Monday, March 15, 2010

claim that analyzing the ways of white folks is a waste of time (because there are more important things to analyze)

In the course of running this blog, I've come to understand at least two things much better than I did before -- common white tendencies and the broader context in which they occur. That alone has been worth the time and effort to me, but I sometimes wonder what other people get out of this blog.

Regarding the former understanding for myself, "common white tendencies," I've come to see that I myself am more likely to feel, think, and act in racist ways than I realized; I have a lot of common white tendencies, and in order to be a person whose actions are better aligned with his principles, I need to keep working on them. Regarding the latter understanding, "context," I've come to see that racism is so entrenched in my country (the U.S.) and in others, and so pervasive, that I now routinely describe the social order in a way that I didn't before -- I describe it as "de facto white supremacist."

Recently, my use of that phrase tripped up David “Oso” Sasaki, a blogger who linked approvingly to a guest post here. Here's what happened -- and I'm describing it all because I'd like to ask you about what happened. In that swpd post, "K" wrote about her annoyance with white travelers who pursue "authenticity," especially while traveling in non-white countries.

Oso's post, on his blog El Oso, is an interesting meditation on, as I read it, the folly of seeking "authenticity," especially in a world where a misleading sense of the authentic is increasingly manufactured and sold to us. Oso would know, it seems, as he's apparently a very seasoned traveler.

"I highly recommend the post," Oso writes of K's swpd piece, because it "does a great job of treating authenticity as a commodity, which increasingly it is."

So far so good. But then Oso wrote something that I felt compelled to respond to, and I'd really appreciate your response to my brief exchange with Oso, and especially to his final comment below, which includes a condemnation of swpd itself.

After praising K's discussion of white travelers, Oso wrote,

But, as per usual, I disagree that seeking authenticity in other cultures or treating it as a commodity is limited to only whites. One commenter on the post linked to a New York Times article [which] shows that the same search for authenticity in China is leading yuppie Han Chinese to amusement parks celebrating ethnic minorities like the Dai people

I think a lot of readers here would describe this as an example of the Arab Trader Argument -- Abagond's useful term for the problematic pointing-out of other people who also do some of the things that white people do. I left a comment on Oso's post that said, more or less to that effect,

To say, as I do on my blog, that white people have some common tendencies is not to say that no one else has this or that said tendency as well. Rather, it’s worth pointing out that when white people do them, they do them within in an ongoing, de facto white supremacist context. That makes their doing them different from other people’s doing them.

Oso got tripped up on a phrase within that comment, and so he asked in return, "It’s been a while since I roamed the hallways of ivory tower ethnic studies so you’re gonna have to break that one down for me. What exactly does that mean? And how does it differ from what some future Chinese theorist might call 'an ongoing, de facto Han supremacist context'?"

If you're still reading, please hang in there -- I do have something to ask you about. Oso's comment below, especially, got me to thinking about just why I run this blog, and how it may or may not be valuable for various readers.

After explaining what I mean by "de facto white supremacy," I replied to Oso,

I’m just describing the West, including the U.S., as a place that in effect favors whites and disfavors, disregards, delegitimizes, and discriminates against non-whites, at systemic and individual levels. I raised the point [about your post] because I don’t see the value of pointing out that other people also do some of the objectionable things that white people do. In fact, when white people do that kind of pointing out, they’re often doing that in order to deflect attention being paid at the moment to white racism. “But he did it too!” is a playground excuse that should have no place in serious discussions of white racism (not that I necessarily think your pointing out that “other people do it too” was quite that kind of deflection -- or was it?)

Does that make sense?

So finally, here's Oso's comment in return, in which he ends up denouncing a blog (that is, swpd) to which he'd initially linked in a positive way.

What do you think? 

Is Oso making an effective critique below of swpd?

If you're a regular reader of "stuff white people do," what brings you back?

And, does anything in Oso's critique point to ways that you think swpd could be improved (assuming you don't agree with him that it should be shut down)?

Oso wrote,

I take issue with the guest post on your blog -- and with most of the content on your blog in general -- because I don't think that focusing on a critical perspective of just one ethnicity is useful for shaping our thinking about how we can create a more just society.

From what I've read it seems to me that your blog often insinuates that only whites are maliciously discriminatory. If that is the case than those of us who are anti-discrimination should focus all of our efforts on promoting cultural change among the white community. But, throughout my travels I've found that urban, white americans are some of the least discriminatory people I have met. And I mean that both on the surface (panic attacks when deciding between saying "black" or "african american") and deep down (most likely to have close friends of other ethnicities and to think deeply -- as you do -- about legacies of ethnic relations).

I think that one of the illusions of urban, white America -- especially those who don't have many friends of other ethnicities -- is that other groups are not as discriminatory when they are often more discriminatory. It's complex. Dark skinned blacks discriminate against light skinned blacks, and vise versa. Mexicans in Los Angeles discriminate against Guatemalans. And people all over Latin America whisper in your ear "but don't blacks cause a lot of problems in your country?" And that's just ethnicity. When I was in India during 9/11 several hindus told me that the USA should not allow muslims to enter.

My real issue with the framing of your blog (again, at least what I've seen) is that ethnicity is just one of many variables that factor into how we discriminate. Class, religion, taste, geography, accent: depending on the person and situation these factors often transcend ethnicity when we shape our identity and when we discriminate. One of the things that bothers me with soundbites like "what white people like" or "what white people do" is that they are really discussing class and not race. They are describing a demographic that is upper-middle class, urban, and college educated. For whatever reason most of my friends are some ethnicity other than white and just about everything you and the "stuff white people like" guy write applies to them just as much as it applies to me. By claiming that these behaviors and tastes are "white" rather than "urban middle class" you're opening my friends up to criticisms from working class members of their ethnicity that they are "acting white."

Everyone is racist, and whites are surely included. And you're right, when whites are racist it is within a context of centuries of oppressive white racism, which is why it is less acceptable and why you obsess over it. But whites are told that they are racist all the time. You're not changing any minds with what you write. As you can see in the comments on your blog you are either preaching to the choir or you are making people more defensive, more entrenched. You are patient and explanatory in your responses, but I believe you're doing a disservice by only focusing on one small aspect of discrimination. So much social analysis in this country focuses on the "red state-blue state" divide or on race. And in doing so we lose track of just how increasingly divisive class can be. I have a hunch that, like me, you have a diverse group of friends in terms of ethnicity, but that all of them are middle class and almost all are college educated. That is increasingly common, and will become even more common, and it's where we should focus our attention.


I try to learn from criticism. As I told Oso at his blog, I appreciate his thoughtful critique -- even though I obviously disagree with his main point, since I do still run this blog, and I do still focus on white people and de facto white supremacy.

I'd appreciate any responses you might have, about whatever value swpd has for you, and, if you have any suggestions, about how you think it could be improved.

156 comments:

  1. Just one very quick clarification: I most definitely don't think that you should shut down this blog - a thoughtful community and conversation has developed around its content. But I do hope that you broaden your scope when thinking about discrimination and ways in which we should work individually and as a global society to lessen it. Thanks for the engagement - I'll lay low now for the time being, but happy to respond and clarify on any points that get brought up.

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  2. My take is that some of this blog does focus on phenomena that are more specifically white. Yet at the same time, much of the "stuff" described here is equally prevalent among non-white communities. Those of us here who have travelled widely or who move in largely non-white circles would probably notice this.

    At times I do find it a little limiting to focus solely on whites as opposed to generalised human behaviour. I know that there have been times that a commenter has raised an example of how some non-white people might display a similar behaviour, and they are met with a wall of negativity and accusations of derailing. A justified accusation in many cases but not always.

    Obviously white people are the dominant class in the Western nations that supply the readers of this blog. For this reason, most discussion of racism are going to be centred around white people.

    But I wonder if we are in danger of setting up a dichotomy here between "tainted" racist white people on one hand, and "innocent and good" POCs on the other.

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  3. This is so weird for me--like blogs colliding (full disclosure: I know Oso in real life, and the conversation that spurred his blog post started in my office's kitchen).

    Anyway, I've been watching this unfold, having subscribed to the comments on the post, and my major observation is this: You both seemed to be discussing different points. As I've been reminded many times before, THIS blog is about talking about common white tendencies, which is fine, and as it should be.

    That said, I also think Oso's discussion on manufactured authenticity, which I know he and I have both discussed with friends of color (and in my case, I was just a mere participant in a conversation started by a group of non-white friends and colleagues), is completely valid. Just because a white tendency exists doesn't mean something DOESN'T exist elsewhere. I don't think Oso was making an Arab trader argument at all; he was not trying to EXCUSE white behavior by raising examples of similar behavior elsewhere--he was discussing such behavior in an entirely different context.

    It's one thing to say this blog is not a place for those discussions. It's another to imply that those discussions cannot exist at all.

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  4. This blog is titled "stuff white people do" so I think it's safe to say that all discussions should be centered around.. stuff white people do.

    However, I hope that those perusing this blog realize that many of the racist characteristics exhibited by white people (as discussed on this blog) also exists in other non-white communities.

    I've been a minority in several asian countries and its the same story... majority race group relying on stereotypes to figure outminorities, majority race group preferring company of "their own" over others, the giggling at other race's food/dances/scents/clothing, making racist remarks abt skin colour (there's a hierachy of skin colours) etc etc.. the list goes on and I dont even want to bother with it.

    I rarely comment on swpd. I just find it interesting that the are such parallels among racist people in the west and in asia. I guess its human nature?
    There arent any asian KKK equivalents (i hope!) but we dont even need such an organization to prove the existence of ugly racism in asia or among asians. Its there. And Im sure its found all over the world.

    But like I said, this blog is called "stuff white people do". There is a need for such a blog I suppose. Perhaps someone should start a "stuff all racist jerks do" :P

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  5. This is my first time commenting here. I normally read through an rss reader, so I don't usually look at the comments section of your blog. What I, as a white middle age/middle class male, get out of your blog is a periodic reminder that whiteness is not normalness. What I would like to see in addition to the current subjects that you cover is "stuff white people can do" that focuses on historical and contemporary white anti-racist action and discussion about tactics and effectiveness.

    In response to Oso's comments there are a couple of points worth addressing. The first most important fallacy that Oso relies on is the idea that racism consists solely of individual bigotry and prejudice. Additionally, he asserts that we think that "those of us who are anti-discrimination should focus all of our efforts on promoting cultural change among the white community". However, for me, and I presume for you, we are focusing our efforts on changing our own community. But there is also the huge institutional racism elephant in the middle of the room. Not only is it our community and therefore our responsibility, but the problem is orders of magnitude greater due to to the massive power disparities. It's really not the same conversation when we are comparing, for example, individual acts of petty meanness among various groups, and the incarceration of a massively disproportionate number of the African American male population.

    I really don't understand how Oso can lump the content of your blog together with "Stuff White People Like". His comments are pretty accurate in regard to that blog, but lumping you in with that is absurd. There is no discussion about systemic racism or white privilege in that forum. The fact that he lumps you together indicates he has not really read your blog.

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  6. I have only been reading this blog for a couple weeks, and have not commented yet. Essentially, his criticism is valid, but you can't cover it all, can you? You provide a framework - the category "stuff white people do" - as a launching pad for discussion and thought. He makes a lot of valid points, but an all-inclusive discussion with specificity at an academic level is difficult to achieve. If your limited framework gets people thinking, then it has value.

    I do not believe it's true that you're either preaching to the choir or inviting dissent from folks whose minds will not be changed. I find a lot of the posts (& some comments) thought-provoking but do not usually comment. I couldn't be the only one.

    Dealing with the "Arab Trader Arguement" (ATA) issue is tricky and has given me a few headaches while reading the blog. Many - perhaps all - of the tendencies you discuss exist outside white populations. However, constantly chiming in to point that out can be counter-productive if the aim of the discussions here is to get people to reflect on that slippery area of "context," which can often be defined as white-supremacist. In many situations we are steeped in the dominant culture, and invested in re-inforcing it, and it takes some work to actually recognize it. Someone's ATA may be TRUE, but the conversation benefits from a structure that allow that recognition to occur, which ATAs undermine.

    It's nearly a given that for any tendency you describe, at least one reader can summon examples of that tendency being exhibited by non-whites. So what's the point? If that arguement always exists, let's move the discussion along, or else we're just asking the same question over and over again. Let's work with a set of assumptions.

    It's hard to tell if people understand the purpose of your blog (which I am snottily presuming to!) and just want to share their personal observations, or if they are reacting to a twinge of discomfort (which I've certainly felt) that urges them to argue, "but everybody does that!" Without knowing, it might be best to encourage folks to skip the ATAs altogether.

    I agree you have some limitations here, but I think you can roll with it.

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  7. While I agree that is appears as if you're setting up a dichotomy between the "bad" white people and "good" PoC, the blog isn't about addressing the disparity culturally and otherwise in class, it's about race..specifically stuff white people do ( though other races might do it too).

    The intention, despite the argument "other people do it", is to highlight ways in which white people (the dominant group due to the inheret racist structure of our society; rich, poor and inbetween) take for granted the way they experience the world. Just because there is discrimination between class groups of different ethnicities, doesn't mean that it's right, but if that's what Macon D was going to write about it, it wouldn't be SWPD, it would be "stuff upper and upper middle class peoepl do to subjugate people of lower classes". The resultant effect would be an analysis of Capitalism and the evils inherent in that system. Despite the limitations SWPD presents, by not actively addressing class disparities and the negative behaviors of other ethnic groups, the purpose of the medium is not negated.

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  8. I find this site very valuable. It makes me question assumptions and really think. I am learning alot and it has made me much more aware of interactions around me.

    I do think that it is sometimes hard to tease race and class apart from each other and that there is value in doing so and value in seeing how other cultures stereotype and get caught up in making someone an "other" but I think you are right in pointing out that white supremacist attitudes are systemic in our culture and how important it is for us to be aware of how they color our attitudes, actions and policies.

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  9. What do you think? Is Oso making an effective critique below of swpd?

    I don't think he's making an effective critique of SWPD. I find your blog instructive and I don't want it to be shut down. I wondered if he was white when he claimed, "But, throughout my travels I've found that urban, white americans are some of the least discriminatory people I have met." My traveling experiences, both here and abroad, have been the exact opposite. Then again, I'm not white.

    POCs are constantly subjected to the harsh glare of criticism. Why are so few whites able to withstand the same level of scrutiny? Saying that others do it too is so derailing.

    Oso's following comments show, to me, why your blog's focus is necessary:

    I think that one of the illusions of urban, white America -- especially those who don't have many friends of other ethnicities -- is that other groups are not as discriminatory when they are often more discriminatory. It's complex. Dark skinned blacks discriminate against light skinned blacks, and vise versa. Mexicans in Los Angeles discriminate against Guatemalans. And people all over Latin America whisper in your ear "but don't blacks cause a lot of problems in your country?"

    How are POCs more discriminatory than whites? This completely ignores institutional/systemic/structural racism (redlining? racial profiling? the list goes on). Let's not also forget the black Americans who were denied the right to vote during George Bush's first election (whether you think he came by it honestly or not). Where are the POC parallels of oppression?

    Oso's attempt to discuss colorism among blacks fails to account for the cause of it. Such divisions can be traced directly back, for example, to the white supremacist institution of slavery and continued, after slavery, despite the 13th Amendment. I won't go into further detail because the root of black American colorism is well documented. This is also true for white colonialism in Africa.

    More importantly, how does colorism show that POCs are more discriminatory than whites? Is he implying that whites do not discriminate more against darker-skinned blacks than lighter-skinned ones? There is an extensive, documented history that they do. Also, who outside of black people is affected by intra-racial colorism? If you compare it to how many non-whites are directly affected by racist white tendencies, I think you will see that the claim of greater prejudice among POCs, at least in the US, is specious.

    The whispers throughout Latin America about "blacks" causing a lot of problems, again, can be traced to white racism and its worldwide dissemination of its racist depictions of blacks. This may not be obvious if you actually believe that blacks are more criminally-inclined than any other "race."

    If you're a regular reader of "stuff white people do," what brings you back?

    I don't know many whites who are willing to engage in discussions about racism and white supremacy as comprehensively as you have. Moving to my current residence, I ran smack into overt, hard-core racism. Your blog helps clarify some things for me.


    And, does anything in Oso's critique point to ways that you think swpd could be improved (assuming you don't agree with him that it should be shut down)?

    As you've repeatedly explained, white tendencies -when Others do it too- has far greater ramifications than other groups'. You've also acknowledged a white, middle-class bias (although many poor whites I know have the same beliefs/behaviors). I don't think that your focusing on your side of the street (white tendencies) will invert the white=good/black=bad (or POC=bad) binary you've previously discussed. I have faith in people's ability to embrace nuance.

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  10. I think the blog is excellent. Macon, you do a good job of moderating comments, and it's not *just* preaching to the choir or turning off those who disagree around here -- there are some serious and thoughtful exchanges, and I appreciate that.

    What I like about the blog, in the context of this exchange, is that you usually make clear that whiteness is not an ethnicity, or even a race, that's *symmetrical* to other racio-ethnic identities. Sasaki is totally right that other ethnicities play supremacy cards (I've only spent 3 weeks in China, but there is certainly a Han-supremacy tendency there, even as they exoticize and take holidays among "ethnic minorities" (or, sometimes, Han dressed up in "typical ethnic garb".))

    Sasaki is also right that there is racism and colorism all over the planet. But. Much of that is a direct result of European colonialism. Certainly many Latin Americans, as well as Africans, have gotten their racist stereotypes against African-Americans from American movies and television.

    It would be great if all of us everywhere would stop discriminating against others on the basis of stupid prejudices. But white people are implicated in a bigger and more systemic problem; what I think this blog does really well is connect current behavior to historical and ongoing systems of white supremacy.

    Or something like that.

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  11. I enjoy this blog a great deal, and would hate to have it go away.

    I frequently use the topics raised here to start conversations with my friends and family (including my children), so I know that the influence is going beyond "preaching to the choir".

    I agree with comments made earlier: it would not be practical or desirable to discuss all the ways in which any groups discriminate against other groups.

    I have no doubt that majority groups in other areas also have racial prejudices.

    However, I think it's perfectly acceptable to limit the discussion here to unpacking white racial behaviors.

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  12. Right on, TAB re: "Oso's attempt to discuss colorism among blacks fails to account for the cause of it. Such divisions can be traced directly back, for example, to the white supremacist institution of slavery and continued, after slavery, despite the 13th Amendment."


    Oso's basic argument still appears to be an expanded Arab Trader; it boils down to the old "everyone's racist" meme that white students in my classes use all the time to deflect their thoughts from their own responsibility (for racism as well as responsibility to do anything about it). I think the racist/not-racist dichotomy is quite useless in a society as steeped in racism as ours in the US. We are all participating in a racist culture; the extent and effect of our participation is all that matters.

    And let's get into Oso's definition of racism. What he describes is racial animosity: ass-hattery, racially motivated. To me, that's not racism, only a reflection of it. I define racism as every aspect of a system that assumes or posits a hierarchy of race and has mechanisms to maintain that hierarchy. And what's with the extensive use of "discrimination" to describe all kinds of racist behavior? Is Oso avoiding the use of "racism" because he thinks it doesn't apply at the personal level or because he thinks it's too harsh a word? Hard to tell.

    Regarding what appears to be an assumption behind his comments (I can't be sure) and what has been mentioned by other commenters, I think that one of the ways to perpetuate racism is to accept that it's in everyone, or that it is somehow human nature to be racist. "Othering" and ethnocentrism are pretty much human nature in social units; racism is an invention of "modern" Europeans, and its influence, as TAB points out, contributes to the racial hierarchies evident in other societies as well as in the US.

    As for the value of swpd, I find it the most forward-looking discussion of race that I've ever participated in, and its hard-line against derailing behaviors of other whites is a service to the fight against racism; too many of the white derailing memes that we see here go unchallenged and unquestioned in the "real world." And based on my own experience, I think that white people often need jarring and uncomfortable instances of cognitive dissonance to break free of the white cocoon.

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  13. I don't think 'preaching to the choir' (whether or not that's actually happening) is a bad thing. It's effect may be limited, but we all have things to learn. As a feminist, reading feminist blogs is instructive to me because it helps me think of things in ways that, while they collide with my worldview, aren't readily apparent. I'm able to see things in different ways.

    Likewise, the same can happen here. Many of the situations we need to deal with in our society are cultural and rooted in the ways people think. This is especially true for those, like me, who have been very sheltered, and who haven't seen these issues in our personal lives.

    Even though I've never had strong racial biases, blogs like this one have helped me see the world differently, and if I can do even a small bit to help challenge the status quo as a result, it's worth it.

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  14. You're not changing any minds with what you write.

    How would he know?

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  15. By the power vested in me as a bi-racial, middle class, college educated resident of one of America's most liberal cities, I hereby absolve you of all culpability in America's history of racism.

    (I appreciate the sentiment, but obsession and self-loathing are not helping.)

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  16. Catherine, would you mind expanding on that? I can't tell what you're getting at, nor who you're talking to . . .

    (Personally, I'm not seeking absolution from culpability. I know I'm culpable.)

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  17. *points at TAB's comment*

    That right there! Someone give me a pen so I can cosign it.

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  18. I have a question. When we talk about the "Arab Trader Argument" I wonder: are there degrees to which that term can be applied, or does the correctness of its use rest in the offending excuse's function in the discussion? That will maybe require some explanation; I'll restate the question more understandably below.

    What I mean: the original post about the Arab Trader excuse defines it as someone saying "if white Americans do something evil and terrible it is all right – or at least not all that bad – so long as they can find at least one example from world history of someone else doing the same thing."

    The emphasis seems to be on the stretch between the historical or especially specific example given and the horrible racism it is being compared to. An analogy is made in that post that says "It would be like if I robbed a bank and then said, 'People rob banks all the time, what is the big deal?' Or if I slept with someone’s wife and I said, 'Your wife had an affair two years ago. See! I am not that bad. Why are you angry at me?'" So part of the objection to this argument is based on the inherent repulsiveness of the act being excused, and part of it is based on the idea that some bad behavior doesn't excuse other bad behavior. But, given that the topic was "seeking authenticity," I saw Sasaki's argument as saying that a) the act is not repulsive and b) the "everybody does it" argument holds up more when the action described is not equivalent to bank robbery or murder, but is instead equivalent to jay walking (or maybe even something less negative?). This seems especially applicable when he opens his post by talking about "authentic cappuccino."

    So my question, after all that, can restated as this: does the "Arab Trader Argument" cease to be a fallacy given a certain degree of non-seriousness of the topic (but who would decide that kind of thing, anyway?) or is it still problematic because it automatically dismisses the possibility that a ubiquitous behavior could be racist?

    Does that make sense?

    As a side note (of support): I think this blog is fine as it is, and you shouldn't let this kind of criticism worry you, Macon. I do think it is important to remember that class is an extremely important variable in systems of oppression, but as other comments have pointed out 1. this blog can't do everything, and 2. Sasaki's critique doesn't nearly take into account the importance of fighting institutionalized racism (his post seems extremely individualistic to me).

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  19. Hi, I'm KD. I would like to say that I am not a racist. I resent white supremacy but I do not have the interest or the power to discriminate against white people. I think reading "White like Me" by Tim Wise shows all the little ways white supremacy is appreciated by poor whites, middle class whites, and wealthy whites a like. Conversely injustice is experience regularly, on a daily basis, by wealthy blacks and poor blacks a like.

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  20. But, throughout my travels I've found that urban, white americans are some of the least discriminatory people I have met." My traveling experiences, both here and abroad, have been the exact opposite. Then again, I'm not white.

    I totally second TAB on that. And the class origins of the white person has no bearing whatsoever. (FYI in case someone argues that working class white people can't afford to go overseas: Australia is in the midst of a mining boom which has enabled many working class white people to go to Southeast Asia on holidays). I mean, so what if some Americans are seemingly the least discriminatory people you've met? I've met very open-minded Americans who seemed very, very un-racist, but once you dig deeper, all the nuanced subconscious unintentional racisms are there, and it hurts big time you trust them. It's like saying, some of the men I've met are the least sexist of all people. Like, so what? So we should stop focusing on men when we talk about sexism? No, right?

    Also, just because one is not discriminatory, it doesn't mean that one isn't racist. And vice versa.

    How are POCs more discriminatory than whites?

    I second TAB on this too. Firstly, the more globalized the world becomes, and the more English becomes dominant, the more relevant it will be to discuss a de facto global white supremacist system. Upper/middle class is going to increasingly be identified as 'English speaking, Westernized to a degree'. Secondly, I think David is superimposing Western understandings of 'racism' on what goes on elsewhere. I can see how the Han issue in China correlates well with the white situation in the US. But he seems to miss the point that there also a lot of prejudice going on between pocs which is the 'I hate you, you hate me, so there, we're even' kind. I find that white people often don't understand how this kind of prejudice works.

    Another thing that is overlooked is that prejudice can get more intense the closer you are to the other group in terms of status. So, a white person going to a developing country can be totally nice to lower class locals, and be totally undiscriminatory. He can even dress in the same outfit that the lower class people wear, listen to music that is associated with the lower class in that country, and yet he is still white. He can afford to do this because it doesn't matter what he does, his white appearance will not make him any less white. The locals still see him as white, and therefore, privileged, etc etc, and treat them accordingly. However, if a local (lower) middle class person started to do the same, everyone will mistake him for a lower class person, and he will be treated accordingly (i.e. with disdain by the non-lower class in that country as well as other white/foreign travelers, etc). I am not excusing the fact that he has hang ups about being associated with the lower class. But that is his problem. Not ours.

    It is not the place of a white person to then be self-congratulatory and say, "Well, I am less discriminatory than that local guy is." What a white person can do is to recognize that his privilege affords him the space to be less discriminatory without jeopardizing his status.

    Mind you, this is not limited to white people of course. As a Westernized, English speaking poc, I have similar privileges and it took a few of my poc friends who don't have the same privileges a few takes at sharing their heart with me before I realized how twisted my privilege can be as described above. [cont'd]

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  21. [cont'd] I think the rule of thumb is - anytime you catch yourself being self-congratulatory, it's a good sign that you're messing up.

    That said, I do sometimes feel that the focus on 'white people' can be a bit constricting sometimes. But then again, macon is a white guy trying to deal with his own community, so who am I to say? But I also sometimes feel that the extra leeway given to pocs has the negative effect of making the blog look like it's setting up a binary of guilty racist whites and good pocs. There are many times when I find it difficult not to get angry on this blog, but it probably doesn't help that I go into attack mode.

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  22. >> " But whites are told that they are racist all the time."

    Like hell we are.

    White people spend so much time explaining that we're not Racists it's a wonder any POC would be able to get a word in edgewise.

    On another note, what Oso is saying about needing to focus on class instead of race seems very, very much parallel to White Feminist (TM) rhetoric. "Let's look at issues that affect all women" and so forth. Not only has this angle of approach not helped women as a whole, it has further hurt WOC. Class and race are not the same, but they cannot be divorced as readily as it seems Oso would like them to.

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  23. Hi Macon,

    I am a long time lurcher(read couple of yrs) ... commenting for the first time.

    First of all, let me say you have a great blog going here. I am not white and I am not american but still this blog serves as a great source of information for me to correct my attitude and identify the racist stereotypes that I have set and work on removing them ....
    I have been following your blog and other blogs like this and it has completely changed the way I now look at things ... Thank you!!!

    Coming to the point about non-white supremacist attitudes, yes they exist ... and being a seasoned traveller I have come across them ...

    But this blog, as the name suggests, is about what some white people do and discuss their actions from a race perspective ...

    One more interesting point is, this whole supremacist thing, seems to be a social structure. For example, a white person in India or China always has a higher social stature, even compared to the Han (in China), some of whom might be supremacist when looking at the Dai community. And in those countries, its easy to notice the mentioned supremacist attitudes, of some whites, as well as of the supremacist locals.


    What I expect from this blog is to discuss some of the racist attitudes / stereotypes we still have in our society .... and I expect to take back some knowledge that may help me align my actions with my principles ....

    I am relatively new in these discussion and I am open to any corrections ...

    Thanks,
    Ad

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  24. does the "Arab Trader Argument" cease to be a fallacy given a certain degree of non-seriousness of the topic (but who would decide that kind of thing, anyway?) or is it still problematic because it automatically dismisses the possibility that a ubiquitous behavior could be racist?

    I would say the latter. Racism is ubiquitous in White-dominated societies, so just about every interaction has the potential to uphold White supremacy.

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  25. I also find it interesting that a lot of comments that try to introduce class do so in a way that seems like an attempt to overshadow race - thus, ironically, silencing and erasing POCs.

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  26. I sort of understand why you're even making this an issue, but when you break it down to the bare bones, Macon, you're a white dude. You have absolutely NO place running a blog talking about Stuff Chinese People Do to One Another or Stuff Black People Do to One Another. There are other blogs that accomplish that. It can't be yours, though. It just can't.

    I genuinely think that David is under the same spell many of us WP are - that since we've experienced the world in ways many WP are afraid of or not willing to even try (traveling with a genuine interest in other cultures - not for the appropriation of them, learning different languages, not walking around with the commonly ignorant stereotypes playing in our heads, seeing POC as individuals), that we've somehow transcended racism and can focus our attentions elsewhere now. And as someone above mentioned, that's great on an individual basis...but we're still a part of the systemic racism. And it takes WP to get other WP's attention to this.

    I can't count how many jackass comments I've seen on here where I was like "wow... really?" only to come back later and see that this person took the advice or understood the comments made in response to them. I should know - I've left my own jackass comments here. I come back because we never really get over racism entirely. It's important to never forget that. It's important for people of all cultures to remember that. But in my case, I'm white - and this is what I found when I went looking for ways to not do this to my students when I get up in front of the classroom. And what I got when I showed up here was a lot more than that.

    What this blog accomplishes that a blog focusing on every single race under the sun can't, is calling THE dominant race the world over out on crappy behavior that exists no matter where we are. You are able to call this to attention BECAUSE you are white. A white tendency for sure is to take other WP seriously when they make a claim. Continue to let that work for you.

    It's not the job of POC to teach WP about racism. We talk about this often here. If you weren't doing this blog, who would be?

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  27. White people are a subcategory of people, so it isn't surprising that things White people do that reinforce White supremacy derive from things people in general do. You could abstract the topic to "things dominant people do." But I don't think that would make it a better blog. In the context of the US at least (and other White-dominant countries I gather from other people's comments) there is a whole host of White-specific stuff going on. White domination isn't the only kind of domination that is going on, but it is the topic of this blog, and I think the focus is valuable.

    That said, there are two ways someone might use a comparison to other forms of domination. One is the "Arab Trader" argument, to distract attention from the focus on White domination, or to claim that some other oppression is worse. But another way to use it is to remember how it feels to be treated in a demeaning way by others and then use that understanding to reflect on how your own behavior might make somebody else feel that way. Plus, the very fact of a White supremacist social structure makes the effects of ordinary human behavior worse when White people do it.

    Listening deeply to other people does involve trying to imagine how it feels to be them, and hooking to pieces of your own experience of being dominated can help this. It's psychologically different from derailing, although it might look the same. It is painful for White people to work through the image of ourselves as oppressing others and is an important part of the process, even as I entirely understand why people of color really don't want to bother with those emotions.

    It would sometimes be helpful to talk more specifically about things White women do, or things White academics do, or things White affluent people do, or things White working class people do.

    You (Macon) did seem to over-react to criticism.

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  28. I've been reading your blog for a couple months, I sometimes read the comments, but have never done so myself.

    I think I may agree with Oso on a number of points. I definitely think that you are often preaching to the choir and all others are shot down - its one of the main reasons I never comment. I also tend to believe that most of the "racist" things that people talk about these days are more "classist" in nature. On of my friend (who is biracial) recently bought the "Stuff White People Like" and we were flipping through it together. She thought it was hilarious, I found it offensive. She allied herself with nearly every single characteristic of "white people" - I could only claim 6. She is a self admitted upper middle class liberal who was raised in a major city. I was raised in a rural town, my parents were working class and am fairly conservative politically.

    Now, I know your blog and the SWPL book are not exactly the same. And I keep reading even though I don't always agree with you because I think you bring up good topics that I enjoy exploring for myself. But I do think that by continuing to classify everything "white people do" as racist, you are missing a social issue that is more prevelant, harmful and divisive.

    Just my two cents. :)

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  29. I’ve been reading this blog for several months now, but have never commented. It’s been such a valuable resource for me, and has given me an understanding and a vocabulary with which to discuss the creeping discomfort I’ve had since moving to a western country. I’ve realised there are other options to staring as if I’ve just been slapped.

    It’s true that there is a lot of racial tension in the world, but the thought that this blog should be turned into a “stuff racist people do” sort of scenario makes me exceedingly uncomfortable, particularly because I don’t see how you will possibly be able to do it justice, or whether you (meaning white, westernised people), will ever be invested enough to want to do it justice. These things are complicated and deserve attention, and vary so much even between countries in the same region (compare Chinese/Malay race relations in Malaysia versus Indonesia, for example). I honestly doubt the sincerity of the claim that you genuinely want to work through issues that even the very people they have to do with don’t always feel like working through. There are places for this sort of discussion, and I’m sure there will be more. I’m just not sure this is it.

    I view this blog as operating within a specifically western context. More often than not, specifically western constructs creep into the rest of the world. For example, magazines where I’m from still run secret shopper-type articles with titles like “do westerners (meaning white people, because that’s still the default assumption) get better service?” I think this blog focuses on the global picture only in terms of white people’s relations to the world, with white as a constant, and that’s just fine. I think examining the things you are complicit in is important, rather than the pointing and the headshaking that I foresee should this focus be readjusted to the world at large.

    I know we look like we are a mess. Give us some time and space to work these things out. But there are plenty of things that you have a stake in that you can also think about, and I think this blog is the place for this.

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  30. I have to agree with Oso's comments, especially his final comment at the end of your post.

    In a globalized context, looking at race is becoming an increasingly more difficult issue, both as the definition of race loses its meaning, and as other markers of identity grow to replace it. Class is especially important, and it's links to race are subtle. For example, while whites tend to have a higher life expectancy in America than blacks, when adjusted for class they actually have almost the same.

    Things like that are important to note. And while this blog is useful in illustrating the context of racism from the "college-educated, urban/suburban, white, upper-middle-class" perspective, it fails to grasp the totality of race in a broader global context. in essence, you fail to see the forest for the trees.

    Racism is pervasive in other countries, and resembles in many ways the racism present (both historic and contemporary) in America. As Oso pointed out, racism is not limited to white people, and it's not an "Arab-trader argument" to say so. Logical constructs do not disprove the fact that racism is much more than a "white thing", and much more of a "human thing". By focusing on one group -- a group so large and divisive (just in this country) that defining them is itself a futile exercise -- you miss the larger scope of how racism operates in the world, how it perpetuates itself through structures and cultural norms, and especially how it damages people on deep psychological levels for generations afterwards (both to the oppressors and the oppressed).

    While I wouldn't say stop writing this blog. I would say to look around and see that observing racism from the context of White America is like wearing blinders, and refusing to see the far larger amounts of racism perpetuated around the world which has nothing at all to do with your blog's (admittedly) American-centric view on the subject.

    Hopefully as you grow as a person you will come to appreciate the advice and criticism Oso has given you, because it is not only very good, but also very timely for all Americans to look beyond our own country (for once) and understand what the rest of the world is doing.

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  31. I want to first say that one thing swpd does from me is that when you bring up issues like this, Macon, there is a whole host of commentators who are better a putting into words some of the thoughts that are circulating in my head. I like that I read your entry, wanted to say something in response, but couldn't quite find the words yet. Then I read the comments and many of the comments said exactly what had started to turn over in my head. I enjoy you blog for the issues that you raise, but I also enjoy your blog for the group of regular readers that visit and comment. For me, there were 3 levels to which this blog was valuable for me. I started with just reading the post title, but not the post itself. It was interesting as I'd think about just that claim alone, whether I thought it true or started noticing instances in daily life. Then I started reading the posts to better understand the claims made, and finally I started reading the comments as well.

    A lot of the issues that I had with Oso's critique has already been raised by the comments above. I am rather bothered when with Oso's last sentence in his critique. I feel like it's just another oppression olympics argument. "We should focus on class; that's more divisive." Class is definitely a factor when discussing social justice, discrimination, but it is not the only factor, nor necessarily a more important factor than race. As another commentator said, the focus on class often ignores and silences the people of color. Moreover, I feel like this completely takes away from white privilege and that bothers me immensely. No matter your class, being white comes with a certain set of privileges, which I feel like your blog definitely addresses. I may be a middle class college educated Asian American, but that does NOT mean I experience or live in the same world as my white colleagues. Our experiences are similar in many ways because of our class and education but our experiences are also very very different in many ways because of our gender differences and race differences. To discount that in any way just makes me angry.

    Not only do I enjoy your blog, Macon, I find it highly valuable. While some may claim that your blog has a narrow focus, I believe that it's incredibly necessary. Too often discussions on discrimination and race gets generalized into a context of "but we all discriminate. it's psychological, human nature. bad people." While Oso's discussions of what how all people may discriminate is a worthwhile discussion, it's a discussion that I've personally had before and am tired of. I feel that ultimately, in those discussions, nobody takes responsibility.

    I think I'd be a little bit offended that Oso compared your blog to "stuff white people like." In fact, it was in discussing how much I disliked the site "stuff white people like" with a friend that she pointed me to swpd as a better, more nuanced site.

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  32. I second what RVC Bard said. Even when you note that racial discrimination persists when class differences are controlled for (across contexts), people still toss out the "But what about class?" meme. And do you notice that most of those people aren't actually a part of the "class" they feel so sorry for? (How many lower-class White people have the time or resources to comment on blogs?) So how would they know?

    I'm starting to feel like all of those "poor, downtrodden, not benefitting from White supremacy" White people live in the same neighborhood as "that Black kid who got a 0 on the SATs yet still managed to get into Harvard."

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  33. Hi, to answer one of your questions: I come back to the blog to be educated. I don't agree with some (maybe even a lot) of the stuff presented (not preaching to the choir, then) and reading certainly doesn't make me less likely to change. The line about matching actions to principles, sums it up pretty well - this blog helps me do that better by forcing me to think about thinkgs that I wouldn't usually think about.

    The scope of the blog seems fine: you are describing the rascist actions of the dominant race in your own (and my own) world. To include the actions of the non-dominant race is out of scope, as is the actions of dominant races in other worlds, where we would be outsiders (world is perhaps a bad word, it seems othering and normalising, but I can't think of a better one). I agree very much with Victoria on this.

    I can't agree with TAB's post - at least my reading of it, that, essentially, racism is always white peoples fault. Sure white people have some privilege in non-white countries which is exceptional. But the racism found in non-white countries is often 100% home-grown, to use the example from the post, Han discrimination/racism against non-Han chinese cannot be blamed on white people.

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  34. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood in which the community association gets together every so often. Occasionally the topic of 'undesirables' comes up. My African-American neighbors don't like my African immigrant (ex-pat?) neighbors, my African neighbors don't like my Mexican neighbors, my Mexican neighbors don't like the Guatemalans, the Guatemalans don't like the El Savadoreans, etc, etc, you get the idea. I sigh over it but I tend not to point out the fallacies too strenuously (maybe I'm wrong not to) because I'm not going to be the white chick telling the minorities that they shouldn't be racist / classist / nationalist / whateverist.

    It just isn't my place.

    Similarly, it isn't Macon's place to point out all the injustices in the world. He's talking about stuff that white people do. There's enough egregiousity (and enough need to be reminded of the egregiousness of it, at least for me) in that alone without delving further afield and muddying the waters or making white people feel better because others do it to.

    Personally, I think there's a place for a discussion of DS's points, but this isn't it. This blog is a sophomore/junior level course (sorry Macon!) and what DS wants is post-grad.

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  35. @Socialwrkr24/7 re: "But I do think that by continuing to classify everything "white people do" as racist, you are missing a social issue that is more prevelant, harmful and divisive.

    Nowhere has macon or any other person I've read on this blog classified everything white people do as racist. That is just a dishonest straw man argument.
    And what social issue are you talking about? Class? Please see the many comments explaining how derailing to class suppresses people of color.

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  36. @Zek J Evets re: "Hopefully as you grow as a person you will come to appreciate the advice and criticism Oso has given you, because it is not only very good, but also very timely for all Americans to look beyond our own country (for once) and understand what the rest of the world is doing."

    Help! I'm gagging on patronizing prattle!

    @Julia re: "This blog is a sophomore/junior level course (sorry Macon!) and what DS wants is post-grad."

    Uh, maybe the opposite. Based on where I've seen them before, I think Oso's comments are simplistic and threadbare. Naive undergrads make these "arguments" all the time when they are trying to direct attention away from examining their own role in white supremacy. Maybe that's not what he's doing, but he's taking the same stance as many who are.

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  37. David Sasaki said...
    "I do hope that you broaden your scope when thinking about discrimination and ways in which we should work individually and as a global society to lessen it."

    That's never going to happen as long as this country entertains ambitions to dominate everything it touches, and up until recently, that ambition has had a white face attached to it. And let me see if I can understand this; slavery- Jim Crow and the purposeful systematic disenfranchisement of minorities was just a class thing? It sounds like a typical white male response to me. Whites more often than most focus on color, and not class. Whites in this country dominate almost every facet of society. They control how we view the world around us and how we think of ourselves as Minorities.

    Every time I see a missing white woman’s case being reported when countless black women and children have gone missing- I get upset, and I’m not thinking class. Every time I hear of a white person being declared Hero- or being called Brave, while an equally deserving minority’s heroics are ignored- class is the last thing I’m thinking of. Macon I don't think you should change a thing, “de-facto white supremacy” sounds just about right to me coming from a black man.

    @Victoria said...
    “What this blog accomplishes that a blog focusing on every single race under the sun can't, is calling THE dominant race the world over out on crappy behavior that exists no matter where we are. You are able to call this to attention BECAUSE you are white. A white tendency for sure is to take other WP seriously when they make a claim. Continue to let that work for you.”

    Very well put.
    I wondered as I read his comments, am I supposed to give this argument more weight because it’s a young white man who’s saying it? I don’t care how you slice it, this young man will never know what it feels like to be marginalized in a country that touts its freedoms to the world- yet denies equality to people of color on a regular basis. I’m constantly being bombarded with white achievement- white history, white tastes- white goodness, and white standards of beauty. It can wear one down in ways a young white man can never fully understand. So I’m not surprised by the young writer’s attempt to defer.

    @Macon
    "Claim that analyzing the ways of white folks is a waste of time (because there are more important things to analyze)"

    Yes- namely people of color. US!
    We are constantly being analyzed and defined/labeled by whites, but I never really see an honest attempt by whites to analyze themselves, and I mean an open and honest attempt; except for this blog. Its why I come back day after day. Whites missed a perfect opportunity to convene panels and bring on experts to discuss the white male mind when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Federal Building. The Tea Party Movement is yet another example of a missed opportunity for whites to examine themselves openly and honestly. Look how easily whites analyzed Michael Vick, Rodney King- Tiger woods, and OJ Simpson. As long as whites continue to see themselves as individuals and not as a monolithic block, we will never see this happen. Sounds like derailing to me pure and simple.

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  38. Also wanted to add that I honestly don't think Oso was suggesting that analyzing the ways of white folks is waste of time because class is more important. Rather, I think I he was trying to point out the limits of this blog as an authority on racism, because of its narrow focus on white people.

    It's a legitimate observation, but not really something I think you need to worry about. You simply don't have the time, the education or the resources to address everything at once, and that's why I'm happy to limit the discussion to SWPD, and not "stuff racists do". As long as we don't fall into the trap of oversimplifying things and thinking that white privilege is the be all and end all of the issue, we should be fine. And from the comments here, it seems that most people recognize that the focus of this blog is intentionally narrow for very legitimate and important reasons.

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  39. "I've found that urban, white americans are some of the least discriminatory people I have met." Excuse me but what?!! I laugh at that statement! I laugh at it very much. They most certainly are not! But perhaps that is largely due to their ignorance.

    Please don't shut down this blog. If you do I shan't have any site off the top of my head to tell a white person who is being racist to visit.

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  40. Hmph! And it's quite interesting how most of the people that agree with Oso are white.

    Just saying.

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  41. @ M Gibson "As long as whites continue to see themselves as individuals and not as a monolithic block, we will never see this happen. Sounds like derailing to me pure and simple."

    This is a good example of the kind of thing that I'm talking about. While I agree with most of what M. Gibson said in his post, I think that this last comment rather undermines it. Whites are not a monolithic block any more than women or Christians or middle class people, etc...I'm sure everyone here understands that, so why do we say things like this?

    While I agree, obviously, that all white people exist within a social context of white privilege that necessarily affects their worldview, to focus on this aspect of society at the expense of the individual is harmful, imo, when it comes to making real change. After all, no WP can shed their privilege or change their whole society - but they CAN change their individual thoughts with regard to racial issues and their actions towards PoC.

    I guess my real problem here is that I'm not willing to throw up my hands and say that white people are a monolithic group and don't have the potential to change, at least on an individual basis, to the best of their ability. In fact, I think the social conditioning argument kind of lets them off the hook somewhat. Sure, if white people are brought up ignorant to racial issues, they're not going to understand the extent of their privilege, but once they've been educated to the contrary, I think it becomes their responsibility to make change on an individual basis. They're going to make mistakes along the way, but that doesn't negate the effort.

    I suppose this isn't exactly incompatible with what you've said. I guess the wording just tipped me off. Forgive me for babbling, it's just something that bothers me.

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  42. From my perspective, I believe your blog serves a useful purpose. I'm not aware of many white folks who for whatever reason question the blood of white supremacy that's running through their veins. Seems to me, most whites just give legitimacy to white supremacy without a second thought. By you focusing on race and not conflating it with class, show an earnestness to deal with your own racism and whiteness in general.

    IMO, those that bring-up the class issue, do so in an attempt to have the conversation become more inclusive, so as not to deal with their own whiteness, or a society built on white supremacy or the unearned privileges that fall into your lap if you’re white.

    Finally, I can understand a reader offering criticism or suggestions on a particular topic, but to tell you how to format your blog, well that's pretty offensive. My 2 cents on the table.

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  43. I've been reading your blog for about 6 months. I've been aware that I am some stripe of racist for the past few years, and have been working on that.

    SWPD has helped me realized the toxic affect the systematic racism has on minorities. Cross burning racists might be a problem in some places, but I think the bigger problem is the ever present feeling of non-acceptance that non-white people experience--and the utter lack of understanding most white people have about that.

    Some of the conversations (like the search for authenticity) I think tread into territory where race isn't the most useful perspective to look at the issue from. That's a far cry from saying there's no justification to keeping the blog going.

    In particular, something I think WP could really benefit from is figuring out how to counteract the systemic racism. I'm not a banker, I don't have many friends (I'm an introvert), no black friends, and of the friends I do have, none of them do things that I perceive as being clearly racist.

    But the problem is still there, and figuring out how to bring up racism with friends/coworkers that aren't overtly racist is a rich area to cover.

    Hmmm...although, that's not really SWPD. But we should! SWPSD.

    Anyways, I really appreciate your blog, and I hope you keep on making WP slightly or very uncomfortable. It's authentic, and valuable.

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  44. Coming from an almost-exclusively-white, European background, I find this blog a valuable read – for the questions it asks and for the ways in which it makes me re-think my own position and privilege (and also as a key to understanding US-American culture), as well as for the point of view of POCs, which oftentimes I find eye-opening and which allows me at least a rough idea of what it means to be non-white in a Western society.

    I think if one wanted to turn this into a discussion of how class discrimination is more pervasive than racism (well, over here, it probably is), one should still first ask how racism helps shape the class system as it is.
    How come, after all, that POCs (or over here, 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation immigrants) are disproportionally stuck on the lower rungs of the class ladder? I for one would argue that it is systemic racism that helps perpetuate this, and that in order to not focus solely on working-class white people again (and treat POCs as a mere 'add-on'), it is necessary to first come to understand the ways in which racism fuels classism. Intersectionality is an issue, but that's just my two cents.

    *No offense, please, I'm not a native speaker and I didn't mean to inadvertently push any buttons. I'm not saying that POCs were non-native in the US. The option after the slash refers to 'over here', i.e. Germany.

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  45. I do think that class is significant, here. Oso writes about 'a demographic that is upper-middle class, urban, and college educated'.
    It is easy to be magnanimous and tolerant, when you're at the top of the ladder.

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  46. TAB made an excellent point in noting the that the division with in the AA community is not a direct result of the AA's communites inate bias but rather the instituionalized and often scientific racism which reinforces self loathing (the Clark experiement) etc.

    Oso was guilty of using the Arab trader arguement based on the arguements intention - derailment, which it achieves with alarming accuracy due to the emotive freight it hurls much like a celestial bodies gravitational pull. By bringing the other guilty party to light you also justify the offense therefore excusing racism as a byproduct. The human mind in a matter of nanoseconds digests the Arab Trader arguement as "We/they/us too can be just as racist so it MUST be normal human behavior" when this is not always completely true. I say time and time again that if POC are to no longer use racism as an excuse for failure then Non POC & POC alike should also fail to excuse racism. Stuff White People do is simply an observation blog, no different than a Farmers Almanac collecting data through observation over time.

    What me must not forget is that- YES most cultures/classes/soc economic backgrounds behave in similar ways true, but Caucasians belong to the demographic that is most repsonsible for establishing the status quo in regards to western society. White privilige is a semi permiable membrane -the PRIVILIGE only goes one way. SWPD is necessary as it is one of the few blogs that addresses said privilige with astute observation and logic.

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  47. BTW lets not forget that class or socioeconomic backgrounds only go so far. Glass ceiling anyone? Ask Oprah about her visit to a Hermes boutique in France. Try not to vomit at the response Hermes allegedly provided.

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  48. @ Nick Cannon,

    My first straw man! There's nothing in my post that says racism is essentially always white people's fault. However, as a POC who has also travelled a bit, I would venture to say that white racism (individual and systemic) may very well be far more pervasive and entrenched than you think it is. Shall I ignore the white-supremacist roots of colorism and POC disregard for black Americans in order to make you feel that my post is more "objective"? And, really, how does talking about intra-POC issues help WP address their own?

    Derailing for Dummies

    Trust that conversations continue to occur within various POC communities - without the involvement of WP. You may not be aware of them. Again, how would inserting WP (who, chances are, aren't directly or significantly affected by these issues) into those dialogues help WP counter their own racism? Did the failure to include bad things POCs do - because that topic never gets enough media coverage - make you worried that I only knew about white racism? What does it do for you?

    Your post has helped me appreciate the concerns of Eurasian Sensation and fromthetropics about the potential (of some people) to translate the exclusive focus on white tendencies into a simplistic whites=bad/POC=good binary.

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  49. I'm a new reader to this blog, and will try to keep my comment short.

    I like what I find here. Sure, some of it might be as much about class as it is about race, but in some cases, it's pretty hard to sort all that out in a world where PoC are specifically taught behaviors not native to their parents in order to fit in and succeed in a white world. I think this blog is useful as it is.

    I would ALSO love to see a blog along the lines of "what educated middle class people do/like" because I think classism is one of the most under-recognized and under-addressed forms of discrimination happening in the West.

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  50. For what it's worth, I think this article just invited a bunch of people who simply don't "get it" to come post comments full of "stuff white people do".

    If this is your first time posting on SWPD, you really need to (1) go read the commenting guidelines, (2) go back and read a number of past articles (especially the ones linked from the commenting guidelines) including the comments on them, and (3) check your own whiteness.

    With that said, back to my first thought, I wonder if there's anything that Macon could do better here to help newcomers "get it" quicker and avoid "preaching to the choir". But I doubt it. White people who aren't willing to put in the effort to actively learn about racism (for example doing 1-3 above) can't be made to understand just by changing the format or topic of posts. It's going to take someone they individually respect (i.e. almost certainly a white person) calling them out and demanding they change before they'll do anything...

    I really don't think Macon is preaching to the "choir" because we're not the choir - even as anti-racist white people we're also racist, and this blog is about learning to understand that and considering perspectives we've never had due to our privilege.

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  51. If I'm reading this right, macon, it has been suggested that you're not doing enough to end all the world's problems by the magical power of words on the Internet. Shame on you! Write a post about the historical and present situation of the Korean minority in Japan THIS INSTANT, or you will be a bad person forever!

    Most of what I think about this "critique" has already been said in the comments somewhere. The mildest I can put it is that it's somewhat misguided and scattershot, and probably not worth engaging with in a serious manner.

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  52. It seems Oso's idea of racism does not include a system of western white supremacy. he has simply widened the arab trader argument to include everyone in the world. his argument denies that racism is anything more than people being jerks to each other. he glosses over any sort of dominant culture, ironically simplifying the definition of racism so that it is palatable to the white, dominant culture.
    when you allow white culture to opt out of racism, you allow white individuals to opt out of racism (and any blame for it) just by not openly being assholes towards brown-skinned people.
    "I don't think that focusing on a critical perspective of just one ethnicity is useful for shaping our thinking about how we can create a more just society."
    so, focusing on white supremacy and white dominant culture is not going to teach us anything about racism? speak for yourself.
    look, the fact is that Oso really does not want you focusing on white racism, even in the context of an overwhelmingly white supremacist society. doesn't that tell you something?
    "But whites are told that they are racist all the time."
    he goes on to enlighten you ("it's complex"....listen close because he'll explain it to you) about the fact that people other than whites can be assholes.
    There is a reason people like this want racism to be more about class than skin color....because then it's not racism at all. because then it has little to do with a dominant culture and white supremacy, so now we can spread the blame for racism around.
    stuff white people do: love to simplify the definition of racism in order to suspiciously take the emphasis off of white dominant culture.

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  53. Macon,

    This is what I mean: I find your obsession with this topic...a little patronizing. I appreciate the sentiment, and in theory it's a great idea for white people to be more aware of the racial context in which they operate (ie: white is not the default) but that doesn't mean white people need to/should agonize over it. I just don't see what this level of self-criticism accomplishes.

    As for the argument at hand, I think Oso is spot on wrt class vs. race. As a bi-racial, middle class, highly educated, "liberal elite," I just don't understand your experience when it comes to race. I've been privileged my entire life, I've never been denied an opportunity because of my race, and race generally just isn't a guiding factor in my day-to-day life. In the paradigm you operate from, I therefore should carry some guilt, no? I do "stuff white people do." What does that make me? Or am I excused solely because of my race? If so, isn't that kind of, um, racist?

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  54. I think focusing on class instead of race is really skirting around the problem. How much of the class disparity between whites and POC is directly caused by institutional racism? I'd say mostly.

    You may feel oppressed as a poor white person, which I can completely understand, being a poor white person, but you still have it easier than a non-white person in the same position.

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  55. @Catharine

    Well it's fine and dandy that you don't have any experiences like the ones described in this blog, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem. A lot of people struggle with it and appreciate a blog addressing their problems.

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  56. Argh, wish I had time to read through all the comments. :(

    But I wanted to say I totally agree with TAB! 100 percent agree! So spot on!

    I have a hard time with white people talking about how other people are racist too. It ALWAYS looks childish and naive. ALWAYS. White racism is not the same as minorities disliking one another. White people hold the power, gonna have to accept that fact sooner or later. Saying racism is a "human" problem and not a White problem just makes sure that nothing will ever be done to solve racism (nothing anytime soon anyways). White people are the issue, we started it and we continue it.

    I'd say more but I'd just be reiterating TAB more.

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  57. But leedevious, what do you say to us non-white, non-poor people? I think this is the problem Oso was pointing out with your and Macon's paradigm: it doesn't acknowledge that class (meaning, the class you're born into) is almost always a higher predictor of opportunity than race. It's sort of offensive to me that in your world minorities who have never been denied an opportunity--in fact, have had much the same experience their white peers had--should still be mostly defined by their race.

    If your goal is to decrease inequality, it doesn't make sense to me that you'd focus most on race rather than class. The two are obviously tied, and problems of institutional racism should be taken into account when tackling this issue, but it seems you guys are approaching the problem from the wrong angle.

    Who knows, maybe decreasing inequality isn't your goal?

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  58. As others have already pointed out, many of the posts on SWPD describe cases of racism that aren't exclusively done by white people. By this I mean that on this blog it's as if the camera were focused tightly on white people, singling them out... but if we were to widen the shot, to zoom out, we would see that what we're really describing are near-universal phenomena of how dominant majorities act towards less powerful minorities.

    When SWPD's posts are about types of racism that are very specific to white people in white majority countries, then I think the posts are the most effective and powerful. On the other hand, when the post doesn't pass the "camera test," that is, if we can zoom back and find examples of the same kind of racism being described being practiced all over the world by other non-white dominant majority groups, then to me, the post feels constrained by the arbitrary theme of "all white people all the time." It doesn't seem like it should be "out of bounds" to discuss that side of things. If we're trying to learn about racism, in hopes of being rid of it, then what do we get by limiting the conversation in a contrived way?

    Also, maybe if a little attention were paid to distinguishing between what white people do that only white people do, versus near-universal cases of racist/discriminatory things majorities do to minorities, then people would be less likely to (endlessly) bring up the Arab Trader argument.

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  59. I don't know if I could even read his response just because he started off saying in order to make a more "just society," we shouldn't focus on just one "ethnicity"... when that "ethnicity" he is referring to is white people... errrrrr...

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  60. I'm a woman and a lesbian. I'm also white. I come back to SWPD specifically because it is a discussion about whiteness and the stuff white people do, and the way those actions function to uphold the "de facto white supremacist" (thanks for that term, btw, Macon) society in which I live. In spaces where the doors are thrown wide open to discuss all forms of oppression, I find it way too easy to over-identify with the ways I experience oppression as a way to ignore the really overwhelmingly HUGE reality of my own privilege. (I think we sometimes call this the Oppression Olympics? It seems like another use of an expanded focus as a method of derailing, kind of a counter point to the ATA.) I appreciate a forum in which the conversation is brought always back to the dynamics of white racism because it forces me to keep my focus on the things I need to be learning about white privilege and white supremacy. This isn't because I think everything white people do is evil. But I do think white racism is a pervasive evil in which I participate, and the very best way to minimize my participation in this system of evil - and to be helpful in the process of dismantling it - is to be able to see it clearly, and to see my role in it. Reading the posts, and the comments on SWPD are one way that I work on seeing the dynamics of this system.

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  61. @Catherine re: 'In the paradigm you operate from, I therefore should carry some guilt, no? I do "stuff white people do." What does that make me? Or am I excused solely because of my race? If so, isn't that kind of, um, racist?'

    To answer a question you didn't ask me, what that makes you is someone whose racial awareness is such that she can't see how the "stuff" she does helps maintain de facto white supremacy. You're taunting someone to stick you with the label "racist," but that isn't the point or purpose of this blog (or I wouldn't take part in it); nor is it effective in working against DFWS (de facto white supremacy) to go around being holier than whoever while not looking critically at one's own assumptions and actions. Guilt has nothing to do with it.

    I would never presume to call someone racist or not racist (including myself) because it's as useless and arcane as trying to prove that one does or does not contribute to rising CO2 levels. The CO2 level is rising; racism is hurting us all. As a white person, I see too many like me who don't think racism involves them, so they do nothing about it. That won't reduce racism; taking some responsibility for cleaning up this mess will--even if it's not your mess.

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  62. i've found this blog very thought-provoking and therefore useful. it has changed a lot of my attitudes about racism.

    being asian, i've been on the receiving end of whiteness and derailment quite a few times, and this blog has provided me with the framework and tools to counter such things, not just more comprehensively, but more civilly.

    however...being male, straight, more-or-less affluent and not-black, and, from a young age, craving assimilation into the white world, i've been on the receiving end of privilege, and also have been on the GIVING end of whiteness. being an apologist for whites, believing i understand racism more than real victims (since i'm a POC, why, of course i'm an expert on racism!) and so forth. and so this blog has been as much a resource for self-improvement as a resource for self-defense, and for that i'm especially grateful.

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  63. @Riche, who said I really don't think Macon is preaching to the "choir" because we're not the choir - even as anti-racist white people we're also racist, and this blog is about learning to understand that and considering perspectives we've never had due to our privilege.

    Co-sign! None of us WP will ever reach the point of being non-racist; there are always new aspects to deconstruct. Fine, I know more about racism than most WP I know, but that doesn't mean I've achieved some level of enlightenment where I don't have to keep learning and examining it. I still routinely get lightbulb moments* from most SWPD posts - and if it doesn't happen during the post itself, it happens in the comments.

    Class and race have serious intersectionality, yes. But as others have said, they're not the same thing, and our entrenched white supremacist system has a hell of a lot to do with who is (and how many are) in which classes. A PoC in poverty is likely to be there specifically *because* of generational racism, and they may well find it much harder to escape poverty due to systemized racism.

    * Like in cartoons, where a lightbulb turns on over a character's head when they have a realization.

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  64. It took me about 4 months of some pretty serious self-reflection to get comfortable with your blog. I'm not white, but there were things that you wrote, that readers and guest posters wrote that made me seriously examine myself, so I would say that you have succeeded in addressing certain class issues as well.

    There were times when I utterly disagreed (upon initial reading) with things that have been written here, but instead of jumping the gun and leaving a knee-jerk comment, I took the time to think about it and to really reflect on the discourse presented here. There were times I wanted to email you, Macon, and ask for more clarification on things, or to address other readers here for more clarification (or even justifications of their opinions), but I wanted to take the time and address my own views and issues on class and in doing so, was able to achieve a greater understanding and wider view on things. So honestly, from a personal standpoint, I think that those who try to distract from the content by focusing solely on class need to re-read some of what's written here.

    We're no strangers to intersectionality, so I understand people wanting a wider, more encompassing view of things, but when I dug a little deeper, I saw how my own intersecting biases were coloring my opinion and reaction to the blog and being able to work through those obstacles has really, truly changed me, as a person. So Macon, I'm one reader whose life you have changed. Granted, I'm not white and therefore I do have a different frame through which I view things, but swpd has changed me for the better!

    Anyway, if I could just put a little disclaimer here, I want to clarify that I hope I'm not coming across as overly earnest or as someone who is condemning others, as really, everything I've written is from a thoroughly personal standpoint, and I hope that I haven't over-generalized. There have been moments when this blog has forced me to examine my own life as a PoC and it's been quite an interesting ride for the past 8 months that I've been reading swpd.

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  65. YAY! The white American army came out today to absolve themselves of their bullshit. "Why just focus on us? Everyone's a little bit racist!" Awesome. Forget. This. Noise.

    If anyone wants to move beyond the sociological/anthropological discussion and find the actual facts that completely eradicate the class over race point that people keep bringing up here are some articles.

    http://www.prrac.org/
    http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=race_place_and_opportunity
    http://newsreel.org/transcripts/race3.htm (Hell, watch the whole documentary if you can)

    This ENTIRE conversation has been grossly frustrating. GROSSLY. Holy hell, Americans REALLY don't like being criticized and rightly so, eh? I mean, I would have thought it obvious that oh, I don't know, racism isn't just a "white" thing. But here, on this blog, as the title suggests, we are talking about it via a "white western lens." Possibly, maybe? US based?

    BTW,there is a slight difference between racism and xenophobia.

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  66. Catherine,

    If class were "almost always a higher predictor of opportunity than race", then Whites in the lowest income bracket wouldn't have better loan approval rates than Blacks in the highest income bracket, Black women (across income levels) wouldn't be more likely to give birth to pre-term babies than White women (across income levels), and Blacks (again, across income levels) wouldn't be half as likely to get a callback for a job with equal or better qualifications from a White person. I could go on, but I think you get the point. 2 things:

    1. An honest question for people who want to focus "more" (or solely) on class--when you find out that class isn't the answer, race is (like in the examples I just gave), what do you do? It seems silly (and probably racist) to hold on to the class argument even when given evidence to the contrary, yet I note a reluctance to get over class even in situations when class is not the ultimate determinant. Why?

    2) I don't think class (or what non-White people do) is automatically irrevelant, but I think the motives for pointing it out make a difference. Example: sometimes, Black people (not just Blacks, but I'm Black so that's who I feel comfortable referring to) on this blog will point out something WPD that other Black people have done to them as well. Obviously, the intention cannot be to paint all Blacks with a "bad" brush (because then they'd be painting themselves by default); most often it seems to me the point is to say "We" (meaning Black people) do this to each other too; it's harmful, let's change it. I think the "we" aspect has merit (just ask my boyfriend when I complain to him about Black people) because it's hard to have ulterior motives pointing the finger at yourself. But the "they"/"you people" aspect, especially coming from White people, is suspect because it never comes back around to what "they" (White) people do/did, and it seems the search for counterexamples is set up just to trivialize enduring painful racial experiences for other people.

    An example I thought of last night: When I was a kid I was teased for being too thin. (In my situation it wasn't anything extreme or painful, but let's say it was.) Though it may have hurt, and I have a right to be upset/scarred/whatever, I can't deny that I'm constantly affirmed in my thinness in our culture. So, my being teased for thinness is not less important than someone else being teased for fatness, but as an adult I can recognize that I got the better end of the deal because being made fun of for being thin is not the norm, and if I'm honest with myself I wouldn't trade in my thinness for fatness. Swap thinness for "being White" and fatness for "being Black/non-White" and I think you get the idea. Racist things that happen to White people and discriminatory things minorities do to each other are not "less than", but focusing on them and not the White supremacy umbrella is like always putting out buckets instead of actually tackling the leaky roof.

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  67. Catherine,

    If class were "almost always a higher predictor of opportunity than race", then Whites in the lowest income bracket wouldn't have better loan approval rates than Blacks in the highest income bracket, Black women (across income levels) wouldn't be more likely to give birth to pre-term babies than White women (across income levels), and Blacks (again, across income levels) wouldn't be half as likely to get a callback for a job with equal or better qualifications from a White person. I could go on, but I think you get the point. 2 things:

    1. An honest question for people who want to focus "more" (or solely) on class--when you find out that class isn't the answer, race is (like in the examples I just gave), what do you do? It seems silly (and probably racist) to hold on to the class argument even when given evidence to the contrary, yet I note a reluctance to get over class even in situations when class is not the ultimate determinant. Why?

    2) I don't think class (or what non-White people do) is automatically irrevelant, but I think the motives for pointing it out make a difference. Example: sometimes, Black people (not just Blacks, but I'm Black so that's who I feel comfortable referring to) on this blog will point out something WPD that other Black people have done to them as well. Obviously, the intention cannot be to paint all Blacks with a "bad" brush (because then they'd be painting themselves by default); most often it seems to me the point is to say "We" (meaning Black people) do this to each other too; it's harmful, let's change it. I think the "we" aspect has merit (just ask my boyfriend when I complain to him about Black people) because it's hard to have ulterior motives pointing the finger at yourself. But the "they"/"you people" aspect, especially coming from White people, is suspect because it never comes back around to what "they" (White) people do/did, and it seems the search for counterexamples is set up just to trivialize enduring painful racial experiences for other people.

    An example I thought of last night: When I was a kid I was teased for being too thin. (In my situation it wasn't anything extreme or painful, but let's say it was.) Though it may have hurt, and I have a right to be upset/scarred/whatever, I can't deny that I'm constantly affirmed in my thinness in our culture. So, my being teased for thinness is not less important than someone else being teased for fatness, but as an adult I can recognize that I got the better end of the deal because being made fun of for being thin is not the norm, and if I'm honest with myself I wouldn't trade in my thinness for fatness. Swap thinness for "being White" and fatness for "being Black/non-White" and I think you get the idea. Racist things that happen to White people and discriminatory things minorities do to each other are not "less than", but focusing on them and not the White supremacy umbrella is like always putting out buckets instead of actually tackling the leaky roof.

    PS. Macon, Not sure if my first attempt at submitting went through so I'm redoing it just in case.

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  68. Lost Left CoasterMarch 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    His critique was truly written from the perspective of someone who doesn't quite get what it is about. How many common white tendencies did he display? "It's mainly about class." "Other groups of people discriminate too." "I've traveled the world so I know what I'm talking about." And he comes across as more than just a little defensive.

    I strongly believe that we need to continue addressing racism as systemic, institutionalized, and as a reflection of the pervasiveness of white supremacist thought in the USA (which is sometimes unconscious but very often quite conscious). The types of prejudice that are prevalent in various other communities in the United States are important issues to discuss, but this blog has its perfectly reasonable focus and needn't try to cover it all. That's the same reason why discussions of Han Chinese discriminating against other ethnic groups in China is also less germane here. This blog never promised to cover the entire global issue of prejudice and discrimination. The point is to focus on white behavior, etc., and this blog does it well.

    I'm white, living in a majority black city, in a majority black neighborhood, and I made the conscious decision to educate myself about white privilege and to learn more about myself by reading this blog (and availing myself of other resources). Reading posts and comments here has been illuminating. I've always been anti-racism, and I've lived abroad, traveled widely, and thought I really knew what I was talking about, but this blog and the discussions that take place here have taught me that I have a lot to learn and a lot that I need to do. I really appreciate this blog. I think that the focus here is wholly appropriate, fair, and constructive.

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  69. Macon,
    By no means should you even think about thinking about shutting this site down or even entertaining such suggestions. I find that you are very open-minded and that you will listen to opposing points of view with respect and when you disagree you point out why and I can't recall in about a year or so of reading you, that you have ever been nasty or tried to get personal or engage in ad hominem attacks against those you disagree with. The very fact that you took David Sasaki’s comments seriously enough to reprint them here and ask for feedback shows that you took them seriously and are considering them. Generally only fairly thoughtful individuals will bother to do such a thing. I personally think that in this case, his critique says more about him and who he is than it does about you or your site.

    As to those who say you are preaching to the choir, they must have missed that HUGE bru-ha-ha a few months ago that had several folks accusing you of being insensitive and then got into a back and forth knock down drag out fight between commenters that seemed to result in some regulars leaving or at least ceasing to comment. If that isn't an example of not preaching to the choir, I don't know what is.

    Of course we all discriminate and everyone has privileges and I try to examine my own privileges b/c even though I am a black female, I am well educated, I am middle class and though I personally have never been upper-middle class I grew up in such an environment and have been inculcated in their way of thinking and values so I try to keep those privileges in mind as I navigate the world and think about white privilege. But as I've gotten older I've come to realize that there was a lot that I couldn't put my finger on vis a vis white privilege when I was younger and always assumed that unless someone white called me or others the “n” word or said something really horrible about black people in my presence, it wasn't racist and there was no or little racism around me. I always assumed there was something wrong with me and that was the ONLY reason why I always felt like an odd duck in my wonder bread suburb (there are other things but being black just exacerbated it ). Coming to this site and to others has not only helped me to see more but to give me some measure of peace of mind in knowing it isn't just all my imagination.

    As others have said, the scope of this site is about white people and what they do and it is written by a white male author. I think it would smack greatly of white privilege if Macon tried to write authoritatively about other forms of oppressions in other countries and cultures that he in unfamiliar with. That would be silly. Towrite effectively, all the writing experts say that you should write about what you know; Macon knows being white, living in America and he is sharing with us his growth in dealing with white racism in that context. I think other than Tim Wise, I have not encountered too many other white American males who put so much energy into untangling these issues in public and I appreciate his efforts.

    Finally, the argument that white folks are always being accused of racism seems specious to me. Perhaps in certain fringe circles that happens but where in the main stream of US society are white people always being accused of racism?. White people are over 70% of the population, and make up the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media outlets, are they accusing each other constantly of racism? If anything I've seen minorities being accused of racism whenever we bring up instances of what we consider discrimination and we are often pooh-poohed and dismissed or told we are racist. If anything, there seems to be a giant national "I'm rubber your glue whatever you say bounces of me and sticks to you" mentality in the echo chamber that is the media.

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  70. First, I don't think it is especially useful to discuss racism - or any kind of discrimination - out of context. So I don't think there's anything wrong with specializing in analyzing one context, especially if you acknowledge that that's what you're doing.

    When Oso writes "But whites are told that they are racist all the time. You're not changing any minds with what you write. As you can see in the comments on your blog you are either preaching to the choir or you are making people more defensive, more entrenched," it reminds me of the "WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ!?!?!" arguments that come up in feminist discussions... "WHAT ABOUT THE WHITES!?!?!"

    As a white person, I really appreciate this blog. I may be a "choir member" in that I want to be a good anti-racist ally. This blog, I think, is a useful tool to acheive that aim. It also gives me the language and analyses I need to confront racism in others, and hopefully recruit them to "the choir".

    Finally, I don't think the subject matter discussed on this blog is clearly correlated with class. Oso mistakenly compares swpd with Stuff White People Like, which at times does have some sharp criticism of racial issues, but without the heavy analytical work that goes on on this site. There's also a lot of content that is light satire. And it does focus on urban middle class whites. Just because the name of this blog riffs off of Stuff White People Like, does not mean that it shares the same faults. In fact, I've frequently thought that some of the behaviours discussed here would likely be less common among urbanites who are exposed to greater diversity.

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  71. @ Catherine

    I just don't see what this level of self-criticism accomplishes.

    Um... self-improvement?

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  72. Just thinkin... said..
    “Whites are not a monolithic block any more than women or Christians or middle class people, etc...I'm sure everyone here understands that, so why do we say things like this?”

    I think you are to a degree in that whites act collectively to insure and maintain white privilege/dominance either directly or indirectly; its entrenched and its pervasive. Denial keeps most whites from seeing this, hence the need for this blog. Part of having white privilege is the prerogative of being viewed as an individual. No matter what a white person does he/she can be assured their offense will not stick to or taint the entire race.

    We minorities are not afforded the privilege of suffering for our specific actions but rather- we are lumped together by a system that sees non-whites as a homogeneous block. (And what does that say about the system?) By viewing themselves as individuals, whites can absolve the actions of their entire race by watering these transgressions down to just a few people. It’s a common white tendency to see yourselves as individuals; it is in fact stuff white people do.

    On another note: Even as I write this MSNBC is reporting yet another missing white woman; now this is not a matter of class- its simply racist.

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  73. You guys are totally taking the words out of my mouth!!!

    What the hell? Oso can obviously read so...what the hell does he expect to see on a blog with this title?

    You know, for a split second I felt another drapto case study coming on, but I don't think his symptoms are nearly severe enough.

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  74. I don't have time for a lengthy comment today, but it seems to me that what Paul said early on in the comments is exactly why blogs like SWPD are necessary:

    "What I, as a white middle age/middle class male, get out of your blog is a periodic reminder that whiteness is not normalness."

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  75. My great-grandmother said: “Don’t come into my kitchen and tell me how to cook.” Since Oso is so enlightened and hip (*chuckle*), why doesn’t he create “Stuff All Racist People Do” or “Racist Stuff All Classes of People Do”? I bet folks like Zek and Catherine will gladly sign on as contributors.

    Macon, the very fact that you continue to be challenged, criticized and castigated by other white people who believe focusing on stuff white people do is a waste of time is all the proof you need that you must continue doing it. I find your candor regarding being a white man with privilege shocking yet refreshing; not many white people are willing to publically check their whiteness. I rarely post but I have been lurking for some time and appreciate your voice. So don’t change your focus or your approach. Given the d-dance (take your pick: derail, dismiss, deny) being done on this thread, it is very necessary.

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  76. What I get out of reading your blog is pretty similar to how you describe what you get out of writing it - a better understanding of the racist ways I feel, think, and act without realizing it, and an understanding of the entrenched racism of the US that has helped to create those racist tendencies in me. And, hopefully, some tools for dismantling both of those phenomena.

    I think Oso is right that people eveywhere discriminate - we are hard-wired to separate ourselves into "us" and "them" - but that's not what this blog is about. Racism is something different, it's not about what individual people do and say and feel, it's about the context that creates those actions and thoughts and feelings.

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  77. His comments are the sound of one white guy whining. Boo fucking whoo. Buy a ladder and get the fuck over it. He was totally derailing for dummies in a low level not even 101 level way. And got caught so now you're blog is wrong.

    He gets the gass face.

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  78. Jasmin, I'll ask my question again: what do you say to us brown people who, by your criteria (birth rates, loan approval, job interviews, etc.) are treated more "white" than "black"? I guarantee you I have more opportunities than every white person in this country that was born below the poverty line.

    I'm not trying to deny that racism exists. What I'm trying to point out, and what I think Oso was getting at, is that viewing the world through the "everything white people do, simply because they're white, is racist" lens, as this blog does, is just such a vastly incomplete picture of the way inequality works that I question the driving motivations of the people who love it so much. What benefit do you gain by obsessing over such inanity ("white people don't think rap is music! white people make us carry our racial baggage on vacation!")? I think there's a healthy way to tackle these issues but demonizing white people and ignoring complexity is not the way.

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  79. Wow. I'm impressed. I think Oso pretty much used every tool in the arsenal of the white person who doesn't want to examine his/her own racist tendencies while simultaneously silencing the experiences of POCs.

    1. Arab trader argument? Check
    2. Diverting discussion about race towards class instead? Check
    3. Claiming it's US PoCs who are the racists? Check

    No, I do not think Oso is making any valid points I have not seen dredged up here at some time or another by other white people trying to defend themselves instead of evaluate.

    "WHAT BRINGS YOU BACK?"
    One of the main reasons I like SWPD is because of the way you (Macon) read through the comments and delete the troll-y ones. It's way way too frustrating to read comments on other blogs which just. do. not. get. it. It is probably super time consuming, so I appreciate that. It seems stupid, but that's seriously one of the major pros of this blog for me. The comments, for the most part, add to the discussion and make me think and are sometimes as interesting, if not more so, than the post itself.

    I like that you update with relative frequency. I find the posts interesting and relevant to my life.

    I check it every day and it makes me think about my identity - I learn a lot from other POCs. I love hearing from strong WOC like RVCBard and I feel like this blog addresses nuances of racism which are difficult to pin down.

    I like seeing white people who don't get it at first start to get it. It gives me hope.

    "IMPROVEMENTS":
    1. more updates! :-D
    2. some way of making the commenting policy more obvious - like posting a link on the profile page. Maybe a very obvious FAQ with the commenting policy on there.
    3. Formatting - I like the wider space for text on sites like http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/ and I like how they have tabs with commenting policy and FAQ. It just makes it easier for me to read, somehow.
    4. Maybe some humor - I don't know what specifically I have in mind though and I do understand it's a serious topic.

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  80. Many others have said a lot of helpful things here! I think that we often need to look (realistically) at how privilege affects us individually.

    My being White is commonly the most important privilege I have. Being Male is also very important. Class, age, sexual orientation, different abled status, how thin/not thin we are and other factors all affect us individually.

    We do need to focus on Whiteness, not trivializing it in relation to these other factors. We also need to recognize that being White Alone is for most of us not the whole picture.

    Where I might use my being Jewish and approaching senior citizenship as Excuses for my Racism, I have problems.

    Oft times we see examples where "oppressed classes" use their oppressions to better understand and relate to and support others.

    It is No Coincidence - that Het, White Males did little AIDS support work in the 1980-90's, but Het White Women were there.

    We often fail to see the need to deal with our privileged status. Your blog is most helpful here.

    I also think that our tone can affect how effective we are with each other. We need to recognize that individually we are not "better" than others (Whites, Men, Upper Middle Class people....), though we can each try to do better. Thanks!

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  81. @ Riche -

    I am wondering which comments prompted you to write this:

    "For what it's worth, I think this article just invited a bunch of people who simply don't "get it" to come post comments full of "stuff white people do".

    If this is your first time posting on SWPD, you really need to (1) go read the commenting guidelines, (2) go back and read a number of past articles (especially the ones linked from the commenting guidelines) including the comments on them, and (3) check your own whiteness."

    Seems to me that most of the first-time commenters are appreciative of the blog. I ask because I'd like to know if my comment (I admitted to being new to the blog) came across as if I had not read the comments policy, and a lot of prior posts/comments, which I have.

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  82. I'm struck by a lot of phrases in that last comment Sasaki made. That white people could qualify as "one ethnicity" is laughable.

    Or this: [SWPD] insinuates that only whites are maliciously discriminatory - I don't remember that claim being made - and have never gotten that impression. Perhaps because I'm not coming here with the express purpose of discrediting the blog?

    Or this: those of us who are anti-discrimination should focus all of our efforts on promoting cultural change among the white community. Hmmm. I'm actually thinking this isn't a bad idea. If it hadn't been suggested facetiously, I'd be on board with this guy. But I DO have to note [as did bloglogger] that the repeated use of the term "discrimination" instead of racism gives me pause. Seems as though Sasaki's entire goal is to get away from a discussion of racism. As demonstrated in his last comments:

    ..we lose track of just how increasingly divisive class can be. I have a hunch that, like me, you have a diverse group of friends in terms of ethnicity, but that all of them are middle class and almost all are college educated. That is increasingly common, ...and it's where we should focus our attention.

    To this, all I have to say is - what the crack? Obviously, Sasaki's idea is that we're so post-racial, living in the Global Village means that class is our one true obstacle [/snark]. Is he saying what I think he's saying? That middle-class, college-educated people of color do not experience racism? I know Catherine said that, but she was speaking for herself.

    As another middle-class, mixed girl, I can honestly say that there was a time when I thought the world was post-racial. It was when I was a child. I didn't get it when my dad would tell me about racist things that were happening - right in front of me. I didn't believe him and told him he was wrong. Thinking back, I know that had to hurt. But I was completely ignorant. It took time for me to become aware, and I'm still learning/growing. Even with one black parent, I grew up mostly white, so I understand how easy, and pleasant it is to be blind to the racism that happens every day. But that is a fantasy, and maybe you won't ever have to wake up, Catherine, but I did.

    I certainly haven't had a cross burned on my lawn, but now I recognize racism for what it is, instead of explaining it away. Truth is always better than fooling yourself.

    And as several have said before me, jettisoning race in favor of class invisibilizes the effect of white privilege on those who are poor whites. Because it IS there. Furthermore, how would you explain poor whites who vote against their own interests in order to limit programs that also benefit poor minorities? That doesn't sound like a class issue to me.

    PS - Comparing SWPD to SWPL is stupid. Apples and Hang-gliders.

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  83. Great post and a classic response from someone who just do not understand the purpose of this blog. It was the typical, 'Hey everyone else is racist and why focus only on white people.' Oso's tone certainly appeared to be defensive as his explanation was thoughtful, articulate, and yet missed the point of your blog altogether. Stuff White People Do is not a blog dedicated to 'picking' on white people or projecting the idea of white people being evil individuals. In my opinion, it simply addresses common white tendecies and priviledges that POCs do not have the luxury to in our daily lives. Most whites are not aware of their priviledge in this world and some probably would dismiss this blog as a simply another way to divide and conquer. Oso mentioned some points that neglected the origin of such discrimination within other communities. He briefly discussed the divide among some African Americans in terms of skin tone. As a black woman, I understand where this notion of lighter skin being more superior stem from. Perhaps if Oso did some research on slavery and the psycological damage to African Americans during and after this atrocity, he too would come to learn about the dehumanization and self hatred some blacks develop under slavery and segregation. Oso brought up the negative perception of blacks in another culture. Perhaps Oso should consider the mainstream and powerful global media role in perpetuating stereotypes and only negative characteristics historically associated with blacks. In addition, he should know that even more powerful whites own the mainstream global media, which is responsible for filtering misinformation to other countries. Yes, discrimination exists globally, but no offense to whites, most of it stems from the corruption and bloodshed done to a community by other whites.

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  84. See what I mean about there being a thoughtful community and conversation around this blog?

    I don’t quite no where to start - I wish there were threaded comments so that I could respond to some of them individually without writing a mega-tome. Instead I’ll resort to general hyperbole.

    First of all, I do value thoughtful response over knee-jerk reaction, but I am also easily seduced by sarcasm. So allow me to quickly get it out of my system and point out that when “Lost Left Coaster” (and to a greater or lesser degree several other commenters) points out that (s)he has always been “anti-racism”, but now after reading this blog is really anti-racism I feel that it underlines my point about preaching to the choir.

    With that said, I take back my claim that your focus on discrimination should expand beyond what you call “de facto white supremacy.” It’s your blog and you should be able to write about whatever you want. Also, the focus of your content is clearly valuable to many people. I guess I was projecting my own qualms onto your writing. In terms of ethnicity, nationality, and languages spoken I probably have the most diverse group of friends of anyone I know. (Are statements like that “stuff white people do”? Probably so. More fodder for a future blog post!) But probably 98% of my friends are middle to upper-class and college educated. Clearly there is some reason why I have no problem making friends with people from other ethnicities, but I really struggle to establish a longterm friendship with someone who has dropped out of high school and works at a liquor store (no matter what his/her ethnicity is). You shouldn’t have to work out that dilemma for me, though.

    Write on.

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  85. I really find that Oso's comments, and the comments of a few others who have posted before me, are both justified and not justified. First and foremost let us establish one basic fact. It is nigh impossible for African Americans and other colonized groups who have yet to fully overcome the crippling effects of domination (a considerable number of them being black) to be racist. Prejudiced? Yes. Bigoted? Most definitely. But let us not forget that Racism, by definition, is POWER + Prejudice. Not many POC groups have much of the former in that definition, especially in the context of globalization.

    Further, let it be asserted that intragroup relations are not comparable to relations between what are recognized a separate racial entities. So all this crap about, "Well "dark" skinned black people and "light" skinned black people do blah blah blah to one another," is, in fact, derailing. What dark and light skinned blacks supposedly do to one another is something entirely self-contained within the black community and does not, on any substantial level, impact the mode of defacto White Supremacy in the Western World (yes, all of the Western World including Latin America *I'm looking at you Brasil*).

    Now, in terms of Oso's comment on Han Chinese. Well, Macon, the last time I checked you weren't Han Chinese nor were you a Chinese scholar with an intricate understanding of the culture, so what could you possibly contribute to such a topic other than a white, western view point? To Oso, for this comment, all I can say is "Uh? DURRRRR! What?" To suggest discussing that mode of racism would be akin to a Japanese male, who has lived in Japan all his life and never interacted with anyone outside of his social context, discussing the history of British xenophobia and sexism in comparison with Japanese xenophobia and sexism...if that makes any sense.

    However, in spite of these faults in reasoning, as well as a few others that I have not the time to address at the moment, I have to agree that at times the Arab Trader Argument in flung around like so much poo in order to stink up someone's possibly legitimate point. However, even in these instances there are some points of OBVIOUS derailment which, no offense to WP reading this blog, that some have attempted to wrongly debate for their validity.

    Anyway, I'll stop rambling and sum up my point as such. One, this blog is one of the best things since sliced bread. Two, there is some validity to the point that, at times, ignorant white people are ferociously shouted down like a puppy that just went wee on the carpet and couldn't have known any better simply because they've lived their entire lives in blissful ignorance of reality, and this does need to be addressed. Third and finally, and this has been stated several times I'm sure, this is a blog about the stuff white people do written by a white male. I would be thoroughly offended if Macon up and decided to discuss issues pertaining to the black community from throne of white, middle class privilege. Not that these issues can't be discussed, but they are a very sensitive topic and a lot of people don't have the necessary tact (I'm not suggesting all don't, but experience has taught me that the relative number is very small) when it comes to discussing them, either because of their own racist tendencies or simply because of ignorance.

    Anyway, keep up the good work Macon. Yes, some aspects of the site could be improved, but overall this is a great blog you have going and don't let anyone tell you any different.

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  86. Your blog helps me understand a lot about how whites think and act when it comes to POC. In fact your blog is one of the best blogs I've seen.

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  87. Huh. I'm surprised at my reaction in comparison to everyone else's. Maybe I'm just in a not-suffering-fools mood right now, but I don't see any reason to take ANY part of this "criticism" seriously. Not one point is valid, and on top of that, they're practically floating in obfuscatory derailment sauce. Frankly, reading it made me angrier and angrier. I waited a whole day, and I'm still pissed.


    "I don't think that focusing on a critical perspective of just one ethnicity is useful"
    Then don't! SWPD is not the one and only venue for thinking about a more just society. The "focusing on only one" construction is rhetorically dishonest. Read more than one blog. "Problem" solved.

    "it seems to me that your blog often insinuates that only whites are maliciously discriminatory..."
    How? Where? Quote? Link? Because it sure doesn't seem that way to me. FYI: insinuating and inferring are two different things.

    [1] "I've found that urban, white americans are some of the least discriminatory people I have met. [2] And I mean that both on the surface (panic attacks when deciding between saying "black" or "african american") and deep down (most likely to have close friends of other ethnicities and to think deeply -- as you do -- about legacies of ethnic relations)"
    1) IME: hardly. And I've been traveling since the age of 3. Admittedly, I have not been to Africa or Asia.
    2) Total non sequitur. This logic does not follow; in fact, it verges on militantly idiotic. The examples (especially stumbling over black-vs-AA) actually made me laugh— bitterly. Is... is that a joke? And since when does just knowing someone who thinks about a subject helpful? I know calculus; I think and talk about it all the time. Yet none of my friends can tell you shit about Fourier analysis. And between racism and mathematics, guess which subject they'd rather discuss? Unless you are interested it's not soaking in. Unless you're interested, you're actively filtering it out!

    I won't even touch the "not as discriminatory/more discriminatory" bit. What does that word even mean (to him, as used here)?

    [continued...]

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  88. A lot of the comments have already addressed my thoughts, and the ones that haven't been addressed I wasn't sure I ought to contribute - I don't comment often, although I frequently lurk and find your blog to be an incredible resource, as many others have said.

    The thing that I've been thinking about - I'm trying to contextualize Oso's criticism with another post written over a year ago by another blogger. You may be familiar with it: Gauge's post on Can We Stop Using The Term Ally? While the two critiques differ from one another - Oso's focus on classism as trumping racism, versus Gauge's focus on how the use of "allies" centers the work being done on the oppressors instead of the oppressed - but I think that they can inform each other and maybe together contribute to something useful to consider.

    I do want to make clear that I appreciate your blog, and that I recognize that its focus on "white tendencies" as often-invisible perpetrators of systemic racism is a valid and valuable one. Part of the work of an ally, in my opinion, is to use their privilege to bring the message of justice to those within their own circles of influence, and you're doing that by helping other white people see and, hopefully, understand their whiteness in new ways.

    At the same time, though, I have to wonder whether blogs with focuses like yours - for all that they are important, and necessary - constitute the kind of privileging that Gauge is talking about in making the movement about the oppressed. My concerns also tie in, to a degree, with the tendency of the privileged to feel that they can stop at consciousness-raising - that simply being aware of their privilege, and feeling guilty about it, and spending a lot of time thinking about and talking about that guilt is somehow enough to combat injustice on a systemic level. (I ran into this a lot when I was co-facilitating intergroup dialogues around race/ethnicity - we'd inevitably get bogged down in White Tears moments and I suppose I still resent that, to a degree.) I don't necessarily believe you to be guilty of this, because the fact that you're using a blog as a platform to educate other white people strikes me as a "taking action" plan all on its own, and I would be hypocritical if I said that doing the kind of work you're doing isn't "real" or is somehow less useful or whatever to the work of social justice.

    Thanks again for the work that you do - it feels good to have a space like yours online.

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  89. [paraphrase] "PoC discriminate too! I've been discriminated against overseas!"
    This isn't a perfect-form ATA, but it's very damn close. What happens when you delete that entire paragraph? Nothing, that's what. No meaning is lost. Because it's a red herring. It's a handful of caltrops in the path.

    "My real issue with the framing of your blog is that ethnicity is just one of many variables that factor into how we discriminate"
    Aaaand...? Nobody should focus on ethnicity then?

    "Class, religion, taste, geography, accent: depending on the person and situation these factors often transcend ethnicity when we shape our identity and when we discriminate."
    Is it just me, or is this statement almost always a prelude to a throwing up of hands? And/or a way to keep oneself busy thinking about all the things that need thinking about— as opposed to actually thinking about any of them?

    "they are really discussing class and not race."
    And this was where I lost my shit completely. Is there no venue where I can escape this?? "Let me tell you what you're talking about." WTF? If I hear it one more time, I will need bail money. a) In all these years, this thread is literally the first time I've EVER heard anyone come back with the obvious [omgthankyou, technicolorsheep!]: class and race and intimately related. Look the fuck around you!! The upper and middle classes are overwhelmingly white. b) If we must rank which is more significant, we might think about why that is so. The current class structure did not form organically, it was/is CREATED, and race was— and IS— a huge part of the placement algorithm. 3) CLASS IS NOT A NEGLECTED SUBJECT! For literally CENTURIES, people of all stripes have spent their entire LIVES writing/talking/thinking about class. If you don't think it's been covered adequately, start a blog. Is there some reason this blog can't focus on something else?

    My overall reaction throughout? Fuck this "oh, hi, ur doin' it wrong" bullshit. This is not my blog, I don't know Macon, I don't always agree with him, and I visit other blogs. Yet I am offended, and not just on his behalf. I see this shit much too often. "This thing? That you spend a lot of your time and energy on? And that other people get a lot out of? Oh honey. I know you're trying, but no part of it has value. Here, let me tell you the one-and-only proper way to go about it. Because I know." You know what fuck you.

    Humility. Look into it.

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  90. One of the things I do worry about is that this blog sometimes misses some important class/race intersectionality by focusing so hard on race.

    In particular, it often seems like this blog's analysis of racism is limited to face-to-face (or handle-to-handle) interaction between white people and non-white people. From reading SWPD, you'd get the impression that the vast majority of racism was experienced by the relatively small number of POC who have Internet access and/or lots of white acquaintances -- that is, the relatively rich ones.

    I'm glad this got posted, because this is one of the few conversations I've seen on this blog about the effects of racism on the huge numbers of POC who go there entire lives without seeing a white person. I absolutely second TAB that the fact that the immediate agents of their oppression may be other POC doesn't mean that white people aren't ultimately to blame -- but we may need to talk about POC's internalized racist behaviors, and the ways class oppression among POC can be engendered by white racism, in order to address the effects of whiteness on these people.

    So in a sense, I think ATAs may sometimes be beneficial to discussions of racism -- because they (unintentionally) force us to clarify the ways that white racism can reach people who otherwise seem to be unaffected by whiteness. This effect is especially important because in many cases these people, despite being largely left out of conversations about race, are among the people most severely harmed by racism.

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  91. Catherine,

    I don't think it's a matter of "degrees" of whiteness or blackness (as if there could be such a thing), but I think the key difference is White people can get privileges just by being White. If I met a Black person who by and large received privileges just for being Black I'd probably give him/her a sardonic chuckle and a high-five.

    I think you are talking about this blog in general (which is relevant, since that seems to be what Oso critiqued) while I'm talking about this particular discussion, "the anything but race" argument. I don't think talking about race (even exclusively) is a bad thing--the fact that people are so quick to change the subject or shout down the conversation suggest to me that maybe it needs to be talked about more, since *not talking* hasn't worked that well so far. If it wasn't important, I guess no one would care. Also, as I mentioned before, the motive behind pointing out "stuff other people do" is more important to me than the action of pointing it out. If I call attention to someone stealing because I think stealing is wrong, that's one thing. If I do it to deflect from the fact that I stole too, there's a problem.

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  92. I've been reading this blog for a month or so. I like to read it because it opens my eyes to a lot of things, and keeps me aware. It's like a daily dose of priming myself to be able to question things taken for granted, and being able to actually see white privilege and culture in action.

    I find the narrow focus of this blog very helpful and relevant to my everyday life. It is assumed that other people are racist in a variety of ways-- however, other blogs can be made. Other people can take up that mantle if they should so choose.

    However, the content of this blog is not exactly very common information (at least not in mainstream media-- I've taken classes that have touched upon these ideas, but most of those ideas were refuted by white students who wanted desperately for their country to be postracial). It is well-written. It is a very good way to find other articles of interest. I appreciate this blog a lot.

    I think that there are several stages that white people have to go through before they start acknowledging/working on their prejudices. Some people are not ready for your blog. I wouldn't have been a few years ago. My response to this blog would have been pretty dismissive had I found it in high school, when I lived in a small midwestern town of 4,400 (with only a couple of POC to be seen). It's not that I was a bad person, but I was pretty ignorant. I wouldn't have been likely to have been talked into seeing things in a different light until experience had called for a different paradigm to emerge.

    As has been said, the material that I read on here, and the thoughts that the material provokes, affects many of my loved ones. It has sparked racial conversations that should be had. Thank you for this blog.

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  93. @snarkymachine

    Yeah, he definitely gets the gas face.

    @Macon

    Really? You gave Oso, who's apparently living the life of pathological derailment and privilege, the opportunity to question whether this blog is pertinent? He's a classic case of a white male privy to not living a life under scrutiny. Of course, he now hates that that privilege is over. Apparently, he's not well-verse in racism and its systematic global destruction to even suggest analysis from him. Urban whites less discriminatory? Seriously? He trotted out Colorism without knowing the basis of it? My goodness, Macon, don't let him kill your desire for understanding.

    This blog is very relevant. Seriously, has this been an epic troll posting or what?

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  94. Here's what annoys me. Unless the poster is a guest, Macon usually focuses on racism in America (as I do). And yet commenters always want to bring up the "other countries" argument.

    Why the avoidance of focusing on racism in America? Why not fix "here" first before even thinking about elsewhere? What's with the American tendency to automatically point fingers at another nation the moment someone calls attentions to America's own flaws?

    If America is sick of people discussing its flaws, maybe America should buckle down and fix the damn flaws instead of maintaining them and devising new ones.

    Men and women don't get paid the same money for the same work in America, nor do people of different colors, and this has been pointed out since day one. And yet....

    Gay marriage is not legal throughout the country, though social scientists have long debunked the notion of gays being inherently dysfunctional. And yet....

    Blacks & Latinos are not responsible for the bulk of crime of America, and anyone willing to read would know that. Hell, even the cops who engage in racial profiling know this. And yet....

    Do I really need to continue?

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  95. OMG. I'll post more later when I've managed to get through all the other comments but I did just want to get in just one suggestion:

    Oso's very first comment of clarification warrants being moved up into the post itself for, well, clarity.

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  96. As a Black Man who's diggin' your blog, i've got one thing to say...just stay in your lane...meaning...in this modern world, white supremacy is the catalyst for all of the racial divisions expressed among Black people in particular, and people of color in general...Light skin blacks lording it over dark skinned Blacks is a product of the white slave owners "divide to conquer"...the "hierachy of color" in other groups of color is a byproduct of white supremacy...Now where we muddle the issue is when we make no distinction between what ALL people are capable of and what a particular group is doing in the here and now and in the recent past...Collectively, white people are in the catbird seat and lording it over the rest...Is that to say that in another place in time that other groups in another time and space didn't act in a similiar fashion?...no!...we can only hold people accountable for what they are doing in the present...sooo, understanding the collective mindset of white people and their relationship with non-white peoples is essential to understanding our society NOW!

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  97. Jasmin,

    I don't believe that black people in the upper income bracket have a lower loan approval rating than whites in the lowest income bracket.

    If it's true, though, I'm clearly operating in a world of illusion, and I'd like to know better. Would you be willing to document that with some numbers?

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  98. I think I may be in karinova's boat. After I read Oso's latest comment, I'm even more annoyed. I mean, really? How is this sentence: "In terms of ethnicity, nationality, and languages spoken I probably have the most diverse group of friends of anyone I know" not just another way of saying, "see, I have ethnic friends. I'm not racist." To me, what underlies these statements is a complete oblivion to how PoC's may feel in a white person's presence, even one they call a colleague or friend. I know, because most of my colleagues and in town friends are white and I watch them laugh and joke about those silly conservatives. I watch them get angry about the clearly racist statements and still, and still a woman of color like me can still feel silenced when talking about race, can still feel tabooed with talking about race. Just because you're white, Oso, and "have no problem making friends with people from other ethnicities" doesn't mean that those same people feel as comfortable around you or see you in the same way.

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  99. Is Oso making an effective critique below of swpd?
    Not really. Just about every sentence of it has been shown to be misguided, at best.

    If you're a regular reader of "stuff white people do," what brings you back?
    I keep coming back because I keep learning stuff. Stuff that I'd never thought about (despite observing it regularly or having done it myself), stuff that I'd thought about but not been able to understand, stuff that I'd thought I understood but definitely didn't. I do think that I've been able to avoid some "some white tendencies" (online and IRL) because of reading here.

    Like sjcottrell, I've had many conversations IRL that were sparked by the posts on SWPD. The comment threads are also very important to me - macon, you do have some crazy-smart readers. And like bloglogger, I appreciate how derailment is handled. And like Geneva, I've found it a good starting point for exploring related topics.

    Although I also enjoy the frequency of the posts, that's not what keeps me coming back.

    And, does anything in Oso's critique point to ways that you think swpd could be improved ...?
    Only if you give his critique a very generous reading. Scratch that. Even a generous reading doesn't help much. But on the topic of class, which he brought up ... There have been a number of occasions on SWPD when intersectionality has caused some of us commenters to f-up or even caused an entire post to warrant a redo. So, yeah, some of us need to work on recognising and understanding intersectionality. But we need to be careful to avoid that other thing WPD: Avoid addressing racism by calling it another ism, especially classism.

    Maybe Oso's second comment could suggest a topic for a post: SWPD: only be close friends with POC of their own social class. I'm not sure how true that is but, contrary to his experience, I think that most WP _are_ close to several other WP outside of their own social class (through extended family/certain hobbies/religious affiliation/....)

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  100. @stickler

    Or you could more than likely look it up your self. There are numerous handy dandy search engines to choose from.

    Hell, there are even newspapers and journals and periodicals that have reported on this with numbers and bibliographies for further research that you can just as easily look for instead of having someone do your homework for you. =)

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  101. 'Is that to say that in another place in time that other groups in another time and space didn't act in a similiar fashion?...no!' (ronnie brown)
    Macon starts from what seems to me like the right position: it's not those Others (defined by race or class or anything else) who are the problem. Or at least not the part of the problem a middle-class white American guy should focus on.

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  102. Just when I was thinking Macon had unintentionally " unleashed the hounds" ala Monty Burns I realized Nelsons " Ha ha" is more apt. No cool points lost though.

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  103. Why are Oso's comments being engaged with so much more thoughtfully than most of the POC guest bloggers who've posted here?

    Just something to think about.

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  104. In this country, white people are the ones who don't talk about and don't think about, don't really know anything about race. People see what the are incentivized to see, so when it comes to racism we are in the dark unless someone turns on the lights. This blog is shining that light right where it needs to be. On white people.

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  105. @RVC,
    Good question. I wonder if it has something to do with the way macon introduced the material--that is, he almost endorsed Oso's arguments by appearing to be concerned about their validity? But maybe it also has to do with white-maleness, which is, I think, what you're suggesting. (although, it also seems to me that, on blogs that deal with anti-racism, there is ALWAYS more activity when a white person makes claims that clearly need to be picked apart and challenged. POC tend not to make claims that require that kind of attention. I'm not dismissing, though, the very real weight of the male whiteness dynamic)

    @macon,
    I wonder if you would consider doing a follow-up post in which you examine why you found Oso's arguments at least somewhat troubling, and where you find yourself in relation to them now, following all of this conversation. It seems like an excellent opportunity for the kind of self-analysis that you are so good at. (I also find myself wondering if you are concerned about the direction swpd is taking, and if there is more that would be useful to discuss in that vein. YOUR concerns, though, rather than someone else's)

    @Catherine & Stickler,
    I think it's worth remembering that we're discussing macro-level institutional forces of racism and privilege at swpd. But institutional racism is not completely deterministic, so of course, at a micro-level, there are exceptions. Otherwise, Sotomayor wouldn't be on the supreme court, Obama wouldn't be president, etc., etc. But I don't see how focusing on the exceptions is very useful.

    If you have any doubt about institutional racism and its relationship to wealth, please go and read Oliver & Shapiro's Black Wealth/White Wealth and Shapiro's The Hidden Cost of Being African American. For similar work on institutional barriers to wealth for other races/ethnicities, see work by Paul Ong, Varisa Patraporn, and Fernando Torres-Gil.

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  106. Stickler,

    Check out "Black Wealth, White Wealth" by Oliver or "Evidence on Discrimination and Mortgage Lending" by Ladd, for example.

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  107. RVCBard said...
    Why are Oso's comments being engaged with so much more thoughtfully than most of the POC guest bloggers who've posted here?

    Just something to think about.


    Good question. Perhaps it was the very notion that "analyzing the ways of white folks is a waste of time". From the oneset of his post derailment aside it seemed dismissive at least in my opinion. It came across as " why bother" as if analyzing Western/white society did not warrant doing so. Im just sayin.

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  108. @RVCBard - that's a scary smart question. (I suppose one reason is that, we're kinda angry?)

    @David Sasaki - I am with cl on your last comment.

    In terms of ethnicity, nationality, and languages spoken I probably have the most diverse group of friends of anyone I know. (Are statements like that “stuff white people do”?...

    Uhm, definitely. I hear it often from white people and rarely from pocs. Usually white ppl cite it as their "therefore I cannot possibly be racist" credentials. It's sort of similar to the, "I don't care if your black, blue, yellow, or purple..." line of thought, just more sophisticated.

    My friends are a mixed bunch like yours, and that includes white people. Most are middle class and educated. So am I. In fact, there are many middle class, educated poc commenters here. Yet many of us still experience racism. Sometimes I experience it from my own (close) white friends. Most of the time I turn a blind eye to it. I don't say anything because I doubt they'll 'get it'. They probably don't know they're being racist, and probably won't admit to it even if I told them. But they've got enough good qualities for me to still want to be their friend.

    By the same token, I have less privileged friends towards whom I'm sometimes (unintentionally) classist. Sometimes they call me out on it. But I wouldn't be surprised if there are many times when they don't. I am grateful they still want to be my friend. This blog has helped me heaps to understand how I might be classist. Yes, this blog can be applied to classism, but classism doesn't cancel out racism.

    So what you should be wondering is, "How many of my poc friends turn a blind eye to my (unintentional) racism? And what is it that I do that is possibly racist that I don't know about?"

    Classism exists, but so does racism. They exist together.

    I guess I was projecting my own qualms onto your writing.

    Uhm, yeah. There is nothing wrong with being drawn to ppl with common interests, but if you have issues with class beyond that, well deal with it without putting down others who are trying to deal with racism.

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  109. @saraspeaking re: "My concerns also tie in, to a degree, with the tendency of the privileged to feel that they can stop at consciousness-raising - that simply being aware of their privilege, and feeling guilty about it, and spending a lot of time thinking about and talking about that guilt is somehow enough to combat injustice on a systemic level."

    Concern . . . concern . . . now where have I heard th--oh, a concern troll! I don't know where you get the idea that this blog (I assume you are talking about this blog) engages in or encourages spending time thinking and talking about guilt. As has been pointed out, guilt is an emotion that often comes with realizing that one could have known or should have known better, but it is a transitory emotion. To dwell on it is as pointless as dwelling on feeling sad. Feel it if it comes and see where it leads.

    On the point of consciousness raising, no one here to my knowledge has ever said that consciousness raising is the end all. To "combat injustice on a systemic level, however, it is a necessary step, you might agree. To dive into trying to change an institution like racism without having raised one's awareness of its mechanisms and one's own role in it is folly, IMO. It is too easy, for white people especially, to fall into the comfort of business as usual when confronted with the enormity and intractability of racism.

    @Catherine re: 'What I'm trying to point out, and what I think Oso was getting at, is that viewing the world through the "everything white people do, simply because they're white, is racist" lens, as this blog does, is just such a vastly incomplete picture of the way inequality works that I question the driving motivations of the people who love it so much.'


    Wh . . . Whaa? Everything white people do is racist? That's not even a very well-constructed straw man. Even if every posting on the blog is about how white people unconsciously support and perpetuate racism and white supremacy--hey, everything posted IS about that--it doesn't mean that the posters think that everything white people do is racist. It's the focus of the blog! It doesn't mean that the posters think nothing else exists! Sheesh.

    White people (like the many who have said the blog is valuable, including me) have a hard time seeing the way many of our actions, which we have been conditioned to see as race neutral, are actually helping to maintain the edifice of white supremacy. I see that as an examination of "the way inequality works." What do you mean by that phrase?

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  110. Macon, I like your blog, and I think it serves a good purpose. Most of the people that will comment are the people moved to actually write a comment, so you're going to get strong opinions either way! :)

    I think you have a pretty large readership of non-commenters who are moved to thought by the essays presented here. Yes, they're not going ot agree with all of them, and there is going to be fail in the comments and in the posts from time to time - that's part of unpacking white racism.

    Being able to come back and keep going shows white people afraid of discussing racism that it a)can be done, and 2. may hurt, but it's the right kind of hurt, the kind that comes with shedding privilege. The bad thing is that it leads to incredible hurt for the PoC that comment here, and spend a lot of their emotional resources educating us white folk on the things that we have chosen to ignore for most of our lives.

    Furthermore, it brings to light the kind of "invisible" (to white people) racism that whites don't realize is racism, or shy away from admitting as racism. It takes blogs like this to make people get comfortable with the idea that they are racist because they live in a racist society, and it's not enough to pretend that they are nice, they need to unpack that shit.

    (I love this blog, though I don't often comment - I have you linked from my LJ.)

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  111. scary-smart. I'm sorry about the ablism above.

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  112. @RVCBard

    Why are Oso's comments being engaged with so much more thoughtfully than most of the POC guest bloggers who've posted here?

    I can only speak for myself on this, but my answer is: as a white person, I often feel unqualified to comment on post by POC talking about their experiences. So I take the opportunity to just lurk and learn.

    The topic of this post - why you read swpd, and how worthwhile the blog is - is something that every reader of swpd is qualified to comment on.

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  113. RVCBard said...
    Why are Oso's comments being engaged with so much more thoughtfully than most of the POC guest bloggers who've posted here?

    You pose an excellent question, and I don't know the answer. Seems like many of the responses have as much to do with defending the purpose /existence of the blog, and in equal measure addressing the topic of race /class intersection. I think with previous topics the blog was not under attack, so it did not need its defenders. As to why others did not engage those prior topics with similar enthusiasm, only they can answer. I’m interested to hear your opinion.

    Now, I find some of the comments very telling. It seems like there are a handful of lurkers (or maybe more) that use this blog as a learning tool to deal with their racist indoctrination. It's almost like a 12 step program, where at first they deny their racist tendencies or their race privileges. As they read the blog and the comments, over time they see more clearly how their behavior affect others. Then they begin to acknowledge their complicity in this racially corrupt system, and maybe begin to adjust their prior beliefs and behavior. Hi, I'm a racist, I'm working to overcome it, I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I relapse, but I'm trying to do right by others. Next thing you know they are mentoring a newbie. I can see the benefit. I’ve no experience with a 12 step program, so if my analogy is in some way inappropriate, my apologies.

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  114. @bloglogger: Ouch. I'm hurt by the accusation of concern-trolling, although re-reading my comment, I can see where you might think so. I apologize for not having contextualised my comment as concretely as would have been useful and, apparently, necessary. If you'll allow me to fix that: originally I had sent it as an email to Macon because I hadn't been sure whether the concerns I had about blogs like this one would constitute derailing. It seemed like there was plenty of productive conversation that had effectively dismantled Oso's argument and shown it for the sorry heap of privilege-wielding that it is, and I wish I had seen that too the first time I read it and submitted commentary to Macon. However, he said that he found it appropriate, and submitted it on my behalf.

    To the points you made: As I mentioned in my previous comment, I was also thinking heavily about Oso's argument within the context of a larger discussion about allies and ally-work for social justice, and to the point that Oso made regarding the necessity of addressing items like classism, colorism, internalised oppression, etc. it was relevant (in my mind) because yes, this blog (and others like it) do, by default, make it All About White People.

    And yes, this is useful work, and necessary work, and I've said it both within emails and here that I'm glad space like this exists. This is truly working in solidarity to achieve justice and I appreciate what is happening here.

    I don't know where you get the idea that this blog (I assume you are talking about this blog) engages in or encourages spending time thinking and talking about guilt. ... On the point of consciousness raising, no one here to my knowledge has ever said that consciousness raising is the end all.

    Again, I apologize for not having made myself clear. It is not that I think that Stuff White People Do is guilty of perpetuating this kind of navel-gazing; rather, that it is been my experience in both real life and online that sometimes, white people seem to think that simply being aware of their privilege and feeling bad about it is somehow enough, or that they've Done Their Part by acknowledging their whiteness, without taking further steps to *do* something about it. I realize that it isn't within Macon's ability to control what people do with the education they receive here, and I don't expect him to do anything about the people who'll want cookies for having taken those difficult first steps. I was only trying to provide explanation for my concern about the focus on whiteness.

    I don't know how else to make it clearer that I am not here as a concern troll, but I welcome further questions if clarification is required.

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  115. @riche said...
    For what it's worth, I think this article just invited a bunch of people who simply don't "get it" to come post comments full of "stuff white people do".

    If this is your first time posting on SWPD, you really need to (1) go read the commenting guidelines, (2) go back and read a number of past articles (especially the ones linked from the commenting guidelines) including the comments on them, and (3) check your own whiteness.

    With that said, back to my first thought, I wonder if there's anything that Macon could do better here to help newcomers "get it" quicker and avoid "preaching to the choir". But I doubt it. White people who aren't willing to put in the effort to actively learn about racism (for example doing 1-3 above) can't be made to understand just by changing the format or topic of posts. It's going to take someone they individually respect (i.e. almost certainly a white person) calling them out and demanding they change before they'll do anything...

    I really don't think Macon is preaching to the "choir" because we're not the choir - even as anti-racist white people we're also racist, and this blog is about learning to understand that and considering perspectives we've never had due to our privilege.


    It was my first time commenting, but I have read the "rules to commenting" post and most of the links referenced in it. However, since Macon opened up the comments to this post for critical feedback, I figured this was the time to discuss some issues that I have with his "rules".

    I find it interesting, as I read through all the comments left after mine, that anytime someone agreed ever so slightly with Oso, they were slapped with one of three arguements - ARA, Defacto White Supremacy, or the "you just don't get it" arguement. All of which are absolute conversation killers.

    I thought one of the main points of Macon's blog was to encourage such discussions... but apparently the only kind of conversation that the "regular readers" want to have is with people who already agree with them... which kinda reinforces the "preaching to the choir" arguement.

    I 'get' a lot of what Macon talks about on this blog. I'm a social worker who sees the effects of institutional racism (and more everyday obvious racism) affect her clients (and friends) on a regular basis. That is why I try to seek out places that talk about racism and its far reaching effects.

    However, I do think there is more to discrimation than simply racial discrimination. If Macon wants to devote his blog solely to helping people think critically about the role of Stuff White People Do in the context of racism - I have no problem with that! I'll continue to read his blog for that purpose.

    But I also believe that other forms of discrimination are just as pervasive (and growing) in both the US and other countries. (Which is what Oso was pointing out.) I look forward to the day we can have open, ongoing conversations about how to end ALL forms of discrimination. Then we will truly be on our way to a "more just society". Sorry if any of my comments violate the "rules" - feel free to dismiss my point of view completely!

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  116. We live in a society where we can have racism without racists, so its probably important to understand the structures which define, regulate, and generate understands of whiteness, myths about whiteness, and collective identity constructions surrounding whiteness. In other words, analyzing 'stuff white people do' is probably more important than analyzing stuff other people do, because it is something that organizes large parts of the way society works - racial difference is written into the rules so thoroughly that it doesn't generally appear on an overt level.

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  117. SocialWrkr24/7 said...

    I find it interesting, as I read through all the comments left after mine, that anytime someone agreed ever so slightly with Oso, they were slapped with one of three arguements - ARA, Defacto White Supremacy, or the "you just don't get it" arguement. All of which are absolute conversation killers.

    how so?

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  118. I appreciate this blog, and I say that because I think it's funny. It does sometimes delve into the intimate particulate matter of racism, but it just as frequently points out very superficial nuances that I tend to agree with, and LAUGH at. I guess I'm not sure why we exhaust ourselves with so much trauma about who can be the most politically correct about racism, classism, etc. And David, if that's who wrote the gigantic ethnography on the egregious errors of twpd (please note the sarcasm), I take issue with your assertions about "urban white folks". I mean, use some history here... if you're going to start that discussion, at least include a sidebar about the definition of urban (I'd argue that these white folks are more likely SUBurban, as we STILL have not see the return of the white middle class to the urban area on a consistent basis), and leave room for regional differences. The ONLY city you have an argument with, in my book, is San Francisco, and those are within City limits only. Look at any older City and you'll be hard pressed to find a significant "white middle class." Hang out in suburban New Jersey, though, and the flocks abound. Let's not be simple-minded when we look at the very purposeful and historic separation and segregation of people. And, I'd be interested in what you think about the "new American," which I find myself to be a part of... as a mixed person, I do not, and cannot, identify with only one group. In fact, I find myself to relate to ANYONE with immigrant parents more than a particular ethnic group. All the while, my dad is white, and I don't like boats, jetskis, Ed Hardy, RayBans, or many of the other FUNNY things that twpd points out. Will we ever sacrifice political correctness for levity? Christ, people, smile a little bit and then hug all your multi-ethnic, rich and poor friends.

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  119. SocialWrkr24/7,

    I guess since the blog is called SWPD (emphasis added), it makes sense that it talks about White People. Why don't you start your own blog about ending all discrimination, if that's what you'd like to see?

    I mean that seriously(not snarkily)--if so many people want to "focus on more than just White people", where are all of the "Stuff All People Do" blogs?

    I don't think critiquing the content on blog is unwarranted, but critiquing the existence of a blog because it talks about what it's supposed to talk about (per the title) seems pretty silly. Why would I go to the deli to buy lettuce?

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  120. Well, folks, I think with cheeseless pizza's latest addition, I can now call derailment bingo and head home(and he thinks we don't have a sense of humor...)

    @jasmin, high five for lettuce at the deli analogy.

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  121. saraspeaking said...
    "Again, I apologize for not having made myself clear. It is not that I think that Stuff White People Do is guilty of perpetuating this kind of navel-gazing; rather, that it is been my experience in both real life and online that sometimes, white people seem to think that simply being aware of their privilege and feeling bad about it is somehow enough, or that they've Done Their Part by acknowledging their whiteness, without taking further steps to *do* something about it."

    Just a thought:
    From Suffrage, to the Feminist movement of the 60's (NOW) until present day. When we speak of gay rights (GLADD) or drunk driving (MADD) we are speaking of impassioned whites fighting for a cause. From Pro-choice groups to Pro-Life campaigns, whites are at the forefront of these activities. From animal rights (PETA) to Greenpeace, you're right there on the front lines confronting the evil that plagues "your" world. In the Environmental arena, groups like Earth First, or the Earth Liberation Front use whatever means necessary to make others aware.

    Even some pedophiles have organized and protested (NAMBLA) to lower the age of consent. (Not that there aren't any black pedophiles.) Whites amass at political rallies, engage in civil disobedience- hoisting signs for almost any cause it seems; yet you can almost count the sites/organizations run by whites on your hand that actively confront racism. As you said, "white people seem to think that simply being aware of their privilege and feeling bad about it is somehow enough, or that they've Done Their Part by acknowledging their whiteness, without taking further steps to *do* something about it."

    However, Whites will brave almost any situation for causes other than race, and will willingly suffer for their convictions. Except when it comes to anti-racism; you wont find many martyrs for the cause in this area. Not many are willing to lose friends, or be disowned by loved ones for their heroic stance on race. One recalls those brave white activists who suffered when they rode on interstate buses as freedom riders during the 60's; suffering hand in hand with blacks for a common cause. That took a tremendous amount of courage as well as personal conviction.

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  122. I've only read about half the comments before me, so forgive me if I repeat (I'll read more of the thread later, but for now ...).

    Of course it's valuable to look at the institutionalized classism, sexism, ageism, ableism ... and some of us are learning things from this blog that can be used to work in those arenas.

    But I notice for myself that almost every time I want to chime in with something like 'they don't only do that to PoC but also to women', what's really going on is I'm uncomfortable to find myself aware that I've done that, whatever it was, and unwittingly supported white privilege.

    I'm much more comfortable, as a WP who happens to be female, with blaming some male WP for institutionalized sexism than I am with noticing my own complicity in institutionalized racism.

    I read this blog every post, and get to the end of the comments on more than half. Macon, you're providing a huge service to those of us WP who haven't had a clue ... or who were brought up to think our responsibility for anti-racism ended with our own behavior ... or to imagine that we're such nice people we're immune to the effects of media stereotyping ... yadda yadda for another page of two-word lists.

    Thanks for being here. Thanks for doing this work. Thanks for letting us lurk, and, occasionally, step up and comment.

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  123. "whatever value swpd has for you"

    This blog is very valuable to me because it sort of serves as an outlet for my frustrations even though I'm only reading. I mean, when sometimes discussing race with a White acquaintance and my point of view falls on deaf ears, at least I know there are people who already understand what I've dealt with, but don't know how to rationalize. (If I'm making any sense at all.) Everything mentioned in this blog is EXACTLY what I encounter offline. It's almost freaky, but very comforting to know that "it's not just me".

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  124. Okay, I'm a bit hesitant to answer this because I don't want to get branded a 'derailer' but I feel that this is on topic.

    I personally feel the Arab Trader Argument is a valid one - not because it excuses racist behavior but because it shows that it's not "white" behavior. The ATA basically boils down to "this behavior has been practiced by ruling majorities and people in power, of every race, and to single out white people is unfair."

    I think that a lot of race discussions tend to boil down to white=bad and POC=good and I feel that it's not getting people anywhere. The world is not so black and white, no pun intended.

    Regarding the ATA - I remember a conversation I once had about the history of slavery in which the following point was made - the difference between white slaveholders and black slaveholders is that the whites stopped enslaving black people in 1865 whereas blacks are enslaved by other blacks in Africa to this very day.

    Also one thing that has to be considered when discussing white privilege - how did whites get that privilege to start off with? I want to make explicitly clear that I think there is a difference between black people (the race) and African culture and the technological and social achievements of Africa, or indigenous Australians or indigenous Americans. But the reason white privilege is even possible is because whites more or less created the social structures that privilege them.

    Why do whites graduate university at higher rates than blacks? White culture invented universities.

    Why have there been no black men on the moon? Because the technology to do so was developed by people of European descent.

    Why did white men become railroad magnates while Chinese men died laboring to build the tracks? Look who invented the steam engine.

    Why do blacks have lower healthcare than whites? What would their healthcare have been like in Africa pre-colonization?

    Now please understand I am in NO WAY saying that white privilege is good, is right, is justified, or anything else, but I am saying that very few people examine why it exists. White privilege is always portrayed as "whites bringing POC down" and very rarely is it brought up that even the unequal conditions in first world countries are far superior to technological and medical care in indigenous societies.

    I'm not saying this to excuse racism, but I'm saying it because I tend to get a bit overwhelmed sometimes hearing about how bad white people are and how all we've done is mess up the world when in actually Euro culture has done a LOT of incredible things. And I feel like Euro culture is being equated with racism to the extent that the contributions of Europe are being undervalued and ignored.

    I don't think any of us blogger types want to go back to a hunter-gatherer society where we'd be lucky to turn 45.

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  125. using Bella Belladonna's logic, the people who "invent" the technology get the "privilege" of lording it over the rest...this is why this blog is so important. Do white people actually believe that without them society would have never left the hunter/gatherer stage????...stop the madness!

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  126. Bella Belladonna,
    I don't even know where to start.

    The nicest thing I could say is that you've profoundly missed the point. It's not about white people being bad and poc being good--please reread this thread and read some more. And your point about the ATA? It's been addressed already. Really, it has. Please read again.

    But this? Honestly? "I don't think any of us blogger types want to go back to a hunter-gatherer society where we'd be lucky to turn 45." OMG, I think my head might explode.

    So the choices are that we either have European "progress" or a "hunter-gatherer society" with low life-expectancy? Really? That is not only completely patronizing, whiter-than-white, and privileged-as-all-get-out, but also historically indefensible. You think Europeans are responsible for all of what you call "progress"? Oh, it is SO much more complicated and nuanced than that.

    But, furthermore, since when do we define the significance of a human life by how much "progress" they have supposedly contributed? Oh, but wait, that way of thinking goes back to our European ancestors who so blithely obliterated "primitive" people left and right (you want to talk European invention? Let's add cholera-infected blankets to the list, shall we?) and then carted in a whole bunch more "primitive" people to do the work of "progress". You're right, we really should be more proud of their "accomplishments" [/sarcasm]

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  127. And I feel like Euro culture is being equated with racism to the extent that the contributions of Europe are being undervalued and ignored. [Bella Belladonna]

    @Bella - That's very, very interesting! I went through the North American school system and at 18 I was able to you all about the European Middle Ages, European Renaissance, European Great Schism & Reformation, European Englightenment period, British literature, Russian literature, and American literature. And what did I know about the rest of the world? Next to nothing.

    Where did you grow up? You must've gone to a school that does not use a European language as it's teaching medium. I must say, your English is really good though. Congrats on that. So, where did you do your schooling? In China? Korea? Iran? Palestine? Or...let's see, what other countries are there that have some sort of beef with the Euro-American world...

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  128. Bella, you're a troll, right? The kindest interpretation is that you are breathtakingly ignorant due to an inadequate education. Perhaps you are from a disadvantaged background, or are still young. It is as if you posted a smug argument on a math blog premised on the idea that all numbers can be expressed as fractions. (I.e., in case you are as ignorant of math as you are of history, this would mean that you knew nothing about irrational or imaginary numbers and thought what you'd learned in the sixth grade was everything that you needed to know about math.)

    Things you can look up and learn about: (1) African history, including the history of agriculture in African before the Europeans and the consequences of European colonialism; (2) the rise of European technology happened after the conquest of America, not before. (3) Slavery in the US was an inter-generational and racialized system that was actually quite different from what is happening in Africa today and also different from what happened in the Middle East in the Arab slave trade.

    You're welcome.

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  129. Bella Belladonna,

    The problem with your argument is that you are setting up the situation so that "White behavior" = "minority non-behavior", which is reaching. I don't see how "singling out White people" for doing something bad is inappropriate (especially in a blog about White people), just as singling out one person for doing something bad doesn't mean no one else has ever done it/is doing it concurrently.

    When I hear "ATA" I always think about how growing up my sister was always the one who got caught misbehaving. (I was the slick one. :-P) When she would turn around and say, "But Jasmin snuck a cookie too! My parents would say, "Well, we aren't talking about Jasmin right now." That didn't mean they weren't going to call me on it, or that they hadn't already, but it wasn't her business to worry about it because she was the one currently in the wrong. And what were her motivations for tattling? To deflect from what she had done to get out of trouble. I doubt that talking about "Stuff Everybody Does" would make (White) people more open to self-reflection, because the whole point of deflecting is to never have to look at yourself. So you (obviously the general "you") aren't calling attention to yourself to make taking the punishment easier (solidarity and all that), you are doing it in hopes that what you did will be forgotten amidst all the other "cases".

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  130. Wow. @Bella. Wow. At least you were on topic (as in the title) and you weren't derailing/dodging discussion of racism. You were just dealing it out. I'm just going to address a couple of your points. There are too many.

    There are readers here who are much more schooled in these historical topics than I am but I do want to point out that maybe you have cause and effect backwards. I.e., all these supposedly "white" inventions/institutions have endured because of white privilege. E.g., perhaps the "white" university model is so widespread because white racists colonized and/or erased and/or appropriated and/or destroyed other models of higher learning? And furthermore, (again without questioning the very questionable veracity of these facts) why did the white innovators share these advancements with other WP and not with POC? That would be racism, no?

    You wrote: I am saying that very few people examine why it [white privilege] exists. Doing it your way certainly makes white people look good.

    You wrote: I want to make explicitly clear that I think there is a difference between black people (the race) and African culture and the technological and social achievements of Africa, or indigenous Australians or indigenous Americans. I read this as you're about to explain that POC are collectively inferior to WP even though POC are fine individually. The omission of Asians from your disclaimer is "interesting."

    You wrote: Euro culture has done a LOT of incredible things ....
    I don't think any of us blogger types want to go back to a hunter-gatherer society where we'd be lucky to turn 45.

    That might be the most asinine thing I've ever read on this blog. Perhaps the most asinine thing I've ever read, period. Bella, can you imagine the people who share this world-view with you?

    Oooooh and the "unequal conditions are better than... " crap.

    Bella, WTF!?

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  131. Sorry, Bella, you are too ridiculous for words. White people created and invented all great technologies? If it wasn't for white people we would be stuck as hunter and gatherers? Seriously? White people are the harbingers of "civilization?" Someone REALLY needs to read some more history books (hell, even just read more of this blog) BEFORE they comment more. These are conversations and trains of thought that have been addressed ad nauseum and were as ridiculous then as yours is now. -_-

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  132. SWPD: secretly think we'd all still be hunter gatherers without them

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  133. Just thought I'd mentionMarch 18, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    @ Bella Belladonna

    Europeans didn't invent universities:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_inventions#Institutions

    The first was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, who was from present-day Tunisia. The robes worn by graduates today are adaptations of the robes worn by the Alim (alumni). The fact that we still talk of professors holding the "Chair" of their subject is based on traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair and the students sit around him, and the term "academic circles" is derived from the way in which Islamic students sat in a circle around their professor. The word professor is itself believed to be translation of the Arabic term mufti, which means "professor of legal opinions".

    Just thought I'd mention it since the history of science (and history in general) is so whitewashed - especially when it comes to Muslim contributions to science - and continues to be.

    @ Sean: I agree, except for the secretly bit.

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  134. @ BellaDonna

    PLEASE tell me you're still in middle school and just don't know any better.

    Let me address just one of your woefully misguided question/answers, because it's about all I can stomach.

    "Why have there been no black men on the moon? Because the technology to do so was developed by people of European descent."

    I want you to go look up the Scramble for Africa on Google...and write an essay on your little blog about how fuckin' awesome your entire race would be if a mass of gun-toting white dudes came and invaded your country, carted most of your people off to a foreign country, shot, killed, stole, raped and destroyed. And whoever was left behind was enslaved to build railroads all over the continent (costing you and your people life and limb). Ya REALLY think your mind would be on propelling someone's ass into outer-space after all of that? I'm thinkin' "no". But I'll bet you're thinking... "OMG they weren't enslaved during the Space Race."

    And if you want to bring it around to American blacks... I want you to go look up when black men were allowed to vote legally, when they were allowed to attend a university. How easy it was for them to even get a job where someone gave them credit for their minds.

    Some other topics for you to educate yourself on: colonialism, imperialism and Jim Crow Laws. Your blatant ignorance is appalling.

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  135. " E.g., perhaps the "white" university model is so widespread because white racists colonized and/or erased and/or appropriated and/or destroyed other models of higher learning?"

    Arab and Chinese higher education models still influence the current state of their universities, about to the same extent that NYU or wherever is similar to the original Oxbridge type unis.

    "why did the white innovators share these advancements with other WP and not with POC? That would be racism, no?"

    As I said in my post, yes, that is racism.

    "You wrote: I am saying that very few people examine why it [white privilege] exists. Doing it your way certainly makes white people look good."

    And doing it the other way makes them look bad. I was actually trying to find a middle ground by saying that while it is wrong for Euro culture not to "share their toys" and it certainly doesn't make them good people, the fact is the people they're not sharing with wouldn't have had it anyway.

    "I read this as you're about to explain that POC are collectively inferior to WP even though POC are fine individually. The omission of Asians from your disclaimer is "interesting.""

    No, I'm actually saying that there's no difference between people, but there is a difference between culture. If you read the book "Guns Germs and Steel" it talks about how much of Europe's advantages are due to climate and geography, not innate white superiority. This means that people, on an individual level, are equal, but cultures, which develop in different areas with different advantages, are not equal.

    I did not mention Asia because Asia has a long history of technological and medical progress. Asian advancements shaped the world at least as much as European advancements, especially if you count the ME as part of Asia.

    "The first was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, who was from present-day Tunisia. The robes worn by graduates today are adaptations of the robes worn by the Alim (alumni). The fact that we still talk of professors holding the "Chair" of their subject is based on traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair and the students sit around him, and the term "academic circles" is derived from the way in which Islamic students sat in a circle around their professor. The word professor is itself believed to be translation of the Arabic term mufti, which means "professor of legal opinions"."

    Very cool, thanks for the info :)

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  136. I'm just going to address a few points here:

    "Do white people actually believe that without them society would have never left the hunter/gatherer stage???"

    Certain cultures - yes. Indigenous Australians are the first that come to mind, they were hunter-gatherers when the Brits first landed.

    "You think Europeans are responsible for all of what you call "progress"?"

    No, I think Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are responsible for the majority of progress in the world, but this is SWPD so I'm focusing on European culture.

    "Oh, but wait, that way of thinking goes back to our European ancestors who so blithely obliterated "primitive" people left and right (you want to talk European invention? Let's add cholera-infected blankets to the list, shall we?) and then carted in a whole bunch more "primitive" people to do the work of "progress". You're right, we really should be more proud of their "accomplishments" [/sarcasm]"

    THIS is exactly what I was getting at with my post. This mindset of "let's all be ashamed of our history." Yes, whites used biological warfare. Does that override the progress that has been made regarding sanitation, medicine, vaccinations, medical technology, etc?

    "Bella, you're a troll, right? The kindest interpretation is that you are breathtakingly ignorant due to an inadequate education"

    Actually the kindest interpretation is that I'm honest enough to admit I'm unwilling to live without the safety and comfort provided by technological process that likely wouldn't have occurred if the Americas, India, etc. hadn't been colonized.

    "(1) African history, including the history of agriculture in African before the Europeans and the consequences of European colonialism"

    I'd like you to answer honestly - would you rather live in an African agricultural society (that lacks both temperatures for growing most cereal crops as well as a ready supply of easily domesticated animals) where every day is a struggle to survive?

    "(2) the rise of European technology happened after the conquest of America, not before."

    Yes and no - the technology was already superior enough that it easily overpowered superior numbers at the time of colonization, but you're right that without colonization of the Americas we'd be a lot worse off.

    "(3) Slavery in the US was an inter-generational and racialized system that was actually quite different from what is happening in Africa today and also different from what happened in the Middle East in the Arab slave trade."

    This is true. But it doesn't change the point I was making that slavery, violence, war, conquest, rape, dirty warfare, etc. are NOT something limited to white culture.

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  137. I want you to go look up the Scramble for Africa on Google...and write an essay on your little blog about how fuckin' awesome your entire race would be if a mass of gun-toting white dudes came and invaded your country, carted most of your people off to a foreign country, shot, killed, stole, raped and destroyed. And whoever was left behind was enslaved to build railroads all over the continent (costing you and your people life and limb). Ya REALLY think your mind would be on propelling someone's ass into outer-space after all of that? I'm thinkin' "no". But I'll bet you're thinking... "OMG they weren't enslaved during the Space Race."

    And if you want to bring it around to American blacks... I want you to go look up when black men were allowed to vote legally, when they were allowed to attend a university. How easy it was for them to even get a job where someone gave them credit for their minds.


    I will Google that and get back to you but I will say this - I think you missed my point.

    My point was - what universities would these men have attended in a non-colonized sub-Saharan Africa?

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  138. "SWPD: secretly think we'd all still be hunter gatherers without them"

    Everyone? No. The indigenous people of Australia (where I live?) Yes.

    Please feel free to do your own research if you don't believe me.

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  139. @Bella Belladonna re: 'The ATA basically boils down to "this behavior has been practiced by ruling majorities and people in power, of every race, and to single out white people is unfair."'

    Your honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, murder has been practiced by all kinds of people from time immemorial, and to single out the defendant is unfair!

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  140. Bella Belladona's historical over generalizations aside, her rationale that present day white supremacy doesn't have to be confronted and overthrown because after all, everybody else has done something similar at some point in time is the backward logic we used as kids when we got caught doin' something we weren't supposed to be doin'...ie. "boy, why were you throwing rocks at the bus?...uh, well Joey and them was doin' it too!"...i got a whuppin' anyway...cause mamma don't care about Joey misbehavin', she cares about what i'm doin'!!!...it didn't work for me and it won't work for white folks who attempt to mimimize white supremacy...

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  141. [Bella/Elisabeth -- who just wrote that those are both you, along with much more -- you're being obnoxiously obstinate. I'm not going to give you more space to keep repeating yourself. ~macon]

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  142. @Bella

    Your views/statements about Aboriginal Australians are horrendously offensive. You seem to think of their lifestyle as inferior to yours. Well it's not. Let me illustrate.

    My white Australian friend married a white Australian man who is a farmer. They now live in a small town with acres and acres of land. They have cattle, etc. Would I, an urban dweller, want to live like that? Hell, no. I don't like that kind of lifestyle. And it would be easy for me to think of their lifestyle as somehow 'backwards', and the fast paced urban life as 'progressive'. In fact, I used to think farmers were farmers because they couldn't move into other professions.

    Well, I was dead wrong. This guy likes what he does. When he comes to the city and sees how we live on 300-800m2 plots, he thinks, "Yuck. How could you live on such a tiny little land? It's claustrophobic. What is wrong with these people?"

    Basically, I'm saying that just because I don't like his farming lifestyle, it doesn't make it inferior. Just because he doesn't like the urban lifestyle, it doesn't make it inferior. Just because I don't like the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, it doesn't make it inferior. If you don't like it, fine. But don't try to suggest that it's inferior to the way you're living. That is an arrogant attitude.

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  143. "THIS is exactly what I was getting at with my post. This mindset of "let's all be ashamed of our history." Yes, whites used biological warfare. Does that override the progress that has been made regarding sanitation, medicine, vaccinations, medical technology, etc?"

    No, Bella, you have again missed the point. The Point Is (i'll spell it out for you) that the kind of thinking that you are using here is exactly the kind of thinking used by those who distributed the cholera-laced blankets. Think about it.

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  144. @Bella,

    Admittedly, I'm not very well read in matters of history, but I know enough to not repaint history as what would've happened had such and such an event not occurred. The truth of the matter is, you have no clue what would've happened had the aboriginal Australians not been colonized. You have no idea if they would've developed their own sanitation system or if they would've remained hunters and gathers. fromthetropics is right that just because how they choose to live isn't your lifestyle of preference doesn't mean that your lifestyle is what they would prefer.

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  145. I'm thinking that you understood Guns, Germs, and Steel -- you just ignored it (except when you had to use your having read it to "prove" what you were saying wasn't an example racism).

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  146. By the way, swpd originally focused on stuff that white people do. Now, it focuses almost exclusively on stuff that white people do that happens to be racist. Maybe I missed an interim post explaining the change?

    After all, I don't think "smile tightly" ever had much to do with colonialism or modern white supremacy.

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  147. Is Oso making an effective critique below of swpd?

    Kind of and kind of not. He's right that things like commoditizing foreign cultures for consumption isn't unique to white people and kind of a human trait, particularly of a "dominant" culture. He's missing the point, though. The point is not that what "White People Do" is unique to white people. It's that this is sort parodic thought experiment. It's best explained by this xkcd comic. When someone brings up their native american heritage or commoditizes exotic cultures, we are likely to say, "You commoditize foreign cultures." We are much likely to say, "White people commoditize foreign cultures." SWPD is a thought experiment where the authors actually make that leap, and the readers are confronted with what it is like to think that way.

    If you're a regular reader of "stuff white people do," what brings you back?

    Because sometimes there's an interesting kernel of something to think about, and sometimes the posts are an absolute train wreck.

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  148. "Actually the kindest interpretation is that I'm honest enough to admit I'm unwilling to live without the safety and comfort provided by technological process that likely wouldn't have occurred if the Americas, India, etc. hadn't been colonized."

    Actually, the kindest interpretation is that you're honest enough to admit that you're unwilling to live without the _familiar_ technology you currently have ... and you imagine that no equally satisfying life might have existed or developed if the Europeans hadn't invaded other people's lands, destroyed their culture and religious practice, and stolen their resources and labor.

    Which is blatant nonsense.

    One of the things I hate about being a WP myself is the way some WP think that the technological urbanized life is the only one worth living -- and then want to "share it" (I mean "inflict it on").

    First Peoples on the American continent had stable culture, methods of maintaining stable food supply around the year, deeply related family, clan, and tribal relationships (somewhat similar to the Highland clans of the Scots, in case you're making judgments) ... and a deeply spiritual relationship to our sacred planet.

    Successive waves of Europeans deliberately smashed all that because they wanted to reshape the land in the image of already-overcrowded Europe and use it for themselves. The same argument, incidentally, used by Hitler for his conquest of neighboring European countries and wholesale deportation and slaughter of their citizens (he called it "lebensraum," the need of the German people for more space to live).

    You might consider reading "1491" to add to your education about what the colonizers of what they named America destroyed, partly intentionally and partly through indifference to their own diseases.

    Me? I'm spending a lot of time in recent years trying to re-learn things my grandmother knew about community, the natural world, growing food in season ... and learning some Eastern and African ways of spiritual exploration conveniently left out of my white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant upbringing.

    And no, I don't think WP=bad and PoC=good. But I do think ignorance of history=bad and arrogance=bad, whereas reading other people's viewpoints and learning from them=good.

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  149. I don't disagree with Oso's views regarding classism being a bigger problem than racism, if I understand him/her correctly. In fact, I would argue that the great divide between peoples has always been classism. The haves seek to deprive the have nots in order to retain the controls they already have and consolidate the controls which still elude them.

    Racism is one of many tools used by the haves to prevent the diverse have nots from uniting against them. As long as the haves can continue to convince so-called "poor white trash" that they have more in common with "Beverly Hills socialites" than some "N-words from the projects," the injustices that stem from classism will never be addressed. But perception is reality. The "N-word from the projects" needs to be able to see the value of an alliance with "poor white trash" in the battle for economic fairness - and vice versa - or both will continue to be exploited by the haves.

    I believe blogs like yours that encourage white people to recognize white entitlement as REAL and to question its legitimacy and usefulness are invalueable for removing the blinders from the have not's eyes.

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  150. @Headroomination: Agreed wholeheartedly with your point about racism being employed as a tool to circumvent solidarity among the lower classes, but I'd also point out the trickiness of class unity when one of the myriad ways that racism manifests is through class.

    The epic intersectionality of racism with classism can't be ignored, despite white people who are lower income often trying to disavow their racial privilege.

    A white person may not always have class privilege, but they sure as hell have white privilege.

    Unless we accept bootstraperism and essentialist pseudoscience about nonwhite folks, then the fact that disproportionate percentages living in poverty in an America just happen to be minorities - to say nothing of a global scale where this disproportion becomes the vast, non-white majority - needs to scrutinized in an antiracist context.

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  151. When I go to the People's Institute's Undoing Racism trainings, one of the things they focus on is staying within an American context. This isn't because other experiences don't matter or aren't valid, it's because they're focusing on racism in the US. They say that from the beginning. They know there's racism and prejudice in other countries, but that's not their scope.

    So you gotta think about what your scope is, and what you're qualified to talk about. You and I aren't qualified to talk about de facto Han supremacy, real as it is.

    So don't be ashamed to define the scope of your blog as just American stuff, or just western stuff. That doesn't mean you're ignoring other cultures' issues -- it just means you know what you are and aren't qualified to talk about.

    Also, I don't quite think Oso was using the Arab trader argument. Usually the purpose of that argument is to excuse a white tendency by showing a similar tendency in another culture -- I don't think he was trying to excuse white folks.

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  152. I'm more than a month behind, and there's already been plenty of discussion, but I did want to answer one of your questions:

    "If you're a regular reader of "stuff white people do," what brings you back?"

    I come back because this is a place where other people are talking about things I'm working through myself, AND where it's appropriate for me to comment.

    I read Racialicious too, but I don't feel like it's appropriate for me to comment there. (Not that I feel excluded; I just get that it's a POC space and not the place for me to work through my own understanding of my privilege as a white person.) I often write a response to help me work out my thoughts, but I don't post them.

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  153. I also think it's important to remember that just because things look the same doesn't mean they are the same. I think your initial response to Oso was valid: there is a specific Western, U.S. framework from which you are writing which changes the dynamics of white people's actions. It is important to note the patterns and methods of discrimination which become ingrained and unquestioned and are often exhibited by white people who benefit from white privilege and represent the cultural norm. While racism within non-white groups is important to understand and study, that does not take away from institutional and pervasive racism that exists in everyday American life and is often exemplified by the actions of the white norm.

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  154. I don't agree with Oso. I come back to swpd because as a white girl from rural England (an almost exclusively white place) I like to be reassured that I am not crazy for believing that I live in a Racist society.
    Without spwd and the Racism 101 primers linked to from here, I'd be in an even bigger desert of ignorance about my own privilege. Sure, all the things Oso lists are forms of discrimination, but class, accent and taste are more mutable things than Race and Gender?

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