Saturday, February 20, 2010

look forward to a race-free future, instead of focusing on racism today


I've been noticing another common white tendency lately. In fact, I've been noticing it so often that I feel compelled to write it down, so I can better see and deal with it.

How do you deal with this one when you hear it?

This common white tendency is to look forward to a supposedly race-free future, instead of focusing on the pervasive racism of today.

I was reminded of this tendency this morning, when I followed a link to "tv tropes." I decided to peruse this site's section on "Race Tropes," but then I got pulled up short by an introductory paragraph:

Ah, race. As much as the endlessly-optimistic sorts like to believe that race is no longer a discriminatory factor any more than eye color is, the fact remains that fiction is not quite "color-blind" yet. We're getting there (slowly but surely), and media today is far more racism-sensitive than in the days of the Ethnic Scrappy, but reflexive stereotypes still linger like a bad fart in a slow elevator.

Hmmm, I thought. Just who's being "endlessly optimistic" here? I mean, if we're slowly but surely approaching a color-blind future, then why bother contributing toward that effort? If it's already and "surely" happening, then I guess us white folks can just relax, right? The future's looking good, thanks to, um, someone's efforts. Or, thanks to something or other. . . but anyway, whew! The job of eradicating racism isn't up to me, because it's already happening.

I think the people at tv tropes do good work in this section of their site, by exposing pervasive and influential modes of media-generated racism. However, any anti-racism efforts that the site's writers might be making seem undercut by that introductory statement, which almost amounts to a disclaimer. It's as if they're saying they don't want to be labeled "race hustlers," the kind of people who go around claiming racism is a big deal, rudely inflicting their concerns on other people like, you know, a "bad fart in a slow elevator." Who needs that, right? Especially when racism is already (somehow) getting better on its own. In fact, if anyone is a "racist" anymore it's them. [/sarcasm]

I obviously do think know that racism is still a big deal, and that it's not going away anytime soon. Which is why, for one thing, I make it a point to discuss racial issues with friends and co-workers. This common white tendency -- to look towards a rosy future, when racism will have finally withered away, as if it just got old and died a natural, inevitable death -- has come up in conversation twice this past week, and probably six, seven or more times in the past couple of months. We'll be talking about, say, John Mayer's loose lips, or those of Chris Matthews, or one time, the way that sportscasters still talk differently sometimes about players of different races.

I don't consider it useful or constructive to discuss racism in merely individual terms -- to label, that is, this or that individual as a "racist." If the person I'm talking to is willing (especially if it's a white person), I always try to work outward from whatever egregious example of racism is at hand. I try to talk about "racism," instead of "racists"; I try to discern whether a common white tendency is at hand; and then, usually later, I also try to see how that tendency resides within myself.

So as I said, lately I've noticed that when I move outward in a conversation like that -- from some supposed "racist" to the racist tendency that he or she displayed or enacted -- the white person or persons I'm talking to often become restless. They sometimes don't want to focus along with me in my effort to generalize the incident into a common white tendency. What they sometimes then say is, I think, another common white tendency itself.

"Okay, but don't you think this is all getting better?" one of my friends recently more or less said. "I mean, what is that they say about 2050 or so, that whites are going to be a minority, right? I mean, you talk about how white power is still with us, and I agree, but isn't it just, kind of, withering away on its own?"

Another example occurred when I was talking to a different white friend, a high school teacher, about whether "terrorism" is a useful term for describing the suicidal assault this week of an IRS office by John Stack. As I made the more general point that white people rarely label other white criminals "terrorists," and that they're much quicker to do that with non-white criminals, this person listened with a deeper and deeper frown, and then she said,

"Well yeah, I can see the racist double standard there. But really, that's going to get better, I think. People aren't going to always be fooled that way. I mean, look, Obama got elected, right? That's a pretty big deal! Because, I was talking to some students about his election, and they were mostly white, but also some of them weren't white. And I was thinking they'd be excited that a black man was finally elected president. But you know what their response was?"

"Um, not as excited as you?"

"Exactly! They were all like, 'meh.' And I think that's hopeful. Because kids aren't seeing race as much anymore, and they're the next generation."

This kind of white talk seems to be happening more than before. I suppose Obama's election has contributed to it. I wonder if it's also a kind of exhaustion, or maybe boredom, that a lot of white people feel with the issue of racism. Talking about that, letting alone working against it is so, like, 1990s. Or even, 1960s.

Are you also encountering this common white tendency? If so, how do you respond?

I think it's a sort of white tactic, and until I thought about it, I found it deflating -- it's a form of derailment. In response, I've now taken to simply asking people why they do that:

"Why did you go there? The future, I mean, when we were talking about right now. I hear that a lot, actually, from white people. What was it that made you go there, instead of staying right here?"

Sometimes this response leads to a useful discussion, and sometimes people look at me like I'm some sort of time-traveling alien. Like I've traveled here from the past, and definitely not from the future.


  1. All historical change seems inevitable in retrospect, but that's only because it's firmly in the past and therefore immutable.

    However, we didn't come as far as we did by just sitting around and quietly waiting for things to get better. It took action, it took people putting themselves on the line and demanding justice.

    It was a hard painful struggle just to get to where we are now, and the thought that there is still even more hard and painful struggle left to go is not a pleasant one.

  2. I hear this all the time, and I hate it! It's definitely a derailment, and one I find difficult to respond to at times. And I only ever hear white people say things with this kind of unfocused optimism that wants to gloss over the present reality. I think sometimes it's laziness, indifference, a cop out, and sometimes, it's just someone's way of expressing a desire for change but they lack the sophistication to get much deeper than "Gee, I hope racism goes away." Of the derailing techniques I encounter, it is perhaps the least mean-spirited, and shows a lack of thought or interest in anti-racism, more than an intentional effort to deride POCs or their concerns. But it's still dismissive. And it's definitely passive.

    When conversations go this direction, I often point out:

    1. Racism is not just a thing of older generations. I give specific examples of how my peers have engaged in subtle and blatant racism against me.
    2. Racism is passed on through generations, and it must be counteracted with direct action.
    3. I don't give out cookies for just not being racist. If you're not actively engaged in being anti-racist, you are not contributing to the solution. You're just waiting around for someone else to do the work. I find that position difficult to respect.

    I also find that the people who say this are also overly optimistic about the current state of race relations, and are very insistent on wearing their rose-colored glasses (throwing in "Obama was elected!" is a strong sign of this), which indicates to me that they are privileging their own white perspective over mine. I usually point that out, and explain my perspective of how much racism is still a major issue.

  3. Sheila, I agree. Our current progress is the result of a lot of good people doing a lot of good (and difficult and dangerous) work. It has not been just the inevitable march of time. So true.

  4. It makes me think of how short the timespan really has been since things have "progressed". As Sheila said, we don't get here by sitting around quietly. And I think this aspect is lost on many people today, and the struggle put forth to get here seems so unappreciated by some that benefit from that struggle. It's hard to get people up and hopping to join the cause though. The amount of effort to do that for even one person requires so much time and energy. But that's why there are fora such as this to think about ways to deal, ways to struggle, and ways to keep change moving.

  5. (I love TV Tropes. That place sucks me in for hours at a time. Although when I was on that site last week I ended up scarring myself by watching When The Wind Blows and clips of Watership Down, after reading it about it there. Ack. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED, FELLOW SWPDers.)

    We're getting there (slowly but surely), and media today is far more racism-sensitive than in the days of the Ethnic Scrappy, but reflexive stereotypes still linger like a bad fart in a slow elevator.

    I actually don't find their intro terrible. Keeping in mind their context (which is, like most people, that "racism" means overt and obvious prejudice), their statement is true; the overt racism *is* slowly and surely decreasing, and the media is becoming somewhat more sensitive. I also don't see why they would need to go into the causes there, since the reason for (overt) racism decreasing isn't what they're discussing.

    But a major problem, of course, is that they are using that "overt acts" definition of racism, and a lot of people use that definition. As we've discussed before, that definition is doing a lot to keep white supremacy alive, because it allows white people to think there's nothing they need to do now (it's getting better! really!) and as long as they themselves aren't overtly racist, then they're not racist, and it's all good.

    I mean, if we're slowly but surely approaching a color-blind future, then why bother contributing toward that effort?

    That's it in a nutshell. A lot of people really do believe that as long as they're not running around shouting racial epithets and putting on blackface, they're part of the "non-racist" solution.

    Who needs that, right? Especially when racism is already (somehow) getting better on its own. In fact, if anyone is a "racist" anymore it's them.

    I'm reminded of a review I saw on Amazon, about a book written by a black man: "Refreshingly, there is little about race issues. I don't know if that was intentionally edited out, but it's a good thing, as no one needs to be bopped over the head with this very tired issue."

    You heard it here first, all y'all: racism is a very tired issue, something that we don't need to keep bopping people with. I guess we should find a new hobby. Anyone up for trading stamps? [/sarcasm] Seriously though, the reason people DO think it's a "tired issue" is because they think we've made so much progress, and overcoming racism is inevitable anyway, so why do we need to keep yammering about it?

    "Why did you go there? The future, I mean, when we were talking about right now. I hear that a lot, actually, from white people. What was it that made you go there, instead of staying right here?"

    Ooh, I love this. I'm keeping this one in mind for the next time somebody pulls that. (And when you mentioned, "they say about 2050 or so, that whites are going to be a minority, right?" I was fully waiting for you to follow it with "And people are having lots of mixed children now," which IME often accompanies the whole "but whites will be a minority" thing.)

  6. This is pretty much the same deflating tactic that greets contemporary discussions of feminism. Many people feel quite convinced that we now live in a post-feminist society, and can't we all just focus on the individuals?

    My usual response to that is to ask, if we are truly beyond sexism, why half the US Senate isn't female. This gives a quick snapshot that most people can easily visualize, and the observation can easily be made about racial ratios as well.

  7. I wonder if they look forward to the future where they are no longer the focus, though. Also, will it be cool for them when we outnumber them in this country?

    But, otherwise I agree with Sheila and thesciencegirl. It's a derailment technique used by those who are uncomfortable talking about the intrinsic, complex nature of racism.

  8. As another counter-argument to the rosy futurists, would anyone say that discrimination and prejudice against Arab-Americans or Muslims are less common now than twenty years ago? Circumstances change the political and social climate; it's not just the inevitable march of time that brings about change. Especially in economic bad times--extended over several years--intolerance and racism can rebound with virulence. The same standby attitude of many today regarding the supposed waning of racism could enable its resurgence. In my community, when there was a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric following 9/11, it was the Japanese-Americans who spoke with the most united and urgent voices about the danger of demonizing particular populations; many of them had lived through US concentration camps and saw the same attitudes on the rise.

  9. When people are determined to tell me how much better I have it, I respond with, what you're telling me is to be happy I'm not a slave. Being followed through stores, harassed by the police, seated by the kitchen in restaurants, being spit on, called a nigger, being used as a teaching tool for other races, etc and etc are not so bad. I ask them to live with it for six months and see how much they like. BTW each example I have gave has actually happened to me. Even if I concede that things may be better they certainly are not good enough

  10. On first glance I thought the caption on that image said "Tom Tancredo."

  11. It seems like there are two elements to this sort of argument:
    (1) So far, our society has gotten closer and closer to racial justice.
    (2) This is evidence of an inevitable trend toward decreasing racism,
    (3) which will culminate in the end of racism.

    So far, it seems like people have been focusing on critiquing (2), by saying that the decreases in racism that have happened have been historically contingent, and the result of specific actions. And this is a valuable critique. But (1) and (3) are not beyond reproach either.

    As someone who lives in the most segregated major city in America (Chicago), teaching in public schools that are getting more segregated, while income disparities between black people and white people increase, and minority incarceration rates increase, I'm not sure I believe that racism is getting better. There may be fewer people who think of themselves as racist, or who consciously believe racist things, but from my angle the system of racism doesn't look like it's weakening. At the very least it's not obvious that it is.

    So backsliding is not only possible, but at certain times and in certain places it has happened and is continuing to happen.

    I think critiquing (3) is relevant because I think white people need to get over the idea that one day racism will be over, and we can stop worrying about it. As long as we believe this, there will be a tendency for us to ask, "Is it over yet?" And that question shouldn't even be on our radar screen, especially since we won't be qualified to judge when it's over.

    It's not at all unreasonable to imagine that we will never, ever be done dealing with racism. Even if it's always getting better.

  12. I agree with the comments so far.

    And yes I encounter this all the time with WP; I specifically addressed it on the recent SWPD social justice post. It's. Annoying. As Hell.

    In one of his excellent speeches, Tim Wise stated that shit does not "happen". Shit gets done. It get done by someone to someone.

    Let me add to that notion: when "someone" finally gets fed up, they do shit back.

    And that, kids is why racism is slowly dying on the vine--emphasis on the word slowly here, kids, not dying. Be they POC or non-POC, male or female, "someone's" been doing shit back and getting shit done. If everyone who ever got shit done hadn't, I shudder to think of how our world [read: America] would look right now.

    So I'm just going to end this with a, "Yes, I'm black. And proud. I'm proud of our 'loud' mouths. I'm proud of our 'assertiveness'. I'm proud of these supposedly 'unpleasant qualities' because they were the primary tools we use/used to get shit done."

    If a person is sick of racism and hurriedly wants it gone, they need to get off their ass and do shit.

  13. Yes.

    Some white Irish guy told me that the "black guy dies first" trope is not as common anymore (after telling me that it was "just a coincidence") which was a good sign. This was framed in the context of a debate around Orbitz pulling a pretty uncool ad in which some guy selling insurance says "It's the" Oh yes, making fun of Hispanic names is such a big stride towards racial equality (although the Irish guy I was talking to said that there wasn't any racism in this ad). Even though I'm Hispanic and I KNOW that Hispanic names being made fun of is not something that just happens in isolation.

    I admit that I do sometimes look to the future and see a... less racist future (this blog and the experiences of all the people here, as well as some experiences I've had). However, I know that such a future won't happen unless we work now. I guess that's the part nobody wants to do, huh.

  14. It's difficult to talk about this sometimes with people who care about racism. I think these people can feel overwhelmed by how much work there is to do and want to focus instead on the positive changes they witness in the world.

    On the one hand I agree with them in that for each of us it is important to celebrate change and growth otherwise we couldn't go on for only seeing what we need to do next.

    I know that's true for me at least. I both celebrate the 27 pounds I lost and work on the 50 pounds I have still to go. If I only focused on the future I would be depressed. But I think 27lbs is a lot and I should be proud.

    In the same way I do think we should all be proud of the work many of us have done to get to this point while recognizing how much further we have to go. I do think we can do both.

    What I try to do with myself and others is to frame it in a positive way, like saying "yes it is wonderful that all these things have changed. They only changed because people continued working diligently throughout the years, day in and day out so we need to keep going to accomplish so much more because we have a very long way to go from here."

    That way I acknowledge the positive and urge them and me to continue striving. If that sounds off to people I would love to hear feedback.

  15. great post/question.

    im the white person this post is talking about.

    i often find almost everything that has to do with the subject of race completely impossible to wrap my head around. seriously it makes my brain hurt. finding this blog has made me even more confused. it would seem that as a white person i will never be able to do or say anything right when it comes to dealing with or talking about race directly. so i often find comfort in the fact that if current trends continue, eventually nobody will give a shit about skin color anyway.

  16. @jas0nburns re: "i often find almost everything that has to do with the subject of race completely impossible to wrap my head around. seriously it makes my brain hurt. finding this blog has made me even more confused."

    You've been involved in several of the comment threads, and I assume you've read what people of color have said here. Why don't you believe them? Because you haven't seen what they have? Why is your experience more valid when it comes to racism than theirs is? Imagine this (I take this example from a Nightline show): a black man who is like you in every way but color goes to the same stores, applies for an apartment in the same place, and shops for a car at the same dealership you go to. You can see only your experience in these places, and he can see only his, so in isolation, neither of you can see anything amiss. But when you compare your experiences, it becomes clear that he is followed in stores while you are not, that he is told an apartment is rented when you are shown the apartment, and he is quoted a higher price for the same car. Without knowing about his experiences, you can't see the difference. That's where you are in these discussions. You think your experiences are everyone's experiences, which is a common tendency among white people: to universalize our own experience and convince ourselves that our point of view is neutral. But in the experiences of white people and non-white people, there is an undeniable difference, and racism is the reasonable explanation. On this blog you have access to testimony about what PoC experience, so if you respect them at all, you have all the evidence you need that racism is still common and still a problem for them. You choose to not believe them. If you call that "not being able to wrap your head around it," you are fooling only yourself.

  17. This argument is too stupid to live, and yet it won't die. Flavors:

    1) "When WP are no longer the demographic majority, racism will fade away."
    WP were the minority when they got to the Americas (for example), and look how that's gone. WP were and still are the minority in South Africa, and yet: hardly a history (or present) of multicultural bliss. And worldwide, WP are (and have always been) the minority, but still manage to exploit/oppress nonwhite people on every continent, pretty much whenever possible. Population ≠ Power.

    2) "Kids today don't care about race, so when the old bigots die off, racism will fade away."
    If it worked that way, racism would already be gone. Even for kids whose "enlightened" parents don't actively teach them racism without even realizing it, racism is written into textbooks, advertising, pop culture, and day-to-day life in general. Whether you like it or not, the village is helping to raise your kid. And many of the villagers are racist.

    3) "I live in [Diverse Area] and my neighbors don't care about race; when everywhere is that integrated, racism will fade away."
    A grab bag. First, this is "well, my other pal of color thinks ___!" So no go. Second, all too often it's bullshit. The giveaway is when they don't know the actual ethnicities/nationalities of their supposedly post-racial neighbors— it's just a handwave and a continent. IOW, they don't know their neighbors. They haven't talked (much less listened) to them about racism, and they have no idea what they think. And often, there actually are known racial issues in their area! Just not known to them. Third, even if you do live in Race Utopia, this is just another version of #1; there are a LOT of diverse places where racism has yet to magically disappear. Lastly: what of areas that— somehow!— remain stubbornly white, like Bergen County, NJ? Somebody's neighbors care about race.

    4) "One day we'll all be beige/grey/the same color, and racism will disappear."
    Ah, "Plan Beige." Complete fantasy. Since when do people who are "mixed" not get shit? Seriously. Obama wants to know. And are they still giving biology classes? Because people are not paint; you do not necessarily get some perfect half-n-half blend from parents with different features. Also, it's been several thousand years, and yet dark and light skin (and hair, and eyes) persist. So basically, Plan Beige would require ethnic cleansing to get rid of those people. Which means it sucks.

  18. We won't get to that 'race-free future' because we refuse to talk honestly about the racist past, how it sowed to seeds for our present reality, and take the steps to acknowledge the harm.

  19. @ bloglogger

    "Why don't you believe them? "

    "Why is your experience more valid when it comes to racism than theirs is? "

    "You choose to not believe them."

    i didn't say any of that. i didn't imply any of that. i can only assume their experience of racism is more valid. i'm confused about what i'm supposed to DO about it.

    i guess posting on here is pointless people just put words in my mouth.

  20. I always find this hilarious for people to say. We will never have a race free future, so might as well take off those "rose colored glasses" and get use to it. We may get close to it but I believe that something will always keep as back from it. Things might get better than what they are (sigh) but I believe that race lines will always be there.


  21. i'm confused about what i'm supposed to DO about it. --Jas0nburns

    Try reading, educating yourself, and listening. Try observing. Try believing.

    Start there. When you get to that point, then you'll know where to go next.

    For now at least, try not making it about you and what you need and what answers you want. Because making it about you is just more stuff that white people do.

    This has been a public service announcement.

  22. It's funny, I had this exact same conversation earlier today! My friend was like, "Well, racism/sexism etc. seem to have decreased a lot over the last century, so do people really still need to complain about 78 cents on the dollar and disproportionate numbers of black people in prison when it will all be equal soon enough?" And I was like, "uh, yeah, that's great for people in the future, but right now people are getting fucked over and that's a problem."

    Social change doesn't happen "naturally," by waiting around, it happens by people complaining and protesting and making demands, because until they make things inconvenient, the Haves won't give the Have-nots a second thought.

    I'm not sure how I feel about your suggested response, though. It seems awfully "gotcha!" and making it all about the person you're talking to and why they think things, not about the issues themselves. That tends to make people defensive and less open.

  23. @jas0nburns

    As Rosa said, try not making it all about yourself. Believe it or not, when others respond to you here, they are not necessarily writing with you in mind as the sole audience. I inferred that you don't believe that racism is a serious problem because you said "i'm the white person this post is talking about." The post is about people who believe that racism is on its last legs, and that it's only a matter of time before it's gone completely. In my experience, such people--and they are usually white--ignore, discount, question and just plain don't believe what PoC say about racism, as though the white point of view is the only one necessary to perceive racism and how it works. If the shoe fits . . .

  24. @Jas0nburns,
    What can you DO about it?

    Well, if you're that lazy, start with a focus on NOT doing it. Make a difference by NOT indulging your white privilege and NOT letting other WP indulge theirs in your presence. DON'T laugh at that racist joke (even if it's only a "little bit" racist). DON'T pretend not to notice when that clerk/bouncer/teacher/coworker treats nonwhite people differently. DON'T assume white people are trustworthy and good; make them prove it. Should a PoC (or anyone) bring up racial inequality, DON'T feel you need to jump in and tell them it wasn't racism it was ___, or that they're "so angry," or how they "should" deal with it in the future.

    DON'T condone this crap.

    And most of all, DON'T YOU DARE give up on this. That is the #1 WHITEST thing you could do. Only white people get to say, "This is too haaard! I want instant gratification and I'm not getting it. I give up," and then just go about their lives like nothing ever happened.

    . . .
    Frankly, I'm trying to control my anger right now. So many people here have taken the time to help you out and point you in the right direction— including me— and there's not even a hint that you've read/thought about any of it. And then you come in here like a fussy child not getting enough head-pats, all "I want to DO something [but not any of the things you tell me when I ask." Yes, I am editorially putting words in your mouth; that's what I'm seeing. Then you come in here— of all places—and announce your annoyance and intention to quit. You know what? That's rubbing my face in it. That's white privilege unchained. How about you DON'T do that?

    Guess what, this shit is hard And it is EASIEST for YOU. So don't tell me you're flouncing off and giving up. THAT IS A FUCKING INSULT. You want to leave? THEN JUST GO.

  25. I'd also like to add that also in my experience, another tendency that I encounter is "Forget about the past." But how can we forget about the past, when it's very much in the present, but in subtle ways. In college, I took an African-American lit class and I remember the professor saying that "lynching" is not in the past and is still present in the mind of modern day America. We saw evidence of this when a black man was dragged for three miles on the back of a truck in Texas, and what about those students putting a noose underneath their area so the black students wouldn't sit there?

    I'm just curious, or maybe I'm wrong, but I'm wondering if Jewish people get told to forget about the Holocaust. I don't recall my Jewish friends say they get told this whenever the discussion comes up.

    Racism in this country is like a big opened wound. Now, if you have a wound, would you continue to let it go untreated and let it get infected? No, you would not.

    I strongly believe that the past, present, and future are intertwined and in order to get to this "perfect future", you have to deal with the baggage.

  26. @ Rosa...preach.

    I double co-sign, if there's such a thing. Instant gratification, giving up, not listening because they don't want to do the hard stuff...all outstanding points.

    And to hell with controlling your temper.

    Let it out.

  27. For talking points on this issue based on a couple of sociological studies, I'd recommend Racism without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, which was recommended to me recently and COMPLETELY shook up my thinking regarding the magical myth that colorblind racism is part of a progress narrative. I really was looking forward to the idea that demographic change would lead to less racism.

    But yeah, that kind of thinking was idealistic and not in a good way.

    This part is particularly chilling and I believe it is likely to be the future of a US "tri-racial order," as Bonilla-Silva calls it: "This new order... will be apparently more pluralistic and exhibit more racial fluidity than the order it is replacing. However, this new system will serve as a formidable fortress for white supremacy."

  28. @jas0nburns:


    verse 2

  30. Jas0n. Really? 'cause I'm feeling this about your comment.

    Let me know if I've completely misread these lyrics and your intent because it sounds to me like Jay Z gets to be the speaker for all PoC on how far people have come.

  31. I agree 100%.

    The fact that Obama was elected President, while a promising sign, is only a drop in the bucket. There were 43 white Presidents before him. So, until we have elected as many POC as President, only a little bit of headway has been made.

    A similar problem happens in every avenue of life. Take, for instance, the H1N1 flu vaccinations. For those who agree the vaccinations are important, whenever the news would talk about how "mild" the cases have been or how it hasn't spread as far as expected, this was a major setback, because you just KNOW people were going to stop paying attention and decide not to get the vaccine, because "the worst was over".

    That's like canceling your car insurance because fewer people are getting into car accidents. It seems like a great idea until all hell breaks loose.

    So, rather than everyone patting themselves on the back for progress well done, they should continue to become ever more vigilant in solving the little problems that can always grow into bigger problems. It has happened before, it can happen again.

  32. yeah i read that victoria a few times.

    jay-z and i arn't friends.

    he does exist.

    he's a genius/legend/hero.

    and linking that jay-z lyric doesn't discredit the experience of anyone on here.

    it does give a reason why white people might think it's ok to look forward to a race free future. *gasp*
    since many of us white folk take our cues from people like jay-z when it comes to how we should approach race in a kind of general way, not that he trumps every other POC or we don't have to listen to anyone else.

    but you's jay-z!

  33. jas0n,

    I think that Jay Z can speak like we're all coming along nicely because he's rich. It's easy to think life's peachy when you make millions of dollars a day. Not that money makes you happy, but it sure does get people to respect you and treat you like a king. He's also very big on white people's "cool as hell" radar right now. I'm just sayin' Jay Z's probably not the one to gauge what's a realistic account of the everyday lives of PoC. Are we further advanced than we were in 1864? Sure, I'll agree with that. But it wasn't the mere passing of time that did it.

    No one's saying not to look forward to a race-free future. But what is the benefit for the people in the present? The future is arbitrary, and if it means 50 years from now, half of the people who read this blog won't be around to appreciate it.

  34. Jas0n is in troll territory, yes or no? I say yes and yes = starvation.

    Even when person to person racism ceases to exist (and this is where I think white people are focusing their attention and efforts, if they bother to pay attention or to put forth any effort at all), there will still all the institutionalized racism that must be eradicated. There are big changes coming. Big, big changes.

  35. "but it sure does get people to respect you and treat you like a king."

    agreed, he wasn't born rich though. POC have been making big money in art and entertainment and getting the respect that comes with for a long long time. and of course they can still be victims of all forms of racism no matter how rich. but why only NOW is it ok for someone like jay-z to send the message that he's over race and you need to get over it too or your behind the times. no rappers were saying anything like that even 10 years ago no matter how rich. I'm not saying rappers speak for everyone but they get their voices out there and their goal is to connect with their fans to sell records. they are busting their asses to be the voice of their fans. and so the successful ones connect the most. i was at his last show here and his fan base is still mostly black he's not mos def. he's not pandering to white people. if he didn't think that would be acceptable to his millions of fans he wouldn't have said it.

    so all that tells me that something about right now is different. i don't believe it's JUST white people trying to evade responsibility as usual.

  36. i don't believe it's JUST white people trying to evade responsibility as usual.

    Yeah, so? Did anyone here say it is JUST white people doing that?

    This is a blog about stuff white people do, not stuff other people do. And since they're doing it within the context of de facto white supremacy, it matters most when they're doing it.

  37. Commercial rappers like Jay-Z are trying to connect to white fans when they talk about being over race. People forget that for blacks to get some real make-it-rain dough in the entertainment industry, they have to appeal to white audiences.

    Rappers who "find" other rappers earn revenue from the ones they find. So Dr. Dre gets mad dough for "finding" Eminem. Timbaland got decent dough for "finding" Bubba Sparxxx, and excellent dough for collaborating with Justin Timberlake (not to mention producing all his music). And whoever "found" and unleashed Vanilla Ice has long since taken their check and run into hiding.

    Jason, the goal of commercial entertainers, in conjunction with Hollywood of course, is to serve up whatever fantasy they can to whichever audience will pay the most money. Skinny, airbrushed blondes fantasy...naked, usable, and easily disposable black women fantasy...submissive, demure Asian women fantasy...non-English-speaking Latinas with whom you can pull a knock-up-and-run fantasy...and even the especially delusional fantasy that after all of that, black people are completely over race in America--and if blacks are over then other POC should be too, right?

    Yup...all these fantasies and many, many more are being served daily to any consumers willing to pay.

    And Jason? You just got served.

  38. I can't even believe I'm doing this, but I'm about to interpret rap lyrics for a clueless white dude.
    [Where do I send the bill??]

    Jay-Z. In this song? Is ahead of everyone. Way ahead. All that post-racial Benetton harmony he's describing in the second verse? The whole point is that it doesn't exist yet!
    (Ref: Verse 1, LINE ONE.)

    It's just so... awesome (bad sense)... to see one of the more egregious forms of The Backup in the wild like this, "up close." You selectively quoted your spokesnegro to make him say what you wanted.

    Just... wow.

  39. One-on-one racism is a lot easier for me to change, in my own behavior at least, than institutional racism.

    And I've noticed that institutional racism has been alarmingly successful in making my thoughts more racist than they used to be.

    Growing up in the 60s I thought, like the opening post of this conversation, that the 'goal' of anti-racism work was for everyone to be 'colorblind' (I know, that was a code for 'just like whites,' but I didn't see that at the time).

    I knew few Black people and relatively few other PoC but I thought of them abstractly as 'just like me.'

    Fast forward to a few years of such TV shows as Hill Street Blues (remember Belker calling everyone "dog-breath"?) and I began to notice that whenever I saw a young Black man in bluejeans I began to think 'thug' -- even though he might be walking down the street with an armload of schoolbooks.

    Too many other examples to list ... but now it seems like one important anti-racism work I can do is to call out the racist background in movies, TV and fiction. I'm still learning to do that, along with learning to derail other WPs derailing in conversation.

    Thanks for being in this blog. Thanks for the work. I wish you could send the bill to me, but I suspect none of us could ever pay it.

  40. Should anyone doubt the ability of humans to devolve, go contemplate the history of Germany from 1920 to 1945.

  41. I didn't selectively quote I just quoted. I can't quote
    a prominent POC? That's a rule is it?

  42. jas0n,

    When you point out which verse for people to check out, you're selectively quoting. You're not taking the entire song into context, as karinova has pointed out. The verse you chose means something different without the rest of the verses to keep it in context.

    This last comment of yours reached new levels of juvenile. I can no longer take your comments seriously and therefore will no longer give you the respect I would give a genuinely confused person looking for answers on SWPD.

  43. i found the 2nd verse to be the most relevant but really you HAVE to take the whole song as a whole to even get the picture. if that was being selective i didn't mean to do that. to me the 2nd verse means the same thing whether you read the whole song or not. i know you don't really care how accurate my interpretation is either way but whatever. i don't believe i was doing any creative editing.


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