Tuesday, April 6, 2010

sit back and watch while non-white people get abused

This is a guest post for swpd by DivineLioness, who writes, “I work with financially historically marginalized youth at a Seattle nonprofit, and had an extremely painful experience last Sunday upon visiting my hometown of Bellingham, WA. Below is the letter I wrote to help me move forward, and process what had happened to me. I apologize for its length and only want some understanding and clarity from it being posted here.

“What makes someone watch as another is hurt and do nothing? What, besides concern for one’s physical safety, makes a person afraid to speak out? Under what circumstances do we all allow malicious and unkind, even cruel things to be said out loud about another, and why?”



Bellingham, you have broken my heart. As an alumni of both Fairhaven Middle School and Sehome High School (never forgot you Ms. Carey and Mr. Kerr!), you have literally raised me to be the woman I have become. I did my (seemingly mandatory) teen stint at Macy's in Bellis Fair, and spent my idyllic summers at Whatcom Falls. I have spoken at your MLK celebrations at Whatcom Community College, received commendations from you for my non-profit work. I have competed to be Miss Whatcom County, representing you. When I went to build houses in New Orleans with Americorps, and got picked out of thousands to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper, I was proud to have him announce that I hailed from beautiful Bellingham, the sleepily progressive college town with the great gourmet ice cream. Now, as your daughter, Bellingham, it pains me: I don't know if I'll ever go back to loving you in the same way again.

When I came up this past weekend, I was looking forward to spending time with my good friend, a professors’ daughter I have known since the seventh grade. She’s a senior now at Western, and since I moved to Seattle, we haven't had a lot of time together. We laughed, reminisced, and drove past my old house. I was so happy to walk past some of the old haunts with her, catching up with her parents at their house in Fairhaven that I haven’t visited since high school.

As she dropped me off at the Greyhound station, I was filled with the gratitude that only a long term friendship provides. I chatted with a few of those who waited with me, including a grandmother from Lynden who was picking up a friend from Vancouver. I also talked a bit to a couple headed to Seattle as well, the wife wearing a gorgeous pink sari, and the husband with amicable smiles and tightly wound turban. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, I had arrived early, but the bus, as it often is, was late. The ticket teller shrugged as we asked after it from time to time, the braids in his beard moving with his frown. Sometimes the border delayed the bus. He couldn’t be sure of the time that it would arrive.

As we waited and made polite chit chat, a diminutive, shabby man came in from outside. I judged him to be homeless, and in his late forties, but to this day I am not sure. I do know, however, that he seemed to get a kick out of making the other Greyhound passengers uncomfortable. He whistled and sang loudly, imitated the ringtones of other’s cell phones, and insistently asked increasingly impertinent questions to the people situated around him.

“Where are you from?” He asked repeatedly to the woman in her sari, who ignored him. “You aren’t American.” When he elicited no response, he turned to her husband. “Where are you going, anyway?” The husband decided to humor him. “Seattle.” He then asked each one of us where we were going, and we all (in my case, reluctantly) answered. He then went back to the married woman in pink. “You’re an Arab, aren’t you?” When she wouldn’t answer him he went on and on, eventually moving past where the couple was from and onto describing his ideal woman, who he stated “Would be bigger, so I can slap her around a bit.”

I had been turned around in my seat, but couldn’t ignore the man any longer.

“Excuse me sir, your comments are making me feel uncomfortable. Are you able to stop your conversation, move it, or do I have to leave?” I used my politest, but firmest tone.

“You’re hair is HUGE.” I was wearing my hair out naturally that day, in a medium-sized afro.

“Thank you.” I was undeterred. “Sir, your comments are making me feel uncomfortable. Are you able to stop your conversation, move it, or do I have to leave?”

“Well, I guess you need to leave, ‘cause I’m not stopping anything. Sorry,” the man smirked.

I shrugged, packed up my bag, and went outside to wait out the bus to Seattle, which, by now, was over thirty minutes late.

After awhile, the older grandmother from Lynden ambled out to wait with me.

“I think that man is crazy,” she said by way of opening. I explained that I didn’t believe so; the man could and did engage in conversation, responded to questions posed to him, and seemed to be aware of the effect of his words on other people. “Maybe a bit drunk,” I giggled with her.

We went on, talking about our past, and why we were waiting at Greyhound that day. The woman went on to tell me about working as a nurse in a mental hospital in the 60’s, and mentioned that her Christianity was the bedrock of her compassion. We had something in common; now I work with youth who sometimes suffer from a variety of behavioral "problems."

Eventually the diminutive and talkative man reappeared, coming outside for what I assumed was some sort of attention. We ignored him and chattered on. Eventually, the sky darkened with rain and we walked past the man to go inside and ask about the bus, which still hadn’t arrived.

The man followed us in, along with a group of around six other people. He resumed his humming and imitating of cell phone rings, and I continued to ignore him. At one point I asked him out loud to please be quiet.

Eventually, in front of the now packed waiting room, as I waited at the ticket counter, he began calling out to individuals.

“I guess Seattle should have a welcome sign: All niggers and Arabs allowed!” He smilingly announced to the room.

No response. I turned my back on him and faced the ticket counter.

“Hey, do you want to hear a nigger joke? It’s really funny!” He chuckled to himself as he took a seat in the corner, facing us all.

No response.

At this, I murmured to the ticket teller. “I have been called nigger once today, and if I am called it again, I want that man removed.” The ticket seller chewed his lip and pulled on his beard, braided in three. I couldn’t help but have the fleeting thought and smiled to myself. “That is so Bellingham…”

By this time the small man in the corner was warmed up.

“What is the difference between a nigger and a parrot?” He smiled warmly at the sitting group. “Do you want to know?”

He proceeded to tell multiple jokes with nigger punch lines, rail on the state of niggers in the oval office, all the while stopping to make sure that everyone could hear him. He repeatedly called out individuals in the group, always in a friendly and engaging manner. “Those crazy niggers, right?” “You know, don’t you….” “Three Jews and a nigger went into a market…” He laughed and nodded at the people around him as I turned to the Greyhound ticket seller once more.

“I have been called nigger again. I am a paying customer, and would like to think that I deserve to be have a humane experience here.”

As the ticket seller steeled himself and looked around for protocols on calling the police, I looked around at the group of people who had previously been waiting with me, chatting with me, exchanging pleasantries. I realized that not one of them was going to say, “No, I don’t know about ‘crazy niggers’.” Or “No, I don’t want to hear your joke.” I realized that I was completely alone, that no one was going to stand up for me, a girl less than half this man’s age, who had paid for a ticket and was now tearing up at the ticket seller’s desk.

I began to openly cry as I realized that my belief was wrong that, in the absence of fear for one’s own physical safety, all people would not tolerate injustice. I, as a brown girl, was not worth even one word of dissent from people that had nothing to lose. By saying nothing, these people were implying consent. I had no allies, and apparently no right to be in a public space free of racial epithets.

The ticket seller, seeing my tears, came out of his booth.

“I’m kicking you out.” His voice rang loud in the pregnant guilty silence. “I want to you to apologize to this lady and then leave.”

“Why?” The man in the corner looked bewildered and amused.

“Because you’re using the N word, and making her uncomfortable, and now she’s crying.” Not, ‘you’re using the N-word and that is NOT appropriate,’ or ‘You’re using the N-word and making US uncomfortable.” The implication (which I’m sure was unconscious) was, “This black person doesn’t like you talking about niggers, so we’re kicking you out.”

I felt even more alone in that moment, as, still, NOT ONE PERSON spoke up and said “I feel uncomfortable.” It also made me wonder that, had I not said anything at all, would anyone request the man’s removal from the bus station?

The man shook his head in seeming disbelief, then walked closer to me, as he had no idea of my tears, because my back was turned away.

“I didn’t mean to make you cry. Sorry.” His voice was loud and seemed saccharine. I wiped the wetness away and managed a small, defiant, “I don’t want your apology.”

I didn’t. Why would I want a bigot to pretend to feel sorry for something he clearly was not sorry for? What would be the point? I wasn’t crying about anything the man had said, I was crying that I was fast losing the belief in the general decency of human beings. That, in the place I had long considered home (which prided itself on its progressive politics) old and young, parents, couples, and single people, would sit in the face of blatant racism with nothing to lose, and do nothing.

At my low, sad statement, the man lost his good-natured smile.

“Well, then I guess a nigger is always a fucking nigger then!” He laughed, spun on his heel and left.

I looked over and caught the guilty eye of a man seated to my left, who had been at a vantage point to see my tears. As he opened his mouth to speak to me, I assumed he was going to utter an apology.

“Don’t be upset, miss….Uh, we, I mean, I was….uh, bothered….as, don’t cry…”

Even now, I tremble as I recall. Don’t be upset that we allowed someone to single you out and ridicule you based on your race, miss. Don’t be upset that none of us said a single thing to stop it. Don’t be upset that you now can’t feel safe in your hometown. Don’t cry, because we feel guilty when you cry. Don’t cry that someone used that word systematically to elicit a reaction from you, a word with deep ties to murder, fear, slavery, hopelessness. Don’t cry because you just wanted to wait for your bus, dared voice that you were uncomfortable with offensive remarks, and someone wanted to punish you the worst way they knew how without hitting you.

No one, at any time during or after apologized to me. No one said “Wow, that must have really hurt your feelings,” or “Are you ok, miss?” No one offered me a hug, or commented “Whoa, that guy is crazy/out of line.” No one said anything at all, except the poor Greyhound ticket man, who apologized profusely for not really knowing what to do. Even at that I was a tad bewildered. Isn’t it normal to kick out people harassing patrons at any establishment? Perhaps that man had never experienced someone harassing the customers before. I am more able to forgive him for at least acknowledging that something was NOT okay was happening to me. Even so, his phrasing in the moment was telling. Only I was bothered by racism. Only me.

Even now, I think to myself. What if that man had decided to hit me? Would anyone have said or done something then? What if he had singled out someone else and kept saying “Cunt,” or “faggot”? Because I know in that situation I would (and have) said something. But would anyone else? And doesn’t that mean that I then would be sticking up for people that couldn’t have seemingly cared less about me? What happened to the woman with all of her Christian compassion? What about me made me not worthy of that compassion, of even a hug, after what was obviously a traumatic event?

I rode on the bus for over two hours with three of the people who witnessed the entire episode at the bus station. At no time did anyone mention anything to me.

I have a hard time having faith in the basic goodness of the human race now. I work with youth at a nonprofit and shudder to think that the best I can hope for them is sending them out into a world that does not openly and violently harm them physically.

The only thing I know for sure is that I will never look at the world the same way again. I have never experienced this deep, cavernous heartache before in my life. I had no idea of the concept of a ‘broken heart’ until this experience happened to me.

I have now lost the naive belief that empathy triumphs over fear, that progress will silence intolerance, that I am not alone, that although my race might be different than someone else’s, people will assume me just as deserving to feel secure in the knowledge that I do not deserve to be harassed. I now understand that people who say they believe in justice and equality often only mean it when it is convenient to them, and those that stand up, speak out for justice, for equality are the outlier, not the average. I now know that when push comes to shove, Bellingham is not a safe place for me, that although I am its daughter, it has no love for my face. I suppose I should thank the man with his plethora of race jokes. He was the catalyst for stripping me of my false idealism. I just don’t know if I can forgive him, or you, Bellingham, for it.

183 comments:

  1. This makes my heart break. I can not say that I am surprised. However that outlier is a source of hope. We have to keep hoping that that outlier grows. You are not alone my sister.

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  2. DivineLioness,
    I am so sorry that this happened to you and this horrible nasty racist spoiled what sounded like a lovely weekend. I also sorry no one came to your defense or said anything until you were in tears and that you had to ask for his ignorant ass to be tossed from the station, where he had no business in the first place. People can be so mean, and some people can be so scared and cowed about saying something, especially when it is to protect a minority. I can really empathize with how you feel and got a little blurry eyed reading of your ordeal. Sometimes, it seems like as a black woman you have to cry for people to remember that you are a person and have feelings too.

    I'm sending virtual hugs to you my sister and thank you for your courageous spirit and the good work you are doing. You are worth ten no 100 of that horrible mean wretched man.

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  3. That's crazy!
    And I've even experienced it 2 or 3 times, i witnessed it to many times too (a lot was in the suburbs, but the more often i witnessed it in school and it could go VEEERY far :/). I think it affeced me deeply but i try to stay strong and see people as individuals, because i know that next time it would happen, i would not react like before
    (PS: sorry for my english, i'm a french speaker)

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  4. Oh, honey. Oh, oh. My heart is breaking for you, and I offer you all the comfort that I can from a cold computer screen.

    I try to tell my friends that this is why there are limits to the "freedom of speech" they defend so vehemently. Words can do violence just as surely as fists, and no one has the right to inflict that kind of harm on another's soul. I wish you peace, and justice, and offer my gratitude for your willingness to share such a vulnerable moment with us.

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  5. wow i thought that kind of thing only happens in my home state( Mississippi). I am sorry that you had to go through that.

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  6. also... its funny how after incidents like this White people are puzzled to why POC go everywhere in groups.

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  7. What a horrifying experience. You should raise some hell with Greyhound.

    All else fails, go back and burn it to the ground.

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  8. I choked up reading this. I can't believe that a person would do that to another in the first place, nevertheless that a whole room of people would fail to respond. There is no excuse for that.

    I've never seen a display even slightly like that. It's shocking. Thank you for sharing your story, DivineLioness. My heart goes out to you for having experienced such an injurious event.

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  9. You have more faith in society than myself. That was such an awful experience. I am far more cynical in terms of society's morals. I have witnessed over the years that some people - regardless of race - are at ease watching another group being targeted by racists. I guess as long as they are not on the receiving end of being offended, then it's okay. This type of thinking generally results in others not speaking out when another group is targeted because some people may revert to the mentality, 'Well, they wouldn't do it for me.' It's not a question of who will help another person. It's simply doing what is right. You could have been physically attacked. I guess the crowd would have watched silently.

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  10. Oh my goodness, what a horrific experience you've had. :( I agree with Moi about going to Greyhound and sharing your experience. That doesn't ease the pain of what happened to you, though, I understand - it wasn't just Greyhound that let you down.

    So I wonder, other white people, what does it take for you to step in? For the ones who never do - why don't you? What do you think to yourself later on when you go over what you witnessed that day? I don't want to hear that people are afraid of being hit or something - I'm not afraid of that and I actually HAVE been hit. You want to know why I'm not afraid of getting hit? The odds are that I will NOT get hit. And at least, if I got hit, I'd have some recourse - and the wound would heal. This woman will wear this scar forever. I'm just disgusted by that response of being worried about one's own safety. It's BS.

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  11. I'm so sorry this happened to you. I've experienced similar incidents myself (For instance, I once sat in a high school assembly while a white student behind me told nigger jokes to get a rise out of me and no one said anything to shut him up). I think there are a couple of things at play here: people in crowds often fail to act as individuals to help someone in distress, and people not directly affected by racism don't take the personal responsibility to confront it. I also bet that those people let their fear of being targeted by the man silence them. Which, lest these sound like excuses, is NOT okay.

    Whenever a white person shares a story with me about some horribly racist thing they heard or saw, my first question is always, "What did you do or say in response?" Often, they did nothing and they have a list of excuses. They'll even talk about how upsetting it was, and how wrong the person was (I guess they are telling me to get cookies?), but rarely do they talk about the actual victims of the racism in question or how they must have felt. It seems so obvious as to not need teaching, but apparently white folks often need to be told to defend POCs who are victimized by bigotry; so I keep telling them. It's just selfishness and cowardice that keep people quiet. And those traits make someone difficult to respect.

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  12. I cried too. Brava to you, Divine Lioness for standing up for yourself! It seems like such a societal norm to adopt this attitude that "if you just ignore it it will go away." In fact: it won't. It will just get louder and louder, and more obnoxious.

    A guy used to come by our Food Not Bombs table telling really offensive jokes about women all the time. At first it wasn't too bad and we'd just ignore him or whatever; we figured it was polite to just wait for him to go away. After a while though, myself and two other women in the group got really fed up and told him off. He was appropriately complicit, and still comes by our table to this day, but he keeps his stupid jokes to himself. Having that kind of female solidarity was crucial, and even in the face of that (FAR less personal and far less offensive) I would have felt a little intimidated telling him to go away if it were just my voice.

    Brava to you for demanding that the ticket taker DO SOMETHING. It's astonishing how people can sit around behaving as if it's more couth to do nothing than to stand up with someone who's being harassed. And how dare they, when you were the only one with the wherewithall to get up and leave while he was acting so rudely to everyone beforehand?!

    You are very strong. I'm sorry you had that experience, and I wish that I or someone, or a whole army had been there to stand by you.

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  13. I'm sorry that happened. I'm very sorry. If that happened to me, I might have gone ballistic, and ended up in prison.

    I'm also sorry that one came to help you.

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  14. I am so sorry you had to experience that. I'd like to think that I would have caused a fuss for you and with you if I'd been there.

    If something like that happens in front of me in the future, I *will* make a fuss.

    My virtual support to you, and thank you for sharing the story.

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  15. Unconscionable, plain and simple.

    I do not tolerate that sort of ridiculously ignorant behavior to happen in my awareness, and neither should anyone else. I've spoken up to parents hitting their kids in anger (not punishment, but anger), racism, homophobia, and anything else that makes my stomach feel "that way".

    Bullies are bullies, whether they're after your lunch money or your dignity. If we don't, as individuals, rise up to stop them, they won't stop on their own.

    That man better hope he never finds himself in a waiting room with me. I'd give him an earful on your behalf, and a second earful for the undermining of a progressive society.

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  16. I am appalled at both the behavior of that jackass in the station, and at everyone who just sat idly by and did nothing! That is beyond ridiculous, and the fact that you had to insist on action be taken, and even then nothing was done until your tears began to flow, only furthers my outrage at this situation.

    Like others have said, my heart breaks that you had to go through this, and I would only hope that if I ever bore witness to this kind of behavior, that I wouldn't be the only person speaking out to silence the bigoted hate speech that they allowed to persist!

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  17. Wow. I don't even know what to say except I am so so sorry that happened to you. Hugs.

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  18. Thank you. When I'm next in such a wrong situation, I'll try to think of your writing. I hope and believe it will inspire me to act. I admit I've been timid and afraid in similar situations. While I hope never to see such things again, if I do, I will remember. I won't let another suffer through ridicule and indignity.

    Yes, I'm white (downright pasty) and have permitted things to occur near me out of fear. Rationally, I know they'll back down once confronted. But still I've been afraid. Putting a face (metaphorically) on the impact hopefully will kick my butt into action in the future.

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  19. I've been sitting with this one a bit.

    DivineLioness, I am so sorry this happened to you. I say this with the sincerity I would say to a grieving person who has lost a relative.

    I am also letting it challenge me. I have never seen something like you describe and I'd like to think I wouldn't be part of the problem, but I have seen small insults and I have not always responded in the past. I have been thinking about this a lot since the earlier "Strong Black Women" thread, and mentally preparing to be ready to intervene in the future. So I'd like you to know that I am trying to use your sharing to improve my behavior in the future.

    Not as excuse-making but to reflect on what I need to do to be ready to help someone if needed, I've been thinking about the thought processes people go through. One is fear that the crazy person will turn on you next. Another is the fear of "making a scene," which is worse if other people are around and not intervening. Another is concern about making the aggressor worse. (This last one comes up from things I've read about child abuse, where victims say that challenging an abusive parent in public can make them treat the child worse in private. But that is a different situation than is being discussed here.)

    I think the excuse that many of us would make is that intervening would make the victim feel worse, that if there is no violence, you should let the victim handle it. The blogs have been very helpful for saying how it feels and making it clear that the victim would rather have an ally.

    I would appreciate stories of interventions that helped or didn't help. In particular, do you appreciate people speaking up even at little passing insults? And it is better for the victim to speak sympathetically and supportively to the victim or better to challenge the aggressor?

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  20. ((hug))
    Divine Lioness,
    Your story has stayed with me since reading it. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised by the lack of reaction. I have witnessed similar scenarios and I was always the only one to speak out.

    If you would like help writing a letter to Greyhound, please let me know. Macon has my e-mail address.

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  21. I think I'm starting to understand erykah badu's message about "group think"

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  22. DivineLioness,
    You should be proud of yourself for sticking up for people when they could not. It is a good thing you know now that you cannot always depend on people to have your back. It obviously does not matter if the remarks were targeting you or that woman in her sari. People who think only of themselves would rather sit and be quite than help those who are in need. You on the other hand are a good person, you didn't deserve that behavior or the response from the people around. I hope you can still find some good in the world because it's in the hearts and actions of people like you. :)

    On a side note, Something like this happened at my university, where my physics professor made a comment about being in India and he couldn't remember where he was so he said, "It's a place in India where a bunch of Chinese people throw nets into the water and catch fish? Anyone know where it is? Wait, Where are the Indians in here, do any of you know where this place is?" *uncomfortable silence in the room* "What? There are a lot of Indians in here!" Finally, I said, "Sir, that is extremely racist. Why would anyone in here know where that place is when you've only given us vague descriptions? Just because someone is Indian does not mean they know about that fishing spot!" No one said anything in the class. There were a few shocked faces but not one person said anything. I noticed that at my university, people say the most racist things about Asian people and NO ONE SAYS a thing. This teacher even questioned if this Asian girl was Jewish because she was absent one Jewish holiday. She said she wasn't and then the professor said, "Of course you aren't". She just stood there uncomfortably and said she was absent for knee surgery.

    It's strange how we live in a world where people display their awful thoughts and no one says anything. I really do not think it matters that you were Black. I have seen a white man and his pregnant Asian wife in the waiting room of the ER being ridiculed by some random man sitting near them. The white man sad NOTHING when his wife was being insulted. Where is the love, people?! I was shocked.

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  23. DivineLioness ~ I don't know. I don't know what makes a person, let alone a roomful of people, watch as another person is hurt and hurt and hurt.

    Your pain and disbelief radiate out from your words, as do your strength and determination. I wish with all my heart that there had been allies present with you in the moment to acknowledge your pain, to admire your strength, and to support your determination. To defend the right of every human being to *be* without being assaulted by words or actions.

    I hope there are many dear friends and family who will help to heal your broken heart with love and tenderness.

    And I hope that you feel the support and rightful fury of the sisters and brothers and allies here, and that those will help you heal as well.

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  24. @DL

    i'm sorry.

    you deserve so much better than that.

    i hope that your life can be filled by people who love and respect and affirm you, and that the kids you get to work with will get to go out and experience love and affirmation and respect as well, and not the violence and dismissal you just faced.

    and i hope that those people who sat idly by meet someone who will scream at their face that that behavior is disgusting and wrong, and that they will take those words to heart and change. like they did with me.

    peace be with you.

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  25. Thank you to everyone for all the "I'm sorry's" I appreciate it, although it would've meant much more to me to hear it at the time that I was emotionally vulnerable. I am a lot less so now.

    To OlderWoman: With small insults, small retorts suffice.
    A well placed "Oh, please!" said laughingly sometimes suffices.

    Even better is questions. "What do you mean?" "I don't get the joke, could you explain it?"
    People who are not actively trying to participate in racism will realize the nature of what they are saying.

    Student: "He got one of those Rice Rockets"
    Me: (laughingly) "What is a rice rocket?!" (I really had no idea)
    Student: "You know, how Asian's like to boost up their cars, and race them and stuff..."
    DL: "Oh, it's a rocket, cause the car's super fast?"
    STUDENT: "Yeah, yeah, totally!"
    DL: "I don't get the rice bit... Like it's like those cars that run on corn fuel or..." (being oblivious on purpose)
    STUDENT: "No! (laughs) It's cause they're Asian!"
    DL: "Who is? Oh! 'Cause only Asian people own those super street racing cars?"
    STUDENT: "No, not really....But--"
    DL: "..And where does the rice bit come in?"

    I'm sure you get the point. That is only if you have time, and actually want to engage in dialog. I think that if I feel physically safe, and have nothing to loose, then I say something.

    The man in my case was friendly to all the people in the station. He was not mean nor malicious in tone, just obnoxious. He was physically extremely small. He repeatedly asked if people wanted to hear his jokes. I would have been glad to hear:

    "No, I would not like to hear any more jokes. If someone else wants to hear some, feel free to say so now.....Anyone? Anyone want to hear any more jokes about niggers? No? Too bad, looks like you need a different audience, buddy." All said in a friendly manner. One doesn't have to be rude or "make a scene". Although I wonder how, logistically, "making a scene", at least in my case, could have happened. A 'scene' was already being made...

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  26. @Jason Riedy

    I'm glad that you have challenged yourself to speak out in the future. I would like to know, in the interest of understanding, what you were afraid OF...

    Was it fear for your personal safety?
    Fear of "making a scene"? And what is the fear behind "making a scene", fear of being different? Fear of standing alone instead of having the safety of a crowd?

    Because knowing what you were afraid of helps you look at situations logically....At least it does for me.

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  27. Dear DivineLioness,

    Today is the first time I've visited this blog, and your post the first I've read. I am a white woman, and I never, never leave comments. This one is for you.

    All I kept thinking the entire time I was reading this was "someone has to step up, eventually someone is going to say something or at least demonstrate some sympathy." And afterwards I was imagining what I would have done if I had been there. I can say with confidence that I would have done SOMETHING, even if it was just letting you know that I felt for you (I can't believe these people just straight up didn't acknowledge it!!!??? unbelievable). Because of this letter, I now know what I WILL do if I ever encounter this in the future. I will walk up to you, tell you that you are beautiful, and say that I have your back in whatever you want to do. And then probably (hopefully) raise some hell with you.

    I really hope you read this, because the other thing that was going through my mind was: I wish I had this girl's email so I could tell her how sorry I am and send her as genuine a message of support as I can convey through the internet. It feels so important to me that you hear the support people have for you. I don't know that I can give you anything other than my apologies as a representative of whiteness.

    As far as offering you any kind of feedback that would help you reach the "understanding and clarity" you were looking for, I think that olderwoman's post is very true, both for its explanations and its statement that these explanations are NOT excuses (one of the most important things I've ever come to learn - there is a difference between explanation and excuse. Explanations are useful to reach understanding. That does not make them excuses). I would also add that many people are only likely to break through the hesitancy around "making a scene" etc. and go out on a limb for something that affects them personally - which is why it is so important to have allies, to build solidarity among different oppressed groups who can support each other. I would stand up for you against a racist comment, and you would stand up for me against a homophobic comment. Spreading solidarity is key in my view. And along that line, I hope you know that your post was so moving to people who read it, including (in an important way) a white audience, that maybe you have prevented someone else from experiencing what you had to go though. I know you have affected and inspired me at least. I never leave comments and I almost never cry... and here I am, commenting and shedding a tear for you. I admire you for sharing this.

    Solidarity,
    Anne

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  28. @all

    Finally, do not speak out for the person being bullied: ie: that poor black person/woman/homosexual/short/tall/latina/physically challenged person/ whatever

    Don't speak because 'they are hurt', because 'they need defending', or because 'they need your help'.

    Speak out because YOU ARE HURT, YOU ARE ANGRY, YOU ARE OFFENDED.

    To use 'I statements': I rarely speak because I think that the target of whatever hateful actions needs speaking for. If I speak, it is because I am the one who is uncomfortable. I don't care if EVERYbody else, including the intended target is seemingly fine. The action is NOT fine. I am NOT fine. My issue is with the behavior/word/joke/assumption itself, and how it makes me feel, NOT with how it might make someone else feel.

    Thank you all for your concern, and, more so, your future action.

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  29. My heart goes out to you.

    Experiences like this remind me of another reason why I hate "white savior" movies so much. I feel like a vast swath of the white audience identifies with the brave hero who stood with the oppressed minority people and turned his/her back on everything they knew. They leave the theater feeling good and saying that's what I would have done. But the actual reality is so different. It's hard to believe that someone who can't find the courage to tell an a-hole to shut up on behalf of a minority in 2010 could be trusted to face down the "Bull Connors" of past years or the future.

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  30. I have had unfortunately similar things happen in my life. I have in the past said nothing from confusion and politeness.

    I am determined to not let that happen again.

    I hope you can recover your faith in humanity one day.

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  31. @DivineLioness,

    I would appreciate your input on this - the reason I say I would have your back and take your lead as opposed to rushing in ready for battle is not that I'm not PERSONALLY angered by racism (because, uh yeah. definitely) but that I don't want to be That White Lady Who Knows Best and Saves the Day. I'd rather work with someone than take the lead a la Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (which could have been about the football player and not the Nice White Lady). I can be a very aggressive person and I've been trying to learn to step up/step back (while negotiating white privilege) in the appropriate situations. This situation seems like one that could be a serious step up one though... a majority of white people who aren't saying anything against serious racist statements. Thoughts appreciated.

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  32. I am so sorry you had to go through that crap. thank you for writing about it. This literally made me choke with rage.

    Just what the hell is wrong with people? I agree with Arielle - WHAT are these people afraid of? Why are they more afraid of whatever that other thing is (scorn from others, being embarrassed, etc.) than being cowards, than letting another person be hurt in their presence?

    btw, I love the way you write.

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  33. I am so sorry DivineLioness. Something similar happened to me. I got called a nigger by two white guys in a passing car on my college campus a while back. I got a few sympathy looks from the people around, but nobody said a word. I was reading something that said white people don't speak up because it would break loyalty in white racial bonding. The underlying sentiment is that you don't have to along with it, but you do have to keep quiet or lose the privileges of whiteness. Whites sure are vocal when POC speak out about racism though. *sarcasm*

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  34. @ Snorrels

    if you are personally offended by racism, and committed to working on fighting white privilege (including your own), you should speak up against those things regardless of whether there is a PoC there to "work with" or not. being an anti-racist ally means being able to be counted on to fight racism/white privilege at all times.

    speaking up in a case like this where you say something like "I am offended by you, stop saying that," both repudiates your privilege in the situation (when you could just simply ignore it instead) and calls attention to the fact that racism affects EVERYONE, not just PoC.

    in this case, if the tree falls in the forest but there are no PoC around to hear it, it still makes a noise.

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  35. I'd like to know from white readers who have remained silent in the face of racism, why?

    And for those who did speak up, what did you say and what was the reaction?

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  36. I cannot help but wonder, as someone who is afraid of confrontation due to almost daily abuse in another life, how I would have reacted. I would like to believe that I would get up and stand beside you whether I knew you or not. But in terms of telling a crazy-ass man that he was making me uncomfortable, I don't know. And that makes me sad. Because I believe in standing up for oneself and others. That's what I teach my child. But a possible volatile situation freezes me more than anything.

    I'm sorry you went through this. I'm sorry no one stood up for you. I'm sorry no one stood up for themselves.

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  37. Nia said,
    >> "The underlying sentiment is that you don't have to along with it, but you do have to keep quiet or lose the privileges of whiteness."

    Okay, so I've heard this as well and have had a little trouble wrapping my mind around it. People, is the idea that by speaking out against racism, a WP is not eliminating zir personal access to white privilege, but rather is putting that aspect of privilege into (situational) jeopardy for all the WP present at the time?

    (POC speaking out against racism has the latter effect, of course, which is why WP don't like it; it's just that the effect of a WP doing something explicitly anti-racist is often described as "is seen as somehow less white," which seems off to me. When I say stuff like, "Dude, not a cool thing to say," I am *very* conscious of my whiteness, and I imagine the person I am talking to is as well!).

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  38. Re intervening. This may get long. So, first, racial slurs and jokes are rarely made in front of me -- I'm a fairly high status person who is known to do anti-racist work. I don't have any trouble addressing racist talk when people of color are not around. And in my circles, it really does not happen much. Overt racism is taboo -- it's the more clueless kind of comments I'll hear. I generally address those, too. I'm actually pretty annoying.

    About the one-of slur on the street, I have to speak to cultural difference. As a White person, I really was raised to stay reserved from strangers and avoid public encounters*, and if someone shouts an insult at me (it has happened), I ignore it. So I might assume POC would have the same approach. But if POC are thinking that my silence in this situation means I am engaging in White solidarity with the insult, then I'd be happy to speak up and just want to get a good idea of how to do it in the most effective way. I'm not talking bar jokes where cleverness is the issue (not my problem, I don't do bars), I'm talking shout from a passing car, insult from a clerk or co-customer.

    When I said I was worried about intervention, I was thinking of more complicated situations. I specifically have in mind two cases in which I saw white teachers or teachers aides "chewing out" Black kids in ways that I worried were racially biased, but there were no racial slurs uttered at all, everything that was said could have been said to a white kid. It just seemed like the adult was being too "mean" for the circumstances. But it was at school and the white adults were in authority - it seemed wrong to intervene. But it still bothered me. I wonder whether I would (or could) intervene properly if I saw, say, the police treating someone inappropriately. Apart from fearing the police, I might fear that I didn't know everything about what was going on.

    The situation DL described in my mind obviously should have warranted intervention by the bystanders. I've never been in a situation remotely like it, but I can imagine myself worrying about what to say or do and ending up not helping. Which is why I've put into my mental kit bag two useful tools: (1) Express my own disgust/upset with the person's speech/behavior, and (2) say something to the "victim" to indicate I don't go along with it. There's also (3) speak to the other people in the setting, urging them to join me in rejecting the bad behavior. [This was in one of the What Would You Do? videos.] This is consistent with research on standing up to injustice: you need somebody to start it, but if someone starts it, lots of times other people will join in.

    * I've learned from Black people that a lot of (most?) Black people are taught that you always speak to a person when you pass them. Whites in my "ethnic group" don't speak to White strangers when we pass them and many Whites think it is actually rude for a stranger to speak to them. Depends on where you are from. Many of us have learned this social rule: Speak to Black people but not White people when you pass them on a city street. I have no idea what the "rule" would be for Latinos or various Asian groups, etc. I realize this is off topic, but I thought it might contribute to understanding the phenomenon of people not saying things.

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  39. DivineLioness,

    I am glad you shared your story because it hits home as I have been in a similar situation, in a college classroom no less. Basically, it was the first week of classes (and last year too). I went to class, took my seat, greeted friends and gave my full attention to the professor. The majority of the class did not possess that same discipline and continued with their conversations. Now, the entire class was mixed but I was still the only black person. The professor was white. Anyway, the professor being fed up with the disrespect coming from the class decided to yell "I don't care how black you people think you are, you're not! So, let's start acting professional!" I was dumbfounded and kept a permanent frown on my face for the duration of the class.

    The professor in question had also seemed a bit taken aback once he locked eyes with me (I don't think he realized there was in fact a black person attending his class until that moment.) The rest of the class also stared at me. It was almost as if they were waiting for my reaction. Yet, none of them said a word. NOT ONE WORD! I saw a few faces displaying dismay, uncertainty, and awe but NO ONE said a word. Then, without a beat, the professor says: "Well, I have your attention now. Sometimes I have to do certain things to get people to listen." (That was, with exception of myself as I was no longer as attentive as I had been upon becoming so upset with the incident.) He went through his lesson and I just kept watching the clock while trying to figure out whether or not I would be able to drop the class. Finally, the class had ended but the professor wasn't done! He decided to throw in a disclaimer while avoiding eye contact with me: "Look guys, I'm not really hard to get along with but if you don't come to this class ready for lecture than I try to shock you into paying attention." Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

    To make matters worse, when I brought it up to my friend that was also in the class--yes, she's white, she just told that she "couldn't recall of him saying anything." Though, I distinctly remember her sharing the same horrid look on her face. Did the professor ever make an attempt to apologize to me personally? No. It makes me wonder if he even would've bothered with the disclaimer or if there would have been a slew of insults aimed a black folks had I not been there.

    Long story short, I didn't need the class so I dropped it and he is still teaching probably spewing new insults as a disciplinary shock tactic. I never filed a complaint against him because I knew I would have no back-up from the other students. (If I sound bitter in this post, I am.)

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  40. What the heck?

    Why is anyone surprised that no one stuck up for her? I'm not surprised at all and it's not because I'm a misanthrope. It's because I realize people are rarely as honorable as we'd like to think. And heroes typically only exists in comic books and movies.

    Doesn't anyone here remember how once in NY a woman was murdered while a bunch of people simply stayed inside their apartments?

    It takes more courage than most people have to stand up for what's right when they're not the ones backed in a corner.

    I think this woman's experience should be covered in an episode of "what would you do".

    That said, I'm so sorry for what's happened to you. I hope you don't let this event scar you too much. As for the racist guy, I hope he gets struck by lightening.

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  41. DL, I'm so sorry for and angry about what happened to you.

    Thank you for telling your story, and for the advice and perspective in the comments.

    I will not be silent anymore.

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  42. That is absolutely horrifying. I lived in Bellingham for two years, and loved it there, but sometimes I think that these progressive/liberal communities are only progressive on paper. When it comes to "walking the walk," you get the situation you described.

    And although I am so sorry this happened to you, I will think of your story the next time I see someone being harassed in public. Really, how hard would it have been for one of these onlookers to walk up to that kid at the counter--who shouldn't have needed someone to tell him this, btw--and say "Get that guy out of here NOW."

    On a marginally related note, I have thought a lot lately about the way Hollywood loves movies about white people "saving" POC and "natives" (The Blind Side, Avatar, to name just two recent ones). It seems like a common white fantasy to swoop in and save the poor, suffering minorities. And... I guess it really is just a fantasy. All one of them had to do is say SOMETHING to help a fellow human being, and they couldn't even do that.

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  43. I am so sorry that you had to experience that or that anyone has to experience something like that. It reminds me of that what would you do series on ABC. Different racial incidents were happening and white people just stood there the whole shopping while black thing.

    I think the people also viewed you as the "strong black woman" and you would be able to take care of yourself and were surprised that you would be shedding tears.

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  44. It's interesting that some of the white commenters in this thread had no such expressions of sympathy when I described a similar racist episode in the thread @ marginalizing POC in their own countries. In fact, I think it was only other black posters who commented about it. Still seems as if a black person has to break down before non-blacks can see her/him as worthy of compassion - or before speaking out against injustice is seen as the appropriate thing to do.

    I am also curious @ responses to the questions thesciencegirl posed.
    _____________________
    BTW, I noticed that TBC wrote a 2-post response to LisaMJ that seemed, to me, full of anti-black (and, at times, specifically anti-BW) invective. I started to write a response but then I thought about the comments in this thread and wondered why none of the allies in this thread saw fit to respond to her comment in that one? No, I am not asking anyone to respond on my or LisaMJ's behalf. Rather, I am questioning why, in an extended comment full of racial stereotypes and assumptions-used-as-fact, the allies in this thread remained silent.
    I see the silence in the other thread and the topic of this one as linked. If this is a derail, I apologize.

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  45. @wth, jerry!

    Agreed. When I read this yesterday I thought of the young black woman in Detroit a few years ago who was beaten, stripped, and thrown off a bridge in front of a crowd. When she begged for help, no one stepped in. When she begged to borrow someone's cell phone to call for help, the person actually refused.

    We live in a risk-averse culture in the US. I also see part of the problem being a result of over-emphasis on the individual. So, for example, in my country of origin, in the town where some of my relatives still live, if a person is seen stealing, etc., a group of people will address it. Immediately. If domestic violence occurs, there is the legal system to address it but it is also looked at as a problem to be addressed as a community (but the cities, which are more westernized, aren't like that). It's not perfect but social ills are treated as a community responsibility. By contrast, a sentiment I keep hearing here (in meat space) is "better you than me."

    As for remaining silent on the bus ride...I think it may have been shame.

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  46. Reading that, I felt the anxiety, the rage, the fear that I would have felt had I physically been present. I am horribly non-confrontational and generally passive aggressive. I have no idea if I would have actually had the courage to say or do anything in that situation. That fact saddens and disgusts me, but it’s the truth. In reality, I probably would have started by expressing my disgust with whoever I was there with, probably getting louder and louder. If the person directly spoke to me, depending on my level of rage, I may or may not have gone off on them. I’ve surprised myself on some occasions by coming up with the right thing to say in the moment, but I’ve also been paralyzed by fear and anxiety. I know what I’d *like* to do to someone like that; pacifist or not, I would like to have beaten the ever-loving shit out of him, even though I know that would accomplish absolutely nothing and that violence is not an answer.

    I hope that reading an account like that from the perspective of the person being abused will encourage me and other people to step up and do the right thing.

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  47. "I now understand that people who say they believe in justice and equality often only mean it when it is convenient to them."

    TRUTH.

    The story made me very sad but I want to thank you for sharing it. It made me realize some things as well.

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  48. @olderwoman

    I have notice too often in my experience as a long term substitute teacher of black children being 'chewed out' by white and black teachers. From my recollection, I can never recall a white child being spoken to in such a harsh manner. It's something that you mentioned this because I was thinking about those past instances yesterday. I wondered if they were racially biased. And each time, I never came to the child's defense when I notice a teacher literally yelling to the top of their lungs at the child. I use to wonder to myself is a child worth a heart attack or having a blood vessel burst? The main reason why I didn't come to any child's defense was because I knew my actions would be meaningless. For one, I was a 'sub' and I knew no one at the school cared too much for black children because they were inevitable trouble makers. Being a black woman, I assumed the higher, white authorities would make it into an irrelevant race issue of the black teacher trying to make excuses for disruptive black students. I felt I would be fighting a losing battle. Nevertheless, it isn't an excuse. I can recall countless of times when black and white teachers unleash on me as a child for small things while my white counterparts were far more blatantly disrespectful.

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  49. Oh GOD, I don't know why WP allow this to happen!

    I'm filled with anger for you, anger at people with white skin like me, who won't do a fucking thing to stop something like this.

    I would have stood with you, and do stand up, when this stuff happens around me. Fuck, fuck, fick, this should not have happened to you, and I am really really sorry, and wish I could have been there.

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  50. I'm very sorry that this happened to you.

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  51. Thank you for opening my very naïve eyes. I'm sorry that you experienced this and that no one stood up to help you or defend you.

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  52. @sciencegirl:

    Yes, I've spoken up, and you know what? 9 times out of ten, the racist asshole simply backs down and starts mumbling to themselves about "bitches" (me), but ceases to make racist remarks.

    If no PoC are around, then it's clear the person is trying to make me complicit in their racsism, I say something like "I do not like what you're saying, it's wrong, and I'm really not comfortable with it". If they try to argue, or persuade me, I keep repeating "you are offending me, please stop". Again, they'll stop.

    I have never had someone get physically violent, though I've had someone switch and start yelling epithets at me. I didn't act scared, they backed down (that happened once). Breaking the wall of silence won't cause anything worse than what's already happening, and I'm a woman - imagine what a white man could do, if they chose to be a real ally. White people need to hear that their racism is not acceptable to ANYONE.

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  53. @TAB:

    No, I don't think it's a derail - I know that in my case, I'm in and out of reading this blog, and come back sometimes a month or two later, and realize something has gone down that I want to comment on, and now it's way too late (or is it? Hmmmm).

    I had to go back, because I missed that thread entirely. And yes, WP need to call out that shit when it happens in the comments, too.

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  54. TAB, I believe you are referring to the comments in the TRA thread? I don't want to derail this conversation, so I'm leaving a comment for you over there.

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  55. *hugs* you. i hope you never have to experience this shit again. not that it matters now, but if i were there i would have read this asshole his rights. as a black woman, i have had similar things happen, and people, including my husband haved failed to defend me. i wish i could protect you, and others from this waste of a society. good health and future luck to you.

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  56. This is mind-numbingly fucked up.

    HOW could no one have said anything??! How can they live with themselves after that??

    There are no words for me to express the outrage and anguish I felt for you while reading this post. I am so, so sorry, DivineLioness. This is nauseating.

    I hope what happened that day and their cowardly response to it haunts those people for the rest of their lives.

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  57. That is a horrible experience and I'm sorry you had to go through that. If it was me, I probably wouldn't have had the guts to even ask the ticket guy for help and assert my rights, so to speak.

    Hence, I think I understand how Jason Riedy feels. I'm often like that too, particularly when something happens to myself, but also to others. I'm not sure what it is that I fear, I think I fear that I might be wrong about feeling that I/someone was wronged. I don't seem to know what my rights are, and therefore don't know how to assert them. I think.

    But thanks for sharing the story. It's clarified things in my mind. Now I can decide beforehand (i.e. now) that I'll do something when that happens. This helps because I wouldn't have to go through the decision-making process on the spot. And having deconstructed racism (and other injustices) through reading blogs like this, hopefully I've got more ammo now than before. (I think I'm turning into one of those 'annoying person'.)

    And it is better for the victim to speak sympathetically and supportively to the victim or better to challenge the aggressor? [olderwoman]

    Challenge the aggressor. I've experienced both situations after racist incidents. One where the white bystanders felt uncomfortable with the racism that happened and tried to talk to my family to ease things and show sympathy. We appreciated it, but the sting of racism still stuck with us. And one where a white guy just came out of nowhere and yelled at the aggressor real loud and started telling him off. The sting of racism did not stay with me because it got wiped away then and there by that guy who stood between the aggressor and me. Plus, it helped give me back my faith in white people.

    Doesn't anyone here remember how once in NY a woman was murdered while a bunch of people simply stayed inside their apartments? [wth jerry!]

    The story came up in Psychology 101. It's called the 'bystander effect'. Extract:

    The term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses.

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  58. thank you, daughter of bellingham, for telling your hometown that the land which nurtured your body and mind should always be a haven of safety. It's always important to hold on to this level of honesty even if it's a painful truth for the listener who beholds your words and judgements.

    This reminded me of a recent trip I took from Portland OR to Southern Cali. I was waiting to connect in a Sacramento station when an elderly white male began ranting for no apparent reason at a nearby brown passenger (waiting for the same train I was) and descending into discussion of "mexican dogs and niggers".

    I will have to remember the best way to ask the question as Divine Lioness did, "you stop, you leave, or i move" (to paraphrase) - that is the best way to approach this sort of a difficult situation. In Portland, I've confronted a number of these situations and the result is I'm not so very popular with the white crowd in one of the "whitest major cities in N. America". We have a problem here in the Pac NW, I think, which some people have labeled "oblivious racism" and the trends are still strong today in Portland even if that term is clearly a euphemism ...

    Anyway, I did try to stop the man and inform him that his rants were disturbing. He continued in a way that makes me suspect he has mental health issues, and I decided to persist and approached a nearby employee about the matter. He went and spoke to the gentleman, and asked him to leave.

    As with my other confrontations, I usually walk away from this sort of scene with a deep internal examination. would I have felt so safe to confront him if he were younger (this man was at an age which made it difficult for me to confront him - we try to revere our elders!), did I only feel safe because of the privilege of my lighter skin (I'm a light skinned mixed kid) or my nationality...would I have said anything if the circumstances were different?

    What really blew me away was not the silence of the onlookers but that this fellow passenger came up to me afterwards and THANKED me for standing up for him. THAT made me feel even more melancholy!

    The most important thing I'd ask is how people heal themselves so that they can be brave enough the next time it happens (until there are no "next time"). We can't lose our outrage at watching this stuff happen to others, and we can't "give permission" to let it happen to us anymore.

    As a female IT employee who points out sexism on a daily basis, I feel exhausted much of the time and very much criticized when I DO observe behavior that should be explained. ...gurgle...

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  59. Thank you for sharing this obviously painful story. I hope it can be a wakeup-call for us WP to really think in advance about what we would do in a situation like that. Listening to what you wrote, I'm a lot more furious at all the people who stood by and did nothing than at the lone asshole spewing racist crap, and that anger makes me never want to be one of "those people"...

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  60. @Snorells

    I mentioned it in another comment, I believe, but I really think the focus is on being polite, being firm, asking questions for clarity, and saying that I am uncomfortable with something not because I want to speak for an intended target of malicious behavior, but speaking only for myself.

    Thus, in my situation I would have loved to hear: "Sir, why are you telling jokes about niggers?" A simple question that I'm sure the man could have answered. Or; "Anyone really interested in hearing this man's jokes? If so, please say something now! No?"

    Or a direct, "Please, if you must use the word nigger, leave. I don't want to hear that word around me. Thank you!"

    Especially since I had a similar conversation with the SAME MAN earlier about saying derogatory stuff about women, which in no way was aggressive.

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  61. I can recall many times being told by friends, parents or teachers when someone is being obnoxious or provocative, "Don't respond. That's what they want you to do," or words to that effect. I think this is more likely to be present in the witnesses' minds than any specific fear of personal harm. I doubt that any angst about forfeiting white privilege or betraying white solidarity is consciously involved in the failure to respond to a situation like this either.

    That said, I think that the tactic of ignoring the provocation in a case like this is not effective, and I wonder why the injunction to "ignore them" is so common since it often serves as support for hegemonies of power. The kind of degrading that went on hurts everyone there, not just the one under attack, so as DivineLioness has said, objecting for their own sake and for the sake of community or society might be more powerful than if the witnesses think they are taking action solely on behalf of another.

    And, as Aiyo and olderwoman pointed out, the "Strong Black Woman" stereotype could also have been in play. In fact, I can imagine white people being afraid not so much of the little man, but of being told to butt out by the SBW. It's truly disgusting to contemplate, but I think that might be part of what keeps WP silent in a situation like this.

    Like several others have commented, this story has strengthened my own resolve to speak out despite whatever fear--rational or irrational--I might feel in doing so. And I think that involving all of the other people in this scenario would be more effective than saying, "I'm offended by that." Gregarious bigots are probably used to hearing people say they are offended, and it doesn't stop them. They just save their stories for a more receptive audience. But if it were pointed out here that his "joking" made the assumption that everyone else there was as bigoted as he was and would enjoy hearing racist jokes, it brings in even those who were silent, who otherwise might go away just relieved that someone else had said something.

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  62. Also, this man was not crazy.
    Bigots are not crazy.
    Bullies are not crazy.

    They are people who like the feeling of power they get from cowing other people. This does not make them crazy. Crazy lets them off. It implies that they have no control over their actions, and no understanding of their actions' affects on other people. This is most often not the case.

    How many times have I done the same thing as those people who watched and did nothing, on a smaller scale? Just yesterday I let my intern use "gypped" with me without following up on that. She was not being cruel, just unaware. If I am more aware, then why not share my knowledge? I can bring it up with her today in a non-confrontational way. "Do you know where 'gypped' comes from? I totally didn't for a long time..."

    It's not too hard to do, and helps out where I can. I don't know why I didn't do it earlier.

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  63. I'm sorry this happened to you. I had something similar happen to me.

    I'm part of a community service organization at my college and for a service project we went to a nursing home to help out. At one point, there was an incident with a woman who said several racially offensive things to me and said that she didn't like black people. No one said anything. Nothing at all.

    I was so hurt, for the same reasons why you were hurt. When I mentioned it to my club members, the president said "What did you want me to say? Am I supposed to yell at an old lady and tell her not to say that?" What she didn't understand was that I didn't want her or anyone else to yell at the lady or anything like that. I just wanted someone to acknowledge that something inappropriate had occurred and to make me feel like I wasn't alone. I felt so alone. And waited all the way until I got home to cry so I wouldn't make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

    I'm crying even as I type this because it was so painful. I know it's hard, but I hope you still keep your faith in people. I still try.

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  64. This is awful. I am so sorry you found no allies. No support. No aid. But I'm not surprised at all.

    As far as I can see the real reason we don't choose to speak out as white people is because our whole lives are shaped by a logic of ignoring the reality of racism, being complicit in racism that benefits us, and pretending/rationalizing that we are great and wonderful people nevertheless. This is our default position. It's ugly stuff. Uglier because rarely do we get held accountable for the pain we cause.

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  65. re: bystander effect

    This wiki entry seems to have a few links to how to counter the bystander effect. It mentions efforts made to counter the bystander effect for sexual assaults and diversity issues. (Scroll down to references and external links for more. I haven't read them all.)

    And interestingly, this psychwiki entry mentions that the bystander effect occurs online too. This reminds me of a few instances where that may have happened on this blog.

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  66. @ attack_laurel

    That is usually the general response when I stand up about something racist or even just offensive. I was in high school the ONE time someone actually decided to harm me physically for standing up about something (in this case it was a racist comment). That was 17 years ago. I've continued to open my mouth without interruption since then.

    People in general go on the notion that no one is going to call them out, so they go around like this asshole did, saying whatever they want without consequence...until someone finally says something. But most people choose to roll over.

    Prime example is the video in this thread on Sociological Images. Even in the face of knowing they wouldn't be harmed by store personnel, most WP still acted like this was business as usual.

    You don't have to be confrontational, although I happen to be and it does help, to stand firm against something.

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  67. I took a Sociology of Religion class in college and we had this one female classmate who was a total bigot. We had a guest speaker one day who did a presentation on Islam. Ms. Bigot raises her hand and asks what about the Koran makes Muslims so violent. I responded to her by saying something along the lines of any religion can be misinterpreted and used for violence and gave some examples of violent Christians. It was towards the end of class so I was able to leave before they saw me cry. I am an atheist but I was very upset by her comments. Next class one of my white female classmates who sat near me thanked me for speaking up.

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  68. @kinsley so well put -- when my friends and i talk about white/light skinned privilege we have to set aside the question of whether we're willing recipients of that privilege. I think people instinctively get defensive at the suggestion that they are recipients of privilege.

    Acknowledging that we are indeed recipients, no matter how unwilling, is the first step towards stepping outside of our comfort zone to speak out against that privilege.

    When members of any privileged class step outside that zone of privilege to speak against it, they're setting an example that's hard for their peers to ignore.

    Also, stepping outside that comfort zone is an obligation, a way to not get into debt karma-wise, due to these systems, in this case racism: white folk could educate fellow white people more effectively while brown people can finally give their full attention to healing their communities and reversing the harm done for generations, or centuries, by this very same racist system...it's not the whole answer, but it's a start. I'm not saying that brown people aren't willing to do work, but rather am asking white people to consider this work their necessary role, rather than optional, in reversing these systems...

    and for that reason I'll keep up my work, as an asian female living in america, because I, too, am targeted with unearned privileges by this society, and wish to repel that from my body and my country. sorry for the poetry.

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  69. attack_laurel said...

    No, I don't think it's a derail - I know that in my case, I'm in and out of reading this blog, and come back sometimes a month or two later, and realize something has gone down that I want to comment on, and now it's way too late (or is it? Hmmmm).

    I had to go back, because I missed that thread entirely. And yes, WP need to call out that shit when it happens in the comments, too.


    @Attack_Laurel,

    Thank you for your response. I understand missing something b/c of being in and out of a blog. I do that too.

    I think you asked a good question, though. My answer would be yes, it would be worth going back online and responding. I sometimes read posts on this blog that date back to 2008 and others have also posted on older threads. A belated response still stands a chance of being read. I know people have said that even if they don't post, what they've read here has helped start conversations IRL. A belated response might also help in that way.

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  70. There ARE people in this world who would have stood up for you, stood up beside you when you stood up for yourself.

    I promise you, there are. There are four of them living in my house.

    I'm so, so sorry none of them were there that day.

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  71. This was sad.

    Keep your head up little sis.

    People often avoid conflict, it's sad sometimes.

    You did your best.

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  72. i would like to underwrite what the OP said recently and call attention to the trend in this comment thread of referring to overtly racist folks as crazy or somehow mentally unwell. this is a way of dismissing them and the problem, and is also pretty ableist.

    racialicious just did an interesting post relating to this tendency here:

    http://www.racialicious.com/2010/04/05/how-the-left-enables-the-right%E2%80%99s-racism-the-obama-rape-comic/

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  73. re: being aware of navigating through mental health issues:

    I am one of the posters who has mentioned mental health issues. Never at any time (in my rambling hehe) did I intend to give the impression that it "lets anybody off the hook" or otherwise excuses their behavior.

    But if we're going to have a serious conversation about this social problem we need to acknowledge social behaviors which can affect our situation or solution.

    I don't want to just be pissed off about it. I want to be EFFECTIVE in getting rid of it.

    thanks for listening to all the ramble (hehe) and I appreciate the really great insights from others on this thread.

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  74. one last commento and I'm hoping to sit back and listen some more as time allows.

    As someone who moved to the United States when I was 17, after growing up in a society which has its own share of disturbing psychosis and other frightening social factors, I am acutely aware of mental health issues (which is NOT the same as saying one is crazy and is NOT the same as saying one is not responsible for their behasvior.

    The reason I'm so acutely aware of it is because of the struggles with mental health after culture shock in one of the most violent societies in the world. It's been a few years since I was able to find a professional in the US who can actually deal with international/immigration issues and acknowledge the trauma of how some of us are pushed and pulled out of our lands (don't believe that "gimme yer huddled" crap).

    But, for a long time -- these traumas shaped how I responded to others around me. That's the only reason I bring up mental health issues: they will affect how a listener responds to you in any situation.

    This is a bloodthirsty society with a murderous past. that's bound to mess up a lot of people in a huge variety of ways. So please don't put words in my mouth -- but I see how they can be misperceived and so I won't bring up mental health challenges again. I did not mean to cloud the issue. thanks for listening.

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  75. @TAB:

    Thank you, that is good to know. Sometimes, the fast nature of blog communication is deceiving, and you are quite right, someone reading back or new to the blog will see something, even if it is late.

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  76. Hey TAB,
    Could you help me figure out which thread you are referencing here?

    "It's interesting that some of the white commenters in this thread had no such expressions of sympathy when I described a similar racist episode in the thread @ marginalizing POC in their own countries."

    I'm trying to find the comment you mention, but can't, so must be looking on the wrong thread?

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  77. "I was reading something that said white people don't speak up because it would break loyalty in white racial bonding. The underlying sentiment is that you don't have to along with it, but you do have to keep quiet or lose the privileges of whiteness. Whites sure are vocal when POC speak out about racism though. *sarcasm*"

    Thanks for this. No disrespect to anyone on here, but "I'm sorry" after "I'm sorry" after "I'm sorry" gets old. As DL says, she's not as wounded and vulnerable now and "I'm sorry" accomplishes nothing at this juncture.

    Victoria, ever the bad-ass, however, tapped right into what I think DL was going for. So one more time, peeps:

    So I wonder, other white people, what does it take for you to step in? For the ones who never do - why don't you? What do you think to yourself later on when you go over what you witnessed that day? I don't want to hear that people are afraid of being hit or something - I'm not afraid of that and I actually HAVE been hit. You want to know why I'm not afraid of getting hit? The odds are that I will NOT get hit. And at least, if I got hit, I'd have some recourse - and the wound would heal. This woman will wear this scar forever. I'm just disgusted by that response of being worried about one's own safety. It's BS.

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  78. As heartbreaking as this post was, I think one of the most salient aspects of it is somewhat being lost. DivineLioness talked about how the ONE person who spoke up for her, the clerk, still managed to minimize the situation and perpetuate the privilege of both the racist man and the silent bystanders enabling him, by making it seem as if this was a personal offense to HER alone, and that her personal response was the only reason the man was being kicked out. Not only does this remove responsibility (if I'm not personally being targeted, then I don't have to say anything), it also makes it more difficult to negotiate alliances, suggesting that whites shouldn't be as offended as people of color in these situations, and if they are, there's something wrong with that. And it particularly reinforces the idea that racism is about personal interactions, and even more so, personal reactions. The POC's level of "sensitivity" or inability to ignore blatantly offensive insults and slurs becomes some kind of barometer of strength or nobility, and by implication, if POC didn't "overreact" or weren't so "PC" or "hypersensitive", racism wouldn't be so bad. "The only chains that hold us now are mental ones", right? Someone actually argued this on another blog in suggesting that POC should just ignore blatantly racist language or incidents. Someone upthread described a racist incident in her classroom, when everyone looked to her for her reaction. Why the hell does the POC have to be the one to react? Its not just about support and allies, its about whites acknowledging the damage that racism does to everyone and taking some responsibility for not being compliant with it. Its not only our problem.

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  79. I'm am so saddened by this post. I have stood up against harassment several times, against those of color, those of Arab descent, and gays, and wouldn't hesitate to do so again. I'm sorry I wasn't there to model behavior for the sad cowards at the bus station with you. I live in Cincinnati, reknown for its bigotry, albeit subtle mostly. I am fortunate that it has probably been 7 years since I've had occasion to be publicly outraged. I was so hoping that the last election would alleviate some of this.

    You were brave to stand up for yourself. Please do not be disheartened. It is not a statement of humanity as a whole. I do believe we are evolving, microscopic as our progress sometimes seems.

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  80. Hi the Other Julia,
    It's in the Make Non-white People Feel Marginalized in Their Own Countries thread. There's a lot of stuff but in relevant part, it says,

    I remember my brother's rugby team (Kenyan school) playing the local "international" school (read: white American). Before the game, a number of white boys were hurling racist epithets (all sorts of animal names, the n-word, etc.) @ my brother and his black and brown team mates. Here.

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  81. Thanks for this. No disrespect to anyone on here, but "I'm sorry" after "I'm sorry" after "I'm sorry" gets old. As DL says, she's not as wounded and vulnerable now and "I'm sorry" accomplishes nothing at this juncture.

    RTWT!

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  82. Moi--I don't think anyone has answered your questions yet, so let me be the first. And I'm probably going to take a beating (verbally) for it, but here goes:

    So I wonder, other white people, what does it take for you to step in? I don't know. I've never really been put in this type of situation.

    For the ones who never do - why don't you? I'll be honest, though, I probably wouldn't have been the one to stand up and say something. I probably would have left. Why, you ask? Because, as someone else touched on, I'm not really good with confrontation. I don't usually even stick up for myself. I've never been put in this type of situation, but I probably would have just ignored the guy while seething inside. It isn't a black/white thing for me, for me it's a self-esteem issue.

    What do you think to yourself later on when you go over what you witnessed that day? I would feel horrible and guilty and I would probably beat myself up about it. Truly. Anyone who knows me would vouch for me on that point.

    I don't condone this type of behavior in anyone, not even myself, but when it comes down to it, I'm too damn weak or self-conscious to do anything. That being said, I'm going to make it my personal mission to be more aware and to try not to be the white idiot in the corner who does nothing, says nothing, is nothing in the future.

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  83. Wow...I don't know what to say. All the other commentators had said what I wanted to say but I am too speechless to say.
    I'll pass this poem on to the author and anyone interested. Its a poem written during Nazi rise to power in Germany. Your story reminded me of it just now. Here it is. I always forget the name but

    Its called, "First they came"

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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  84. bloglogger said...

    I can recall many times being told by friends, parents or teachers when someone is being obnoxious or provocative, "Don't respond. That's what they want you to do," or words to that effect. I think this is more likely to be present in the witnesses' minds than any specific fear of personal harm. I doubt that any angst about forfeiting white privilege or betraying white solidarity is consciously involved in the failure to respond to a situation like this either.

    Then how do you explain the reasoning behind white people defending other whites when the aggressor is black? I remembering waiting for the train on the train platform once and a (black)homeless man was harassing a white woman. A white guy watched for a few moments, then walked over to the homeless man and told him to leave her alone until the man moved away. Have seen whites ready and willing to put blacks in their place too many times for child rearing to be a valid reason to not speak up.

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  85. "So I wonder, other white people, what does it take for you to step in? "

    I don't know but I wish I was there I would have been eager to step in and deal with that guy. In my 32 years I have never seen anything like that though. not even close.

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  86. hm. No, I AM going to go back on my words in my earlier post: i thought I had spoken my piece, but I must ping just one last time for now.

    After being clear in my analysis of white people stepping outside the zone of privilege in order to become effective allies in dismantling white supremacy in the US (nowhere near a novel concept in these discussions, b/t/w), I was singled out as providing an "amateur diagnosis of mental health", being "ableist" (how could I be ableist if I persisted until I got that guy removed from the station?) and also dismissing white supremacist behavior as "letting people off". Those are some pretty strong statements, yea?

    I would like to know why these conclusions were leveled at me in such an abrupt way. I would think that after sharing so much personal information on this thread I wouldn't have to offer up MORE to complete strangers, but I guess I have to further say that it's easy for me to assess behavior and reactions of people because of my own personal experience and my years of working with clients, some of whom live with mental health challenges.

    And, finally, I'm a clinic worker who has encounters with patients who live with mental health challenges every day.

    Am I qualified now to observe erratic behavior?

    Never did I offer a "diagnosis" - I only observed something odd about the man's behavior.

    The entire episode in my experience I spoke of, from begin to end, hinted of mental health issues: This man said the "mexican dog" (who was carrying a long cell phone conversation) threw a cup at him, when all us witnesses saw no such thing and were all in full sight; his reaction to my firm statements about his rants elicited NO verbal reaction as one would typically expect in such an exchange. In short, he did not seem very lucid even when he WAS verbal.

    When I posted my response I was pretty clear in my explanation of my earlier statement, but for some reason have yet to see a response.

    I hope that I am simply not giving enough time to the previous people to respond to my questions here - in which case, I apologize. But, if I'm right, then I'd like to invite:

    @micah,
    @RVCBard, and possibly
    @DivineLioness

    to respond and continue to challenge me but do it fairly.

    I'm still reading through the "amateur diagnosis" post but that writing seems to be quite a long trip down the rabbit hole -- so I haven't been able to respond to it yet. Lots of context there, so...more confusing than helpful, honestly. sorry - I'll keep reading on I guess, until I see the connection to my statements.

    I'd really like to hear your thoughts on my words here. These responses to my posts seemed very bizarre to me. I'm not saying you have to post right away, on command, but I changed my mind and would like to specifically request your response.

    I've gotten used to speaking directly in terms of such matters as racism.

    Honestly and clarity is required in this work. I've already walked my talk, and still do today and every day. So, please don't call me ableist. That just lends an impression that you might be misguided and cannot clearly identify oppressive behaviors.

    thanks for listening.

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  87. Nia: Good point. Ignoring the "racist on purpose" Whites (whose motivates are not confusing and who Macon keeps out of this blog), I think it is quite likely that unconscious racial assumptions and fears are influencing responses in these situations. Lots of research finds that what people THINK they'd do isn't the same as what they ACTUALLY do.

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  88. A couple of white commenters have mentioned that they haven't been put in a situation like this, but I really can't help but cynically wonder if that's true. Really? NEVER? Perhaps not as blatant and bold as someone loudly throwing around an epithet, but really?

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  89. I am so sorry this happened to you.

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us this story. I'm sure I'm not alone in better understanding, after hearing your story, that I cannot stand idly by when something like that happens around me.

    Again, thank you.

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  90. my 50 year old white mother was talking to her 60ish black social worker friend, and somehow the topic of the range of normal behavior came up, and my mother's friend said that because early on there wasn't much in the way of institutional care available for crazy black people, they tended to remain in their neighborhoods, and so the inhabitants of said neighborhoods consider a broad range of behaviors to be normal, or if not normal, at least not worrisome or dangerous.

    because of the institutionalization of any white person displaying aberrant behavior, white culture has a much narrower concept of what normal behavior is. because of this, while you may have perceived that man as harmless, and not to be feared, he probably was intimidating to the white people around you. to them he was crazy, and therefore unpredictable and possibly even dangerous.

    his behavior made him look crazy and dangerous to them, his homeless appearance would convince them that he had nothing to lose, which in turn would make him unpredictable and dangerous. i know they were probably in no danger. you know they were probably in no danger, but in defense of your home town, it's entirely possible that the white people around you didn't know that they were probably safe. i hope this helps you to feel better about them.

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  91. @ Shelli,

    They were actually Victoria's questions.

    @ Nia,

    I'm witchu.

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  92. @Okinawa Club - Oregon and SW Washington

    I know nothing about mental health issues that is comparative to someone who works with people who are living with those issues everyday.

    I hadn't even seen your post (hadn't refreshed the page in awhile) when I wrote my comment about the term "crazy", so I wasn't including you in any way at the time.

    I was talking about the popular fallback of calling racist/sexist/etc...(let's just call it bigoted behavior, shall we?) "crazy." When I hear that word, to me, it evokes an image of someone who is participating in a behavior because they are mentally ill, either do not recognize what their actions are doing, and/or don't understand societal norms.

    Too often, unfortunately, the people who say these things are quite sane, frankly, often kind, loving, functional members of our society. Who also happen to behave in a bigoted fashion.

    Or, while still sane and functional, some people are malicious not because they "just don't understand" how it makes people feel, or don't know that participating in bigoted behavior hurts people and is unkind and cruel. They are doing it because it makes them feel good to be unkind and cruel. This, to me, is not what comes to mind when I hear the word "crazy".

    When I hear people calling that racist (etc...)behavior "crazy", I ask myself:

    1) Since mental illness is commonly perceived as something that cannot be "cured", only "managed" and "lived with"; are people saying that racism cannot be cured, only "managed" and "lived with"?

    2) Since "crazy" people are perceived as people who cannot and should not be held accountable for their actions, then is the parallel that racists cannot and should not be held accountable for their actions?

    3) Since there are many people out there that live with mental illness who are called "crazy", is the parallel that racism is a common effect of someone living with say,schizophrenia, major depression, or dissociative disorder (all of which I have heard commonly referred to as 'crazy')?

    3) Since "crazy" commonly conjures up specific images of destitute, homeless, and deranged types of people (not that this image is true of those dealing with mental illness) does the person mean that 'sane', 'functional', 'loving'(people unlike the IMAGE of so-called 'craziness') people do not participate in racism?

    It is an issue of imprecise language.

    What, I suppose, DO people mean when they call people who participate in bigoted behavior "crazy"?

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  93. I'm a little confused about something. The post's title is: "stuff white ppl do: sit back and watch while non-white ppl get abused". And I get that macon is trying to focus on 'his own people' so to speak. But there clearly was a woman in a sari and a guy in a turban who I'm assuming were not 'white' in the sense of 'white American'. In a situation like the one DL was in, which happened in a white majority country (with rule of law), is there still naturally a tendency to place higher expectations on white people than poc to respond and condemn the act of the racist aggressor?

    I ask because I'm trying to understand the dynamics in a situation like that.

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  94. I'm sorry DivineLioness for what you had to endure. I do not wish to add to your pain and I am ashamed to post this but your story moved me. I'm ashamed because as a person of white, I imagine I would not have responded. It would have bothered me, I would have been upset, but I would have been quiet and uncomfortable. I wouldn't have known what to do, I would have had many discussions in my head about the situation and tried to figure out something to do. However, if I had been alone, I wouldn't have likely done anything. Now, I've thought about that I will map out a pre-plan if I am involved in a similar situation I will try to do something. I still fear people so it will be hard to be strong enough to speak up but I'll work on that and pray on it. Now, not to defend myself or make myself feel better, I do believe if I was traveling with someone else that I would have been able to at the very least speak up.
    As a person who is white, we don't have to face racism. I'm slowly attempting to face my part in racism and have moved to a stage where I try to address this with myself and other people who are white. It is aggrivating to realize that people I love do not wish to consider the role white people have in racism. And when I do try to have these discussions, I then become a target of their jokes... and racist jokes that I don't recall hearing them make while I was growing up. They know it makes me angry and I consider it wrong and hateful. They just laugh. But I digress and make this a self thing, typical white behavior. And so I'm sorry for this unfair oppression that is ever growing ...geez here in Virginia they want to salute confederates and my own grandfather is in support and dismissive of the reaction of the NAACP. I'm sorry, I'm sorry that you endure what you have to endure because of me and my people. I'm sorry I can't figure it out faster. I'm sorry that my own family, who I still love, is contributing to the problem(more than I realized). I'm sorry that I probably would have been one of those who sat there uncomfortably, not knowing what I should do. I'm sorry you had to endure that experience.

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  95. @okinawa club

    thankyou for sharing. first off, i would like to say that a charge of ableism was not direct specifically at you, per se --rather, i wanted to call attention to the tendency to call racist actions those of "crazy people," a tendency that does lend itself to ableism and systemic racism. i did not single you out as providing amateur diagnoses, or call your argument about white folks stepping outside of privilege by speaking up into question.

    i never said, nor do i believe, that you intended to do any of these things. i felt it was a relevant point to bring up not only because parts of your original post --which i can see now lacked context -- and some other dialogue on here reminded me this tendency, but because the racists=crazy people meme is very much part of the popular discourse on contemporary racism. in fact, i would venture to say that at least some of the white people sitting in the GH station in the OP's story justified not speaking up themselves by thinking "that mans just crazy, it won't change anything anyway." Same team, truly (also PNW solidarity!).

    @ Moi
    i will take a stab at those questions... What does it take for white people to step in? why wouldn't i? and what do i tell myself if i don't?

    i can only speak for myself, but as a white person who has been in those situations in the past and remained painfully silent, i can say that as a small (though still male-bodied), often visibly queer person safety concerns are definitely on my mind, and i have been especially hesitant to call out large, striaght and cis looking male-bodied folks i don't know. but i don't want to use that as an excuse. as someone who has only become aware of my own conditioning into whiteness and racism in the past few years, i'd say that prior to this time, there was DEFINITELY an element of trying to avoid transgressing white racial solidarity... if i were the only white person to (visibly) have a problem with what was happening, i would then go from automatic racial group membership to possible outsider, and the fear of loosing the psychological payoffs of being "in" deterred me...

    that aspect was mostly unconscious, but looking back, there was also this element of explicitly thinking that charges of racism weren't my problem or my job to call out. it was an effort to avoid responsibility and break that white racial bond under the guise of not wanting to speak to experiences that weren't my own, which is more or less how i would justify inaction to myself (though i think its important to note that i still felt guilty afterward- which is not to say "don't worry, i felt awful," but i think it reveals that at some level, i knew my inaction was not okay and so i would do everything possible to avoid confronting that fact.

    clearly, i realize now that inaction in the face of any oppressive comment or action is unacceptable and have spoken up. i don't think i have been in a situation recently where overt racism was directed at a PoC (though i definitely could be wrong) in my presence, but have there have been many times (often at family gatherings) where racist stuff was said by those close to me and i was forced to "be a stick in the mud" so to speak...

    and any white person in this country who says that they have never been in a situation where overt racism happened is kidding themselves. privilege often blinds us from even considering many awfully racist things racist, and guilt and cognitive dissonance later cause us to forget them even if we did...

    thankyou for sharing your story DL. it forced me to remember all those times i was one of those silent white people at the Grey Hound station and strengthens my resolve to not slip back into the comfort and privilege of silence.

    (oh and @ all - my name is mical, not micah...)

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  96. @fromthetropics

    Sorry if I wasn't clear. The man in the turban (who I know spoke heavily accented English) took a call outside while the whole thing happened.

    The woman (who I don't know if she spoke English or not; she and her husband only spoke in another language) stayed inside.

    Either way, YES, I expect those who are from US culture and understand the full implication and ramification of the word Nigger to speak out and up. I also would hope that those that cannot be easily targeted, (ie: white heterosexual males) would speak out and up first AND most often, as bigoted folks have a much less likelihood of 'going after' them.

    If, say, all of those white people were from another culture, didn't speak English and thus didn't understand the ramifications of being called "Nigger!", then I would expect nothing more from them than what they did.

    Thus, say that woman in the pink sari DID speak beautiful English, and understood what it meant to be called "Nigger". Her fear of speaking, for me, is completely legitimate. She was surrounded by people who are saying nothing as the ONLY other brown woman in the building is being called derogatory names ABOUT her color and crying, and is alone, without her husband. The perpetrator is the same man that tried to engage her in a conversation about "where she was from" earlier, and included her "Arabs and Niggers" in his original remarks.

    I as a woman of color, do not place the burden of speaking up about racism/sexism on another, previously targeted woman of color. Although she did not cry, I am sure, if she understood, that that man's remarks affected her. She was a target, just as I was, although not as blatantly. Those that were not targets chose to stay silent. It is on those who are not targeted to speak for those who are targeted. It is on those who are in positions of power to stand beside those without it, because it means nothing if they stand alone.

    This man wanted the approval of what he considered his peer group: Other White People. Disapproval from someone he does not consider an equal does very little. Disapproval from someone considered a peer? A bigger deal.

    If she had stood with me, I would have appreciated it, sure.

    I would not ask that of her, and do not blame her for not saying anything.

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  97. @shim, as written, your post is mere excuses for the white crowd that did nothing. Sometimes it can be useful to make hypotheses about the reasons for such behavior, IF you're going to test those hypotheses and try to develop a remedy based on your study of the problem. But just coming up with a half-assed theory with no research to back it up, and then using that to excuse inexcusable behavior and then say something to the effect of "they're probably really not such bad people" is just derailment.

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  98. @fromthetropics, I thought it was well-understood that the presence of PoC doing nothing in that situation is fairly irrelevant on this blog. @DivineLioness gave a really detailed answer, but she shouldn't have needed to. The short answer is:

    1. This blog is about white behavior, looking into what's wrong about it and trying to fix it.

    2. Both the impact of such behavior by non-whites and the reasons for such behavior by non-whites are radically different.

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  99. I was singled out as providing an "amateur diagnosis of mental health"

    Don't flatter yourself. You weren't even a figment of my imagination when I linked to that.

    But if you want, I can single you out for insisting upon occupying center stage.

    And they say Black people can't read.

    Now that you know that nothing I said had anything to do with you . . .

    Fuck off and leave me alone.

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  100. I'm not surprised. I've been writing and re-writing a comment about "Be said's" story that turns out to be too long for the comment box. Which probably means it is too long for a comment. So the highly condensed version: I was very struck by the power imbalance in the classroom example, where there are genuine pressures against speaking up. It was the professor who delivered the insult. Classrooms run on authority, and for a student to challenge a professor for a racially prejudiced remark is much harder than for a person to challenge a peer who tells a racist joke at a party. Professors do take it out on students who challenge them.

    I also wrote a lot about the problem of ambiguous situations, where everybody is waiting to see what everybody else will do, and the "diffusion of responsibility" effect when there are other people who are not acting. And I reiterated that what I have learned is that, unlike some faux pas, it is not better to just let racial remarks go, because it gives an appearance of white solidarity and increases the sense of isolation and threat for people of color. So it is important to mentally rehearse things we can say and imagine ourselves saying them in situations we have encountered in the past, or might encounter in the future. "I am offended that you think I would appreciate that remark." And to try to problem-solve responses in genuinely threatening or power-imbalanced contexts like classrooms.

    I also reflected that the possibility that a perpetrator is mentally impaired may contribute to perceived ambiguity and diffusion of responsibility. And that "that is inappropriate," seems like an entirely appropriate thing for a white person to say when you believe another white person's use of racial slurs is affected by mental impairment. One can rehearse that response, too.

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  101. At least the white commenters who admit they wouldn't have said anything, or known what to say, are being honest.

    For those who claim they would have spoken up (based on what, I don't know -- considering how many of you claim never to have had the opportunity), I guess I would say that I don't really believe you.

    Of the countless times I have experienced blatant racism in the presence of whites, not a single white person has come to my defense or called out the racist individual. Not once. I can think of a handful of recent examples of white people backing me up in online conversations, either on a blog or on facebook, when confronted with ignorance. But in terms of in-person bigotry, nope, can't think of a single example.

    Just in case you all didn't realize it (and I realize the OP has said this): your silence feels like agreement and complacence with the perpetrator. In many ways, it hurts more.

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  102. @Nia re: "Then how do you explain the reasoning behind white people defending other whites when the aggressor is black? Have seen whites ready and willing to put blacks in their place too many times for child rearing to be a valid reason to not speak up."

    I agree that the notion that ignoring a provocative person is the way to deal with one is not a valid reason to keep quiet; it's just that white people have a tendency to not think of ourselves in terms of having a race, even in a situation like that. I think being in a white group had everything to do with their fear of speaking out subconsciously, but I doubt that there was much awareness of that on their part.

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  103. @ Olderwomen
    It seems that you in trying to explain white inaction you end up justfying white inaction.I know you mean well but it bugs me.You don't need to rehearse polite things to say to racists other then "FucK Off".Thats the only language their going to understand.

    I think people just don't care.Sure they might feel sorry for whats happening but what their really thinking is "Thank God that person isn't talking to me".So the last thing their going to do is get involved.

    To stand up and do something about it means you have to take it personaly.White people rarely do that.

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  104. To 60% of this thread.

    No one cares that you would have said something. This does nothing except differentiate you and make you feel better that you aren't those other white people, something Macon subtly does all too often in his blog posts (Remember "Unlike every other white person, I wish you a sincere happy Black History Month"? Or "unlike every other white person, I think about my whiteness on vacation"? But I digress).

    Stop dwelling in the past and try and get to the heart of the matter which is why this happens right now. It's bigger than you. Letting DL know that you would say something on her behalf does not change her reality, all it does is allow you to fulfill your fantasy of coming to the rescue.

    To be real, it is scary to call someone out. I did it on a bus, with three (relatively weak) people that I knew sitting around me, to this dude talking an extreme amount of shit about the bus driver, a black woman. I thought I was going to get popped in the face to be honest, because when it finally came out of my mouth, it was not as composed as DL's was, it involved swear words. Two things to all of those people considering whether to intervene or not. One, it is easy to talk after the fact about what you would have done, but the truth is let's reexamine DL's situation. You are standing there, you see quite a few people standing around saying nothing. You will probably try and get a read on them, see how they feel about this man. If you see people reacting in disgust, it is much easier to say something than if you see pure silence, which DL describes. Pure silence implies indifference or maybe even agreement. It takes courage to say something in what could easily become a hostile environment for you as well if the crowd is not on your side.

    But what you have to remember when you are in that situation, and I guarantee all your "I will say something no matter what" will go away as soon as you are in the moment and the reality of walking the walk sets in, what you have to remember is that the victim has no choice, they are in a hostile environment from their birth. You have the privilege of staying silent and keeping the peace, but that does not change their reality. You have to say something even if you don't want to, otherwise you are intentionally holding onto your white privilege...which is built on the pain of other people...which makes you a disgusting human being.

    Also, afterwards, if/when you make it out, you will feel better as well. I mean, if you actually give a damn you will.

    But for real, for all you talkers, if you see a black woman getting verbally abused on a street corner after the sun has gone down by someone, are you sure you are going to say something no matter what? I don't buy it. Everyone wants to believe the best in themselves, but expressing it here is completely unproductive and does not help DL one bit. Be real with yourselves, no one said it would be easy.

    And really though, no one cares.

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  105. @DL - Thank you very much for that explanation. It really helps.

    @riche
    1. This blog is about white behavior, looking into what's wrong about it and trying to fix it.

    I did acknowledge that I understood this, but asked anyway as there was something that I was trying to understand, as well as apply to my own experiences.

    2. Both the impact of such behavior by non-whites and the reasons for such behavior by non-whites are radically different.

    Yes, this is what I was trying to get a deeper understanding of. If I was in the same situation, I probably would have felt the same way as DL in not expecting the woman in the sari to be the one to speak up. But I wasn't sure if that's just me being biased or if there is a good explanation for the different expectations.

    I asked because there are a few incidents from childhood where I watched injustice happen and didn't do anything about it. My inaction and the scene I observed has stuck with me, and I haven't been able to process the experiences. One was when I was in a new country and friendless. But the other kids left me alone while they bullied this other girl (who was a local). I watched in anger and hoped the teacher would show up, but didn't actually do anything myself. The best I could do was befriend the girl afterward which to me seemed like a cowardly response.

    The other two was about racism. I'm from an ethnic minority group that was legally discriminated against when I was a kid in a country where there was no rule of law. Twice I saw people of my ethnic group being openly harassed. All parties involved were adults. I was just a kid. I looked to my father (who was basically my hero) pleading him to do something about it. He told me no, and said he'll explain later. I basically learnt about our status in that society and that my dad's involvement could mean jail if he pissed off the wrong people, and the non-violent situation didn't warrant that risk. (Besides, he's been through the same harassment time and time again himself since young.)

    So, when I saw that DL didn't seem to place any expectations on the POC there despite the US being a place where I imagine, relatively speaking, there is a lot more rule of law in place (though I realize there are many cases where this is not true) than in the country that I was in, I was surprised and wanted to understand why, hoping that it would help me process my own experiences.

    So thanks DL for taking the time to write a detailed explanation. I really, really appreciate it, and it does help.

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  106. bloglogger said... it's just that white people have a tendency to not think of ourselves in terms of having a race, even in a situation like that. I think being in a white group had everything to do with their fear of speaking out subconsciously, but I doubt that there was much awareness of that on their part.

    Yes you mentioned that earlier. You still didn't explain why that subconscious fear goes away when the aggressor is black and the "victim" is white, if racial bonding was absent in that situation.

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  107. I agree with cupcakes, y'all mofos wouldn't do shit.

    I've been in plenty of situations where I've been attacked verbally and physically by racist misogynists and not have one person do a damn thing in my defense or on my behalf. After reading all this drivel about "I would have confronted him!" "I would have defended DL" I call a huge, heapin', stankin' pile of BULLSHIT!

    I stay saying that BW need to quit looking out for others and use all of our time, resources and energies looking out for ourselves, individually and collectively because this (American) society STAYS showing us that it could give a fuck about us.

    That means da hell with Capn' Save A Ho-in' other folks. Now, the most I'll do is call 911 if I got a cell phone. You'd be surprised how often I've had WW EXPECT me to go all Wonder Woman on their behalf when they felt scared, not necessarily in danger, but just feeling scared. And I'm a woman too. But I'm not a delicate, White rose that needs ever protecting, defending, caring and nurturing. I'm a big (I'm currently 5'3" and 120 lbs), behemoth nigger bitch undeserving of such loving treatment.

    DL, learn you some self-defense, carry a weapon, hell get a license to carry a gun. Learn how and when to shoot that bad boy. When you get into an altercation make that decision to kill the bastard if you have to because no one is gonna come to your nigger bitch defense. And then, if you do maim or even do away with your aggressor threaten to do the SAME to any mofo there that dares second guess you especially since they left you to your own devices in the first place.

    Heck, it's only been in the last few years I've had folks volunteer to walk/drive me home late at night from chilling at the local cafe blocks from my home. And I live in western Missouri. It's mostly a Southern gentleman thing. I didn't get this treatment AT ALL in Chicago or Phoenix.

    Get used to having to defend yourself verbally by yourself. And dare anyone to say SHIT to you about your "attitude" or "weren't you a bit hard on that person?" If they dare unleash your wrath on them. MOFOS THAT DO/DID NOT HAVE YOUR BACK HAVE NO SAY IN HOW YOU CHOOSE TO DEFEND YOURSELF! Because I'm sure, like me, you value your lil, nigger bitch life, health mental and physical and dignity even if those around you do not.

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  108. On what to say when speaking out...

    A couple of previous posters (DivineLioness, and I think a couple of others) have mentioned that strategy is to involve others--to raise your voice and say, "Hey, is anyone here actually interested in that racist joke? If so, say something." I would like to encourage my fellow WP, especially white women, NOT to use this tactic.

    Most practically, in certain contexts (namely, hipsters and racist jokes) it has often backfired on me in the past.

    But in a broader context, it is vital that we speak out against racism on our own authority--NOT by deferring to others' opinions. Yes, it feels safer (and again, I stress that I am speaking specifically to WP here), or at least less risky, but for WP it's still a way of passing the buck. Don't defer the decision to others. Your voice, your actions, need to carry the authority.

    I *know* this can be hard for WW--we are socialized to defer to others publicly, to manipulate from behind the scenes, to be 'demure'. If that behavior didn't support white male supremacy, it wouldn't be so encouraged. So I am exhorting my white sisters in particular: Don't give in.

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  109. Unfortunately, when you're part of an ethnicity that is rarely, if ever, harassed for simply being born with characteristic racial features, it's hard to sympathize, no matter how progressive you think you are.

    But few people learn.

    Slight digression, but an example: when whites live in or visit Japan, and come back outraged at how different they're made to feel there (examples: stares, dumb questions, being avoided by passengers on a train, being told restaurants require reservations, and putting up with implications that they're less intelligent/efficient). You would expect that they come back and think:"Hey, I bet that's how non-white people in the U.S. feel", but no...
    too often, it's more like "I'm glad to be back in America, where we don't care about race"

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  110. I don't confront people who demonstrate such a degree of strange behavior, regardless of what the behavior is, who the perpetrator is, or who the target is. I wouldn't do anything if *I* was the target, unless I had no other recourse.

    This is because:

    1) I would deem a person who, for example, thinks it's okay to run around in public telling aggressively racist jokes in front of a crowd, to be unpredictable to the point of having a high potential for dangerousness. I would wonder, "If he's capable of this behavior, what else is he capable of?" Regardless of his size, he could have a knife or a gun or whatever. Maybe he wants to go out in a blaze of racist glory. I would not want to provoke him or escalate the situation.

    2) I would also assume that the perpetrator was not the kind of person who would change their behavior because of anything I had to say anyway. He's already demonstrated a total lack of regard for common decency or social norms, why would he pay me any mind?

    Is this an abnormal or wrongheaded way of seeing the situation? It seems a very natural assumption to me. I guess this is a long-winded way of putting myself in the "he's severely mentally ill" camp. I certainly wouldn't characterize all racist behavior as a symptom of mental illness, and in other situations (e.g., someone in a "normal" social situation) I'd be much more likely to speak up.

    I suspect that the bystanders in the crowd were reading the situation like I would. Clearly, a lot of people here have a very different read on it. What's responsible for that gap?

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  111. @Nia re: 'You still didn't explain why that subconscious fear goes away when the aggressor is black and the "victim" is white, if racial bonding was absent in that situation.'

    I guess the short answer is that white people in general are socialized to see black people as inherently dangerous and don't see other white people that way even when there is real danger, one of the bigger downsides of de facto white supremacy.

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  112. I completely agree with everything witchsistah said...though the gun part...I don't know, i carry a taser gun (but do what you need to do). I do take self defense classes as an extra step. I've only had one person come to my defense in situations like this and she was a black woman like myself. DL, i'm truly sorry for happened to you, but please don't let it harden your soul. Just learn to be more aware of your surroundings because the majority of people (black, hispanic, white, etc..) will not come to your aid.

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  113. I'm left speechless by your experience. I can't believe you started crying, and STILL no one did anything. It breaks my heart that this has ruined the opinion you had of your hometown. I hope that your scars heal over time. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  114. *sigh* (against my better judgement, I'm responding to this)

    No one is asking any white persobn to confront the man in an aggressive manner or to escalate the situation.

    I am a black woman.
    When this happens to me (at least once a week in one form or the other), what would be great is if a white person in the area simply walks up to me (not the racist) and says something i.e.

    1) I'm sorry this racist and is trying to humiliate you. The shame is on him and every other person who says nothing.
    Do you mind if I stand with you or even move you away from him incase he gets violent?


    or

    2)simply stand up, walk over to the black person, stand side to side and say :
    Hi, my name is 'XXX', I condemn everything this racist is saying, I do not want to confront him as these types are simply looking for an excuse to be violent and are begging for a chance to say their racist crap and both our lives are worth more than that.... Can I move you away from his ear shot?. Are you a student?....e.t.c....(start talking and drown out the racist!)

    - Do not apologise for the racist - it always rings hollow. If you feel like apologising, maybe apologise for the hurt you know this must be causing... but don't go on about it. It's humiliating enough that the guy is saying racist things out loud and I most definitely do not want to be reminded.

    - D not dismiss the issue and say that the racist is 'simply ignorant' or 'crazy' or 'doesn't know what he is saying'. It trivialises the offense.

    - Do not be surprised if your offer is rejected, because the black person at that moment is hurting and may not deal with things in the way you expect.

    That's what I do to fellow black women and men who are being insulted. I walk up to them and start talking, not loudly... quietly and directly to the individual. It becomes a private convo between me and the person being abused. Something the racist/aggressor is NOT privy to.

    If I say anything in a loud voice it will be something general, like oh my god! you've seen that show to! or oh you simply have to listen to that song.

    In a quiet voice and directly to the person being abused I can say things like, racism is a curse and this ignorant man will always feel inferior to you, look at him... he is nothing (but all said out of earshot of the racist)..

    Why do the white people on this board think/imply/feel that getting involved means getting aggressive.

    If you feel like being aggressive, say something loudly like like has been suggested.. like...
    'We don't want to hear your racist jokes' and let that be it. Then approach the black person and start a convo whilst moving them away from the racist.


    There are many ways to skin a cat.
    Employ them

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  115. Amen, Witchsistah. Almost none of you would've come to her aid. I've seen it too much to try to gamble on any of you defending her (that goes for the black men as well).

    I don't expect Whites, especially WW, to come to my aid nor do I come to theirs. Let them suffer their karma (which is hugely negative).

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  116. Hi TAB,
    Thanks for the link. I see how the conversations are really different, and I think your theory about the whys of the expressions of sympathy is--unfortunately--right on.

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  117. Wow, I thought a lot about this since reading it yesterday but can't honestly say as a WW that I would have done anything. I'd like to think so (of course), but in all honesty I would have probably buried my head in the sand. I don't know if it is a white tendency or not (or maybe a class thing?) but I tend to have no earthly idea how to act when someone 'makes a scene' in public or otherwise breaks societal norms/codes. It really freaks me out and I just want to go hide. I am probably un-fairly wary of homeless people for that very reason. I go out of my way to avoid them when working downtown. They don't seem to follow the same social 'rules' as white middle-class America and I have no freakin idea how to deal with it. I guess I need to find a way to toughen up. In my opinion this whole scenario was just a show of cowardice on the bystanders parts. Nobody wanted to make a scene, they wanted to ignore it and hope it went away. But I do guarantee that if a WW had been similarly harassed she would have gotten aid. I pretty much expect it from men, here in the South. All women (all people actually) do deserve the same.

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  118. LolaAnn said,

    But I do guarantee that if a WW had been similarly harassed she would have gotten aid.

    Exactly. Pointing out that difference is clarifying for me. A lot of white people suspect or know that they wouldn't have done anything in this situation, but if another white person, a white woman, was being harassed in some similar way? They'd be a lot more likely to jump up and do something. It's actually hard to imagine a situation like the one DivineLioness described with a white woman instead of a black woman going on for nearly as long as hers did (though I'm sure it does happen).

    It's another form of white solidarity.

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  119. @head-scratcher, I think your biggest mistake is thinking that intervening is for the sake of changing the behavior of the 'perpetrator'. Here you have an example where you can (as many have done) try to write him off as crazy, adding to the 'futility' argument.

    Wake up! Intervening in a situation like this is not about the 'lone racist', it's about the room full of white people enjoying the benefits racism bestows upon them. Plenty of posts, including some by DL herself, have already addressed this so I suggest you go back and read them.

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  120. I think your biggest mistake is thinking that intervening is for the sake of changing the behavior of the 'perpetrator'.

    Q4T.

    It's odd how the people who wouldn't say or do anything are so focused on what's happening with the perpetrator of abuse and not on the pain he's causing to a human being right in front of them.

    It's like watching a car hit someone in broad daylight, and everybody's looking at and talking about the car that did it and not the person whose limbs and organs have been mangled.

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  121. @ Soul. Thank you for writing despite your frustration. Helpful examples of what to do.

    @ Mike. The too-long post was too-long precisely to make it clear that I was trying to understand behavior not to excuse it but to intervene in and change it.* But what I will take away and what all other WP should take away is that inaction will be interpreted as "not caring" regardless of what we may think inside our heads. If you don't want to be assumed not to care, then you have to act like you do care. Fair enough.

    @ several folks who said that believing you'd intervene isn't the same as actually doing it, I can only agree. Lots of research supports the distinction. And, um, also the point that what we think we have done isn't necessarily what we actually have done.

    * I have often noticed in other contexts that any attempt to understand what the world looks like to someone who has done a reprehensible thing is inevitably construed as excusing that reprehensible thing. It would be off topic to go on about that point.

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  122. Some folks on this thread, especially Olderwoman, have mentioned that people are more likely to JOIN a response to something like this than to INITIATE a response, which I think is very true. But in this case DivineLioness had already initiated a response - a couple times, in fact. She said "You're making me uncomfortable..." early on, and then she talked to the ticket agent several times about the whole situation. Shouldn't that have triggered others to join her according to that theory?

    Thank you very much to everyone on the post who has suggested specific interventions. All of them are helpful.

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  123. Wait, what's supposed to be so hard about telling a bum to shut up?

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  124. It's odd how the people who wouldn't say or do anything are so focused on what's happening with the perpetrator of abuse and not on the pain he's causing to a human being right in front of them.

    Because when they look at us they don't see themselves, humanity is a privilege.

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  125. Did my Avatar-denial post get eaten?

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  126. i guess so, Kia, cuz i don't know what you're talking about.

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  127. @parsley

    You don't get it. Let me really help you flesh it out What the folks you referred to really mean is...

    people are more likely to JOIN a response to something like this when a fellow WHITE PERSON has initiated a response

    Unfortunately, the above is reality. Expecting people to stand up for the right thing has gotten me labelled anything from troublesome, to having a chip on my shoulder, to racism chaser and on a many occasions been threatened with violence and being ostracised.

    When I first met my white best friend she pulled me aside and said if we ever went anywhere and I felt uncomfortable I should tell her immediately and she would never sit by and let anyone be racist towards me.

    Well, her entire social circle were racist. Everywhere she was comfortable in was uncomfortable for me. She didn't see what I saw, she didn't see how I was ignored when we went places, how I had to change my voice before I was served.

    I never did have to worry about anyone else being racist towards me though, she managed that quite adequately on a daily basis all by herself.

    It sounds dire, but here are my honest truth:
    - I will never trust a White person to defend me, be on my side or even acknowledge a slight.
    - I will never join or align myself with mainstream feminism.
    - I will always know that when it comes to social justice as a black woman, I am on my own. To believe otherwise is not only foolish but is fatal to my peace of mind, well being and health.

    If I am defended by a white person, that's a great thing and I will acknowledge and thank said person. But I will never expect it and to me, I will always feel like it was simply a fluke not a natural occurence.

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  128. @jasonburns...
    DL stated that she wasn't sure if the man was homeless or not, the only thing she said was that he was dressed shabbily.

    Dressing shabbily and moving with ease/be left alone/command authority/led to get on with it/ in 'an average setting' is something many white people can get away with. It doesn't mean he is a bum.

    Besides, racism is not a thing that only afflicts bums/lower class/ poor people etc.

    After all, the state of Virginia has elected to celebrate the confederacy this month... where are the voices of their fellow Virginia whites condemning and doing something to stop this.

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  129. This is why I can't understand why WP don't understand why White people are scary as hell to us.

    Obviously, I can only speak for myself, but like DivineLioness, not only would I have cried (and freaked out and made a scene and had 911 on speed-dial), the scariest part is realizing that no one is going to help you. They could beat you, they could spit on you, they could swing a knife at you, and no one would help.

    After something tragic happens, everyone wants too "ooh" and "aah" and go on about "how could this happen?". I think this post explains it pretty well.

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  130. @LolaAnn...
    Can you please explain how this might possibly be a 'class thing'? because I am completely failing to see how class might even remotely dictate that you do not speak up.

    White people across class speak very loudly when they are threatened.
    They vote with their money, they sue, they organise protests except when it comes to racism and that is probably because fighting racism actually threatens their status quo.

    White guys fight over the simplest things, they are aggressive in the street and the same for white women.
    White women push me out of the way, butt in and demand to be served first if I am ahead of them. White men refuse to queue behind me.

    I just had an experience where I was checking in and this white man walked up to the counter put his passport down and started gesturing to the airline staff.
    The check in staff asked if we were together, he said no but still stood there reaching around me to place his passport on the desk.

    I didn't acknowledge him, just looked directly at the check in staff and said:
    I do not know this man nor do I know anyone as ill mannered as he is.

    The check out staff had to actually tell him, that they were dealing with a customer and could he go and stand in line until they had finished checking me in.

    He just said 'oh' and turned away.
    Did not apologise for the inconvenience, did not apologise for butting in, did not apologise for anything and took his sweet ass time in moving back in line.

    Leaving me and the other check in staff to wonder remark that white people simply 'don't know how to act when faced with black people doing the things they presume are reserved for them to do'.

    I'll be honest with you, I have rarely had a white person apologise to me for being rude and again I have to say... white women (IRL) *Sigh* I really can't begin to describe my experiences.

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  131. Well re-post:

    There is epic, Avatar level self-denial being voiced here.

    "I would fight with/beside/for the Navi!"

    Like hell you would.

    And why does it take verbal/physical battery to step in to a situation. Is a false sense of calm worth more than the dignity and worth of another?

    Not sure what to do in any given situation? Here: You're the target of BS. Think a moment and replicate yourself. Would you come to your own aid or sit by and do nothing?

    The concept of fellow humanity shouldn't be this hard to grasp.

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  132. Soul's response to Parsley and others, yes I agree with the point: White people are watching other White people. I am not happy to report that I have unconscious bias, but I am owning it. Research says you can override unconscious bias with conscious effort. Hence the attempt to bring conscious practice into mind.

    If I were Soul, I wouldn't trust me, either, and I'm not expecting Soul to trust me. But I'm me, so I am trying to do what I can to work on the problem. Even if I manage to behave so that the people who know me feel they can trust me, I have no reason to expect that somebody who does not know me would ever trust me. That's only reasonable.

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  133. I don't but the class thing.

    @ Olderwomen last post: Well said. Dittos ...

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  134. @Soul...
    Can you please explain how this might possibly be a 'class thing'? because I am completely failing to see how class might even remotely dictate that you do not speak up

    Honestly I don't know if it is a class thing, that's why I said maybe. Maybe it's more cultural? Maybe it's just me? That's why I asked. I don't know. I was raised and have spent my entire life in Southern Appalachia. I spent the first 24 years of my life surrounding by a VERY homogeneous group of people. If you were a female you had to act in certain ways or else be considered so called 'white trash'. Aggression (by women) was very frowned upon. Until I moved to a larger town, with a more diverse population, I had no earthly idea what it meant to stand up for myself or anyone else. I was sheltered, I had always had some male (my father, boyfriend, friend, etc) step in and protect me. It was only after a divorce and having to 'take care of myself' that I really understood the value of self-reliance and how tough life could be. I made the conscious decision to hide my financial situation from my father, because I wanted to do it on my own. Otherwise, he would have 'rescued' me. I've known an awful lot of girls like myself, so I'm not the only one. Every year, I vow to be more assertive and hopefully some day I'll get there, but any kind of confrontation still makes me want to cry or throw up.

    I don't argue with your point that white people can be aggressive. They certainly can, and I have a hard time dealing with that myself. After moving from my home town where there are a lot of transplants from other parts of the country, I was shocked when people were abrupt or down right rude to me. I guess I was used to being handled with kid gloves. Which is embarrassing, I admit. It is probably sickening to some people reading this, but it is true. :-(

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  135. bloglogger said... I guess the short answer is that white people in general are socialized to see black people as inherently dangerous and don't see other white people that way even when there is real danger, one of the bigger downsides of de facto white supremacy.

    So if the black aggressor is seen as dangerous, wouldn't the white guy be just as scared to speak out as everyone else in Divine Lioness's experience? That doesn't add up.

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  136. nia said... "So if the black aggressor is seen as dangerous, wouldn't the white guy be just as scared to speak out as everyone else in Divine Lioness's experience? That doesn't add up"

    i absolutely think it does. in the case of a black aggressor in a mostly white space, the white folks are not just perceiving the aggressor as a potential threat, but as a threat which needs neutralizing to protect white space. as was said before in this thread, white folks are much quicker to "put blacks in their place" then to break that white racial solidarity and speak out against another white person.

    Additionally, a white person confronting a PoC in a mostly white space is likely to assume, consciously or not, that they will be backed up by the other white folks around. in this scenario, white racial solidarity would work in favor of confronting the black aggressor.

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  137. mical said... i absolutely think it does. in the case of a black aggressor in a mostly white space, the white folks are not just perceiving the aggressor as a potential threat, but as a threat which needs neutralizing to protect white space. as was said before in this thread, white folks are much quicker to "put blacks in their place" then to break that white racial solidarity and speak out against another white person.

    Additionally, a white person confronting a PoC in a mostly white space is likely to assume, consciously or not, that they will be backed up by the other white folks around. in this scenario, white racial solidarity would work in favor of confronting the black aggressor.


    I know it does. I was the one that posted "whites are ready and willing to put blacks in their place". I'm still trying to get a grasp on bloglogger's comment about her doubt of racial bonding in Divine Lioness's experience as merely an issue of being disciplined (as a child) not to respond to someone being obnoxious. I then asked why that goes out the window when the aggressor is black, "victim" is a white woman and a white man quickly intervenes. She mentioned whites being socialized to see blacks as dangerous, which I said would seem to evoke fear, but there was a response in spite of that. That was what I meant by it not adding up. I'm trying to understand her reasoning in why she doubts racial bonding was absent in Divine Lioness's experience by paralleling it with a true life race reversed situation in which there was a quick response from a white bystander. I am definitely aware that white solidarity is present in both experiences.

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  138. @ Kia

    Thank you, you put it much better than I would have. Statistically speaking, almost all the people on this thread who say "I would *never* be the bystander that let something like that happen. I'm not like that" are lying to themselves.

    I appreciate the desire to think well of yourself, but let's get a little realism here: it's easy to declare yourself to be on the side of the angels while sitting behind the computer watching the scene with the benefit of hindsight.

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  139. @ nia.

    thanks for clarifying. sorry if my last post seemed redundant.

    looking back, i think what you and bloglogger are saying isn't actually that different. i obviously can't speak for bloglogger, but when they said:

    "it's just that white people have a tendency to not think of ourselves in terms of having a race, even in a situation like that. I think being in a white group had everything to do with their fear of speaking out subconsciously, but I doubt that there was much awareness of that on their part."

    i read that as arguing that white racial bonding WAS present in DL's situation, just that the white folks weren't necessarily conscious of it. To me, that doesn't sound like the same thing as arguing that white solidarity wasn't operating.

    in terms of the scenario with a black aggressor, i would say that conditioning of some white folks as children to not respond to obnoxious people* flies out the window because their conditioning into whiteness (and so their relative willingness to "take down" PoC) may well trump their training to ignore aggressors.

    thats what i get from it, but does that seem too simplistic of a reading? i would love to hear others thoughts too...


    *i wonder how much this conditioning has to do with race and class?

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  140. i also suspect that in situations of overt, public harassment -- be it racial, sexual, or otherwise -- just like in death penalty frequency disparities

    (http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/01/obstinately-support-racist-death.html)

    the race of the victim may have just as much - if not more - to do with whether or not white people intervene than the race of the aggressor.

    as was mentioned earlier in this thread, if a white woman was being harassed as continuously and obnoxiously as DL in her story, white people would be MUCH more likely to intervene, and i think this would be true regardless of the race of the aggressor.

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  141. @lola ann...

    I want you to notice something...

    THe black people on this thread who live this day in day out, who have more experience with this, who could probably tell you how this will go down even before it happens have told you and repeatedly said why in their experience white people do not get involved.

    We know, we have to know, because it is a matter of survival for us.

    Why don't you believe us?

    White refusal to get involved for simple humanity is not new and is not hidden. black women and children were raped with impunity and white people turned a blind eye. Black men and women were whipped in public until they bled and their flesh dripped in pools at their feet.... and blind eyes were turned until it became embarrassing in the eyes of their fellow white men.

    White men raped black women repeatedly and condemned their own kids, the fruit of their sins to slavery, they sold and denigrated their own children

    Is it so hard to believe them?.

    Why do you have to play guessing games at what it 'may be'. We are telling you what we know, you are making apologies/excuses anything..but accept what we know and have experienced to be true.

    Do you / Can you even begin to realise how insulting it is to have your experience discounted by someone who confesses that they don't know.. but it still might be this.

    What you are doing is no different to people who are told about a racist incident, but say oh... I don't believe it was racist maybe it was this... or that.

    It really is deplorable.

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  142. mical said...i read that as arguing that white racial bonding WAS present in DL's situation, just that the white folks weren't necessarily conscious of it. To me, that doesn't sound like the same thing as arguing that white solidarity wasn't operating.

    I think what Bloglogger and I are saying is very different because he/she mentioned that whites don't think of themselves as having a race when inaction/action in both situations showed race consciousness. I am also very aware of WP's innate need to police POC. It wasn't a literal question, it was a followup question to bloglogger's response that WP see blacks as dangerous, which clashed with an earlier comment by he/she that there was a subconscious fear of speaking out--because I mentioned there was a response from a white man. Others have chimed in, btw.

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  143. A White ImmigrantApril 10, 2010 at 4:30 AM

    As I was browsing the comments, I was wondering about one thing:

    **This man wanted the approval of what he considered his peer group: Other White People. Disapproval from someone he does not consider an equal does very little. Disapproval from someone considered a peer? A bigger deal.**

    I am a white woman. Who immigrated to North America from an Eastern European country and speaks with an accent. In similar situations, do my looks make me a part of the Other White People or does my accent exclude me from it?

    And yes, I believe that intervention is useful anyway to break the by-stander effect. But I am new to this conversation and it sounds like peer group matters enormously.

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  144. mical said...

    i also suspect that in situations of overt, public harassment -- be it racial, sexual, or otherwise -- just like in death penalty frequency disparities

    (http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/01/obstinately-support-racist-death.html)

    the race of the victim may have just as much - if not more - to do with whether or not white people intervene than the race of the aggressor.

    as was mentioned earlier in this thread, if a white woman was being harassed as continuously and obnoxiously as DL in her story, white people would be MUCH more likely to intervene, and i think this would be true regardless of the race of the aggressor.


    Mical did you read all of the comments? You seem to be reiterating everything I've already said.

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  145. @soul

    I suppose I need to try and read more/comment less. I am sorry for being offensive. Honestly, I'm not trying to be snarky.

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  146. @LolaAnn...

    Nope, commenting less/reading more will not help you, if you cannot begin to see what the issue was with your response.

    I didn't think your comment was snarky at all.

    It read as I think you intended it to read, which was an instinctive disbelief based on the fact that 'regular white folk just don't do that'.
    Despite the overwhelming evidence that they do.

    All the reading in the world will not help you, if you don't understand that simple fact, and neither will refraining from commenting.

    Again, read the comments thread again, read what the people who have gone through this over and over again are saying, then read your comment and understand why your guessing despite contrary evidence and in the face of people who have more expertise at this than you.... is offensive.

    Its like standing with a war veteran who was repeatedly shot at, and saying... 'well I don't really think the people shooting at you meant to harm you, maybe its a class thing'.

    How can it be a class thing when this cuts across all classes?.

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  147. @LolaAnn...
    And again my question was...
    why don't you believe us?

    I really am curious. Why do you not believe us when we who have experienced these things in every conceivable situation, across class lines tell you it cuts across class.

    I would really appreciate an answer.

    Why do you refuse to believe us?

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  148. @ nia

    i didn't see your comments. i thought i was reiterating --and hopefully expanding upon -- comments originally made by lolaAnna and later macon, but i definitely could have missed yours somewhere in the 146 comments. if so, my apologies again for the redundancy.

    i think my main confusing lies with the term "race consciousness." when you say you think in/action in both situations demonstrates race consciousness, i take that to mean that the white bystanders' whiteness is informing their responses --or lack thereof (correct?). this is a point i think we agree on. but since white folks racial conditioning into white solidarity mostly operates SUBconsciously, the term "race consciousness" is throwing me.

    since white folks not thinking of themselves in terms of having a race IS part of their conditioning into whiteness (though again, they obviously aren't consciously aware of it) wouldn't that just be another example of racial conditioning operating?

    and so in a situation with a white aggressor and a PoC target, i don't think its either/or: white folks' conditioning toward white racial solidarity and their conditioning to ignore aggressors BOTH contribute to their inaction, though the white person is consciously aware of neither.

    in the case of a black aggressor, i agree with you that there is a clash here, but not between blogloggers statements -- but between white peoples conditioning into whiteness and their training to not confront aggressors. and when two subconscious operations clash, isn't it reasonable to assume one will ultimately "win" - in this case, a white person's training to see PoC as a threat WP need to deal with - and override their training to not confront aggressors?


    you're clearly very knowledgeable so i know i'm probably not saying anything necessarily new, but did this make my position - or the reason for our apparent disconnect - any clearer?

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  149. Soul said...
    “I really am curious. Why do you not believe us when we who have experienced these things in every conceivable situation, across class lines tell you it cuts across class.”

    Because it never happens to them, so its hard for whites to accept our truth. Its difficult for them to imagine fellow whites as being anything other than friendly. They have little or no experience in these matters, deriving most- if not all of their core beliefs from statistical data- cop shows, or videos. Hence, every white person thinks of him or herself as an expert on all things racial. Whites are more apt to believe in aliens from outer space than they are to accept the notion that minorities suffer maltreatment from other whites. They can’t make the emotional connection with someone that does not look and act like them. Its why it can be so frustrating to open yourselves up on public blogs such as these because blacks already know ahead of time many whites wont accept your personal account. However, let a white man say he’s been up in a spaceship and many whites will believe his story without question. Let a white woman claim she’s channeling a 30-thousand-year-old dead man and again she will draw followers from all over this country.

    I was going to post this article on another section but this one seems apt. I want you to read the comments and judge for yourself.

    Warren mother: Officer traumatized my sons:

    Think about how often this happens to black males, and then ask yourself, what if? What if this happened to three white children? We blacks ask this question a lot amongst ourselves. Now imagine the outpouring of support for the white families- the outcry over these brave innocents. Imagine the political outrage at this being just another example of government encroaching upon the lives of our citizenry. Incidents like these happen in my community and many many others, but whites find it almost impossible to believe the officer’s actions had anything to do with race. Even when its printed in black and white- or captured on film as in the Rodney King beating, or the Henry Louis Gates incident. Whites cant believe the black person wasn’t being criminal in some way. Just one neutral highly dedicated officer protecting the community. “You’re simply playing the race card, probably looking for a big settlement from the city,” some whites will say.

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  150. Mical,

    I'm kind of confused by your last comment, but I think you are in the vicinity of an effect demonstrated in studies on aversive racism. (In fact, I wish I'd mentioned it when I first commented, because the WP in DL's situation were true to form.)

    Basically, studies have shown that WP are less likely to help a Black person than a White person in an emergency situation when there are White bystanders around, but they will help a Black person just as frequently (if not slightly more often) than a White person when there's no one around. The thinking behind it is, "If I don't help (in the second situation), it could be construed as racist. But if I don't help (in the first situation), well no one else did either." The goal (as with all instances of aversive racism) is to not seem racist.

    I have an article on it--if I can dig it up I will post the information here.

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  151. @soul

    why don't you believe us?

    I'm working on it. I think I do, but apparently I don't because I keep screwing up. I read Derailing for Dummies and it made total sense to me at the time, and then I turned around and violated the 'dismissing racism as anything but' premise. In fact, that seems to be the #1 'rule' that I continue to break. I do see that I did that and I do feel like a dumbass. What MGibson said really rang true with me "Because it never happens to them, so its hard for whites to accept our truth. It's difficult for them to imagine fellow whites as being anything other than friendly."

    To expand on what MGibson said.. it's difficult for me to admit that people who are like me and others whom I love and respect are so morally deficient. That I am so morally deficient. Mega cognitive dissonance.

    I try to be self aware yet in my first comment, I simultaneously said two very opposing things. #1. this is a class thing, anything other than racism... #2. if it had happened to a WW someone would have stepped in. I really don't think I'm insane but that is f'd up.

    The fact that this is the 2nd time that I've screwed up here in a similar manner, is what prompted me to say that I need to read more/comment less. I respect the idea that this should be a safe space for POCs, and that derailing makes it unsafe. You may find it hard to believe (based on my ignorant comments) but I seriously don't want to belittle anyone or their experience. I've found this blog valuable, and it has opened my eyes about a lot of things that I 'thought' I knew. However, I still have some serious subconscious racism going on, and don't think it is appropriate for me to work out my internal conflicts by posting on this blog and derailing conversations. Apparently I do so subconsciously, which is baffling and frustrating to me ... but I do realize that it is nonetheless still derailing whether I mean it to be or not. ... and yet (smacking self in head) I continue to do it.

    That is sincerely the best 'explanation' I can give you at this point.

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  152. @LolaAnn.

    I appreciate the response, I really really wanted to know.

    I think we can read theory but to really embed things into us, we must undergo 'active practise' and when we do that, we will commit the same errors repeatedly until we learn not to do them.

    I wouldn't say don't comment, because you are just delaying your own growth.

    I would suggest that you read your comments and put yourself in in the picture, try to make the story fit you, then imagine your reaction, how you would feel.

    And there will be sometimes when the situation is so far away from your reality that you cannot place yourself in it, in that case, simply listen and trust the feelings of the author of the story.

    *these are simply offered as suggestions.

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  153. @M.Gibson..

    Thank you soo much for your response, it really cements my feelings on this and why I have recently changed the way I deal with white people in general.

    and reading those comments ..... they mirror exactly what DL went through.
    Everyone is focusing on the officer and what he did, no one is focusing on the 3 little boys.
    I guess black boys can't be traumatised and they should expect this treatment.

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

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  154. @Soul

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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  155. *sigh*
    I'm so sorry you had to see that, DivineLioness. People doing nothing.

    I've seen it too, more than once (though usually in less "extreme" form— ie: blatant public microaggressions), and boy, do I understand the... disappointment. As you say, it's definitely less about the racist ass du jour (somehow that's not shocking), and more about those Silent Eyes. It's like, how big could this inactive crowd get?? If it were 100 people seeing it and not a dozen, would someone stick up for decency then? And you can't help but think "no." All of a sudden, there's a whole enormous swath of society you can't trust. They're thinking, "I don't want to get involved," but to you (me), by staying silent, they are participating. Really. That's how it feels. They might just as well join in yelling slurs.

    You learn to just stick up for yourself, like you had to. But oh, it burns. I usually manage to hold in the tears until I get away— but now I think of it... why bother? At that point, what difference does it make?

    None of the excuses make any sense. They don't want to make a scene? A scene is already being made. They don't want to stand alone? Um, if you stand up with me, there are automatically two of us. They don't want to step on the besieged person's toes? Oh please. I'm already being humiliated; my toes are already pulp. Maybe they expect us to switch into z-napping, neck-popping ABW mode, and it'll become an angry-verging-on-violent yelling match. I suppose it doesn't compute that in a situation like that, ABW mode is not an option, and that we'd prefer to avoid an angry-verging-on-violent yelling match ourselves.

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  156. Oh, and as for "What, I suppose, DO people mean when they call people who participate in bigoted behavior 'crazy'?"
    I think it means all 4 of the things you listed (and more). They're all the same though: "exoneration."

    1) In this context, "crazy" basically means "psychotic"— ie: disconnected from reality such that one is unaware of and/or unable to comply with social rules. At that level, it means exactly the same thing as "drunk" in that it erases intent: he didn't mean to be offensive, he was "just" drunk/crazy.

    2) At a deeper level, and more generally, crazy is "inexplicable, irreparable and unavoidable." Craziness is random and individual. It literally comes from out of nowhere, and its emergence can't be stopped. Crazy can't be fixed (by you, in a bus station). Even if it could, crazy just keeps on coming. So it means no action is necessary because no action could be effective

    3a) Even deeper, crazy is pitiable. So one can direct one's thoughts that way ("tsk, how sad"/"there but for the grace of God"), rather than to the person being abused.

    3b) Crazy is an affliction. Really, the polite thing to do is to ignore it. So one can feel that the person being abused also has the same implicit duty to be "polite," and shrug off their initial offense. Let it go— after all, this person is crazy. It's like a tic; he can't help himself. (Or even, you should feel bad for him, per 3a. He's the one with the real problem. It's sad.)

    4) Crazy = unpredictable and potentially violent, so one has good reason not to tangle with it. Smile and nod.

    [Sorry for all that; I'm "quoting." I hope it's clear I don't believe any of it.]


    As described, not only does it NOT seem like the guy was mentally ill (psychotic), I sense a real shrewdess there. The guy was extremely aware of (white) social rules— aware enough to exploit/test them. And it's almost like his behavior was aimed more at the white observers— he knew nobody would [feel they could] step in. He knew what to do (and who to do it to) to make them feel that way. He might have been the most aware person there, and the least surprised.

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  157. Soul said...
    "and reading those comments ..... they mirror exactly what DL went through.
    Everyone is focusing on the officer and what he did, no one is focusing on the 3 little boys.
    I guess black boys can't be traumatized and they should expect this treatment."

    It makes your body shake with anger because you know there is not much you can do. Oh, we can protest yes- but all it may do is polarize the community even further. It doesn’t hit home personally enough for whites to make the empathetic connection. In communities like this, the department will rally around the officer just as the whites in the comment section are doing. If needed, whites will hold charity functions to raise money in the officer's defense. Once the investigation is completed (for show), he will be exonerated; the appointed authority will determine that given the circumstances (three black boys with book bags) the officer was completely justified in his actions. Privately (amongst his peers and loved ones) the officer will be assured everything is being done for his sake. We’re all behind you! Much ado about nothing some whites will say.

    Who cares about weather a black child is traumatized or not? Whites figure these children have seen worse things in the inner-city, so have already been hardened to the grim realities of the ghetto. It’s the officer's career we need to be concerned about; he’s a good man with a wife and kids. Consequently, a black woman berated by a white man in a public place is not enough to elevate her to the level of Damsel in Distress. If she were a delicate white woman, I’m sure someone would have stepped in because this could be my daughter- my sister, my wife or girlfriend. For some whites there would be a personal stake in coming to her defense. A black woman, some whites feel... can take care of herself, thinking her to be immune- or conditioned, to the hardships that plague her neighborhood. Moreover, just like Archie Bunker, many whites believe we blacks primarily hail from exclusively broken neighborhoods/homes where trauma is a way of life. She’ll be fine they surmise.
    Michael

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  158. A black woman, some whites feel... can take care of herself, thinking her to be immune- or conditioned, to the hardships that plague her neighborhood. Moreover, just like Archie Bunker, many whites believe we blacks primarily hail from exclusively broken neighborhoods/homes where trauma is a way of life. She’ll be fine they surmise.



    M. Gibson,

    Folks feel this way about BW regardless of our background. Of course, it is automatically assumed that every Black person is a current/former ghetto dweller because the ghetto is our natural habitat.

    This is really about the idea of who deserves suffering and who does not. Under White supremacy, Whites rarely if ever deserve suffering. That is deemed the lot of PoC, especially of Black folks and Native Americans. That's just what we get for not leaving the house White this morning and all covered in the icky nigrah and injun. Goddess forbid you have a vaj too!

    That's the thinking behind all that "Things like that don't happen in this neighborhood/area/town!" when something goes down in a White area. The implication is that there are places where not only are tragedy and suffering expected, but deserved. So why do anything about it unless it hits the "undeserving?"

    WP assuage their consciences by pretending that those of us who are exposed to constant abuse and suffering are tempered and strengthened by it. Yet another reason not to do shit about it or help those who are being attacked and abused even if right in front of you. It's a character-builder! Wouldn't wanna stop progress, now would we?!

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  159. Powerful post, interesting discussion. Thank you for sharing, Divine Lioness.

    If anyone is still reading, I'm a little curious about how Divine Lioness/other folks think gender played a part in this encounter, as well as in similar kinds of situations. I wonder if That Man (the nicest way I can think of to refer to him) would have done the same thing, had a black man been present...my gut/experience as a WOC tells me no, that women of color are frequently constructed by white men as objects to intimidate/control/show power over, while men of color (minus Asian men, who are effiminate and not really men) are Scary Savages to be feared and distrusted. Thoughts?

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  160. Thank you so, so much for telling this story.

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  161. As a black woman who has experienced racism, stood up for herself and watched as no one has helped, yes I identify with this writer and would have felt equally as horrified if this scene unfolded before my eyes. But I don't think every white person is the type of person that would sit by and watch as something terrible happens to another human being. My boyfriend who happens to be white and a bit of a loud mouth would NEVER sit back quietly in a scene like this. He would have been up in that guys face before he uttered another word. The other people standing around might have had to pull my boyfriend off of the lunatic.

    My best friend is also white. She's from Sweden and I have seen her on several occasions run to my side before I even could get a word out. Once we were babysitting for my neighbors two boys at the playground. There was a black girl who was by herself and misbehaving a bit (ahh kids). A white woman marched up to my friend and I, while staring me down and demanded to know who was the mother of the misbehaving girl. Before I could lecture her on her ridiculous assumptions my best friend piped up "Do you have any other stupid assumptions you'd like to make before you leave us alone?" The woman walked away humiliating but having learned a lesson about assuming.

    The people I love and the people I surround myself with give me hope for a better future for us all. Keep your head DL, there are good people out there. Xoxo.

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  162. etoilee8,

    Thank you for your comment, but please do note the subtitle of this blog. I don't think anyone here is saying that NO white people would ever jump up to help out in such situations.

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  163. @ M. Gibson

    My home state, gotta love racial profiling in Ohio. I don't see how three little boys 10 years old and under can be mistaken for robbers. The comments of course mostly blame the children or their parents. Cnn.com had an article yesterday where a white male college student was beaten by riot cops on tape. Every single comment blamed the cops. Once again we see who is worthy of protection.

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  164. For everyone who thinks they would've stood up and said something:

    Would I again be causing the thread to degenerate into irony if I make an observation that similar things have happened on this very blog and nobody White stood up for Black women?

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  165. "I don't think anyone here is saying that NO white people would ever jump up to help out in such situations."

    Yeah, but from the experiences of all the BW here, the vast majority do not. Not even so called progressive people. As RVCBard points out, White commenters sometimes won't even help out BW under the safety and anonymity of the Internet.

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  166. Wow! These types of occurences really blow my mind-- the stupid bigotry and the comments, sadly, I know still happens today. In this day and age, that nobody else stepped up to say anything!

    I would have said plenty!

    I am a white woman, mother to two precious little girls who are Chinese-- how do I prepare them for this kind of ugliness in the world?

    As difficult, hurtful and ugly as this situation was for you, be proud that you did stand up. Those other people at the station should be ashamed of themselves!

    People need to be taught and taught as children how to stand up in the face of ugliness.

    I grew up in Southern Ill, early
    70s. I saw so much hatred and ugliness.

    I can remember as a little girl going to the corner store to buy candy. A couple of times there were POC in the store waiting to purchase something and the clerk would try to wait on me first.

    My mom had taught me this was not correct and that it was intended to be mean to other people. I would tell the clerk that other folks were ahead of me and to wait on them first. Sometimes I would put the candy back and not buy anything-- just leave. I was fairly young.

    I can remember my mom giving store clerks a hard time at local bakeries for ignoring POC who were trying to purchase items. The clerks would then begrudgingly help the folks wanting to make a purchase.

    My first job at a Dairy Queen, I got in trouble for giving a job application to a POC. The owner told me he doesn't give applications out to Ns. I was astonished and did not know what to say-- how to repsond. I knew it was wrong-- he was my boss, my first job. I was going to quit, but that owner sold his business and the new owner wasn't a freak-o bigot.

    It is crazy to look at how much times have changed and yet how much hasn't changed.

    I live in the Northeast now and I haven't witnessed this kind of ugliness in a really long time, but I know it is out there.

    I am so very sorry that you and other folks have to deal with such ugliness. Please know there are some folks in the world who will and do stand up when we witness this kind of ugliness.

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  167. @ Reena,

    As difficult, hurtful and ugly as this situation was for you, be proud that you did stand up.

    Does anyone else here see a problem with a white person telling a black person to be proud of themselves for standing up to racism?

    Can't quite put my finger on what bothers me about that. . .

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  168. "Does anyone else here see a problem with a white person telling a black person to be proud of themselves for standing up to racism?"

    1. It is never the place of a white person to tell a POC how to feel about racism (or about anything else)

    2. It is never the place of a white person to tell a POC how to respond to racism (or to anything else)

    3. DL has already stated how she feels/felt about the situation

    4. Reena's praise implies that there was some payoff for "standing up to racism", but I am not clear that there was ANY payoff for DL. But, even if there had been a payoff, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that the payoff somehow justifies all the pain that DL experienced, which I think is implied...

    5. Reena's praise implies that DL had a choice--I'm not clear that she did. Or IF she did, it was a non-choice choice: as in, "I can sit here and have this shitty experience and say something or I can sit here and have this shitty experience and say nothing. Either way I still have the shitty experience."

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  169. Also, isn't it something that is often said by adults to children? Except DL is an adult, not a child. Hence, as well-intentioned as it was, it can come across as patronizing.

    I've noticed this in real life as a tendency that white people do: praise pocs like little children (not just for standing up to racism, but in general).

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  170. Julia/the other Julia and fromthetropics, that helps a lot, and now I can put my finger on it. Thank you for your explications.

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  171. A White ImmigrantApril 18, 2010 at 7:22 AM

    As I said, I am new to the debate. I come from a country divided by very different lines. And as an observer, I can't help but be deeply bothered by the following exchange:


    *As difficult, hurtful and ugly as this situation was for you, be proud that you did stand up.*

    *Does anyone else here see a problem with a white person telling a black person to be proud of themselves for standing up to racism?*

    *It is never the place of a white person to tell a POC how to feel about racism (or about anything else)*


    Are we forgetting that we are all humans and can relate to each other? At the same time, everybody has different experiences so nobody can or should ever tell another person how to feel. But they can offer help, empathy, and suggestions.

    You see a white person telling others how to feel. I see another human being offering their own interpretations and sharing what would work for them. Should they be prohibited from doing so because they didn't live through your experience?

    It reminds me of how for years I thought my mother was telling me what to do, when in reality, she was merely offering suggestions. She used to tell me what to do when I was younger, which led to me misinterpreting her years later. Should we, perhaps, think about prejudice that goes both ways?

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  172. Should we, perhaps, think about prejudice that goes both ways?

    No, because we're living in the context of de facto white supremacy, and most of us here on this blog are trying to fight against it.

    I don't see you listening to what POC have say about how common white utterances and actions often come across to them -- how such utterances and actions often make POC feel, especially. How about trying that sometime?

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  173. Fromthetropics said:
    "I've noticed this in real life as a tendency that white people do: praise pocs like little children (not just for standing up to racism, but in general)."

    That might make a good topic ...

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  174. This is a great post.

    Many people would say the writer should have behaved like everyone else in that bus station and/or should just avoid Greyhound.

    Kia: "Is a false sense of calm worth more than the dignity and worth of another?" In my experience, yes, to most people it is.

    *

    Things white people do: praise POCs like children, good point, and yes it is a good topic.

    Another one I've been meaning to suggest is: when in conversation with POCs, talk about how you lived in the "ghetto" when you were young.

    Also, say of POCs things like "ze is not educated, but ze is very wise" when the actual situation is, the person in question is not mystically wise simply better read/better informed than the person talking about hir.

    And of course, be the great white hero/ine.

    And also, treat POCs like pets.

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  175. I don't know how to phrase myself in such a way that I can express sympathy without somehow demeaning your experience.

    I go on a public bus 5 days a week. The pressure to stay silent and not stick my neck out is enormous.

    I don't know whether my experience in a suburban, very white Northeastern state has anything to do with the fact that it's always "different" or "unusual" when a POC gets on the bus. Here I am in "libertarian" NH, where I suppose thousands of incidents like yours happen and no one says a damn thing.
    It's depressing how little people in this 96% white place refuse to ever, ever talk about POC or racism, like it's something that only happens in the South or West. It's depressing that your experience happened in Belligham, a place you thought was safe and progressive. It's depressing how ignorant people still are about these deeply personal, hurtful incidents, how people will ignore the problem and pass on the blame.

    At least there are still some WP and POC out there who will, when the time comes, speak out. Not everyone is silent when it comes to this.

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  176. As a recent transplant into Washington, I (1) am not shocked, but wish I was, and (2) can say that this is why "liberal" got to be a bad name. All talk, no walk.

    Anyway, it sucks, and I'm sorry.

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  177. thelady said...
    "Cnn.com had an article yesterday where a white male college student was beaten by riot cops on tape. Every single comment blamed the cops. Once again we see who is worthy of protection."

    Just read the story, as I wasn’t sure what race the young man was. Oh my, just look at the sympathy- the outpouring of support for his family. It’s nice to be able to see a hypothetical proved true, right before your eyes. In both situations, the white commentors were just being themselves, unaware that their whiteness was showing. Some say it’s not a race thing- but they don’t know what we POC know. Of course it’s a race thing- and its right there in black and white. When a white child is accosted by the police, innocence is assumed- obviously, it’s the cops whom are at fault. However, when the same thing happens to black children- the thought is, they must be criminal- why else would the officer take such precautions?

    Too many comments to choose from but I like this one from ABCNews. Its particularly chocked-full of whiteness.

    “From Gladiator1959:
    When we as citizens are going to take a stand and say enough of police abuse and brutality. These policemen are being trained to act like animals with no respect to human life, they are violent people, and imagine how they would treat their own kids if they cross their path. The three police officers should pay for this crime and locked up for a long time and throw away the key. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    The comments on ABCNews seem to echo the comments on CNN’s site. Now how’s that for consistency!

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  178. This story made me cry. My heart goes out to you

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  179. You, saying something to that scum of a man. You're a strong woman in my eyes. I don't know what to do if I was in that position, I would've ignored him the best I can and kept quiet, but now I think I'll politely say shut up if I ever had to experience something like this because of you. I'm sorry you had to go through that but I'm glad you stood up to him. Keep standing your ground. That scum wasn't worth your time.

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  180. This is terrible. My heart ached for you as I read this post. People are so afraid of confrontation for some reason.

    As a white woman, I do not know what it feels like to experience the overt racism you experienced in the bus station, but I do know what it feels like when nobody will stand up for you. I will never forget many years ago when my husband (now ex) was pushing me down and spitting on me in a public place. People stood around looking uncomfortable, but nobody came to my aid or defense. They were all silent, staring.

    Thank you for your post; I hope it will inspire people to act when they see injustice. Hugs.

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  181. And you know the funny part? If you'd socked that guy, the cops would be called on you so fast and excuses for that bum would have been made with no mention of his treatment toward you.

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