in the same situation, I may believe that there actions were sexist, but that does not matter. My experiences do not negate hers. What's important is that she be given the proper respect as a human being that she knows her own mind and can interpret what's going on around her.

  75. I just want to point out that, in my experience, white people do this to each other, too.

  76. Aw crap. By my last comment, I really truly didn't mean to deflect from the post. I have no doubt that white people do this to PoC, and perhaps more so, but I also do think that this is a highly unfortunate trait of (especially) upper and middle class white people - that they just don't listen, PERIOD.

  77. Angel H., they understand exactly what they're doing. They're deliberately being obtuse. (It doesn't take much brain power to understand how sexism and racism is used in conjunction with each other.) Questioning non-white knowledge, as shown in this thread, is a tactic to keep non-white people off balance and unsure. Sometimes we can ignore it, other times we can't (when they have power and control over us).

    The pity is that they don't realize that they're stunting their own growth when they try to stunt ours.

  78. @cdwrite me: can you explain in a critical, objective fashion why hoptree or no1skate's posts are any less mature, accountable, rational, or independently reasoned than yours? hint: the fact that their viewpoint is more "politically correct" than yours (and given the exemplary racist language hoptree used, that is VERY debatable) does not count. go troll a neo nazi forum if you want to see examples of people who are "politically incorrect" yet simultaneously incapable of autonomous analysis.

  79. @cdwriteme - No, I was insulting you. Let me explain what I was doing, however poorly. I can't quite remember the name for what you did by labeling sharing stories of sexism as "male bashing"; but I can describe it. When a person(whether white or male) feels uncomfortable in a discussion that condemns actions of their member-group (whether white or male), they disuade honesty by accusing the others in conversation of engaging in some violent behavior. Ie, "bashing." The other participants feel guilty and start softening their comments, and in the end, the defensive person has their discomfort alleviated.

    Notice, you haven't challenged the veracity of our comments; just our right to share.

    So now, I wasn't "insulting" you. I do try not to engage in insults. Perhaps a bit of annoyance slipped through because I didn't read over my comment before posting. Or perhaps, your accusation of insult is another attempt to disuade honesty and alleviate your discomfort?

    If you sincerely felt insulted, I sincerely apologize. I do maintain, though, that there is no truth to your accusation that women are immature and irresponsible.

  80. >Oh, relax with your estrogen.

    @cdwriteme - how can you say that women are held to a lower standard when the above was a VERY insulting SEXIST comment and it got through? 'Women are held to a lower standard' is in itself very insulting too. (As a woman of color I am rarely aware of sexism because most of my energy is spent on dealing with racism and because the white world I live in see me as a POC before they see me as a woman. So IMO, if I found the above insultingly sexist, then it means it was VERY insultingly sexist.) If what got censored was worse than the above, then I'm glad it got censored because the rest of us don't want to read it.

    And the reason why you interpret some of the comments here as 'male bashing' is probably because you are CLEARLY VERY SEXIST and therefore blind to your own sexism, in the same way that those who are (subconsciously) racist are blind to their own racism.

    And let me guess, are you gonna accuse me of male bashing too for pointing out BLATANT sexism?

  81. @cdwrite me: can you explain in a critical, objective fashion why hoptree or no1skate's posts are any less mature, accountable, rational, or independently reasoned than yours? hint: the fact that their viewpoint is more "politically correct" than yours (and given the exemplary racist language hoptree used, that is VERY debatable) does not count. go troll a neo nazi forum if you want to see examples of people who are "politically incorrect" yet simultaneously incapable of autonomous analysis.

  82. Julia - I only realised how that could be read when I saw your reply. I was clumsy with my writing, but I guess you saw what I was trying to get across.

  83. @no1kstate: hoptree again. I realize I didn't make my train of thought (even though that *was* my train of thought) immediately clear in my initial post and took a more provocative tone instead. Truthfully, part of me didn't think cdwriteme "deserved" a sober, civil exposition of my reasoning and, instead, his lowball bigotry warranted a comment that (at least in its tone) was commensurately venomous.

    Anyways, obviously this is a public forum and our comments are going to be read by others besides the pathetic misogynist trolls at whom we direct them, so I am glad to have had the opportunity to explain and I thank you for your rereading.

    And I thank RVCBard, once again, for an insightful OP.

  84. @cdwriteme - and what a sad irony that you, of all people, have successfully and completely derailed the post with your sexist insults (by making them so insulting that it couldn't be let off the hook). You've been more successful than any of the white 'ladies' you were accusing of the same problem.

  85. [correction (based on a vocab new to me that i've just learnt here and in the newest post): "I am rarely aware of *pure* sexism (though I am often aware of *racialized sexism*)"]

  86. I closed my web browser because my blood pressure was getting too high - but then I had to come back and say this:

    Why should this blog author have to use male/male examples or somehow prove that sexism was not the foremost thing driving these examples?
    Why can you not believe that she knows what she is talking about? And that as a WOC she has had enough experience in her life to know when racism or sexism is driving the train?
    Why are many of you asking for more evidence or different examples?
    Why are many you displaying the characteristics of the people she is posting about instead of truly trying to listen to what she said?

    I truly do not understand. Do you really think that she has lived all her life as a WOC and can't tell when someone is dismissing her because of her race? Do you think that she didn't wonder to herself if it was because she was a woman, or a POC , or both? Do you think she would post to this blog without having thought about those things?

    I read nothing in the post that made me think she was either an idiot or a liar, so I see no need to question her recounting of her experience or the conclusions she drew from them. Of course everyone is free to disagree - but maybe you could defer to her here since she is the one who actually had the experiences.

    It (obviously) is angering and frustrating to try to relate an experience of racism and be told that is was another ism or that you just 'took it the wrong way'. Even if it only happens vicariously. This is why I don't talk about race much any more. People tell me that it was age, or sex, or just rudeness. It wasn't. It isn't.
    That is dismissive and insulting.

  87. @ hoptree - You're welcome. And you were right.

  88. Wow, what a bunch of hogwash from my detractors here. Do you have a specific question? You generalize and offer no specifics than have the nerve to complain when others do the same.

    So, again, little ladies, let me make this point clear. This blog is about race. This post is about questioning other's knowledge AS IT PERTAINS TO RACE. Every action, linsult, condescension occurs to everybody. One can always say, but ___________ does that too. This blog talks about FREQUENCY, white sense of PRIVILEGE and ENTITLEMENT, and TRENDS.

    This is a little game we play nowadays. The game is that disrespecting or calling out men is "empowering" or "reasonable debate" and disrespecting or calling out women is "sexism". I'm not playing the game. I don't care how many people gang up on me.

    This post most certainly started heading in the "let's bag on men as part of the package deal" situation. So, are you all selfish or retarded? Do you really think that women don't do this belittling to men or is it just fun to insult men? It only proves my point that men's feelings are so tertiary that they don't even deserve consideration in your eyes.

    Go ask some fathers about what it's like raising small children with a know-it-all mother that think being female means she's the family expert on anything concerning children. Ask guys about discussing gender relations where the culture is nod in agreement or be in the doghouse. Not only are you all dismissive of men's input you're hostile to it.

    Pretty much go anywhere that is female-dominated and watch how men are treated. My sister works in a female-dominated field and she tells me how the men get treated. The fact is all people, women and men, are flawed and we all commit the same types of bad behaviors.

    Whether its racism, misogyny, misandry, whatever, those things don't exist in isolation. They stem from deeper human failings....greed, vanity, envy, etc....

    That's why we talk, why we debate. The goal of eradicating these feelings is hopeless. But, we can realize our shortcomings and try to put cultural, political, and social forces in place to 'save us from ourselves' and strive to be decent and just and have less inequality.

    So, again, say what you want about me. I don't care. I'll play the stupid game at work in order to get a paycheck but I won't play it at home on my time. Grow up.

  89. Why don't you title your blog "stuff SOME white people do"? Seriously, I don't care if you're white. This is ridiculous. You act as if there is no racism or prejudice towards whites. There is. You assume a lot of things about white people without continually acknowledging that not all white people live in their cute little suburban houses with a white picket fence, sheltering themselves from minorities. I've grown up with a large population of minorities, I'm white and I actually don't "do" any of this stuff.

    P.S. Blogs like this are what cause a rift between races. If we're continually reminding each other that we're different or that we can't get along, what are we accomplishing? Shouldn't we just look at each other as PEOPLE instead of black and white? Seriously, it just seems like you want to gain random favor.

    Let's stop pointing fingers and just live our lives and defend our rights and the rights of ALL PEOPLE. Stop over-analyzing everything and slapping a "racist" label on everything. We need to stand up for people's rights instead of sitting here pointing fingers at one group of people.

  90. cdwriteme, you've had some good things to say here about racism, but your inability to see sexism, especially the fact that we still live in a sexist society (as well as your own sexism), is astounding to me.

    Anyway, yeah, this post is about racism, not sexism, so this tangent is over.

  91. NOT to extend the tangent SERIOUSLY but: [cdwriteme], you subliterate misogynist, you indicated a desire to debate by email. i have enjoyed pwning you to shreds, and find it quite satisfying to watch you writhe and rant in the throes of your own cognitive dissonance and intellectual inferiority.

    so please do contact me. let's take this outside (or, at least, off macon's blog).


  92. @cdwriteme: I respect your opinions on racism, that is about all I know of you via comments. However your overt misogyny is appalling.

  93. @Victoria: the misandry on here is appalling to me.

  94. Misandry? Here? Again, that's ridiculous. I thought I'd put a stop to this tangent -- please, everyone else, don't respond to cdwriteme's latest comment, because I won't publish anymore on this tangent. It really is over now.

  95. Speaking of which, I'm a bit disappointed that the only people coming out to condemn cdwriteme's blatant misogyny seem to be women and macon. Where are the other men, especially men of color?

    When women condemn sexism or pocs condemn racism, we run the risk of being seen as whiners (as demonstrated in this thread). But when men condemn sexism, it carries that much more weight. The same goes when white ppl point out racism. Collaboration makes for a stronger fight. And as macon and others have said, it's actually to the benefit of white people to fight racism. By the same token, fighting sexism benefits men too.

    But if this is how it works when we fight sexism (i.e. men are reluctant to show support)...I'm starting to wonder if it is delusional for pocs to expect any real support from white people in fighting racism.

    (sorry macon for extending the tangent, but I'm trying to also relate it back to racism.)

  96. The irony of this entire thread is flabbergasting.

  97. Collaboration makes for a stronger fight. And as macon and others have said, it's actually to the benefit of white people to fight racism. By the same token, fighting sexism benefits men too.

    Opposing racism is not the same as eating your greens. But I guess that's how you have to frame it before White folks would deign to treat people like people.

    I'm starting to wonder if it is delusional for pocs to expect any real support from white people in fighting racism.

    It's something I ask myself every time before I open my mouth about it. As in this case, I'm generally not surprised when my basic humanity (as in, "Gee, I wonder if this would make things better or worse for RVCBard") is kicked aside to focus on "more important" issues and ideas.

  98. I'm done on this thread, just FYI

  99. @RVCBard

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience.

  100. This happens to me in the workplace quite a bit. There is a white female on staff who often, during work-related and non-work related conversations contradicts something i've said. She even contradicts my opinions regarding my own experiences. I don't know how to address it without being cast as the Hostile Black Woman and having that dismissed as well.

    it's a not too happy position to be in.

  101. Hey guys, cd's done with this thread.

    So can someone else point out the alleged "misandry"?

  102. Sorry to have extended the tangent, Macon.

    @RVC - I don't quite know who you're responding to; but I am familiar with the line of thought that racism damages white people in the same way sexism damages men by preventing them from experiencing their full humanity. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

  103. Oh, and RVC, I completly agree with your thoughts about the irony of this thread.

  104. @ bat machine

    if you have to be the hostile black woman, so be it. embrace it. even if it's only one time.

    at some point in time you (meaning 'we') have to say 'fuck it, let them think what they want, i'mma put their ass in check'

  105. I have a question specifically related to Angel H's comment.

    I'm a white person who is a member of an ethnic minority. I'm also a queer lady. I know how frustrating it is when people re-center conversations like a lot of the commenters here have tried to do. But one thing that I have run into in discussions with PoCs that I would like to learn to address better is how to express my empathy without derailing, or if it is appropriate to express empathy at all.

    For me, I think that it is important to acknowledge not only intersectionality, but layers of racism and colorism-- and because of that, I try to share the ways in which my experiences are more like other white people's, and the way in which they are more like black people's. I feel like looking at the spectrum of the racial caste system in this society is important-- there's not just two extremes of "black" and "white."

    So sometimes I will try to chime in with a personal experience that is more like what the black people I am talking to have experienced. I am not trying to invalidate their racialized experiences-- I am trying to assure them that some white people do understand where they are coming from, or in some cases to point it out as corroborating evidence when white people who are not ethnic minorities trot out the kind of behavior that the OP is discussing and the kind of behavior we see in some of the comments here.

    Now and then, a PoC will call me out and say that I am derailing the conversation. This certainly isn't my intent and I try to sit back and try to do some serious unpacking when this happens. But I *think* I am doing what Angel H is talking about being a good thing (empathy). At least, that's what I'm trying to do.

    Is the problem with my doing this that my corroboration makes it seem as if I consider myself a better voice of authority than the PoCs in the conversation? Because that is not my intent but I can certainly see how the statements the OP made about her experiences would suggest that PoC might feel that way.

    The problem for me on a personal level is that in some cases, there are certain issues where I don't fit in at all. I can't talk with other white women about them because I don't have a common experience to them and I feel unwelcome and othered in my discussions with them, similarly to what the OP talks about here. I feel like my commonalities are with black women, and their experiences match mine much more closely. While I realize my experiences aren't identical and there are certain parts I will never suffer because I'm white, I would feel much more comfortable having these conversations with black women than with other white women, but when I try to enter them, black women generally tell me to stop making it about me. And I get that, but I also feel like I'm not welcome anywhere as a result.

    This is a long way of saying that I guess I am a poor hand at expressing empathy or knowing the appropriate time to express empathy and if anyone has any insights on that.

  106. Specifically to Unhappy Camper,

    I am a white person who finds this blog to be very valuable. I do want to know that I am acting hurtfully or hurting someone's feelings. I do want to know if my behavior is toxic.

    Reading this blog helps me make peace with my own actions and accept that I don't know everything there is to know about racism and because of that, I sometimes do things that are insensitive and harmful to other people. And I need to do that before I can move on and be a stronger ally. I want allies of my own. I don't want people to hurt me through insensitivity. In order to make sure I don't, I sometimes need help understanding where my insensitivities are.

  107. @Pistolina, not sure if this will answer you as I’m trying to think out loud for myself too, but here’s trying. (And some of the stuff you probably already know.) Racism, sexism, and racialized sexism all leave us feeling ugh or yuck. But in my experience they each have a different kind of ugh or yuck feel to them (and ATM I vote for racialized sexism as the worst).

    Similarly, I experience racism from white people as an Asian. I have experienced racism a few times from Japanese people as a non-Japanese Asian. Then there’s racism from Singaporeans (and Malaysians and Koreans) when they see me as Indonesian. I’ve also ‘felt’ prejudiced vibes from English speaking Indians. They’re all racism and unpleasant or ugh, but each ugh feels slightly different from the other, I think, due to the different power dynamics at hand. Obviously, I’m most concerned with racism from white people as that is where the power differential is greatest, and most difficult to escape due to its global influence. (It even seems to affect the fate of whole nations.)

    Thus, based on the above experience, I can empathize with say, black people when they talk about their racist experiences, but only to a *limited* degree. I don’t carry the baggage of the history of mass continental slavery and being placed at the bottom by social Darwinism. So I know that I can never fully understand what racism feels like for black people. I’m sure I’ve empathized in the wrong way with others in the past (they just never called me out on it), but I’m also trying to not think that I *fully* understand the experiences of other groups. It’s the same racism, but also different.

    e.g. If a Korean was to tell me about the racism they experience in Japan, I’ll nod in agreement that indeed such racism exists. But I would not then say, oh yes, I experience it too and give examples. I’m half Japanese, I can pass as Japanese, and I don’t have the baggage of history (Japanese colonialism), so it would be inappropriate for me to assume the same position as a Korean on the issue of racism in Japan.

    e.g. One time I shared about racism in Australia, some white ethnic minorities related their experiences of racism in Australia. This didn’t bother me. In fact, I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one experiencing it. I’m trying to think why it didn’t bother me. Perhaps it was because their discussion focused on racism, ‘yes I agree it happens here and I’ll give you some examples of how I know’, rather than on them, ‘I have it just as bad too, see, see’. I feel they were validating my experiences for my sake, and they were not trying to get sympathy from me for their experiences. Could this be the subtle difference between empathy and derailing that Angel H talked about?

  108. @fromthetropics

    I really appreciate your long and thoughtful response. I get the difference between empathy to say "yes, this exists" and empathy to say "look at me, cry cry." I definitely recognize this difference and strive to do the former-- I absolutely don't think my experiences are identical to those of black women and I try to make that clear. I am wondering, though, if that is still a derailment of sorts and that I was operating under the false assumption that it wasn't.

    Maybe I am not coming across correctly? Or maybe the problem is that people are so sick of the latter that the former becomes grating, too? I could totally understand that.

    I think that the part where you said racialized sexism is the worst is the reason I am keen to understand this-- the bad stuff I have experienced as a result of my ethnicity all definitely falls under the heading of racialized sexism. And other white women don't understand it, and are insulting and degrading when you try to talk about it, and often act the way the white people in the OP's post act.

    I am not really sure who I can talk to about it because it seems like I am insulting and degrading women of other races when I try to talk to them about it. That just leaves me in the middle by myself trying to figure out how to handle the racialized sexism I experience with no one interested in engaging with me about how to face it.

  109. >I think that the part where you said racialized sexism is the worst is the reason I am keen to understand this

    Me too. I'm keen to understand it too.

    >Maybe I am not coming across correctly? Or maybe the problem is that people are so sick of the latter that the former becomes grating, too?

    Hard to say. A third possibility is that perhaps as a WOC, we have a hard time understanding what your experiences are or that it could possibly be similar, since we all often see things through our own prisms.

  110. @fromthetropics

    Thanks! That makes a lot of sense. I am going to try to formulate a response to your recent guest post because I think that is probably the right place to discuss this!

  111. Macon,

    I've taken a while to respond to this because this thread has been quite confusing to me.

    The reason I didn't see comments like, "Couldn't it be sexism?" as derailing is because of the way the post originally came off. In the very latest post, about how white people fail to see how race and gender intersect, it is pretty obvious that the post is about personal feelings, shared in the way one might share an experience with friends. It's not intended to be absolute truth, it's not something they want to debate rigorously, it's just "Here's how I see things, here's how I feel about it." Reading it inspires a lot of sympathy.

    This post doesn't come off the same way. It comes off kind of scientific, actually (at least to me, and from what I can see, to others as well). Almost like, "Here's an experiment, here are my conclusions." Naturally being the sort of person who loves rigorous debate, it was certainly easy for me to see it that way and respond in kind. It's also possible that that's how white people (particularly men, but women too) are trained to respond - I've certainly seen this exact kind of confusion happen before.

    Now, the way you and RVCBard and others have responded to comments on this thread seems to indicate that this thread was intended to be similar to the most recent one - a WOC sharing her personal feelings. Having taken a clue from your and RVCBard's reactions, and having re-read the post with that perspective in mind, I can see that's not how the post was intended. Sorry, RVCBard, if I contributed to the problem you were describing.

    I'd like to clarify that I said "blew up" because I was originally thinking of the way my dad reacts to innocent questions, and replaced him with Paul Krugman because I didn't want to drag family drama into it. RVCBard has been perfectly polite and calm even when her responses didn't make sense to me. It was the perceived unreasonableness of her response I was trying to point out, not the emotional aspect.

  112. Points taken on this end, bluey, thanks for clarifying.

  113. This post reminded me of an incident that happened in a communications theory class I took many years ago. We were studying race issues, when the prof asked the only POC in the class to explain to the class how he experiences/understands white privilege. So, the man explained his experiences and the white students errupted in anger. "It's not true! I'm not like that! My life isn't like that! I don't see how you can say that!"

    I'm a white woman, and this man and I were friends, so I repeated what he said, and provided examples that I had witnessed. The white students became more willing to discuss the issue, instead of shouting and denying it outright.

    It took a white woman to verify a MOC's personal experience -- how twisted is that?

  114. I find, as an Asian male, that I my knowledge of mathematics and sciences is never questioned by white people, but the Arts (which I actually study!) are apparently something I cannot possibly know more about than white people. They have no trouble accepting my ideas of mathematics as fact, but the second I have an interpretation (for which I was marked an A+) of The Catcher in the Rye they look at me dubiously despite them having not even attain honours (I'm Canadian, we spell 'honours' with a 'u') in High School English.

  115. Thank you - all of you - for exemplifying - by post #4 & then endlessly onward! - the absolute truth of the original post. This white woman has had her consciousness seriously raised. That I'm 40 years old and it took this long leaves me (properly) ashamed.

  116. I mean, how can you be sure that the white roommates didn't listen to you because you're black? I think they were just idiots.

  117. Another excellent post! So true. I agree with the commentator who said whenever a person of color brings up examples of whites ignoring racism when a POC points it out as deflection. Its a shame and annoying tha non white knowledge is always not that it sometimes happens but "always" questioned by whites even when the POC's knowledge is correct! I have many examples of this happening in even with friends and classmates who are super liberal and cool. I love history and I consider myself quite knowledgeable in it.

    I've gotten into an argument with my professor about Ethiopians defeating the Italians during the Battle of Adwa back in 1896. I was explaining to my economic history prof during class that it is common knowledge and even written in some world history books that Ethiopian King Menelik II and his army were the first Africans to defeat European colonists in an African country while colonialists tried to conquer it. I than told my professor that Ethiopia has never been colonized by any European powers because of Ethiopians' determination to remain free and independent. All my classmates remained quiet not saying a single word. BTW, I was one of only two black women in our class and for our major International Relations.

    My professor shot down my knowledge of history by saying, "But Ethiopians used spears, they were outnumbered by the Italians and Italians had advanced technology, etc." The old argument that Europe was more advanced than Africa, etc which is also historically incorrect. So my professor and I went back and forth. I kept repeating that the Ethiopians still defeated Italians regardless of their lack of advanced weapons and he kept insisted that somehow it couldn't be possible. He was viewing Ethiopians under European colonialism as solely helpless.

    Another time in my globalization class, we were talking about Israeli Palestine conflict. Again, I told my professor who listened patiently and the class about how Israel has broken every international law and UN Resolution imaginable. I also told them about brutal military occupation happening in Palestine and illegal settlements. Of course my classmates remained tight lipped. But when another student who was white talked about how other countries violated international law and even repeating some of what I said the following day than all of a sudden my usually silent classmates started backing her up with head nods, saying, "yeah and this also happens, etc" and some of them even added their own information to what she was saying. I don't understand why knowledge by People of color are not valid unless a white person repeats it. I don't know why my classmates did not agree with me until the other student spoke. Weird country we live in I guess.

    Ps one thing that has always annoyed me was how some white Americans and Europeans act as though they know far more about Africa and Africans than Africans and AA themselves. And I have relatives and friends who live there. There are people who actually believe that the stereotypes of "dark continent" applies to every African country regardless of different culture, religion, language and geography. Even when I tell my classmates and friends that this is wrong and not even correct they look at me strange and try to insist that again it can;t be true.

  118. Aan, thank you so much for mentioning the Battle of Adwa in light of this entire post. You are correct - the Ethiopians did indeed defeat the Italians at Adwa. In fact the Italians WERE outnumbered: By 110,000 Ethiopians to only 20,000 Italians. This is because various Ethiopian peoples, factions - or what we like to call TRIBES - actually came together to defeat the Italians. I mention this because it is also taught that "tribes" in Africa can never, have never, and will never get along. That they fight amongst each other and will destroy each other rather than unite for a common good. I always read this in history books and was taught all my life to accept it as fact and common knowledge. It is only now, through further reading, that I am realizing that this is not true.

  119. The whole argument of whether this is sexist or racist reminds me of something that happened to me... I am a white, female convert to Islam. For about 1.5 years, I chose to wear the Islamic headscarf. So not only was I visibly Muslim, but often percieved as "Middle Eastern."

    I went from being a white person, with all the privliges that come with that, to being an openly *despised* minority. During that time, there were scattered instances of people saying/doing blatantly Islamophobic things, but most of the prejudice I experienced on a day-to-day basis was much more subtle.

    For instance, someone would be smiling and acting naturally, but when they saw me, they'd tense up and look really uncomfortable. There would be a general unfriendliness toward me that was not shared with other people. Or people would look as if they were just holding themselves back from saying something rude/condescending to me. Or they'd look scared--like they thought I was gonna do something to them..

    Anyway, after I decided to stop wearing it--for reasons unrelated to how difficult it was (although I *hated* that part also)--I would tell people how difficult it was to deal with people's reactions to me. To which they would reply that they *never* noticed people treating me differently. Hm.

    The reason they didn't notice it was because it wasn't aimed at *them*. Because most of the prejudice was subtle, and I was used to it and was able to recognize it. And.. unlike in the case of race, I was able to remove my headscarf and go "back" to being a regular white person--and when I did, I could immediately see the difference in how people treated me.

    So how does this relate to this post? I am ashamed to admit that when I first read this story, I immediately felt that these guys were being sexist (not necessarily *not* racist also, but definitely sexist). But that is because I have never been a PoC, and thus experienced racism. I have only been female and experienced sexism. Therefore, my POV is skewed, is different from the author's, and if she says it was racism, she should know!

    I hope this helps those who think this is mainly sexism and downplay the racism aspect. (not that anyone is probably still reading these comments months later!)

  120. Hope you don't mind, purvis, I'm going to use your comment in my blog.

    Do share more! You can find my contact on my blog.

  121. Hi no1kstate--no problem, thanks for the compliment! Can you send me the url for your blog?


    I'm trying a new layout. So bare with me.

  123. I stumbled upon this blog today and I'm totally in love with it now.

    Here's one example of a white person discounting my knowledge even though she knows NOTHING about what she's talking about.

    In high school, my World History teacher spent about 3 days rushing through all the materials on non-western cultures (yes, she spent forever on ancient greece and rome and 3 days glossing over all other ancient cultures). When she covered chinese culture, she stated that Confucianism was a religion. Me, being a Chinese-American girl, raised my hand and said I disagreed and that Confucianism is better classified as a philosophy. My teacher, a white female, got this bug-eyed look and she very angrily said it was a religion. And then she promptly continued her lecture and refused to acknowledge me anymore.

    I find it ridiculous that my white teacher would presume to lecture me on something she knows NOTHING about, ESPECIALLY compared to me. I'm not saying all Chinese-americans are knowledgeable about Chinese culture but in this instance, I AM pretty knowledgeable. And I found it incredible that she would so rudely and confidently dismiss what I said because she's so assured that she knows more about confucianism than I do. Her limits of Chinese culture probably came from Kung-fu movies and that ONE paragraph in the textbook that covered confucianism (and btw, the textbook was wrong too. it ALSO stated Confucianism was a religion)

    I was really angry but there was nothing I can do. She's the teacher, I'm the student, and though she always portrayed herself as a reasonable progressive, her inner bigotry quickly revealed itself the moment a non-white person dared to challenge her knowledge.

  124. While I do understand there is the possibility that this was a gender issue not a race issue. Thats a given and must be taken into account. But I must say one thing, if poc should not use racism as an excuse as to why they fail then perhaps white people and poc alike should fail to excuse racism.

  125. Why in the holy hell can't it be both a race and gender issue? And what the f**&K do you mean using racism as an "excuse." It's not an excuse, it's a REALITY. And I know not one POC who uses it as a reason why they may have failed. As people, collectively, we have not FAILED. We have survived and yet we still face obstacles thrown in our way by RACISM. FACT not EXCUSE. I find what you say, Asdonis, if you did not notice extremely insulting and proving the entire point of the post.


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