Tuesday, January 12, 2010

run when the going gets tough

This is a guest post for swpd by A. Smith, who writes of herself, "I write a blog that is hard to explain except to say I write what's on my mind. In the real world, I'm a recent college graduate who's had enough of DC and its politics and is ready to go back to school, for a different, albeit familiar, kind of politics. I'm also a black woman with 23 years of experience in this race thing..."


I don’t know if any of you frequent other blogs run by a white person that attempt to do what swpd attempts to do, but I don’t. I don't because I haven't found many. Any that I have run across are run by a PoC (or, at least, a person pretending to be a PoC). Blogs like these take on a whole different spin when they are run by a white person. However, I’ve also noticed that such places don't tend to stick around very long.

When Macon developed a list of rules for commenters, the comment section, as usual, lit itself on fire. One comment in particular from Randy caught my eye. Randy said here:

how is this blog, this whole thing, not just yet another example of a WP being in charge of a space for and about PoCs? however deferential, reverent, polite, well-intentioned, well-informed macon d may be; it's still a WHITE MAN'S place. because he owns it. he controls it. it's HIS own weblog. and he-not any black person-can pull the plug whenever it suits him.

how can all you razor-sharp fanon's out there have faild to confront and critique this (sic)? sorry folks, but it appears that we whites just can't damn help ourselves from taking over, from dominating, from setting the terms, from RUNNING THE SHOW-however benignly.

you all are constantly in a blither about ambient white supremacy...yet you don't see it RIGHT HERE.


I actually had been doing a lot of thinking about swpd and how the commenters interact on this blog. I appreciate the work macon puts into it, and Randy’s comment made me ponder other well-meaning, well-intended “spaces” (we’ll use “spaces” to refer to any place, online or real-world, where race relations is the primary topic) that don’t ever quite pan out. The most prevalent sort of spaces are blogs/websites that discuss interracial dating. Many such blog authors quickly find they spend more time defending their opinions than discussing anything of relevancy and ultimately shut down their blogs.

There seems to me to be a presumption white people make that they can singlehandedly change people’s minds, while never really being ready for pushback, and never being ready or prepared to create a space that offers PoCs and white people the opportunity to honestly and openly express their opinions.

It’s a shame this is the case, because as much as I wish that I, a black woman in America, could create a successful space, it would take a lot of work and a lot of passivity (that I’m not prepared to give) on my part.

Why, you ask? Because white people are scared to talk about race with PoCs. Some of that fear is understandable, while a lot of it is absurd. We can’t talk about or come up with ways to combat the problem without white people being honest and open, but above all else present, in the conversation. Unfortunately, the history in our country has led to a situation where more often than not, race conversations begun by PoCs in a PoC space do not attract white people who don’t already at least “get” the problem and will simply echo what we say (and never follow the echos with action).

One thing that was established early on at swpd is that white people are a necessary part of this conversation. In fact, commenter Jara said here:

The responsibility for improving race relations in the U.S., for example, falls on white people's shoulders because they are the privileged group.

It’s become my opinion that we need more spaces created by white people where we can have these open and honest race conversations so that one day we make enough progress where who creates and controls the space doesn’t matter. Some of us may consider this a necessary evil, while others of us take it at face value and go. Either way, there aren’t a lot of white people who are ready to take the flack (some deserved, some not) they receive for attempting such a thing. Wonder what type of flack I’m talking about? Most swpd comment sections will show you.

Anyone who is a part of a real race conversation, especially with people from different perspectives, and actively searches for ways to lessen racism's effects and to ultimately eradicate it altogether, is helping to blaze new trails. To do so via the internet with relative strangers is an area that has yet to be fully examined, and so it takes a lot of trial and error.

It’s easy to want to be a part of the solution, to feel like you do things that others might benefit from knowing about; it’s harder than it looks, however, to share those things about such a contentious topic. Too often well-meaning white people set out to help, but end up with their feelings hurt and their tails between their legs. I hope that as we all have a hand in writing the how-to book on handling race relations, more people step up and are willing to create more spaces for these conversations to happen.

There seems to be an assumption that if white folks would simply do as they’re told, everything would be fine. I see such sentiments expressed on this blog regularly; however, the fact is this is a learning experience for all of us. White people need to be ready to use the privilege they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to fix the problems it has created. I firmly believe that it is the job of the PoC community to point out the cracks, and that it's the white community’s job to fill them in, even if that means losing things they’ve become accustomed to (I use a crude analogy, but I think simple and crude is better than complicated and palatable).

Randy made some valid points (that he later expounded upon). One of them is the irony that swpd may in fact be everything we all say we don't want. A space like swpd isn’t perfect, but it is a good example of what I mean when I say the white people fix the cracks PoCs point out. In almost every post, there’s one commenter who trips the wire and the alarms start blaring, and someone lets them know that they are exemplifying exactly what shouldn’t be done. More white people need to be willing to “be that kid” (as I like to say). More white people need to be willing to take the criticism to not only learn from themselves, but also to teach others.

There are things PoCs should do, but this blog isn’t called “stuff people of color do.”

A few questions:

1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?

2) Despite a white and male moderater/blog owner, swpd lacks a strong (or even noticeable) white male presence. What might be the reasons for that?

3) Swpd also lacks a significant black male presence. Might the reason(s) for that be the same as the lack of a white male presence?

4) Every blog has its lurkers, and every lurker has his or her reason; however, it’s hard to imagine that there haven’t been any posts that draw a few lurkers from the crowd (aside from the post that specifically asked lurkers to comment). It’s also fair to assume that there’s something specific about swpd and its topic that keeps people in the shadows. What might those things be?

204 comments:

  1. To answer #4 from my perspective:

    I'm not really a regular or voluminous poster on any of the blogs I frequent--I always tend to lurk more than I post, for the most part. However, I've been reading swpd for at least two months, and I've only posted once before. And the reason does have to do with the topics dealing with race that are the focus of this blog.

    I *know* that I am ignorant and full of unconsciously absorbed prejudices and stereotypes. I'm a WW living in a city that's 93% white, a WW who grew up in almost all-white communities. I guess I figure that, at least for now, whatever conversation that's happening is best served by quietly listening and observing and thinking. No one needs another ignorant WP spewing all over the threads, so I just listen and try to learn.

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  2. 1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?

    Great post! One answer I would give as a PoC is what I call anti-racist bingo. Some squares include "Educate yourself," "Do your own homework," "Derailing," and "Cookies." There are times when all of these comments are appropriate - there are also times when they mock sincerity or are intolerant of the growth process or other people's experiences or even resentful of a white person justifiably asking for clarification or disagreeing. Then anti-racism becomes about knowing the vocab ("ally" "101"), avoiding landmines, and accomodating bullyingly. It's about style rather than substance. This post is not about the "tone argument." It's about communities that teach whites how to pacify PoCs on lj but not how to change the real world. This is about the fact that as a PoC *I* don't even feel safe in spaces where everyone isn't expected to be gracious - and if I don't why should whites?

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  3. I, as both a white woman and a Hispanic woman, agree with bingo. There are times when one should point out "This is not helpful to our conversation" and when someone deserves to be told "You're a fucking idiot". There are times when WP need to be told "That's great, but you are trying to make this about you and that's what we want to avoid" and when they need to "Shut up and listen".

    However, there are also times when worthwhile comments receive the same response as trolling/accidentally racist comments. A WP may ask a question that would be good for the discussion, but just happens to use incorrect vocabulary. They may ask for an explanation as to why X was racist. They receive the default response: "Oh boy, here comes another WIWL!" or "You can't just expect PoC to hold your hand!"

    I think this is, in part, due to the fact that PoC have suffered a lot under this system of white supremacy. Because talking about injustice is an emotionally involving subject, any subject which brings it up would be rejected because it would come too close to the same stupid questions they have received before. This is why many good questions that were unfortunately phrased can be mistakenly assumed to be the posts of WIWL or trolls or such things.

    The solution to this, I think, lies with WP. If someone who is white wants to be an ally and is willing to work for it, they will have to stand back and learn. They'll have to learn about what derailing is, why it is bad, why PoC shouldn't be expected to educate WP, and so on. It may seem painfully obvious, but white supremacy makes things that are painfully obvious become obscured by privelege.

    The other 'solution' is that PoC perhaps read a comment twice before judging it to be derailing or whatever it is. However, this sounds too close to the whole "You're too emotionally involved" tactic used to derail conversations, and I don't think it's fair to expect PoC to "calm down" before saying anything.

    So concerning bingo's post, I must say that I agree and that this quick-to-judge attitude does make many WP run away (and then judge pro-tolerance movements as full of 'radicals', as someone once told me).

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  4. 1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?

    I'm going to cosign on everything bingo said, well put. A lot of white people still only consider outright hatred to be racism and are blind to what being white and being POC really means in America.

    2) Despite a white and male moderater/blog owner, swpd lacks a strong (or even noticeable) white male presence. What might be the reasons for that?

    Oh there are times when it does.

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  5. NoDak608- Thanks for your comment. I completely understand where you're coming from. It can be a bit intimidating when you read some of these posts and realize just how much you don't know. It can also be intimidating when you know you don't know enough, and don't want to mis-word a question or comment. I hope eventually you'll feel a little more knowledgeable and join in, but like I said, every lurker has a reason :)

    bingo- You hit the nail on the head with your response. I absolutely agree with you. Sometimes I don't feel comfortable in these spaces (throughout the land we call internet) either. Some of it, I believe is born of the sense of community blogs with frequent commenters create. You can always count on certain ones to say certain things and it becomes like a clique that's hard to break into. That's hard to avoid and becomes harder to change the longer it goes on. I see myself a part of these cliques on some blogs and on the outside on others. Here (and other spaces like it), being outside can take on a whole new meaning. Getting the wrong "square" (to awkwardly play on your bingo analogy) can be really really bad, and I think it goes right back to what NoDak608 said. Ultimately though, it's the explosion of those landmines, I believe, that help people learn. Someone's gotta be the victim so that other people can "get it"

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  6. i'm not entirely sure why i keep coming back to this site. i don't really belong here, exactly, because i'm a WM who doesn't hold w/such definitions as 'racism is prejudice+power', nor am i an 'ethnomasochist' who feels he must endlessly atone for the past sins of my ancestors...

    but i'm a guy who has THOUGHT ABOUT this stuff a lot, and i do notice a lot of race-based weirdness on the part of WP-such as why does white popular culture constantly plunder black culture for new stuff?(if i hear one more pallid joker give a 'shout out' to his 'peeps' in the 'hizzee' i'm gonna..). yeah.

    but there seem to be a lot of smart folks here, w/a lot of interesting personal stories, and it's incredibly ACTIVE for a blog.

    still...a lot of the stuff i read on here makes me wonder. i wonder what PoC's WANT from WP in this context of alleged white privilege/supremacy. no, think about it; WHAT DO YOU WANT? and don't say something vague like 'educate other WP on racism' or something; 'don't dominate the discussion', etc. i get that. i mean; what can WP conceivably do to make your own life easier? because there is a lot of contradictory information/advice beeing dispensed here. there aught to be some sort of concensus. otherwise, a lot of this amounts to what john mcwhorter calls 'therapeutic alienation'; anger and outrage that really doesnt affect anything in the actual living world.

    as it is, i can't imagine what it must be like for someone like macon-a WP of good will-to ACTUALLY MEET, IRL, F2F, an Actual Person Of Color. my god it must be like high level samurai negotiations(oops! cultural appropriation alert!) where every tiny motion or word is fraught w/risk of disastrous misinterpretation. you just can't keep that many ideological balls in the air. how could anyone
    relax and enjoy each others natural company under such conditions?

    one couldnt. my belief is that sooner or later these anti-racist WP will start to unconsciously avoid IRL PoC. theyll be anti-racist in their lilywhite world.

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  7. Well Well Well, look what CareyCarey found. Hi Ms Smith!

    This conversation is a little too deep for me. I just dropped by to say H E L L O!

    Well, to be honest, I've never been a good fit in discussion groups involving muliple races/cultures. I am a punk for pain, and I am not a teacher.

    Be good my friend.

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  8. I am definitely guilty of being a "lurker". I have maybe commented on a post once or twice, but for the most part I'm fairly content to watch from afar without getting involved.
    There are a few main reasons I find myself lurking instead of being active. First, as a BW I find it incredibly hard to believe that a WM could actually be so committed to combating racism without having a hidden agenda. Not only do I read this blog, but I read the blogs of its critics as well, so even if I do find myself agreeing with a number of the topics presented here, there have been other things that were brought to light on other blogs about this one that have left me scratching my head. I completely agree that white ppl need to be active in discussions about race, but I don't quite feel comfortable having a white person dictate to me how those conversations should go. Its really not that I don't believe macon to be sincere, rather too many times in actually day to day life I've found that white anti-racists start off ok, but than say something that completely throws me. Unfortunately because the internet allows interactions between complete strangers, the trust just isn't there yet.
    The second is that I find some of the commenters incredibly scary. There are specific commenters that comment here and on other blogs that I find out right offensive. As much as WP get blamed for always centering themselves, I find POC on this blog (and the same ones on others) tend to do the same. There seems to be an ongoing oppression olympics. Its really irritating to constantly see the same person commenting on very different posts, and yet always somehow twisting it to be about their specific group.
    Also, I think there's a little "listen to us stupid wp or stfu and get out" going on. Granted I do believe wp need to be doing a lot of listening, I don't think if a person is sincerely trying they should be talked down to.
    Also as a BW, my demographic seems to be in the majority when it comes to commenting. For the most part, anything I could add has already been said. I actually feel like bw as a group are well represented, and that the bw commenting are intelligent and saying what needs to be said and calling ppl out when they need to be, so yea...thats why I choose to lurk. Also, internet people watching is actually quite interesting...that and once I start running my mouth, I might not stop!

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  9. I'm a Asian-Jewish-Irish woman who identifies more as Jew and thus for some a WP and for others a PoC. I'm actually a lurker though that's more because no post did I have a strong opinon or could offer any insight really.

    Why aren't white people active on blogs of PoC? Probably privilege. I mean we all know the media bias - a white family is the norm, an Asian/Black/Latino family is some specialized interest group whereas blogs by white peope are considered really for everyone even if in their privilege and bias they're not. I don't think they're scared per say (most white people are willing to insist that they're NOT racists and are willing to jump through hoops to prove it) but they think "Oh, irrational minorities! I don't need to be active! I went to YALE of course I'm liberal/educated"


    What do you mean there's not a male presence? Please.

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  10. I don't know why my comment didn't get published (maybe the comment moderator can enlighten me), but whether intentional or not it serves to highlight my point about "Stuff White People Do" really being equivalent to "Stuff (Other) White People Do".

    Before the "going gets tough" (I guess this sort of goes along with #4), I would caution potential White allies to examine their expectations regarding how POC should react/feel during these discussions. I think there is a stereotype of the "Black response" for example (Witchsista mentioned this when she talked about herself and RVCbard being put on display as the "Angry Black Women") and some WIWL's categorize anything else as "not authentically Black" (or worse, self-hating). I have more thoughts on this, but I'll come back and add more when I have them together...

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  11. Jasmin,

    I didn't publish a previous comment by you because it didn't go through -- I never saw it.

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  12. randy said, what can WP conceivably do to make your own life easier? because there is a lot of contradictory information/advice beeing dispensed here. there aught to be some sort of concensus.

    Honestly? It would make my life easier if white people would stop expecting people of color to give them all the answers.

    I think a lot of white people come to anti-racist or "safe" spaces, full of good intentions and just raring to go like volunteers at a food bank, expecting people of color to tell them how to sort the cans. But here's the deal (excuse me while I run with this food bank simile): there are no cans or juice boxes or packaged goods here. All we've got are raw materials. People of color have spent their whole lives exhausting themselves trying to make all this mess into something we can eat. We need white people's help, sure -- but we are too tired of doing our own damn work to make your work easier for you.

    Some white people come to spaces like this expecting to be welcomed with open arms and maybe some ticker tape. Some white people come prepared to do a little required reading because they're curious, but don't want to put in the extra brain power required for an in-depth analysis. Some white people come because they genuinely want to be better people. All white people should expect to get burned at some point.

    This anti-racist shit is hard. I feel sorry for white people who try to memorize all the little things people of color say annoy them -- I mean, aside from the basic rules of conduct for a safe space. You'll never be any good at math if you memorize specific problems, right? You have to understand concepts, commit certain formulae to memory and then figure out when to apply them. Being anti-racist requires patience and understanding, not a photographic memory. I hear a lot of white people asking, "When will it be enough?" Do you have any idea how much it hurts to hear that question?

    I've learnt to respect you a little bit, under certain circumstances. Isn't it enough? I spent ten minutes today thinking about the pain you feel, but that wasn't fun so I've stopped now. Isn't it enough? I stood by and watched while someone treated you like shit, but at least I didn't join in. Isn't it enough?

    White people, think of this: everything you need to learn about people of color, we know about ourselves and about you, because we can't get by in a white-dominated society unless we know about you. You can come into a forum like this and mind your manners for ten minutes or an hour, and then you get to leave. We mind our manners for YOU all the time.

    What can white people do? Cultivate some patience and some empathy. You'll be all right if you get a smack on the knuckles from some colored folk once in a while. Think less about how hard all of this is for you. If you're here for the right reasons, it will get easier.

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  13. @Zara - I respectfully disagree. There are two alternatives - white people acknowledge that we, the PoCs, should be the ones who determine what an anti-racist future looks like (which entails them asking us questions) or white people remain in the driver's seat.

    The book "Malcolm X Speaks" quotes Malcolm at the Militant Labor Forum of 1965 when he was asked what whites should do -- he didn't answer, "Don't expect me to hold your hand." He gave a detailed and lengthy answer. Randall Robinson, leader of Transafrica, the organization that was instrumental in ending apartheid even suggests in his book "The Debt" that blacks carry a card on their persons at all times with their political demands. In other words, some of the most powerful black leaders advocate(d) answering Randy's question.

    So Randy, while I found your post problematic, I'm going to offer you this resource http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=614 -- this is Catholic Charities position paper "Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Themes to the Common Good." The document gives statistics on anti-PoC injustice, describes the specific laws/historical moments that contributed to the present day situation, and gives what you asks for - specific actions people can take to rectify the situation.

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  14. 1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?

    In my experience, White people are always fearful when POCs are in positions of power, influence, and/or authority over them. Deference toward POCs in any form seems particularly difficult for White people. The most White people seem willing to do is settle for "equality" - or rather, an illusion of equality - as opposed to striving for justice. This often plays out in the "everyone is entitled to their opinion" mantra that gets tossed around so much, which often results in excusing or ignoring really fucked up shit.

    As many of us have pointed out, being a POC in a White supremacist environment is like being in an abusive relationship where you can't leave. Just because the batterer stopped hitting you doesn't mean they stopped hurting you. Just because they stopped hurting you doesn't mean that you've healed. Being abused alone is bad enough, but also consider how the people who surround you are complicit in the abuse. The people who pretend not to notice. The people who say or insinuate it could always get worse. The people who tell you it wasn't that bad. The people who say your abuser is such a nice person. The people who tell you that you shouldn't talk about it. The people who say you'd be better off if you just did what you're told, just stay out of their way. The people who tell you not to get angry, not to hate your abuser, not to hurt the one who's hurting you. The people who say to just give them a chance. The counselor who says that you need to be more patient and understanding of your abuser's own pain.

    And that's what I suspect scares many White people off: the fact that they will have to face and come to know our pain.

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  15. Something funny I notice with this thread: a subtle accusation toward the more vocal Black women here who speak with conviction and without apology. I can't help but shake the vibe that us speaking our minds is what's wrong with this blog. Like it's so fucking easy for us to say something, especially considering who and what we're dealing with.

    Hm, why does this feel so familiar?

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  16. I would sort of rather hear it from the PoC, but I think the "anti-racist bingo" stuff in the 2nd and 3rd comments is bullshit. Besides having to tell people, over and over, that they're derailing or responsible for self-education or whatever, they're now also responsible for always knowing exactly what level of intensity to use on the person too? For re-reading everything carefully to get every last nuance out of the comments before responding?

    Honestly.

    People have bad days, people misread things, people misunderstand one another, it's a highly emotionally-charged and personal topic. So one might forgive PoC for not showing exactly the right level of hostility/helpfulness/etc. at any given moment anyway, but to expect them to gauge nuance when the WP they're reading clearly hasn't done any close reading themselves -- I'm sorry, that's ridiculous. It may scare people off, but it's hardly helpful to expect PoC to be any more perfect on this than the people they're talking to.

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  17. One reason whites might avoid commenting on blogs about race by PoC is that there's almost nothing appropriate we can say there. Question or argue with something, and we're denying the experience of PoC. Relate to something in our own lives, and we're making it all about us and/or engaging in oppression olympics. Ask how we can help, and we're expecting PoC to give us the answers. I'm not even sure "oh wow, that sucks" is a valid response (PoC don't need our pity, etc).

    On the other hand, in a space run by a white, male anti-racist, there's at least one person we can expect answers from without oppressing him. That was why I looked for an anti-racism blog run by a white person in the first place. Of course, I think all of my comments here have been in response to PoC's posts, so I fail at actually living up to my intentions.

    As to why white _men_ seem to be absent here, white, straight, able, cis men (sorry to the -isms I missed) have another reason to hide from sites like these, run by anyone: it's not easy to be the villain, and participating here requires that we accept never ever being right. Is it any surprise that, given the option to ignore the problem, most of us do? Having any oppressed status makes it easier to stick around since it gives us the chance to be right sometimes (even if not on this particular site) and helps us get some glimpse of what PoC have to go through all the time. So, for example, my not being christian may make it easier for me to keep reading. (Not that it's any sort of guarantee; I still may up and vanish when the going gets tough.)


    This is, of course, a really charitable explanation of white behavior. Going back over the swpd posts finds lots of other less charitable explanations, which may well be more accurate.

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  18. 1. What about spaces created/run by PoC scares away potential white contributors?

    Okay, so, I'm just gonna throw this out there and y'all can think whatever you want to think about my sincerity...but I think I'm speaking for a fair number of other WP here. One of the first things I read when I Googled "racism feminism" was a blog post that dealt with the question of 'what is a safe space.' I swear that this phrase is burned into my retinas or something: "A safe space for white people is not safe for POC." I'm not expecting swpd or a site run by POC to be safe for me. I don't want it to be. But what I REALLY don't want is for me to make a safe space for POC, unsafe. I can relate to the experience of being in an online community, run by people of your own [identity group] and feeling like it's totally safe...and then having some well-intentioned person come along, say something well-intentioned but really frakked up, and having the place absolutely RUINED for you. To me, nothing is worth the harm I'm afraid I would cause other people if I made a safe space, unsafe.

    2&3. They can't handle the awesome.

    4. Well, for WP, talking about race is the boogeyman, certainly. Also, a lot of first-time white commenters mess up *really* badly *right* away, and get jumped on. I think the problem here is that these are the ones who say "I just found swpd today," whereas a lot of those who have been lurking for a few months can manage to squeeze out a few non-Whiteness-vomit posts before we need our first barf bag. Um, so to speak.

    This is not to say we should let first-time jackass posts off the hook, of course.

    @ Jeffrey Yasskin: It's not that WM are always villains and have to accept "never being right." It's that you have to accept that in order to end racism (and sexism, as IMHO the two struggles cannot be separated), WM will have to give up their privileged place at the pinnacle of society.

    White feminists, on the other hand, are still too busy wanting [white] male privilege to realize that the real deal is to fight the very existence of *all* privilege, including the types we do have, as well as discrimination. That's why many white feminists talk about race on their own blogs but most won't contribute on blogs about race issues. :(

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  19. There are a number of commenters I want to respond to specifically (hey CareyCarey!), but for this moment, I'd like to say this:

    RVCBard -- I was waiting on someone to express what you said about feeling like certain commenters are being attacked, when there's nothing easy about the things shared on this blog.

    I've long appreeciated your (and others) willingness to jump in a conversation and share personal experience, be honest and call people to the carpet where necessary. However, while I agree there are some subtle accusations going on, I don't think it comes from a place of assumption that sharing is easy or that it's something anyone likes to do.

    I hope you (and maybe others, but no one else has expressed this sentiment just yet, so I'm just talking to you) don't feel like this is something you're doing by yourself. That there aren't other PoCs who are more than willing to share when sharing for you is too hard. That you won't feel like the burden's all on you. If that's not how you feel great, but if so -- know that's not the case.

    Part of my hope for this post was that it would bring out people who don't normally comment, especially WM, to explain why they don't. We won't get anywhere with conversations like these if it's always black people responding to the questions of the same, slightly enlightened, and obviously well-educated white people (or asian people responding to the questions of the same white people). There has to be a back and forth, and I think we agree on that.

    People speaking their minds is what is absolutely right about this blog. It's what I love and what I enjoy seeing (even when some of it makes me want to bang my head against a hard surface). However, I'd rather everyone speak their mind, even when it makes me think race relations are a hopeless topic, than for only a handful of us to be given that opportunity.

    Zara made a good point with that mathematical comparison. Anyone seeking to help would be a fool to try to memorize all the things black people say annoys them. I'm reminded of a black sports commentator, Jason Whitlock, who once said "Will someone write a book called 'What Will and Won't Piss Black Folk Smooth the F*** Off'? It would make a lot of money." The fact is, I've seen time and again where someone says "I hate it when white people do (blank)" and I thought to myself, "actually, I don't mind it all that much..." That's a comment that maybe would've served some people had I made it, but I value not undercutting my fellow black women's (because we have few black men commenting) point over making my own point.

    I believe it's more important that we have honest dialogue, even when it gets hard, that leads to real action where white people see all the privilege they have and how it negatively effects black people every day, than that any of us are always right, or always know the answer.

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  20. This is my first comment on this blog, I've been lurking for some months now, and I think the first comment on this post from NoDak608 speaks pretty true to my own reasons for not posting. I am a WW who grew up in a very white suburban community, but have since moved to a large city with a very diverse population. I used to think of myself as so much more progressive than some of my white peers, but since living in this city and more recently, reading this blog, I have realized how ignorant I am of PoC's experiences and my own ingrained stereotypes of PoCs. I am here to read and learn, and try to analyze why it is that I might act in a certain way. I suppose I have been a little wary of exposing my naivete or acting in a way that "white people do," so I read and lurk.

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  21. Why do I lurk? Two big reasons.

    1, I read this blog to learn, so that mostly involves reading/thinking rather than saying. I'm totally the type who would make this all about me if I opened my mouth, so I try not to do that.

    2, What Jeffrey Yasskin said above. Seeing other WM respondents get energetic responses doesn't inspire me to respond. I think it's unfortunate that I am not fully engaged, but I'm more engaged with racial issues than I was before reading this blog, so I'll take Good Enough progress over Perfect progress.

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  22. I'm half-way surprised no one's taken the opportunity to respond to those questions I posed with "why do we have to tell you everything?"

    I have a left-of-center sense of humor, though.

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  23. I lurk mainly for two reasons:

    - Firstly, because I don't consider this blog a safe space for me. I have seen the anti-oppression claim that "A safe space for the oppressor is not a safe space for the oppressed" in action waaaay too many times. Not just when it comes to whites and POCs, but when it comes to cis folks and trans folks*, gay folks and straight folks, etc. I still have yet to participate in a space that is truly safe for both oppressors and oppressed. And since this place is run by a white dude, whose admin decisions are subject to the blind spots afforded to him through his privilege...this is not a safe space. And I've been burned too many times before. I'm content to just read and lurk.

    - The second reason is tied into the first. I prefer to remain truly anonymous (my usual handle isn't August) because I do not like to out myself as a WOC online. As long as I remain anonymous in discussions such as these, I carry a certain authority with whites because I could potentially BE white. They take me more seriously if they do not know that I am black or female. But as soon as I reveal something that gives away my WOC status - there goes my credibility! Just like that, everything I say is considered automatically invalid and it's an impossible upward battle after that.

    In safe spaces (i.e., with other women of color), I do not feel the need to remain anonymous or hide those aspects of my self. As I mentioned above, I do not consider this place a safe space, so I remain mostly silent, and - when I do speak up - anonymous.

    *Most recently, on the feminist site Shakesville, there was a total clusterfuck in which the site's transwomen were offended by a post about Mary Daly, recently deceased feminist who advocated for the EXTERMINATION of transfolks while she was alive. The trans minority was shouted down by the cis majority, had their posts deleted, and called oversensitive, stupid, and angry. The post that followed was an "apology" in which the cis author went on at length about how she is SUCH a good trans ally, how DARE those women accuse her of doing anything transphobic; 99% of the comments were cis people stroking her ego and disparaging those angry ungrateful transwomen even as they talked about how they're such good trans allies. Posts from the transwomen were quickly deleted and/or ridiculed, and eventually the thread was closed.

    I've seen the exact same scenario play out in white spaces too many times to count. A safe space for whites is not a safe space for me.

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  24. @randy re: IRL W/B interaction "where every tiny motion or word is fraught w/risk of disastrous misinterpretation."

    As a white male, I see this as just another excuse to check out--or check into the white cocoon. The idea isn't to get everything "right" for WP; the idea is to get into it, to engage with respect and to stay engaged. To expect to not make mistakes is neurotic.

    @BLACKkittenRoar: "Its really not that I don't believe macon to be sincere, rather too many times in actually day to day life I've found that white anti-racists start off ok, but than say something that completely throws me."

    You might have seen this, but Tami has a good extended posting about this on her blog, What Tami Said: http://whattamisaid.blogspot.com/2009/11/when-allies-fail-part-one.html

    @Jeffery Yaskin re: "Question or argue with something, and we're denying the experience of PoC. Relate to something in our own lives, and we're making it all about us and/or engaging in oppression olympics. Ask how we can help, and we're expecting PoC to give us the answers"

    Yes, you are right about all those types of comments, but what does that leave for WP to do? How about calling other WP on their BS so PoC aren't the only ones doing it? How about examining your own life for how you participate in oppression, not for how you "relate" to other people's? Gosh, it's so hard being a WP in a WP world, isn't it?

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  25. I've been lurking for months. Maybe I commented once, but maybe not.

    I'm a WM over 60, raised in a lilywhite suburb. Over the years I've had several PoC among coworkers and colleagues and a few PoC as friends. It's really clear to me that, as one friend put it, "White People have got to cop to their Whiteness if they want to be friends with me."

    And sometimes I don't know how to do that.

    Back in 1964 the first black family moved into my HS district during my senior year, and even at the time I was deeply embarrassed by the way my friends, neighbors and classmates -- and their parents! -- treated their 17-year-old son who joined my class.

    Most of the people here will have heard -- or lived -- that story before in one way or another.

    What I notice for myself is that knowing their rudeness and meanness was wrong didn't help me know what to do that would be right. Just as now, recognizing my various Privileges doesn't always help me see how to avoid benefiting unfairly from them or how to make sure that people standing next to me in the same line, but not receiving the same privilege, get the same good treatment.

    I don't want to make it 'all about me' but I'm not always sure where the boundary is between my responsibility and my intrusiveness. And it often seems like expressing my opinion about someone else's situation would be intrusive and unwanted.

    Also, as can plainly be seen, if I start talking I sometimes have trouble coming to a halt.

    But, at least today, I'm brave enough to be "that kid" if it gets the conversation moving and teaches some of us something.

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  26. RVCBard said:

    Something funny I notice with this thread: a subtle accusation toward the more vocal Black women here who speak with conviction and without apology. I can't help but shake the vibe that us speaking our minds is what's wrong with this blog. Like it's so fucking easy for us to say something, especially considering who and what we're dealing with.

    Hm, why does this feel so familiar?


    I'm seeing it as well. You're not the only one.

    @ Zara


    You said everything that I want to say. There is nothing I need to add.

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  27. First, I agree with the whole article. The following points really stuck out to me.

    White people need to be ready to use the privilege they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to fix the problems it has created. I firmly believe that it is the job of the PoC community to point out the cracks, and that it's the white community’s job to fill them in, even if that means losing things they’ve become accustomed to.

    I wholeheartedly agree. And

    More white people need to be willing to “be that kid” (as I like to say). More white people need to be willing to take the criticism to not only learn from themselves, but also to teach others.

    Again, I agree. I've been called on my words a few times. Unfortunately, those occasions were pointed out to me by PoC, Zara (twice!) and RVCBard, and on one hand I'm appreciative because they could have easily scrolled on and made their own comments. But on the other hand, I wish they could have scrolled on by because someone else, a WP, would pick it up and do the work.

    Now on to your questions...

    1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?

    I believe that most WP think that PoC are exaggerating about their individual experiences of racism, as we've seen in many "friends with white people" posts on here. I think WP find other WP more credible, most of the time anyway. If a PoC is saying "this is a problem" a WP wants another WP to confirm it for them.

    2) Despite a white and male moderater/blog owner, swpd lacks a strong (or even noticeable) white male presence. What might be the reasons for that?

    Honestly, I think most white guys don't care about racism. If they do, they're quiet about it. I will admit that I have only 1 white male friend IRL and it's probably because he hasn't had the opportunity to ruin my image of him yet. My opinion on this is definitely biased and ignorant. I do not see white men in a favorable light at all - quite jaded, in fact.

    3) Swpd also lacks a significant black male presence. Might the reason(s) for that be the same as the lack of a white male presence?

    I have no idea. I don't think it's for the same reason as above, though.

    4) Every blog has its lurkers, and every lurker has his or her reason; however, it’s hard to imagine that there haven’t been any posts that draw a few lurkers from the crowd (aside from the post that specifically asked lurkers to comment). It’s also fair to assume that there’s something specific about swpd and its topic that keeps people in the shadows. What might those things be?

    I wasn't a lurker for long. Nothing really seemed to hit a chord with me until "that one" post. I forget which one that was now, because so many others have followed it. I don't know why more people don't comment. I definitely can't answer for PoC. But Maybe WP are afraid of saying the wrong thing and coming across as racist. It's something I wish they could get beyond. We're racist. Racism is as ugly as it sounds. We may not be whipping and hanging, and burning crosses or segregating. Some of us are well integrated into the various cultures of PoC even - but we are the dominant culture and what we do every day upholds a racist societal structure that benefits us alone, and that makes us, pretty much, raised racist from birth. Even if we think we're not, even when we try not to be. If you never make a comment, you never stand a chance at having someone - anyone (not just PoC) question what you've said. I think the subject at hand is important, and being questioned is invaluable. Maybe other people can figure things out in other ways, but I can't.

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  28. @RVCBard: The accusation you're referring to is that you speaking your mind without worrying about the effect on white people is what causes white people to run off, right? FWIW, I think this blog would be a worse place if you and witchsista worried about us, and that you're right to assign the blame to the white folks who run off. That your words have an effect doesn't mean you're wrong to say them.

    @Willow: What you said, except quit trying to sugarcoat things for WM. ;) We have this privilege, and everything we say or can say is tinged by it. Even when we aren't personally doing anything hurtful, we're benefitting from the racist, sexist (foo-ist) system, and we're not doing as much as we could be to tear it down. The first step in giving up our privilege has to be to recognize and accept that we're part of the system, part of the problem. Hence "villains". The second step is to accept that, even when we happen on some effective tactic, that's just what we should have been doing all along, and we don't get a cookie for it. (And I personally haven't gotten to the second step yet.)

    That's not to say "oh, it's so hard for WM, you should forgive us for giving up or bend over backwards to make it easy for us." (Unless I'm talking to experienced white male anti-racists. Then yes, you ("we" if/when I get there) should find ways to make it easier for other WMs to bootstrap.) I'm trying to propose an explanation, not an excuse.

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  29. However, I'd rather everyone speak their mind, even when it makes me think race relations are a hopeless topic, than for only a handful of us to be given that opportunity.

    How does Black women speaking our minds keep others from doing the same? So what exactly do you mean by people being "given the opportunity"? Given by whom, exactly? And what does that say about underlying expectations about racial discourse?

    Certainly things like respect and reading comprehension don't stop random people from spewing their ignorance all over various threads. And it certainly doesn't keep people from posting their own experiences. Yet somehow, instead of sharing our own perspectives and experiences, and having that be treated as valid, we have to go out of our way to be racial ambassadors. Once again, our lives and our words are only valuable when they function as a public service.

    That is part of the subtle accusation I was talking about. In what way is it not some version of "Those evil, loudmouthed Negro wenches are going to say something mean to me"?

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  30. Besides having to tell people, over and over, that they're derailing or responsible for self-education or whatever, they're now also responsible for always knowing exactly what level of intensity to use on the person too? For re-reading everything carefully to get every last nuance out of the comments before responding?

    [...]to expect them to gauge nuance when the WP they're reading clearly hasn't done any close reading themselves -- I'm sorry, that's ridiculous. It may scare people off, but it's hardly helpful to expect PoC to be any more perfect on this than the people they're talking to.


    Thank you! And on top of doing closer reading, POCs also have to do the thinking for White people because it's so hard to figure out. And by "so hard to figure out", I mean that it can't be instantaneously grasped by a White person, so naturally the first thing to do is expect answers from POCs instead of putting their own effort into it first.

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  31. *unlurking for a minute*

    A lot of bingo's and Holly Steel's comments ring true for me, as part of why I stopped commenting here* (yeah I know I'm commenting, I'll go back to shutting up and listening after this).

    The more important part though is, to borrow from what Willow said, it's SO not worth my commenting if that makes it "unsafe" here for someone else. And I haven't figured out how to not mess up here yet.

    *That said, I have never felt as unwelcome as I do here on any other anti-racism blogs. I read a few, and none of the other ones are run by a white person *shrugs*.

    *relurking*

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  32. @Jeffrey yaskin..

    I just have to say this, you know self censorship is what most black people have to do in your world right?.

    Every thing we say, every single word, action, stance we take in the presence of a white person has been thought about, ran through the mill over and over again. We have been trained to censor ourselves that now it is automatic.

    What you are afraid of doing, is what I as a black woman have done daily. Walk on egg shells around white people.
    Here's an example:

    i have to make sure my tone is right, alter the brevity of my voice, be humble, reduce my assertiveness, ensure that answers are stated as questions, be magnanimous in defeat, do not dare show too much emotion, measure every response, do not dare show anger at being stereotyped, watch my words and my mouth, measure every single response even after being openly insulted in a group, ensure that my words cannot be mis-heard, mis-interpreted or mis-used.
    I must sanitize myself, my words, my actions, my thought process in order to interact with white people every single day.
    Offline, online, over the phone, via email.
    I cannot be insulted when my boss declares some crime as 'something you people do, no offense'.

    Even when white people insult us, we walk on eggshells. A wrong response by a black person to a disparaging insult is enough to change their life in the wrong direction.

    Boss makes a racist remark and you forget not to laugh it off? you become the humourless angry black so and so forever.
    It affects whether you get invited to dinner, to gatherings e.t.c.

    That is one thing that really kills me about many white people. It's not even realising that most black people spend their entire existence walking on eggshells around you.

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  33. But on the other hand, I wish they could have scrolled on by because someone else, a WP, would pick it up and do the work.

    What about us speaking our minds keeps everyone else from doing so?

    That's the one thing I keep asking a million fucking times, but nobody is answering yet.

    I'm starting to suspect the answer reveals a lot of nasty shit.

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  34. @Maggie... may I ask.
    What stops you from speaking out and refusing to engage with people who do those types of things?.

    See to me, it is that simple.
    during my university days, I was friends with 3 boys, (1asian, 1 white south african, 1 african). We were all geeks, we had soo much fun, and even though I had difficult 'race' convos particularly with the asian dude, our friendship grew.

    I will never forget this incident: One day after playing games and just chilling, we all couldn't sleep so we just started watching some dumb film and talking.
    My friends the Asian and south African dudes started going on and on about gay men. I immediately said, hold on, 'I don't do homophobia, please stop'. They carried on, laughing and reeling off gay slurs.

    I got up, left the sitting room, put on my jacket and walked home. It was around 2:30am, and no one had any business being on the streets at time. It took me about 25minutes to walk home. But I did.

    The next day, I avoided them, the day after they came round to ask what was going on?. I asked them what they though and they said..
    'wow we didn't even realise you left the house, we thought you just went to the bathroom'.

    That was the first and last time, they ever made any of those sort of remarks in my presence.

    I do the same thing with bullies, I do not associate with them. I don't care if this leaves me alone in the world. I really don't. If I am friends with you and you keep do something inhumane I will talk to you about it, ask you why you do it, share my pov with you.
    If you do it again, I will withdraw period. No arguements, no shouting, no nothing.
    I just don't want people like that around me. period.

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  35. Victoria, as we've recently been discussing on other threads, many of the black people posting here have stated that white people NEVER come to our defense against racist attacks IRL, so what would make us think that scrolling by racist or privileged comments would result in anything other than total silence? On what basis would we expect WP to suddenly do on SWPD what they rarely, if ever, do elsewhere?

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  36. @ RVCBard I have called out other WP before. I think that my being white means I miss a LOT of the stuff WP say - like I don't pick up that it's either a) derailing or b) racist unless it's more blatant. Clearly that's not the only answer here.

    Other possible reasons:

    - fear that they will later be called out on something they've said
    - worry that they will no longer appear to be "not racist" if their words should prove them wrong
    - fear that someone will retort with a comment of disagreement and start something they don't want to get into
    - thinking it's not their job/place to do that
    - fear of coming to the stunning realization that they are just like many of the WP talked about on this blog

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  37. @RVCBard
    '.. Yet somehow, instead of sharing our own perspectives and experiences, and having that be treated as valid, we have to go out of our way to be racial ambassadors. Once again, our lives and our words are only valuable when they function as a public service.'

    This. This. This.

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  38. I think my comment got lost...

    What I said was,
    "Echoing RVC's concerns, I don't really understand how what bingo is arguing is different from the tone argument. is it?

    Also, echoing what others have said, doesn't this necessitate POC try to mind-read the WP? I mean, how can anyone possibly know which questions are well-intentioned and thus deserving of a "nicer" response from those that aren't? And why is it necessary to make the distinction? THe only answers I can think of sound a whole lot like the tone argument..."

    @RVC:
    "What about us speaking our minds keeps everyone else from doing so?" You know and I know that speaking your mind isn't keeping anyone from doing anything. This seems like another iteration of the tone argument--as in, a WP would say it more "nicely" so it's better for a WP to say it...

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  39. soul, agreed. Being an ally isn't rocket science. Sometimes, it's the simple things. When someone expresses hateful ideas or language in my presence, I ALWAYS say something. I've had friends and acquaintances (or even loud strangers) use "oriental" to describe an Asian person, call people "fags" or "dykes", etc in front of me, and each time something like this happens, I politely but firmly tell them it is unacceptable and name their offense (e.g. "That is a slur, and I don't tolerate hateful slurs being used."). If that doesn't go down well, I may become a little less polite. Sometimes, you have to inconvenience yourself (like soul walking home at 2am). Recently, my cab driver got into a screaming match with another driver and called him the n-word. I got out of the cab and refused to pay my fare, and in the process, I explained what was wrong with his words. If I can stand up for myself and others (even when there is no oen present from the group being offended), as a WOC, who is easily dismissed, surely white people can do it too. If you are truly outraged by the prejudice you are witnessing, speaking up becomes natural. It doesn't require a whole lot of thought as to what to do, whether it's appropriate, etc. The only thing you really have to muster is the courage. I suppose if you know what it is to experience oppression, the courage comes easier.

    To me, that's like step one. If you aren't even doing something as simple as that, you're in way over your head trying to work out the intricacies of recognizing privilege.

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  40. @soda and candy..

    Even when asked a direct question?

    You know, I don't know if you commented any further but you asked a question in the other thread, I responded by asking you a question imploring you to search your self and respond honestly.. you never responded and that was the last thing I read from you on swpd.

    I don't particularly feel welcome here or anywhere, but I have to engage. I have no option but to.

    Even on this thread, it is being made subtly clear that Black women are speaking too much, saying too much, sharing too much, showing too much, not being emphatic enough, not being gently enough, nurturing enough e.t.c.

    do you suppose this is a 'welcoming environment' for any of us here?

    I really want have to ask this, because it is not easy revealing some of the ugliest things that have happened to you in order to illustrate a point and have people debate it, argue it or nullify it or indeed challenge it.

    We don't have the luxury of shrugging it off'.....

    You know what.. *sigh*

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  41. @thesciencegirl
    You know, that really is it. And to be honest that's what I feel it is.

    I think all the 'what should i do questions' might be well intentioned but I really think they are dishonest.

    You know what to do, but it makes you stand out, it also might mean you losing something. Something which I as a black woman have never possessed and that is privilege.

    And for what?. Making a stand means you (White person) make the world a little less comfortable for you and it doesn't necessarily make that black person you have never met before aware of your stance or think of you as any less racist.

    It means rocking the boat, you might get picked on, called names all for someone you don't know? and possibly don't like on a personal level. What's the point?.

    No-one is asking for grand gestures, but it seems thats what you think needs to be prescribed. One pill, one tonic, one difficult pill.

    when the things to do are simple in nature and simply need to be re-iterated.
    I'm actually, keenly aware of how repetitive we are being here, we say the same things over and over again, but we get asked for more.

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  42. How does Black women speaking our minds keep others from doing the same?

    It doesn't. Not at all. I don't mean to suggest that it does.

    So what exactly do you mean by people being "given the opportunity"? Given by whom, exactly?

    What I mean is what I said. What I don't mean is that these opportunities don't exist here. They do. Such opportunities are given by who ever runs the space. The only person who can block someon's opportunity in this space is macon.

    And what does that say about underlying expectations about racial discourse?

    My answer assumes you're referring to the idea that it's PoC's jobs to make white people feel comfortable when we talk about race. That idea is part of the problem and not an idea I espouse or subscribe to. It is why I say, part of this whole thing working is white people being prepared for the hard answers. It's currently the only effective learning process I've seen. If anything I've said suggests otherwise, then that's my mistake on not being clear.

    Certainly things like respect and reading comprehension don't stop random people from spewing their ignorance all over various threads. And it certainly doesn't keep people from posting their own experiences. Yet somehow, instead of sharing our own perspectives and experiences, and having that be treated as valid, we have to go out of our way to be racial ambassadors. Once again, our lives and our words are only valuable when they function as a public service.

    I agree.

    That is part of the subtle accusation I was talking about. In what way is it not some version of "Those evil, loudmouthed Negro wenches are going to say something mean to me"?

    The idea that a person can't speak up simply because they fear what will be said in response is unfortunate. I understand many lurkers lurk because of that -- it's still unfortunate and I appreciate the ones who spoke up and said as much. I would hope, though, that more people accept that in order to be part of the solution (here I go, beating that damn dead horse) sometimes you're going to trip a landmine. Sometimes, someone's going to say something to you that hurts your feelings, pisses you off, maybe even makes you question everything you know to be true. And, I also hope that people understand that these uncomfortable things are signs that it's working (kinda like bruises turning all shades of wrong to show they are healing).

    What does not work is having to have the same uncomfortable conversation (just so I'm clear on that point...) That's what I feel when I get frustrated at reading people asking the same questions...

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  43. RVCBard said, What about us speaking our minds keeps everyone else from doing so?

    I'd like to hear this question answered too.

    thesciencegirl said, On what basis would we expect WP to suddenly do on SWPD what they rarely, if ever, do elsewhere?

    Co-signed. Sometimes, on SWPD and on other blogs, I'll see someone spew some fail and I'll wait. I'll do this IRL, too -- someone will say something bigoted and ridiculous and I'll think, Surely someone else can see what bullshit this is. Surely it is not my responsibility again. I'll wait and give some white people a chance to say it first and prove what terrific allies they are.

    Almost every time I do this, I am disappointed. So instead of waiting and being disappointed and contributing to my oppression, I choose to say something and maybe piss people off.

    soul said, ...[if] you forget not to laugh it off? you become the humourless angry black so and so forever.

    This is true. It's also true if you refuse to answer a question or allow an unwelcome touch or if you work up the courage to say something. I am so sick of it.

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  44. I've been thinking about this at work today. To to expand on the answer of why WP might not comment as much on blogs dealing with race issues, it's also because, IMO, my mistakes and missteps as a WP come at a cost to PoC. I don't want what I write to cause pain to someone else, so I'd rather not take that risk. Of course, then by avoiding pitfalls I don't figure stuff out and grow, so there's a conundrum I haven't worked out yet.

    I read blogs written by WoC, and while they're not anti-racist in focus, racism frequently comes up. I don't comment there because that space isn't mine. (I might mangle this, so bear with me, please.) I don't want it to be mine, either. I have enough places on the intertubes where I feel pretty safe and I'll join in the commenting more frequently. I wouldn't characterize the WoC-written blogs I read as unsafe, but I do know that the spaces that these women have carved out aren't meant for me. It almost feels like an invasion of privacy, or interrupting a conversation, to comment.* I'm just glad that these blogs still allow me--by being open and public--to read them.

    *Have the urge to specify that this isn't a call for pity or anything. I don't feel excluded or angry or whatever about it, nor should I.

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  45. What does not work is having to have the same uncomfortable conversation (just so I'm clear on that point...) That's what I feel when I get frustrated at reading people asking the same questions...

    I get you now. Thanks.

    Oh, BTW, a White person said this.

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  46. it's hardly helpful to expect PoC to be any more perfect on this than the people they're talking to.

    Agreed. Over and over.

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  47. "1) What about spaces created/run by PoCs scares away potential white contributors?"

    As a white male, I think a lot of it is just a sense that I don't belong there. It's not my space.
    In many respects, reading about derailing and invading safe spaces reinforces that. I fear doing more harm than good. And I don't really feel like there's anything productive I can do other than just listen.

    So I just lurk.

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  48. NoDak608 said, To to expand on the answer of why WP might not comment as much on blogs dealing with race issues, it's also because, IMO, my mistakes and missteps as a WP come at a cost to PoC.

    This isn't a direct response to that quote, but said quote got me thinking about what I hope to have happen when I leave comments to white posters who have said something ridiculous and/or offensive.

    I've said this, explicitly, in comments before: What I wish WP would do, when a PoC calls them out, is step back and think about what's been said to them -- not about how difficult it is to hear the criticism. I do not wish that the white person I'm talking to would go away and never come back.

    Essentially, every time I tell a white person what I think of what they've said, I'm issuing a challenge -- a dare. I dare you to change how you think. I dare you to change how you behave. I dare you to come back and try again.

    It is worth the "cost", IMHO, if a white person I'm engaging in conversation comes back over and over again, a little less racist/ignorant/selfish/unthinking every time. (But WP, understand -- if you do this, don't do it to prove yourself to PoC somehow. This is not Avatar. There is no rite of passage. You don't ride a pterodactyl and thereafter get a free pass.)

    I will be as well-spoken and clear as I can, but I refuse to sacrifice making a point for politeness' sake. Because baby-stepping white people through the anti-racism process, helping them to feel better about the dumb stuff they do, has never resulted in anti-racist white people.

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  49. privileged bwo epidermisJanuary 13, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    2) I think a lot of WP, maybe especially WM, don’t think that racism is still an issue. I think it has been said before that many WP use many variations of a “you’re blowing this out of proportion” excuse when confroted about racism. I also think a lot of WM are blind to the fact that they are the most privileged group and may see calls of racism as over-reaction or PoC “attempting to play the race card”. So it makes sense that not many WP, especially WM, would be even reading this blog.

    4) I lurk because, most of the time, I feel I have nothing intelligent to say. (Also see below)

    @RVCBard
    What about us speaking our minds keeps everyone else from doing so?

That's the one thing I keep asking a million fucking times, but nobody is answering yet.

I'm starting to suspect the answer reveals a lot of nasty shit.

    I’m going to attempt this one, but will probably give unsatisfactory answers and ones that may be wrong.

    Nothing about you speaking your mind should keep anyone else from commenting. People who use that as an excuse are probably (in my opinion at least) using it to hide their real reasons. It is much easier to say, “I’m not commenting because you might come back with a ‘nasty’ retort” rather than “I’m not commenting because I’m probably racist and it is really uncomfortable for me when you point that out.” That way, the blame is on you, not on them.I think there are a lot of WP who think they are not racist and when a PoC tells them they are, they are surprised, hurt, and dumbfounded. Thus, the normal run-about of other excuses. I think another reason WP don’t comment, and I think it has been said before, is that in most white settings it is considered a social vulgarity to point out another WP’s inherent racism or discriminatory tendancies. I think this is ingrained in the minds of WP’s children from early on so it is hard to escape that mindset, even in an anonymous setting. Along with this, there is the fact that a lot of WP are racist. We tell racist jokes, we make racist comments, we cross the street when there are PoC on the same side as us, and a million other examples. (Side note: I think a lot of WP don't consider these to be racist tendencies). I think that many WP don’t want to confront their friends and family about these racist tendancies. We’d rather have our relationships go along without putting any bumps in the road. And this attitude becomes ingrained and then we don’t even comment on blogs. It may be argued that part of the problem is strength of character.

    I would have to say that, although I’ve never found your comments to be particularly abrasive, the above reasons probably hold true for me, even though I said above that I don’t comment because I have relatively little of intellectual merit to say. I know I’m racist, but it still isn’t comfortable when other people point that out. Of course, this blog is about WP getting out of their comfort zone, so I should probably work on that.

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  50. @zara
    You say an unwelcome touch...
    This happened when a man in my office started whining because I wouldn't let him touch my hair. I . shit . you . not.

    He made me feel like a dog, eventually I snapped and told him that. Yet, I still had to be the one to apologise to him for raising my voice. I patiently and gently let him know how he made me feel. He still felt put about and never apologised for anything, not the way he made me feel, not for wanting to invade my personal space. nothing.

    That day confirmed my status as the loud, aggressive, coarse she-devil in the office.
    the only thing any other white person said about it was that it was 'petty'. (reference to me being petty).
    I say this with all honesty, as a black person my only safe space is in my home or inside a book.

    Interacting with a white world means even when I am right, I am wrong and I am always wrong.
    If anyone wants to be my ally, then they really cannot expect me to shield them from a little discomfort because they do not shield me from any.

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  51. @Soda&Candy and Jeffrey

    I had the decency to pay attention to your comments, think, formulate a response and type them out.

    I would really appreciate a response and not silence.

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  52. i admit i am a lurker. I think something is wrong with my computer because every time i comment nothing happens. so then people dont hear my opinion. this is why i am a lurker

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  53. I wonder...

    What brings you back to this site?

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  54. I prefer to lurk because I see this blog as an educational site. I am not well educated on anti-racist topics or on the history of racism itself. As a white male, there is nothing of value that I can add to the discussion. The most informative and thought-provoking comments come from persons of color. Reading perspectives or confessionals from white people adds nothing to my education. Learning and Reflecting is the best approach to this blog.

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  55. more @randy

    re:"i mean; what can WP conceivably do to make your own life easier? because there is a lot of contradictory information/advice beeing dispensed here. there aught to be some sort of concensus."

    There ought to be some kind of handbook, do you think? Some foolproof way of doing the right thing? Consider this: white people created this system to keep ourselves on top; can't we, individually or together, come up with some strategies to unmake it, too? Yes, people of color are primarily engaged in the struggle against racism, but are white people really so powerless that we can't think of some way we can affect racism ourselves? Try something new. Do what you think would help--something that would help all of us, not just PoC as if they are "other" and need to be rescued by or assimilated into whiteness. We are all damaged by (white) racism.

    @white people who are worried about "hurting someone" or embarrassing themselves with their comments and say nothing as a result.

    This is the most pathetic excuse ever for not participating in some way in the struggle against racism. Since you're so concerned, I have to assume you don't mean that you'll say something patently hateful, so why not speak up with respect, put your foot in your mouth, get called out on it and learn?

    How is your silence different from the silence of a seething bigot or of another person who doesn't get it at all? In your mind, staying out of it is doing others a favor, but how do you presume to know that? What if your comment actually opens a door for someone else or becomes the impetus for a deeper discussion? Your intent might be noble, but your impact--staying out of it altogether--is right down there with the most vile Klansman who just grumbles and shines his rifle or the heartless bureaucrat who can't be bothered. There is no benevolent silence in the face of oppression; any silence perpetuates it.

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  56. I hope this isn't too off topic but I wanted to submit what a white friend did for me years ago, and we consider each other blood sisters now.

    Mind you, she was raised in a 98% white area with not much interaction with black people.

    Anyway in college we decided to go to a bar. I went to visit her where she was going to school and there we absolutely no people of color. It was(is) a very wealthy area.

    Anyway, in the bar, the bartender refused to serve me. First she asked for ID and we presented it, then she claimed I bought my license out of the back of a magazine. I showed her the state hologram and bar code and she still refused. She looked at my friend and said, I'll serve you but not her. (This was in the early 90's).

    Beaten, saddened and humiliated I asked my friend to leave. But no way, my friend was having none of that behavior.

    Her voice jumped up about 3 octaves and she demanded an explanation of why this woman would not serve me. She proceeded to lecture the woman about how I was older than her and how could she be so blatantly stupid, unless she was a racist?

    The woman didn't flinch and stuck to her story that anyone can buy an authentic looking license out of a magazine.

    By this time my friend was in hysterics screaming that the woman was a bloody idiot and racist fool, she proceed to turn to the people in the bar and go on a tirade about how this ignorant, low class, uneducated woman would not serve a worldly, well traveled educated woman with 2 college degees. Then pointed at me.

    I was totally humiliated at first but when I saw the looks the patrons were giving the bartender, not us I began to feel uplifted.

    An older gentleman and his wife (date?) came over and told us they were going to another bar and we could join them if we wanted to. He threw his money for his drinks on the bar and glared at the bartender.

    I must say I am tearing up remembering my friend, her courage, valor and love for me to make such a stand.

    I HAVE NEVER, EVER had that happen before or since and wish she and I still lived close enough for us to hang out.

    She is the first and only WP I truly felt in my heart saw me, knew me and loved me unconditionally.

    When we left that night she was so visibly upset I could do nothing but love my friend more than ever and really look at her in awe!

    So just stand up for your friends, loved ones, even strangers who may be getting treated badly. Don't be afraid, do the right thing, you'd be amazed how much your life will change for it and for the better.

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  57. @soul, Thanks for asking.

    Nowadays I can say, "ExCUSE me? Did I just hear you make a racist/homophobic/sexist/ageist/jingoist statement? You wanna look at that and take it back?"

    Nowadays I can walk away and just refuse to be part of a group where that kind of thing can be said. (And yes, it was much more difficult as a teenager 40+ years ago).

    What I haven't found a way to do is make it actually stop. When the other WPs don't care that they've lost my friendship, or my business, all I've removed is my presence; I haven't changed their blatant behavior, never mind their attitudes.

    Calling them on their privilege only seems to help with people who already genuinely want to become less racist, or who hadn't realized they were being offensive.

    I wish I knew what to do about the ones who like their one-up position. And I wish I knew what to do about the knee-jerk reactions I've 'learned' from TV and mass-media news (sigh).

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  58. @soul

    Sorry for not answering your question on the other thread. I thought about your question a lot actually. I'm sorry that I made you feel ignored. My not answering you was really me going "Oh shit, my question was intended as an attempt to help make this thread better and it's just made it worse for soul, I think it might be better if I just shut the hell up." And guess what, I shut up and the next thread about BW went much better, which kind of made me feel like I made the right decision.

    As far as your question on this thread, you said it was being implied that "Black women are speaking too much, saying too much, sharing too much, showing too much, not being emphatic enough, not being gently enough, nurturing enough e.t.c."
    Just for the record, I personally do not think that Black women are doing any of those and I hope I'm not implying it. I was glad for the commenters that were having a bad experience on the teflon thread when they said they felt like they were having a better experience on the newer one.

    you said "I really want have to ask this, because it is not easy revealing some of the ugliest things that have happened to you in order to illustrate a point and have people debate it, argue it or nullify it or indeed challenge it."
    I believe it's not easy, and I honestly commend you and others for doing so, but when I commented to that effect (to you and Witchsistah particularly I remember on the Teflon thread) the impression I got was that I had thereby contributed to the horribleness that that thread ended up being, which is where my question that you responded to came from. Does that make sense?

    I do want to point out that not commenting on this blog is not the same as completely giving up on anti-racism - for one, I'm still reading here, obviously. I already do the same kind of things sciencegirl was talking about (at 11:03am) IRL - calling people out and so on (in fact I kind of got a rep for it at a couple places I worked). But Zara's comment at 12.10 has got me thinking too.

    Sorry for being so long-winded too.

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  59. Craig said, As a white male, there is nothing of value that I can add to the discussion.

    I disagree. While I do think there's a lot to be said for educating yourself and becoming familiar with acceptable behavior on sites like this (as opposed to jumping in fresh off the street and making people angry), let me tell you something: anti-racism is not a spectator sport. It's not enough to pick a team and wear a supportive T-shirt. Eventually you need to get in there.

    Something that's been previously discussed on this blog is the fact that whites take anti-racist talk better from other whites. Something previously discussed on this thread is the fact that PoCs (black women, in this case, but PoCs in general) get mad and stand up for themselves and each other because we know white people won't bother.

    If you want to add something of value to a discussion? Call out another white person when you see they've done something foolish. Stand up for a PoC when they're being backed into a corner. You can't get rid of your privilege -- so use it for something worthwhile.

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  60. I haven't read through the entire comment thread yet (apologies), but I wanted to comment while my thoughts are clear since I've had some thinking time since my first comment (well, second, since my true first got eaten).

    I don't know if this refers to any of the 4 questions, but I think the "problem" (not the right word, but bear with me) is that White regulars on this blog, once they get comfortable, change the title of this blog from "Stuff White People Do" to "Stuff Other White People Do (But Not Me!)". They come in, take their licks, then expect to be free of the "White people" label and the negatives it represents. It's like an advanced version of "But I have a Black friend!"--"But I'm an anti-racist!" So, when these WIWL inevitably get called out on their Whiteness (this whole anti-racism thing is a continual learning process; there is no "diploma" awarded), they want to--you guessed it--run when the going gets tough.

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  61. @bloglogger - I know many PoCs would agree with your post -- and they have every right to, but I have a different perspective. I wonder if you have read Martin Delany, the black abolitionist/nationalist. He often scolded white people, in particular William Lloyd Garrison, for the view you expressed - the idea that white people don't need to see PoCs (and Delany was for justice for all PoCs, not just blacks) as leaders and shouldn't ask PoCs what they should do.

    Victoria Corpuz-Tauli, Taiaiake Alfred, Haunani Kay Trask, Winona LaDuke, Tavis Smiley, Majora Carter, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Randall Robinson are just some of the people who have put together plans of specific actions people can take to dismantle racial injustice in its various realms economic/political/educational, etc. In my opinion, since they've put forth so many resources creating conferences, academic programs, and infrastructure to generate those plans, and then spent so much time and so many resources speaking and publishing and developing alternative media to publicize them, I think its contrary to their efforts not to mention these planners when those who ask, "What should I do?" seek plans.

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  62. bloglogger said, In your mind, staying out of it is doing others a favor, but how do you presume to know that? What if your comment actually opens a door for someone else or becomes the impetus for a deeper discussion?

    Co-signed.

    I'm saying this a lot, but I feel like it bears repeating: sorry, white lurkers, but you probably won't get a cookie if/when you speak up. You've seen other white people get the smackdown. If you say something racist, someone will let you know, and you probably won't enjoy the experience.

    But, hey -- when people of color speak up, we don't get cookies either. At blogs that are more poorly moderated than this one, we get told to go the fuck home in every possible way you can imagine all the time. We do it because we have to, because if all of us waited for someone else to do it nothing would happen, because our lives depend on it.

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  63. Maggie said, What I haven't found a way to do is make it actually stop. When the other WPs don't care that they've lost my friendship, or my business, all I've removed is my presence; I haven't changed their blatant behavior, never mind their attitudes.

    Calling them on their privilege only seems to help with people who already genuinely want to become less racist, or who hadn't realized they were being offensive.


    Right. That's because you can't control other people. But what if you plant a single seed of doubt? What if other anti-racist people spoke up too? What if it doesn't make a difference to the asshole you're talking to, but someone with a more open mind hears you?

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  64. @bloglogger - P.S. My comment addresses solely the @randy part of your post.

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  65. @ bloglogger:

    >> "@ white people who are...saying nothing as a result: this is the most pathetic excuse ever for not participating in the struggle against racism"

    Perhaps your screenname explains this, but...since when did "commenting on blogs" become the only way to fight racism?

    Has it ever occurred to you that not all people have regular Internet access?

    That some of the ones who do also have trouble typing and don't have good voice-to-text software?

    That some people might just *GASP* take what they read online and do something with it in their everyday lives?

    All the online dialogue in the universe from now until the end of time will mean jack shit unless we take physical, meatspace action as well.

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  66. macon did you get my 2 other replies??

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  67. class of 13,

    no, your question is the first comment I've received from you.

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  68. @Soda and candy...
    The question wasn't a rebuke or anything, it really was a genuine question. I wanted to know, I wanted to know what YOU were hearing, what you honestly thought we had been saying?. (p.s. gosh it hurts to see all my typos quoted back at me lol)

    @Maggie,
    ahhhh, I'm sorry but I don't know how to make them stop either. I think that's what many people have been saying.
    I've said this before and I'll say it again:
    I've tried to be a better person, studied hard, be smarter, played dumb, changed the timbre of my voice, be extra polite, extra giving, tip extra, be assertive, no push over, dress nice always (sunday best), dressing down so they don't think you are showing off - nothing seems to work.

    I don't have a solution, what I do have are my experiences, my knowledge of me and my perspectives.

    I can tell people how they hurt me, I can even show them the bruises. I can show them how that hurt affects the people who love me, and I can let them know that what they are doing leaves me powerless to defend myself, but I will fight tooth and nail with everything I have got to defend myself anyway.

    Once they see the pain their actions cause, it is up to them to decide if they want to keep doing those things or to start to make steps to help them stop doing those things.

    Nobody said this was going to be easy, or happen overnight (no matter how much I want it to) and unfortunately their simply is no automatic solution. This is something unfortunately we have to painfully figure out and you know what?

    All of this, still doesn't guarentee that we will find a solution. The real question then is.. is it worth going through all the hassle.
    like I said early most black people don't have a choice but to go through it, white people do have an option.

    The choice in trying to figure things out is yours.

    **Disclaimer**
    This is simply the way I view things. I cannot guarentee that any other black person has the same view as me or feels the same way as I do

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  69. @Willow re:

    'Perhaps your screenname explains this, but...since when did "commenting on blogs" become the only way to fight racism?'

    I was guessing that those who express their reluctance to enter a discussion of race here also remain silent in other discussions, including real life ones. I agree that that is not always the case. My comment was meant to encourage off-blog action.

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  70. I'm a lurker

    a) I rarely read comment threads for blogs

    b) when I do i still don't usually post

    c) by the time I've read all the comments and followed the links and the comments & links there and gotten back to the original blog post it's time to go home for the day.

    d) it wasn't until recently I realized that the comment thread for this was as or more interesting as the posts.

    I will say that the conversations in these recent threads have prompted me to start searching the internet for answers to some questions I've had for a while. (mostly about SF authors who are POC and where the heck are they?)

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  71. @Bureinato.. I'll point you to the most famous one: Octavia Butler.

    But your real question isn't where I they?
    It's why haven't I discovered them :D

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  72. What started my search is Octavia Butler. She was fabulous, and I'm sad she died. However, she is the only SF author to win a MacArthur "genius" prize. What I am looking for now is the poc equivalent of Mercedes Lackey. Not fabulous literature, but fun.

    Since it's ridiculously harder for a poc to get published there is a much fewer "trashy" novels out there. And I have read some real dreck in the SF genera(s)that could not have been published without serious privilege going on.

    And yeah the why haven't I discovered them is I'm lazy and expect authors to fall into my lap, like Octavia Butler did. Which is why I've started to google the internet, although so far I've read a lot of interesting tangents but not found what I want.

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  73. @soul - Okay, thank you. I will try to get back on that thread when I can give your question the attention it deserves.

    (PS - My library didn't have any Octavia Butler, boo hiss, but SWPD comments led me to discover Nalo Hopkinson - not strictly SF as far as I can tell from the one I've read but I really enjoyed it!)

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  74. @Soda & Candy re strictly SF - I'm using it for speculative fiction not science fiction, which is confusing but a much broader definition which includes fantasy, magical realisim, etc.

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  75. #4: There is a degree of spectacle to this blog that I think goes under-acknowledged. Macon's restrained, thoughtful observations on the tendencies of (some) wp, when held in contrast to the all-out rhetorical melee that the comments forum can become, come across (fairly or not) as almost coy ... a glass of milk set tenuously on a table's edge that inevitably gets brushed to the floor by a less-than-artful poster ... And then the deluge of criticism begins.

    This contrast and tendency is, frankly, funny. (No offense, Macon. I like humor! :P ) There's a lot of vouyeristic pleasure to be had without actually posting.

    As Zara said, anti-racism work is hard, but I wonder how productive it ultimately is if little of the discourse here could be realistically reproduced in face-to-face interactions (i.e., randy's samurai metaphor).

    I'm curious as to whether swpd's comments forum could fuction less as a postmodern exercise in pointing out the ubiquity of racism in any- and everything, and more as a forum to hash out how, realistically, to reconcile difference, openness, honesty, and, yes, even racism (that which is being worked on and the staunch variety) in a way that isn't oppressive to PoC's.

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  76. Bah, sorry to continue the tangent, but it's SF so I gotta...

    Angry Black Woman: Mindblowing Science Fiction by POC - comment thread. ABW covers SF fairly regularly.

    Color Online: Diversity Roll Call Roundup - POC in Sci-Fi and Fantasy (authors & characters)

    All my <3 for Nisi Shawl in particular.

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  77. i think that what underlies a lot of these racial problems and conflicts is that what could be called Mainline Black American Culture and Mainline White American Culture are, by this point, substantially different from each other. very different indeed. i mean; economic issues, oppression issues etc aside-blacks and whites each have evolved lifeways which don't meet at too many points. it's a little hard to gauge just HOW DIFFERENT from each other they are, but just offhand i'd say; nearly as different as mexican and american culture are, maybe.

    so i'm saying that even w/out value judgements, even with good intentions...you've ALREADY got a high potential for problems and misunderstandings since the cultures are so different. i'd also say that the differences increase w/the differences in economic/social status background. so an upper middle class WP and a working class BP are going to have little indeed in common.

    so it's no wonder that there is a certain amount of conflict when race matters are discussed between WP and BP; they're each operating under diffrent modes of thought, of expression, of physicality, of goals, moral codes, spiritualities, tastes, tolerances...everything.

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  78. @soul: Sorry for the belated reply. I try not to reply here when I'm at work, since I can't afford the attention you deserve. You wrote, "you know self censorship is what most black people have to do in your world right?" Well, yes. In one of my previous posts here, I pointed out that "in anti-racism forums white people [are] supposed to accept being treated how society treats PoC (although if that were true, we'd have to accept a whole lot more than we do)". You shouldn't have to watch yourself like that, but I recognize that you do.

    In my comment, I wasn't trying to imply that it's bad that WP have to censor ourselves on blogs by PoC (blogs-of-color?)—I don't think it is bad—but rather that successful self-censorship might cause the lack of white commenters that y'all see on blogs of color.

    @RVCBard, re "What about us speaking our minds keeps everyone else from doing so?" Once you've told someone off, it's redundant for someone else to do it too. But you've made it clear that you'd appreciate the redundancy, so that's no longer a decent excuse. A couple times I've wanted to reply to someone with a different tone than you used, at which point I got scared that I'd come across as correcting you and deleted the comment. But again, you've said you want us to comment anyway, so that excuse sucks too. So, as untrustworthy as this statement is, I'll try to do better in the future by explaining to other WP where they've gone wrong. (<--that's @bloglogger too)

    More replies later, as I read the rest of the thread...

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  79. @ thesciencegirl

    I don't know how I missed your post it was right above my reply. Maybe posted at the same time. Anyway, I don't actually think most WP would step in. I was being idealistic in my comment.

    I hope that after having numerous people express this desire that WP step it up a little and start doing the dirty work, more WP actually will.

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  80. I've been reading the blog for awhile now, but have only read the comments on the last 5 or so threads, and never commented.

    1. I'm a white person. I don't think I've ever been 'scared' away from a POC-run place, IRL or online. I have tended to avoid IRL POC-centered spaces/groups that don't specifically welcome white folks because I recognize that sometimes, a minority group just needs its own space, and having a well-meaning white lady poking around is not what they want. Online, I almost never comment on blogs, because I don't have a lot of time and the comments move to fast for me to keep up with. And I have really benefitted both from participation in POC-run (race-focused and not) spaces IRL and reading POC-run blogs. It's uncomfortable to recognize your own role as an oppressor (privileged whether you like it or not and bound to screw up), and I think that does scare some WP off.

    2&3-- not a man, so no idea. Although I think Macon's presence as blog-owner translates into a significant white-guy influence.

    4. Like I said, I mostly lurk because I don't have time to keep up with the comments (I lost my job a couple weeks ago, so now I at least have time to read them). On most threads recently, I don't feel like I have anything to contribute other than "Hm. That's important. I wonder if I do that? I am going to think about it." Or else "what she said". Reading the last thread and the above comments, I think I've underestimated the value of "what she said"-- usually by the time I read a problematic comment, it's been addressed by several people and I figure it's 'taken care of'.

    About that last thread, can I say it really crystallized some things I've been struggling to understand? I'm a white woman scientist, so somebody 'standing up for' me often means 'talking over me' or 'underestimating me'. I've always been hesitant to stand up for anybody who is already standing (or has already stood) up for themself, because I don't want to talk over them or imply they can't handle it, and I completely failed to notice the racial dynamic of it all. Thank you for the opportunity to read in on that thread.

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  81. Randy--

    I don't think Black American culture and White American culture are nearly as different as you think. For one thing, neither of them are homogeneous. While it's true that there's a big gap between the White-breadiest, richest, Cape-Cod-living, J.Crew-wearing, Republican country-club member White Americans and the poorest, most urban, blue-collar (or no-collar) Black Americans, most of us are not on either end of that spectrum, and the spectrums overlap quite a bit. And even then, I think you wouldn't find significant differences in their goals and moral codes, not to mention "physicalities" (wtf?) Cultural differences exist, sure, but nothing so huge it can't be worked around if you pay even a little attention.

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  82. I'm a white woman scientist, so somebody 'standing up for' me often means 'talking over me' or 'underestimating me'. [ . . . ] I completely failed to notice the racial dynamic of it all.

    Yup.

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  83. 1. I mostly lurk because in my 15+ years in online forums, I've found that the only discussions I'm comfortable dipping in and out of are on really light topics. On substantive issues like the ones discussed here, I really don't like to post and run, and my job these days means I can rarely stay around and follow a thread through.

    2. Zara, I really, really like both the food bank and the math analogies. They crystallize something that I had observed but not been able to describe. Thanks.

    3. To the question about why people don't back each other up: The main reason I don't do it is because I'm being lazy, and free riding on others' efforts. In many other areas of my life I'm often the humorless one, calling out slurs or offensive comments, being willing to drag a "fun" conversation into boring old reality by pointing out that hey, actual people could actually be hurt when you say X about them. So when I finally get to a forum where there's a critical mass of other people who are willing to take on that "humorless" role, I get lazy. Not an excuse, but maybe a bit of an explanation.

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  84. @Witt:

    Thank you for your honesty and responsibility.

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  85. I've been a lurker for a couple weeks on this blog.

    I really hope that some of the language used here (e.g. "white people..with their tails between their legs" and zara's comment about "i dare you to change how you behave. i dare you to come back and try again") is not how you would approach this in an actual, real life situation.

    What person, white or otherwise, takes well to being talked to like that? I understand these are emotionally charged issues, that people of color are experiencing forms of condescension in their daily lives.

    But from a purely practical point of view, you have lost 95% of the white people you might want to engage with in a conversation on race. Imagine you're trying to organize an anti-war movement - you're going to have to reach out to a broad base of people, some with far divergent views. You don't tell them "come back to me when you understand." Most people shut down when they feel they are being threatened or talked down to in any way. Yes, these issues are incredibly sensitive and discomfiting for people. And it might be really satisfying to say what you feel, the rest of it be damned. But again, if you're trying to have a constructive approach to this, it's probably not the best idea.

    Also, approaching people with the attitude of "I have the answers and you just need to keep trying to find them" is completely counterproductive - not only because you don't, but also cause you have work in common cause with other people in order to reach the answers. As the poster pointed out, white people need to be included in the conversation. They also need to be part of the anti-racist society that we all would like to construct.

    If people want to use this blog to let our their emotions, talk about experiences with racism, then that's fine. But what comes after that?

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  86. And I've just noticed that Jackson Browne pointed out many of the same issues that I did. I'd love to hear what people think about this.

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  87. randy said...
    "so it's no wonder that there is a certain amount of conflict when race matters are discussed between WP and BP; they're each operating under diffrent modes of thought, of expression, of physicality, of goals, moral codes, spiritualities, tastes, tolerances...everything."

    But in each instance you mentioned, whites judge themselves as superior in all of those areas; from physicality (thin blond waifs lauded for their beauty) to moral codes and the like. They see themselves as the standard bearer of American culture; the harbingers of morality. It’s a puffed up sense of self that lulls whites into believing they are born with halos over their heads. When they commit acts of murder, racial oppression- rape or robbery; it’s because something is wrong with them mentally. For no good white person is predisposed to such sin. In terms of spirituality you have the Episcopal/Anglican and Catholic churches (under white leadership) breaking from institutions (both domestic and overseas) to do their own thing. Forming small political factions within the church body to make their own rules; for whites are of the opinion their moral code takes precedence over any other doctrine or religious practice. There are times when I think the very act of organizing, is an aphrodisiac for whites. Whites love to organize, hold rallies- paint signs; form action committees and the like. Another thing I’ve noticed about whites and it seems to apply to all areas of culture, politics and religion. Is that Whites love to control things. They want to control their own destiny, as well as that of others. However by the same token they do not want to be controlled; by anyone or anything. They will abscond to gated communities, then form de facto governments like Homeowners' Associations and Condo Boards, to control the people inside those gated societies. They will move to the suburbs, then fight/argue amongst themselves for control of issues like zoning codes, government policy- taxes and school board matters. Citizens vying for control on these bodies as trustee or commissioner; to enact policies that in essence exact power over other white people. When whites get tired of the power games they move further out to the rural areas. Declare their property sovereign nations; hold themselves up in vast compounds and print their own currency.

    We are different in many respects- whites in their collective arrogance just assume all minorities appreciate the same things they do. That we are all of the same mentality. That we laud the same standards of beauty they do. That we entertain the same dreams and goals, and that racism is a thing of the past. Maybe that’s what it truly means to be westernized. When brown-skinned immigrants come over to these shores they pick up on popular mainstream culture; discarding their own cultural values in favor of the ruling majority's. We blacks have had our own ways of doing things, going back a few centuries. Oftentimes we find that in order to be accepted by the white mainstream, we have to discard those cultural distinctions (the things that mark us as different) lest we scare white folk. We have to fashion ourselves for mainstream white consumption. You know.. Lose weight (big butts and thighs) lighten our skin, be articulate; and straighten our hair. Just ask Senator Reid, or Vice President Joe Biden. Its why Obama couldn’t be viewed as being too black, or too angry; for whites would have picked up on that. Some white media outlets were amazed at how soft-spoken he was; that he never displayed any bouts of anger. Even suggesting he should be more “Aggressive” or “Angry” in his campaign against Senator McCain. We do indeed have our own culture and our own voice; sometimes it’s simply buried underneath an avalanche of whiteness. Meaning we usually don’t get a word in edgewise, without being labeled in some manner.

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  88. @ some guy:

    Please read

    -"I have the answers but you just need to keep trying to find them"

    -"What person, white or otherwise, takes well to being talked to like that?"

    Heck, just read the whole page.

    ~

    @ bloglogger (waaay upthread; sorry, dude)

    :rereads: Okay, cool, I see where you're coming from.

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  89. I'm a WW, think I've maybe posted once or twice, but mostly a lurker. I find that the greatest benefit for me comes from reading and thinking about these issues. I was really taken aback, at first, by the piece about "wishing you were another culture/race", because I've often felt that way in my life. The piece caused me to reexamine my perspective, and the assumptions underlying that perspective, and lead me to some not-so-nice conclusions about myself.

    If there are others like me out there, I imagine we don't post because it's painful and embarrassing to admit to having racist thoughts. But it doesn't mean the posts aren't getting through to people.

    And I cannot express how grateful I am for the discussion about people dismissing racism as "oh, that person is mean to everyone" or "oh, maybe he was just having a bad day" or "but how do you know that?". I have been guilty of that at times, but the older I've gotten, the more I've seen how wrongheaded that is.

    The main value I'm getting here is a more well-rounded view of how racism is within our institutions, our culture, our practices, our outlook. And it makes me want to fight racism. And I think I have more tools in my toolbox to stand up and disagree with racism when I see it.

    If there's some way my commenting more often would actually help move things along around here, I would, but it doesn't seem like that's the case.

    Thanks for your hard work, macon d.

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  90. @randy..
    That presumes that this is an American problem. It isn't. I do not live in the US and I am not American.

    @Jeffrey..
    That's not what you said in your previous statement and not even what you are saying in your statement to RVCBard.

    RVCBard isn't saying she wants redundancy...as has been pointed out time after time on these same threads, black people cannot afford to wait for white people to correct each other because it rarely happens!

    You seem to be trying to subtly imply a 'tone argument'. Indirectly saying, if only we can handle a racist comment with a softly softly approach an approach you would use but you also don't want to get 'told off'. actually, you came straight out and said it. You mentioned her tone.

    You know what i realised recently?. I have never heard anyone describe a black woman as having wit or a dry sense of humour.
    I don't know what image you build up of us when you read a response but I'd bet it doesn't match the reality.

    I've just told you how most black people walk around on eggshells around white people because they tell us off all the time, openly easy and freely yet, you go on to talk about tone?

    *sigh*

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  91. Yeah, I know I said I was done here. I've been reading this thread and as a BW, I feel utterly hopeless. MORE demands for cookies and head and we'd better make WP cum HARD or else they won't be our "friend." If that's what it takes for WP to give a damn then WP really just need to fess up and admit they LIKE the status quo. Hell, they wish they could go back to the "good ol' days" when they could outwardly express their disdain for non-WP and not have to endure any negative consequences.

    I'm sick of whoring out my psyche, my pain, my humiliation only to be told "Not good enough. Give us more and better or else we're done with you." I'd rather you all jjust go and join Stormfront and call it a day.

    For those BP, especially those Evil Black Bitches (and I'm def one of them) who stay here and continue to try and talk to these people, I honestly wonder why you bother. I'm not trying to dog you out. I'm worried about your well-being here. It just all seems too damn pointless. These people don't want a just world. They just want the darkies to SHUT THE FUCK UP and not complain. That is ALL they have EVER wanted.

    I say leave them here in their racist misery and save your own selves and psyches. Time for us to live our lives for ourselves. FUCK what WP think of it. If they dare to get in the way, knock 'em the fuck out. Because they don't seem able to understand all the reasoned arguments we've BEEN giving them for 400 damn years! But they DO understand, "If you do that, them niggers'll go OFF on you!" The only reason they adhere to the few laws and conventions they do now is straight up out of FEAR. Fear of reprisals. Fear of lawsuits. Fear of violence. Fear of even being ACCUSED of racism. Fear. Not justice. Not a sense that we're even HUMAN much less equal to them. Plain ol' FEAR.

    I'm wondering if it's even worth it anymore to engage WP on anything more than a superficial level and simply to get what I want. Use them like they continually use me, because this shit here, is depressing as all out fuck.

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  92. @ Willow:

    Thank you for providing those links for some guy.

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  93. i don't think a fear of humiliation should totally prevent white people from commenting.

    it is at least equal to the vulnerability that black essayists and commenters display when revealing the slights, embarrassments and insults they've suffered in real life. These incidents are so impactful that they are retained in memory, in personality, for years, or date back from childhood.

    these tales of humiliation, shame and pain are merely for entertainment of a passive, silent crowd -- if you do not step up and offer these black women your vulnerability in some attempt to learn, as an exchange for their efforts.

    black commenters here have to do the balance calculation too, in deciding to reveal so much about themselves. they do not want to be unduly embarrassed, but in any case, they decide to take a CHANCE in the name of furthering discussion here. ALL commenters should be willing to offer the same.

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  94. I regularly lurk on blogs that discuss race. I'm a sociology grad student and I read and think a lot about race and racism. I'm quite passionate about it but I'm not a good rapid responder. I need more time to synthesize ideas to post a comment that accurately and clearly reflects my thoughts. I don't really have time to do that, so I don't comment.

    Also my initial reactions are almost always covered by other black women commenters, who are really eloquent and I think more advanced and sharper in their analysis of racism than I am right now. That can be intimidating. I typically don't feel like I have any new insight to add to the discussion. I am a black woman. I am also a feminist and anti-racist. But I'm still learning about oppression, and I miss a lot. I notice that people who are active here can offer spot-on critiques of posts that I might find unproblematic upon first reading.

    Basically I use the posts and the comments to help me better understand and think more critically about racism and anti-racism and to help me address racism in real world conversations and interactions.

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  95. you know what witchsistah...
    Lately, I've been finding myself ding things i promised I wouldn't do.
    This is one of those things. (talking about race with WP)

    I am exhausted. really and truly exhausted. Feels like I'm regressing, hearing tone arguments hidden in rhetoric, echoed over and over again....

    I blame my eternal optimism for sticking around, but even that has its limits.
    Its funny but to me as a BW I always feel when discussing racism, I have everything to lose and not a damn thing to gain

    So....

    Peace.

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  96. soul,

    I can have no idea how exhausting being here has been for you, but I've greatly appreciated your work here. I have hope that other POC have gained from it (though I can't speak for them either, and can instead only guess at what's behind the many comments left here recently). It seems to me that one among many ways other POC, BW especially, might benefit from the writing of you and others here is by facing less bumbling, unconscious racism from the white people who've been reading here (including me). I'm not saying, though, that I think that outweighs what it costs you to be here (or that you'd even agree with me); it sounds like it doesn't.

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  97. Soul (if you're still around but for any who read),

    I don't blame you. This shit right here, POINTLESS! You got folks here telling us we'd better shut our loud, Black bitch mouths up because we're "not giving them a chance to speak" or some such bullshit. And others saying we're not being nice enough and could we lick a little more to the left while we're down there. If THIS is White anti-racism then RaHoWa is right around the corner.

    I believe that there is such a thing as having done MORE than enough and MORE than one's fair share. PoC are a few centuries PAST that point. The fact that WP here are whining like a bunch of titty-babies of having to do ANYDAYUMTHING is nauseating and disgusting. I have absolutely ZERO respect for you all! You are deserving only of my utter CONTEMPT!

    How'z 'bout THAT for "too mean" and "not the right TONE?!"

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  98. these tales of humiliation, shame and pain are merely for entertainment of a passive, silent crowd -- if you do not step up and offer these black women your vulnerability in some attempt to learn, as an exchange for their efforts.

    Mmm-hmmm.

    I blame my eternal optimism for sticking around, but even that has its limits.

    I feel ya.

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  99. I have hope that other POC have gained from it (though I can't speak for them either, and can instead only guess at what's behind the many comments left here recently).

    Macon, this right here? Sooooo not the point. When does soul - or any of the more vocal Black women - get to benefit from participating here? Our lives are not a public service! When will White people fucking get that?

    (Nevermind. Answered my own question.)

    Oh, yeah. When it's too late.

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  100. I hope some white people will read Witchsistah's comment without dismissing it because you don't like her "tone". Generally when black women speak, if we're polite we get ignored; if we're passionate and/or angry we get yelled at and then ignored.

    Make use of this golden opportunity to give weight to the words of a black woman who has every right to be angry.

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  101. I also agree with witchsistah and soul on this thread about the end results of these *conversations*. Blacks have been telling white people et al, how we wanted to be treated for centuries. From Frederick Douglass and Harriett Tubman to the cleaning lady that mops your office floors or takes your money at the company cafeteria and who I bet you don’t even know her name or what she even what she really looks like. We have tried every conceivable manner of showing this society what we would like—from putting our insides on display to denying our history and race in order to Pass as white either physically, racially, or mentally, but without fail we are questioned, denigrated, and ultimately dismissed.

    How many sob stories, Nina Simone arias, stirring rhetoric, pumped fists, riots, blotted canvases and the exhausted black *friend* who looks hurt and bewildered because you dismissed her experience as paranoia do you all have to hear because you have to process it for what it is and really don’t know what to do and are powerless. I mean really, how many ways does it take a person to ask that we be treated as you would want to be treated? We would like the courtesy that you give each other and other groups and that is to be treated with humanity. To see us as individuals and not a collection of offensive statistics and a seething Black wall in which you cannot possibly differentiate our individuality—our humanity. I mean good grief—for all our complaints, I have always seen blacks put on the mask of civility to Whites and we bend over backwards to treat them with the same courtesy that they can’t even half assed attempt to extend to us.

    And the answer to all this is to make a difference in your individual lives. As sciencegirl stated quite clearly, stand up in real life when you see a petty injustice or an offensive slight and say something—actually be there when it matters most. And don’t expect some applauses, groveling appreciation, or a gold star. Doing the right thing should be automatic without the expectation that people are watching and the canned applause will always be there when you evince a small measure of behaving humanely.

    It’s really quite simple—from the supposed POC friends that you have—actually listen to them and their stories, since Black and other POC are constantly telling you about themselves, their culture and how they want to be treated. Try to extend a measure of empathy and be willing to put on the damned moccasins and see the world from a different point of view and literally act in real time. Get uncomfortable—after all we have to enter into all white spaces every single damned day and often be the only person of color. Processing, thinking, ruminating intellectualizing all these convoluted theories, about these issues and idea on some anonymous message board while you are safely ensconced in your cubicle or Formica desk is so ridiculous easy to do—because you can always click away, turn of the monitor, and these same actions turn into passivity and indifference in real time based on the assumption that Black people et al, or those few Whites that you all have voted as Race traitors or flawed heroes, are doing the heavy lifting for you.

    There is no convoluted calculus on what to do or not do and what to say. Just do what is right and be willing to have the strength to deal with the consequences. I mean—for God’s sake—Black people and other POC have been doing it for centuries and you all have been gormandizing on these efforts by either imitating or sanitizing or denigrating it—so you all can inconvenience yourselves a little too.

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  102. I'd like to piggyback a bit on what exurbanmom said, because I am a WW in about the same stage in the process--learning to register racism, both in the system and in myself, and still training myself to think of the words to call something out when it's needed, and not that night when I'm going to bed. I lurk because my place is to listen, for now, and because I rarely get through a comment thread before the discussion has moved on from whatever thought I had anyway.

    But for me, I think the reason I read this blog in particular, and not one run by a PoC (though there are several I do/have visited, this is the only racism-centered blog where I never miss a post) is that I find macon's example instructive. I believe him sincere in his desire to be anti-racist, and in the comment threads, particularly through the archives, I see him gradually improving at it, in a way that I think would be much less clear were he a commenter elsewhere. There are times when he surprises me with a particularly apt response to criticism, and there are times when I see him trip over his whiteness. Both help me navigate my own life in (I hope) a less oppressive way.

    So yes, thank you, macon d, for your flawed example and honest reporting of your process, which is so much more useful than an ideal, and especially, thank you to all of the commenters and guest-posters who keep this space from being purely white (though well-intentioned) navelgazing. Please don't read my silence as lack of engagement, because I reported a racist mechanic to his supervisor over the holidays, and it was because of all of you.

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  103. First, I agree with the post, I do think running when the going gets tough is a real issue for all the reasons stated. When I work with WP I try to address the feelings that I think lead to this reaction. Second, I've had swpd in my RSS feed for a while but only recently realized that the comments threads are where the action really is. SWPD has mostly seemed like yet another earnest White liberal place (like me). Third, when I get rebuked for "White behavior" as I was here, I do the work I need to do to deal with my emotions and get back in the game. I'm afraid I'm stuck with being White and all the baggage that entails, and I know I'm sometimes going to get it and sometimes not, sometimes make POC feel supported and sometimes screw it up, but I'm not going to give up trying to work for justice and learn. Fourth, I especially appreciate the opportunity to listen when POC are talking to each other because that's how I learn stuff I'd never learn if folks are in the "being careful around WP" mode. I'm not going to speak for other WP on this, but I personally appreciate people's willingness to be out there and say whatever they want to say. Fifth, if I disappear from this space, it isn't because of being scared off, but because I'm off IRL some other place trying to do what I can or lurking in the background trying to learn what I can by reading without taking the extra time to write.

    Would it help POC feel less like they are talking to no one if WP periodically just said something like "WP lurking here" so you know we are actually reading and paying attention?

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  104. Thanks, Zara and cocolamala--you weren't responding to me, but your posts put a new spin on things for me.

    @bloglogger: In the last few years, I have started to call out people in meat space on things--racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc. I'm still silent sometimes when I shouldn't be and I probably miss things that should be called out. I have been making a deliberate effort to speak up more, though. But for me, it's easier to speak up when I believe I'm right. It's a lot harder when I'm probably wrong.

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  105. Oh man, and after all the scrolling since I hit Post, can I edit? In my earlier comment, I'm worried I'll come off like I'm using PoC as a public service. I think of macon as one, in providing the space... I consider the commenters part of the public that is using and improving it. I appreciate that work, and I'm sorry if my comment made it harder.

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  106. @some guy,

    If someone says to me all sweetly, "Gosh, chthonic, I'd prefer if you didn't do that anymore, it's not very nice." then, yeah, I won't do it anymore... if I remember. Which I won't, most of the time, because it's just some words to me and it's probably not that important.

    Whereas a response like, "Goddammit, chthonic, get your head out of your ass!" well, I won't like it and I may get all butt-hurt for a bit, but I'm not going to forget it either, and I'm sure as hell not going to want to do whatever prompted that response again.

    Which is just one of the many problems with your argument. People learn from emotional impact a lot better than from sterile intellectual exercises, which is what you seem to want. And in discussions of race, emotionless intellectualism is only an option for white people anyway.

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  107. @ some guy

    I really hope that some of the language used here (e.g. "white people..with their tails between their legs" and zara's comment about "i dare you to change how you behave. i dare you to come back and try again") is not how you would approach this in an actual, real life situation.

    What person, white or otherwise, takes well to being talked to like that?


    This was pointed out to you by Zara as derailing but I really want to reiterate the links she has given you to help you see something. What you're doing in this comment is saying that you're (and apparently an army of other WP) not even willing to engage with someone because their reaction to YOUR actions (and the actions of other WP) has been unpleasant. It's called the tone arguement. It gets you out of hot water by saying "I don't like that you're pissed off." Imagine a doctor at a hospital denying your child treatment because she cried and smacked the nurse in frustration with not being able to get what she NEEDS.

    Please go back and read the post about dismantling the anger PoC feel. I'm about to head to class so I can't link you. It's recent though.

    Also, approaching people with the attitude of "I have the answers and you just need to keep trying to find them" is completely counterproductive - not only because you don't, but also cause you have work in common cause with other people in order to reach the answers. As the poster pointed out, white people need to be included in the conversation. They also need to be part of the anti-racist society that we all would like to construct.

    I'd like to think that we WP could be a little more courageous in our endeavors to change things. I get the feeling that accepting the way things are is ok for us. And that's very disheartening. If you really care about a subject, you go out and find your information yourself. You've probably used Google for a lot more petty obsessions (exotic pets, place to spend Friday night, etc.).

    If people want to use this blog to let out their emotions, talk about experiences with racism, then that's fine. But what comes after that?

    A deeper understanding of PoC and changing the way YOU treat people if you can't be bothered to change a system. Accepting when you've wronged someone, accepting the sting of their anger and still being able to work on the issue afterward.

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  108. @soul: I also said, "I got scared that I'd come across as correcting you and deleted the comment." That is, I didn't want to imply that her tone was wrong by using a different one in my comment.

    But now I'm implying that you're imagining racism^Wa tone argument (and I probably have been with every comment here), which I don't want to do.



    @someguy: In addition to Willow's links, it's been pretty thoroughly demonstrated that people don't take well to being contradicted nicely either.

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  109. olderwoman said, I especially appreciate the opportunity to listen when POC are talking to each other because that's how I learn stuff I'd never learn if folks are in the "being careful around WP" mode.

    Mkay. This? Is becoming a problem.

    On the one hand, this thread ended up going better than most of the black women who hang out here expected. There was minimal derailment, and we got to talk to each other honestly, and maybe some white people learned a little something. Fine. All of us BW knew we weren't commenting in a vacuum, that WP were reading what we had to say to each other. The voyeuristic aspect of the whole thing made me a little uneasy, but the results were good, and at that time I was enjoying the conversation too much to care.

    So... I'm glad olderwoman learned something, I guess. But it is starting to bother me a lot that this it what it takes for some white people to hear us -- because we didn't say much to each other that we hadn't expressed in other ways in other places on this blog. What was different was the mood we created, our feelings of intimacy and trust, knowing that compassionate black women were listening.

    What this boils down to for me is this: black woman can explain things to WP. We can debate, we can suggest, we can argue, we can ask nicely, we can yell. We can do all these things. This is how white people interact with each other when they disagree. When white people argue with the goal of understanding each other, interaction with boundaries is enough. But when you want to understand black women, you need something extra -- you need to, what, watch us in our natural habitats? Observe private conversations? Take notes like anthropologists?

    I get that this may be confusing for white people who participated in that conversation to hear, after so many BW (myself included) expressed pleasure with how it went. Certainly that thread went better than this one. But I think this links to the problem a lot of white people have -- you know, that one where they treat black women as less than human and don't even know they're doing it. Think about it.

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  110. @bingo re: PoC plans of action and WP

    Thanks for the info about these efforts. I do think that WP should look to PoC as leaders, especially since white culture is so deficient in awareness of racism and WP's role in systemic racism. But (admittedly having not read your suggested sources yet) are you saying that WP shouldn't think of ways to act on their own or even as a group of white people?

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  111. @ Victoria,

    Willow provided the links to Derailing for Dummies, not me.

    Also, I understand the intent behind your child-in-a-hospital simile, but I think that was poorly thought out.

    A child throwing a tantrum, terrified and incapable of seeing the bigger picture, is not analogous to people of color, rightly furious after centuries of oppression, refusing to make civil rights work easy for white people.

    A doctor tending to a patient in a hospital is not analogous to white people having the strength of character to fight against the oppression they have participated in.

    Again, I understand your intent, and a good metaphor or simile can go a long way. But please -- check your condescension.

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  112. Victoria,

    What's up with comparing black people to tantrum-throwing children?

    If you're writing a comment right before class, maybe you should wait until after class to finish it? And think through it a bit more carefully?

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  113. Ladies (and you know who I'm addressing),

    You've over-explained to these people enough. Now you're just throwing your pearls before swine. The WP who are here in good faith have gotten it. Let THEM explain to the rest of them (if they're really about listening) what the deal is.

    As for folks like someguy, you'll never reach him because you're not suckin' his dick. And he wants you to be grateful he did the prep-work. He even pulled his own pants down and everything. You just have to get on your knees and slob that knob. If you refuse then he's taking his precious White dick and going to offer it to someone who WILL service him and bestow his "benevolence" on THEM instead. He'll probably make sure to spit on the first BW he sees in retaliation.

    I think it's time for us to leave here, gather what's left of our sanity, do some serious self-care and start living OUR lives for US and being utterly selfish. Let the "enlightened Whites" and their Good Darkie Yes People circle jerk each other here. They've made it quite clear our presence is no longer wanted if it ever was.

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  114. RVCBard wrote,

    Macon, this right here? Sooooo not the point. When does soul - or any of the more vocal Black women - get to benefit from participating here? Our lives are not a public service! When will White people fucking get that?

    (Nevermind. Answered my own question.)


    Okay, then I won't try to answer your question, and I will acknowledge what I'm reading as your point.

    For me, you raise a different, potentially clarifying question, an addition to the list at the end of A. Smith's post -- why do BW (including "the more vocal ones," and other POC) comment here, at an aspiring anti-racism blog? They obviously don't all comment for the same reason or reasons. So what are some of those different reasons?

    Also, how could the "more vocal" black women and others benefit from participating here? You haven't thrown in the towel like Witchsistah has -- why not? You seem to get something out of it -- what is that?

    Am I again asking you to use your entire life as a public service? I hope not -- I think I'm just asking about the few minutes a day that you chose to spend reading and writing here. . .

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  115. I'm off to catch my flight in a few minutes, but you might not want to ignore this, since it echoes and reiterates and repeats a lot of what's wrong with racial discourse here.

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  116. some guy said...
    "But from a purely practical point of view, you have lost 95% of the white people you might want to engage with in a conversation on race. Imagine you're trying to organize an anti-war movement - you're going to have to reach out to a broad base of people, some with far divergent views. You don't tell them "come back to me when you understand." Most people shut down when they feel they are being threatened or talked down to in any way. Yes, these issues are incredibly sensitive and discomfiting for people. And it might be really satisfying to say what you feel, the rest of it be damned. But again, if you're trying to have a constructive approach to this, it's probably not the best idea."

    Sir:
    Part of having white privilege is being racially comfortable; so content in fact, rarely are you reminded about your color or think about your race. You are used to having all of the answers; you are used to speaking with authority on any given topic. You have a sparse- rudimentary knowledge of black folk at best (sitcoms, sporting events or rap videos) a few civil rights leaders. However you’ve little or no practical first-hand knowledge of black people. No close black friends whom you socialize with on a regular basis, worship with on a regular basis; break bread with on a regular basis. So you’re afraid of stumbling- of stepping out of your comfort zone to be confronted on the very thing you think of the least. That being race.

    But you do think about color. You think about that as much as we blacks think about race. Working in an all white environment or worshiping in an all-white church or living in an all-white neighborhood; very rarely is the topic of race going to interrupt your day. If the only thing you know about minorities is from what you glean from your television, than I can understand your reluctance to step into the fray. You’re Racial Noobs in every sense of the word. By coming to this blog you realize you don’t know everything.

    To your dismay you discover everyone is not going to come to you for answers; unlike the world you live in. You lurk in a place where you are obviously in the minority, and that’s unsettling to you. Even if this space is in the digital realm, it still makes you uncomfortable because you’re used to being with your own kind. I remember commenter’s speaking about Digital White Flight. Whites fleeing MySpace in droves because there’s just too many black folk there.

    http://www.observer.com/2009/media/battle-between-facebook-and-myspace-digital-white-flight
    "In her research, conducted over four years for her fall 2008 dissertation at Berkeley, she found that what we're seeing is "a modern incarnation of White Flight." Facebook users who canceled or abandoned their MySpace accounts are more likely to be white, educated and privileged. Compounding the problem is the press, Ms. Boyd said, "an institution that stems from privilege," which narrated MySpace as "the dangerous underbelly of the Internet while Facebook was the utopian savior."

    Which is odd to me, because I see so many white folks jumping from bridges on rubber bands, jumping from airplanes; hovering above the clouds in home-made balloons. Engaging in all types of extreme-sports, simply because of the adrenaline rush. You chase ghosts and demons, brave the rapids- climb to the highest peaks; but you’re afraid to engage black people outside of your comfort zone. Coming to a blog like this you are challenged in ways you’ve never even considered.

    Even during religious conversation, it’s the fortifications surrounding the ego that usually suffer the initial hit. It’s the first fatality in a process of renewal. Then again, what good is change if it’s not without anguish? In this sense Attorney General Eric Holder was right. Some of you are cowards when discussing the subject of race. Such a contrast from the way you present yourselves in popular culture. (As fearless)

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  117. @ macon, you said, Am I again asking you to use your entire life as a public service? I hope not -- I think I'm just asking about the few minutes a day that you chose to spend reading and writing here. . .

    Every time white people demand black people's personal experiences as "proof" of racism, that is a demand for us to offer up the contents of our lives as a public service.

    Also, this.

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  118. You haven't thrown in the towel like Witchsistah has -- why not? You seem to get something out of it -- what is that?

    You might want to read Anne&Me and some other things I wrote a bit more closely for that, Macon. I've said it pretty clearly before.

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  119. With respect to Zara @ 11:54 -

    Forgive me if I sound a little naive, but (and this is OT, but I guess something to think about) do you all think ONE OF the MANY required parts of the solution to this squick is the wider portrayal of Black women in media? (by which I mean, the first and most important is for us WW *not* to treat BW that way)

    I'm not just talking about more non-stereotypical but distinctly Black (i.e. not Cam on Bones) female characters on TV/in movies, but better publicity for books written by Black authors whether or not they could be classified as "African-American Lit."

    I think part of the problem may be that WP, especially WW, attach some sort of 'mystique' to BW. I would hope that, ugh, I hate to put it this way, but...more frequent? exposure to BW of all types would help break this down.

    Also, I think the sense of 'eavesdropping' gives WW a power trip? Are white feminists worse than other WW? I will have to think about those some more. But I wouldn't be surprised.

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  120. When does soul - or any of the more vocal Black women - get to benefit from participating here?

    Can't, won't, lie. That line has me thinking and thinking hard.

    I'll add that somewhere in the middle of all this, I asked why people return to this blog. Witchsista has echoed that question (but I believe that was directed exclusively to the PoCs) and no one has really answered. I point that out to say that maybe none of us know (well, soul chalks it up to optimism, which I think is probably right on the money).

    I think that any of the more vocal BW who feel like this is hopeless and are exhausted from all of it deserve, for themselves (as witchsista got to) to step away from it. This burden is not something that only one person created and it's not something only one person can fix. There are more of us here, let us do the heavy lifting (temporarily, permanently, whichever).

    @someguy
    Apparently I skimmed your post the first time I saw it.

    The words I used in this post I chose because they accurately express what I've seen happen in this blogosphere and in my own life (IRL if I need to acronymn it). White people get scared and run away with their tails between their legs when it's not smooth sailing on this here race relations boat.

    If you need examples, that sucks because I gave one in my post. I'ma need you to accept what I say, if you're serious. Quid pro quo, buddy.

    Trying to coax white people into this conversation is POINTLESS. Do you understand that? Why do I have to coax you into this by choosing my words carefully, if you're serious? In one line you say that you understand this isn't easy and won't be nice, but in the next you want me to be nice about it. I'm sorta lost on that and maybe you can help me out.

    It's interesting -- anyone who's had a limb injury and had to rehab it probably experienced a lot of pain in the process. You probably also told your physical therapist that "it hurt" and your PT probably said "it will..." and you probably never again mentioned that "it hurt" expecting your PT to do something about it.

    Yet, I'm saying right here -- this will suck -- but you want me to unsuck it, or something?

    Just think on that for a second and clear up any places I may have misread you, later.

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  121. @bloglogger - white people should dedicate their resources to justice for non-whites, and those resources include their creativity and initiative as individuals as groups. What I was reiterating is what Martin Delany, Malcolm X, and MLK (at the end of his life) said - non-white people need to be the leaders in movements for non-white liberation - therefore, castigating white people for asking non-white people, "What should I do?" is antithetical to that goal.

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  122. I do not talk about race with WP in Real Life at all anymore, it is too tiring and I am sick of either crying or feeling hatred afterward.

    I believe I do treat most WP superficially, except my one friend.

    I don't put my heart out there anymore.

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  123. Thinking critically about racism (systemic and individual) is going to result in "criticism." It is not a personal critique of any individual commenter's character.

    It's a critique of the ideology motivating our thoughts and actions.

    If you remain defensive of your ego, and sensitive to criticism of your actions/commentary, you will not be able to participate in the learning process. (you sit in class, you don't raise your hand, you get called on anyway, you get it wrong, you move on <-- and you come to class tomorrow)

    It makes sense that, since people of color have a strong motivation to critique racist ideology, you may be corrected or criticized by a woman of color on this blog. That may be a new experience, may be embarrassing, may be uncomfortable. That's understandable. But it's also unavoidable.

    There is no way you can participate in a conversation and simultaneously insulate yourself from critical responses. There will always be room for improvement. There will always be a critique of this chatroom or that commentary. But these are not reasons to ignore, or end the conversation. They are evidence that dialogue needs to continue.

    In fact, I can't think of any critical discipline in which practitioners wonder about, (or anticipate) its demise, as much as in anti-racism. English profs never talk about when everyone will just "get" Hamlet, or Moby Dick. Even though those texts are already hundreds of years old, new papers get written about them every year.

    Passively reading here, waiting for the black commenters to manifest the "answer" is going to get you no farther. The work they're doing accrues to themselves (that's their revelation, their catharsis, etc). You cannot discover what White People should do about racism from reading their responses, any more than they could expect to discover what Black Women should do by asking for your experiences.

    white commenters, y'all have to engage at some point, begin to put together concepts about how your experience intersects with the topic of racism, or the particular hurdles black women face.

    it's not all reading for background info. try to begin to identify problematic situations you find yourself involved in.

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  124. @ mgibson17
    Those are great pieces that you wrote: They descibe the messianic character of white people.. Were to busy out their making the world "safe for demacracy" :)

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  125. >> "Our lives are not a public service! When will White people fucking get that?"

    Evidently not before I made my previous post.

    Ergh. I'm sorry.

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  126. Some thoughts on how to get white people NOT to run away that don't involve the tone argument. I know a lot of us aren't in a position to do many of these, but maybe...one of the lurkers is in a position of media/educational power...

    1. White parents, teach your kids more about Black history than just slavery.
    2. White parents, teach your kids about race when they're little so they don't learn about it via schoolyard insults and stereotypes.
    3. WIWL, stop caring what [white] people think about you. Chances are the other white people in the room are screwing up just as much.
    4. (specifically swpd) Macon, maybe put a link in the sidebar to a "helpful suggestions for first time commenters" that includes common and valid reasons people get flamed
    5. Give white feminists a chance to cry WWT...on their own blogs.
    6. It's been posted before, but ya know, it's a classic.
    7. Make Autobiography of Malcolm X and Ain't I a Woman? required high school reading under the NCLB. Add questions about them to the reading proficiency test. (Okay, I'm a dreamer).
    8. For college students? Free food'll do it.
    9. Get [predominantly white] churches and other religious congregations involved.
    10. (swpd) Maybe more threads like this one, and the survey one, that encourage lurkers to post? But not ones that are so WP-feelings-centric, as they have tended to be.
    11. You know, this might be verging on the tone argument, but I (IRONY ALERT YES THIS IS ME SAYING THIS) am wondering if it might be a good idea for the *white* commenters here to, while calling out NEW posters on racist statements, try to be a little less, um, harsh? To lessen the sense that there is a "clique" that they can't break into, is where I'm going with this. I really, really think the idea of "white anti-racists" as a clique they're not part of prevents other interested WP from committing to the struggle.
    12. I am still undecided on whether it's a good idea to tell WP about ways racism/white privilege hurts *us*. I think the whole point of this is to get to a point where that motivation isn't even on the radar.

    Thoughts?

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  127. Willow--
    do you all think ONE OF the MANY required parts of the solution to this squick is the wider portrayal of Black women in media

    i don't speak for all, but imho, yes.

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  128. Re: "2) Despite a white and male moderater/blog owner, swpd lacks a strong (or even noticeable) white male presence. What might be the reasons for that?"

    Before I start, forgive the spelling mistakes, I'm quite tired.

    As far as posting on blogs, or discussing with strangers race and issues around race I am absolutly new. So, time for me to make mistakes, and learn I hope.

    It seems appropriate to declare my race, age, gender and perceived nationality? I am a white, 27 year old male who lives in the UK.

    For about 5 years I would say I have been aware of the huge inequality in the world, between races, between assigned classes and between countries. I have tried to lead my life in a way free from prejudice of any kind, at which I regularly fail, demonstrating prejudice against the privalged at times, for example.

    I have never (and by never I mean the last 5 years) considered racism to be the fundamental problem causing inequality in the world. Inequality has always appeared to me to be due to the powerful wishing to hold on to power and racism was simply a means of maintaining this, rather than people being fundamentaly racist.

    I regularly dicuss inequality with my friends, and sadly I would consider some of them to be
    racist. Upon questioning them about this they say that they feel the way they do because they feel they, white people, are losing rights and that other races are gaining privaledged rights. I and I'm sure almost everyone who may read this, knows this is not actually the case but perception seems, as ever, to be more important than fact.

    This example demonstrates my earlier point, my friends are being racist because they feel they are losing power or being forced into a lower position in society. This situation is all the more complicated when you consider that their brother in law is black, whom they greatly respect and have a good friendship.

    So in direct response to the question, "Why might not white males post here?" I can give you an answer but it only applies to myself.

    Racism is abhorent, and there is no excuse for it. It is wrong in all it's form and disguises. However, I do not think if racism was eradicated from the world, the world would be a particularly better place. Because those in power would use other means to maintain power. The solution that I see to ending inequality is the fair distribution of power and true accountability. I therefore see the goal of ending racism much like a person trying to fan the smoke out of a burning building without putting out the fire. And thus, I wouldn't consider putting my efforts into this task worthwhile, but instead I should focus on empowering the powerless, whoever they may be.

    I am aware of my own ignorance, and hope to be as open minded as possible. My own understanding can only come through an expression of my current understanding which is then open to the teeth and claws of the knowledgeable, applied I hope with precision.

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  129. I'm primarily a lurker because the comments annoy me. Not from resident anti-racist POC, but from the others. I understand that people are still learning or whatever, but I always become too exasperated by reading comments from people who simply Don't Get It. The last time I commented for real was the Halloween Costumes post, when my critique of the Geisha costume fell on deaf ears.

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  130. @bingo re: 'What I was reiterating is what Martin Delany, Malcolm X, and MLK (at the end of his life) said - non-white people need to be the leaders in movements for non-white liberation - therefore, castigating white people for asking non-white people, "What should I do?" is antithetical to that goal.'

    Thank you, bingo. I see how my comments might encourage a WP-can-do-it-without-you attitude. That would not be positive.

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  131. For the person who asked why do WOC continually come back:

    I come back to learn. While I have noticed and experienced racist acts while growing up, it was never the blatant experiences I felt when I entered the job market. I can deal with slights, what I can't deal with is someone disparaging a whole nation of people as being less than somehow. A situation that happened when I first started working with my coworker two years ago.

    So while I might KNOW that something doesn't feel right (like all these claims that money going to Haiti is a scam-like since when has giving money to a charitable organization NOT entailed some risk), I may not know what to call it.

    I've seriously learned about Derailing, the Tone Argument, the Arab Trader argument just from reading this blog. These terms however would only come up in a debate (online posts/threads) and not so much, as an example, in a polemic regarding Affirmative Action. If I'm going to take someone to task about saying something off putting, I want to say something more than "that just doesn't sit well with me." I want to give examples why and I want to be explicit and I think I'm getting better. I seriously believe reading the threads is like sitting in a Master's class on politics and race.

    That's why I keep coming back. Everyone is in a different stage. I'm in the, if you are really willing to learn, I am willing to teach you stage. I haven't been there yet but some of the more articulate bloggers here probably passed that phase decades ago.

    I didn't grow up with white people or have white "friends" in my old job so the number of incidences that have happened, I can probably count on one hand. And I have only started to talk about this with my WOC friends--this was not normally a topic of conversation growing up so many of the things you've been through are happening to me now and are completely new to me; I'm trying to figure out a way to deal with it. Many of you have lived this so I can totally understand why you would want to leave and are at your breaking point.

    I just want to reiterate it's not only the WP who are learning, BW are learning as well and want to continue to learn.

    FYI, IRL = In Real Life? Many of the acronyms, I just don't understand or never seen. WIWL through me a curve ball and I didn't find it online so I'm glad someone in another thread wrote it out.

    Also, I was able to attend a talk on "what it means to be white" by Tim Wise earlier this week and he stated that one way to talk about oppression is to talk about the people who resisted it and not just as something that happened to a group of people. It's the difference b/w being seen as a subject of history rather than an object. It seems simple but it's an important distinction. A question posed to him at the end of the presentation was how did he come to fight racism and he said he knew on a visceral level, racism was hurting him--he didn't know what it was called when he was a kid but something was removing him from the people he cared about it and that's what it was. For the WP, try thinking of it in those terms. Racism doesn't just hurt POC, it hurts you as well.

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  132. Oh man, good example of typing and running being a REALLY bad idea. Total jackass moment, and I apologize if anyone else took my piss-poor analogy as a comparison of PoC and children.

    I was trying to convey the idea that all people *care* about their children, particularly when their child needs something - NOT that PoC act like children. At all. I'll think before I type next time. Tasting shoe is very unpleasant.

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  133. Been lurking for a few months. I'm a WW with a strong interest in confronting my own racist habits and tendencies.

    I say that, but I feel like a phony. I came to anti-racism well after my coming to various other movements that deal with privilege. I guess I dealt with internalized homophobia and sexism and lot easier because less was at stake. Privilege is awfully comfortable and I'm attempting to train my mind into having more ethical expectations of livelihood.

    I did send an email to Macon once talking about books and a story I heard on the radio that he did a post about. I did a little ego dance for giving him the tip, feeling like a "good WP". Thinking back to that now makes me ill, but glad I can recognize the foolishness in the response.

    I will comment more often. I feel like I don't have anything original to say, but that's my problem to get over. In fact, a lot of the WP who complain about their "treatment" here could get over it too. PoC have every right to be upset or angry when we say something that hurts them again and again. I think for all the pain I've dealt PoC over my years inadvertently and explicitly, I can get my feelings hurt a few times without complaining about it. Recognizing your own racism hurts, as it should, for transformation to be possible in the first place.

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  134. Another idea, and one that all WP can do:

    One of the major problems, people seem to agree, is the idea of a deep divide between White and Non-White that cannot be traversed. We (WP, and especially WIWL) are afraid of difference.

    Especially with women, it seems to have a lot to do with exotification (is that a word?) and looks. So doing little stuff to "balance" the portrayal of WP and POC might help. Like, describe ALL people the same way. "She was white, brown-haired, and blue eyed." "He was Asian, probably Vietnamese, dark-haired and dark-eyed."

    I mean, it might seem a little excessive at first to state the hair and eye color of POC, but (white standards of beauty) there are quite a few POC who dye their hair. And, of course, everyone's hair goes gray when ze gets older! And maybe this would help towards eliminating the idea of white as 'neutral' or 'normal'?

    I'm sure everything I'm saying has been said before. :) But maybe someone out there is reading it for the first time and will be inspired...

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  135. @ Willow, you said, Forgive me if I sound a little naive, but ... do you all think ONE OF the MANY required parts of the solution to this squick is the wider portrayal of Black women in media? ... I think part of the problem may be that WP, especially WW, attach some sort of 'mystique' to BW.

    Yes, I do. And I definitely think you're right about the Black Woman Mystique, which is why my feelings are so mixed re: the whole listening-to-black-women's-conversations thing.

    I'm glad that thread was useful/enlightening for both white participants and white lurkers. As a BW participant, I enjoyed the solidarity I felt with other BW. But I really, really wish that it didn't take so much to clue some white people in.

    Mainly I wanted the white people who found that conversation to be more of a revelation than others to think about why that is, and how messed up it is that it takes so many different kinds of sacrifice from black women before our words get through.

    I think white people do need more exposure to black women. But that's upsetting to me, because I don't see a way for that to happen without our sacrificing even more of our privacy and our rare safe spaces.

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  136. @ Victoria:

    Do you understand why this is not actually an apology?

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  137. @ Zara

    No, I guess I don't see how it's *not* an apology. From my perspective I'm apologizing for not slowing down and saying what I meant in the first place and also for saying something that might have been insulting when it wasn't even remotely close to the point I was trying to get at. '

    I'm promise I'm not being willfully oblivious, I'm just truly not seeing it otherwise (white blinders?). I do understand if you don't feel like explaining it to me.

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  138. Victoria, I think Zara is pointing out how you said you were sorry if your comment was taken the wrong way, instead of saying how you were sorry for making an inane comparison in the first place. It's not her problem for taking offense, it's yours for dealing it out.

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  139. Zara re me: Eeep, I didn't mean the part about eavesdropping that the way it sounded, and I'm sorry for the way it made you feel. It does sound creepy when you put it that way. Giving self-justifying examples of what I had in mind to say it wasn't as bad as it sounded seems off topic. I want to acknowledge the concern and sit with the criticism to reflect whether I need to extend it more broadly than this forum.

    mgibson seemed to me to hit the fundamental reason for withdrawal. Things get uncomfortable, and white privilege makes withdrawal possible. POC also get uncomfortable and may withdraw from things like blog discussions or having personal talks with WP, but can't withdraw from a white-dominated society, while whites do always have the option of withdrawing from interactions with people of color. I'm sorry I don't have the patience to track down the commenter, but someone in a previous thread made the point that a space that feels safe for whites does not feel safe for people of color, and vice versa. Whites are not used to having to be in a what feels like an unsafe space from the point of view of a white person's feelings.

    Willow has a lot of the suggestions for white work which seem on target.

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  140. @ Victoria:

    I just spent like forty minutes trying to find a link and IDK where it is. It explained this particular brand of white apology better than I will, but I'll give it a shot.

    When you said, I apologize if anyone else took my piss-poor analogy as a comparison of PoC and children, that was a sort-of half-apology.

    If you had said, "I am sorry for my use of that analogy, and I understand why it is offensive," that would be the end of this discussion, because that would be you taking complete responsibility for what you said. Instead, the responsibility is placed on your audience for how I (we) "took" it. And then you explained what you meant.

    I know what you meant. I knew what you meant before you explained. But it's what you said that was offensive. What you said affected me, regardless of what your intentions were.

    This is a thing white people do a lot -- say something along the lines of "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I'm sorry that's what you thought I meant" or "I'm sorry that came off as racist" when a PoC points out that something they said was racist. Really, an accountable response is, "I'm sorry that what I said was racist."

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  141. Willow said

    "11. You know, this might be verging on the tone argument, but I (IRONY ALERT YES THIS IS ME SAYING THIS) am wondering if it might be a good idea for the *white* commenters here to, while calling out NEW posters on racist statements, try to be a little less, um, harsh? To lessen the sense that there is a "clique" that they can't break into, is where I'm going with this. I really, really think the idea of "white anti-racists" as a clique they're not part of prevents other interested WP from committing to the struggle."

    I would say this should apply to everyone. There are many times when I don't comment or only comment a little bit because I feel like there is a lot of rudeness and hostility being defended with this "tone argument" crap.

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  142. WW lurker jumping in to point out to Victoria that you are still using an analogy in which BP are children. And I can't put my finger on it, but something is off with "all people *care* about their children, particularly when their children need something". Who are "all people", and how are BP like their children who need something?

    I'm Angela, BTW. I'm a longtime lurker for many previously stated reasons: Cowardice of having my ass handed to me, not wanting to contribute to an unsafe environment, not feeling like I can contribute anything helpful, feeling that it's better for everyone if my mouth is shut and my ears are open.

    However, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of listening in on private conversations for my own education. I'm ready to have my ass handed to me.

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  143. witchsistah certainly does seem to like to talk about whiteboys getting fellated. at frst i chalked it up to just a gross little metaphor. but she brings it up in damn near every post! hmmm...

    but i think her advice to BW is pretty much on target; just live your own lives and don't even deal w/WP any more than absolutely necessary, if you don't feel like it.

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  144. @ CuteRedHood,

    Yes. That's what I meant, but you were more concise. =) Thank you.

    @ randy,

    Is a blog more fun for you if you run the PoCs out of town first? Because there are plenty of all-white blogs where you could be hanging out instead.

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  145. @randy, what does "hmmm..." mean exactly?

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  146. Is a blog more fun for you if you run the PoCs out of town first?

    I don't know, but it must make for good entertainment because I keep seeing comments about Stuff Black People (Especially those Angry Black Women) Do.

    That this coincides with other vocal Black women giving up out of sheer frustration with the overwhelming failure of many people here act on the things they say they've learned from us makes me increasingly cynical about the merits of my bothering to post.

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  147. Re: Privileged groups in safe spaces

    This list is actually advice for men coming into feminist spaces, particularly online, but a lot of the principles translate fairly well for anti-racist safe spaces, I think.

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  148. Randy,

    Stormfront.com is thataway---------------->. I'm sure they'll give you a free swastika if you bring a friend as a sign-up bonus. You can take someguy with you.

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  149. Cloudy,

    Don't worry, it seems us Evil, Black Bitches are vacating this spot one by one. You'll not only have "room" to comment now without us Negro harridans here out-shrilling everyone but it'll be much more like a tea-party without us uncouth Negresses actually contributing all over the place.

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  150. @ Zara

    >> "I think white people do need more exposure to black women. But that's upsetting to me, because I don't see a way for that to happen without our sacrificing even more of our privacy and our rare safe spaces."

    Well, any "solution" that further hurts BW is not a real solution. That's where I was trying to go w/representation in movies and such, I guess--to preserve safe spaces in "real" life.

    I do think that one TINY little change that could be made--although I do see the argument against it--is for bookstores to, um, integrate the "Literature/Classics" and "African-American" sections. I think a *lot* of WP are sort of intimidated by a separate African-American section, for various reasons, but would happily pick up Native Son if it was labelled a "classic." And of course, in kid/YA lit (in most places) Middle of Somewhere is already next to Farewell to Manzanar is next to Jacob Have I Loved.

    That seems like it could be at least a small start that wouldn't place an extra burden on Black people (all POC, but in my area, there is not a chance you're going to see an "Asian-American Lit" section, so I am talking about BP in particular).

    Another thing I think would help break the Black Woman Mystique, and (possibly; this merits further though) the related but very different Asian and Native American Mystiques--although this is probably not something that most of us here can do much about--is to have more Black characters in picture books. Or even intermediate-level books with a few illustrations in them. If a character doesn't "seem [non-white race]," I think a lot of white readers have a tendency to picture the character as white regardless of physical description; with picture books, that's not so much an option.

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  151. @ Cloudy:

    I don't think the tone argument should *ever* be applied to the oppressed group in an anti-ism discussion. In fact, I'm a little uncomfortable even suggesting that WP try to hold back a little of the vitriol (not an excuse not to call people to the carpet when they've done something wrong) for new people.

    The difference, I think, is that WP new to engaging actively in anti-racism efforts are still sort of testing the waters, and looking to 'more experienced' :bitter laughter: WP as, in a way, very bumbling trail guides. It can hurt a *lot* more to be shut down brutally by someone you expect to be gentle.

    The white posters who have been here longer, of course, are fair game for the other WP, I should expect. After all, how better to get over WWT than to jump from the cookpan into the fire without whining? ^_^

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  152. Witchsistah, thank you for your wonderfully helpful and insightful post. It's so nice to hear that even though it should be obvious that I haven't said anything to that effect and would not, and even though I've stood up for you when you were on the receiving end of real tone argument bullshit, you're willing to do the extra leg work and turn my comment into a slam against you and other black women. It's nice to hear such kind words without a hint of rudeness or insincerity. My comment couldn't POSSIBLY be a general statement and have others in mind as well.

    I've been trying and trying to type more, but I'm at a loss for words. There's no point in typing anything else.

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  153. @randy - Seriously, why are you here? It's obvious you don't really want to engage. Truth hurts and it doesn't give you the right to come in here making personal attacks because you recognized yourself in something witchsistah said.

    @cloudy - Your discomfort does not invalidate the tone argument and your bringing it up in this manner is an ugly attempt at silencing. This would be a really great time to step on back and check your privilege.

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  154. CuteRedHood and Zara, I understand now. Thank you for explaining. Zara, an extra thank you.

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  155. I moved this week, so I haven't had time to read every comment, but...well, this is interesting. The new commenter "some guy" is actually a friend I recently met in real life(IRL). My first impression after talking to him for a mere couple of minutes was, "He doesn't 'feel white'. Awesome. I like it." Because of where I had been living in Australia, it had been a long time since I had met a white person who didn't 'feel white'. (I'm sure the POCs and perhaps some of the white readers here know what I mean by this phrase: 'feels white'. One of the characteristics is that those who 'feel white' make me aware that I am Asian, while when I'm with those who don't 'feel white', I can be myself - an individual. Or, put simply, 'They don't seem as racist.') It was a great relief for me to meet a white person like that.

    So I find it interesting that we seem to be talking on parallel planes in our discussions about swpd. I assumed that he already 'gets it' even before he read swpd. But maybe not. (This made my hope for all that swpd is setting out to do fizzle. I wondered: If he doesn't get it, who will? I might as well chuck my thesis on this topic in the bin.)

    @some guy - there are some things that I don't quite understand.
    a) Why does the term 'white people' bother you so much? Do you feel as though it's talking about you? That it generalizes you and clumps you (an individual) together with others?

    b) On the other hand, I am also surprised that you're still reading swpd. (This revives my hope a bit.) But why? I'd like to know why the white people who have problems with swpd keep reading. Why bother? What keeps them here? And will you stay for the long haul? (I suppose I’m throwing out a challenge at ya.)

    c) Funny that Victoria tried to link you to my post. But have you really read my posts? It’s hard to tell. (Please reread them.) I poured out my heart, like many others have done here. I spent the last two years reading about racism and identity, interviewed over a hundred people about it, forced myself to talk to white people I otherwise wouldn’t talk to, etc, etc. I have actively tried to dismantle the anger and the internalized racism. And I don’t think I’ve even experienced half the things some of the other POC commenters share here. Damn it, it’s hard work trying not to be angry or racist towards others.

    (cont'd)

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  156. (cont'd)

    If people want to use this blog to let our their emotions, talk about experiences with racism, then that's fine. But what comes after that?

    Alright, so you’re a practical guy. Well, here’s some practical things you can do. Don’t get hung up on the terms. Try to listen. Having someone listen to you is very healing in and of itself. It amazed me the number of times my interviewees thanked me for listening to them. They felt I was doing them a favor for interviewing them no matter how many times I told them that they were the ones doing me the favor. That’s how powerful listening is.

    When a POC feels healed, I believe it can be powerful. I am less angry now, and this makes for better communication with the 95% group you talk about. That’s what you want, no? It also means I can be more assertive and better able to administer the “emotional impact” that chthonic talks about. I can pick and choose my battles and strategies instead of being angry all the time, and/or trying not to step on white eggshells all the time.

    When I first found out that macon, a white guy, was running this blog, I was dumbfounded. I thought, Why the f*****g hell would a white guy wanna do this shit? I mean, it’s uncomfortable as hell to have your racism pointed out to you. It gave me hope to know that white people, and even white men are interested in fighting racism in society and in themselves.

    That’s right. If you’re gonna be here, might as well deal with what’s in your own heart first before you worry about the 95% who probably won’t listen no matter how nicely we put it to them anyway. Don’t think for a minute that you don’t have any racial prejudices or haven’t benefited (and emotionally enjoyed it) or even used/manipulated white/male privilege to your advantage at the expense of others. We all have some privilege and some racial prejudices. When I read swpd, I don’t just point fingers at ‘white people’ (ah that famed word), but I also point it at myself. I suggest you do the same – that’s what comes after.

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  157. ps. My question for point (c) was, "Damn it, it’s hard work trying not to be angry or racist towards others...So why does it seem as though dealing with your own prejudices seem to be a non-issue for you?"

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  158. Randy said: witchsistah certainly does seem to like to talk about whiteboys getting fellated… but she brings it up in damn near every post! hmmm...

    Really now? Funny that I didn’t notice it till now. Okay, so that particular metaphor she used isn’t my cup of tea, but that’s a pretty daring exaggeration you’re making. And what is with the “hmmm”??? Like, did you just exhibit scumbagism or racialized sexism?

    Randy also said: i wonder what PoC's WANT from WP in this context of alleged white privilege/supremacy. no, think about it; WHAT DO YOU WANT?

    I dunno what others want, but here’s my Christmas list:
    - a fairly safe space like this where I can actually talk about racism as much as I want and get it all out of my system (so I’m not so angry anymore), since I can’t actually do this in real life.
    - a space where I can hear others share as it helps me deconstruct/understand my own experiences
    - for white people (especially white men, and especially the ones who think they get it and think they aren’t racist) in a space like this to listen, so I know that people actually care and want to make a difference by
    a) changing themselves and
    b) becoming more aware of what goes on around them (especially the nuances) and
    c) speak up when necessary (coz we all know white ppl listen better to other white ppl)

    That is all I want for now. Not too much, don’t you think? Personally, right now I really don’t care about the other 95%* who are either outright racist or don’t give a crap. I don’t have much hope for them atm, and I can at least avoid them. It hurts and angers me the most when the 5% self-proclaimed open-minded ppl or the well-intentioned white liberal (WIWL) don’t understand how their deeply ingrained/subconscious racism hurts others because they are usually the ones who I associate with.

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  159. Ootinaboot, I'm not white, as regulars here know. So maybe you should check yourself before you go making baseless statements. What about when I and other POC feel silenced because the side I'm supposed to be on feels pretty damn hostile and silencing?

    Willow, we're in agreement about white people who make actual tone arguments. But there is a lot a vitriol from people who defend it with "You're just trying to silence me." Even when POC (speaking of more than myself, mind you) call people on it, they're accused of it. The tone argument is something very different than just asking people not to be total assholes in a shared online community so that everyone (POC, not whites) feels welcome and comfortable. When I say "tone argument" in quotes like that, I mean those that use it as an excuse to just tear into everyone. It's draining.

    I post on several antiracism sites, and most people are not so hostile unless there's an actual reason to be. I know countless amazing contributors who don't seem one bit silenced by not just spewing bile and snark when people (other POC) disagree with them. White trolls and white repeat offenders are draining enough to deal with, we don't need to have extra things making this space feel unsafe and unwelcoming. I obviously don't mean when people are truly upset by a post. But when even POC get it for not having the "right" POC opinion, well, have I said draining enough?

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  160. @ fromthetropics:

    First, I enthusiastically co-sign your "Christmas List".

    Second, I just wanted to empathize about white people who don't "feel white" (or who don't make me acutely aware that I am a PoC). I've known a handful of white people around whom I felt perfectly free to be myself -- I didn't feel like they ever expected me to represent Black People, or like they had any expectations of me except that I be myself.

    In most of these white people, though (all except, once again, my mom), this unique behavior was not even in part the result of anti-racist thought or work, but just an unusual personality trait. They were able to see PoCs as valuable individuals when they knew them personally, but they'd never had occasion to examine or think about wrestling with their privilege.

    It really sucks when the white person who seems like an exception to the rule lets you down somehow. However -- I don't think it's necessarily a dire case of, "If he doesn't get it, who will?" If someguy is willing to do some self-examination (as opposed to just looking at other WP), he might not be a total loss.

    I just... don't think there's any such thing as an anti-racist white person just springing up organically (i.e., discovering and unpacking their privilege all on their own for the heck of it). They might not "feel white", but until they've joined in this discourse and fucked up a little, that part of them that's open-minded enough to see individual PoCs for who we are won't be complete.

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  161. @randy re: "but i think her advice to BW is pretty much on target; just live your own lives and don't even deal w/WP any more than absolutely necessary, if you don't feel like it."

    I'm guessing that this thread is your swan song on swpd since you're pulling out all of the provocation rhetoric, but in case you're still here and don't understand the Stormfront reference from Witchsistah, it is now the standard position of klan and neo-nazi scum to say, effectively, "We don't hate black people or Jews or _______; we just don't want to have to deal with them." You appear to be adopting a patently white supremacist stance, in other words.

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  162. @FTT and @someguy: FTT said: Don't get hung up on the terms.

    That and "practical guy" reminded me of a comment by Jennifer to a WM commenter on Love Isn't Enough (formerly Anti-Racist Parent). I'll quote part of it:
    I’ve sensed that you seem to feel that you can apply logic (stats/clear arguments) to racism. The insidious nature of racism is that it is so flexible and defies logic, or rather, it can use stats and logic to defend itself. [abridged...]
    but I look at the language you are using in this post — that you are here to “solve the problem,” “you don’t disagree “with the thesis,” and especially this last one:

    “being effectively anti-racist means being able to present clear, cogent arguments”

    This is a blog. It’s not an academic journal. The genre of blogs is that they are PRECISELY all about commiseration, and in some cases, like LIE, change. [ab'd] You clearly want to be here–and I don’t think anyone wants you go to away, but have you tried this exercise? Have you tried NOT commenting and just reading others’ and absorbing what they have to say? Part of being an ally is as much listening to others as it is insisting that you know the best way–in your term, the most “effective” way–to be an anti-racist ally.
    Interestingly, the comment came in a thread about <a href="http://loveisntenough.com/2009/12/01/arp-link-and-open-thread-bad-black-mothers/>bad, black mothers.</a>

    SWPD: work really hard to miss the point? SWPD: think that listening to POC's experiences is impractical?

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  163. oops forgot to close my quotes. bad, black mothers.

    Also, that comment thread was a massive fail that was part of the lead up to a new moderation/comment policy.

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  164. I'm sitting here trying to figure out why so many threads have been getting ugly on SWPD lately. And why every bout of ugliness leads to BW leaving.

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  165. thesciencegirl:
    i have been wondering about the same thing.

    let me know if you'd like to chat about it:
    julia.nobodyaskedyou@gmail

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  166. @ thesciencegirl:

    I haven't been here long enough to know this -- I've done some back browsing but there are only so many hours in the day. Is this trend not typical at SWPD? How does it usually go down?

    I'm just tired of seeing this bullshit over and over again in response to black women.

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  167. Zara, I have read and commented on SWPD for months -- probably over a year now, but I have a hard time making a comparison since I've spent much more time engaging in conversation here lately, as opposed to dropping in with a comment and not returning (or just sticking to the RSS feed). Funnily enough, I started reading and commenting more closely on a number of anti-racism blogs in the last month or two because of just extreme exhaustion with the level of racism in my own life and wanting a place to discuss it. But I'm feeling more drained than bolstered by that choice.

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  168. thesciencegirl, if you ever feel like talking off the thread, my GMail/chat is queenziti, and there's a link to my LJ in my profile.

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  169. Part One :
    --DarkMoon Said,
    And the answer to all this is to make a difference in your individual lives. ... Doing the right thing should be automatic without the expectation that people are watching and the canned applause will always be there when you evince a small measure of behaving humanely."
    --Cocolamala Said,
    white commenters, y'all have to engage at some point, begin to put together concepts about how your experience intersects with the topic of racism,
    --Fromthetropics Said,
    Don’t think for a minute that you don’t have any racial prejudices or haven’t benefited (and emotionally enjoyed it) or even used/manipulated white/male privilege to your advantage at the expense of others..
    --Zara Said,
    In most of these white people, though (all except, once again, my mom), this unique behavior was not even in part the result of anti-racist thought or work, but just an unusual personality trait. They were able to see PoCs as valuable individuals when they knew them personally, but they'd never had occasion to examine or think about wrestling with their privilege.

    I'm a white man who owns a business whose employees are all minority's and my significant other is a black women.I am
    where I am in life because of white privilege and people like me are definitely part of the problem.But we can also be part of the solution even though I'll probably get a lot of heat for what I represent.I also expect to be criticized for the things I write and I have no problems with that as I will learn from it.I found this blog as I was looking around for a discussion on interracial relationships as I would occasionally say things and Tammy would politely point out the insensitivity of my thinking.This blog is great for pointing out those sorts of things.The most significant thing I learned here was the connection of racism to white privilege (racism + power )and how that affects all of society.I had always viewed society as being affected only by things like political ideology,religion and economics but the racial aspect is something I never considered.We live in Pasadena which is pretty diverse.Los Angeles represents people from all over the world and I was born and raised here and my experience with a multicultural society is based on that.That said its pretty obvious that the system (police depart,health services,public schools ect.) are set up to support white privilege.If your white or have money how your treated is largely different then for POC and the poor.The school systems are good examples of this with schools in better areas being well funded and those where education is needed th most ignored.Theres been some discussion here about what white people can do about racism and I'm going to talk about how race and culture intersect with my life since that happens every day all around me.To some my story may seem like a perfect example of white exploitation but others may see some good in it.I'm here so I can become a better person and I'm sharing because this is whats happening in real life.

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  170. Part two:
    I own a tree trimming company in the foothill area of Los Angeles,my employees are Hispanic and a large amount of my client base are people whose English is a second language.My philosophy has been to treat everybody with the same respect and too see them as individuals.Stereotypes don't work anymore after you have met and worked with hundreds of peope that these so called stereotypes are suppose to describe.They don't fit so you stop categorizing people and your presentation becomes one of understanding the individual and making a personal connection. .
    The cost of trimming a tree is the same irregardless if you are rich,middle class or poor.Attempting to "read' people to see how much money you think you can squeeze out of them is way to much work and reminds me of a used car salesman.People appreciate honesty and if they get multiple estimates they will see who is a strait shooter and who is trying to make a quick buck.I am also more likely to be rehired again in the future so it makes good business sense.
    Some of mentioned here about feeling that they are not seen and are invisible in society and especially so in a white world. In the city people walk around in a Haze and don't see anybody or acknowledge their fellow human beings.If people do respond it will be out of anger and irritation.You can be bleeding on the side walk and people pretend they don't notice.The number of homeless family's on the street is increasing and nobody notices.(you would think that would be a valid news story).When you add the layer of racism into it it becomes obvious that some racial groups are more invisible then others.Self centered privilege damages society in a multiple of ways.
    I make it a point to connect with people wherever I go.I notice them and affirm that they are in fact human beings and not just people who are in my way.Largely what I do all day is drive around, meet people and work with my crews.Along the way I'm doing what most people do like going to the market,post office, eateries ect.The difference is my attitude. If you have a job where people have to wait in line to eventually talk you most peope by the time they get to the front of the line are rude and impatient and your the reason the world is fucked up place.I've found that people appreciate that I remember their name and that I take the time to get to know them.Sometimes at the bank for example I might have a problem cashing a check.Because I've developed a relationship with that person they will go out of their way to find a loop hole to cash it.The guy behind me who's always been asshole is is told "Theres nothing we can do".How you treat peope in your everyday actions really goes beyond just race.The beauty I see in the eyes of others transcend race and is really about treating all people with dignity. It's amazing what happens when you treat people as human beings.

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  171. Part Three:
    This also extends to how I treat my employees.First pay people LIVING WAGES.Most of my guys have been with me more then 15 years and they are not just my friends their my people and they are my family.My men run my company like they own it.My pay roll might be a lot higher then other similar tree company's but that is compensated for because they produce more.They take personal responsibility and that allows every body to share the stress.Like wise Gero and Chepe develop their own relationships with some of my clients and who will ask for them specifically when they need more work done.Since my employees are well paid their not out looking to find another job.Instead their interested in helping me grow my business.
    Racism toward Hispanic and immigrant workers is some thing I have to deal with all the the time.Because I am white people think they can say racial slurs and somehow I will be able to relate to their depravity.Because of the intimate relationship I have with my workers I can't help but take their racism personally.I also hear racial slurs from other ethnic groups against other ethnic groups and as a white person they presume I'm going to agree with them.Racial slurs insult me even though I can never say I can even come close to knowing what a POC must actually experience.I believe we are all made in the image of God and when a person uses a racial slur they are in effect saying FuckYou to Gods face.The greatest tragedy was when mankind gave God a face.We have been killing each other over what Gods face looks like ever since..

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  172. Re: hostility, oppressed groups, and privileged persons' reaction to it:

    (Quoting from...somewhere):

    "We all need a rantspace sometimes. Whether it be to blow off steam at a friend, a collegue, a boss, or a group of people whose actions drive us up the wall, we will all whine, moan, and insult just to keep ourselves sane. In discussions held by non-privileged individuals, those rants will sometimes be directed at privileged groups. It’s hard not to be hurt the first time you hear someone say something like, “Ugh, I really hate men/white people/heterosexuals/what-have-you today!” I know. I’ve been there, done that, but then learned that it’s not about me, it’s about my privilege. It is not me, personally, that is being attacked in those rages, but rather the privilege I have unfairly been given to the detriment of the ranter. Instead of getting angry, I now try to do my best to apply the underlying points to my privileged position and give support to the ranter."

    I think that if WP stop treating every expression of POC anger as an attack on Our Innermost Beings, the accusations of hostility/the tone argument will fade.

    I don't know how to get other people to stop taking things personally, however. :(

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  173. @ Zara

    When you made that comment about how POC have to tip-toe and walk on eggshells when discussing racism with White people, well I kinda saw this shit today on The View this morning. They were discussing an article that discussed the double standards between Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown actions of domestic violence. I saw how painfully the discussion was in bringing race as factor of the double standard. When Sherri agreed that there was a double standard Barbara wanted to her to come on out and hint that it was race so she can shut down her argument defensively right along with Elizabeth Hasselback. Sherri had to mention that didn't feel race was a factor so she can make them feel comfortable and not guilty and in denial. Is post-racial making race-relations more conservative? Is this is one of the reason why anti-racist blogs are becoming more and more harder to get through some White people because of White liberal racism? I'm just wondering because this thread is kind of showing it. Some guy using the tone argument because he does not like what is said and how it said to him. I believe one of the keys steps to dismantling racism is stop feeling guilty and in denial. Guilt and denial is not going to change POC's humanity being ridiculed. I swear it is a disease. However, there is a cure. Acknowlegement, empathy, and being pro-active in doing something about it. Sitting here feeling sorry for yourself for being racist is not going to change shit or derailing and being in denial. Running when it gets tough is cowardice. If you see yourself as person who believes human equality then you better act like it.

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  174. A question for the white people out there in TV land, both lurkers and non-lurkers...

    In my suggestion upthread that maybe the WP here shouldn't use acerbic language on newbie white posters, I pointed out that there was great irony in *me* (meaning Willow the Human Being) saying that. This is because it is very clear to me, from my perspective of knowing exactly how many comments I type out then erase completely due to excessive flamesauce, that I probably come across as pretty hostile when I get going at someone.

    BUT. On swpd, I have never. once. (okay, maybe once, but I, um, deserved it) been accused of being "hostile" or "angry," even when the label gets slapped onto BW/other POC posters in the same thread who showed far, far more patience and forebearance than I did.

    So my question to WP is this, and it's cool if you reflect in private instead of posting: what's the difference? Why--and don't just be like, "Because you're white"; no shit, Sherlock--am I treated differently? Is there a quantitative, objective, actual difference? Am I seen as somehow less threatening? If *you*, personally, see me as less threatening--even at first, gut-jerk reaction, before you have time to think--why is that?

    And, most importantly, how can you change your thought patterns so you stop lumping angry Black women into The Angry Black Woman stereotype? How can you change your thoughts and actions to allow them the same freedom to express their anger that you allow me? (Heh, see, and y'all thought I was giving you free reign to attack me...this isn't about me).

    I have some thoughts on this, but I would like to hear what other posters have to say.

    (Hehe all the BW are probably thinking, "Um, duh, Willow, welcome aboard clue train...")

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  175. Willow,
    You're brilliant. Thanks for this suggestion.

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  176. @fromthetropics - I'm going to piggyback on what Zara said regarding your thoughts of what someguy said. If we start basing our hopes about the future of anti-racist work on individuals we will be let down every time. Hell, base your hopes about anything on one person and you will be let down because people screw up.

    However, there's always hope that someone can change and there's always hope that on the whole, this work will be successful.

    @Cloudy - If you don't mind, shoot me an e-mail. darkdiamond2008(at)gmail.com Actually, anyone shoot me an e-mail/gchat if you want to -- I just wanted to ask Cloudy something off-blog.

    @thesciencegirl - I think we can all come up with any number of reasons. Part of it, I believe, is that at some point these discussions (topics of posts) had to go past the basic stuff. I mean, I lurked on this blog off and on for a while and just recently started commenting seriously, but it's getting to the point where I'm learning stuff. That is, I read the post and think "Well, I'll be John Brown... white people DO do that, and it DOES piss me off..." Denial is a b*tch and when you grow up in something, sometimes you don't know it's wrong. Anywho, I think we're starting to hit on things that even well-meaning/oughta know better white people do. It's causing a lot of people to have to do serious self-reflecting and causing more people to be more direct and pointed in their responses. Just a thought I had.

    Is there going to come a point where regular swpd commenters need off-blog support groups??

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  177. "If you want to add something of value to a discussion? Call out another white person when you see they've done something foolish. Stand up for a PoC when they're being backed into a corner. You can't get rid of your privilege -- so use it for something worthwhile."

    @zara:
    Hrm... yeah, you have a mighty powerful point there.
    While I do my best to do this IRL (and fail often...), I don't give much consideration to blogs.

    Partially this is because I don't read many comment threads (I think this is the first comment thread I've ever read on swpd). I typically read blogs from an RSS aggregator, and only bother with comments if I feel I have something valuable to say about the content of the post itself. And this goes for most blogs I read, not just _ism blogs.

    But I admit, even if I did regular the comment sections, I do wonder if I would step up like that. I'll try to do better.

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  178. In most of these white people, though (all except, once again, my mom), this unique behavior was not even in part the result of anti-racist thought or work, but just an unusual personality trait.

    Interesting. This is the second time I’ve heard it explained as “personality”. The first time I heard it was, interestingly again, from “some guy”. I do remember one incident where someone didn’t ‘feel white’ because of his personality. I met a middle aged white Australian man with whom I felt extremely comfortable talking to. He didn’t feel ‘white’. And because in the past I’ve only ever felt this way was with some North American whites, I ended up asking stupid questions: “Are you American by any chance?” Like, I knew the dude was Australian for a fact, and still I asked. WTF? “No,” he said, looking confused. “Oh, well, did you use to live in the US or Canada,” I asked while banging my head on the wall at how stupid my question was. “Uh, no,” he said. “Oh, okay,” I said.

    Later a mutual friend told me that he’s a guy with a lot of humility. Even when he talks to people who are considerably younger, he takes what they say seriously and listens. The word ‘humility’ explained a lot, since racism in effect comes from arrogance.

    (Note: I am not saying North Americans are less racist in general. It just so happens that because of the places I lived in and the social circles I moved in, I personally have had more opportunities too meet more North Americans who don’t ‘feel white’.)

    @some guy (and anyone else with the same complaints as him) – a couple more questions
    - If we don’t use the term ‘white’ – what do you suggest we use? Do you actually have a more practical suggestion/solution?
    - If what we do here isn’t as productive as you would like it to be – what do you suggest we do (without losing our jobs, and while we go about our life, etc)? Macon is spending his waking hours creating space for ppl to discuss. Many of the poc commenters here are spending hours of our lives sharing our lives with strangers in this space in the hopes that it’ll make a difference. White commenters are spending hours reading to learn and apply it IRL. I’m investing a few years of my life trying to write a thesis about this in the hopes that it’ll help pocs deal with internalized racism and get ppl of the dominant culture (particularly those involved in education) to understand how their well-intentioned thoughts and behavior are having a huge negative impact on many young people even in the most seemingly benign and race neutral institutions.

    So, what do you suggest we do in addition to this while trying to live our lives? Be the next Obama? Or MLK? Nelson Mandela? Uh, no. It’s easy to criticize efforts, but can you offer or suggest something to fill the cracks, as the OP points out? Something that is doable for those of us reading swpd.

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  179. Fine.
    For white people who wonder what can they dooo in real life: Cut down on the number of Total Race Noobs out there.

    In my mystical black woman beneficence, I'll even give a specific example! (nb: The real point of this example is to show you how you might approach this real-life-anti-racism thing, beyond the obvious "be a decent human being.")
    When you watch TV, really watch it. Ditto movies. A lot of people joke about tvtropes and so on, and are really good at picking them out, but never seem to notice that half of those tried-n-true televisual tropes are based on the same three isms (sex, race, and class).
    Notice the tropes— the Mammies, the Sapphires, the Ethnic Magicians, etc., etc., ad nauseam. As someone once said, they're like mushrooms in the forest: once you notice one, you suddenly realize they're everywhere, and they've been there the whole time.
    THEN!
    When you talk about the things you watched with other white people, and they're all clueless— "Avatar was sooo breathtakingly original!!"— clue. them. in. Important note: You're gonna want to have Derailing for Dummies on hand. Also Moff's Law.) The point of all this being to eventually reduce the market for that crap. You might not convince the person you're talking to, but you might put a bug in an observer's ear. Chin up!

    Or... make a point to buy your kid some books by WOC authors. They don't even have to be "overtly" about race or whatever. The point is to a) shunt your dollars in that direction and b) expose your kid to a different POV. Or... make a point not to buy some disgusting iPhone app. That's got to be an easy one. And so on.

    See? There are things you can do. Right now, in meatspace. Therefore, throwing up your hands in despair is total white-comfort-zone bullshit. This really is a case where if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Now go think up (or look up) some more things you can do (or stop doing). Because this is the last white-person pep talk I'm going to be giving for a good long while.


    ______
    *Note: I didn't mention that once you start noticing the racist mushrooms, you should complain about them (ie: write emails and whatnot). Because I'm assuming you're sincere, which means you're going to be compelled to do that anyway. Right?

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  180. Hey, I'm a white female lurker. Reasons I don't post often...

    1. I don't always read the comments because I'm supposed to be working on a book, and reading comments is SUPER interesting and therefore too good of a way to procrastinate.

    2. I admit I'm afraid of being *wrong*--of being (as someone said) the first kid who speaks up, gets their ass whipped, and has to serve as an example to the lurkers (who think "phew I almost wrote the same thing!")

    I read reams and reams of Racefail 09 last year, and the general conclusion I took away was: If you want to be an ally, it means you have to (a) educate yourself as much as possible; (b) take a chance and try to do something that advances equality [in that case they were talking about writing about PoC in fiction] (c) "take it like a man" when the PoC correct the mistakes you made (and don't get all whiny about the "tone" of the criticism); and (d) keep trying.


    So I'll try to try a little more often this year. thank-you to the commentors, macon, and those whose stories get posted--I learn a lot here.

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  181. Thanks to everyone who responded to my comments (almost everyone - witchsista, I know it's the internet, but maybe we should keep away from the personal attacks mmkay?) I started writing this trying to respond to everyone but it's gonna take way too long.

    I think this article, though it's about the environmental movement, can be applied in some ways to this conversation (read it, it's actually pretty interesting!) http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/08

    I guess my larger point is that no amount of listening or sharing personal stories will change our societies into anti-racist ones.Just like it's nice to think that if everyone just put out their recycling every night, all our environmental issues would be solved.(Or the anti-war analogy again: If I just manifest peace in my daily life, war will go away.) But it goes much deeper than that, right? Racism is ingrained in the structures of our societies - our laws, schools, prison system, electoral districting, etc.

    As I said in my post before, assuming that you want to dismantle racist structures in society, you have to find common cause with people who have very different values. For example, my Mom says plenty of racially questionable stuff. But if you asked her to help against injustices against, say, the detention of children of illegal immigrants (to imagine something beyond the black/white dynamic that seems to be the focus here), I don't think you would meet resistance.

    And that's the same for alot of people, on a lot of different issues. Tell someone they live in a warmongering society, that US troops are extending the imperial perogatives of the people in power, they'll probably tell you to go f** off. But ask someone whether they want gov't money to go to schools or to bombs, most will choose the former. Maybe after these ideas aren't so foreign, you can introduce the structural bits to it.

    Yeah, confronting these issues on an individual level is useful and important. And this blog is obviously not a place for people strategizing about anti-racist work. But the reason I bring up the 'tone' is not because I don't want to read or acknowledge your stories about racism, but because I imagine how (what I imagine to be) the average white American would react to the way the issues are raised on this blog. Or maybe this is just how the internet works, where the nuances of real life conversation are lost..

    Ok, let the angry comments begin!

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  182. Because of the intimate relationship I have with my workers I can't help but take their racism personally

    i think this is a good outlook or antiracist motivation. an example of classroom harassment revealed in another thread could have been addressed if the victim had had other FRIENDS who took racial insults aimed as her personally.

    when you are a person of color in a majority white institutional environment you may be somewhat socially isolated -- which allows harassment to go on unchecked and if their is pushback its only the action of an individual.

    White antiracist allies can and should speak up and intervene when they see weird stuff going down.

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  183. Ok, let the angry comments begin!

    Bah, screw it. Why should people here repeat themselves to someone who's obviously not listening?

    After all the responses you've received, what did you do? You merely told us some more about what YOU think, and you mostly just repeated yourself.

    You should see how WHITE you are.

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  184. someguy

    i hear what you're saying about personal attacks, i think that can cross the line

    but the tone argument is invalid here because the conversation actually just distracts from the topic at hand. your comments are something like half tone and half antiracist thought. we don't have time to talk about tone for 50 percent of the thread. you can't base antiracist discussion around the worry that someone might get upset -- it's such an emotional issue that its pretty much already guaranteed no matter how you approach the topic. thus there would always be someone, somewhere saying "gee the tone here..." and you'd never have a substantive conversation.

    that's like jesus responding "the poor will always be with us" because other disciples were complaining that the priorities were not always focused on helping the poor. he meant, we have to make time for other types of activity and spending because if we only focused on one issue, the whole of the work would never get done.

    it is also unfair to the rest of the readers/writers/commenters for someone to hold up an issues-based conversation in order to force us to organize our ideas and language into a more pleasing shape for them.

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  185. fromthetropics, I also sort of have that experience of meeting white people and just being like "oh yeah, they're down," like I don't get the same in-your-face whiteness from them. The last time I and another BW friend had this feeling about the same guy (a classmate), we later found out that he had black adopted siblings, and we kind of figured that his obvious comfort with us and ability to treat us like individiuals was because he knew, loved, and lived with black individuals. I think they way we worded it to one another was like, "[Joe] is cool. You can tell he speaks to us like people, not like black people." It was just a feeling, but one we both picked up on.

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  186. @some guy - I'll repeat:

    Thinking about strategizing is all well and good. So, what do you suggest we do in addition to this while trying to live our lives? Be the next Obama? Or MLK? Nelson Mandela? Uh, no. It’s easy to criticize efforts, but can you offer or suggest something to fill the cracks, as the OP points out? Something that is doable for those of us reading swpd.

    What can you personally do to help in your own real life? Have you ever thought about how your white privilege affects the way you interact with or treat those around you? Or how it affects your work? Or how you view the world? And inevitably, how you impact other people? The goddamn solution starts with you. If you're neither listening nor questioning your own attitudes, behaviors and perception of the world, then why the hell would anyone else in authority listen to any good intentioned anti-racist strategies?

    As for me, I am listening to you. I have suggested to macon a post about the definition of 'white people' to ease the offense that white readers might feel. It may or may not come up. But I'm listening and making an effort to hear you. It would be very nice if you could return the courtesy.

    Also, if you think the wording or tone is a problem, then perhaps you should contribute to the solution by answering my question:
    If we don’t use the term ‘white’ – what do you suggest we use? Do you actually have a more practical suggestion/solution?

    Otherwise, if all you do is criticize, then your words are nothing but a clanging cymbal.

    And have you listened to anything that we (pocs) are asking for? A lot of us here are asking for white people to stop the (intentional & unintentional) microaggressions. We speak of it because it affects us on a regular basis in our everyday lives. It is part of our lives. And actually, it's part of your life too. You are participating in it with your comments right here, by reducing everything to an intellectual exercise. And don't think that you don't participate in it IRL. Privilege and prejudice is not something any of us can escape (we all speak English - that is already privilege on a big scale).

    Also, you criticize our 'tone' but do you know that you sound condescending and dismissive? That you have a tone problem. It doesn't matter how many times you say you are not trying to be dismissive, the fact is you are. If you step on someone's foot unintentionally, you still are supposed to say 'Sorry', no?

    Your white privilege means that you have no idea how emotionally involving the discussions on this blog are for us, especially pocs. It is our lives we're talking about. These things affect us in very painful ways in our real lives. And you have the audacity to come here and criticize without offering any solutions and then joke around and say, "Ok, let the angry comments begin!"

    Do you know how offensive that last line is (and some of the other things you said)? It is not a goddamn intellectual exercise that is for fun and play.

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  187. @ karinova

    I swear I must have been reading your mind last night. I'm on bedrest for the weekend and my cousin brought me a TV. I didn't even know what to watch because I never watch anything except children's programming with my kids sometimes. So I watched Spongebob, got bored, went on the internet, got bored, tried to watch another show, got bored. I wanted to DO something.

    So I flipped to the Disney channel and the activity I was going to do became crystal clear as I caught the end of Sonny with a Chance and there stood skinny little Selena Gomez doing a skit called "Camp Hip Hop" with her hat turned sideways attempting to dance like the sorries b-girl ever, with white back-up dancers and then it got worse... the "angry, black, and bald" (as I coined it last night after seeing it the rest of the evening on Disney) stereotype came into sight. He, of course, wore a security shirt and was throwing people around.

    After that I caught a glimpse of a lone black character on Hannah Montana who was a delivery guy for a UPS looking company.

    And then after that it was the Suite Life on Deck where the only black student was, of course, a comedian complete with voice inpersonations. There's the regular Mr. Moseby who is "angry, black and bald." He's also sexless, never has a love interest, sole mission in life is to raise little Zack and Cody. Once upon a time he had a neice who was a big-time Sapphire. There are no Latino characters on the show, and the only Asian character is undefined, lacks any knowledge of her culture, and is a complete ditz.

    It gets better. After that was a new show, "I'm in the Band" - not even a token character of color in sight. Oh but the principal is black! Unfortunately, he's "angry, black and bald." He doesn't have a personality outside of that.

    So, that was just what? An hour and a half of televeision on ONE channel. I know you didn't ask for a run-down of any findings, but I just thought it was a cool coincidence that you mentioned that at the same time I was doing it. I'm going to continue the research and post it on my blog. I do want to send a letter though. With all of the evidence of their stereotyping and links to the explanations of these stereotypes (I'm sure "angry, black and bald" has an official name), it should be interesting what their response is.

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  188. @thesciencegirl - that's kinda cool that you had confirmation from another person

    cocolamala said: you can't base antiracist discussion around the worry that someone might get upset -- it's such an emotional issue that its pretty much already guaranteed no matter how you approach the topic.

    So true. Thanks for reminding. That's why 99% of the time we don't talk about racism with white people (or anyone in the dominant culture) coz it is guaranteed to offend. No matter how softly and indirectly we talk about it. How do you think I started out talking about it with my friend? I did not talk to her the way I talk directly and openly to people on this blog. I started off very, very softly. She asked why Obama identifies as black. I suggested that probably because people saw him as black and so as a black person he experienced racism. But that was enough to send her on the offensive (or defensive?) - Well what about people who don’t look black?, Well, what about... Then obviously I go angrier and angrier in reaction. And this is not your regular American or Aussie Joe we’re talking about. She is a WIWL (well intentioned white liberal) type. Very much an active anti-racist, pro-PC, pro-Aboriginal, pro-Green, let’s help the poor, pro-multiculturalism, anti-religion type, and yet she found it offensive that I thought racism was widespread.

    So yeah, I agree that discussions about racism are very emotional and offensive no matter how you do it.

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  189. karinova- excellent points. 1st question I ask myself when watching tv (sometimes I annoy myself with this, but whatev) is "who isn't here" and of those who are here "what role are they playing." It's amazing what I see doing that.

    someguy- I think we should be careful about saying doing something will never fix a problem. I also don't think anyone believes that simply sharing stories will, but we've all found that in sharing our personal stories, others here have had their own lightbulb moments.

    We also have seen that that doesn't work on everyone and I personally hope that at least for the ones who have been effected, it plants a seed.

    Your assertion that our work needs to go off-line is absolutely correct, but that doesn't mean what we do on-line isn't purposeful or important.

    You also get into that whole "don't make it personal" thing, which I agree with. It's amazing how formerly homophobic people get real defensive of homosexuals when they realize someone close to them is homosexual. As long as the race problem is over there in some other place, then it's not "my" problem. Part of sharing our stories is making this real. If I can tell of something that happened to me and you think "man, I've done that before" well, we're making progress.

    You also said, And this blog is obviously not a place for people strategizing about anti-racist work

    I disagree. It might not be there completely yet, but it could be one day. If anti-racist work was perfect, we wouldn't be here. We'd all be out doing the work. We can't let perfection be the enemy of progress (to steal from President Clinton who probably stole from someone else).

    Honestly, your post came across to me as you saying "this is pointless," which if that's how you feel is unfortunate but people who think they know all the answers on how to fix racism typically do more harm than the knowingly ignorant, because at least the ignorant know they don't know something and will ask questions and be open to responses.

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  190. fromthetropics said... She is a WIWL (well intentioned white liberal) type. Very much an active anti-racist, pro-PC, pro-Aboriginal, pro-Green, let’s help the poor, pro-multiculturalism, anti-religion type, and yet she found it offensive that I thought racism was widespread."
    For white people racism is an abstraction and fighting it is an ideal.What she found threatening was that all "the work" that she had done towards fighting racism wasn't enough.She wants to believe and her ideals are a statement of faith.White people sit comfortable in their gated community homes and pretend that their caring makes a difference.Read "The Secret" and think happy thoughts.Get out the check book and DONATE.This week I'll tip Maria my illegal alien house keeper 20.00.I'm making a difference because my liberal ideology says it so.She doesn't understand how the dominant culture of whiteness transcends both political party's,how this white privilege extends through out the world and that the economic system is designed to perpetuate the race who has the power.Her liberalism gives her a false sense of reality and you threatened that.

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  191. As I said in my post before, assuming that you want to dismantle racist structures in society, you have to find common cause with people who have very different values.

    Is this basically saying that we need to find a common cause with people who are racist towards us? Well, yeah, I think many of us do that because we have to. Otherwise we’d be friendless. Many a times I’ve ignored my friends’ racist attitudes towards people I identify with. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.

    @someguy - I think you’re missing the point. You don’t seem to understand that attitudes have a huge impact on racist structures.

    E.g. Clifford Geertz is hailed as one of the greatest anthropologist on Indonesia in the West. But when I and another Indonesian friend read his famous work, we found it 'offensive' because it exoticizes Indonesia or Bali. (When I read it, it was like I could see mystical smoke coming out of this mysterious place called Bali with some 'exotic' music in the background.) But do any of the white colleagues and professors I’ve spoken to see this? Some sort of did, but not really. One of them gave me an over the top defense of it. What I’m saying is, a well-meaning academic and their readers who are in love with and study the Other has a huge impact on how the Other is negatively perceived in their society because that academic didn’t go and check their white privilege. And as long as the work is hailed as a masterpiece, this attitude of exoicizing the Other gets passed on to the next generation of undergrad students – students who will in the future be in positions of power. Geertz is just one example.

    Attitude matters. Perception matters. They affect the racist structures.

    (Now that I've mentioned anthropology, I wonder if Thaddeus & Ana will show up again...)

    (macon, I think I've helped derail this thread. Sorry.)

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  192. @AE: I came back to the blog after too long a period, so I chose to deal with limited time by making a response that covered some of the points brought up and not responding individually. But I recognize now that that doesn't work, so I'll try to respond individually from now on.

    As far as "let the angry comments begin" - more of me reflecting some of my frustration with online communication. As fromthetropics mentioned, we've had these conversations in real life, and they went far differently - not because we agreed, but because there's just more of a dynamic of mutual respect. I've never posted this much to a blog before, so maybe I just need to get used to the brave new world of communication.

    @cocolamala: I'm not suggesting the discussion get held up on tone. I'm trying to come up with ways that connect the discussion to anti-racist work that does not look simply at the personal level. And to me, thinking about how we organize your ideas and language IS important. Not because I want self censorship, but because I think it influences how we bring up these topics in real life.

    @fromthetopics: You don't have to be the next MLK or Mandela to engage in activist or some sort of collective struggle. I can offer suggestions about what I think people can do, but I don't have any background in anti-racist activism. Maybe people want to suggest things here?

    @A. Smith:I didn't mean to come across that I thought that what's done here isn't important. I've read the stories and experiences shared here, and some of them make me angry and upset. I recognize things I've done myself in some of them. I can try and be more anti-racist in my personal life. But my point is that's not enough.

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  193. This thread might be dead, but in case anyone is still following along:

    @someguy:

    And to me, thinking about how we organize your ideas and language IS important.

    I don't think that sentence says what you think it says. Either you're not including yourself in an anti-racist we, or you're suggesting that PoC need other people to organize their thoughts and ideas. Might not what you "meant," but it's what you published.

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  194. >But my point is that's not enough.

    No, duh. That is what I mean when I say you sound condescending and dismissive. You're assuming you have more to teach us than to learn from us. If you can't even get the basics right, I don't see how you can do the other stuff right.

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  195. @NoDak608: Oops, that's a genuine typo - please read "your" as "our". In the rest of the paragraph I'm referring to "we".

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  196. @some guy, If being anti-racist in one's personal life is not enough, it is certainly a first step, so I would suggest that you start there. Or are you going to keep throwing out excuses about the larger cause to absolve yourself of personal responsibility?

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  197. Actually, hold on. I just reread this: "I've read the stories and experiences shared here, and some of them make me angry and upset. I recognize things I've done myself in some of them."

    Personally, right now that's enough for me. I believe a small step like this can have a chain effect. So that's pretty much all I'm asking for people (with any kind of privilege) to do right now. It may seem small to some people, but to me it's a big thing.

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