Saturday, January 2, 2010

dismiss non-white explanations of racism as irrational

This is a guest post for swpd by fromthetropics:


A white friend and I recently had an argument about racism in Australia. We were in a restaurant, and it started off with us talking about whether Barack Obama is black or white or both. One thing led to another, and I was soon trying to explain how subtle racism works.

She and her other white friend of course thought racism was only limited to a select few idiots. I tried to suggest that it was widespread and systemic, but I didn’t have the right vocab. She and her white friend were offended, and she started pulling out all the derailment tactics you can think of. (My mouth fell wide open the first time I read Derailing for Dummies.) She started pushing my buttons real bad. When I tried to describe various racist incidents, she bombarded me with questions like: “Maybe it was about gender? Maybe they had a bad day? How do you know it wasn’t you? Maybe they’re just jerks.” Etc , etc, etc.

This went on till things got quite . . . very tense. I was visibly upset (or so I thought). The ultimate point was when she said, ‘I like your skin. Your skin is beautiful. Look at mine, it’s ugly.’

I was furious when she said this. ‘I KNOW MY SKIN IS NICE! I DON’T NEED YOU TO TELL ME!’

I was almost yelling. I nearly stood up to go, but then I realized that I had to drive them home. I don’t remember ever being so angry with a friend.

The next day, I visited her as I usually do on the weekends. I was desperate to talk over what happened the night before. I felt like there was a knot in my heart and in our friendship, and I wanted to unknot it. We began talking about our earlier discussion, and with the help of her poc husband, she soon managed to ‘tame’ me. She then tried to convince me that 'perhaps I was perceiving things wrongly’.

It didn’t matter how many times I asked (at times with tears visibly rolling down my cheeks), ‘So are you saying that I’m imagining racism?’ She would respond, ‘No, I’m just saying that the way you’re perceiving things might be wrong.’

She tried to make it about ‘perception’. To this day I really can’t see the difference between ‘imagining racism’ and ‘perceiving things wrongly’.

Several times we argued about various issues and examples. At one point she tried to suggest that I was racist towards aboriginal Australians because I didn’t have any Aboriginal friends (note: Aboriginal people make up about 2.5% of the population, hint, hint), and the time I refused to watch an aboriginal Australian ritual dance that was being dished out as a performance dance for tourists. I said to her, “I have yet to even cross paths with an Aboriginal person.” (i.e., I have seen some pass me by on the streets on rare occasions, but I have not met any Aboriginal person. Not surprising when they are only 2.5% of the population.)

She responded, “But why don’t you have any Aboriginal friends?”

What, did she not hear me? I reiterated, “I said I have not crossed paths with any.”

She said, “But, why don’t you have an Aboriginal friends?”

Uh, what? I don’t get it. How the hell am I supposed to be friends with people I’ve never met??? Why does she not understand that? I said, “Well, I once passed by a small group of Aboriginal students outside the Aboriginal Studies department at the university having a barbeque, and yeah, I suppose I could have approached them, but. . . ”

Luckily, her husband butted in and said, “But wouldn’t it be weird if you wanted to be their friend simply because they’re Aboriginal?”

“Uh, yeah,” I responded.

As for the dance, the reason I showed a lack of interest in watching it was mainly because I didn’t like the way what seemed like a ritual dance had been turned into a performance catering for tourists. Most members of the audience were white. I looked at the audience and felt as though many were watching this aboriginal performance in order to feel unracist and more tolerant. I hated this exoticization and essentializing of the Other, and how the exoticization and essentializing was being used as a badge to 'prove' their open-mindedness.

The other reason I didn’t enjoy it is because I don’t enjoy any kind of traditional dances, period. I don’t care even if they’re from ‘my own country,’ I still find them boring for the most part. But obviously, instead of asking me why I didn’t want to watch it, my friend just assumed that she knew what was going on inside my head, and that I didn’t want to watch it because I was prejudiced towards Aboriginal Australians. Nice going.

There are more examples, but I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, since reading swpd, I’ve been simply amazed at how this one incident contained so many of what the posts here describe. The most recent is making amateur psychological diagnoses.

So back to that day -- for every issue that we talked about, whenever I’d try to explain things, she would never let me finish. She’d just keep cutting me off. Her husband is more softspoken, so he managed to play the broker and calm things down. At the end of the discussion (and this was what I thought might be helpful here, but I kinda felt like telling all the other parts of the story first, for context), she pulled out a bunch of papers from her bag.

She said, ‘Please don’t be shocked by how extreme the list might seem. Just take it to mean that we all have some of this, to a degree. And can you just go through the list and see how many of those apply to you, and how strongly, you know? But be honest. Just go by your first reaction.’

She handed me the paper. It was a psychological questionnaire that she got from her ‘counselor’. A list of stuff relating to pretty hardcore insecurities. And sure, I’ve experienced some of them to a degree in the past, but for the most part, I’ve dealt with them already. I don’t think she believed me when I said so. More importantly, I could not see how this had anything to do with my experience of racism. I told her so.

She suggested several more times that I should go see a counselor (i.e., psychiatrist). I disagreed. But she had me ‘tamed’ by the time she said this. So I didn’t really argue much. I thanked her and her husband for the discussion, and went home. I thought I was ‘cool’ about it all. As I drove home, I thought I ‘felt better’.

But the minute I entered my home, suddenly the rage just all came out. I was so very, extremely angry that she had tried to ‘tame’ me, by trying to make me see things from a more ‘rational’ point of view. Basically, she was suggesting that I was imagining things, and that if I did experience racism, it was because I had some sort of psychological issue. Her diagnosis was very, deeply hurtful.

I tried to tell her so in an email the following day. She hadn’t shown any willingness to listen when I spoke to her in person.

That said, I think I’ve done the same things myself with other people, though I’ve of course never done so in the context of racism. Recent posts and discussions on swpd reminded me of that incident, and made me realize that I really shouldn’t do it to others either.

117 comments:

  1. She doesn't sound like a worthy person to be friends with. I'd drop her if I was you.

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  2. There is an unfortunate and very definite perception in mainstream Australia that something is racist only if it's a) done with clearly malicious intent (eg straight up violent slurs), b) done completely without humour (eg violent slurs that are "funny" will be waved off with "it's just a joke, lighten up!"), and c) about a group that is perceived as innocent or acceptable to society (eg overt racism towards Aboriginal people will often get waved away because of percieved alcohol abuse and 'unseemliness', and overt racism towards people of Indian descent will rarely get called on because of mainstream dislike of ESL taxi drivers and call centers).

    Due to the extremely low numbers of surviving Aboriginal populations, Australia is pretty much a country that's never had to have a proper racial discussion. It shows.

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  3. That is just a horrible experience. It really does suck to find out that even your friends can't understand. I'm finding that even as a WP most of the WP in my life trivialize race and racism when I talk with them about it. I can't imagine the disrespect and hurt you felt when she trivialized YOUR own lifetime of experiences - like not just racism in general or hypothetically speaking, but your life.

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  4. I'm so sorry your friend did that to you. I don't know why we WP do this one. I personally think odds are if you feel any twinge on the racism antenna then that's what it was. Human instincts are kinda good like that.

    PS - Not to derail too much, but Australia is, I think, more racist than the States (speaking generally of the society & culture as a whole) in a lot of ways. Race is at least discussed here. I'm sure you would never find an Aussie website that talked about race like for example this one or Racialicious does. Or maybe Americans are just more into analyzing everything?

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  5. Oh my. Wow. You have every right to be enraged. You weren't just silenced, you basically got the racism equivalent of, "You weren't raped, but even if you were, you brought it on yourself. So just get over it already. Why do you keep trying to turn this into an issue?"

    It was serious o_O when I read her compliment about your skin. It made me think of things I'd read on blogs written by black women about white women complimenting their hair, about how the white women say stuff like "I'd love to have hair like that," but the truth is that they just want to appropriate the hair without having to deal with any of the baggage that goes with it - the cultural expectations, the racism, etc. Your friend obviously likes the look of your skin, but she doesn't want to acknowledge the reality that goes with it.

    In general, I'd say the difference between "imagining things" and "perceiving things wrongly" is like: you see an animal in the distance. If you're imagining it, then it isn't really there at all. If you're perceiving it wrongly, then maybe it's just a rock or something that has an animal-like shape. It's not an animal like you thought, but there really is *something* there.

    So I can see the argument there; she does think SOMETHING happened in the situations you're describing, but she thinks it's gender-related or bad-day-related or whatever-related rather than racism-related. So she's not denying that something happened - she acknowledges that the incidents happened and they were real. But she disagrees with your knowledge that they were racist, and has decided that it isn't knowledge, that's just your interpretation, and you must have interpreted it wrongly. It sounds like she's quite set in her views that you're wrong about this, to the point where she thinks your resistance is pathological. I don't think there's any real way to get her to open her mind about it, considering she's at the point where she's actually collecting resources to try and "help" you. :(

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  6. That is horrible, condescending to the extreme. Your white "friend" is toxic. . . I have no words. . .

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  7. I just started reading this blog, and I don't have anything deep to say -- I just wanted to say that it sounds like this person isn't really a friend.

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  8. I can't believe... she pulled out... a questionnaire.

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  9. I don't have anything to add right now, but I wanted to say thank you so much for sharing this.

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  10. Thank you for sharing fromthetropics! Very thought provoking. I could imagine how frustrating it is for your own friend not taking out the time to understand racism and the experiences that you go through.

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  11. Yeah, "friends" like that get demoted QUICKLY with me. That's just mean ol' Angry Black Bitch me though.

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  12. Ahh, the skin thing. What POC, especially WOC, haven't heard that one?

    Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Dump the "friend". Sounds like a truly noxious personality.

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  14. I just... astonished.
    Demoted? I say Tropics should bounce completely.
    This woman would never see me again, ever.

    Except possibly for the time it took me to 1) hand her a bulleted list of classic white derailment tactics or a privilege 101 questionnaire or something, 2) deliver a cold-as-ice/sweet-as-sugar "Just take it to mean that we all have some of this, to a degree! Just go through the list and see how many of those apply to you, you know? But be honest, mkay?" and 3) hold eye contact 'til she peed and ran away.

    Call me passive aggressive. ;P

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  15. @Any/all WP suggesting that fromthetropics should ditch the "friend"

    This story seems extremely analagous to the dialogues that take place here on SWPD (and notably the last several threads). How many of the "allies" here would humbly accept getting dropped by the PoC here if they all decided to up and leave the SWPD blogsphere? How many would criticize them for it?

    It is dissappointing to me that someone actually responded to this with "Not to derail too much, but Australia is, I think, more racist than the States (speaking generally of the society & culture as a whole)". Is that REALLY what needs to be getting focused on right now?

    Thanks for the story fromthetropics.

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  16. She's a bad friend, dump her. You don't need to understand everything about someone in order to support them, if you call yourself a friend. Even if she didn't know how to spell "racism", the emotional attachment and devotion that two friends are supposed to share should have made her give you credit and comfort.
    Her hubby has to put up with her because they're married, but you don't have to. It is obviously more important to her to be right, than to offer you comfort in your troubles. You made your point with her, you attempted to clarify things repeatedly, she even saw you cry because of her words, the only thing left is to pack up your toys and move on. Don't start any head games, because privilege has thick skin, and you'll be the one ending up hurt and drained.
    If she really cares about you and is just blinded by her privilege, it's up to her to educate herself, acknowledge it, and grovel to regain your friendship, since she is the one who undermined it in the first place. Don't accept any less, because she might come with a half-assed apology just to shut you up, and pose as the reasonable one.

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  17. I'm sorry that happened to you, fromthetropics. Thinking back to my early awakening to anti-racist and feminist ideas, I went through a lot of what you describe as well. Hell, I did even drop friends over it. They had their chances--more than one, of course, just as you've given your friend. Sometimes your leaving the friendship may be the wake-up call someone like that needs.

    I think people need to help one another out, whether it be in a situation like your or in any problematic situation, but maybe you aren't the right person to help this woman out--? Maybe it's time for you to step aside and allow room for her to find the right person to help her understand where she's going wrong.

    That may sound condescending, but there really isn't a reason that I can think of to continue to place yourself in her/harm's way. You're not getting anything but anger and sadness and rage out of it. (What's she getting out of it, I wonder.)

    Protect yourself.

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  18. Robin said: “but the truth is that they just want to appropriate the hair without having to deal with any of the baggage that goes with it - the cultural expectations, the racism, etc. Your friend obviously likes the look of your skin, but she doesn't want to acknowledge the reality that goes with it.”

    Well, the context in which she said it suggests to me that she said it not so much that she was trying ‘appropriate’, but because she may have thought that I didn’t like being Asian because I thought racism was widespread. And so, to me it sounded as though she was trying to ‘console’ me, and thus it came off as horrendously patronizing. I really don’t need the approval of someone white (or anyone for that matter) about the quality/color of my skin.

    >he does think SOMETHING happened in the situations you're describing, but she thinks it's gender-related or bad-day-related or whatever-related rather than racism-related.

    Yeah, totally. But to me it just sounds like, “You’re imagining racism.”

    Re: Australia being more racist than other places – Awhile back I said the same thing as Soda & Candy. Restructure has already kindly pointed out that such ‘oppression olympics’ type of argument is fallacious here.

    Lutsen wrote: “@Any/all WP suggesting that fromthetropics should ditch the "friend". This story seems extremely analagous to the dialogues that take place here on SWPD (and notably the last several threads). How many of the "allies" here would humbly accept getting dropped by the PoC here if they all decided to up and leave the SWPD blogsphere? How many would criticize them for it?”

    Uhm, yeah. To be honest, I feel uncomfortable sharing this story. I’ve mentioned that I had a fallout with a white friend in a couple of my previous posts/comments, but I never felt comfortable giving the details because I was afraid it would seem too much like ‘gossip’ or that I was exposing the my friend’s flaws/weakness in public. I decided to share it this time because the issue of (white) people giving pop psychology diagnoses came up and was, once again, dumbfounded that this incident contained yet another swpd post.

    So, I really thank everyone for their sympathy/empathy, but the point was not to ‘bag’ my friend. Yes, this incident left me very angry for awhile (since I considered her a relatively close friend) and it’s one of the triggers that got me addicted to this blog. But reading swpd over the last 8 months and discussing issues with all of you has really helped me get over this. So I’m cool with it now. It’s been awhile since it happened and I haven’t spoken much to her since, partly because I’ve been away from Australia. When I do go back, I’m actually going to try and see if I can amend the friendship somehow (not sure if it’s possible though, but we’ll see). Trying to get her to see how hurtful it was is probably impossible. But perhaps I can at least ignore it as a weakness that she has and maintain a less emotionally involving friendship with her. So yeah, the “dump her” tactic isn’t gonna work. And no, her husband is not just “putting up” with her. A person can have racial prejudices and still have very good qualities about them. (I mean, otherwise why did we become friends in the first place?) Otherwise, we’re all done for (since I’m sure we each have our share of prejudices one way or another). Or perhaps I’m being stupid to even try again? (cont'd below)

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  19. (cont'd)

    But I sent macon the story coz I was wondering – Has anyone else experienced something similar with any part of the story, and to what degree? E.g. Getting told you need to go see a shrink because you think racism exists in a systemic way? Or perhaps can someone relate to the aboriginal dance story?

    And, going on to some of the more under-the-surface issues, what I find amusing is that, as you can see from how she tried to suggest that perhaps I was racist against Aborigines, is that she likes being PC, and is very much the kind who likes environmentalism, eradication of poverty, hates racism, etc. etc. type person. Likes befriending POCs, learn about other culture, etc, etc. And I suppose is proud of all that? She’s very much aware of issues like that. Such that she seems to fall under the category of ‘anti-racist white allies’ who some are criticizing as not really an ally (here’s a very exaggerated example). It strikes me as an example of someone who is too conscious of being anti/un-racist. So conscious that it basically indicates that they haven’t actually overcome their own racial prejudices.

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  20. Lutsen - I guess that was too derailing.

    I honestly wasn't trying to get anyone to focus on that. Having given my response to the matter actually being discussed it was just an aside (a PS) that occurred to me afterwards, being someone who's lived in both countries.

    I apologize to all for the derailment and encourage everyone from here on to ignore the PS part of my earlier comment.

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  21. @ karinova: if you wanted her to be daunted, shamed, given pause, whatever, then if I were you I would not bring to her attention any of that "derailing" stuff. I've lurked a lot of antiracism sites for a long time, driven by an odd mix of earnest interest and snide incredulity, and I have to say that this nonsense about derailing is one of the most absurd things I've encountered.

    If it's impermissible for WP to question POCs' assertions about racism, then fruitful discourse about racism b/w WP and POCs cannot happen. Period. Real substantive discussions do not take place when one party is restricted to docilely nodding along. Lectures are possible, sure, but not actual conversation.

    If fromthetropics started spouting the contents of derailingfordummies without attributing it to any outside source, then the amateur (and likey, too, professional) diagnoses she'd receive would be staggering in #.

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  22. Sorry, I forgot the link for this (which I got from macon): (here’s a very exaggerated example)

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  23. Has anyone else experienced something similar with any part of the story, and to what degree? E.g. Getting told you need to go see a shrink because you think racism exists in a systemic way?

    @fromthetropics: Hell yes, indeed! Transracial adoptees get smacked with this claptrap all the dad-blamed time, tis pretty much part and parcel of our existence; please refer to comments in previous posts.

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  24. as a POC have to say i "feel your pain"... i once heard that i was ok till i started my riff about race and racism... keep the faith and dump or marginalize the "friend"

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  25. @Soda & Candy - I'm curious, which cities in the respective countries are you comparing? My comparison (before Restructure called me out) was based mostly on Perth (small city) and Toronto (big metropolitan city), which really wasn't a fair comparison to start with, plus what I see on the media.

    @mixed, fyi - I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. You said:
    "If it's impermissible for WP to question POCs' assertions about racism, then fruitful discourse about racism b/w WP and POCs cannot happen."

    In the exchange between my friend and I, as I remember it, I found that I could hardly finish a sentence or two before getting cut off unless I agreed with her that racism is virtually non-existent except with the select few idiots who'll come out and say, "Go back to your country, you gook," which of course almost never happens. Are you saying I should have allowed her to talk more? I mean, I did let her go through that list with me, and I took the time to read it. And I listened so much to so many of the explanations and stories she and her poc husband (who I think has been 'converted' to her views) told me that I was, as I said, 'tamed' by the end of it.

    I mean, what I don't get is, if your friend is visibly upset, almost yelling, and crying (several times)...wouldn't you kinda stop to think that maybe, just maybe, I mean, really, just maybe you said something wrong? I just think it's really weird and incomprehensible that the conclusion to all that was: She's really insecure and she needs a shrink. It's similar to the way men dismiss women as hysterical and unbalanced when really, it's them who've driven the women to hysteria. (This reminds me of Beyonce's "Listen".)

    I said above: "Or perhaps I’m being stupid to even try again?" ...on second thought, maybe you're all right. Maybe it is a stupid idea. sigh. (I'll have to sleep on it.)

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  26. Has anyone else experienced something similar with any part of the story, and to what degree?

    The discussions I have with my parents about sexism rarely go anywhere. I find it very hurtful and saddening because my mom just doesn't see it or accept it as sexism (the lack of intelligent female heroes in literature, for ex) and my dad just skips around the issue a lot and tries to justify it by saying "X and Y thing happened in the past, which is why Z occurs today" (women having lower-paid jobs than men) and not really thinking we should do anything about it. Everything I do in relation to sexism (i.e. pointing out that 'wondering' about why a person who was raped didn't fight back is insensitive and ignores several common factors in rape cases) is taken as 'politicizing' my life and that I should just "chill out" and "take it easy" (oh, how those comments make me NOT want to chill out). It's hurtful when it's your family that does things like that.

    A similar thing happens when I try to discuss racism (my parents insist that kinky hair is inherently bad/ugly "because black people I worked with say so", despite my responses about colonialism, imperialism, self-hatred, etc.). The sexism hurts me more because it's something that affects me personally (although I'm Hispanic, I don't consider myself a PoC because I benefit form white privelege), but the racism stings as well.

    A similar thing happens when I try to discuss ablism. People like getting their undies in a twist whenever I ask them to stop using the word "retarded" to describe people and things (why the fucking hell are they so desperate to keep using this obviously offensive word?), or to consider that the lack of disabled actors on TV is a problem (their response is: "wtf you wouldn't have people with a heart condition playing someone with a heart attack so this makes no sense"). Then again, these people think that blackface is a-ok (because some guy in a movie did it lol).

    These incidents are very disheartening, but imo, they tell me just how much the world needs to start treating people as equals. The people I talk to are downright nasty about these issues, even if they are normally nice and docile. That such great people would be against things like this, which are a simple matter of human courtesy, depresses and inspires me.

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  27. Thaddeus BlanchetteJanuary 3, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    Interesting. My comment seems to have gone missing.

    I'll presume that it's an internet error and not knee-jerking.

    What I asked, quite reasonably, is if there's any way that a white person could disagree with a "person of color" about race and racism and NOT be racist?

    This does not strike me as a particularly inflamatory question.

    On the side, I made an ironic comment regarding "people of color", which I consider to be a label that's as racist and igfnorant as the day is long.

    White supremacy is a very complicated and multi-faceted thing. It does not treat all non-whites in the same way. The term "people of color" glosses a huge array of historical experiences of racism as, essentially, identical. I can't think of a term that is more disrespectful of humanity's historical experiences than this.

    It should be obvious to any thinking human being that "people of color" and "colored people" are identical terms, both philosophically and grammatically.

    I thus wish that people would stop presuming that, essentially, Lakota is a Nigerian is Vietnamese. This is a view of the planet that only an extremely racist and unreflective white person could come up with.

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  28. Anyone got any holiday booze left to chug to mixed and Tad's posts?

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  29. For the love of cheese - this goes out to a considerable number of white "allies" here, not just Thaddeus - antiracism is NOT an opportunity to showcase how supercilious - oh my bad, I mean "super smart" and superior you are. Get it through your head, Whitey!

    Back to the actual matter at hand... I hope fromthetropics' shared experience will help the know-it-all white folks who so blithely supported Macon's pathologization in keeping their clueless mouths better shut the next time they hanker to psychobabble rather than address racism for what it is.

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  30. Speaking of which! LOL forever at "Lyle Douchee-way," thanks for linking fromthetropics!

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  31. "Yikes" is all I can say. Fromthetropics, I'm sorry you had to deal with someone like that. She doesn't sound like much of a friend.

    Can I ask what her husband did throughout this?

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  32. @Thaddeus Blanchette:

    Run along, baby troll. Grown people are talking.

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  33. @ Thaddeus:

    >> "It should be obvious to any thinking human being that "people of color" and "colored people" are identical terms, both philosophically and grammatically."

    Actually, grammatically speaking, the equivalent of people of color is "color's people." Sorry. (Some friendly advice: attempts to be both smart and racist usually fail).

    As for your broader point, yes, it is true that the term POC camouflages the differences among those people, and that not all POC are affected negatively in the same ways from white racism. However, it is a useful term in anti-racism discourse because it reveals and allows us to discuss how Whiteness harms all POC. More importantly, it is the term favored by most POC anti-racist advocates (though not all), and I am inclined to follow their lead.

    >> "I thus wish that people would stop presuming that, essentially, Lakota is a Nigerian is Vietnamese."

    I think only someone locked in a racist mindset presumes the term "POC" to mean "all POC are The Same." Those of us who are trying to fight racism understand it to mean "someone who is directly targeted by systemic racism, who might be from any of a group of ethnicities."

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  34. "It should be obvious to any thinking human being that "people of color" and "colored people" are identical terms, both philosophically and grammatically."

    My understanding of why "people of color" is such a commonly preferred term (and correct me if anyone knows otherwise) is because of the first word. "Colored people" emphasizes color. "People of color" emphasizes personhood.

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  35. Honestly, I only use PoC because it's the standard term and I don't have a better one. Some whites are "of color", and some POC are pretty white-skinned. And I don't like cultural and social differences between races being reduced to skin color.

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  36. "Colored people" emphasizes color. "People of color" emphasizes personhood.

    There is that, but there's also the fact that "colored people" is a term White people thought up to describe and oppress POCs, whereas "people of color" comes from us as a way to describe ourselves.

    A subtle difference, but one with huge implications.

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  37. "people of color" comes from us as a way to describe ourselves

    And, sadly, that is exactly what pisses WP off about "all this PC nonsense.

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  38. I often use "non-white" here instead of PoC/POC, an effort to keep a focus on white supremacy (I've noticed to that Gus T. Renegade does that as well, on his BlogTalk program, "The C.O.W.S.").

    Any thoughts on whether that's appropriate?

    I've also heard objections to "people of color," especially in the context of discussions of "whiteness," because it (supposedly) implies that white people don't have a "color," that is, a "race."

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  39. attempts to be both smart and racist usually fail.

    This precept is GOLD. \m/

    To both address Fromthetropics' adversity and pan Thaddeus' trolling - any other POC here ever get the sense that it's less of a headache (or at least more STRAIGHTFORWARD) to hang out with conservative, hidebound whites as opposed to their pseudo-progressive, "tolerant" counterparts?

    Cause this is a significantly common vein here... obviously Fromthetopics' friend, Thaddeus and their Douchee-Way peers (omg best whitey moniker EVER) get off on painting themselves as enlightened, forward-thinking folk who are better at speaking up for people of color than people of color themselves.

    Sometimes it feels like it's actually easier to get some sense through the skulls of moderates and comparatively "narrow-minded" whites, because they don't devote so much energy to appearing unprejudiced, and as such are less likely to kick into such an extreme mode of defensiveness and reactionary psychodrama like Fromthetropics' friend did.

    Just a thought and an indication that most white people's antiracist shtick is just that - preening and frail vanity.

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  40. Non-white is pretty "othering".

    And I really don't care if white people think that implies they don't have a race. Like I said, not all POC are "of color"

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  41. I guess it can be a tricky situation. I often use "People of Color" myself because, as stated, it implies personhood first whereas "non-white" can seem to imply the standard as white.

    A few times I've seen people, and caught myself, use the term "chromatic". Anyone else?

    -Juan

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  42. TBH, I prefer to call people what they identify as. For instance, I wouldn't say Asian if I meant Chinese. And when speaking of my experiences as a person of color, I generally only speak for myself and of my own experiences as a Black woman because it's not my place to speak of or about the experiences of other POCs because - check this out - I am not them!

    Frankly, the people who have the most issue with "people of color" are White people, and it's usually for one of two reasons:

    1. They think it's just switching around "colored people" a little to sound "more PC" (whatever that means).
    2. They are uncomfortable with being racialized as White and facing the damage Whiteness* continues to cause people who are not White. Hence all the "I'm 1/16th Cherokee" shit that inevitably comes up almost solely in discussions of race and/or appropriation, as if the same can't be true of Black Americans.

    But in the absence of knowing that, I use the phrase "people of color" as a way of recognizing some (not all, most, or many) of the common experiences of people who are not viewed as White.

    Everyone knows the terminology is imperfect, but we (meaning POCs) need a way to describe ourselves and our common experiences that comes from us and not from White people. The ability to define oneself for oneself is an absolute must for the process of liberation.

    (* Whiteness and European ethnicity and/or ancestry are not interchangeable. This seems really hard for a lot of White Americans to understand because, from the moment America became its own entity, Whiteness was part of what defined American. Passing started when the first Europeans decided that it was worth giving up their Irishness, their Greekness, their Russianness, etc. for the power of becoming White. Give up your name, your language, your religion, your religion, etc., stop fraternizing with those Negroes and Indians, and you can become White - and therefore American - and get all this good shit that comes with it.)

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  43. I love how mixed is doing exactly what s/he accuses the commentariat of talking too much about. It's incredible.

    http://resistracism.wordpress.com/racism-101/

    FtT: I'm so sorry you had to deal with that. How that could go on and her not think that maybe she's doing something wrong/hurtful is unfathomable to me.

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. mixed was derailing and so was Thaddeus. Now we are talking about whether the term People of color is useful and appropriate to use LOL. I like the term People of Color. It's better than using "Colored People" because it sounds too much like White folks in the past calling Black people "colored". It makes me feel like I'm really inferior.This reminds how awful and embarrassing hearing Linsay Lohan call our president our "first Colored" President" SMH. "People of color" sounds more empowering.

    Now to answer fromthetropics question now I have not been directly asked or told this, however, I have heard incidents where this has happened to others. I remember my mother telling me that she was on the bus to go to the airport. She said that she was the only person of color on the bus. She said that most of the White people on the bus acted as if they didn't want her to sit by them. She also told me that a White man from Canada noticed that she was the only person of color on the bus and replied to her "I think your skin color is beautiful". I guess he senses that she was uncomfortable by the reactions of the people not wanting to sit by her and wanted her to feel better. My mother replied "Well its a hefty price to pay to have this skin tone". He said "I understand" and that wast the end of the conversation. I'm still trying to figure out why my grandmother and aunt thought she was out of line of saying that to him. I thought it was appropriate. Sometimes some White people might like a person of color's skin tone but now with all the baggage. She had to set him straight and let him know the truth.

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  46. I tend to find that bigots are easier to deal with than Well-Intentioned White Liberals because you can usually avoid them.

    Former bigots have proven to be the most adept at unlearning their baggage. It's very ironic that the people who used to hate my guts are the same ones who are most redeemable.

    I wonder why that is.

    But Well-Meaning White Liberals . . . yeah. While nowhere nearly as extreme, I've had similar encounters that the OP had. I sometimes wonder if it's a form of psychological abuse.

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  47. Found this statement by Rex to be very succinct.

    ""There is an unfortunate and very definite perception in mainstream Australia that something is racist only if it's a) done with clearly malicious intent (eg straight up violent slurs), b) done completely without humour (eg violent slurs that are "funny" will be waved off with "it's just a joke, lighten up!"), and c) about a group that is perceived as innocent or acceptable to society (eg overt racism towards Aboriginal people will often get waved away because of percieved alcohol abuse and 'unseemliness', and overt racism towards people of Indian descent will rarely get called on because of mainstream dislike of ESL taxi drivers and call centers).""

    And it doesn't apply to just australia.

    I see you in no wrong if you ever want to detach from anyone in your life like that, be it demoting them to fully getting rid of them. If their toxicity to you continues, refuse to understand or even correct themselves then--speaking from personal experience--need to toss them aside in some respect and only consider ties with them if they're actually getting their shit together.

    Personally it has done me well, a bit, self-esteem and health-wise. Though white people, and some people of colour, will take issue with your... accessibility(?) & personality/supposed PC-ness from time to time because you won't put up with their shit.

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  48. "Some whites are "of color" and some POC are pretty white-skinned"
    iirc, this is much truer than you probably realize, according to genetic research.

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  49. I tend to find that bigots are easier to deal with than Well-Intentioned White Liberals because you can usually avoid them.

    Holy peas RVCBard, what a tremendous relief knowing I'm not alone in popping these fruitcake paradox pills! But things would be this fucked up under the auspices of white hegemony.

    And cripes, I never knew there was such a succinct term for it. In the context of transracial adoption, such abuse is systemic iatrogenesis. Or just shit like all the white kids surround you - the only person of color in your entire grade - to hurl ethnic slurs and punches, then you come home, only to have your white privileged adoptive parent ask, "what did you do to provoke them?"

    The "well-meaning" aspect of white privileged liberalism is such a crock. I think it's easier for bigots to unlearn their baggage because for all their ignorance and vitriol, they lack the profound hypocrisy of WMWLs.

    Hypocrisy, I've observed, often creates nigh insurmountable psychological, spiritual and moral blocks.

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  50. Co-sign RVCBard and Commie! White Liberals are the hardest to deal with in discussing race relations. They tend to believe that they are not racist so when you point out their racism they are not willing to listen. Am I the only one that can't stand "The Blind Side" and "Crash" ugggh White liberalism was all in both of those films.

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  51. And I co-sign Lady Dani Mo on "Crash." I remember having several arguments with white friends about that one when it came out. When I saw it, I squirmed through the whole thing, and laughed out loud sometimes too (not that there's one single moment in that movie where I was supposed to do that).

    There's some talk going around these days saying that it's Worst Movie of the Decade. So far, in terms or race, I can't think of one that's worse (though for me, "Monster's Ball" is a strong contender -- or was that the Nineties?).

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  52. @ Soda and Candy: "I'm sure you would never find an Aussie website that talked about race like for example this one or Racialicious does."

    Um, maybe that would be my website? :) It's not quite as specific in focus as the 2 you mention, but check it and see what you think.

    @ fromthetropics - It's a shame to hear about your friend's treatment of you. Sounds like she has some insecurities of her own. That said, I agree that some of the advice from commenters here to dump her ass is pretty poor. We all have friends with less than perfect ideological outlooks, and I'm sure she is also a very nice person in other ways, or else she wouldn't be your friend in the first place.

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  53. Re: dropping a white acquaintance
    When I first saw Lutsen's comment, I misread it as: Y'all say to boot the friend because of her fail. What if all the POC on SWPD just broke out due to some comment thread fail-a-thon. Wouldn't that be lame of them? I started to compose a comment, but it was late; I decided to sleep on it. Now I get it (and Tropics has clarified the situation besides) but maybe the comment is worth posting anyway:

    You know, I bet it would be criticized by some nonPOC commenters.
    Which would be bullshit.
    It reminds me of the "trustworthy" post.
    Regarding the friend, I'm assuming she hadn't previously given any reason for hope, in which case, I'd have to drop her, for two reasons. One, it's not about being angry that she's such a huge racist or something. First and foremost, it's about the way she handled the emotions of a "friend." Doesn't matter what they were talking about. That was some toxic shit, in so many ways. It's like, what little she knew about Tropics, she used as a knife. Just... sadistic. Parasitic? I don't know, words fail me. Suffice it to say, friends don't ruthlessly browbeat friends into tearful submission and consider that all good. ("So...! Can I get that ride?") That's one.

    Two, when it comes to race, I have to issue all white people a trust account that is overdrawn by default. Years of research have defined the demographic of WP as a huge credit risk on that. I'm sorry, individual WP, but too many of your peers have defaulted in the past. Barring any mitigating info, every WP starts in a deep credit hole, and this woman's episode basically torched her already-negative account. I cannot extend any more credit. I can't afford it. It's not worth the psychological risk. (Consider: even if the gamble paid off and I managed to school her, what'd I win, again?) I can't stress this enough! There is a cost to engaging with someone who's demonstrated that they're committed to maintaining their Great Wall of Obtusity at your expense. And according to my training, the probability of seeing a return is almost nonexistent. This isn't a charity. Account closed.

    Whereas, a commenter going sideways here is a little different. First of all, it's not my personal life. The level of risk is entirely different, so "you" get a special web-based trust account. Second, the simple fact that you're here and have a decent track record helps. We may not be on the same page, but we're at least eyeing the same book. That's a little tiny deposit in the account. (Doesn't get you in the black— heh— but that's better than what I'm figuring for this woman.) Then, the fact that I'm here is a huge help. If I'm here, I am feeling charitable, and I've already girded my brain for the possibility of a fail assault. If things go well, I can cash that in for a penny's worth of Maybe There Is Hope. If not... well, you can't really hurt me here. So that gets your account to maybe zero. Which means that if/when you now pull out some hot baked You Lose like this woman did, I might not consider it totally futile to give you a bit more credit, put my thing out there, and try to work it out. And hey, if you manage to not instantly blow that on a Regressive Meltdown Deluxe (with Ad Hominem sauce!), that counts a good-sized deposit.

    I dunno. What I'm trying to say is that it would take quite a bit more to make me walk from a space like this. Maybe it's as simple as: I just feel safer. The metrics of online credit are complex; even I can't explain it. For example, Thaddeus is new to me. Given hir comment, I can't be bothered. There's just too much Wall there. But I actually considered replying to Mixed. Need more data. I curiously await hir next missive. If zie turns out not to be just a troll, I might engage.

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  54. (Deleted my earlier comment b/c I am an idiot and wanted to rephrase:)

    @FtT - The city I grew up in (Sydney, a large, extremely diverse Australian city) versus the smallish Southern US town I live in now, and very much based also what I see in the media.

    I think what I should have said was, "I'm glad websites like this exist so we can have these discussions."

    Does it help you to have so many people affirming for you that you were in the right in your dealing with your friend?

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  55. Oh, and as for "Has anyone else experienced something similar with any part of the story, and to what degree?"

    An exhausted HELL YES is all I can manage.
    The overall tactic is practically the foundation of all white fail (and male fail, for that matter). I think there's something in Nezua's Glossario that pretty much sums up my take on this kind of episode.
    Let's see...
    Yeah, here it is "Wite Psychosis/The Shell Game" :

    "[D]esigned and employed to confuse and disempower the mind of the Other: to confuse the thought process, to shove you off balance, to make it impossible to use reason. This is, of course, to continue the oppression and exploitation... reason [cannot defend] such actions, and so... [r]eason must be subverted and replaced by control. [W]hen nothing you say or write in [the] discussion matters, even if it is a truth; when your truth is countered by Terrain Shifting... you know you are dealing with Wite Psychosis.
    Just leave. You can't "get through" this. Engaging with nonsense yields naught but noise and madness. Eventually you will find yourself frothing with rage at the person's audacity and unabashed duplicity... these violations of reason and offenses against truth will enrage you... at which point the person wielding this weapon will point to you and claim you are unreasonable, angry, divisive, oversensitive, or crazy. And this, my friends, is how the West Was "Won."

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  56. Thank you very much, fromthetropics, this is another one of the posts here by you that I REALLY appreciate. I especially am intrigued by the open-ended question raised of whether you should keep a person like this as a friend. As a white person, I simply couldn't say, mainly because I can never know what that dismay and rage you describe is like. I also agree that it can be a tough call, whether to dump a racist white friend -- how to weigh that with tangible qualities that person has. Again, tho, that's a completely different thing for you than it is for me. As a white person who's had racism pop out of friends who seem like good people (like the one who looked in his wallet, saw all small bills, and said, "Huh, nothing but ni**er money in here!" I felt my eyes bug out at that one), whatever harm I feel when confronted with it is nothing like the harm you face. I guess I'm saying, then, that I think it's your call, and it's really presumptuous for any of us (POC or white, especially) to simply say, "Eh, dump her."

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  57. Has anyone else experienced something similar with any part of the story, and to what degree? E.g. Getting told you need to go see a shrink because you think racism exists in a systemic way?

    @ fromthetropics:

    Yes, this has happened to me, actually while I was in a residential therapy program over a year ago. Out of maybe forty-five women at any given time, I was one of two black women and one of five PoCs, discounting some black staff members. For the fifteen months I was there, I talked about race as a major factor in my life maybe three or four times. While the environment was not what I'd call hostile, it wasn't supportive to my discussing race and racism either.

    When I finally did explode and talk about it, what I got back from my group of so-called peers was pretty much every derailment tactic in the book, though I didn't know at the time that that was what was going on. Everyone had a contribution -- from "my other black friend says..." to "this one time someone was racist towards me" to "why do you wear your hair that way if you don't want us to touch it?"

    I also got, "Well, I saw that movie too, and I didn't see anything racist" and "I know I can't be racist because..." and plenty of stories with lessons at the end. What ended up happening to me was what happened to you -- they "tamed" me for the moment, I "felt better" for a little while. But I was still so angry afterward, and I couldn't figure out why, because I thought it had all been resolved.

    I kind of figured that since I was in this therapy program that had done so much for me in other aspects of my life, everyone had to be right about this, too. What we decided at the end of that discussion was that racism wasn't the problem -- my own sensitivity, shame, and lack of self-confidence was the problem. At the time I even felt grateful, because while that was a bitch of a conclusion to come to, at least that meant that the solution to the problem was within my control.

    Only a year later, living on my own and reading anti-racist blogs and essays and articles, did I figure out that they were completely wrong. I really wish I'd had the knowledge and vocabulary to stand up for myself back then -- though I don't know how well it would have been received -- or, at the very least, that there could have been someone there to take my side and tell me that other people's racism was not my responsibility.

    I also get where you're coming from -- I've got several friends I like very much that can't see beyond their white privilege. They can't see they've got privilege, period, and I don't have the resources or, really, the desire, to force them into Racism 101. It's much easier said than done to just dump a friend. Of course we've got weighty history that deals with a lot of stuff other than race that's worth a lot to me. But my knowing what I know and seeing them for what they are puts a lot of new strain on these relationships that wasn't there before, and demands some emotional distance. My investment in anti-racism is new, and not something they signed on for, and maybe not something they're willing to change their entire worldviews for -- but it's too important to me to put aside completely. The tug-of-war this creates sucks.

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  58. I was going to add something I think is insightful here, but there are nasty mean people here who will just claim I'm a white troll. kthanx.

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  59. Please go ahead and add it, gooblyglob. As you just wrote in a comment on another thread, many of the commenters here are indeed a "special bunch." They're especially smart, and more than that, especially clued-in about racism. If something that you write strikes them (or me) as something that a "white troll" would be likely to write, why not think less defensively, and instead more deeply about why they say that about what you write? Please keep in mind -- it's about what you write, not about you. They don't even know "you."

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  60. [Okay, I get it, gooblyglob -- it's all about you. ~macon]

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  61. FtT, how sad to find a friend so hurtful, persistently so.

    I hope that she will have thought things through by the time you return. She's forfeited trust, but an apology from her would be good (for her, because repentance is good for the soul; you'll know whether you can take the risk), whatever the following relationship (or lack thereof). Will she know how to reach you when you come back? It is her responsibility to reach out to you in person or by letter, and also to respect that not all relationships can be fixed easily, if you withdraw.

    I, clueless middle-aged white woman, can't claim that I couldn't hurt with a dumb remark, but if it's made clear that I screwed up, or if it dawns upon me later that I was out of line, I hope that I would have the good sense to apologize ASAP, then shut up and listen. True friends should respect, listen, respect, forgive and be forgiven.

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  62. No Macon, it's not about me. Heck, it's not even about you. I find it disgusting that you let your readers pick at each other (because you know rape is funny, being sad about rape is even funnier) and just sit by and let it happen. Fine, let her know that this article or post isn't about her or the topic bought up, but have some respect for rape victims will ya? Why don't you tell your readers to keep on topic instead of trailing off as some bully's club? All I said is mean is mean and putting others down will help no one and that makes me a white troll? Geez, if only all white trolls in the world were like that, we'd be in heaven!

    And you say it's about me? Sometimes, you should read what you write, or maybe... what your commenters write.

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  63. This happened to me last year with the person I thought was my best friend.
    The story is long and convoluted, but I'll summarise:

    1)This woman began to act like she owned the individual parts of me
    2) Seemed to throw stereotypes at me left right and centre
    3) Constantly dealt with my feelings as something to be overlooked
    4) felt my education was something to be removed from me (becauseI did not fit her ignorant black stereotype)
    5) Always acted very aggressively towards me and then claimed I was aggressive

    FTT, I will tell you this now.
    Leave this woman alone.

    She is not your responsibility and you are not your mother.
    This woman abused you emotionally and is completely comfortable doing it. She has a black husband and if she has not learnt Racism 101 from marrying him, I will guarentee that she will NOT learn it from you.

    This is not your burden. I understand you want closure and you want to let her know how much she hurt you, but going after that WILL emotionally drain you and put your health at risk.

    It will take months if not years to really get through to her. That is a heck of a lot of commitment in terms of time and emotions.

    What has she done to deserve this?
    What has she done to deserve this level of patience, tolerance and FREE training from you.
    What has she done to make you feel comfortable to talk about your feelings?.

    Again, YOU were the one who was hurt
    YOU were the one who was dealt with an inappropriate and ridiculous situation.
    YOU were the one who was psychologically and emotionally assaulted by this woman.

    This woman has shown you who she is. BELIEVE her.

    Find people who respect and cherish you, and focus on living a happy and fulfilling life.
    There are certain WP who you need to steer clear of, she is one of them.

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  64. @NancyP,

    if FtT's friend is anything like mine was then nope. Especially since she married a black man.
    To her how can she be racist, she's married to a black man! Many white people cannot see how they can have sex with a black person and still be racist and that is essentially because they are ignorant.

    I'll bet a tuppence, that even if her friend realises she did something wrong, she will never admit the wrong was racist but say things like..

    'I'm sorry you 'took' it that way'
    'I'm soo upset that you took it like that'
    'I know you are quite sensitive so I shouldn't have come at you like that'
    'I'm mortified that I could have made you feel bad, let's just forget the whole thing'

    There will be no claiming responsibility for it.

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  65. okay so it's 4.35am where I am and I can't sleep. But I've read every comment on this thread twice.

    And I can't find anything about r.......
    Oh! (palm meets forehead) I get it now!.

    See, the topic FtT is not important. FtT's feelings.. urrgh what are those?. Not important. The scar and damn near humiliation of her and her soul...NOT IMPORTANT.

    Who the heck is FtT any dang way. This whole ish is not important.

    However, what is important, most pertinent, most urgent is something from a completely different post, and accusing people of doing something they never did.

    Ahh I get it. What was FtT thinking and what is everyone else thinking of by addressing FtT's topic!

    You mean bastids!

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  66. Look, this is what it is to confront racism. That interaction between fromthetropics and her "friend," that one right right there (times a million, times all day every day, times millions of people of color all over the world) is what it is to confront racism. It's like the Hydra that grows a new head when you lop one off. The "friend's" new head spouted off some b.s. psychology. That's all. That's all the effect that racism has. That rage. That belittling. That anger. Those tears. That humiliation. That's all it is.

    I'd like to hear the "friend's" reply were fromthetropics to forward her this blog entry and the responses.

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  67. @ Zara, thank you for sharing that.

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  68. Soda & Candy wrote: Does it help you to have so many people affirming for you that you were in the right in your dealing with your friend?

    Yes it does. And thank you all. But it’s getting to be a bit too much. I suppose what I don’t feel comfortable with is how what seems to be racial prejudice on her part is being used as a judgment on her whole person. This is why I hesitated for so long about sharing this story here. I’ve only shared one aspect about this person. So it would be better if we could stop judging her as a person (since none of you actually know her), but focus more on the incident itself, the dynamics, etc. However, the advice on needing to now place less trust on her is probably wise in terms of avoiding future heartaches.

    Please, let’s focus NOT on her, but on the incident. Thanks guys.

    Also, I did already get similar affirmation earlier when I shared about the incident on a closed mailing list with a similar audience. And at the time the reason why I shared it was because I was sure-as-hell-fucked-up-confused (as opposed to dissing). Am I crazy? Does racism not exist? Did I imagine everything? Do I think I experience it because there’s something wrong with me? – these were the questions that went through my mind. But months of reading race blogs has assured me that I am pretty sane. So I wasn’t really looking for affirmation as much as wondering where the discussion will go following on from the previous post.

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  69. (cont’d)
    Btw, no, I do not want closure. I already have closure – I got it by reading race-related blogs like this. No, I do not expect her to apologize.. No, I do not expect her to reach out to me. I don’t need an apology anymore. I’m not angry anymore about this incident. Thanks to everyone here who have been contributing to this community over the months. But yes, I'll take some of your advice about maintaining some emotional distance and not place too much trust in her.

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  70. Thaddeus said: What I asked, quite reasonably, is if there's any way that a white person could disagree with a "person of color" about race and racism and NOT be racist? This does not strike me as a particularly inflamatory question.

    The question in and of itself isn’t, but the context in which you are asking seems inappropriate considering the circumstances of the incident as described in my comment above(January 3, 2010 8:58 AM ). That’s what makes you sound like a troll.

    The answer though is of course. But probably only if you’re not doing it because you’re being defensive, or ‘here let me teach you’ way where you perceive yourself to be on a higher moral ground, or because you’re in denial about systemic racism. But this probably rarely happens.

    I thus wish that people would stop presuming that, essentially, Lakota is a Nigerian is Vietnamese.

    Who’s assuming such things here? We’re not stupid. I haven’t noticed any pocs having a problem with the term ‘poc’. I daresay pocs are very well versed in the art of being lumped together with other pocs – which really is part and parcel of racism/prejudice. I try my best to shut up and listen (though sometimes I fail at this) when, say, a Black person shares their experience because I find it interesting as their experiences are often different from mine, and because I need to go check myself and see whether or not I’ve been guilty of the same racist acts/thoughts that they’re calling white ppl on.

    Lady Dani Mo said: My mother replied "Well its a hefty price to pay to have this skin tone". He said "I understand" and that wast the end of the conversation. I'm still trying to figure out why my grandmother and aunt thought she was out of line of saying that to him.

    I don’t see how that’s out of line either. And considering his response, it looks like he took it well anyway.

    Eurasian sensation said: Sounds like she has some insecurities of her own.

    Well, it did make me wonder whether open and globally minded anti-racist whites who are proud of it but don’t actually really ‘get it’ have a hard time accepting that some pocs can be more interculturally savvy and experienced than they are.

    or else she wouldn't be your friend in the first place.

    Yeah, she was quite a supportive friend up until that incident. That’s why it hurt so much because I had come to trust her.

    @RVCBard & Karinova – Gaslighting sounds a bit extreme, malicious, and intentional, but if you tone that down a bit, it does sound similar to Nezua’s definition of the psychosis game…dang.

    And Karinova, your bank account is ingenious, not to mention entertaining too!

    Zara wrote: "why do you wear your hair that way if you don't want us to touch it?"

    Why did you wear your hair in what way? Hair is hair. Who cares how it’s done, if it’s not yours, it’s not yours. That’s a pretty pathetic derailment tactic.

    Of course we've got weighty history that deals with a lot of stuff other than race that's worth a lot to me. But my knowing what I know and seeing them for what they are puts a lot of new strain on these relationships that wasn't there before, and demands some emotional distance.

    It’s hard when race does affect us in our daily lives. Thanks for sharing Zara. I find it amusing that we can experience the same things while being on the different continents. Obviously racism has very similar dynamics huh.

    Btw, there is so much in the comments here that’s making me think of so many other issues with this whole race thing.

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  71. @FtT - That makes total sense.

    I love karinova's bank account metaphor too.

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  72. @FtT..
    My apologies for presuming that you are looking for closure.

    Hope you find what you are looking for and it all works out.

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  73. FTT, this quote struck me as fascinating: "Likes befriending POCs, learn about other culture, etc, etc. And I suppose is proud of all that?"

    This brings up an issue that's been coming up for me over and over - the tendency of white people to enjoy and be self-congratulatory about cultural exploration. My favorite symbol of this is National Geographic, which is about the wonders of nature - and native tribes. I find that a little weird. Why is it that those particular human beings (those who live in obscure tribal societies) so often get thrown in with cheetahs and the Great Barrier Reef?

    It's because white people (particularly wealthy, educated ones) romanticize exploration and the exotic. We send our young people off to foreign lands on gap years and study abroad so they can have life-changing experiences. We read books about adventures real and imagined, save up to travel (preferably to places other white people have never heard of so that it sounds more horizon-expanding), and watch nature/cultural shows on Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and PBS.

    And after you've explored, you have to talk about the things you've learned and how fascinating and amazing the foreign cultures were, because otherwise the experience hasn't properly changed your life. You definitely can't complain about the cultures you encountered. You can say how different it is over there, but it's considered racist to pass judgment.

    All of this is probably especially true of diaspora white cultures, like Australia and the US. How'd we get where we are if not by exploration? And all that colonialism? That was because we weren't properly enlightened back then, and didn't see the wonder and beauty of other cultures. Instead we denigrated them, which is obviously what caused all that pain and suffering.

    With that sort of outlook, common among whites and apparently part of your friend's personal philosophy, of course you'd go talk to Aborigines because they are Aborigines. To find out more about them. To make a friend from another culture.

    So I figure that's what's behind her seemingly strange comments.

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  74. Thanks Soul (for both the initial advice and the follow up). Btw, her husband isn’t black. I only said he’s ‘poc’.
    Jillian said: Can I ask what her husband did throughout this?
    This is a tough one to explain. He was mainly played the ‘broker’ or middleman. My friend wanted him to talk to me because she felt that I couldn’t ‘hear’ if it’s coming from a white person. She thought that if he (a poc who already agrees with her take on racism) talked to me, I’d have an easier time ‘hearing’ what she has to say. He apparently used to think like me (racism is widespread), but now thinks like her (it’s not widespread and things will change if you perceive and respond differently).

    He and my friend have very different ways of communicating. He’s more soft spoken, so yeah, it was easier to listen to him. And yeah, I was also fooled by his physical appearance as poc. It did not occur to me at the time to mention that his experience and mine is probably different since he has a different ethnic/racial and cultural background to mine, not to mention gender.

    Basically, he was there to share his own stories of incidents where he perceived it as racism, but once she explained it to him, he realized that he was probably overreacting. I can remember one story that I agreed he had probably misinterpreted what happened (it happened in a non-Western country); one story which I thought had nothing to do with racism and had more to do with his personal anger issues, and thus I was confused as to why they were sharing it with me – the implied meaning was, I think, that my experience of racism is also really about my own personal issues, so what I need to do is to fix myself; and one story about an incident where their friend used an Australian stereotype of pocs of his background to their advantage in a certain situation (e.g. similar to a white person in Japan playing the dumb foreigner to get away with some mistake he made even though he might speak fluent Japanese). He was initially offended that the friend did this, but the wife told him to chill saying, ‘If they want to be ignorant, then let’s just use it to our advantage.’

    I was able to agree with the point they were making with each of the stories they told. So I had no choice but to say, Yeah, I agree. But none of it described incidents similar to the microaggressions that I’ve experienced.

    I said that it’s hard to explain because to me it seemed as though he had been ‘converted’ and after he got converted, racism didn’t really feature all that much in his life anymore coz he no longer ‘perceives’ it as racism. And so, by extension, it looks as though I need to just fix my own perception and everything will go away too.

    But I don’t agree with this. I think his is a case of a highly assimilated poc who no longer sees racism. I’ve heard from a Diversity Officer at my university that sometimes the ones who are most defensive when introduced to, say, Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” are the most assimilated pocs. I’ve also noticed among the Australians I know that the ones who will readily say or do obviously racist things (that are easy to call out on) are the very assimilated pocs who pretty much have mostly, if not all, white friends. (note: the part about friendships or saying obviously racist things don’t apply to my friend and her husband as they have many poc friends).

    I don’t think I’m off base here, but would be great to hear if anyone can relate to this.

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  75. @macon re: the use of the term "non-white" in racial discourse.

    Robert Jensen in his book The Heart of Whiteness says he frequently uses "non-white" instead of PoC in order to highlight the depravity of white supremacy--by focusing on the essential distinction in racism: that one is either white or not.

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  76. Yes, I remember that now, thanks bloglogger (btw, I reviewed that book here, way back when), and that's mostly why I use "non-white" so often.

    I'm getting pretty mixed signals so far here on whether I should go on using "non-white" on this blog most of the time, or if i should switch to "people of color" exclusively. Maybe I should do a separate post on this question (especially since it's pretty far off the topic of fromthetropics' post -- sorry about that, FtT!).

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  77. @Thaddeus re: Is it possible for a WP to be critical of what a PoC says and NOT be racist?

    The problem I see is in the assumption behind the question, which is that there is some kind of dichotomy of racist/not-racist among white people. In a racist society, it is no more possible to be not racist than it is possible to be not a polluter in a society that runs on wasteful, polluting technologies. To be a white person in a society that advantages white people is to be complicit (by degrees) in racism, so I would say no, it is not possible to be not racist. That is not to say that all white people are irredeemable, just that all white people are part of the racist apparatus to one degree or another. When we accept that and quit trying to distance ourselves from it, I believe, we can, alongside people of color, begin to dismantle racism.

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  78. Rosa said: I'd like to hear the "friend's" reply were fromthetropics to forward her this blog entry and the responses.

    Lol. Um, uh, I sure don’t. I’m sure she won’t get it.

    @Commie Bastard – that’s hard. It has never occurred to me until this past year that if power dynamics can affect interracial relationships between intimate partners, then it sure can affect parent-child relations for transnational adoptees.

    Bluey512 said: With that sort of outlook, common among whites and apparently part of your friend's personal philosophy, of course you'd go talk to Aborigines because they are Aborigines. To find out more about them. To make a friend from another culture.

    Aaaaaahhhh. Yeah, I can see how she’d think like that. And yeah, if I saw someone with a cultural background that I was unfamiliar with I’d be likely to want to go talk to them…but that’s if they were actually in the same room with me at some sort of social gathering or office, etc.

    Btw, it’s the first I’ve heard the term “diaspora white cultures”. It sounds like a handy term. And yeaaah, backpackers, oh my gosh, backpackers, gap yearers, language exchange students...oooh, I have a lot to say about them which relates to this:

    The "well-meaning" aspect of white privileged liberalism is such a crock. I think it's easier for bigots to unlearn their baggage because for all their ignorance and vitriol, they lack the profound hypocrisy of WMWLs.

    Hypocrisy, I've observed, often creates nigh insurmountable psychological, spiritual and moral blocks.


    To which I say, Amen. I think the key is to not assume that we're not racist. Instead, assume the opposite as Abagond suggests (scroll down to entry on ‘racism’). That way we still have ears to listen.

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  79. to add to bloglogger's comment - One of the problems with my friend, I think, is that she may be assuming that being racist or having racist views and being an overall good person is mutually exclusive. Hence, she has a hard time accepting that racism might be widespread, because if she does, her fallacious logic will force her to believe that most Australians are 'bad, evil people'.

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  80. Abagond's link didn't go through: http://abagond.wordpress.com/glossary/

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  81. @ FFT:

    While I can't directly relate, of course, I agree with your assessment of the situation (bah, that sounds so analytical and yucky, sorry). Just because you (generic) don't see something doesn't mean it's not there and you're not affected by it. In general, people call this "denial". ^_^ And while denial is in many circumstances a coping strategy, it does NOT mean that the thing you are denying is not still negatively affecting your life!

    So yes, if they insist on playing with semantics, maybe it is a matter of "perception," but it is important to realize that one's perception is not the sole factor in determining zir reality. Just because I stick my fingers in my ears and say "lalala sexism does not exist" does not mean that the Catholic Church will suddenly be un-misogynist. And also, just like you are "perceiving" racism, your friend and her husband are "perceiving" a lack of racism.

    And also, while I in general hesitate to point to white (genuine) anti-racists as a resource for all that much, I think you will find that a majority of white people committed to fighting racism have actually had a conversion in the opposite direction: being raised to believe, and fully believing, that racism is "not that bad" or "a real problem, but exaggerated"...and then having an oh, shit epiphany.

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  82. And also, just like you are "perceiving" racism, your friend and her husband are "perceiving" a lack of racism.

    hahahahaa. Nice.

    ...and then having an oh, shit epiphany.

    Oh? You got me curious. How does this epiphany come about? Any examples?

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  83. Basically, he was there to share his own stories of incidents where he perceived it as racism, but once she explained it to him, he realized that he was probably overreacting.

    From where I'm standing, I'm not sure if he 'realized' as much as he was persuaded. Or just gave up and agreed with her insistence that it wasn't 'really' racism and convinced himself she was right in order to keep the peace.

    And Karinova, your bank account is ingenious, not to mention entertaining too!

    Agreed. As a recovering liberal hypocrite, I'm doing what I can to rebuild my credit.

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  84. @fromthetropics re: "she may be assuming that being racist or having racist views and being an overall good person is mutually exclusive."

    I think this is the basis for most of the derailing and invalidating behavior of WP when faced with the testimony of PoC. We have for so long been taught that racism is an individual sin and that it represents a special kind of pure evil that we cannot see it at work in our everyday lives and institutions--we can't see the banality of this particular evil, to borrow Hannah Arendt's phrase.

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  85. Oh? You got me curious. How does this epiphany come about? Any examples?

    I never thought that racism wasn't that bad, or exaggerated, as such, but I certainly had an "oh shit" epiphany that made me realise the depth of my own immersion in it, if you are interested in hearing it.

    Quite a while back now, as I was just starting to explore the "blogosphere" (which was a new word back then) I was idly clicking links until I reached the blog of a Woman of Color. And damn, I can't remember the name, except that I think it had "Brown" in the title, and that shames me mightily, because it was extremely important to me at the time.

    She had posted a shortish post with the title (roughly) "racist things white people do" and recounted the story of how a work colleague - an acquiantance, not a close friend - had, on a hot summer's day, touched her arm and asked her if her skin, being dark, got hotter than her own, white skin.

    There followed a mixture of comments which fell mostly into two camps - the first, those of people of color, saying "oh my god, that's so stupid and racist", and the second, those of white people, saying "that's not racist, she ws just curious".

    As I read these comments, I felt myself thinking, "why is that racist? She sounds just curious", like the second kind of commenter. But I also found myself thinking - "hang on a minute, lots of people are saying this is racist, including this blogger, whom I have read before and whose views I respect, what am I missing?".

    And suddenly I worked it out - though only because some commenters took the trouble to spell it out a bit. By assuming that her black colleague would somehow know whether her black skin felt the sun more than white skin, this white person was assuming that black people knew all about white skin, because that was normal and black skin was different from the norm. And I had too, by failing to notice that racist assumption. Oh shit. Epiphany time.

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  86. FTT I'm sorry a friend of yours is being so resistant. I'm glad to hear that you're planning to go back and make contact again. I wish I had your resolve because I'm tempted to throw people like your friend off my anti-racist train when really, they're the type I should probably try to keep on. I wish there was some way we could get through to "well-meaning racists" because I think they could become tremendous (and I hate this next word but I can't think of any thing else right now) allies. I'm sure you don't need to hear it from me but whatever you do to protect yourself from emotional scarring is the right thing to do.

    I think individuals such as your friend ooze ARROGANCE. I HATE arrogance, especially out of white people doing anti-racist work and men doing gender work. I think it is the largest obstacle between "well meaning but still very ignorant" anti-racist WP (your friend) and "DO WORK!" anti-racist WP (macon)

    Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts

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  87. FTT re epiphanies: Macon had a post Take Surveys that had roughly your question in it. There may be more examples to read in the comments.

    FWIW, I think that WP may have or need a series of epiphanies. Or maybe I only think that because I haven't had a really good one yet. I do recall three particular moments where I started to feel a little more clued in.
    1-coming across the concept of intentionality versus impact. a very baby step.
    2-reading derailing for dummies. I recognised many of my own thoughts spelled out for me. Seeing the techniques all side-by-side made it so much clearer to me that (and how and why) WP systematically try to shut down POC in particular and any possibly productive discussion of race/racism in general even where only WP are present.
    3-screwing up here at SWPD and at Keep It Trill and getting a very supportive smackdown from kit and soul. The smackdown was deserved. The support was not. Basically, I introduced myself to myself - a white liberal dirtbag. Working on that.

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  88. Our stories, like FTT’s, aren’t isolated anecdotes; they are illustrations of our everyday lived experience. I am a PoC (I am lots of things) living in a white world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with whiteness. But when you don’t belong to whiteness, yet it’s the very air you breathe, it gets a bit stifling, a bit toxic. (L. Guinier used a useful analogy about the miner’s canary – worth looking up).
    This is one of the most intelligent discussions about race I’ve ever come across (I wish we could all talk in person!) But at the same time it’s frustrating. I’m seeing People of Colour pouring their energy and their intellect into articulating and explaining their experience again and again – and I know how exhausting this can be, talking back to power and privilege. We do it because it matters, and because we – those of us with the gifts and ability to talk back – feel it is our responsibility to do so. But it takes a heavy toll, often leaving us angry, frustrated, isolated, tired, disgusted, and pessimistic about the future of the human race, given that the simplest things – empathy, humanity, compassion – seems to be so hard for the powerful and the privileged to get their heads around. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to devote so much of our energy and intellect towards fighting for our place in this white, white world? Imagine all the fun and fabulous things we could be doing instead!

    A lot of people have been advising FTT to dump her friend, but it’s difficult. If I were to dump everyone in my acquaintance that didn’t ‘get it’, I’d have a very lonely existence indeed. Sometimes you keep a friendship, but you learn the limits of what you can expect from them. The compassion thing works both ways; compassion for a beloved WP friend who simply doesn’t ‘get’ a part of who you are, and probably never will, is better for one’s health than bitterness, anger and frustration. Not that I’ve mastered this trick: heck, I divorced someone because he just couldn’t ‘get it’ (among other reasons). The white world shits me on a daily basis, and it’s there every morning when I go out the bloody door – but I’m determined not to give myself an ulcer over it. And I like to have friends, even if they can be a bit thick. On the other hand, I’ll agree that any ‘friend’ that thinks it’s OK to browbeat another friend to tears just for the sake of being right probably doesn’t deserve to have FTT as a friend, because FTT sounds like a pretty cool chick.
    Had to smile at the bit in FTT’s story about having an Aboriginal friend. We are such a political football – hilarious when people pick us up to kick a goal (‘I care about those poor oppressed darkies more than you, you ignorant yobbo!’) when it suits them. While I’m on it, ‘Reconciliation’ events give me the fear – all these WPs jostling to hug us, like we’re friggin’ pandas or something. What is it with those nice white ladies that want to touch us all the time? Gah!

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  89. thanks Possumistic ;)

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  90. Re: "oh, shit! epiphany". It's probably different for everyone. It dawned upon me slowly, since up to my early teens, I didn't have black classmates (tiny private school which started integrating circa 1967 or 1968), and my parents didn't have black friends. I wasn't exactly noticing the news of the Civil Rights Era, all I cared about was science and NASA news. Then MLK,Jr was assassinated, and I started thinking "oh, shit". It seemed different to me than the standard presidential / candidate assassination - MLK,Jr was a civilian and a minister, not a Commander-in-Chief. I met and worked with an increasing number of black people over the years, and at first I was very aware of my stilted behavior and ability to make stupid comments - partly due to lack of experience meeting black people on a social "small talk" level, partly due to lack of reflection concerning race, partly due to my overall shyness and social ineptitude with white people. Years of reading the news, of looking around me at conditions in school, employment, community, of reading history, and of thinking, have chipped away at my blindness to usual white assumptions and to the non-meritocratic nature of society. (D'oh!) For me, progress is made in small steps, and not in one giant "epiphany".

    Off-track, I know, but perhaps matter for another discussion sometime:
    Tourist / exchange WMWLs frequently are racist/ oblivious to local sensibilities in the countries visited, but I have seen the flip side where foreign-born Semitic, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Southern Asians, Northern Asians visit and/or settle in this country and act and/or speak in a racist manner to U.S.-born black people. I notice this occasionally in the academic and health care professions.

    Is this due to an effort to fit into dominant white U.S. culture, or to racism in the home culture, or both?

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  91. @NancyP

    I agree with you that progress comes in small steps. Here's a step to try. Look back at your comment and try to identify all of the different derailment techniques and other acts of whiteness you used. Step 2: don't report back to here about it. Rather learn from it for the next time you comment on something.

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  92. Interesting. And I think NancyP was responding to a question I asked in the comments section. So I suppose I derailed my own post?

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  93. Baby Steps at 1/5/10 5:49 PM: My bad. I didn't label the paragraphs of my post 1/5/10 5:18 PM as pertaining to specific authors' specific posts. This has been an interesting thread.

    The "epiphany?" paragraph was a response to Willow and FtT at 1/4/10 10:09, 10:14 AM

    In the paragraph labeled "off-track", I was responding to Bluey512@1/4/10 9:20 AM, and proffering a suggestion for another thread topic.
    IGNORE FOLLOWING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ OFF-TOPIC. American pop culture is consumed all over the world, and could be a significant vector for racism in some other countries. U.S. white consumers exert buying power over Hollywood because producers want to make the expensive Big Hits rather than lower cost films that can go against Hollywood (white) homogenization and still make money.

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  94. Whoah! What to say...

    First of all, I'm not used to being reflexifvely flamed, so I'll try to keep my comments to a minimum.

    I asked a serious question, one that's pertinent to the topic posted here. It is not a troll. Given the level of predictable knee-jerking expressed by many of the posters above, if I wanted to troll, it would have been a lot easier to use something far more lulzy.

    So let me reiterate: is it possible, Macon, for a white person to disagree with a black person on racism IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM and NOT be a racist?

    Now I ask this because it seems to me that you want mutually contradictory things. You want white people to reflect upon race, but you don't want them bringing up any points which black people reject because that would be too hurtful. I mean YOU are a white guy and YOU almost went off on your friend because she was making claims you thought unwise. Imagine, then, a similar conversation between a black and a white.

    The fact of the matter is, though incredibly important, race is not the be-all and end-all of human social action. Class is a HUGE factor and one which anglo americans largely ignore, in my experience. Straight-up imperialism causes a lot of difficulties and while black americans may be black, they do indeed have blue passports and can use them to move about the world - something which Brazilians of any color, for example, can't say. Your friend brought up gender, another biggie. And when all those social factors are set aside, there's the simple question of pure human agency: some folks, to put it frankly, are simply jerks.

    So while I agree that yeah, a lot of white people use the above litany much of the time to handwave racism away, it seems to me that there are times when one simply can't say "Hey, this situation was caused by racism and racism alone."

    And because you seem to be into white self-introspection, let me run this idea by you (as a white man who's been doing this for 25 years or more):

    It is REALLY comfortable for you - a guy who's on top of the global pyramid in probably every conceivable way - to handpick your one "I'm a bad boy" characteristic (in this case racism) and attempt to make a determinist philosophy out of it. It allows you to pretty much ignore the other stuff that's going on and - in the case of the story you related here - it allows you to feel self-righteous with a white friend who, for all we know, may have been RIGHT. Or are you the only white person allowed to criticize and analyze racism?

    It seems to me that you were so self-righteous in your mighty whitey male belief that you've got it all figured out, that you button-holed your friend's comments as "derailment" without even thinking them through. Maybe she COULD have been right: maybe more sexism than racism was involved in whatever you were talking about. Maybe, in fact, it was a case of what we social scientists call intersectionality: two or three mega-phenomena like racism or sexism working together in a way that doesn't simply sum or scale up. Did these possibilities ever occur to you, I wonder, or do you believe that your capacity to come up with and/or assimilate buzz words regarding racist syndromes places you beyond the need to actually analyze immediate interactions anymore?

    And so I ask again, Macon, is there ANY WAY someone can disagree with a "person of color" (or a white man who believes he is a faithful supporter of same) regarding race and NOT be called a racist?

    Because I've been carefully reading through your blog for some time now and I can't find one single instance of this occurring, anywhere.

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  95. "The Irish were discriminated again too!" argument? Really?

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  96. @thesciencegirl
    Exactly.

    I stopped reading right there.

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  97. *rolls eyes at Thaddeus' comment*

    And they think they're so much smarter than us.

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  98. And then they talk about Black people not knowing how to read.

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  99. Thaddeus, you weren't "reflexively flamed"; the people here objecting to points you're trying to make are making well-reasoned arguments. They may seem reflexive, though, because they've heard your bad arguments before, probably many times.

    So let me reiterate: is it possible, Macon, for a white person to disagree with a black person on racism IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM and NOT be a racist?

    Of course it is. Take a look at the new Comments Policy, for example -- people of any race can make break any of those rules, i.e., disagree with me. You know, for all your high-toned bloviating and book-slinging, you're incredibly full of crap.

    Now I ask this because it seems to me that you want mutually contradictory things. You want white people to reflect upon race, but you don't want them bringing up any points which black people reject because that would be too hurtful.

    Wrong. And black people aren't a monolith. And they're not the only POC reading here.

    You know, you REALLY need to read the new Comments Policy carefully -- you've broken more of its rules in your two long-winded derailings than I care to count. In fact, that's why I'm going to delete the second one, and leave the first here so readers can see what the comments after it are referring to.

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  100. I've been carefully reading through your blog for some time now...

    Really? You sure? Did you read the introductory line to this particular OP? Or any of the other comments I've written? If you have, you would have noticed that I am not macon.

    It seems to me that you were so self-righteous in your mighty whitey male belief that you've got it all figured out, that you button-holed your friend's comments as "derailment" without even thinking them through.

    "whitey male belief"? I suggest you read the OP again, every line of it. I wrote the post. I am a woman. Female. Not male. I am of Asian descent. Born in Canada, raised in different places, but did most of my schooling through the Western system, and am now based in Australia. Macon is based in Untied States of America. I have no trace of European descent in me. Hence, I am not white. My experiences and observations of (white and other) racism are based on multiple places and contexts, like quite a few of the other commenters here.

    Now that we got that straight, I suggest you reread the post with all of that in mind, especially that fact that it is written by an Asian woman who is based in a white majority society. And then rewrite your question in light of this new info. Then maybe some of us will find that it might make sense to respond.

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  101. [Thaddeus wrote in another rejected comment, in reference to several other new, rejected comments,

    Now, I've looked over the above quite carefully Macon, and held it up against your comments policy list. You may not agree with it, but I don't think that you can, in good faith, say that it violates policy. If you feel it does, I'd like to know why, exactly.

    It violates the one that says "Address the topic in the post." You're making some more interesting points, but as fromthetropics just noted, they again have nothing to do with her post. ~macon]

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  102. Thaddeus, if you want to comment, please read the damn post properly. The 'friend' in the post is not macon's friend. She's my friend. macon doesn't know her. Heck, I've never met macon either. I repeat, we live in different continents.

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  103. From the tropics, the "whitey male belief" comment was not properly directed to you, but to Macon. I agree that I should have been clearer on this point and ask your pardon for the confusing way in which it got placed. From my original reading - and rereading - of the post, I assumed that Macon was writing it. I now see that this is not the case. I did indeed read the post very carefully and am at a loss why I didn't see the intro bit that it was a guest post from you. Probably, the fact that I read and wrote while on the bus following 12 hours of teaching and writing in a completely different language had something to do with it. In any case, I apologize for the presumption.

    Furthermore, I probably reacted more strongly than I should have because of some recent debates I've been involved in here in Brazil, where it's recently become fashionable for lily white, upper-class folks of German descent to "teach" the rest of the country's white population about what "racism is really about"their racism.

    These kids (most of them are very sincere college students in their late teens and early 20s) are really quite amazing and not in a positive sense. Ana and I ran into a passle of them at a recent event in Argentina where they spent an hour claiming that racial quotas for higher education in Brazil were "an obvious necessity" and that it was "very clear who is black and who isn't in this country and only white racists would say otherwise". Then, over beers after the conference, two of the (very white and middle class) leaders of this group admitted that they themselves had unsuccessfully claim afrodescendent status on their college entrance forms.

    In other words, my tolerance for white anti-racists with flexible ethics is about as low as some folks' tolerance here for the bringing up the white trash experience in a debate on race. If I was being prejudice here, it was towards Macon, not you.

    Nevertheless, my main point remains: would there be any conceivable way in the sort of discussion which you describe where your friend could have disagreed with your opinion and NOT been a racist? Could someone in that situation possibly have a point when they bring up other factors, such as gender or personal agency?

    Because it seems to me that the only thing your friend could have done in order to not piss you off is nod their head, say "uh huh" and change the topic.

    Going on my experience here in Brazil, that's how racism generally never gets dealt with. If someone brings up race, religion or anything controversial you might disagree with, don't say anything: simply move the topic of conversation soemwhere else.

    My point is, if you want discussion on this thing, you need to expect that people are going to say things you don't agree with and if you blow up at them, they aren't going to change their position or think about the topic ever again. And there's also a possibility - slight, but there nevertheless - that maybe, just maybe, they may have a point which you haven't yet considered.

    As for the belief that this is a PoC versus white issue... I often get the same feelings of rage and anger when I hear anglos (of any color) commenting on Brazilians (again, of any color). Ignorance is unfortuntely the universe's number one element, as Frank Zappa once pointed out. However, I have found that screaming at ignorant gringos doesn't help at all.

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  104. I already answered your question (see above): The answer though is of course. But probably only if you’re not doing it because you’re being defensive, or ‘here let me teach you’ way where you perceive yourself to be on a higher moral ground, or because you’re in denial about systemic racism. But this probably rarely happens.

    And it did not happen that night or the next day. She was not earnestly trying to engage in a discussion or trying to disagree with me while NOT being racist or disrespectful.

    Because it seems to me that the only thing your friend could have done in order to not piss you off is nod their head, say "uh huh" and change the topic.

    Okay, I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're actually earnest with your question. In that case, well, the above statement somehow sounds condescending. It seems to suggest that I was throwing a little tantrum and the adult listener needs to just let me be and then move one. And I’m still not convinced that you’ve read my post properly, or perhaps I didn’t use enough descriptive words to help the reader understand what was going on (I thought I had).

    “She and her white friend were offended…” – i.e. they were in denial of systemic racism. That was their premise – that racism is limited to the select few idiots. In this particular incident, they were the ones who got offended FIRST. Initially I thought we were gonna have a ‘discussion’. But AFTER they got offended, they went into defensive mode and so it was no longer a calm rational ‘discussion’.

    “she bombarded me with questions…” – bombarded. I repeat – bombarded. And by that I actually do mean, ‘bombarded’ – One question after another, most of the time before I could finish my sentence. And from where I was sitting, it looked like she was having fun with it, like it was a game. But we were talking about things I find painful. That to me suggests that she was not earnestly interested in a discussion.

    As for the suggestion that I’m racist towards Aboriginal Australians because I don’t have any friends with that background – It is a completely illogical suggestion. I mean, c’mon. To me this shows that she was being defensive and was trying to go to great lengths to prove me wrong out of her defensiveness.

    “whenever I’d try to explain things, she would never let me finish. She’d just keep cutting me off.” I repeat – She would not let me finish my sentences. It was not an earnest discussion.

    And she pulled out a damn psychological questionnaire to prove that I had psychological issues because I thought racism was systemic. So, no, as far as I’m concerned, she was not earnestly trying to have a discussion about racism.

    And this is why I find that statement you made offensive, because it still doesn’t sound like you’ve actually read the post or understood what happened.

    As for your question, fair enough. First of all, I think we need to all work on the presumption that we are all prejudiced one way or another. But yes, I think it’s possible to not be racist on the particular issue at hand (particularly if it is not about a personal experience) and disagree at the same time IF you are earnest about the discussion and have ears to hear what the other person is trying to convey. Listen first, then hear, then disagree. But in my opinion, this rarely happens. Usually people just disagree before they hear.

    Let me guess, you still don't feel as though your question has been answered, do you?

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  105. Thaddeus,

    This blog is not about socioeconomic status among races (e.g. discussion of the treatment of "white trash" individuals) or nationalism or cross-cultural communication or any universal abstract treatise on ignorance. It's about the ways of whiteness, and how that affects white people themselves and POC, and how typical/common white behaviors reinforce white supremacy and oppression of people of color. Don't be surprised if you are ignored or accused of derailing if you consistently drift away from that central topic.

    As to this, "if you want discussion on this thing, you need to expect that people are going to say things you don't agree with and if you blow up at them, they aren't going to change their position or think about the topic ever again."

    Please read this: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#angry

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  106. Fromthetropics sez:

    The answer though is of course. But probably only if you’re not doing it because you’re being defensive, or ‘here let me teach you’ way where you perceive yourself to be on a higher moral ground, or because you’re in denial about systemic racism. But this probably rarely happens.

    OK, but can you show me one example - here on this blog or anywhere accessible - where such a contradiction has occured and the white person in question wasn't immediately called a racist?

    Okay, I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you're actually earnest with your question. In that case, well, the above statement somehow sounds condescending. It seems to suggest that I was throwing a little tantrum and the adult listener needs to just let me be and then move one.

    Sure it's condescending. I'm not PRESCRIBING such behavior, however, I am DESCRIBING it. For this is precisely the way most Brazilians deal with the topic of race, or any topic which they feel is being discussed with too much fervor.

    So the point I'm making is you can't have it both ways. You can't expect to discuss this topic with a white person and not have them eventually say something that contradicts you and thus pisses you off. The general white response to this is getting to be "OK..." and a switch of topic.

    But yes, I think it’s possible to not be racist on the particular issue at hand (particularly if it is not about a personal experience) and disagree at the same time IF you are earnest about the discussion and have ears to hear what the other person is trying to convey. Listen first, then hear, then disagree. But in my opinion, this rarely happens. Usually people just disagree before they hear.

    No doubt. But that happens all across the board. Speaking as a white person involved in the study of race who often encounters "bombarding aggressiveness" such as you describe.

    Let me guess, you still don't feel as though your question has been answered, do you?


    Well, as much as I enjoy it when other folks use their ESP on me, I think I must say that the question has been answered, yes, but not very reflexively. I might change that viewpoint if you can show me a single example where a white person has disagreed about a point regarding race and has not been declared a racist.

    Frankly, if you're white, the smartest thing you can do is NOT discuss race at all. Pretty much anything you can say except "uh huh" is going to be misread by someone. I happen to be a very stupid white person.

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  107. [Ana Thaddeus, I'm rejecting yet another comment of yours because it veers off-topic again. All I can say is, if you want to participate effectively here, go read this, and if you already have, read it again more carefully. ~macon]

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  108. OK, but can you show me one example - here on this blog or anywhere accessible - where such a contradiction has occured and the white person in question wasn't immediately called a racist?
    ARE YOU SERIOUS?! Your entitlement is running amok! You are NOT ready for this conversation!

    No, we will not take the time out of our day to find an example to disprove an argument that has nothing to do with the topic!

    WE ARE NOT YOUR GOOGLE!

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  109. It always intresting how a person not labeled at colored views the world..Racism is alive and kickin it's demonstrated differently. Alot of people will racsim is a thing of the past. thats because they are not the ones racism is used againt.. it's sad ur friend doesnt even conisder opinion and to suggest you need a thearpist..u should have laughed as you walked our of her life

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  110. Sorry if this conversation's over, but I felt compelled to add my own two cents.

    Thaddeus said, show me a single example where a white person has disagreed about a point regarding race and has not been declared a racist.

    Frankly, if you're white, the smartest thing you can do is NOT discuss race at all.


    Did you read bloglogger's comment here (1/4/10, 9:59)? Because it's a particularly concise and relevant answer to your complaining.

    Since you seem to want us to do homework on your behalf, here's something for you to do: find me an example where a white person disagreed an a point about race and was not racist. Then we'll talk.

    White people enjoy privileges that people of color do not in every aspect of their lives. Discussion of racism ought to be one situation to which those privileges (like being given the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again) do not apply.

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  111. Since you seem to want us to do homework on your behalf, here's something for you to do: find me an example where a white person disagreed an a point about race and was not racist. Then we'll talk.

    What you talking about? You know it's not racist if they don't mean to offend people.

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  112. "But obviously, instead of asking me why I didn’t want to watch it, my friend just assumed that she knew what was going on inside my head, and that I didn’t want to watch it because I was prejudiced towards Aboriginal Australians."

    But... but... isn't this an example of a behavior that was perceived as being motivated by racism, but was actually not? I admit I don't know what the specific incidents were that your friend dismissed as being because of sexism, classism, a bad day, or other non-racist reasons, but doesn't her misinterpretation of your own action imply the possibility that some of the "racist" attacks you experienced were not, in fact, caused by racism? Again, I don't know the full story, so don't take this as a tacit rejection of your experiences. I'd just like to know a bit more about the distinction between a racist action and an action that might simply appear racist. Is the difference that you saw the racist behavior directed at yourself, whereas your friend simply assumed something about your feelings toward other people? What is the distinguishing difference?

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  113. >> "What is the distinguishing difference?"

    By "appearing racist" I assume you mean "It seems racist but [white person] didn't mean to be racist."

    "Appearing" racist and being racist are the same thing. It's about the outcome. Not the intention. It's about the POC's feelings.

    Read this post, especially the last line of the quote:
    swpd: explain away racist incidents
    (Macon, this might merit a repost and expansion now that you have lots of commenters)

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  114. Uh, I can’t believe I actually have to explain this. But I suppose from a ‘rational’ or intellectual analysis point of view Robin’s question might seem valid (I think? Sort of?).

    Let’s look at my friend’s fallacious logic: “She doesn’t have any Aboriginal friends, therefore she is racist against Aboriginals. She thinks racism is widespread in Australia, so she needs to go see a therapist (even if we make her cry in the process of telling her this). If we are not racist against Aboriginal people, then we must be interested in their ritual dance.” On top of this, she does not understand what essentializing Aboriginal culture or packaging it for tourists mean in terms of racism.

    This logic, to me at least, indicates that my friend is clueless when it comes to any understanding of how racism works. And not well versed in how intercultural understanding works either. Therefore, if she decides to misinterpret my actions…well, why wouldn’t she? Of course she would misinterpret my actions.

    As for my understanding of racism. Granted I may have misinterpreted some of my experiences, but chances are I’ve correctly interpreted most of my experiences. I am not basing my understanding on one or two incidents. It’s based on years of interacting with Australians. I go to dimsum and a friend makes fun of the waiter’s accent right in front of him. (And stupid me, I was too shocked to say anything.) Or I go to a Christmas party and a lady keeps asking me about that place where I ‘came from’, I find it tiring answering her essentialist questions, but try to be polite until she says, ‘Oh, you know what, I’m not actually interested in your country. I just didn’t know what to talk about.’ That’s when I realized why I found it tiring answering her questions – because she didn’t care and was just being ignorant. Incidents like that basically confirmed to me that if I do feel that someone is being ignorant/racist, chances are I’m picking up the right vibe. Etc. etc. etc. Can you tell when someone speaks in a patronizing tone to you? I think most of us can. Can you tell when a man is being sexist? I think we most of the time we can. Same goes for racism.

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  115. i have certainly had people say that i was crazy and/or totally paranoid because i would refer to coworkers' and friends' (now former friends') comments as racist or sexist. no-one has been QUITE so blatant as to give me a questionnaire, but it's commonly known that i am nuts and think everyone is racist and sexist. strangely, it has not shut me up. and it won't. people don't like it, they can go eff themselves. conversely, i DO want people to tell me that i am being racist if i am. now, i might go away and think about it, but i will likely come back and say yeah, i wasn't thinking about what i said, i should never have thought it, less said it. it's harder now, i don't interact with people daily-except online. i have been unemployed for months, and almost never go out. i appreciate this blog and being able to talk to people here. i missed having some intelligent (and not so) discussions. as far as racism in australia, i have never been there, so i can't really speak to it.

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  116. This is beyond sad and pathetic. In my opinion she wasn't a true friend of yours because she was more concerned about her feelings as opposed to your own, and I think that's the main reason why whites derail the discussion of racism. It's all about not hurting their feelings as oppose to listening to the facts, truths and realities and healing the pain caused by racism. They don't want to listen to the truth because they will take it personally and feel bad. So, they not only want to make you feel like you're 'delusional' but feel less than a human for even bringing it up.

    ReplyDelete

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