Monday, April 19, 2010

wonder what swpd is for

I received the following email today -- my response follows. Since I gathered (justifiably or not) that my response would be traveling into a rather closed mind, I kept it brief.

Do you have anything useful to add to my response? What do you think is this blog's purpose? And what do you yourself use swpd for?

Also, would you find this blog any more useful if it were somehow different?

Finally, if this blog included a Statement of Purpose of some sort, what do you think it should say or include?


Hi Macon,

What is the point of your blog? To give POC a place to vent?
 
It seems to me, after reading lots and lots of post and links, that WP are not really "needed" there. For lack of a better word.
 
Just thought I'd ask the host.
 
Thanks,

[name redacted]


Hi Name Redacted,

The blog's purpose is to delineate and understand how de facto white supremacy works, especially as manifested in the common feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of white people. Both white and non-white people have found that useful, though of course, many haven't.

No, it's not meant to give POC a place to "vent," and to describe the efforts of those who contribute comments and guest posts that way is dismissive, condescending, and frankly, racist.

White people are more than welcome to contribute, if they do so in ways that are not dismissive, off topic, condescending, or racist -- and many do just that,

macon

102 comments:

  1. I would add that, even though his assumptions were wrong, the idea of having a space where white people aren't needed really shouldn't be so shocking. Why do we assume that we have a right to inhabit every space, and that our presence will automatically make that space better? I would argue that, if this blog were devoid of white commenters, we really wouldn't lose much (save the opportunity to see the point of the posts proven), but if this blog were devoid of PoC, it would be completely ineffective in my opinion. It sounds like Anonymous's problem isn't that there aren't enough white people here (a casual glance through the comments would reveal many white posters), but that there are too many of those "angry PoC" around.

    Also, if someone feels uncomfortable identifying their race, they don't have to. That's the beauty of the internet. If you honestly feel like you're not welcome here because you're white, you don't have to say what your race is. But you should be aware that words often bely any pretense. Think about WHY you're uncomfortable. Could it be that its because some of these common white tendencies apply to you?

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  2. I would have tried to make the same points. But, I would have added a sentence about how white people are not needed for discussion, but that we need more white people reading, and listening to ways that they are benefiting from white supremacy.

    I would try to encourage him to keep reading and to possibly reflect on what he is reading.

    but I am a hopeless idealist. I want so much to believe his eyes could be opened.

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  3. I should also clarify that I don't think it's the job of PoC to spend all day writing comments on SWPD for the benefit of the white masses. But for those who do choose to spend time here and share their experiences, it should be appreciated. I'm all for white people educating ourselves, but I think we benefit enormously when PoC choose to join the conversation, because the nature of white privilege doesn't allow us to see things about ourselves as clearly as we would like.

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  4. "Hi Macon,
    What is the point of your blog? To give POC a place to vent?
    It seems to me, after reading lots and lots of post and links, that WP are not really "needed" there. For lack of a better word. Just thought I'd ask the host."

    One could construe his question as dismissive- defensive, condescending and racist in context. Sounds like a question a white person might ask- but I don’t want to assume too much. Course, if this blog is for pointing out "common white tendencies" in a defacto white supremacist society- then I’d venture Macon’s blog is on the mark. Moreover, it must be upsetting, knowing there are places in this world where the conversation doesn’t always revolve around whites. It must be something growing up with the expectation that you (and people who look like you) should occupy the center of all things relative, and that any haunt, blog or venue absent of whites is inherently racist.

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  5. I also wondered what this blog was about for a while. After all, the namesake, SWPL, was a joke. They did to whites what is done to blacks: took a small group and made them representative of the whole.

    And they picked the perfect group, not some low-hanging obvious fruit like say rednecks. Everyone chuckled at he absurdity of making this small minority representative and that revealed the stupidity of talking about blacks or POC in such a way. People are too diverse for this reductionism, and old-time anti-racism is all about looking at people as individuals.

    But you guys are serious. You appear to have adopted the collectivism of racism but just turned it on its head. whereas the old-time anti-racist would combat the racist who says "black people do such and such a thing" with evidence that others do it too, it's just human, you speak of whites in such ways then charge "arab trader derailment!" if someone bring up the obvious.

    on SWPD we laugh ot the absurdity of writing like that. here we're supposed to take it seriously. this is not to say there is no value in your paradigm, but it can be quite jarring.

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  6. This is one of those rhetorical questions I can't stand.

    Say what you mean, dude. What you mean is some variation of, "I tire of reading complaint after complaint by minorities. Your blog is stupid."

    Say that. I'll respect you more.

    Honestly, what would be the point of a bunch of white people sitting around talking about why they do what they do? If WP could do that, we wouldn't have the current race issues we have. We know from all the posts that the vast majority of them don't know what they do that's so bad and surely struggle to understand it.

    I would really (and no, I'm not being facetious) like to hear how the author of this e-mail thinks things ought to go.

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  7. As a white college teacher, I read swpd to listen. And I frequently don't comment because the posts/other commentators tend to say things much better than I could. Although, if I did post more often, you'd better believe that a lot of what i'd say would be "venting," too (which, curiously, isn't a term we attach to the jeremiads of Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, and the other Archroyalty of Darkness cluttering up the airwaves with their toxic rhetoric--I wonder why?).

    @Manju:
    "But you guys are serious. You appear to have adopted the collectivism of racism but just turned it on its head. whereas the old-time anti-racist would combat the racist who says "black people do such and such a thing" with evidence that others do it too, it's just human, you speak of whites in such ways then charge "arab trader derailment!" if someone bring up the obvious."

    I'm assuming you're excoriating swpd here--and please let me know if I'm wrong.

    I think it's useful (although tired, by this point) to distinguish between essentialism/collectivism and the critique of institutionalized racism and insidious forms of privilege.

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  8. I would agree that it's not a place where it seems like my voice is needed, but that's not the point. It's a very useful site to read and reflect upon my own behaviour and tendencies.

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  9. @Manju

    I think it's a false equivalence to compare challenging racist assumption with "other people do it too," to trying to derail discussions about racist patterns of behaviour and tendencies with the arab trader argument. The generalizations serve different purposes in each case. I actually don't think that SWPD essentializes, it makes generalizations about behaviour.

    I'm not really sure what you're trying to communicate with your last paragraph.

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  10. Initially, I thought it was a great place to vent. But it's more than just venting. It helps keep POCs sane. Without a place to deconstruct and identify whiteness like this, it leaves us thinking that we're imagining racism and we might be crazy. That can take a toll on our daily lives and psyche.

    A white audience is essential to this blog. Talking about racism in the absence of the perpetrator leads to: Victims of racism learning nothing more than coping mechanisms all the while feeling bogged down, and a whole lot of resentment. I think the presence of willing white listeners helps take away the resentment and anger, which is one of the first steps towards reconciliation.

    But the real question is not whether or not white people are needed. The real question is: Do white people need to know these things? - how racism works and how you contribute to it because you do contribute to it whether or not you notice, whether or not you like it, whether or not you admit it. (I'm of the camp that thinks everyone can learn from sites like this because we all contribute to prejudice in some sort of way, otherwise we'd all be saints, and white people are no exception to this rule.)

    Does the exclusive focus on 'white people' bother me? Yeah, sure it does because I realize that white people don't have an exclusive patent to racism. Duh! But macon is white and American, so it would be very difficult (though not impossible) for him to talk about other forms of racism without using his white privilege.

    Do I agree with everything that is said by pocs on this blog (or even non-pocs)? Of course not. You don't have to agree with everything to benefit from it. Take what you can, and put the rest on the shelf for a later time.

    Btw, @macon - Why did you start this blog? To be less racist, I suppose. But why? Why was/is that important to you? Not how it effects pocs or how pocs appreciate it, but why is it important to macon personally that he learns to be less racist?

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  11. I'd say that "Stuff White People Do" is a place to write and vent about stuff that white people are doing and have done. This blog helps dismantle the white supremacist mindset one blog at a time as well as bring to light the pervasive denial that comes with such thinking. It gives a voice to the voiceless people who've been ignored by mainstream society and it helps whites to come to terms with reality.

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  12. i agree the cause was probably hopeless...but if not, your first paragraph sealed the deal.

    you probably know more about this than i do, but i think there are a lot of people who may seem hopeless but aren't, or at least i think there is some value in trying to plant a seed however small.

    i think my response would be more like:


    the blog is to discuss racism. WP, including you, are welcome to contribute and in fact many do... the main prerequisite is that you honestly believe that racism is a real and significant problem. if you don't believe this, and if reading some of the posts and comments here doesn't convince you, then you should refrain from contributing.

    by the way, your using the word "vent" implies that you think POC contributions are emotional and irrational. that attitude is condescending and is quite frankly a perfect example of the kind of racism that i and my readers are trying to fight.

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  13. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm speaking for PoC. Feel free to call me out if it does...

    My first thought reading the letter was that the idea that PoC are here to vent is ignorant and offensive. It supposes telling painful stories about racist experiences in public is somehow enjoyable in itself, which goes contrary to the vast majority of PoC guest-posts and comments I've seen here. If anything, SWPD is yet another place PoC have to endure racism. Presumably if many keep coming back, there must be some good reason, or are all PoC masochists??

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  14. Manju:

    "After all, the namesake, SWPL, was a joke."

    See, I don't view it as a joke. Why should we say "some" or "most" white people? That implies that there are whites that these things don't apply to, and I haven't met or come into contact with any whites that SWPD didn't apply to.

    I think POC are quick to use the "..but not ALL white people!" line because we want to justify the white people we may choose to associate with in our lives.

    And I hesitate to write these things because I know "anti-racist" whites read it and go into savior mode and parrot what a lot of POC say in an effort to seem like they're one of the special ones.

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  15. As A.Smith points out, the whole post is pretty opaque.

    Does the question seem to assume that white people don't post that much? A careful reading would show quite a few in every thread.

    Maybe the questioner is confused by the fact that even white people refer to white people as white people here. A post that talks about white people doing something might be written by a white person, in other words, and it might not say "we" (although maybe it should).

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  16. i would think this would be the perfect place for white people to discuss the 800 pound gorilla in THEIR room...the caucasian racist impulse...to explore the WHY of the caste system that places white people at the top of the ethnic ladder...to explore your need to segregate, enslave, stereotype...to explain your collective behavior for the past 400 years...It sounds reasonable to me to analyze the "stuff white people do"...

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  17. What I find ironic is that most white people want POC in their lives, want to experience our "diversity" (*retches at overused term*), and even want to be "ethnic"...and yet, they do everything they can to drive folks like Moi to "colorful flight."

    "Colorful flight", naturally, is where POC flee white people, not the other way around. It's the instinctive urge many modern young POC have to resist switching schools, jobs, cities - you name it - all to avoid having to deal with everyday white people on an everyday basis.

    WP, if they're smart, do NOT want massive colorful flight in America, esp. if they're to be a minority in a mere three decades or so. Unity really is healthier for a nation, but BOTH sides have to want it, and one side can't keep shouldering the burden & picking up the slack forever.

    A blog like SWPD, for example, helps deter colorful flight, as fromthetropics said, because it helps keep some POC sane when we get to express our views and deconstruct various scenarios in a healthy.

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  18. I like what fromthetropics says, Initially, I thought it was a great place to vent. But it's more than just venting. It helps keep POCs sane. Without a place to deconstruct and identify whiteness like this, it leaves us thinking that we're imagining racism and we might be crazy. That can take a toll on our daily lives and psyche.

    This is so true -- things happen to me all the time and I think, "there's something really racist about that, but I can't put my finger on it..." SWPD has helped me articulate a lot of things that previously I struggled to.

    It's also shown me personally how much racist stuff I don't even notice because it's almost become normal.

    Yesterday, on Oprah, Mo'Nique's family was interviewed about her recent revelation that she was molested by her older brother. Her mom said that Mo'Nique hadn't spoken to them in about two years. I was a little appalled, and then they started saying really ignorant stuff and I totally got it.

    One brother talked about how after the issue came to light, Mo'Nique and her brother went "back to a normal relationship." Most people can figure why she did that, but her family sat there completely baffled as to why she wasn't talking to them...

    I see that on this blog and I think it serves as a good place for POC to realize, "hey, wait a minute, that IS racist and I don't like it..."

    One more thing, there's something else to this e-mail... this wondering why this blog exists and what it's purpose is... that would probably make another good SWPD post, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

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  19. @ A. Smith

    "ought to know what they do and should talk about why."

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  20. It's not at all a rhetorical question, and it's one that I've asked on other blogs as well to figure out whether to comment or not. To me, the basic question is whether the blog is meant to describe this kind of behavior, or to understand and change it. That may be too abstract an explanation. How about this: is it meant to be a wailing wall or a solution?

    Don't get me wrong - human beings need wailing walls and need to vent frustration and anger. I do, you do, my wife does, my kid does, pretty much everyone does.

    (@Tyler: I don't understand why you'd think that something that's irrational or emotional is less valuable or valid.)

    And if that's the purpose, essentially to support each other and share each other's pain by sharing your stories, that's great and valuable - but trying to help explain motivations from the other side, or to try to find similar experiences to empathize, are useless.

    On the other hand, if the intent is to really understand what's driving that behavior, how to identify it and how to change it, then we do have something to contribute. I'm 90% sure that I've seen white folk's intentions misread several times in the past few days, and have myself been misinterpreted quite a few times.

    (BTW, interesting and somewhat relevant post just now from Ta-Nehisi Coates: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/04/diversity-is-work/39219/)

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  21. @Janis:

    See, I don't view it as a joke. Why should we say "some" or "most" white people? That implies that there are whites that these things don't apply to, and I haven't met or come into contact with any whites that SWPD didn't apply to.

    You're really saying that every white person does every thing listed here?

    OK, I've never assumed that a black person who went to college went to a traditionally black college. Done.

    And I hesitate to write these things because I know "anti-racist" whites read it and go into savior mode and parrot what a lot of POC say in an effort to seem like they're one of the special ones.

    So now I'm really confused. Are you saying all white people do all these things and you'll ignore anyone who says otherwise?

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  22. I've commented a few times but I mostly lurk, occasionally finding myself saying 'Oh shit, I do that.'

    Then I go off and think about why I do that, what it means, why I shouldn't do that and what I need to do to make sure I don't do that again.

    So while I might even agree with name redacted that SWPD doesn't necessarily WP, I'd argue that WP need SWPD.

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  23. @dersk-
    Alright. Assuming you sent the e-mail, fine. It's not rhetorical.*

    However, I have a strong feeling you didn't send this e-mail. If this question weren't rhetorical, I feel this person would've asked on the blog instead of sending the e-mail to macon.

    We can skip the obvious rebuttal to what I just said that involves an explanation of not feeling comfortable or feeling like the question was better posed to the blog's owner/creator rather than to the general swpd community.

    What this person asked was not why macon started the blog. Not why macon maintains the blog, but rather what the purpose was and further about the necessity of white people. What do you mean what is the purpose? You can't read through these posts and see a purpose?

    You know, even if one assumed the wrong purpose for this blog, you can come up with one, all the same just as this person did. You don't need to ask and, in my opinion, if you're asking it's because you're trying to make a larger point about your feelings that the blog need not exist.

    Further, this person went on to answer his/her own question, and explained that said answer came from reading through a whole lot of posts.

    So yes, I believe this person was asking a rhetorical question.

    *Actually, if this person showed up, admitted to sending the e-mail and said it wasn't rhetorical, I wouldn't believe them. ::shrug::

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  24. @dersk re: "I'm 90% sure that I've seen white folk's intentions misread several times in the past few days, and have myself been misinterpreted quite a few times."

    So if you say something that's hurtful, for instance, and you didn't mean to hurt anyone (but someone is hurt nonetheless), their pain is because of their misinterpretation and not because you were unaware of the effect of what you said? Is that what you mean by "misinterpreted" or "misread"?

    If so, your entitlement is showing.

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  25. before this gets more confusing than it already is, can we just clarify:

    dersk, did you or did you not write the email discussed in macon's post?

    thanks.

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  26. Of course it's rhetorical.

    Further, this person went on to answer his/her own question, and explained that said answer came from reading through a whole lot of posts.

    And that's exactly how it works. Name Redacted didn't email Macon to "ask a question". This is never about asking, so much as setting the other person up to listen. Name Redacted also stated it had read several posts - just to make sure Macon knew they hadn't just glimpsed the title and gotten offended (i.e., stab at credibility, so Macon would "have" to listen to avoid appearing hypocritical).

    We've all seen this before. And we've seen this too:

    Don't get me wrong - human beings need wailing walls and need to vent frustration and anger. I do, you do, my wife does, my kid does, pretty much everyone does.

    And if that's the purpose, essentially to support each other and share each other's pain by sharing your stories, that's great and valuable - but trying to help explain motivations from the other side, or to try to find similar experiences to empathize, are useless.


    Ah, clueless condescension...we meet again.

    So support via empathy and experience comparison are "useless". *nods* Well, now...that's good to know.

    Hear that, y'all? All you druggies, alcoholics, war veterans, and miscellaneous disease/trauma survivors (and various combinations thereof) best just give up and kill yourselves right now. 'Cause all those AA, NA, SA, etc. meetings and support groups you're attending? *shakes head* Useless.

    Experiencing/witnessing racism is toxic to the soul and even affects physical health. When you don't run the system, sometimes just talking about it with someone who actually understands (or at least is genuinely trying to understand) is all you've got to get you through.

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  27. island girl in a land w/o seaApril 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    @ dersk

    <>

    what do you want, a medal? a cookie? why are you so defensive, dear special, sensitive snowflake? really, you're not the center of the universe.

    this blog is subtitled, "The ways of white folks, I mean, some white folks . . ." a quote attributed to langston hughes, who, just in case you weren't aware, wrote about whiteness and white privilege way before white scholars like mcintosh, ignatieff and others who made whiteness more "accessible" for white people were even born.

    i'm beginning to wonder whether white privilege makes (some) white people less able to comprehend what they read. at the very least, i'm no longer surprised by the illogic of arguments that tacitly justify white privilege.

    and *we're* called unteachable savages!

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  28. To me the distinctive feature of SWPD is that it is a designated safe space for discussion by people of all races. As a white woman, I could probably learn a lot by lurking around some sites that are defned as communities for POC, but I would also feel like an interloper.

    I am assuming that if POC come here to vent, they do it knowing that a lot of the readership here is white. I also assume that by participating in this community (rather than a community centered specifically on their own ethnic or social groups), POC have essentially volunteered to take on something of a teaching role vis-a-vis the white readership.

    I do think that I have a lot to learn from listening to POC, and I don't wish to put them into the teaching role if it makes them uncomfortable. But the way discussion is encouraged in this forum makes me feel more open about asking questions here.

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  29. Dersk, while not all white people have done everything listed, we are all acculturated to do a lot of these things. (For example, the impulse to mention partners/children/friends of color that we may have in order to somehow show that we are above having to think about the ways in which we're privileged.)

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  30. Maybe I giving Name Redacted too much credit here, but I read his email as asking the question, "What is the objective of this blog?" or "what is this blog designed to be?" rather than suggesting this blog shouldn't exist. Also entangled in there is a question about the role of commenters (although, I'm making it appear more innocent that it probably is).

    Right now the blog is basically a list of racist behavior that WP do and/or have done, with a rich set of comments on each one. As such it seems to serve as a way for POC to articulate racist behavior and air grievances (and vent), and also as a way for WP to recognize their own racist behavior (and presumably work towards correcting it.)

    This blog, to me at least, is good at pointing out what actions are racist, but not so good at pointing out why those actions are racist. I think it would be helpful for WP if the architecture of racism was somehow shown, so instead of seeing "Oh, that one action was racist" they can see "Oh, that whole classification of actions are racist because of X,Y, and Z." But maybe I'm getting off topic.

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  31. I think the comments up to now have shown that SWPD has as many purposes as people who read the blog.

    Both WP and POC have noted motivations ranging from deconstruction of racism to sanity checks to yes, even venting. And I say that all of these motives are useful and contribute to our overall understanding of each other.

    @A. Smith
    It's also shown me personally how much racist stuff I don't even notice because it's almost become normal.

    Or noticing it in places you least expect. I was watching TruTV the other day and one of those "World's Dumbest" shows came on. So in the scene, you've got these two white cops caucusing after having stopped this young white man. One cop thought the guy's name was familiar and went back to check on the possibility of him having outstanding warrants, while the other basically let the suspect stand away from him as he chitchatted with the other cop and walked away from his vehicle. The joke was that the white suspect jumped into the abandoned cop car and took off, but all I could think of was that there was NO WAY IN HELL those cops would have left a black man suspected of having outstanding warrants standing next to a running car with the keys in it WITHOUT handcuffs.

    And then the fact that my mind went there bothered me as much as the observation itself. Because that thought was immediately followed by the suspicion that most WP wouldn't have noticed that part of the scene, in which no POC were present mind you, as an example of how racism is often observed.

    Which brings me back to the "reason" for SWPD. What draws me to this blog again and again is not only the diversity of voices, but the fact that it's doesn't just focus on the obvious forms that many people like to think of when they think of present-day racism.

    As for macon's response, I wholeheartedly cosign tyler's remarks.

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  32. "And I hesitate to write these things because I know "anti-racist" whites read it and go into savior mode and parrot what a lot of POC say in an effort to seem like they're one of the special ones."

    ok? several poc have complained of a lack of support for their interpretations of comments made by more clueless WP, that white people SHOULD step in and say something so POC don't have to keep repeating themselves.

    but I think maybe there us a problem here of WP trying to get it or be one of the good ones or whatever, basically wanting to ingratiate themselves to black folks and gain approval. what's the point of that? I feel like because racism is a form of injustice that is unfair, offensive, and beneath us as a society to which we all belong, if and when a WP feels compelled to do something about it, they don't need anyones approval or direction to do so. Maybe being accepted by POC should be the last thing any WP claiming to be anti-racist should concern themselves with. just a thought.

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  33. The problem with characterizing SWPD as a place to just "vent" is that it takes away from the real effects (I don't know why some are really slow on the uptake...) of institutional racism. I personally could care less if some random White person calls me the N-word. What I do care about is that same White person keeping me out of a school, or a job, or a neighborhood because of the racist beliefs that led him/her to using the N-word in the first place. I "vent" when my sister annoys the crap out of me, because even at her most infuriating she doesn't have power over my quality of life. "Venting" about WP and institutional racism is the understatement of the year because they've done plenty to demonstrate their extraordinary capabilities of fudging it up for the rest of us (and even their own, at times).

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  34. Interesting you should save this as a link on the side bar or as a tab for the future. I was wondering what's the purpose of this blog as well.

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  35. @jas0nburns

    but I think maybe there us a problem here of WP trying to get it or be one of the good ones or whatever, basically wanting to ingratiate themselves to black folks and gain approval. what's the point of that? I feel like because racism is a form of injustice that is unfair, offensive, and beneath us as a society to which we all belong, if and when a WP feels compelled to do something about it, they don't need anyones approval or direction to do so. Maybe being accepted by POC should be the last thing any WP claiming to be anti-racist should concern themselves with. just a thought.

    You might as well say,
    Because racism is detrimental to society as a whole, white people should just continue to exercise their priviledge over the lives of people of colour.

    White people have no idea how to fix racism on our own. Because we don't experience it. We don't know what actions will actually be helpful, and what will be counter-productive. So yes, white anti-racists need the direction of POC.

    Equality cannot be given to someone, it can only be claimed.

    It's not helpful for white people to just follow their compulsion to be saviours. Our job is to learn how to get out of the way of POC, so they can get on with their claiming.

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  36. @jas0nburns re: "because racism is a form of injustice that is unfair, offensive, and beneath us as a society to which we all belong, if and when a WP feels compelled to do something about it, they don't need anyones approval or direction to do so. Maybe being accepted by POC should be the last thing any WP claiming to be anti-racist should concern themselves with. just a thought."

    I'm agreeing with jas0nburns. The motivations of WP working against racism are many, but expecting or hoping to be well-received among PoC for their efforts is a misdirected goal, IMO. Not that it can't happen, but white people will not be redeemed by winning approval. If Name Redacted was essentially asking where the love is for WP on this blog, then I can say that the point has been missed.

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  37. Taterpie,

    Do you think there's something about this blog that makes people question it's purpose as opposed to other blogs? I've never had anyone ask me the purpose of my blog, and I don't think I could (or would feel obligated to) give them an answer. Does the topic of this blog lead it to expect the owner to have lofty goals of some sort? (If that were the case, it'd be pretty annoying IMO, because blogging about racism doesn't make you a modern-day MLK by any stretch.)

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  38. @ Marissa: I actually think that's what Jas0nburns was trying to say.

    Since I started reading this blog, I've been noticing all sorts of things. All of the posts about things Macon observed in the comments? Funny, I started seeing them everywhere! Arab Trader Arguments? Got 'em trying to explain this blog to my (white) friends!

    I'm not even all that interested in hanging out with white people anymore (though that might not have as much to do with this blog). Despite their "intelligence", conversation tends to be somewhat inane and dull.

    Surely, if more white people would see these problems, and recognize them as real, maybe racism wouldn't be such a bloody problem!

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  39. Jasmin said, Do you think there's something about this blog that makes people question it's purpose as opposed to other blogs?

    This is it.

    The thing I couldn't put my finger on.

    swpd: question the validity of blogs dealing with race.

    No one asks any of us with personal blogs about their purpose because there's an implicit understanding that blogs, like journals/diaries can be for whatever purpose the author wants and that further, whatever said purpose is, it doesn't have to be apparent or clearly understood to the general public. If you like what you read, come back. If you don't -- well, don't come back.

    But do a blog about race, or a post about race? Now they need to understand why. For what reason? Must we address these horrible things publicly for everyone to comment on? Must you ask me to think about the dumb, ignorant, racist things I do?

    Yup. That's it.

    And in that light, macon, all I would've said in response is "I do what I want."

    There's just a certain type of willful ignorance that I won't with and this is it.

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  40. What @fromthetropics said: It helps keep POCs sane. Without a place to deconstruct and identify whiteness like this, it leaves us thinking that we're imagining racism and we might be crazy. That can take a toll on our daily lives and psyche.

    Also, the more I visit here, the more I think of this space as a way to raise awareness of whiteness as a social group with its own systemic issues and culture. One of the most common white tendencies I've noticed is the ability to think of oneself first as an individual, and only afterward as a member of a social group, and only then if it's beneficial to the white person to think of zirself this way. Whiteness, in other words, becomes invisible as a social structure. This blog, its posts, its commenters, all help dispel that myth and contextualize whiteness as a category to which white people belong. The "well I never owned slaves/I have friends of colour/I support bilingual education" defenses have a lot less weight to them when it's understood that racism is so much bigger than a matter of personal prejudice - it's the air we breathe, the water (kool-aid?) we drink - and that understanding is absolutely vital to our ability to begin dismantling it.

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  41. @Jonathan:
    "This blog, to me at least, is good at pointing out what actions are racist, but not so good at pointing out why those actions are racist."
    Are you serious? You want us to hand feed it to you instead of YOU realizing why it's racist? Holy shit, if you didn't get it the first go round, the comments you claim are so awesome explain why a lot of those things are racist, in very clear terms.

    "Maybe I giving Name Redacted too much credit here, but I read his email as asking the question"
    Ah, the good ole Well-this-is-how-the-awesome-ME-interpreted-things-so-you're-wrong argument.

    @A. Smith: I completely agree - why justify this blog at all? It is what it is. People get from it what they want.

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  42. bloglogger said...
    "I'm agreeing with jas0nburns. The motivations of WP working against racism are many, but expecting or hoping to be well-received among PoC for their efforts is a misdirected goal, IMO. Not that it can't happen, but white people will not be redeemed by winning approval. If Name Redacted was essentially asking where the love is for WP on this blog, then I can say that the point has been missed."

    There is a troubling thought concerning whites who deem themselves antiracist- yet suffer very little from the troubles that oftentimes affect minorities in such work. Events such as the Selma to Montgomery march is notable for its brutality, and lets not forget the Freedom Riders (some of whom where whites) who willingly suffered alongside their black peers for the cause. It’s easy to set up a blog from the relative safety of your own home, dubbing yourself as anti-this- or that, yet still enjoy the privileges of being white. From this vantage point, you can easily move in and out of that consciousness whenever it suits your needs. In this context, the motive of the anti-racist should be called into question. An anti racist should be willing to venture outside his/her comfort zone, and become aquatinted with controversy. He or she should be willing to surrender status in his community, friends- or even loved ones for what he/she believes in. How else would you know you’re having an effect if you’re not raising the ire of your own people?

    In Harper Lee's novel, Atticus Finch willingly put himself and the safety of his household at risk to defend Tom Robinson. It wasn’t a popular decision by any means- considering the climate, but it was the right decision in the lawyer’s mind. For some whites I suspect the term antiracist is merely a jumping off point to something bigger- a career choice if you will- where one is looking for a book deal somewhere down the road. One has to ask the question what is the payoff? Why have you taken up this mantle? I think it’s a fair question. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t experience some kind of boost to your ego. Unless you are truly willing to jump in there and get your hands dirty, suffer the same indignities minorities put up with every day- then what good is it to sport the label anti-racist?

    The very term does seem to elevate the person up above other whites, for the very moniker leads others to believe the anti-racist gets it. I think that’s why Tim Wise speaks in front of so many black audiences, especially when he often chimes that “I’m not telling you anything any black person hasn’t already told you.” Maybe in his heart he is trying to convey to his audience that he does indeed get it. “I mean just look at all the books I’ve written,” he might say. Although, from what I’ve witnessed on this blog and others run by whites, sometimes it seems as though the writers don’t get it, and they may never get it; but that’s part of being human (and white) I guess.

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  43. M.Gibson said An anti racist should be willing to venture outside his/her comfort zone, and become aquatinted with controversy. He or she should be willing to surrender status in his community, friends- or even loved ones for what he/she believes in. How else would you know you’re having an effect if you’re not raising the ire of your own people?

    *nods head*


    As for Tim Wise, I think the reason he speaks in front of so many black audiences is because white people don't want to hear what he has to say.

    Either because they mistakenly believe they already get it or because they don't want to get it or because they don't know that there's something to get.

    One surefire way to run WP away from a lecture/discussion is to say it's going to be about race. The best you can do is say the topic is diversity, but still...

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  44. Asking "What is the objective of this blog?" is itself a revealing question. It pushes Macon to justify the purpose, in a way that implies there might be a wrong or insufficient answer. It's a power play to ask a question like that, even if the use of that power might be unintentional.

    White people have the luxury of asking that kind of question because talking about race is *optional* if you're white. You can dip your toe into the waters, and then scurry away if it gets cold or scary or something nips at your toes. You don't HAVE to keep at it.

    In contrast, my sense is that for people of color it's never optional. Keeping at it -- and getting fluent in different codes -- is essential for economic and psychic survival.

    As a white person, I read this blog in part because it's a relief *not* to have to justify talking/thinking about these issues. There are few enough places (online or off) where I can.

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  45. @Jasmin,
    Sorry for the later response...

    "Do you think there's something about this blog that makes people question it's purpose as opposed to other blogs?"
    Well for me, he's a white person blogging about "stuff white people do" and he mentions racism. I was curious to why does he blog about stuff white people do and why does he talk about racism. Is it to end racism? If so what are his proposed solutions/suggestions? If it's not to end racism than what purpose is this blog serving for him?


    "I've never had anyone ask me the purpose of my blog, and I don't think I could (or would feel obligated to) give them an answer. Does the topic of this blog lead it to expect the owner to have lofty goals of some sort?"
    Well I blog about racism and I haven't had anyone ask me either then again people never comment,lol. As a victim of racism/white supremacy I have interest in ending the system of racism/white supremacy. When I see a white person speaking about racism in a "anti-racist" fashion I will often wonder what is their aim regardless of how nice they are.

    "(If that were the case, it'd be pretty annoying IMO, because blogging about racism doesn't make you a modern-day MLK by any stretch.)"
    No, but it's always correct to ask questions when someone presents you something.

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  46. "One has to ask the question what is the payoff? Why have you taken up this mantle? I think it’s a fair question. "

    exactly!! damn right it's a fair question!!!

    there is no such thing as pure altruistic motivation. at least I have never seen it in real life, so WP acting like they are fighting racism for the benefit of POC is bullshit IMO

    but there's also an honest reason for us to work against racism. when we exercise our privilege it makes us look bad. it's a shitty thing to do period and it just reinforces the stereotype of WP that we are all racist and just love our privilege and all that. and it's true! we are racist! so we should resist racism not to save POC but so we don't suck as WP.

    so the payoff ultimately is that whiteness can maybe someday not be such a bad thing.

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  47. "So now I'm really confused. Are you saying all white people do all these things and you'll ignore anyone who says otherwise?"

    No, I'm saying every white person does most of the things listed on swpd. Keep in mind, a white person never has the right to question a POC on any social topic, let alone race. So your standing on shaky ground here.

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  48. Janise said,

    Keep in mind, a white person never has the right to question a POC on any social topic, let alone race.

    Huh?

    That smells like troll spirit . . .

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  49. This blog, to me at least, is good at pointing out what actions are racist, but not so good at pointing out why those actions are racist.

    @Jonathan L, you probably have genuine intentions when you voiced that concern. But I don't really understand where you're coming from. I had thought that the posts and "rich" comment thread does a very good job of pointing out the 'whys'. Pocs, in particular, expend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to explain the whys (because we actually do want white people and anyone else to 'get it' as it will make our lives easier) on this blog. That's why we have such long (rich) comment threads. I do understand that the anger, resentment or 'venting' aspect to the blog on the part of pocs may cloud the message for white people (or make it sound like nails on a chalkboard), but I thought the 'whys' have been quite clearly explained on most posts.

    You sound like a regular reader who seem to be able to look past the venting. But to hear that the 'whys' is still not clear to you has left me feeling a little...helpless. I really don't see what more pocs could do or say to explain the whys (except to be ultra patient like a saint and be mature and forgiving over and above all white people and never be angry at ignorance. But if we are that saint-like and forgiving, we might as well save our energy and not try to explain racism, and just brush it off when it happens).

    What would help you see the 'whys' more clearly? Is there a single post that you could point to here or elsewhere where you felt that the 'whys' were clearly explained, and share with us why it was clear? If you can explain how it should be explained so that white people can get it, then it might be useful for the rest of us to know. (These are not rhetorical questions. I'd like to know.)

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  50. This blog, to me at least, is good at pointing out what actions are racist, but not so good at pointing out why those actions are racist.

    Hey Jonathan L, maybe you're right about some of the posts, but you'll find that many times Macon is providing another example or specific situation that's caused by an underlying principle and thought process which he has already explained in a previous post.

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  51. fromthetropics wrote,

    Btw, @macon - Why did you start this blog? To be less racist, I suppose. But why? Why was/is that important to you? Not how it effects pocs or how pocs appreciate it, but why is it important to macon personally that he learns to be less racist?

    Because I feel duped, and manipulated, and fundamentally twisted in terms of what I am, by having been trained to "be white." That angers me. I have some Holden Caulfield in me too -- hypocrisy disgusts me, and white folks, to the extent that we're "white," are very hypocritical. We're also unjustifiably self-assured, and often arrogant as well, qualities that I also hate, and qualities I especially hate detecting in myself.

    Understanding the past and present of racial whiteness helps me understand so many things that before just felt vaguely wrong. I started this blog in order to clarify and articulate today's white supremacy in general, as well as what I have since come to see as "common white tendencies," including many of my own -- I figured that writing about examples of things that white people often do would be a way of better getting over them myself, and of having them listed in a place where I could go back and remind myself about them.

    I also think that most white people don't understand much about the enormous and detailed significance of their own whiteness, and of the whitened world around them, and so I hope that the public platform of a blog functions to spread the word to white people, encouraging them to wake up in the ways that I'm trying to wake up. I suppose a basic motivation for that is my desire for lofty goals like justice and a better world, as well as my sense of responsibility, as a luckily privileged person, for doing something myself toward those lofty goals.

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  52. The purpose of SWPD is ill defined, but what it is doing seems pretty clear from comments: providing a place for some willing POC to discuss racism while some WP learn how to listen and accept criticism, or criticize other WP. The conversations by the POC are very moving and I find them very engrossing. I am sensitive to charges of voyeurism and am happy if POC feel that the White audience is important. I have been trying to listen to POC when I could since the 1960s, so there have been very few real surprises to me personally in the POC conversations, although there have been a couple of particular things I've learned that I had not understood before. I'm not trying to get cookies because I know darn well I don't deserve them -- I'm still living White privilege, and there is more I could personally do than I do -- but I haven't been stuffing my fingers in my ears and saying la-la-la either. It is hard to gauge, but it seems like a lot of White readers are pretty new to this and are using the blog for Racism 101, although I'll bet that a significant fraction of whites have been listening to other POC too outside this blog, and are tuning in here because they care and are trying to figure out how to attack White supremacy.
    What does not happen here is a space where White people talk about the work White people have to do inside our own heads to stop oppressing people of color and work constructively with people of color in social justice movements. After you've passed "racism 101" there's a lot of stuff still to work through. You don't turn off unconscious racism just because you want to, and some of us (I have no clue how many) are trying do what we can to educate other whites or attack institutional racism despite our White privilege. It's a complicated dance, being aware of your own failings but plunging in and trying to do the work anyway. Then sometimes having it blow up and realizing you made a mistake. It would be helpful to have a place for self-critical reflection, preferably where it is possible to get feedback from POC about our thoughts and ideas. But I'm guessing this isn't the place. It seems like it is the wrong mix of people.
    FWIW Tim Wise has been in my predominantly-white community multiple times in the past few years. He's a fairly popular speaker around here and when I've been with him the audiences were mostly White, although there was also a good Black turnout. I imagine he isn't getting rich, but he does get paid for lecturing and writing, which doesn't seem quite the same as getting beat up by police. I had the pleasure of sharing a platform with him in a series of lectures once. In my opinion he's in the category of using white privilege to attack white privilege, not in the category of giving up white privilege. But maybe I just don't know what else he does. Which is not to deny that he speaks big batches of truth.

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  53. "What is the point of your blog? To give POC a place to vent?"

    What a fool, to have learned nothing after claiming to read so many posts and comments, yet come to this degrading conclusion.

    It reminds me of a man with chronically sexist view toward women, degrading them as always "bitching", but never having a legitimate complaint, thus letting them off the hook to being responsible for their oppressive behavior.

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  54. First of all, I'm not suggesting that it is the responsibility of POCs to do anything for me and I don't want to get too off topic or refocus the discussion on WP.

    I think for each individual post the "why" seems to get covered, but they each feel somehow idiosyncratic. They help me see why each specific scenario was racist, but I feel they don't give me a good understanding of the architecture of racism and therefore I don't have the skill to "see" racism "on my own."

    For example, in the post "push non-white people to assimilate" Gloria describes an event involving a dress. If I were the other girl whose mother had sent her a dress that didn't fit, how would I know whether offering it to the girl down the hall would be racist? After the fact, and given the context of other "push to assimilate" actions I can see how it would be, but that doesn't help me or Gloria, ex ante.

    I am at a loss of how exactly to extend that knowledge to other situations because I'm not picking up on the general themes. Obviously, "push to assimilate" is the theme, but how does one recognize that is what they are doing? Is any unsolicited advice or offerings from a WP to a POC considered pushing and therefore racist? Or does the advice/offering have to have racial/cultural significance (or do, as I suspect, all interaction between WP and POC have inherent racial/cultural significance)? Other might see this as nit-picking, but I think it has real significance, especially with more subtle forms of racism.

    In that post, Gloria was specifically asking for advise, so maybe it's a bad example, but I feel like I would learn more if there had been some sort of deconstruction and an alternative scenario where Gloria wasn't pushed to assimilate. Is that alternative that the other girl never offers her the dress? That doesn't seem to be much better.

    Maybe that's really it. I don't see a lot of solutions being offered. Where are the counter-factual, "what if" scenarios where the actions aren't racist? Where are the good examples of the Stuff White People Should Do.

    This, I think, would be especially helpful for the WP coming from the colorblind camp. Plus it would help with the feelings of "damned if I do, damned if I don't" and leave WP less likely to feel attacked, because an alternative is being offered.

    I know this is way too concerned with the feelings of WP, but if one of the goals is to get more WP on-board, to recognize racism and stop being racist, I think offering positive alternative examples could go a long way. (Although, in some cases, like "assume that black graduates must have attended an HBCU, instead of an HWCU" you really can't do this and it's pretty obvious why it's racist)

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  55. Macon:

    "Huh?

    That smells like troll spirit . . ."

    SWPD: accuse POC who speak in raw, unfettered form of being a troll.

    No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic. Every social topic a white person can discuss is inherently made toxic as it is filters through a white supremacist lens.

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  56. @olderwoman, you wrote: What does not happen here is a space where White people talk about the work White people have to do inside our own heads .... It would be helpful to have a place for self-critical reflection, preferably where it is possible to get feedback from POC about our thoughts and ideas. But I'm guessing this isn't the place. It seems like it is the wrong mix of people.

    I think we've seen in various threads that a lot of that work needs to be done privately. The racist thoughts in our heads are, of course, no secret to POC but that doesn't mean we should set POC up to have to wade through it. Beverly Tatum talks about how hard it is for her POC students to listen to the WP learning aloud. And also, can't you imagine the WWT?

    Have you ever seen a non-dys-functional forum for WP to do critical self-reflection? If so, what made it work?

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  57. Janise,

    Sorry, I missed your comment above that one. I said that this line seemed potentially trollish

    Keep in mind, a white person never has the right to question a POC on any social topic, let alone race.

    because I get a lot of (rejected) comments and email from white readers complaining that this blog "does nothing but kiss POC ass," that "white people here are never allowed to challenge anything a POC here says no matter WHAT POC say," and so on. Now I see that you meant that sentence in a different way -- sorry about the misinterpretation.

    Now I'm wondering, what's a "social topic"? How does it differ from other topics?

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  58. they don't give me a good understanding of the architecture of racism and therefore I don't have the skill to "see" racism "on my own."

    Ah, I see. I'll have to sit on that for awhile. The answer is probably so overly complex that it's actually very simple. Are you able to "see" classism or sexism "on your own" though? Because they work in very similar ways though to apply it to other areas you need to tweak "the architecture" a little.

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  59. I'd say it's about denaturalizing whiteness and Macon has a good eye for telling and amusing anecdotes and details. So one of the ways it dislodges received ideas is through humor and parody.

    I WOULD BREAK THIS SENTENCE INTO TWO, and have done so here:

    "No, it's not meant to give POC a place to 'vent.' To describe the efforts of those who contribute comments and guest posts that way is dismissive, condescending, and frankly, racist."

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  60. Of course white people are "needed" here - I'd think we whiteys are the primary intended recipients of the information shared here (although we're by no means the only recipients - as other PoC commenters have already said, the information shared and community created here are extremely valuable for them as well). But it's crucial that white people read and absorb, since PoC are already all-too-aware of many common white tendencies, because they're on the brunt end of them; but we whiteys are the ones who are often oblivious to how we work. You can't stop acting in racist ways until you realize you're acting in racist ways, and the quickest way (often the only way) to realize that is to be called on it. That's essentially what this blog does: call white people out on racist behaviors and attitudes they may be holding, in the hopes that with that awareness, they'll be able to stop doing so.

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  61. @ Jonothan L
    A lot of WP who come here and visit don't like the rawness of this blog and I think what your alluding to is similar to the tone argument.I think your suggesting that If POC or anti-racists were offering more viable alternatives for racist behavior then this blog would be a better recruiting tool and be more WP friendly. What WP don't get is the personal toll, the spiritual capital given up when POC share. A POC here on this blog said "My life experiences are not a teachable moment or a learning experience".Some posters burn out after awhile and "Cast not pearls before swine" takes on a whole new meaning. For me this blog helps me learn things and it's not meant to be a recruiting tool. For example I have a tendency to want to let POC know what a White poster really meant when a clarification is needed. Why? Because my thoughts "filters through a white supremacist lens" (Thanks JanisW). I can be made aware of that tendency but it doesn't always mean I will catch myself. As a WP I have the luxury of studying White privilege here but a POC doesn't have the luxury of living outside a White supremacist society.I can get up and go about my business and never be affected by racism whereas a POC is affected from the moment they get up the morning to until they go to bed at night. POC may come and vent here but in the end it's WP who bother to listen that gain. Olderwoman quoted a POC in a previous thread as saying this: "it is probably impossible to create a space that is “safe” for white people and “safe” for people of color at the same time.That's true. Macon tries to create a space safe for POC but he's White. Most of the time it works but sometimes it falls apart.And people like me sometimes contribute to it's destruction.
    In regards to "the architecture of racism" I think it's systemic and is thoroughly planted in all segments of our society.Social,economic and religious everything is designed to perpetuate White privilege.This isn't the best analogy but it's a bit like the movie Matrix.White supremacy is the matrix that's holds everything together in our reality.

    You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. - Morpheus

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  62. Seriously?.. Seriously people wonder what SWPD is for?.

    Obviously its a blog which outlines and promotes conversation around STUFF WHITE PEOPLE DO

    It says so, right there on the title. Is this really that difficult to understand?.

    Each post opens up a discussion which takes on a myraid of avenues such as

    A series of events follow in the comments (unordered list below)

    1) A POC identifies with it and posts a similar experience

    2) A white person disagrees that it is SWPD or disbelieves the event

    3) few more POC post their experiences

    4) a few white people who are working on examining their privilege respond. Sometimes, to empathise, sometimes to say they have witnessed such and to ask what to do.

    5) A few more POC respond, sometimes making suggestions

    6) A discussion ensues.

    7) A diff white person might come along and derail the entire bloody discussion by making it about them and their feelings

    8) another white person comes along and denies the event completely and starts theorising on why POC deserve to be treated as such because, he/she has been mugged by a black person, attempts to quote crime stats.

    9) POC and some white people correct the person.

    10) A few white people ignore the post completely and accuse black people of being mean and not giving them a chance to be anti racist.

    11) A few just come to watch the show

    SWPD: Ignore obvious definitions and keep asking for clarification, re-definition and minutae when talking about race

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  63. So Janise, do you think, for instance, that a white woman should not be allowed to tell a man of color about sexism?

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  64. @Janis:
    No, I'm saying every white person does most of the things listed on swpd. Keep in mind, a white person never has the right to question a POC on any social topic, let alone race. So your standing on shaky ground here.

    Not standing, I was asking you a question because that's what your comment seemed to imply.

    Just for the record, it was not I who emailed Macon - I have done so on anti-racist parent to get a better feel for what kind of comment is appropriate. My *guess* is that it was the tall guy, who (my best guess) was trying to relate with folks, didn't understand how it would be received, and was hurt by the reception.

    No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic. Every social topic a white person can discuss is inherently made toxic as it is filters through a white supremacist lens.

    If your statement is true, isn't the reverse also true, though? If you replace your word 'educate' with 'communicate with', would you still hold it true?

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  65. Wow. The purpose of this blog is for WP to listen, learn, and realize that they need to stop centering themselves and consider what they do to other races.

    I salute the PoC who write and comment here for taking the time and emotional energy to engage in what must be an extremely frustrating educational effort.

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  66. @olderwoman, you said,

    "It would be helpful to have a place for self-critical reflection, preferably where it is possible to get feedback from POC about our thoughts and ideas. But I'm guessing this isn't the place. It seems like it is the wrong mix of people."

    I think by labeling this the wrong mix of people, you're sort of missing the point. I don't think the POC here are people who refuse to educate white people; I think we're people who do that all of the time and are pushing for a single space where we don't have to. In my "real" life (and elsewhere on the internet), I help white people deconstruct their own racism on pretty much a daily basis. Sometimes I feel like a professional black person. [cue bitter laughter]. In classrooms, in casual conversation with friends, in carefully chosen words with colleagues and professors. Websites like this one, where someone like macon is even willing to consider how these conversations are damaging to POC, and also websites run by POC (several of which I frequent) have these strong moderation policies in place, which give me a fighting chance at a safe space. So, I'm here taking the opportunity and trying to engage with the topic of race in a way in which, finally, maybe, I'm not operating solely as a tool for someone else. Maybe it feel so weird to everyone (mostly to white people here) because it's so uncommon. To be in a mixed race environment where the goals of white people are not the primary focus.

    So, no, we're not the wrong mix of people. We're just taking a break from being those people all freakin day. I mean, do you all really get that? And it's really not even a break because I know there's a white audience/commenters here. If it were truly a break, I'd be in a POC-only space. But if I can at least share on my terms, I'm willing to do that.

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  67. @dersk: You're nitpicking, to try and disprove what you've been told because you don't want to admit it's true. This is typical white behaviour - overrationalizing and picking at the edges, bringing up "exceptions", all in aid of going "aha, gotcha!" and dismissing the uncomfortable truth.

    Janis is right; no-one can interpret for a PoC their experience of racism. In fact, when WP try to interpret what a PoC experiences, they gaslight the PoC into second-guessing their own response, by... picking at the edges, bringing up "alternative" interpretations, anything rather than admit the truth that WP were being racist and are racist, and interpret everything through the white supremacist lens, i.e., WP can never do anything wrong, and always end up looking good.

    This is what you're doing in this thread. Deny it all you want, but you are grasping at strawmen to try and convince yourself that what the PoC here (who so bravely expose themselves to your racism) are saying is true.

    This is why this blog is vital to WP, much more so than it is to the PoC who comment and write here. WP will always re-interpret the facts to show themselves in the best light ("I'm just being rational!"), and they need to hear the voices of PoC who see differently.

    You. Cannot. Tell. PoC. That. What. They. Experience. Is. Invalid.

    And don't turn it around - you have the rest of the fucking world to do that. Listen, and get over yourself.

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  68. I'm very sorry, Janise, I mis-spelled your name. I apologize.

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  69. Karen on me: Yes, I have learned from POC that listening to the emotional angst of us WP working through white guilt and internalized racism is just too much to take. It's like a starving person listening to someone complain about how hard it is to avoid overeating. So I'm not suggesting they do it. At the same time, when we WP do it on our own, we often fail to learn some of what we need to learn, so it is hard.

    It occurs to me that maybe something that can work with this forum is two kinds of topics: (1) WP reveal cases in which we know we have screwed up or cases of confused racial interactions we did not understand or know how to deal with and POC talk about what those kinds of things would look like from a POC point of view. (2) POC talk about their experiences in settings where they know the WP are trying to combat racism or oppression (i.e. classrooms, social justice groups) but there are bad racial dynamics anyway.

    A big topic among those of us who teach "racism 101" to majority-white classes is our worry about the experience and position of the POC in the classes, and it would be helpful to have more POC posts on that. We have also had discussions about the different dynamics and issues depending on whether the instructor is a WP or a POC.

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  70. @JonathanL
    in regards to your "what should white people do" comment. You might begin by being aware of possible effects your words and actions may have and try to keep in mind that your white in a white supremicist society. face up to your prejudices and dismantle them by educating yourself.

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  71. @sciencegirl: Ooops. I'm sorry. I should have said the wrong mix of White people. It seems like too high a proportion of the Whites are too new to the issues. I wasn't even thinking about the POC when I said that, and that is my fault.

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  72. @jas0nburns' concern about cookies

    I don't think cookie-giving is a common occurrence around here, and that's a good thing. People looking for some back-patting will likely leave after making a few comments and not receiving an award.

    We can't know what people are going to get out of this site, but people's intentions aren't anyone else's problems. It's what they actually do that matters.

    you also said
    "so the payoff ultimately is that whiteness can maybe someday not be such a bad thing."

    Whiteness isn't a "bad thing" - privilege is. Whiteness is what privilege is wearing.

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  73. A.Smith said,
    "But do a blog about race, or a post about race? Now they need to understand why. For what reason? Must we address these horrible things publicly for everyone to comment on? Must you ask me to think about the dumb, ignorant, racist things I do?"

    Exactly. It's taken as a call-out, and it should be. Any post I've ever made about race on my blog has received countless negative comments from, presumably, white readers expressing an unbelievable amount of hostility. I can't reason, other than protecting one's ways or pride, why people would react in such a way.

    M.Gibson said,
    "An anti racist should be willing to venture outside his/her comfort zone, and become aquatinted with controversy. He or she should be willing to surrender status in his community, friends- or even loved ones for what he/she believes in. How else would you know you’re having an effect if you’re not raising the ire of your own people?"

    Amen.

    @ people looking for an "end" or the fixing of something

    Stop. No one ever repaired a car by giving it a paint job. Got to get up under that hood. It's just a blog - we're not going to fix anything by its mere existence. You, in your lifetime, will not see an "end" to racism so find some other goal in the process. To say "why bother if it doesn't end racism?" or "why bother if I can't make a difference" is a cop-out.

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  74. No one ever repaired a car by giving it a paint job. Got to get up under that hood. It's just a blog - we're not going to fix anything by its mere existence. You, in your lifetime, will not see an "end" to racism so find some other goal in the process. To say "why bother if it doesn't end racism?" or "why bother if I can't make a difference" is a cop-out.

    Makes sense to me. Brings to mind a cartoon, emailed by a dear reader.

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  75. @Victoria, who said Stop. No one ever repaired a car by giving it a paint job. Got to get up under that hood. It's just a blog - we're not going to fix anything by its mere existence. You, in your lifetime, will not see an "end" to racism so find some other goal in the process. To say "why bother if it doesn't end racism?" or "why bother if I can't make a difference" is a cop-out.

    I think the reduction of racism is a viable goal. No, we're not going to end it; but every time a white person learns how to avoid a racist behavior, we've helped contribute to a tiny reduction in racism. Things have ripple effects as well, where someone who is educating themselves then turns around and educates others... the reach of what's discussed on this blog doesn't end with its effect on the audience that's reading it. As a result, I don't think it's fair to say this is "just" a blog - yes, it's a blog, but it's also a very valuable resource that has helped a lot of people start deconstructing whiteness. To use your analogy, SWPD pops the car hood for me, and then it's my responsibility to get in there with my tools and see what I can do. :)

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  76. I'm bothered by people looking for a "solution" or "how I could've avoided being racist." And I can't quite pinpoint it in a nice title, but this feels like something else white people do. As in thesciencegirl's recent post, PoC's go through life regularly encountering people who are angered and upset with you for no clear reason. Personally, I've long given up on the notion that I can go through life and not unknowingly offend someone. But that doesn't mean I don't evaluate everything that I do. It doesn't mean that when it's brought to my attention, I respond with, "well, I didn't mean it that way, so stop being offended."

    My friend and I were discussing the other day about how dogs can read facial expressions and are particularly sensitive to our facial expressions of emotions. I pointed out that this was because being able to read our emotions is crucial to their survival. I feel like this is the same thing that a PoC develops: learning to read people and understand people so that we can avoid scenarios that so many other people have described in other posts.

    There has been a few circumstances that other PoC have described as racist or uncomfortable for them that I may not personally have read as offensive at the time. That is not to invalidate how they interpreted the event or how they felt about it because I understand that my experiences may be different enough from theirs to have drawn a different conclusion. For all I know, I may have had the privilege of being sheltered from certain things. But it would be nice if there was thought given to how other people feel, how they may feel and how actions and words may come off to other people. There just isn't a handbook of how to avoid being called a racist, or how to deal with every single situation that you may encounter. That's just life.

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  77. @Jonathan L re: "Maybe that's really it. I don't see a lot of solutions being offered. Where are the counter-factual, "what if" scenarios where the actions aren't racist? Where are the good examples of the Stuff White People Should Do."

    If you understand what is involved in something hidden but harmful like fraud, for example, and if you understand that it's immoral to do that, do you have to have examples of "non-fraud" to keep you from doing it? Or is it enough to try to be essentially honest in business?

    To get at what might be the sticking point in that kind of complaint, I think it's important to keep in mind that racism isn't just a blemish on our otherwise good-hearted society; our society is racist at its core. Once we begin to see racism as a pervasive mindset and not isolated incidents, we cannot simultaneously hold onto cherished myths like meritocracy, the idea that everyone has an equal chance in this society, and that rising to the top depends only on one's effort. The whole fabric of what one believes about society is torn apart.

    In the dress scenario, for instance, it wasn't necessarily offering the dress that brought racism into the interchange; it was the lack of awareness on the white woman's part that there was any racial aspect to the exchange in the first place. If she had thought, "Gloria comes from a different background than I do, so can I assume she will like what all of my white friends like?" then she might have responded differently to Gloria's declining her offer or she might not have made it.


    In other words, it's not a matter of individual actions being racist or not racist (despite the implication of the blog title) as much as the awareness (there's that word again) of the racial aspect of everything white people do.

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  78. @Robin

    I think reduction is a good goal too. No matter what, I think it's important to leave the place a little better than it was before you got there. I mean that both figuratively and literally.

    "just a blog" was more a nod to the fact that a blog isn't going to be what "ends" racism.

    @Macon, thank you. I hadn't seen that yet.

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  79. @dersk

    (@Tyler: I don't understand why you'd think that something that's irrational or emotional is less valuable or valid.)

    it's been my experience that emotional people and outbursts are neither respected nor taken seriously. claiming that POCs are emotional and irrational is effectively saying that racism doesn't exist, that POCs are just 'sensitive' or 'imagining it'.

    that might not be what you meant by 'vent' but that is how i read it.

    participating in this blog has been cathartic/emotional and therefore valuable for many, but only because the dialogue has some social and intellectual heft. if it were only an endless stream of bitching about WP, i suspect the readership would be much different.

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  80. @Victoria: Ah, got it. The original "just" had felt dismissive to me, but now I get your context. :) No, this won't be what ends racism. But I absolutely agree, it's important to leave the world a little better than before we got here, and anything that can help us do that is a good thing. <3

    Hey Macon, if you write a mission statement, can we have something in there about helping white people attempt to overcome their cranio-rectal inversion? :P

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  81. bloglogger: Thank you for that response. As a moral consequentialist, I tend to focus only on actions and their purposes and less so on awareness, understanding or approach (which is different from intent). Something I totally missed until you pointed it out was the fact that the reaction of white women mattered (I think because it revealed her hidden belief about what that Gloria should do).

    I also want to add that the goal for WP shouldn't be merely to stop doing things that are called racist, but to redress the underlying ideas and assumptions that drive the racist behavior. At least, that is my goal.

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  82. So Janise, do you think, for instance, that a white woman should not be allowed to tell a man of color about sexism?

    I won't speak for Janise, but I will put forth something I said somewhere else a while ago since this is something I think about.

    To answer the question, yes.

    The people who need to speak to men of color about sexism are women of color.

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  83. White Woman, Midwest USAApril 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I am the person who sent the email to Macon. I am posting this at Macon's request. Here is [the rest of] our email conversation:

    MACON: I turned our exchange into a blog post, and I think some readers left questions in the comments for you -- it'd be cool if you joined us there. And the answers of various readers might give you a fuller sense of why various people read and contribute to swpd.


    ME: I saw that. Thanks for the head's up.

    Some of the folks replying seem to be very suspicious of me/my intent, which is exactly why I wrote directly to you. I kept my email to you as short as possible so that I would not walk into any landmines with the way I phrased things, but I did anyway! Sorry.

    I seem to remember reading on your blog or one of the others that WP are not supposed to explain themselves, so I will close now.


    MACON: Thanks for the followup. I certainly invite you to comment on the blog, if only to clear up the gender confusion there.

    ;-)

    All best.

    ------------

    Peace.

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  84. There just isn't a handbook of how to avoid being called a racist, or how to deal with every single situation that you may encounter. [cl]

    "swpd: (fallaciously) think it's possible to be totally un-racist"? or "tries to be 'anti-racist' as though it was the new hippie"?

    With regards to looking for the "architecture of racism", I think the first step is to acknowledge that it's probably near impossible to be totally un-racist/prejudiced without getting teleported to the third heaven for good. I asked Jonathan L about classism/sexism because I often apply this blog to my classism. Sometimes I can "see" my own classism without anyone's help, but often my friend who comes from a different class (less financially privileged) will call me out on things. i.e. There are a lot of things that I can't "see on my own". But thanks to blogs like this, when she is kind enough to point it out, all she has to say is, "Hold on. What do yo meannn?..." and then I can switch gear and think about what was wrong with what I just said. None of the classist things I say are ever intentionally so. But if it's offending her, then well, obviously I did something wrong. And the more this happens, the more I think I probably say and do all sorts of classist things that she doesn't bother calling me out on. All I can do is be thankful she still wants to be my friend. And I think that just by knowing me, it's helped her deal with her own prejudices towards my ethnic group (we're a minority group in her country). Give and take :)

    The pattern I've noticed is: I say things assuming it's 'normal' without considering how for her it is '(financial) privilege'.

    Other architectures of racism:
    - Not seeing the other person as an individual who is also human, but also different.
    - Not accepting that we're prideful beings.
    - Trying to be an "anti-racist" as though it was a stance or position we need to take. (e.g. The more anti-racist/classist rhetoric I churn out, the more I feel like a hypocrite.) Not wanting to be arrogant and inconsiderate should just be commonsense.

    And I didn't comment on Gloria's OP because I didn't really understand it. I wouldn't have interpreted the incident with the dress the way she did had it happened to me. But I wasn't there, I don't know what her college is like, what her friends are like, or what her home culture is like so it's not my place to say. What cl said applies perfectly to how I read Gloria's post:
    There has been a few circumstances that other PoC have described as racist or uncomfortable for them that I may not personally have read as offensive at the time. That is not to invalidate how they interpreted the event or how they felt about it because I understand that my experiences may be different enough from theirs to have drawn a different conclusion. For all I know, I may have had the privilege of being sheltered from certain things.

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  85. Warning: This comment talks way top much about me, my feeling and my experience. It just sort of happened. Feel free to skip right over it, since I'm not sure it add anything of value to the discussion.


    fromthetropics: I think, for me, my experience with classism has actually been a hindrance to my understanding and recognition of racism, and I bet that is fairly common. If I really think about it (and I never did until very recently, after I stumbled into this blog) I have pretty much every conceivable privilege except one - I was born into poverty. I went from food stamps and free school lunches growing up, to a very comfortable lifestyle now (at 25) without much struggle. It really wasn't that bad. I had clothes on my back (even if thrifted or hand-me-downs) a roof over my head and food in my stomach. The only oppression I knew was easily overcome, and that made me less sympathetic to the oppression of others. ("If I could do it why can't you?") What this blog has helped me do is appreciate how privileged my life was and is in every other way (I just made a list of all my privileges, then felt too embarrassed to post it.) Once I recognized my litany of privileges, is really took the wind out of my sails. I'll never again know poverty, and I've never really known oppression. I'm not even sure I know hard work. How could I find empathy when oppression is so alien to me? How could this be anything more than a purely intellectual exercise?

    I remember a recent conversation I had with my cousin. She was talking about how frustrating it was for her when she first went to college because she didn't know "the code" that everyone else seemed to know. Little jokes, references and allusions that only upper class white kids know. I said I didn't know what she was talking about - and suggested that since I only attended large state universities, I simply never ran into such elitist behavior. Then she made an unexpected counter. She said, "Maybe you don't notice the hidden language because you already speak it." She was absolutely right. Not only do I speak it, but I have since found myself using it in subtle ways for my own benefit. Shit. Right now, there is no privilege I don't have.

    So now I'm hearing rumors. Stumbling across blogs that tell me other people don't have those privileges. It's like somebody telling me that gravity pull harder on some people. No way. It doesn't make any sense. Nothing I have directly experienced even hints at this. So I decide to assume the rumors are true, if only for the sake of argument, and see what happens. I'm just getting started, but I'm coming to realize that something is terribly wrong.

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  86. @tyler - OK, cool. Like I said, to me describing it as 'venting' isn't (or shouldn't be) deprecating. Venting is good; venting is necessary; things without vents have a tendency to blow up.

    @attack-laurel - you pretty clearly didn't read what I wrote, and I'm a little bit offended that not only did you not read it but that you immediately assigned me motives. I thought it was pretty obvious that I was asking Janise to clarify her opinion. She made two VERY broad statements, and I was trying to understand her opinion more specifically.

    Can a white person educate a PoC on their own personal experience of racism? Of course not, other than maybe providing some insight into the mental workings of white folks. But that's not what Janis said. She said this: No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic, which is a very different opinion.

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  87. @Jonathan L - You remind me of what my mother said, "I'm glad I wasn't born white because being at the very top of the ladder with nobody above you would make it real difficult to understand what it's like to be at the bottom. And that would be kinda sad."

    Thanks for sharing because I've been struggling to understand why it's so hard for white people (especially men) to 'get it'. And I've also been wondering why white ppl like to 'intellectualize' racism. And your comment has sort of given me a glimpse to the answer.

    I hope you stick around and keep reading because I'm starting wonder (rambling to follow) whether the reason some pocs are here on this blog is because we are subconsciously trying to reach out to white people. I've been angry with white ppl, but I don't like being angry. Life sucks when you're angry. But it's not like white ppl are gonna disappear from my life anytime soon, so might as well find a way to get along.

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  88. @dersk
    look, you need to take responsibility for what others heard in your words, even if they heard something you didn't intend.

    i totally understand attack-laurel's comment to you. what you wrote here feels like a "gotcha":
    "If your statement is true, isn't the reverse also true, though? If you replace your word 'educate' with 'communicate with', would you still hold it true?"

    That is, it FEELS like you're trying to invalidate what Janise said by getting her to reject your logical corollary (if that's the right word--you know what I mean). To me, this feels sneaky and disrespectful.

    If you have a question about what Janise means, you could ASK HER A DIRECT QUESTION. In addition, this approach would suggest that you actually care about what she thinks, which I hope you do.

    If you disagree with her, you could state that. That doesn't strike me as a very respectful response, but at least it would be an honest one, and I could at least respect your honesty.

    I hope this helps. If you have a question about what I have written, please ask it.

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  89. @macon - thanks for answering my Q. I feel the same way when I see prejudice in my own self.

    Btw, I was flipping through "Without Sanctuary" (linked by the lady; WARNING: the photographs are disturbing), and came across this:

    James Weldon Johnson captured the disconcerting tone of this photo when he described the epidemic of whites lynching blacks as a "problem of saving black America's body and white America's soul."

    People don't practice violent racism in that manner anymore (though they may do it in other ways), but the root of racism is still the same isn't it? If you have a glass full of poison, it's poisonous. If you have a glass full of clean water, and a mere one drop of poison, well, the water is still poisonous and undrinkable.

    And what is lost by the perpetrator (regardless of their color) is still the same isn't it? - the soul (humanity, dignity, whatever you wanna call it).

    Then, saving it is what swpd is trying to do, no? And if hearing past poc anger is just too hard a task for saving one's soul/humanity, then...well, that's just too bad.

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  90. @Julia - Look, I was trying to figure out how absolutist her opinion was, and thus asked a direct question - just like you suggest! I wasn't going to say that I disagree until I understood exactly what her opinion was.

    If I ask a question in explicit language and someone makes an incorrect assumption about my motivations, there's not one thing I can do about it.

    And, by the way, I noticed nobody's asked about why I was asking, rather than make assumptions. Again, I understand why people would make those assumptions, but it surely doesn't mean that their assumptions are valid or correct.

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  91. See, dersk, I beg to differ.

    Let's recap.

    Janise wrote:
    "No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic. Every social topic a white person can discuss is inherently made toxic as it is filters through a white supremacist lens."

    You responded:
    (a) If your statement is true, isn't the reverse also true, though? (b) If you replace your word 'educate' with 'communicate with', would you still hold it true?

    Sentence (a) seeks to invalidate Janise's assertion that "No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic" by suggesting that the inverse is false. After all, if we believed the inverse (i.e., that no black person can educate a white person, etc etc), why would be participating in this blog, where such knowledge is valued?

    Sentence (b) seeks to invalidate Janise's statement that "No white person can educate a person of color on any societal/social topic" by broadening her statement in such a way that it becomes clearly false (i.e., that no white person can communicate with a black person about a social issue --obviously a ridiculous assertion belied by the many such interactions on this blog). Janise did not say "communicate with." She said "educate," and I assume that is exactly what she means.

    Honestly, dersk, I see you at various anti-racist blogs and I don't take you for a troll, but you do seem willfully clueless--by which I mean that you have refused to engage and take responsibility for your own privilege and unconscious racism.

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  92. "You appear to have adopted the collectivism of racism but just turned it on its head."

    Talking about racism is reverse-racism!

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  93. I'm going to be a bit harsh on dersk. If not a troll, then what do you call someone like that?

    The purpose of this blog is not to indulge white masturbatory sophistry about race. If you're white, then unless you're here to own up to your whiteness and learn from others' experiences and your own mistakes, you don't really have any business commenting. And if you're white and commenting outside of those bounds, then unless you somehow miraculously happen to avoid doing anything hurtful or offensive that compromises the safe space SWPD aims to provide, you're a troll, plain and simple.

    What is dersk getting out of part...erm, commenting on - participating is not really an appropriate word to use - anti-racist blogs? He doesn't seem to be deconstructing his own racism or even trying, so all I can figure is that he gets some pleasure out of treating them like arenas for debate - a very white institution.

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  94. Julia: Perhaps I'm a little oversensitive to the misinterpretation issue - but then I had "did you feel pressure to go to, say, Howard?" interpreted as "I've never heard of Howard!"

    I'll grant that my first question wasn't very productive in understanding her opinion (though it'd be interesting to see a defense of it). She'd already backed off an absolutist statement earlier, though, so I think it's perfectly valid to ask her to clarify her opinion.

    What do I get out of being on these blogs? A few things:

    - 6 months ago, I'd never heard the phrase 'white privilege' and I think it's a really useful concept (also for other kinds of bias: native-born vs. immigrant, christian vs. non, etc.)
    - I want to know what kind of situations my future second kid's going to have to deal with, and figure out strategies to help him or her better cope
    - I want to get some insight into what my wife's life may have been like (though she's been lucky enough not to encounter many issues, and in a way is even benefiting from white privilege in her job right now!)
    - I'm interested in the more meta levels of racism as well - why human beings are biased and how it works at a higher level; so I'm actually more interested in probing people's ideas about racism or bias as a whole than in their personal experiences. Probably more apropros to ARP (guess it's LINE now).

    So yeah, I ask questions to try to get people to clarify their opinions, and sometimes my reactions to those opinions bleed into the question. I really do hope people don't feel I'm trying to disagree with anyone's *personal* experiences of racism.

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  95. The purpose of this blog is not to indulge white masturbatory sophistry about race. If you're white, then unless you're here to own up to your whiteness and learn from others' experiences and your own mistakes, you don't really have any business commenting. And if you're white and commenting outside of those bounds, then unless you somehow miraculously happen to avoid doing anything hurtful or offensive that compromises the safe space SWPD aims to provide, you're a troll, plain and simple.

    QFMFT!

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  96. @dersk

    "I really do hope people don't feel I'm trying to disagree with anyone's *personal* experiences of racism."

    But, dersk, that's exactly what it sounds like.

    "sometimes my reactions to those opinions bleed into the question."

    You're right. May I suggest that your job is to prevent such bleeding? Because otherwise it feels pretty disingenuous.

    "though she's been lucky enough not to encounter many issues, and in a way is even benefiting from white privilege in her job right now!"

    Seriously, dersk? Seriously? Truly, I wonder how your wife would feel about such a statement.

    Isn't it categorically impossible for a POC to benefit from white privilege? That's why it's called WHITE privilege. [This is a very good example of the willful cluelessness I mentioned earlier. Seriously, you can't understand what white privilege is and say this. And if you don't know what white privilege is, why aren't you redressing that?)

    Let's change riche's question a little: What do you BRING to this blog and others, dersk?

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  97. @dersk, thank you for answering what you're trying to get out of blogs like SWPD. This time I'm probably going to err on the side of being too kind and gentle, and say.. If you're serious about what you wrote, please try asking fewer questions and reading/listening more. Usually the questions that really matter aren't the ones that come to white people's minds to ask when we say "teach us about racism!" but rather the questions whose relevance we're oblivious to due to our privilege.

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  98. @dersk, I notice that in none of your bullet points do you mention that you would like to improve your own behaviour and attitudes towards POC.

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  99. @riche: I don't think Dersk deserves the benefit of the doubt any more. Comment after comment has explained zie is doing, and comment after comment has been ignored in favour of "white mastubatory sophistry". Dersk isn't trying to learn, zie is trying to justify pre-held opinions by "proving" PoC "wrong".

    Why be nice to someone who isn't making an effort to learn?

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  100. @attack_laurel, indeed, I thought I might have been overly 'nice' writing that comment. If he really is going to have a kid though I hope he'll listen to what we've been saying. Otherwise it's really going to suck for the kid.

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  101. I feel like a lot of people don't realize Macon is white.

    ReplyDelete

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