Thursday, April 15, 2010

go through stages of anti-racism awareness

This is a guest post by Lady Instructor, who blogs at Seeing Race. She writes of herself, "I am a teacher who works primarily with Associate's Degree students. I teach 'Multiculturalism' and my blog is designed to be a venue to explore the issues I have encountered with teaching race in greater detail."


How I Got Here

As part of a meditation on being white, white guilt, white pride (or the absence thereof), and the practice of being an ally, I decided to write a little about the path by which I arrived at this point in my education and anti-racism. I intend to write more about the general experience of being white and white guilt at a later date, but for now I'd like to indulge in some navel gazing.

I was inspired by this post by the totally awesome and hilarious feminist blogger Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown, particularly this part:

A particularly irritating brand of privileged semi-feminism...[comprises] a certain variety of white, ... fairly well-to-do heterosexual cisgendered woman, a woman with a comfortable white-collar job that is so very comfortable and so very white-collar that she is free to spend her spare time yearning for, and semi-believing that she could attain, something with more “meaning.” This woman doesn’t do ... posts about sex workers’ rights, but she does do complaining about “raunch culture”; she doesn’t do anti-racism, disability activism, or trans ally work to any huge extent, but she does do “body image” (and oh, does she ever do body image, without taking much note of the fact that as a white, abled, cis person she conforms to the “beauty standard,” and benefits from conforming to it, in more ways than she will ever let on).

And yes, I butchered it. Go read the original. It's about Liz Lemon. Anyway, Doyle's point is that this type of feminist is inadequate because she doesn't 1) admit her own (vast) privilege and 2) include POC (people of color) in her feminism. She focuses on what oppresses her (body image) without acknowledging where she is the oppressor (white-centric standards of beauty, etc).

Doyle also explains how she has used the experience of her own oppression as a woman as a gateway to step into a larger community where she can explore and educate herself about other areas of oppression that she does not have experience in.

This is almost exactly where I find myself coming from. I clearly remember at some point in college realizing that we do not live in anything approaching a "Post-Race" society, and that to claim so was incredibly ignorant. I remember having thoughts like, "Wait, we're still screwing over the Indians?" I remember realizing that just as every woman has a few stories about sexism that has happened to her, so too does every POC have a few stories of racism that has happened to them. This floored me.

POC, I can hear your knowing, bitter laughter from here.

In the same way that we now claim to not see race, the dominant culture pushes the idea that there is no longer any such thing as racism -- or that the racism that exists is aberrant and extreme (like a KKK member). It can be a difficult journey for a sheltered little white girl to come to grips with the idea of institutional racism, nevertheless the idea that she benefits from this system.

I reacted to this news the way that many of my students do - I- was defensive. B-b-but, I've never done anything to capitalize on my privilege, right? I didn't create this system, it wasn't my fault, I am not a bad person and I never asked for this...

Let's take a second to tally my identities into two columns -- area of privilege vs. area of oppression.

Privilege:
  • White
  • In a heterosexual relationship
  • Conventionally attractive (or at any rate, not entirely hideous)
  • Cis-gendered
  • Average body size
  • Able-bodied
  • Middle class
And I've probably missed a few.

Oppression:
  • Female
Sexism is nothing to sneeze at, but clearly the balance is weighted in my favor.

Yet, despite this fact, when I first began to explore issues of privilege, I wasn't ready to explore the ways in which I benefited in this system. I was more comfortable getting angry and exploring a system in which I did not benefit. And I think that's ok. Because I had had the experience of sexism, I could relate to at first low-level feminist complaint (a girl in a short skirt is not asking to be raped) and I could gradually work into more complex ideas (our culture supports and makes light of rape and sexual assault in numerous common ways).

But still I shied away from or skimmed thoughts on how sexism interacts with other "isms", particularly racism. I had begun to read activist blogs and although I occasionally read something in Racialicious or Stuff White People Do, these ideas still confronted and scared me.

For the first time I was confronted with an environment that was not for me. I had sort of encountered this before with traditionally male-dominated environments, but our culture rewards women who can be "one of the guys" (while remaining feminine, of course), and I had always been fairly fearless at walking that line. I certainly wasn't afraid of male-oriented environments (naively perhaps), and was powered by a feminist "anything you can do I can do better" attitude.

In environments like Stuff White People Do, I realized that my participation wasn't required and wasn't welcome (at least, wasn't welcome in my current deluded mindset that had no appreciation for race theory or an understanding of racial inequality in our society). I was used to putting in my two cents, but here I felt -- silenced, I guess. It was my first clue at how many POC feel all the time. If I wasn't too self-absorbed to realize that, anyway.

At first I couldn't handle that and I fell back on many of the same arguments that my students make with me now. These people are over-reacting, I would think. It can't all be about race -- can it?

Then I crossed my own personal Rubicon. I began paying more attention to what I was watching on TV -- specifically, the commercials. Who was in them? What races were represented and how? Who had speaking lines? Who was in the front, and who was in the back? Who was stereotyped? What actions were individuals performing, what attitudes did they represent, what were they wearing? This was revolutionary.

Holy crap! White people everywhere! POC confined to the margins, the token "friend" or "Magic Negro", representing exoticism and stereotypical conceptions of tribalism. How had I never noticed this before?

With this wedge opening the door, I was able to return to the blogs and writings that challenged me before, and realized that I didn't need to comment here, all I had to do was listen and learn. I didn't need to express my ignorant opinions, but rather to just shut up and let others school me on a wide variety of subjects.

After months of listening and delving deeper into race theory, I gingerly submitted my first comment, and I still comment very rarely. That environment -- and ones where activists discuss other "isms" -- is still a place where it is best for me to shut up and pay attention.

And then I was offered the opportunity to teach a class on Multiculturalism, realizing every day with my students' questions how much I still need to learn. But now that the gate is open, I'm no longer afraid of confronting my own privilege.

And that's how I got here.

Does this mesh with your personal experiences or those you have seen friends taking? Or, perhaps, your understanding of your own privilege, wherever it might spring from? Why is it so difficult for us to accept this idea? And can we do anything to help others discover their privilege, or is this something that we must let them find for themselves -- while accepting that they may never make that discovery?

132 comments:

  1. Why do I feel like comments on this post are going to provide plenty of fodder for the topic Jasmin suggested earlier?

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  2. As a fellow white, hetero, able-bodied, middle-class female I don't think I could have put it better myself. This is exactly the path I went down (well, am still going down).

    I think it's a profoundly uncomfortable moment, when you begin to think about your privelege and how it functions. And much like the OP, I absolutely credit SWPD and Racialicious for kicking some sense into me.

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  3. Part of my frustration in anti-racist work is helping White people to "get it". How can I get a white person in a diversity seminar to understand what racism is. Sure you can throw at them examples an definitions, but to get them to that "Aha!" moment is elusive and I've pretty much given up. I'd be real interested in hearing the "Aha" moments of other White people. It's something I rarely get to hear.

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  4. For readers of this thread, here's the comment from another thread that thesciencegirl wrote about above (btw, it was actually a subsequent commenter who suggested that this become the topic for a future swpd post):

    I can't presume to speak for anyone else here, but the crux of my love/hate (probably more like/dislike) relationship with SWPD is that the real, yet unspoken title seems to be "Stuff Other White People Do". There seems to be a pattern of initiation:

    1. WP shows up.
    2. WP says something non-productive (at best).
    3. WP gets shot down.
    4. WP learns, earns a gold star and crosses over to the other side of the fence.
    5. Repeat.

    Essentially, there's a distancing between what White people do and many of the White people on this blog. In the middle stages (around 3 and 4), a commenter might frequently say, "I used to..." or "I'm ashamed to admit that I...", but eventually "other White people" become the focus. I don't think other people have to outline their personal struggles for my benefit, but it can be off-putting to read comment after comment from "anti-racist gurus" because the cynical part of me suspects 99.8% of them don't do a thing in real life situations.


    In a followup comment on that thread, thesciencegirl added:

    @Jasmin, you forgot the part around step 5 where the WP gets cookies for regurgitating something a BP taught them and suddenly opening up the eyes of another WP who is reading. :-/

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  5. Regarding thesciencegirl's steps 1-5, I really don't think it's that simplistic. Messing up and learning from your mistake doesn't magically earn you a gold star that entitles you to always-being-right. It's a process that happens again and again with different types of mistakes. Hopefully the mistakes a given person makes get fewer as time passes, and the person comes to understand how the mistakes are all related in a bigger picture of "what racism is".

    Regarding the follow-up about regurgitating something a BP said, I don't see how that's so bad except the getting/expecting a cookie part. If it makes an otherwise-closed-minded WP open their eyes and learn something, that seems like a good thing that it happens.

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  6. @ riche,

    Just to be clear, steps 1-5 were written by Jasmin, the followup by thesciencegirl.

    As for what that followup says about white people's eyes being opened that way -- I think what's bad there is the way white people often hear and understand something better when a white person says it than when a non-white person says the exact same thing (though I'm not sure that's what thesciencegirl meant).

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  7. Mena,

    One of the most patronizing things a white person can do is claim to "get it". A white person can be a good ally if they understand that the goal is not for them "get it", because the nature white privilege does not allow for that. Your goal is to listen and take note of what you can do to assist POC. Remember the goal is not play "magical whitey", and start talking about those "other whites that don't get it". All of you need years of reprogramming and it starts by listening.

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  8. Yeah this is pretty close to my anti-racism white person experience. I'm just thankful I realized this when I was a teenager and not too set in my ways. I remember being surprised like, WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TEACH ME THIS? Jeez, letting me walk around all ignorant.

    And word to the part about not NEEDing to comment on these blogs. I think I read Womanist Musings for a good year before I had the nerve to comment. It's hard for white people to understand that some people don't care about their opinion!

    I still feel conflicted though sometimes. I resent not being able to make any valuable contributions to this sort of conversation.

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  9. To follow up on the "recycling" thread @riche which macon responded to, the problem with it is that the person who originally said it doesn't get acknowledged. It is very common for high status people to restate and get credit for ideas originally stated by low status people. (I'm speaking of university seminars and corporate board meetings and such in this, as well as an experimental research literature.) Sometimes the high status people even actually believe they thought up the idea themselves. Other times they continue to get credit even when they try to say that they got the idea from someone else.

    As a white person, it has been my experience that white people listen more to me when I say something critical about race than when the people of color say exactly the same thing. I am viewed by whites as more legitimate or unbiased somehow.

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  10. @riche

    But does anything good really happen?

    Are there a set number or type of "mistakes" that we can make before we've exhausted them all and we can deem ourselves worthy of being "enlightened"?

    I don't think so. I think the "mistakes" can keep getting more sophisticated, but we're not running out of ways to be hurtful and ways to shore up white supremacy. And no, that's not an original thought. It's cobbled together from the voices of POC and the things I've been learning from them.(Cause, yeah, thesciencegirl's step 5 does hit home for me.)

    I wonder if it comes down to learning that I have to watch myself all the time. Just like a person with an eating disorder where you have the trickster within you... Shouldn't I always be asking myself: Why am I commenting? Why am I reading? Is it because I want to try and work towards justice in my daily life interactions and activism? Or is it so I can feel like I've "done something" by reading and commenting, when I haven't really done shit?

    I don't mean this to sound fatalistic, either, if that makes sense.

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  11. Riche,

    I 100% agree with this:

    Messing up and learning from your mistake doesn't magically earn you a gold star that entitles you to always-being-right.

    But then why do some WP on blogs like this one (figuratively) open and close their mouths like guppies when they get called out on something? They seem to really be thrown off when minorities disagree (like right there--I use minorities more than POC, though many people would do the opposite), and there's often an arrogance mixed with hurt attitude there, like, "How could you point the finger at me? We're talking about homeless men who harass people in bus stations, for goodness sake?

    Under a topic like this, I expect many White people will talk about how they have "done" what the topic says. But go back to the "sit back and watch" post and count how many people said they had "done" that one. Most people said they would do the opposite--why can you (the general you) only identify with some of the posts, and what do the ones you choose say about you?

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  12. leedevious said...
    "Yeah this is pretty close to my anti-racism white person experience. I'm just thankful I realized this when I was a teenager and not too set in my ways. I remember being surprised like, WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TEACH ME THIS? Jeez, letting me walk around all ignorant."

    Please don’t take offense; but blacks have been speaking truth to racism for years, affording whites of all ages an endless stream of opportunities from which to learn. Moreover, why didn’t you take it upon yourself to learn? There was plenty of time for erudition after Rodney King- or the LA Riots, the Katrina disaster- or certainly after Louis Gates’ run-in with the Cambridge police. Hell, even the OJ.Trial. Chances are like most whites you would have scoffed at the musings of a black person whose passions have obviously gotten the best of his/herself. (Reverend Wright) What bothers me is that most whites consider themselves experts on everything under the sun. Well read, well informed all by virtue of your station in life. Change the channel on your television and you’ll see white experts on fashion- child development, politics- cooking, sex- exercise and the like. I see very few whites that I would consider experts on race. (Blacks particularly)

    I’m troubled that with all of the knowledge whites ostensibly seek after (and the lengths you are willing to go to attain such enlightenment) why are so many whites ignorant on the subject of race? Some whites pride themselves on their ability to quote from black authors, while others attend a few cultural seminars and poof!” whites become self-proclaimed experts on all things racial. It’s not enough to claim a mastery of theory if you’ve never put your expertise into practice. How many whites are willing to challenge their beliefs through fellowship with blacks on a personal basis? How many commonly break bread with POC in their homes- or worship with POC in their churches. Even whites involved in long-term relationships with a black spouse or partner can be ignorant to the nuances of race. It’s not enough to supervise blacks at work (and assume to know us) or teach blacks in school (and claim to understand us.) One must venture beyond these safe havens, and strive to make the unfamiliar a close personal friend before one gets it.

    Please scroll ahead (6:00) and watch for a young white male grooving at Black Spring Break in his father's car. Dood be blasting black music as if he were borne to it. Please pay close attention to what he says. I think he speaks for a lot of white people who want to experience raw authentic culture, but only on their terms. It illustrates a troubling disconnect concerning the music he listens to and his everyday reality. Probably considers himself an expert on all things hip-hop- but seems visibly uncomfortable in the company of black people who have called him out as being disingenuous (Fronting.)

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  13. a middle age white womanApril 16, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    good grief. i personaly dont relate too well with this. yea i'm a white middle age woman..........but i work with alot of black people. i have for the most part only have dated black men. i have a black daughter. i live in an area that is mexican/black. my girlfriends are mostly black. i see the racism. i feel the racism. i know its there. and i hate it. i hate my daughter has people wondering what color she is. last i looked shes human. i hate we have to put a color on the censes form. why cant we just put legal or non legal? who really gives a rats behind what color anyone is. and i dont relate to white folks in a white pick fence that look down their nose at me. i turn around and for a brief moment i look down at them for not understanding that there is an entire world out there and their lives arnt all that there is.

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  14. Olderwoman has a good point, that I should have said it's a good thing for WP to repeat smart things BP (or other PoC) say about race as long as they don't try to take credit for it. Perhasp I should go a bit further, and that after the WP you're talking to accepts that you have something worthwhile to say about race, you should mention "It wasn't my idea, so-and-so said it" or similar to call them out on ignoring what PoC say... But then again that almost turns into "Well my friend who's black says..." or similar attempts to make someone speak for their whole race.

    Kinsley, I think I was trying to say that the mistakes are never exhausted, they just become fewer and hopefully less redundant.

    I don't know about you, but I don't read and comment on this blog to make myself feel good, or to make myself feel bad. I read it in hopes of recognizing both behaviors that I do which I should stop, and behaviors by others which I should call out. And from what I can tell, that's what most of the non-troll WP who comment here do too, so I don't think I'm painting myself out as special...

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  15. Riche,

    I reread your comment and I see what you mean about the mistakes part. I read what you were saying more like the mistakes would get less and less because we'd learn them all and just stop making them.

    And actually I'm not even sure they get less and less, but maybe that's just me.

    I also don't think you were trying to paint yourself as special. I'm sorry for suggesting that.

    I also think M.Gibson's right about breaking bread.

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  16. I really liked this one.

    The author says, Yet, despite this fact, when I first began to explore issues of privilege, I wasn't ready to explore the ways in which I benefited in this system. I was more comfortable getting angry and exploring a system in which I did not benefit.

    One thought I had was how interesting it is for people with great privilege to search for ways in which they are oppressed. I typically agree with the assessment that it has to do with not wanting to admit the roles in which they are the oppressor. However, this post, specifically the quoted portion, has me thinking about the angle that maybe it's because it's just easier to be angry. I think there's a mis-read of POCs that we like being angry.

    On the whole and for the most part, I think most of us would say we don't enjoy it. It's old exhausting. What I hear the privileged say when they play the oppression olympics is "I like being mad and I can be just as mad as you. Watch. And further if we're all mad then there's nothing to really be mad about."

    There's nothing about a privileged person searching for their own oppression that is actually about looking for oppression. It's all about discounting other people's oppression.

    @a middle aged white woman-
    We need to put what color people are on the census because we need to count how many different types of people we have in this country. We need to do that, though the Census Bureau may or may not know this, because if we don't, it'll be very easy for all the white people to believe that everyone's on equal footing.

    See, if we can't tell you how many black men are in the country then we can't tell you that black men are overrepresented in the prison system. We wouldn't be able to tell you that black kids still can't read or do math at the same level as their white counterparts.

    In sum, we wouldn't be able to tell you that non-white people are still getting screwed in this country.

    People who start on that whole "we're just people" stuff, are deluded. Either by choice or by accident, mostly by choice. Race matters in this country. It does. And the sooner people come to grips with that and quit trying to ignore the fact, the sooner we can get to the real business of dealing with race.

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  17. I'm troubled that this post talks about learning that sometimes white voices aren't welcome or useful or the most important, and yet in its very existence, it's a big white voice talking about its racial enlightenment in a forum frequently populated by voices of colour. thesciencegirl, I totally agree about the Other White People thing.

    When I read the Sadie Doyle piece the other day, I actually felt kind of uncomfortable. I've often identified as a (white) feminist, but after reading her piece, it seemed less okay. It just felt she was saying "I know why people of colour often find feminist identification problematic, I'm still going to be a white feminist, but remember the people of colour." It seems like empty lip service. I haven't figured out how to be a white woman in a particularly useful way as far as social justice goes, but her suggestion seemed kind of empty. Am I off the mark?

    And is choosing to identify as a womanist as a white woman, just me imposing myself on a space that's safe for poc? I feel like it wouldn't be okay.

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  18. Just gonna peek my head in and say thanks for this post. Most of the time I find the comments are dominated by other POC and while I enjoy and learn from and celebrate these comments, it's like preaching to the choir for me. The white perspective of "why I ignore/am indifferent to racism" is one that I am more curious about and I don't see it enough here.

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  19. I don’t think I ever had a rosy view of race relations. My grandparents lived in the middle of the riot area in the 1965 Watts riot and we could see the smoke from the riot at our house. And that isn’t my first memory of racial conflict. Nor the last. I won’t go blah blah blah about all the different experiences I’ve had. I’ll just summarize where I think it got me: (1) It has long seemed obvious to me that US institutions are fundamentally racist. (2) I have watched and been party to all too many painful disasters as people try to work together across racial lines on important social justice issues. (3) My personal relationships with people of color have always been affected by racism, both in the distrust and pain they bring to the relationship and in the often-weird ways I interact with them. I have long been aware of this. Sometimes we have been able to get past all the garbage and have a pretty good relationship anyway that is built on an honest understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. More often the overlay of racial stuff has just been too heavy and things have fallen apart, often because of something bad I did. (I’m not talking dumb-ass racial jokes here, I’m talking failures of deep personal support that happened because of the emotional baggage I carry with my tangled mess of unconscious racism and overt racial awareness.) (4) I’m now doing race-specific social justice work that has deepened my involvement with racial issues and put me in contact with a much more diverse group of people that my “natural” inclinations previously led me. I did not really “choose” this work but followed a path when I stumbled on it. (5) The work I do uses my race and class privilege, it does not really challenge it. So although I learn a lot from listening when I’m in diverse settings, it is almost never in a situation that is challenging my privilege. I’m not an idiot, I’m aware of the privilege and aware of the barriers. I’m also very aware that I don’t very often do things that would put me in a position where my privilege doesn’t protect me.

    I’m still not sure what to make of SWPD. For one thing, I’m very aware that there’s a backlog of work that isn’t getting done when I check SWPD too often. At the same time, once you engage, it feels wrong to disengage. I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far was in a thread somewhere where a person (and I don’t remember who said it except that it was a person of color) said that it is probably impossible to create a space that is “safe” for white people and “safe” for people of color at the same time. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Just chewing on it, trying to absorb the implications, especially for teaching. I also have learned that POC feel abandoned and isolated when others don’t speak up about racial slurs – I did wonder whether drawing more attention to a single statement would make it worse, but now I feel that speaking up is the thing to do. Most of the rest is getting a great emotional impact from things I already knew intellectually as POC talk over their experiences. I’m pretty sensitive to the charge of emotional voyeurism in this, even as I think it is important to try to feel what people are feeling and not just intellectualize. Oh, and specific criticisms are often very helpful: one visitor to my own blog who clicked over from SWPD posted a very critical comment that directly and immediately allowed me a chance to repair something I’d done wrong in teaching. I can hardly argue that other people ought to spend their time educating me for free, but when it happens I’m not too stupid to be grateful for it.

    I do think people should think about what a blog and comments on a blog can and cannot do. On the plus side, the anonymity perhaps levels the privilege playing field somewhat. On the minus side, people are going to come and go, there are always going to be newcomers, most people are never going to read a comments stream carefully, and arguments and misunderstandings can escalate when there is only the written text to work with.

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  20. I can pretty much to relate your experience. For me, though, the moment I realized that whites dominated things and that I benefited from it was sometime in late middle school. I grew up in many neighborhoods where I was one of few whites.

    Where your story and mine differ is that I still deal with the aftereffects of my upbringing in places non-white. The WP who told me I must have thought I was black back then weren't too far off. Not that I was delusional about my appearance, but my friends and I were like family. In every way you think of a close family member - that was our relationship - eating in each other's homes, being cared for by each other's parents, taking trips together. Of course I thought I was just like them. We knew each other inside and out.

    The reality, obviously, is that I wasn't just like them. Having grown up this way used to give me the false assurance that I couldn't possibly be contributing to racism. That has been THE hardest to fathom. Seriously, think about it. Nearly everyone I ever loved since childhood was "of color." For me to acknowledge my own racism would be acknowledging that I could hurt people I love. It took reading a few comments here directed at other people for me to understand that it wasn't about me at all. I had gotten beyond making racist jokes, my personal interactions with POC personally weren't in question. The focus was getting more narrow than that. Now I could see that my interactions with POC in ways that pertained to societal norms were what needed attention. Now I have to operate in ways where I force race to be on my mind all the time. That upbringing of mine, though, really kept my blinders on for MANY years.

    I don't remember who said it on here, a few people have said it. They said that it is even harder to convince a WP who grew up with POC, married a POC, and/or has COC than it is someone who's just stepping off the block. That was certainly true for me.

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  21. I liked this post, it reminded me of convos I've had with other folks.

    That said, it's a little weird that the writer would admit to being fairly ignorant on racial issues at the same time she was offered the chance to teach a class on multiculturalism.

    Maybe I'm not familiar with that discipline, but it would seem that you would need to have some level of expertise on the "isms" to teach such a class, no?

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  22. as far as "getting it" is concerned in terms of racism I feel like there are different levels, some that can be attained by WP and some that cannot. It's not really necessary or possible for me to feel what it's like to be a POC in a white dominated society, but having the tools to fight racism In yourself and hopefully others requires that you "get it" on some level.

    But then there is the danger that a when a WP will identify very strongly with being anti-racist their ego and self image will get all wrapped up in it and it will become all about them. ( you know like what many vegans do )

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  23. Holy carp! Did you write this from inside my head?

    And now I'm gonna sit back and listen, because I have got a lot of learning to do..

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  24. It's good that this person has accepted and acknowledged her privileges as well as her goal to learn more about this troubling "illness".

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  25. Big Man: "That said, it's a little weird that the writer would admit to being fairly ignorant on racial issues at the same time she was offered the chance to teach a class on multiculturalism. Maybe I'm not familiar with that discipline, but it would seem that you would need to have some level of expertise on the "isms" to teach such a class, no?"

    The sorry state of the academy is that lots of people are asked to teach courses they don't know much about. This happens when you have courses on the books that "have" to be taught and your faculty does not include experts in those topics or does not have enough experts to meet the student demand. It is most likely to happen in small schools with small faculties and in schools that rely heavily on a shifting pool of part-timers, but it can happen even in a big school if the course is in an area with an under-supply of faculty or the school has recently lost a key faculty member.
    The courses in question are usually freshman-level courses. Not saying it is a good teaching situation, just that it is a common one.

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  26. "I remember being surprised like, WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TEACH ME THIS? Jeez, letting me walk around all ignorant. "

    @leedvious

    WHAT. THE. FUCK. "LET" you walk around ignorant. I don't care if this was supposed to be a joke, it's a joke -entrenched- in White privilege.

    1.POC are not at your beck and call to fucking teach you anything.

    2. Actually, we constantly voice our frustrations but nobody listens or they tell us we're just complaining about nothing.

    3. Fuck you. Seriously, fuck you.

    @macon
    How do you explain letting this through without addressing the problematic elements of this comment?

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  27. @ Rochelle,

    How do you explain letting this through without addressing the problematic elements of this comment?

    Because I didn't read it the same way you did. When leedevious wrote,

    I remember being surprised like, WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TEACH ME THIS? Jeez, letting me walk around all ignorant.

    I took the word "teach" as a reference to "teachers," and maybe to parents. You know, the people who normally "teach" kids. I simply didn't read it as a white person's expectation that POC should be teaching white people. And I still don't read it as saying that . . .

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  28. @macon

    Because white people never hold such expectations right? Don't you realise the significance of me reading it one way and you reading it another?

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  29. [girlx, I don't think I'm gonna publish that. Do feel free to write me an email about it. ~macon]

    ReplyDelete
  30. Yes, I do see the significance of that, Rochelle. I was just answering your question:

    How do you explain letting this through without addressing the problematic elements of this comment?

    ReplyDelete
  31. If you see the significance then why don't you still address the comment? As a BW I'm saying that a comment has problematic elements. As a WM you don't see it. You say you understand why, and yet you don't act accordingly. Can you see what's wrong here?

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Rochelle

    Your last comment has me thinking hard. I'm a POC and I read leedvious's comments similarly to the way macon did.

    My issue with his comment is simply that he expected someone, anyone to teach him. I feel like white people never listen to non-white people on these issues and that implicitly they're waiting on other white people to tell them what to do, and then when they don't, because they never do, blame POCs for their ignorance by getting mad at us for expecting them to know. In other words, there's a subconscious assumption that because no other white person understood it, they're not responsible for knowing it and when a POC does something to call them to the carpet for it, suddenly ignorance is supposed to make them innocent. My experience has shown me that, at least.

    Seems your experience has shown you that white people are actually waiting on POCs to teach them. The first time I ever saw that was on this blog and came as a result of white commenters noticing some POC commenters who were able to dissect other dumb and/or otherwise ridiculous comments. They waited (some still do) for a POC to come by and fix the problem.

    So there's being ignorant and not seeking to know what you don't know

    And knowing what you don't know and not seeking to find an answer for it.

    I lumped leedvious in the first group, and it seems you lumped him in the latter.

    So what has me thinking hard is why and different experiences is about all I can come up with. Do you have any thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  33. @ Rochelle,

    If you see the significance then why don't you still address the comment?

    I already did address the comment. I told you how I interpreted it, and how I still interpret it.

    As a BW I'm saying that a comment has problematic elements. As a WM you don't see it.

    Okay, but another black woman just addressed the comment differently from how you did. She also said she read the comment the same way I did.

    I'm struggling to understand just what it is you think I'm supposed to do here . . .

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Seems your experience has shown you that white people are actually waiting on POCs to teach them."

    Pretty much. White people consider themselves 'race-less' and so never bring up race in relation to themselves. So, when the same WP attempt to 'understand racism' they then expect the nearest POC to drop whatever they are doing and give a 7 point lecture, answering all questions with a lilt in their voice and a smile on their face. That has basically been my experience with my white family members and their friends.

    This has also happened on social networking sites online. I'm expected to answer whatever question they have, even if I have shit to do or it makes me uncomfortable. Fuck my feelings, they need to learn. And that is why I feel so infuriated by leedevious' comment and macon's response.

    My life experiences are not a teachable moment or a learning experience.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "...then why don't you still address the comment?"

    I mean say something to leedevious. And the fact that another BW had another interpretation doesn't negate mine.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Rochelle,

    I didn't say that differing interpretations by different black women negate each other. I'm saying that if I should say something to leedevious on behalf of black women and in agreeing solidarity with them, then I'm left in this situation not quite knowing what I should say. So, I'll try the following -- I'd appreciate hearing if it meets with your approval, and if not, how it doesn't:

    leedevious,

    Please consider carefully the differing reactions that comments as a white person can provoke in a mixed-race discussion of racial issues. To say that as a teenager you expected others to teach you about race, without specifying WHO you expected to teach you, can leave your statement open to interpretation. That is, some could interpret that as saying that you expected people of color to teach you about race, and (as I suspect you already know), that just isn't their job. Also, there may well have been POC in your environment saying things that you could have learned from; if so, what was it that led you to ignore what they were saying?

    ReplyDelete
  37. I agree that there may be certain "stages" that a white person goes through in terms of racism awareness. After all there's a big difference between the privilege-soaked ignorance in which white people grow up (what I interpreted leedevious to be referencing), and the kind of awareness that can be gained from actually listening to PoC in an environment like this.

    The problem is that awareness really doesn't lead to action in most cases, myself included. While there might be a few white people out there who sincerely want to fight racism because it's the right thing to do, I suspect that the vast majority of us are here because it makes us feel better about ourselves. No one wants to be the oppressor - at least not intellectually, but unconsciously I know that I'm still holding onto my privilege for dear life and I suspect that's the same for most white people. That's why it's a lot easier for us to dissect racism from behind the safety of a computer screen, but a lot harder to actually stand up to it in real life, as was demonstrated in DivineLioness's post.

    I think Jasmin and thesciencegirl are right. While it's always good to have one less ignorant white person in the world, too often we use our so-called "awareness" as an excuse for not actually doing anything to combat racism in real life.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I normally lurk although I've posted two comments before. I honeslty don't know if that's the process I went through or not.

    I know that information has been gradually seeping in over the years. At first it was random comments I heard people make about various specific situations where racism was in play. Then I began reading about racism on purpose. I gradually became more aware of things I do and have done that are racist -- thoughts, words, and actions. Reading this blog is part of that.

    What I most notice now is the enormous size of what I don't understand. I notice a large contrast between areas I'm oppressed in and areas of privilege. While there has been a learning process with my areas of oppression, it's still different. It's easy to see that stuff, easy to make it make sense, because it enters into my life experiences so thoroughly and for everything I learn about I have been on the wrong end of it, so it clicks faster in my head.

    With racism though instead of all these huge clusters of points of experiential knowledge, I might see a few points here and there. Because in many cases I know what it's like to benefit. But to be divorced from the consequences of my actions, separated by this big white cloud of ignorance. Because I am not beaten down by it, I am lifted up by it. And that means I have to pay way more conscious attention to realize whose back I'm standing on and how this is hurting them and how and why to respond to this. And I feel like I'm still in the process of filling in the privilege-induced gaps in my knowledge. Which are huge and feel like this vast realm that I will only ever understand from a distance, unlike my areas of oppression where like it or not the vast realm is my home and I know it like the back of my hand.

    There are areas where I have privilege but somehow seem to have a lot more awareness of my privilege than with racism. In one case it's because I lost part of the privilege and suddenly found myself on the other side. In another case I seem to be constantly and acutely aware of the damage I do and have done and benefit from. But racism is different. I'm aware of it. But my awareness is spottier. And for the life of me I don't know why. So I just trudge on and put more effort into learning to counteract the fact that it's not intuitive.

    As far as my motivations go... I'm very aware of how oppression plays out in my life when it comes to ways I'm oppressed as a multiply disabled agender poor fat conventionally unattractive lesbian. (I also know some of those are worse than others, and they all take different forms, so I can't just extrapolate everything to racism.) And I know how crucial it is for my survival for my oppressors to understand and do their best to work against the oppression even if they can't give up their privilege and all that. And my conscience tells me if I know how much that means and how awful it can get without it then I'd be a hypocrite to not do the same as a white person.

    I don't know how any of that fits into the situation described in the post. It could be different for me or I could be unaware of something. Or maybe it's the same experience from a different angle and I'm just not aware of that. But at first glance most of it doesn't feel like my experience even though I'd be hard pressed to say why.

    ReplyDelete
  39. R.A. said,

    The problem is that awareness really doesn't lead to action in most cases, myself included. While there might be a few white people out there who sincerely want to fight racism because it's the right thing to do, I suspect that the vast majority of us are here because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

    Yes. In a post on "Awareness," Christian Lander (of Stuff White People Like fame) nailed this problem:

    An interesting fact about white people is that they firmly believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved through “awareness.” Meaning the process of making other people aware of problems, and then magically someone else like the government will fix it.

    This belief allows them to feel that sweet self-satisfaction without actually having to solve anything or face any difficult challenges. Because, the only challenge of raising awareness is people not being aware. In a worst case scenario, if you fail someone doesn’t know about the problem. End of story.


    (cont.)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Was that so hard to do? Really. I wasn't telling you to do anything 'on behalf of black women', I was telling you to do something as a white anti-racist.

    I think I'm seeing why some other commenters don't come here anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  41. R.A.,

    To add on to what you said, I don't think the "stakes" are high enough for most people to care about being anti-racist in action. The "white club" (tm Abagond) has too many perks to abandon, so the same people who come on this blog, or vigorously nod their heads when someone Black speaks about racism in class, will be silent when the sh*t hits the fan, so to speak, because while the white club might be imperfect, it's still a club, and once you're out, you better not ever come back.

    That's one reason why suggestions to WP to "imagine a similar situation in their own lives" in order to better relate to minorities doesn't quite sit right with me, because it suggests the only time you should ever bother to care about someone else is when you can find some way to relate it to yourself. It's patronizing to hear, "Well I didn't think about that until I started dating a minority" or "Now that I've adopted kids from X country, I realize..." because I just roll my eyes and think, "Well what about the people you sit next to in class every day, or see at the grocery store on a regular basis?" Why did such an obvious issue have to be shoved in your face before you could bother to care?

    ReplyDelete
  42. @ Rochelle,

    I'm going to assume that question is rhetorical.

    I can see that I should have acknowledged directly that my whitened-blinders prevented me from seeing what you saw in leedevious' comment.

    (Btw, I don't claim to be a white anti-racist, nor a "white ally." I always insert "aspiring" before such terms.)

    ReplyDelete
  43. re: Rochelle's original comment in reply to leedvious: I'm a little late but THANK YOU! I agree with you 100%.

    Now I know I'm as privileged as any of us white swpd readers but I have been weirded out MANY A TIME by this prevalent "this is stuff IGNORANT white people do, white people who aren't Aware like we are" attitude, in both the posts and the comments. In addition to making anti-racism All About My Personal White Journey, don't you think it sort of plays to that "I'm not a racist, other people are racists" trope? It's sort of meta. "I'm not a RACIST racist, because I acknowledge my privilege and I read swpd!"

    macon, I really respect a lot of the things you write on this blog and I'm by no means as advanced a white privilege theorist as you are, but I don't feel like a "you're right, i should have acknowledged that thing. maybe it was my privilege" would be entirely out of place, do you?

    ReplyDelete
  44. Charlotte,

    Regarding your suggestion for what I should have written to Rochelle, please see the comment above yours.

    Is that more or less what you're saying I should have said?

    ReplyDelete
  45. @macon

    That's only what I was saying for like 3 comments. It actually wasn't a rhetorical. Was it really so hard to just acquiesce? Then again, I don't want to hear the answer so yeah I guess it it rhetorical.

    I'd say something about (what I feel to be) the cop-out nature of "aspiring" but this thread has already made me upset enough. So whatevs.

    ReplyDelete
  46. (Btw, I don't claim to be a white anti-racist, nor a "white ally." I always insert "aspiring" before such terms.)

    I'd also like to direct at the other commenters:
    "To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal." -Peter Ustinov

    ReplyDelete
  47. @Macon

    Regarding Christian Lander's article, I think he's right on. I've seen the same problem extend to other social justice work as well. Whether it's environmental awareness, breast cancer awareness, Haitian earthquake awareness...white people LOVE to talk about these things, but when it comes to actually donating money to the Red Cross or recycling juice boxes, we forget all of our self righteous "awareness". Anti-racist work is no exception, hence why we're perfectly happy to support hollow forms of multiculturalism.

    PoC certainly aren't immune to the same kind of apathy when it comes to other forms of privilege that they might enjoy, but I think he's right that it's a particular problem for white people because we usually also have class privilege and geographical privilege because of our race.

    ReplyDelete
  48. @macon
    It took you too fucking long to say it. Jesus.

    @Charlotte
    Thank you! In the short time I've been reading the comments and commenting here I've noticed a kind of self-congratulatory aura around some of the White commenters, especially on the 'watch POC get abused' thread.

    ReplyDelete
  49. @macon
    Is that more or less what you're saying I should have said?

    Yeah. Only at first and not after getting defensive. :(

    ReplyDelete
  50. Or see the 5 steps I so helpfully outlined and you (Macon) copied and pasted from another thread?

    SWPD: Become really skilled at paraphrasing.

    ReplyDelete
  51. My life experiences are not a teachable moment or a learning experience.

    *clap*

    *clap*

    *clap*

    ReplyDelete
  52. Charlotte quoted,

    I'd also like to direct at the other commenters:
    "To refuse awards is another way of accepting them with more noise than is normal." -Peter Ustinov


    So you're saying Rochelle was offering me a cookie?

    Damn, I completely missed that.

    ReplyDelete
  53. @macon

    No, I'm saying that the "aw shucks, I'm not a star, you guys are the real anti-racists, but thanks, yeah I know I'm a cut above" attitude is really common and maybe we should try to avoid it. When you say "oh no I'm just an ASPIRING anti-racist" you're still giving credit to yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  54. So you're saying Rochelle was offering me a cookie?

    *sigh*

    Much to learn you still have.

    ReplyDelete
  55. @Charlotte @mancon

    Exactly. Why aspire? Why not just -be- a fucking White anti-racist?

    ReplyDelete
  56. Charlotte,

    I can see how it comes across that way, but what I should've added is that the reason I say "aspiring" is because I don't really know if the work I do here IS anti-racist. If, for example, most white readers of this blog only come here to down their daily dose of Feel-Good, and then go on living lives that fully support de facto white supremacy, instead of working in any real way at all against, it then what I'm doing here isn't really "anti-racist."

    I'm not trying to be humble with the word "aspiring"; I'm trying to acknowledge my doubts (which are, thus far, not overriding doubts) about whether what I'm doing when I think I'm pushing against racism by running this blog is really doing anything at all that's "anti-racist."

    ReplyDelete
  57. @ Jasmin.

    That's something I've found myself doing in terms of my friendships with PoC. I've always been a proponent of the idea that more diversity-->less racism simply by virtue of stereotypes being broken down. But I can see why that's problematic. Even if I have close friendships with PoC, If I'm still stereotyping the random PoC that I meet on the street, I haven't really changed all that much. There seems to be a surplus of white people who think we know that it's like to be oppressed, but we really haven't got a clue. Appealing to our empathy might make us a little too cocky and complacent. For example, I could have the exact same experience as a PoC (like being given a compliment about my hair) and it will mean something completely different by virtue of our races. And it's really easy for me as a white person to overlook the distinction between those two experiences.

    There's definitely a 'white club', and I think that explains why "educated" white people like me still don't have the balls to tell our white friends to quit telling racist jokes. It's as if we don't think there's any reason to challenge that white person as long as there's no PoC around to hear the joke (or even if they are around, as we've already mentioned). I've definitely found myself doing this and I'm ashamed of it. It's as if I'm afraid to align myself with the oppressed because then I would be ousted from the "club" and forced to endure the kind of abuse that PoC face every day.

    But of course it doesn't even compare to that because as soon as I leave that situation and enter a new white environment, I will have regained any of the privilege I might have momentarily sacrificed.

    ReplyDelete
  58. @macon
    So you're saying Rochelle was offering me a cookie?

    From what in part of our entire exchange did you possibly get that from? At this point in time I would sooner slap you than pat you on the head.

    ReplyDelete
  59. *ducking*

    Rochelle,

    I didn't get it from anything you said. I got it, stupidly enough, from the quotation that Charlotte provided (and I can now see why I shouldn't have gotten it from that quotation -- thanks for the followup, Charlotte and RVCBard). When I said "I missed that," I said I DIDN'T get if from my exchange with you.

    ReplyDelete
  60. @macon
    Okay, I understand where you're coming from, but that's still about you. Maybe try to focus more on actual topic of the blog and forget that stuff.
    As a general rule, How You Intended It isn't as important as How It Comes Across, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  61. Charlotte said,

    As a general rule, How You Intended It isn't as important as How It Comes Across, don't you think?

    Yes, of course. I'll consider simply calling myself a white anti-racist again. But then, I should also come up with something to say when other people of color call me on it by saying what I just explained above, as several did when I used to call myself that (i.e., using the word "aspiring" wasn't my idea -- I failed above in another white way, by Not Giving Credit to POC for Ideas Stolen from Them).

    ReplyDelete
  62. @macon

    Ok. That was still a twisted interpretation of Charlotte's quote.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Rochelle said:

    "Exactly. Why aspire? Why not just -be- a fucking White anti-racist?"

    The problem with this, as others have alluded to, is that white people who accept or adorn themselves with this moniker have a tendency to stop there and think that is enough.

    And haven't you noticed that most whites who claim this title still show their internalized white supremacy pretty much at every turn? We shouldn't allow white people to ever feel like they are one of the special ones, or the ones who "get it". They always take that as permission to be complacent.

    You have to remember that white people have been taught to internalize a savior complex since childhood through stories like Pocahontas and countless white savior movies like Dancing With Wolves. There are no cookies to be given to whites, there is no fence for them to cross over. Don't give them an inch to feel more "enlightened" than other whites, because we know better.

    ReplyDelete
  64. @macon
    But then, I should also come up with something to say when other people of color call me on it by saying what I just explained above,

    Okay? Assuming this ever happens, apologize and stop saying it and move on? I am sort of getting a whiff of "but if I can't do a and i can't do b, what am i supposed to do???" white anti-racist frustration. The focus should still be Anti Racist Issues and not How You Personally Identify As An Anti-Racist Issues.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I appreciate your viewpoints.

    In response to a few of the points raised here:
    - When I was offered the position of teaching a class on race, I had already gone through many of the stages described in the OP, although of course the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. You know how that goes. I did have a fundamental understanding of the "ism" (not perfect, and not from an inside perspective as a WW, but I wasn't completely clueless). Does this mean someone else couldn't do it better? No, of course not.

    - I get itchy about describing myself as a white anti-racist or ally (instead of an aspiring one). I often feel that this gives me too much credit based on my actions and how far I've come in this educational process. HOWEVER, I also feel that using qualifiers is kind of a way of being smug, refusing the award to call more attention to it as someone suggested. So I'm not sure HOW to refer to myself.

    - I am fully aware of the irony of this post talking about shutting up while obviously I am doing exactly the opposite in writing the post in the first place. I have tried to avoid talking TOO much about myself on my blog, but I also want to use that platform as a way to work through my own issues. I want to think about and talk about white guilt because it profoundly influences my life.

    - I don't think I'm "reformed" yet, nor do I think I get a cookie (maybe a bite of one, though). Just kidding - I also don't think that white people deserve praise for belatedly realizing something that everyone else has been painfully aware of for their entire lives. I still recognize behavior that I practice in these posts, and above all else it reminds me that I will always, to some extent, be "that" white person. Some of these posts are stuff OTHER white people do, not because I never did them, but because I try not to do them anymore. Other posts are things I do, and am trying to change.

    In the end, I don't get it and can't ever get it because I am white. I hate not getting it, and part of the process is learning to accept that I can't understand it.

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  66. You know, I feel that tone of "You don't have a right to speak here, because you're white." I do not understand what would provoke people to give off that 'unwelcome' vibe, but in time, I would like to figure that out for myself by continuous reading.

    ANYWAY, I found that by exchanging ideas with someone helps me understand complex ideas better, more so than just reading what I should think like. For example, I used to be completely against same-sex marriage and gay rights in general. Gay people and their supporters would make valid arguments and points, but they would deliver those arguments in an aggressive way. Added to the fact that I didn't want to admit I was wrong, it was only natural for me to get defensive, and try to prove I was right instead of trying to figure out what actually was right. Then a girl talked with me. At first, I honestly didn't want to listen. I thought I was right and I could never be wrong. Eventually though, I figured out how extremely wrong I was. Now-a-days, I am 100% comfortable with discussing and verbally defending everything about the homosexual issue we suffer today.

    However, I am not comfortable with discussing racism. For two reasons: I don't really understand racism, who it affects, to what degree in which it exists, etc. etc.
    Second, I know that while I have rarely acted or said anything racist, in the back of my mind, I am racist. Thoughts that I know are wrong still linger in the back of my mind. I hope that if I understand racism better, then I could learn to discard those thoughts forever.

    However I find myself reluctant to ask questions or to start a dialogue with someone. I simply feel to scared to ask just yet.

    In the future, I will want to ask serious questions that I feel need to be asked to a person who will give me a real answer, and will be willing to listen to me as well.

    ReplyDelete
  67. re: Lander's "awareness" complaint, as quoted by macon,

    "This belief allows them to feel that sweet self-satisfaction without actually having to solve anything or face any difficult challenges. Because, the only challenge of raising awareness is people not being aware. In a worst case scenario, if you fail someone doesn’t know about the problem. End of story."

    Maybe such white people exist and I've not heard them say this, but none that I have heard have ever said that awareness of a problem is sufficient to fix it. But I believe that awareness is necessary to fix any problem. We have to see the problem, don't we? Awareness is almost always a first step.

    The idea that failed awareness-raising only results in an ignorant person is just silly; that ignorant person certainly won't take any action, so it results in reduced opportunity to do anything about the problem as well. Isn't that obvious?

    ReplyDelete
  68. You know, I feel that tone of "You don't have a right to speak here, because you're white." I do not understand what would provoke people to give off that 'unwelcome' vibe, but in time, I would like to figure that out for myself by continuous reading.

    @JamesOA

    The tone argument. Really? Prickly POC. Really? White persecution complex. Really?

    macon, really?

    I've lathered and rinsed, but I wont repeat anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Rochelle,

    Yup, I'll do the repeating -- I'm typing while you're typing.

    (But, I hope it's not pedantic of me to say that I don't think he's deployed what's generally understood as the "tone argument" just because he's using the word "tone.")

    I published James' comment, despite the initial offenses, because it's his explanation of exactly what this post is about (he's describing his current stage of anti-racist awareness). He also promises to go on reading in an effort to find out how he remains clueless.

    James, if you want some Racism 101 readings, try the list of links at the bottom of swpd's Commenting Guidelines. Actually, the Guidelines themselves should be helpful too.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Rocelle

    Yes, the tone argument, really. thats actually how it feels here to me. If you think I'm wrong, then please explain to me why I shouldn't feel that there isn't a hostle undertone with some people's comments? I never said anything about PoC, I just said people in general.

    I don't understand how you think I'm wrong in saying that. If you would like to explain to me why, then I'd like to hear, because I'm rather clueless about what I did wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Well since he ~~~promised~~~ :D

    And it's not as if that's the only problematic thing he said; just the first ones. I give you, JamesOA's greatest hits:

    1.However, I am not comfortable with discussing racism.

    2.I don't really understand racism, who it affects, to what degree in which it exists, etc. etc.

    3.I know that while I have rarely acted or said anything racist, in the back of my mind, I am racist. Thoughts that I know are wrong still linger in the back of my mind.

    4.I hope that if I understand racism better, then I could learn to discard those thoughts forever.


    5.I will want to ask serious questions that I feel need to be asked to a person who will give me a real answer, and will be willing to listen to me as well.

    Including the previous comments, I'm sure I've hit bingo.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Okay, cool, you're typing faster than I am.

    Ordinarily, a comment like his, so full of Bingo hits, would not get published, but again, given this post's topic and his apparent sincerity, it did.

    James,

    The "tone argument," as I understand it, is explained and discussed pretty well here.

    ReplyDelete
  73. @JamesOA

    I am NOT going to be doing 101 for anyone. Google is your friend. Why don't you read moar (like you said you would)?

    @macon

    He himself has said he's using the fucking tone argument. What deflective excuse do you have this time?

    ReplyDelete
  74. He himself has said he's using the fucking tone argument. What deflective excuse do you have this time?

    I could be wrong, but I do not think that term is generally understood to mean what he thinks it means, nor the way he's using it. But, I could be wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  75. To clarify, my last comment (about repeating what other people have already said) was a reference to Charlotte's comment--I just mentioned Macon because he (as the moderator of the blog) was the one who reposted the "5 steps" I mentioned in another post.

    Charlotte,

    Do you see the irony in repeatedly focusing on what Macon's doing in a post where it has been mentioned that White people like to focus on what other White people do instead of themselves? Maybe you are trying to be supportive of Rochelle, but she seems more than capable of expressing herself (I'm joining RVCBard's slow clap). Basically, you are doing exactly what I just said bugs: appointing yourself the Great White Ally of the Oppressed. Please stop commenting and read more.

    ReplyDelete
  76. I read the Racism 101. I liked it, quick to the point, and the assertions are precise.

    Rocelle:

    I understand that you have zero interest in helping me, and are more interested in criticizing me. I didn't really expect you too. It's a lot to ask of a stranger.

    Reading the tone argument, I can see why that would be painfully old. I wasn't really trying to make a "tone" argument to try and make other people cater to me. I pointed out how I felt about the tone to explain why I am doing the things I'm doing.

    Some of these bingo points, why do they bother you?


    "1.However, I am not comfortable with discussing racism."

    I was simply making an assertion of the truth so that people could understand my position a little. I'm not proud about that fact, but it doens't make it any less true.

    "2.I don't really understand racism, who it affects, to what degree in which it exists, etc. etc."

    This was another explanation of why I felt uncomfortable, I wasn't asking you to write me a research paper. :P

    3.I know that while I have rarely acted or said anything racist, in the back of my mind, I am racist. Thoughts that I know are wrong still linger in the back of my mind.

    I suppose you are trying to say that I'm trying to act as if I'm innocent?

    4.I hope that if I understand racism better, then I could learn to discard those thoughts forever.

    This is true, otherwise I would just leave this blog and not give two lug nuts about what people had to say here.

    5.I will want to ask serious questions that I feel need to be asked to a person who will give me a real answer, and will be willing to listen to me as well.

    It was more of a request. See when I try to explore my own thoughts, people sometimes respond by attack me as a person, disregarding my ideals, and talk down to me as if I'm inferior

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  77. Leedevious is referring to the lack of White privilege being taught in schools and that won't change until Whites are ready to own up to their privilege. That she has been digging around anti racists blogs for over a year shows an interest on her part to learn something.That she didn't comment for a whole year shows respect.She's not asking POC to do the work for her she is just wondering out loud how White privilege can be ignored in our society.Young people ask these kind of questions all the time.
    I had no where near the sensitivity about race when I was Leedevious age.
    My 16 year old son and I have conversations like this.He has a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that racism isn't a quick fix and isn't going to be going away any time soon..

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  78. @M. Gibson

    Well I did educate myself eventually. As a self-centered 15-year old steeping in white privilege, it didn't really occur to me until that point.

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  79. Ooof this didn't turn out well. First of all, I'm a girl. And when I said teach, I meant teachers or parents or something. I don't expect random people of color to tell me what's up. And I must re emphasize that I was a child at the time. And uhhh Rochelle, fuck you too? kthnx

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  80. @ JamesOA,
    This blog and others like it are pretty deep. You need to spend a few months reading and absorbing. You'll find most all your questions will be answered that way ...

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  81. @macon:

    I see the tone argument clear as day from here. From my reading of the comment, it goes like this. You might want to have a bucket nearby to catch the vomit because it's nauseatingly repetitive at this point.

    "If only the POC weren't so meeeeeeean! If only they'd calmly and patiently explain to me why I'm fucking up instead of being so meeeeeean about it! Then I'd listen to them."

    That clear enough for you?

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  82. SWPD: assume the most simplistic interpretation of what a POC says.

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  83. I interpreted LeeDevious' original post as the typical attitude of a privileged and sheltered older teenager or young adult becoming aware of the real world. "Hey! My family, teachers, and friends may not be "the experts" and the center of the world, after all". I didn't assume that LD expected, or didn't expect, POC to tutor her.

    FWIW, there's a tendency for a lot of young people to expect to be taught ("spoon-fed") rather than take responsibility for learning. As a teacher of professional-degree students, this drives me NUTS. At this stage, the student should be seeking guidance and not asking "what's going to be on the test"? They should have sufficient imagination to realize that they will be out in the real world practicing, and will need to teach themselves for the rest of their lives.

    Just call me an old fart.

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  84. LOL! Macon you take a beating over here :)

    Based on leedevious saying that her awareness came when she was a teen (not an adult), I assumed that what she meant was why didn't the adults in her life (parents, teachers) educate her.

    Maybe it's a matter of individual interpretation & leedevious is owed an apology.

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  85. @JamesOA, your posts are full of white privilege and entitlement. If you read the guidelines, Racism 101, etc., that's nice, but please go back and read them again with more willingness to absorb their content rather than just assessing whether they're valid in some abstract sense.

    It's not up to PoC to make a comfortable learning environment for you. Deconstructing racism is not about getting the right people to answer preconceived questions you have, but about learning to listen and be respectful of others' experiences and the reasons they react the way you do.

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  86. Yes, that clears it up for me RVCBard, thank you.

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  87. I second everything NancyP said. Even though leedevious probably wasn't looking for PoC to teach her, the feeling of entitlement to be spoon-fed everything we need to know is a problematic white tendancy in itself. One could also see the lack of any legitimate race education in schools as a problem, but if these white kids weren't going to nearly-all-white schools where they're free to be blissfully ignorant about race, they probably wouldn't need any explicit race education..

    While I'm posting, Macon, I hope you'll take something away from the recent exchanges and be a little less defensive when someone calls you out on letting dumb comments through. I feel like if this trend continues, SWPD could lose a lot of contributors. If an offensive comment gets through, could you try first addressing what's offensive about it, rather than jumping to explain why it made sense to allow it? For example here if you wanted to discuss different stages of awareness based on an offensive post, just jump into discussing it (particularly what's still very problematic at the poster's stage) rather than saying "Oh I let it through so you could discuss it!" and waiting for others to discuss...

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  88. Wait, so lee posts something not very clear that can be (and was, in fact) interpreted as being offensive to POC, Rochelle responds angrily at the lack of response from Macon and at lee, lee tell Rochelle" fuck you too because that wasn't my INTENT," and now it's LEE who is owed an apology?

    For the record Rochelle, you weren't the only WOC who read lee's comment that way. I did too.

    And people really wonder why there are black women who find this place too toxic to stay.

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  89. @ riche,

    Good suggestion, I'll try it.

    @ August,

    I agree with you, and I apologize to black women here for the part I played in this thread's descent into toxicity. I'll keep refining and tightening my moderation practices here.

    @ leedevious,

    I hope you'll take this moment as a reminder that the intentions of the privileged matter little when their actions have caused negative effects.

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  90. I have had some of my own "I wish someone had told me" moments. I was raised by well-meaning white liberals who were comfortable with kids calling them by their first names. I really wish my parents understood more themselves, and taught me, about the history of why that could be really, really offensive when talking to adult people of color. But it was a blind spot for them (and me).

    Two things my parents did repeatedly when raising me that *were* helpful later on (in my teenage and young adult years) when I started to educate myself more explicitly and purposefully about racism:

    1. They made explicit reference to privilege regularly. Not in a "you kids should feel guilty" way, but to remind us. "Aren't we lucky to be able to have access to all this fresh delicious fruit?" Or "Imagine what it would be like to work as that checker. She has to stand on her feet all day. That's a really tough job, especially if the customers aren't polite."

    Although most of this was more about class than race, I think it absolutely helped to have parents reinforcing the idea that yes, we WERE lucky, and no, it WASN'T because we were some special snowflakes that deserved fresh strawberries more than the next kid -- that in fact, all kids deserve fresh strawberries. Sometimes they went further and discussed unfairness in the world (i.e. structural systems) and why it existed and what we could do about it.

    2. Critical thinking. Although my parents rarely initiated conversations about race, they spent an immense amount of time fostering clear and logical thinking skills, and general critical analysis. They support the idea that there were REASONS for the world to be as it was, they were not always good reasons, and that it was our responsibility as human beings to repair the world when we could.

    Both of these values -- making privilege explicit, and fostering critical thinking skills -- were helpful when I started to explore racism issues specifically. Although they are not sufficient on their own to help raise a person who is active against racism, I still appreciate that I was raised with them, and I try to pass those on to the younger generation.

    I would be curious to know if other people see a connection between these values and training, and anti-racism work.

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  91. Philadelphian,

    Given the snafu that took place above, I wish that instead of starting your comment like this:

    I have had some of my own "I wish someone had told me" moments.

    you had instead started it like something more like this:

    I have had some of my own "I wish someone had told me" moments (though I did not spend time wishing or expecting that people of color would teach me).

    Or, if you actually did spend time wishing or expecting that, then you could have said so.

    It sounds to me like your parents did some good work raising you. I often think that my two white parents had a similar influence on me, especially by going out of their way for "good Samaritan" actions, by openly working through their own occasional moral/ethical dilemmas in front of me, and by openly checking and pondering their own racist tendencies (though they didn't call them that).

    I've since directly thanked and credited them for this influence (an action which I suppose may be irrelevant here).

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  92. @Temple (hell, everybody, really)-
    Leedevious is not owed an apology. Not for being mistaken as male and definitely not for being told "fuck you."

    Apparently we've slipped back into a mindframe that suggests that a)this space is supposed to be safe for white people (so no "fuck you"s) and b)that white people here are owed ANYTHING by POC.

    The way Rochelle and August and RVC Bard and any other POC who read leedevious' post and interpreted it that way is absolutely correct in their reading because it comes from their experience. What you're asking is for someone to apologize for their own experience and THAT is bullshit. Plain and effin simple.

    Additionally, I think I read about 3-4 different WP (I haven't read all the way to the bottom, so there's probably more) who came in to co-sign what macon said with regards to his initial reading. That's great... just great.

    "Hey black folks. Your reading of leedevious' post is wrong. Here's what she meant. You need to accept that this is what she meant and you need to apologize for not understanding that."

    That not seem problematic to you? As a WOC who read leedevious' post in a similar fashion to macon, I got it -- but what Rochelle said early on never changed -- just because another BW (and definitely other WP) had a different reading, that DOESN'T negate her feelings. ADDITIONALLY, in my post I explained that I thought our differing readings had to do with differing experiences and yet... well, yet here we are. If my alternate reading, as a POC, made any of ya'll think it was ok to not get what Rochelle was saying, your bad.

    Come on ya'll. Really...

    Where's the call from a WP asking leedevious to apologize? That still hasn't happened. Her post was unclear, it was shown to her why it was unclear (to at least 3 POCs, probably more) and everyone else has been here to interpret for us what she meant.

    There's some real regression going on here by WP who claim to "get it" in other posts.

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  93. Okay (just woke up and came on here) WTF? So Rochelle was already saying she'd had enough bullshit, and Leedevious pulled the "fuck you for not being nice enough because, because you misinterpreted me and it's my views that count around here" thing, thereby chasing Rochelle away, possibly for good, AND macon allowed Leedevious's comment through moderation, AND some WP are saying Rochelle's interpretation of the situation is the problem? Given Leedevious's responses, I'd say Rochelle's interpretations of the situation were totally accurate. Way more accurate than the instincts of the people asking Rochelle to apologize. Apologize for what? Spotting racism before WP did? Seriously?

    Why do things like this happen on every thread I read. Given what I can see it's Leedevious who needs to apologize at least twice over and Macon for letting stuff like that through moderation. And even that's going to be too late because you just drove off yet another POC who can't take this place anymore And this just keeps on happening no matter how many people point out the pattern.

    When are people going to get that if you're living under racism your whole life then you become way more attuned to what it looks like than WP are? Including the WP who get called on it and feel for absolute certain that they didn't mean it that way so that's okay? And including all the other WP who sit around thinking that because they didn't see it then it wasn't there and if it wasn't meant then it didn't exist and even if the WP turns around and says "fuck you for not being polite enough while I step on you" then the POC who picked up the racist signals is STILL wrong? This isn't okay, which is the understatement of the century. Congratulations for driving one more POC out of here.

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  94. @ A. Smith: AMEN MAJORLY. All you white "anti-racists" - where were you when leedevious made that comment? or when Macon was getting all defensive?

    after I read over LeeDevious' post, I got the SAME impression Rochelle did. yeah, some of you white people are "aware" but as someone already pointed out, you sure as shit aren't doing anything about it. too busy congratulating yourself for "getting it" to get busy.

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  95. @A.Smith--I didn't say an apology was needed for mistaking leedevious for male or for being told "fuck you", but I get your point. Probably apologies have no place in discussions like this where raw honesty may get people closer to seeing & understanding. OTOH, there's nothing wrong with clarifying your comment and leedevious did that.

    I've been coming here, off and on, for some time & remember the horde of racism apologists that once regularly commented here & who drove me away for a while. My opinion--some conversations are not safe for anyone who's not willing to feel exposed & vulnerable for a minute; race is one of those conversations.

    [The way Rochelle and August and RVC Bard and any other POC who read leedevious' post and interpreted it that way is absolutely correct in their reading because it comes from their experience.]

    And the way that i read it is also absolutely correct. Different interpretations of the same comment. Proves that it's possible to occasionally misinterpret words (this isn't an invitation for the racism apologists to return in full force).

    [Where's the call from a WP asking leedevious to apologize? That still hasn't happened. Her post was unclear, it was shown to her why it was unclear...]

    She came back & explained her meaning. That takes a little fortitude over here where the participants take a strong, no bullshit position. Similar to the fortitude that a few POC showed in getting the many apologists who used to comment to either listen or leave until they could listen & comment honestly.

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  96. @people going out of their way to defend or explain what one or more White posters meant (as though the Black women who are all too aware of this too-typical dynamic here can't read):

    You're fucking it up. Bad.

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  97. @ JamesOA
    If you don't feel welcome in a conversation here - then don't speak. That is your intuition steering you correctly. Sometimes it's ok for others to have an entire conversation while you sit back and watch their interactions.

    I'm going to point a couple of problematic things out to you so you can stop trying to explain yourself. You said:

    "2.I don't really understand racism, who it affects, to what degree in which it exists, etc. etc."

    This was another explanation of why I felt uncomfortable, I wasn't asking you to write me a research paper. :P"

    Stuff White People Do is a website dedicated entirely to discussions of racism. The whole entire blog is FILLED - OVERFLOWING with posts BY people affected by racism, people who have perpetrated racism, and responses to those posts with thousands of personal stories of racism. You do not need an "a-ha moment" to figure it out if you just take the time to read...and NOT comment. Just read.

    Also, I think it was rude to suggest/joke that even if Rochelle were to write something up for you to read, it would be "research". What you do to find out about racism is research - libraries, internet, asking other people, etc. What she would have to do to write that paper up is tell you personal stories about her life. Asking a stranger to share that with you when you don't know her isn't cool.

    "3.I know that while I have rarely acted or said anything racist, in the back of my mind, I am racist. Thoughts that I know are wrong still linger in the back of my mind.

    I suppose you are trying to say that I'm trying to act as if I'm innocent?"


    *sigh* It's not as simple as acting innocent. Your entire idea about what racism even is is fundamentally different than what many POC and actively anti-racist whites think. There's a lot more to racism than burning crosses and believing stereotypes about people. Racism as it is right now might be more "subtle" to us as WP because we're not often on the receiving end of it. But it is REALLY far from subtle. Once you understand, as the author of this post has stated, that moment where it all becomes clear to you - it's not subtle anymore. It's everywhere. For now, it's really important, if you truly care about this topic, that *you* seek out what POC are telling you about racism. Listen and observe. Talk when you have real questions, not questions that make points.

    Try as we may to relate to racism, as WP we can't fully understand it. We can get close to it, we can empathize, we can get angry about it, we can be involved in protests, we can date, marry and have children interracially. But we still wake up white every morning. That alone changes the lens we view racism through every time.

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  98. From the Southpark Episode, "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson."
    "Don't you see, Kyle?? I don't get it! [smiles, then walks up to Token] Token, I get it now. I don't get it. I've been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I'll never understand. I'll never really get how it feels for a black person to have somebody use the N word. I don't get it.
    Token: Now you get it, Stan. [smiles]
    Stan: [smiles] Yeah. I totally don't get it.
    Token: Thanks, dude."

    It never seems to occur to whites that because of your privilege and detachment to POC you are novices in the realm of race relations. Stop trying to get it and just listen to those whose collective experiences make them more qualified to speak on the subject of race than you can ever hope to be.

    @leedevious...
    And word to the part about not NEEDing to comment on these blogs. I think I read Womanist Musings for a good year before I had the nerve to comment. "It's hard for white people to understand that some people don't care about their opinion!"

    Let me just say that in “This” context, I think you got it. Whites are aggressive bloggers/tweeters and writers because they've been conditioned to believe everyone wants to hear their opinion. That they're always right, and that it’s all about them, no matter the discourse. A rational, seasoned response from somebody who's well traveled and well educated, (and yet so ostensibly white.) Whites share their opinions on race from the upper tiers of privilege- in mainstream/electronic media, magazines and television. We minorities are privy to an ever constant flaunt of white pundits/commentators doling out their opinions on race mainly to other whites. (Chris Mathews, Barbara Walters- Fox News, just to name a few)

    It makes you shake with anger sometimes because you know there’s a disconnect. Blacks are summarily dismissed once we offer up a more culturally astute position on the matter; its simply the stuff that white people do. Minorities are just more attuned to the subtleties of race relations having been on the receiving end of it for such a long time.

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  99. argh. here we go again.

    leedevious,
    I can't believe you pulled the f-word out. unbelievable. you have clearly failed to learn anything from this exchange and that puts the lie to your supposed embrace of anti-racism.

    macon,
    I can't believe you let that one through.

    completely cosign with kittywhompers and a smith, and agree with RVC Bard that this thread is descending into the tone argument big time.

    honestly.

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  100. Fucking it up is an understatement. I'm kinda sick of white people smugly tooting their anti-racist horns even as they spit at POCs.

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  101. >She came back & explained her meaning.<

    No. She came back and said "duh, of course i didn't mean it that way. oh and fuck you too." Don't try to minimize the fact that she completely threw the EFFECTS of her words out of the window and dismissed and insulted Rochelle for not being a goddamn mind reader.

    But keep on making excuses for her if you want, even in the face of all the POCs who have made their feelings about it pretty fucking clear. Who cares what POCs think about racism anyway, right?

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  102. @Temple: so because leedevious fucked up, then came back, we should be congratulating her just because of that? what about the fortitude it takes for WOC who come here each time and get their voices shouted down? instead of offering hugs to all these white folks who just can't seem to get it right but gosh, at least they're tryin' their hardest, why aren't you people spending your energy on supporting POCs when they give their interpretation of a sitch? you seem to be supporting a view which coincides nicely with your own views instead of standing the fuck back and thinking to your ignorant selves "hey, wtf, maybe Rochelle and A. Smith are right." it's classic defensiveness, cloaked in polite phrases like "everyone's interpretation is right!"

    "And the way that i read it is also absolutely correct...(this isn't an invitation for the racism apologists to return in full force)."
    My bad - just cause one person interprets it differently, but that person is your precious self, that's okay. I mean, if someone decides "go home chinks" isn't offensive, I guess I should make allowances for those people who think it's okay.

    @RVCBard: I agree. Fucking it up big time. how ironic in a post about supposedly growing "racial awareness". what a joke.

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  103. At the risk of sticking my nose where it doesn't belong, here I go.

    @leedivious

    Thanks for clarifying your statement, but your reply to Rochelle, eff bomb and all, was rude and uncalled for. I know that you're only a teenager, but it was quite immature. And before you complain that Rochelle did the same thing, remember that she was rightfully offended by what you said.

    I understood what you "intended" because I grew up thinking the same thing about my teachers, and I think that's a big part of the "enlightenment" that white people go through when they become aware of their privilege, which was the subject of the original post.

    However, you need to understand that your words were hurtful and offensive to Rochelle and many other PoC on this board. It's perfectly legitimate for people to interpret you that way, especially a PoC, because, in their experience, most white people who say "I wish someone would teach me" don't mean it the same way you say you did.

    I get that it sucks to be misinterpreted, but you have to remember that Rochelle is the one who was hurt by this, not you. YOU know what you intended, and that should be enough for you. You should have simply explained yourself and apologized to her. This is something that all of us white people have to learn. Where we don't see racism, others will. Where we don't intend to be hurtful, we will offend. That doesn't mean you need to get defensive or angry: just apologize and figure out why what you said was problematic so that you can avoid using the same words in the future.

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  104. Macon:

    I wish that you had instead started [your comment] like something more like this:
    'I have had some of my own "I wish someone had told me" moments (though I did not spend time wishing or expecting that people of color would teach me)'.


    Mea culpa. I should have been much more clear. In my head, the connecting thought went on to the example of my parents not having taught me something.

    I should have said explicitly that the "someones" I had in mind were my (white) parents and other close adults who took responsibility for raising me and teaching me about how to be a respectful person and good citizen.

    I did not mean, and I do not think, that it was the responsibility of people of color to teach me. I apologize.

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  105. I'm intrigued by some of the assumptions about race made in the commenting process on this blog. Specifically, in the third and seventh comments of this thread:

    @Mena says that "Part of my frustration in anti-racist work is helping White people to 'get it.'"
    @Tara responds: "Your goal is to listen and take note of what you can do to assist POC. Remember the goal is not play "magical whitey", and start talking about those "other whites that don't get it". All of you need years of reprogramming and it starts by listening."

    Tara seems convinced Mena is white. But I had assumed, reading that first comment, that Mena is a POC, primarily because the comment refers to white people as "them" twice. (I'm also playing the pronoun game here, sorry if it sounds awkward, but I feel like I can't assume gender).

    I'm wondering: what are the situations in which a commenter is assumed to be white or assumed to be a POC? People often self identify, but when they don't, interesting things seem to happen...

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  106. @ Victoria

    I really appreciate your effort. I feel a little refreshed about this blog in general.

    Trust me, I've read all of this month's and last month's entries and some of their comments. I suppose I picked the wrong thing to comment on.

    While I sometimes want to ask a question, I choose not too. Mostly because it would feel like nit picking, but also I wasn't sure if people would assume the wrong thing.

    One thing this environment can help WP understand about some of our privileges. I mean I can just log off and be comfortable in most places. I would rather start to feel unwelcome when I get on a website than when I leave my front door.

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  107. @James OA

    There is no other way to say it, your original sentence doesn't make any sense.

    You said I don't really understand racism, who it affects, to what degree in which it exists, etc. etc.
    Second, I know that while I have rarely acted or said anything racist, in the back of my mind, I am racist.


    1) If you don't understand racism, then how do you decide that you have rarely been racist?

    2) You don't understand who racism affects?, really?. You've been around this planet for how long and don't understand who racism affects? - You, sir are being wilfully obtuse.

    3) You don't understand to what degree racism still exists? - haa haa haa, what are you doing here?. really?. Your confessional ignorance is NOT cute, it is not endearing and it does not inspire one to 'gather you in arms' and pat you on the head.
    Clap for yourself. Racism is such a foreign concept to you, you are soo oblivious to it, but darn it you know you rarely do anything racist.. cos you know just by psychic ability your ignorance on a subject means you are can rarely be responsible for committing that ignorance.

    I'll sum this up and say no James OA.
    You are not racist in the back of your mind. You are racist front and centre, plan as can be

    p.s. You didn't pick the wrong thing to comment on, what you really meant to say was...
    You didn't pick the 'safest' thing to comment on.

    Your comment reeks of well I'm here, trying to do something why won't those mean people just see it?. I know I might insult them cos you know, I can't just see that when I'm offensive and that annoys people that I should just apologise and not repeat the offence!

    But how could you offend them anyway?. These are black people, they should be used to helping people to treat them like humans and teaching people how to talk kindly and gently with them. After all, the vast majority don't so me showing up and saying I want to be nice...
    wow they should be so happy, so welcoming, so embracing.... why aren't they?

    JamesOA.. really.... you are a douchebag.

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  108. I'm breaking my own personal ban on commenting at this blog to say that I know EXACTLY what you mean about just wanting to listen and learn, and maybe commenting or contributing when you have more knowledge or an appropriate comment to share. It's nice to know that there are others out there doing the same thing. I love the posts on this blog, and I can feel my brain sponging up new information every time I read it, so maybe one day I'll be able to contribute to the discussion.

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  109. Sarah, I take it you're white? Please do comment more, but especially this way -- if you notice a white person screwing up somehow here, why not step in and point that out, instead of waiting for POC do that? For white readers of the comments here to sit back and listen can be good, but not at those moments when no one but POC is stepping in to set straight the white commenting mistakes that still get past me (as moderator) sometimes. It's not their job, it's our job.

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  110. 1) If you don't understand racism, then how do you decide that you have rarely been racist?
    Well I don't know of you understand the concept of "Not understanding something but knowing it when you see it."
    2) You don't understand who racism affects?, really?. You've been around this planet for how long and don't understand who racism affects? - You, sir are being wilfully obtuse.
    Does racism effect people in places where white people have had little effect? What about places where one group of PoC can oppress another? Questions like that. But I've been on this Earth for 17 years, so I guess I should know everything by now, right?
    3) You don't understand to what degree racism still exists?
    I've read countless times about people saying "white people cannot understand how deep racism is still today." and I believe them.

    "
    Your comment reeks of well I'm here, trying to do something why won't those mean people just see it?. I know I might insult them cos you know, I can't just see that when I'm offensive and that annoys people that I should just apologise and not repeat the offence! "

    Ok, I suppose you are right here. I felt when I was posting that I was only tell people my intentions, but really I was just trying to was to gain sympathy. I'm sorry if that offends anyone, that wasn't what I wanted my first impression to be.

    I am not racist "front and center" like you say. What I mean is that, like everybody, I still have subconscious thoughts that affect how I dress people, but I'll judge someone by their dress faster then I'll judge them of their skin if I never met them before

    You don't know who I am and how I act. ALL you know about me is that my name is James, and anything else I posted. You don't know how I treat people (as if I treat them differently). Ok, I was wrong, and I won't do it again, but you over stepped it in the last bit IMO.

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  111. @ James,

    >> "You don't know how I treat people (as if I treat them differently)."

    soul knows perfectly well how you treat people--she (and the rest of us) have watched you do so on this thread.

    You admitted that you don't understand racism, that she (as a WOC) probably does...yet when she says you said something racist, you get all huffy? That's classic racist behavior.

    We don't get to box away our racism as 'at the back of my mind.' Racism/whiteness acts like a filter--it colors (npi) what we say/write and do, often making us unaware of the extent to which our actions are racist.

    I have found that when someone accuses me of saying or doing something racist, if my immediate internal reaction is a flare of anger and denial, I have almost definitely done something racist. Maybe something similar would work well for you in unravelling your racism? (Although, in order to be effective this method requires that you accept the authority of POC, which you have seemed thus far to have a problem with...)

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  112. After reading that article, my first thought was "oh, well I guess they were right." I had that feeling of 'no-one knows me better than me.' which I still believe, but I suppose I don't know everything there is to know about myself. You (and everyone else) were right. After watching the video, it made it a bit easier to swallow, since I rationalized that I did something wrong, not that I might be a bad person. I would like to think I'm not, but at this point I'm convinced that people think I am; being called a douche bag is usually a good indicator that someone dislikes you. I know it probably doesn't matter if I say it at this point, but I'm sorry Soul and Rochelle for saying blatant racist things, and then being so quick to defend them.

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  113. @ james

    i think soul has a lock on the motivation behind your words much more that you do. because she and many others here have encountered variations on everything you have said many times. she doesn't need to know you personally to know whats going on in your head when it comes to racism. that's made plain in her deft analysis of your words.

    i don't think the point is really to characterize you as a racist but to identify racist tendencies that you have absorbed so you can address them.

    which means she's doing you a favor.

    so don't be defensive it's good for you. what's cool about this blog is that POC here are willing to help us WP on their terms which is in fact more than we deserve so temper your responses with a measure of gratitude.

    we have no right to expect POC to be nice to us while they are pointing out our racism. so unless your willing to take a hard look at yourself there is no reason for you to be here.

    (im talking to myself here as well btw)

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  114. My $0.25, after having stumbled upon this post and SWPL in general (I'm a white, cisgendered male):

    1. My own path:

    (a) I read a feminist blog, originally because I was reading an article about lefty politics in someplace like Think Progress.
    (b) After a storm of linking, I discovered the feminist blogosphere.
    (c) The feminist blogosphere led me to blogs by POC, LGBT, and other oppressed minorities.
    (d) I thought "Holy sh*t, I have a lot to learn" and found SWPL in an effort to edumacate myself.

    2. More and more, I find myself (a white, cisgendered teen male) marveling at my ignorance. I've only just begun to explore the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of race theory and privilege.

    3. More and more, I find myself disgusted at how pervasive anti-anti-racism racism is. I'm sick of hearing people complain about "political correctness" and use it as an excuse not to acknowledge real racism. I'm sick of WP pretending that POC "protest too much" or "live in the past" (as if racism is a thing of the past). It sucks, because I'm from "libertarian" NH, where everybody hates discussions of racism, e.g. "Racism? That's for Massholes and Vermonters."

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  115. @James:
    Name one place on this earth where white people have had 'little effect' and where such effect has not been devastating.

    1) Go on, I challenge you. Name just one place. Go ahead, name one.
    Don't worry...I'll wait .... (I'm listening to Lizz Wright and Maxwell... real soothing makes me patient and ish.)

    2) What does POC oppressing each other have to do with anything?. That's a derail, and if you want to go down that route, then we should talk about white people oppressing each other as well.

    3) You are 17 years old. You are not a child, Black children have been dealing with the effects of racism from birth. They also have to deal with actual day to day racism from the minute they begin to interact with the public and their peers.

    4) A black boy at 17 is a man, a black boy at 13 is a man in the eyes of racist policemen.
    Black children don't get to be 'innocent victims'. Forgive me for not giving two hoots about your age.

    4b) Your age did not stop you from using the 'tone' argument on people much older than you.
    It did not stop you from entering an environment ill prepared and then declaring it hostile because you didn't do your homework.

    4c) We are not your parents, we are not your school teachers. We don't owe you anything.

    Look, Young man. The world is full of well intentioned racists, I've learnt to negotiate this world around them carefully and successfully

    The real issue here is that you haven't learnt how to manouvre or negotiate a world where black people have a 'chance' at an equal say as you. A world where you have to tread carefully as you have no idea what impact a black person might have on your career, your world and your life.
    And that world is 'right here, right now'. You can't avoid it. It is right here.

    We are no longer shackled with chains, and we have reached a point where racism has so devastated us that many of us no longer care about living in harmony with you, if you don't care about living in harmony with us.
    We have seen history repeat itself and we know that allowing you to bask in your ignorance when addressing us, is silly.

    We own stuff now, we have a stake in this world order one which can no longer be knocked off its axis in the same way as slavery did

    5) Why should we offer you sympathy? whilst you simultanously deny the widespread, bleedingly obvious presence of racism.

    Were your eyes closed during the Obama campaign?, are your eyes closed at school?, do you think the words of the people here are fiction?.

    Why in holy heck are we supposed to offer you sympathy? For what? What have you done? except to minimise something which is very real for me.

    Don't you get it? I experience racism EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY

    EVERY DAY.
    EVERY FUCKING DAY.
    Every single gaddamn day. Multiple fucking times.
    I wake up with a smile, I get to my front door and I have to put on my invisible shield for the countless racist events which will happen from the minute I walk out my door

    Outside my door is a war zone for me, a war zone where those who are trying to kill my spirit are smiling at me, whilst doing it.

    A war zone, where people are comfortable treating me like a fucking battle ground trophy to display as their token. See we let Soul be here, we are honourable.

    And you want me to feel sorry for you.
    haa haa haa haa. I have to laugh. (damn Maxwell can sing, this is what Sundays are for!)

    You have the audacity to tell me 'you suppose, I'm right'....
    Go home, think about what you are saying, what you are doing and dear God, think about WHY you are doing it.

    You don't deserve to be thanked for diminishing the suffering of your fellow human beings

    You are not a child. Grow the heck up

    erm, now I'm going to go listen to Maxwell, cos this shit right here... this shit right here.. SMDH.

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  116. oh and one more thing James...

    I don't know a darn thing about you. I am not a psychic, I don't pretend to be one and I have no wish to be one.

    What I do know is what you said
    Your words. you were very clear.

    If you don't want the response you got. Then change your words.

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  117. Hey James, I'm 19, only 2 years older than you. You know when I became aware of racism? I can't remember, it's something that I have been aware of, have had to be aware for my whole life in order to properly navigate society.

    After watching the video, it made it a bit easier to swallow, since I rationalized that I did something wrong, not that I might be a bad person. I would like to think I'm not, but at this point I'm convinced that people think I am; being called a douche bag is usually a good indicator that someone dislikes you.

    Well, as long as you can rationalise that you aren't bad, you just did something bad. As long as you feel comfortable. You've been called a douchebag? How sad. Try being called a nigger. Try being called a nigger behind your back, try being called a nigger to your face, try hearing nigger jokes, try being called a nigger and having no-one defend you. Until that day, cry moar.

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  118. @Soul
    After reading your post, I thought, gosh, for someone to put that much work into a post must mean they are really upset, and that means I really have offended them to upset them so bad, and If I offended them that badly, then that means I hurt them. I don't like hurting people. I figure that any post I make now will hurt someone in one way or another, so I decided it's time to stop posting.
    @Rochelle
    I'm sorry for that, but I've been aware ever since I first interacted with children of color. Seriously though, someone asked how long I've been alive, and I answered. That's IT. I wasn't trying to coax out your sympathy.

    I'm not really mad or defensive anymore. I read Soul's last post earlier this afternoon. I didn't have time to post, and I'm glad I didn't. I had to leave to so I could spend a day with the love of my life at a lake-side beach. I even talked about it with her. "James, I can't believe you said that!" She said to me. God, she's a doll. I just think that to continue to try would be pointless, but I wouldn't say that our less than sweet interactions haven't been totally fruitless. Never before did I realize that simple words could dig such deep cuts in other people.

    Oh yeah, Rochelle. If I ever make a promise, I'll always keep it. I'll be reading every article.

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  119. James,

    You sound like a good enough guy, but, as one white guy to another, I really wonder if you're being completely honest about how you've been feeling while commenting here. Maybe you're being as honest as you can at this point, but. . .

    You wrote at one point,

    Never before did I realize that simple words could dig such deep cuts in other people.

    I may be wrong, but I suspect that what you're feeling also includes some shock and awe about yourself -- about how YOU utter such deeply cutting words. The interactions you had on this blog might even be a revelation of something about yourself, but a revelation about something that you want to turn away from. I suspect that you didn't realize, that is, that YOU were capable of hurting people like that, and of saying and doing racist things, and without even realizing it! You might even be confused about that right now.

    I'm intrigued by what you posted about the love of your life, specifically about what she said; when she said that she couldn't believe you said that, you then described her as a doll . . . is she a doll because she would never say the things you said -- as in, you're saying that she's a better person than you? . . . or are you saying that she's a doll because she was surprised that YOU said such things? If the latter, then is she a doll because at least SHE sees some good in you, at a time when even you yourself are having doubts about yourself? A doll because she managed to buck up your bruised sense of yourself?

    What I'm trying to say, basically, is that from one white guy to another, I can see myself in how you've been acting, and reacting, here. I see a common white self-defensiveness in you, one that I too have yet to get over. It's really, really hard, isn't it? to realize that you've just done some shitty things in terms of race; that is, some racist things. We tend to think of ourselves as decent, "good" people, so how could we be racist? And then, even when we can admit that we are trained to be and act white, and that we therefore inevitably do racist shit sometimes, we STILL end up sort of reflexively defending ourselves when people point out that we've done something racist, basically dancing away from taking responsibility -- and the messed-up thing about that part is, we don't even realize (until, hopefully, afterward) that that's what we're doing!

    So, I'm not 100% sure that this all applies to you, but I hope that as you take a break from commenting, you can think in a focused way about whether it does. That you can sort of step aside from your feelings, and realize that you really are whiter than you realize, in terms of how you act. It sucks to realize that about ourselves; but it's irresponsible, and really, beneath an apparently decent guy like you, to realize that and then turn away from it. I hope that you instead try to face up to it. I hope that you try to understand just how much your being classified as "white" means something very different about you from what you've been led to believe it means.

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  120. @James....

    oh.. child. no.

    See the thing is. I'm fucking amazing. I shit posts like this for breakfast.
    You didn't hurt me, lol. To be that arrogant to think that you could is funny really I'm laughing out loud.

    Secondly, you are not saying anything new, what you are doing is not unique. Its old, redundant, and boring.

    You obviously have a heck of a lot to learn about interactions with people who don't know you and don't give two hoots about you.

    Good luck with that. But kindly miss me with you silliness.

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  121. macon d said...
    if you notice a white person screwing up somehow here, why not step in and point that out, instead of waiting for POC do that? ...it's our job.


    I soak up the posts and comments here but don't comment myself. I hope I don't put my foot in my mouth here. But I feel compelled to say something about James' comment:

    @Soul
    After reading your post, I thought, gosh, for someone to put that much work into a post must mean they are really upset, and that means I really have offended them to upset them so bad, and If I offended them that badly, then that means I hurt them. I don't like hurting people.


    What a cop out. It's not how much work you think someone puts into their post, it's what they are saying.

    You are effectively saying if no-one had got "upset so bad" there would be no problem, and it's through this reaction that you figure you've done something wrong. You've completely avoided the content of Soul's post and made it about yourself.

    The point of this place is to learn to identify (and change) your own racist and offensive behaviour by yourself. If you can only recognise this behaviour by someone else's "upset" reaction - and not all the posts explicitly explaining it to you - you need to put in a lot more effort.

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  122. p.s @James

    Let me guess, you couldn't find just one place on this earth where white people have had 'little effect' and where such effect has not been devastating.

    So instead of admitting that you pulled these things out from where the sun don't shine, you attempt to patronise me by talking about 'feeeeelings'.

    And act like you are taking the high road. lol

    Let this be a life lesson to you.
    People who don't know you, can feel free about calling your BS without giving 2 hoots about you.

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  123. Mena "I'm black" M.April 18, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    Tara said:
    " Mena,

    One of the most patronizing things a white person can do is claim to "get it". A white person can be a good ally if they understand that the goal is not for them "get it", because the nature white privilege does not allow for that. Your goal is to listen and take note of what you can do to assist POC. Remember the goal is not play "magical whitey", and start talking about those "other whites that don't get it". All of you need years of reprogramming and it starts by listening."

    Ummmmmmm, I'm black, but even if I wasn't the tone of your post comes across as real condescending. I have no desire to make anyone play the role of "magical whitey". I am talking about how to get whites to understand racism. And really understand not just know about it or be "aware" of it. No they might never get the same full experience of racism, but I have met whites who did understand it and could recognize it in an instant. One has a blind sibling who was mainstreamed in a regular school and she saw the way he was mistreated. For some reason this made her awesome at recognizing the ignorant things white people would say about minorities, and truth be told it made her a bit of an outcast. The other adopted two black children and suddenly started to notice the different treatment her children got.

    We might have a different definition of "getting it"

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  124. @James

    Oh for fuck's sake, interacting with POC doesn't make you aware of racial issues. And what the hell was the relevance of mentioning your girlfriend?

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  125. @ James

    thank you for your posts. through them I have been able to see my own douche-like tendancies more clearly. It's crazy I mean I do believe in individualism but when it comes to racism WP are kind of all the same in how we come at this shit. like "oh but I'm a good person" I'm starting to feel kind of pissed at myself for my lazy behavior and the nature of whiteness which is really the reason I have felt like an outcast in POC majority situations my whole life. WP are resposible for that shit and I'm really angry about it all the sudden. We put that wall up and damned if we don't maintain it really well. I'm starting to think it isn't even about compassion or sympathy. it's about representing. If I'm going to be seen as white and I can't change it than whiteness has got to change.

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  126. @jasonburns

    So now James can feel good about himself for because in filling his bingo card he helped another white man?

    Not okay.

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  127. I suppose your right I hadn't thought about that possibility. i thought my condescending tone came across.

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  128. 1. Listen. If you are white, just listen. Find that hard? Well, too bad. Because you don't "know", and do not "understand". You will NEVER understand what it is like to be a POC.

    2. Act. Ask questions. Be aware that no one is OBLIGATED to answer them, but ask them just the same. Look things UP. Read books about privilege and power, NOT about the "black/POC experience". That will not help you.

    3. Do not be surprised if we (POC) are angry. I am angry. I am told infinitely every day and in every way that I am inferior. Some days I like being the proverbial Sacajawea to your Lewis and Clark in terms of race relations; some days I am TOO FUCKING TIRED OF YOUR BULLSHIT. You. Yes, you.

    You who doesn't notice that "Friends" had one person of color on it in something like 12 years. You who doesn't know that modern heart surgery, the satellite and combustion engine were made by people of color. Who doesn't "see my color" but calls my beauty "exotic". Who tightens the grip on their handbag when I come near. Who doesn't say anything when I am harassed in public. Who doesn't seem to see the irony in "Driving Mrs. Daisy" getting an academy award for Best picture, but not ANY OTHER MOVIE IN THE LAST TEN YEARS that I can think of with a main character of color. I'm tired. I am tired of you "not getting it", or "not seeing" me. And when I get angry, when we get angry; you can't handle it? It hurts your feelings? I'm sure it does. Now, get some perspective here, please.

    It's like when I complain about catcalls and sexual harassment and men talk about the "time a guy felt my ass and I felt so violated!!!1!"

    Please.

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  129. White middle-class girl chiming in here to say that I agree with Rochelle and RVCBard and August and Kittywhompers and A.Smith and Sonic everyone else who's pointed out that this thread, like many others, has become a minefield of white ignorance and venom, and that people of color clearly have a better understanding of racism than whites.

    Also agree with DivineLioness and M. Gibson about white people needing to listen and understand that we can't ever "get it", and that we need to accept that. And that we shouldn't be expecting people of color to educate us about racism when there's already so much information out there.

    @leedevious: you don't deserve an apology, you need TO apologize. It doesn't matter how you intended what you said; it read as blithe and nasty, and you didn't even consider for a moment that Rochelle's interpretation might be valid, you just sneered at and dismissed her. I know that being angry and defensive is part of being a teenager, but that doesn't make it forgivable, especially when so slathered in racism while claiming not to be racist.

    And all you white people who jumped in to defend leedevious should be ashamed: like A.Smith said, just because you read the comment differently than Rochelle doesn't mean yours is the "correct" interpretation, but you saw fit to gang up on her. There's tons of evidence to show how we white people are brainwashed, all of us, and we need to recognize that before we can fight it, but no matter how hard we fight it, our perspectives will always have some fundamental limits which we need to accept will never go away. We should *never* assume we understand racism better than people of color, because we don't, we can't.

    @macon: I've been lurking here for a while and it seems as though your motives for starting this blog were nice and all, but seriously, you do need to moderate with better discretion. Your "racist comment that might ruin someone's day" net has a lot of gaping holes in it. And your responses to Rochelle were very patronizing.

    @James: you need to just stop posting altogether until you can accept that you're not special, stop making everything all about you, and start *listening*. The Internet already has a surplus of silly people, many of them white, who think everyone should hear their half-assed opinions. Furthermore, the only time I've noticed an overt "unwelcome" vibe towards white people on this blog is when one of us says something ignorant (which happens depressingly often), and in those cases it's pretty understandable—and given that the vast majority of nasty and/or silly comments here are left by whites, the "benefit of the doubt" isn't reasonable to expect. Grow up.

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  130. To clarify something in my last comment:

    @James: I've NEVER felt that people on this blog are hostile to EVERY SINGLE WHITE PERSON. What I have noticed is a refusal to kiss white ass, and that is a *good* thing. It's *not the job* of POC to make WP feel "welcome" or "comfortable". The MAJORITY of WP do/say/think a lot of bad shit, it's a fact, and if you feel unwelcome because that's what's being discussed here, that's too bad.

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  131. This comment:

    "One of the most patronizing things a white person can do is claim to "get it". A white person can be a good ally if they understand that the goal is not for them "get it", because the nature white privilege does not allow for that. Your goal is to listen and take note of what you can do to assist POC. Remember the goal is not play "magical whitey", and start talking about those "other whites that don't get it". All of you need years of reprogramming and it starts by listening."

    Is the one that resonated most loudly to me. I can't think of anything of anything more frustrating (and patronising) than a WP who has their views on what should be considered racist or not, won't shut up and listen, and yet still, sees themselves as a very liberal anti-racist person with nothing more to learn. This is even worse if they try to explain things in a rational and logical way - completely missing the point that racism is rarely about logic. It is about emotion, and how one race (i.e. WP generally speaking, through their culture and institutions) makes POC **FEEL** about their sense of self worth and their self image.

    I have to say (with regret), that on occasion, some of those people have driven me to the point where I (for a short period), said to my self "Well, if you won't shut up and listen, if you don't feel my pain, then I sure as hell won't feel your pain" (as WP).

    I think this WP are the most emotionally draining and the worst. Its very easy to dismiss an overt racist "out of hand" and carry on, but its the WP who think they are anti-racist (and dont or won't accept that they will NEVER "get it" as fully as a POC), that cause the most emotional anguish, as it is very easy to waste hours on end arguing with them on something which they refuse to acknowledge (almost invariable this is to do with unearned or "white" privilege).

    Al together, I think life would be a lot simpler for POC if WP were simply overt racists, or simply accepted that they can be USEFUL allies (who will NEVER fully "get it" because of societal structures etc).

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