Monday, May 24, 2010

expect black people to behave better in public than white people do


This is a guest post for swpd by Sheri, who blogs eponymously as Filthy Grandeur here. She writes of herself, "I'm a writer still trying to figure out what I'm doing, so I'm trying to do a lot of different things. I'm a daydreamer who hates being social. I'm afraid I fit the stereotype of angry, loner writer who enjoys sitting in the dark writing about things that piss me off. Yes, I enjoy drinking, but no I do not smoke."


It was less than 30 minutes after my boyfriend's graduation.  We were all sitting in his parents' van on the way to a celebratory dinner, when one of my boyfriend's sisters said, "Those black people sure were loud."  My teeth clenched, because I knew, rather than use this moment as a learning experience, their dad would agree, thus perpetuating a stereotype for their familial racism.  Sure enough, their dad answered, "I think they were the loudest ones in there!"

Let's back up to the actual graduation ceremony.  The seats are packed.  Several groups had to split up in order for everyone to be seated.  Friends and family are all excited to see their respective loved ones graduate with medical degrees.  The class size is two-hundred.  Three of those are black med students.  In the audience, there are three distinct groups of black friends and families.  

The names begin to be called.  There are cheers for each student as they make their walk across the stage to claim their medical degrees.  Soon, it becomes a contest between each group of friends and family who can make the most noise to celebrate their loved one's achievement.  A group of white guys in the back begin a chant for their friend as he accepts his medical degree.  The chant is loud, and goes on longer than their guy is on stage, and the announcer must wait for them to settle before speaking the next name.  Two white women in front of us bark when their loved one goes across the stage, one taking so long that the audience laughs when she finally finishes.  

One of the black students is called.  As he walks across the stage you can hear his family cheering.  One man even shouts "Yeah! That's my brother!"

More loud cheers from white families, each one trying to outdo the last.  Another black student crosses the stage.  Her family stands and cheers for her.  They are a larger group than a lot of the white families, and they cheer loudly for their loved one, but no more loudly or enthusiastically than the white families.  No more than is deserving of such an accomplishment.

I regret not saying anything, not speaking up for my friends and family, for my future sister-in-law.  For a point of reference, I'll direct you to this post, which is a precursor to my absence from the internet (and incidentally the worst depression I've had in years), since my boyfriend's parents' hatred of me has escalated their attempts to get him to break up with me.  These are people who are deeply racist.  Example: his dad's "ace in the hole" to try and convince my boyfriend that I'm not date-able, or marriageable for that matter, is that I've dated black men -- which is just rife with racist assumptions about black men, hypersexuality, and this supposed ultra-purity of white women, which is apparently destroyed by black men.  I bring all this up to illustrate that the comments made in the van are not isolated incidents, that it's not just me looking too much into it. 

The fact that the black families' responses to a happy occasion required comment is quite racist.  White celebratory responses are cause for amusement and laughter.  But black families, god, they're just so loud, you know?  If anything, the black families had more to celebrate that day given the obvious racial disparity among the graduates (oh wait, that just means that black students don't work as hard, right?).  

It's a common white tendency to comment on the behavior of black people in public.  Some of you may remember a post I wrote a while back, where a coworker of mine demanded to know why black people can't behave in public.  Even if someone is being obnoxious, it should never be attributed to their skin color.  And in this case too, apparently the behavior of black people is always under scrutiny by racist white people, even when the situation calls for loud celebration.  

76 comments:

  1. This reminds me of an incident that happened when I was still in high school. Back then I was naive about this reality...

    I spent the weekend with my sister and her (then) boyfriend in Columbia, SC. One Saturday night, we went to a basketball game. We sat on the higher bleachers close to the top. There was a white family sitting a couple of rows down from us.

    Normally, you're supposed to be loud and cheery at a ballgame, but this white family thought otherwise. The white dude told us to be quiet! My sister and ex thought it was obsurd because ballgames are not usually the time to be quiet unless it's a gold tournament. So, we continued to cheer and scream. Well, the guy complained to the cop, and the cop told us to stop or else we would be escorted out. So, we chilled.

    Back then, I was scared of getting in trouble, and I was too stupid to notice the reality behind it, but now, I see that those white people were ridiculous and most likely scared of us.

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  2. Yes, people of color "get in trouble" for things white people take for granted (snacking on food before checkout, to quote a recent example from this blog). And also, this post makes me uncomfortable because it's primarily "Look at those *other* white people and the racist things they do, not like me."

    Only one sentence in this post was about not standing up against the racist accusations. That could have been the entire post. Change begins within and we can only really, directly change ourselves.

    For me, a white person, this hits close to home as I like to think I speak up in moments like this and yet, I know that I still can do better.

    I can also relate to the added messiness of having it be your boyfriend's family. Heck, I have yet to correct my boyfriend's parents when they introduce me as his "friend."

    It's tough. I'd really like to see a post about your own process and how you're learning (if you're learning) to speak up in instances like this.

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  3. I have a friend who constantly complains that black people are loud. (I don't know why he's my friend, I can't stand him.) I point out white loud people to him when we're in public but he says they aren't as loud as black people. I think when some white people are in the presence of a group of black people they focus in on them more than they would a group of white people, making them seem louder. I catch myself doing this sometimes as well.

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  4. 3 out of 200 of the grad students were Black.

    Even IF their friends& family were louder, the graduates deserved those cheers/praise! It's such a huge accomplishment to graduate, esp as a minority.

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  5. Yeah I have had to hear that one a few times and most of the time it's not true. I remembered when I graduated and my fam cheered. Later another classmate said all we could hear was your family. I had to argue with her because it was simply not true, they cheered for 10 seconds and I was gone. Some people hear what they want to hear.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

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  6. White people are like this. They do something and it is individualized. A person of color does it and the whole race is demonized. I don't mean to sound rude, but I've given up on white people. Educating them about racism is tedious. They expect us to do all the heavy lifting and footwork to try to rectify something that THEY created, foisted on society and continue to foster. I do not bite my tongue anymore. I say what I want/need to say and keep it moving. Because at the days end, the majority of whites don't want to be educated. They want to continue to exist in a white privilege they swear up and down, doesn't exist. If it wasn't for people like Noam Chomsky, Tim Wise or even you Macon, I would be hard pressed to find a light at the end of this tunnel.

    Reminds me of the flood when the magazine printed that Black people were "looting" and white people were "surviving".

    My people have been at the brunt end of this bass ackward logic for 400 years. The fact that we remain even tattered as we are is a testament to our innate strength.
    I am tired of thinking about what white people think. I have reached that stage in my life where the scar tissue is just too thick. The increase of pro-white movement attendance, the scapegoating, the racially provocative threats and statements, the "studies" aimed to make sure that white people STILL KNOW, despite the fact that we have a Black president, that our children are biased and brainwashed like they should be.

    I'm over it. I didn't mean to rant. It's just I am SO tired of this crap from white people. It wears down the soul to the point where you fight or submit.

    And I will never submit. Ever.

    Guess I must be descended from those pesky house Negros Malcolm was talking about.

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  7. Every time one of my white friends says something about black people being "so loud" I try to recount or point out the many, many examples of white people being really loud. Even when many white people aren't being loud with volume, they are certainly being loud about all of their entitlements in a lot of other ways. I find this much more irritating.

    My extended maternal side are some of the loudest people I've ever met, especially in loud groups, and they're white. Like Redbonegirl said, white people just hear what they want to hear-- what confirms their biases.

    Those students of color deserved all the cheer in the world for making it in such a whitewashed, likely very grating environment WHILE pursuing such rigorous study. Bravo to them!

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  8. This certainly reminds me of that "racist" KFC commercial of the cheering black people surrounding the single white guy.

    :-/

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  9. [huldra, you're missing the point of the post. I suggest you read it again, beginning with the title. ~macon]

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  10. remember the Bill O Reilly incident 2 years ago when he said he was invited to eat a restaurant in Harlem and he praised black people for being so "well-behaved"???? Fucking hell.

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  11. So true!!!

    I live in NYC and can tell you there are many loud-mouthed, high-pitched, nasaled, annoying, and obnoxious people of all races riding the rush hour trains, walking the streets, talking on their cell phones, standing in line at Starbucks, etc.

    There is a lot of noise pollution here as well and it does not drown out loud people either.

    You can't escape it. Especially during the summer and tourist season.

    Loud people are everywhere.

    So I find it so funny that White people only focus on "loud" Black people in public spaces, yet their racist ears somehow filter out the loudness or dial down the volume of White people.

    Selective hearing must be nice to have.

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  12. Cheering at graduation? Eating stuff in the supermarket before you pay? Man, either I'm more of a fuddy duddy than I thought or the States have gotten even more informal since I left.

    @ahkabar - White people are like this. They do something and it is individualized. A person of color does it and the whole race is demonized.

    Exactly right on that one. Can I ask how you feel about PoC who use the "you're making us all look bad" argument? One the one hand, it does seem to recognize the effect that one person's actions influence the perception of the entire race, on the other hand it kind of reinforces the effect.

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  13. It feels like an incredible entitlement to ask black people to act like Jim Crow is still here. To bow our heads, keep quiet, not make jokes, not get emotional, etc.

    This is like in school where black kids would routinely get in trouble for doing what white kids did all the time -- aggressive talk, loud yelling in the halls, making jokes with the teacher in class. Black students doing that? We're treated as problem children since, what, first grade?

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  14. Macon, I don't know if you know this, but huldra is a Scandinavian word for "troll."

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  15. I'm wondering why this is posted? I'm asking because yes, the in laws represent stuff white people do but the writer displays the same tendencies through her silence. I find that to be more shameful than the in laws comments. When does it become not okay to be complicit? How is this fighting racism? Sure white people have always complained about Black people being loud. Hell, they had laughing barrels set up on the streets of Kansas because we were so joyful. So why does this writer get let off the hook for NOT speaking out? Isn't silence a form of white privilege too?

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  16. @Will Capers, I was once shushed at a rock concert by some prim white ladies sitting in front of me, who apparently thought the best way to show appreciation for the absolute madness rocking on stage was to sit quietly, hands clasped in one's lap.

    I was also asked recently by a white coworker why black women are so loud on the city bus. Funny, when I ride the bus, I notice just as many loud white people as black. But then, white folks get to be individuals, don't they?

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  17. I'm past sick of posts of White folks seeing racist shit happen right before their eyes yet not say anything not for fear of physical retaliation but for fear of being kicked out of the White Club and having to rescind all of their goodies.

    Wake me when there's a post where a White person actually grows a SPINE and challenges the bs other White people do.

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  18. And THESE are our supposed anti-racist ALLIES?!

    *puts icebag back on noggin and goes to lie down*

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  19. @Witchsistah, I agree.

    White people (online and off) are always popping up to express their disgust at the racism of other white people (I guess they think commiserating with a POC gets them cookies?), but they usually didn't actually confront the racism they witnessed. Which leaves me thoroughly unimpressed.

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  20. Ok what bothers me about the 'black people are load' statement white people can have is it assumes their code of behaviour is the right code, and other people's code of behaviour is not. I might be wrong here & I don't live in the USA, I live in the UK, but in my experience my black friends are louder than my white friends. From what I have observed and experienced black culture is more expressive and thus, sometimes louder. Black culture doesn't seem to have the social constraints which I see white culture as having. The problem, as I see it, is not the 'uh, black people are so loud' stereo-typing. What angers me is the judgement that it's 'wrong' to be loud and it’s 'right' to be quiet, ‘white and polite’. That the white culture along with the constraints and do’s and don’ts associated with it, is superior. Which, of course, is utter rubbish, and just a social structure they - white people - assume is the way people 'should' behave.

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  21. One of the reasons I lost a lot of friends this year is because I decided to stop being a hypocrite and complaining about racism after the fact. I decided to stop being complicit in the racism by saying something weak like, "...but I didn't think they were loud, really," and then letting the person perpetuating stereotypes ride over me.

    Cultured little pearls of racism are insidious and they are there and they are racism just the same. You have the ability to choose not to say something because it's not about you, but what if it was you and everyone was sitting around and laughing about the nature of white women and your partner and your friends said nothing?

    I truly believe that I can be a feminist and a fat activist and therefore look out for myself and my activism is entirely meaningless if I don't call out other people's shit, whether or not it applies to me, because I would like them to call people out when it DOES apply to me.

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  23. Brian Gerald, Witchsistah, thesciencegirl and others,

    I won't speak for Sheri, but I will say as blog proprietor that I agreed to publish this submitted post because it describes an example of what this blog is all about -- identifying and explicating what I've come to call "common white tendencies." Not every post also includes a statement of what's often obvious, that is, what to do about the common white tendency (in this case, speak up against it). I agree that it's disappointing that Sheri didn't do so, but I don't think that failure invalidates the post (although, of course, whether it does or not depends on the reader). That's because many white people reading here, and in many cases, merely lurking here, write emails to me saying that they read swpd to learn about common white tendencies, in themselves and others, and to be better prepared to see them right away, and to also be able to do something against them, when they come up (after all, it's often not easy, because we're strongly trained to NOT act against them). It seems to me that posts about heroic white activism would be good to read in somewhat different ways; for many white readers, at least, maybe that's a more advanced kind of post.

    It occurs to me that I might seem to be saying this blog is for white readers. I don't mean to say that; non-white readers are obviously valuable here too (and I'm continually encouraged by emails about the blog from people of color too, expressing an array of specific values they find in swpd). What I'm mainly, in a comment that's getting too long, is that while I can certainly understand frustration for non-white readers in reading another post about a common (and, to them, obvious) white tendency by a white writer who didn't also describe themselves fighting against that tendency, I also see a value for a lot of white people, me included, in identifying specific common white tendencies -- so that we can to be more ready for them when they come up, and so we can be more able to see them for what they are right away.

    Finally, given all of that, I nevertheless will start asking white writers to consider including something in the post along the lines suggested by comments in this thread -- by either describing what they did in an anti-racist manner (if they indeed did anything), or by describing what a white person could/should do in such a situation. Or at least, by asking readers what a white person could/should do.

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  24. [Charlotte, I got your long comment, which is way off topic in this thread -- feel free to write to me about it:

    unmakingmacon AT gmail DOT com ]

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  25. macon, I have no problem with you publishing this post, so long as you have no problem with me pointing out common white tendencies within the post itself.

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  26. @macon

    I'm not comfortable with this: "heroic white activism"

    I don't want to elevate to heroic what should be human and instinctive.

    We shouldn't get extra points for doing what we should have done/should be doing all along.

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  27. Point taken, thesciencegirl -- I shouldn't have lumped you in with who questioned, and/or seemed to me to be questioning, the publication itself of the post. Sorry about that.

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  28. Another point taken, Julia/the other Julia -- I shouldn't have included the word "heroic" (and yeah, come to think of it, I certainly don't consider myself heroic when I do anything against racism -- I consider it something I simply should do).

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  29. *rolls eyes*

    Basically, you spent I don't know how many frikken words to say "This blog is for and about WP. PoC can contribute, but this blog really isn't geared towards you."

    Don't worry, I and many other PoC got that memo looooooooooong ago. See, PoC don't need things spelled out explicitly for us to get the picture.

    SWPD: interpret shit in the most linear and literal way possible.

    SWPD: assume PoC don't understand something if White people don't understand it (cuz you know we darkies iz dumb).

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  30. Macon, Macon, Macon . . .

    Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

    You're doing it wrong.

    Think about it.

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  31. @Thesciencegirl

    Are you serious? Oh man, a rock concert would be the last place to get quiet. That would be like telling a party-goer not to dance at a club.

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  32. Thank you RVCBard, I'll think about it.

    Thanks to you also, Witchsistah. I think I didn't write this part well enough:

    It occurs to me that I might seem to be saying this blog is for white readers. I don't mean to say that; non-white readers are obviously valuable here too (and I'm continually encouraged by emails about the blog from people of color too, expressing an array of specific values they find in swpd).

    "non-white readers are valuable." For what? The sake of white readers?

    Ugh. Sorry for putting it that way. I should have said that I'm glad non-white readers find value in reading and commenting here, whatever that value for each of them is. And, whatever it is is not for me to say. (As for white readers, I hope that the value they're finding in it is how to identify and fight racism, and how to be less racist themselves.)

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  33. "I have no problem with you publishing this post, so long as you have no problem with me pointing out common white tendencies within the post itself."

    macon,
    I feel like the people you just called out have done EXACTLY what thesciencegirl describes. The OP admits that she did nothing--it seems like fair game to talk about that.

    I don't know if some people were questioning the post itself--maybe they were--but I didn't hear that.

    You're getting defensive, and I don't understand why... Until you felt the need to step in, I don't think this thread was about you. Now, for sure, it is...

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  34. macon,

    It would help if you stopped whitemansplaining so much.

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  35. Julia/The Other Julia,

    I was responding initially to a commenter I failed to name, michaelTO61, whose comment begins,

    I'm wondering why this is posted?

    and whose comment goes on to echo a lot of other comments about Sheri's failure to speak up. I lumped all such commenters together, as questioners of the validity of the post (which I agreed to publish) itself; I now see that I shouldn't have done that. Okay, sorry folks, no more whitemansplaining from me.

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  36. and whose comment goes on to echo a lot of other comments about Sheri's failure to speak up. I lumped all such commenters together, as questioners of the validity of the post (which I agreed to publish) itself

    This may be a comment for a separate post, but why the fuck does this happen so much?

    Seriously, why do White folks act like they don't have to read or listen carefully to understand what a POC is saying? Why are nuance and depth so hard for White people to accept coming from POCs? For all the talk about "not getting it," I certainly see a lot of White people acting like they understand what POCs are saying better than POCs do. White people seem real fond of telling us what we mean (and arguing about it) instead of fucking asking us.

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  37. WTF is "whitemansplaining"? I mean I'm a WOC and have plenty of issues with white men, but none of Macon's posts in this thread are problematic in my eyes. I feel like sometimes it's ok even for white men to explain things, and there is nothing inherently racist or sexist in the act of providing an explanation. Especially when that explanation is provided as a direct response to a question like michaelTO61's.

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  38. Macon. You have a blog about racism (outward, inward, institutionalized, subtle, etc). Please do not make the mistake of telling POC to behave themselves!

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  39. @thesciencegirl

    I guess they think commiserating with a POC gets them cookies?

    According to Janet Helms' model of White racial identity (sadly, "A Race is a Nice Thing To Have" appears to be out of print), there's an event or trigger that moves a White person into the "Pseudo-Independence" stage, which is when they actually begin to examine racism and try to understand it. However, Helms notes that any understanding of White privilege is an "intellectual exercise" at this stage. Truly understanding and examining the role of White privilege in one's own life takes place at the next stage ("Immersion/Emersion"). And as a White person approaches the Immersion/Emerson stage, there's a lot of "Holy shit!" moments, when we realize many examples of racism we have seen. And we begin to see the everyday racism, that PoC have seen every single day of their lives. And we feel strangely compelled to use this new skill ("Racism-vision", for lack of a better description) at every opportunity, even when it's not appropriate.

    And just like a baby discovering the power of his/her own voice, it's unbearable. And you just want them to shut the hell up and go discover their voice somewhere else.

    I'm not trying to justify the behavior. The child analogy was not to elicit sympathy, but rather to demonstrate in a (hopefully) culturally universal way just how annoying this can be, so a White person might understand why they don't need to share every single "OMG, I saw racism today!" anecdote. (Not that I'm perfect)

    @Witchsistah:

    See, PoC don't need things spelled out explicitly for us to get the picture.

    In the Racism classroom, White people really are that one slow kid (not learning disabled or mentally challenged, just plain slow) holding up the rest of the class, and taking up the teacher's time. We're still reading "Go Dog Go" while PoC are reading novels. We still need our fingers to count to 10 while PoC are doing calculus. And we're still sitting in the back of the room giggling over pictures of naked people in the Bio textbook while PoC are doing advanced microbiology.

    And the rest of the class should be annoyed as all hell. And the kid deserves all the dirty looks and grumbling s/he gets, because it's not that s/he's incapable of learning the material, but s/he is just plain slow and holding everyone back.

    I'm not writing this looking for absolution, acceptance, forgiveness, or sympathy. I'm not writing this to "explain away" this frustrating/annoying/infuriating tendency. I thought for a while before writing this, wondering if I could offer an explanation for behavior while not trying to "explain away" or minimize the impact of that behavior. I hope that it is possible to do so.

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  40. Ugh, God forbid people cheer for their kid who happen to be black.

    I hear remarks like this from white people all the time and I always call them out on it. They get profoundly uncomfortable, say something to the effect of "jesus I'm not a fucking racist," and then forget about it five seconds later.

    I sometimes wonder what can possibly done to change people's minds.

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  42. @macon..
    You know, no matter how you re-write that sentence, you have effectively stated that this blog is for white people to be able to identify times when they witness racism.

    I mean, whats new here.
    White person is with family and friends at a gathering, said friend or family says something racist. White person says nothing, but stores the story so that it maybe recalled with other anti-racists or black folk as evidence that they are not racist because 'see, they didn't say horrible stuff like that'

    Its kinda a joke, you know... not haa haa funny but you know.....

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  43. God I hate this so much, black people do the same act as white people it is seen so much differently remember the What would you do? special on racism and the white and black kids wrecking the car the white kids were kids messing around the black kids were destructive gang members hell the black people in the car SLEEPING were a threat.

    These white people who go on about black people being loud annoy me here in england they seem to forget about football (soccer) hooligans and their antics not so quiet I hear it all the time especially since I live near a stadium

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  44. I ran into this at my daughter's graduation this week. The noise factor was annoying from all families, regardless of race, but I did have this indignant white woman constantly turning to look at me, like I was supposed to agree with her, that yes, the black people were being too loud. In the end, she & her fam got into the spirit of things and when their grad walked across the stage, they hooted as loud as anyone there. I love it when we all let our hair down, but I kinda wish graduation was more dignified. But that's not the current trend, so oh well.

    One other thing:

    My daughter's school is predominantly black and a lot of people arrived late. However the graduation was on a Monday at 7:30. I'm sure many people had to arrange to get off work, pick up children from daycare, etc, etc. My daughter's father drove in from Chicago with his brother & they didn't arrive until 8.

    The white gentlemen behind me said loudly enough - "It seems some people didn't care enough about their families to get here on time.

    And I turned right around and told him what I explained above which shut him up.

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  45. @s.raph said...

    I would add to the discussion>>

    "Social constraints" in the USA means that white people MODIFY their behavior to be quiet and polite around black people.

    I guess for white people it gives the very public illusion that "we are not like those people".

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  46. @Jon R.,

    Oh I know that when it comes to racism, White people STAY a day late and a dollar short. It's the assumption that Whites have that if THEY do not understand something there's no way PoC can grasp that. To use your example, it's the slow kid in the class thinking everyone else is SLOWER than him (because clearly if HIS brilliant behind can't get it, there's no way the others possibly could) when his classmates are SHOWING that they are clearly much more advanced.

    @ soul,

    Another thing WP do is tell us their tales of witnessed racism woe and then seek out PoC to mammy their wounded fee-fees over having WITNESSED such horrors though they didn't do a DAMN THING to mitigate the situation for the benefit of PoC. Because, as we all know, White folks' wounded fee-fees trump our anihilated souls anyday!

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  47. Ok what bothers me about the 'black people are load' statement white people can have is it assumes their code of behaviour is the right code, and other people's code of behaviour is not.


    I always argued that this in particular was the ONE reason St. Patrick's day was so revered in the white community..

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  48. Soul said...
    "I mean, what’s new here.
    White person is with family and friends at a gathering, said friend or family says something racist. White person says nothing, but stores the story so that it maybe recalled with other anti-racists or black folk as evidence that they are not racist because 'see, they didn't say horrible stuff like that'"

    I concur...
    Black people have lost their homes, their sense of well-being- they have even sacrificed their lives for being anti-racists. If a white person claiming such a title has not lost family or close friends, or hasn’t had his employment threatened by his/her activities, then the moniker means nothing. Whites will jump off of buildings and bridges; put themselves in all manner of dangerous situations simply for the adrenalin rush. They will run boats in front of whaling vessels to save the species. In one form of extremism whites will justify murder by taking the life of an abortion doctor, or attack/bomb government buildings.

    They will parade nude on street corners and in magazines to keep animals from being fleeced for their fur. But when it comes to anti-racist work they play it safe, minding when they choose to speak out and to whom. If your family hasn’t disowned you for your “extremist views” (and being an anti-racist can be just that) then why are you doing it? If your social circle involves people with racist beliefs and you haven’t openly challenged them on it, then you might want to check your anti-racist credentials. If your popularity only increases amongst fellow whites and you’ve lost nothing- sacrificed little, suffered naught, then you’re no anti-racist. Least not in the way that minorities define it.

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  49. @ M.Gibson and Soul ... You hit the nail on the head.
    W.P. have to take racism personally.It has to have the same effect on you as if someone called your daughter a bitch.You would do something about it.Otherwise anti-racism just remains a feel good intellectual exercise.

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  50. Oh my lord, I've been sucked in. I just told someone in a Fark argument to google 'white privilege'.

    (laughing at myself, mainly because it was on fark and will therefore be completely useless)

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  51. (it was my intention to be more active in this thread, but we just moved and only just now got our internet hooked up, so i will read through these and respond accordingly).


    @dazzun--
    those were my thoughts exactly.

    @Brian Gerald, michaelTO61, Witchsistah, and others--
    i wanted to write this and put it up for discussion, not to ease my feelings of guilt, but to see the responses to the described incident from a variety of perspectives. this incident did not happen in a vacuum. it happened in the context of a year-long conflict with the non-in-laws, which as some of you may have noticed, resulted in a several month hiatus from blogging. my mental health aside, my submissiveness in this situation is certainly inexcusable, and as i admitted to it in the post, it's fair game for discussion.

    and honestly, i couldn't care less about the White Club. my reasons for not speaking up in this particular situation have nothing do with wanting to remain in good standing with the white collective, though there are certainly numerous examples of white people staying silent because they don't want to be that person. i've heard and been guilty of a number of excuses for not speaking up. thinking it wouldn't matter if i said something or not can often result in my not saying anything. when one regards the racism of old white people, it's easy to excuse it because "they're from a different time." or a million other excuses and rationalizations which ease the guilt of silent white people. and i am not exempt from this sin. i wrote this so that it could be discussed, not to have internet strangers make me feel better about the situation.

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  52. The reasons why someone does not speak up against racism when they observe it are very worthy of discussion. Sometimes those reasons are good ones, sometimes not. To attack someone for not doing so seems unfair, given the context.

    Some people are not naturally confrontational, or are less instinctive and take longer to mentally process the nature of the racism being expressed. Sometimes the particular context in which it happens is very sensitive and can result in harsh consequences if someone speaks out.

    For me, the interesting question is to what extent a person can stand up for a principle, as opposed to succumbing to the pressure to swallow that indignation and remain silent. All our social conditioning naturally makes us lean toward the latter - so breaking out of that conformity of silence is no easy thing.

    Not everyone who reads this blog is a fully-realised anti-racist activist. We are all coming from varying places and perspectives. Some are still in their infancy of understanding the nature of racism. Hopefully some of the discussions on this blog inspire some readers to go out and stand up against it. But I don't think it's helpful to get hostile towards those who, for whatever reason, didn't sieze the chance to speak out.

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  53. I've been way past tired of the subtle accusation that the Black people who post here are being hostile and ungrateful by not swooning every time a White person is decent with regards to race (for a change).

    I've been way past tired of people who are not me thinking that they know how I feel (or worse yet, what I should feel).

    I've been way past tired of people telling the more vocal Black people responding here how we ought to respond to an experience that affects us daily.

    I'm way past tired of people treating us as though our lives are a public service to help White people learn to be less racist.

    Way. Past. Tired.

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  54. @Eurasian Sensation

    'Attack'? Ha. Right. That was a very long comment, you know you could've just said 'Darkies, be grateful' and be concise about it.

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  55. Co-signs RVCBard and Rochelle like a mug!

    I'm past tired of folks thinking I should be ready to give cookies and head to WP for their good intentions regardless of any effective action being taken or not.

    Basically Eurasian Sensations apologetics are basically the "WP aren't yet READY" schtick that PoC have been hearing in this country since slavery. It's the apologetics offered to Dr. King that he rebutted in Letter From A Birmingham Jail as to why Black folk should be patient and let White take their good time in deeming us human enough for equal rights in this country.

    Like Bard and Rochelle, I'm way past tired of being labeled unreasonable, crazy and violent and my actions painted that way because I dare to speak up. Eurasian Sensation, I MAY have had more respect for you if you'd just come out and told our nigger bitch asses to shut the fuck up instead of the passive-aggressive bullshit you posted.

    Consider your poor, delicate non-Black self attacked.

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  56. @Eurasian sensation...

    Yeah... thats right. I think you've got it.

    But to further cement your point, I think you should be able (at the first instance and opportune moment of course) to say the following to some rape victims, or the families of a murder victim, or a woman who has been belittle by her male colleagues for decades.


    Not everyone who reads this blog is a fully-realised humanity activist.

    We are all coming from varying places and perspectives.
    Some are still in their infancy of understanding the nature of humanity, respect, individualism and the right of others to go about their business in peace.

    Hopefully, their paths will cross yours and some of the discussions you have with them will inspire some of them and some of the observers to go out and stand up against fellow misogynists, rapists and murderers.

    But I don't think it's helpful to get hostile towards those who, for whatever reason, didn't sieze the chance to speak out.

    You know, because we must be sympathetic towards those rapists, murderers and misogynists.

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  57. Why do people not understand?

    Racism is rape,
    it is murder,
    it is vile,
    it is misogyny,
    it is a violation,
    it is inhumane,
    it is exhausting,
    it is vicious
    it is degrading
    it is demoralising
    it is cold, calculated, cutting and measurable genocide
    it is ruthless
    it is perverse
    it is debilitating
    it is endemic
    for fucks sake
    Racism is war.

    Why are they so blind that they can't realise that racism is all those things and then some?

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  58. @Eurasian Sensation

    "But I don't think it's helpful to get hostile towards those who, for whatever reason, didn't sieze the chance to speak out."

    um. right. it's not about being hostile toward people who for whatever reason don't 'sieze the chance' to stand against racism.

    There is no tolerance for white people writing/blogging/talking about, and pointing the finger to, other white people who are doing what they see as racist things, yet they didn't DO anything about it. The observation and disgust of the racism is just not enough. Perhaps a more apt title would have been white people who, "see other white people who expect black people to behave better in public than white people do, and do nothing to confront them about it". Seriously, there are so so so many occasions to observe racism and then talk about how shocking it was afterwards, but if there is no stand taken then it's just a load of hot air! White people should also not be congratulated for observing other white peoples' racism. There just isn't any kudos for a white person to observe it and think they stand for something because they saw it and didn't like it. Taking a stand is an action, a response.

    White people have the privilege to take a stand against racism and not be labelled 'an angry black so and so' like, hello, use that white privilege to make a difference.

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  59. It would shock me honestly, for a white person to stand up to racism in their own lives, so to hear her say she regrets not doing something, I just about glossed over it. Par for the course. White person says they're an ally, and does diddly f'n squat when given the chance. I could see how that sort of anti-racism, the kind where pain, hurt and sacrifice are not a part, where uncomfortability and tension are thrown overboard so nervous whites can benefit from the privilege of being able to "pick one's fights", can be fun and cool as a label.

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  60. It's the nature of the Internet and blogs that people tell it like it is and the light hearted get offended. Probably why their gobs more lurkers then commentators.Tit for tat and having to have the last word is part of the game.If it wasn't antagonistic I wouldn't learn much...

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  61. Soul said...
    "Why are they so blind that they can't realize that racism is all those things and then some?"

    Only when its applied to them do the curtains part enough for reason/empathy to peak through. Read a case about reverse racism; the way a white victim tells it they were simply devastated to be denied opportunity because of the color of their skin.

    Because of the narcissistic manner in which privilege preys on the mind, white victims of inequity can’t make the connection with how this injury affects minorities all the time. If you’ve never been the victim of the pain caused by racism; if the sum total of your life has been framed by privilege, then at best- racism is an exercise in academics and nothing more.

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  62. @ Rochelle and Witchsistah:

    It's fine for you to disagree with me. But if you are going to accuse me of being racist against you, then show the evidence. Someone of a different race disagreeing with you is not racism, last time I checked.

    If we're truthful, all or most of us have been in a situation where we have witnessed some kind of injustice (be it racist or otherwise) and not spoken up against it, and felt ashamed later.

    I don't think Sheri is looking for congratulations for being anti-racist. I'd wager she feels shit about not speaking up. From the context, it sounds like she is engaged in a constant battle against the racism and other hateful qualities of her prospective in-laws. Because I'm not in that situation, I don't think it's my place to judge her for what she did or didn't do in that particular instant.

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  63. PlusSizedWomanistMay 29, 2010 at 12:41 AM

    I just encountered a moment like this today. I was shopping with my aunt and uncle for barbecuing on Sunday. We went into Super Kmart, and my aunt pointed to a white father and son who were consistently fighting up and down the aisles, with the father finally pinning the son down to the ground in a headlock. The son was maybe 15 years old, and was kicking and screaming all the way through.

    Throughout the entire ordeal, not a single staff person came over and said "You are being disorderly, and you need to leave." NOT. ONE. But let that have been a black father and son doing the same thing, the police would have been called.

    The white privilege was rampant.

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  64. @eurasian sensation
    Pay attention. No one even called you racist. What's being disagreed with is your bullshitting apologetics that mean we have to feel sorry for the witness and not the victim(s) (present or not) of an injustice.

    Yes, a bystander or witness can feel ashamed for allowing or uninterrupted an injustice perpetrated before them, but they are not allowed the luxury of not be called out on their in-action. Especially by the afflicted target(s) of injustice.

    @PlusSizedWomanist

    Even though I'm not surprised I still gotta say "wow" to that. And no one stepped in afterwards, said anything or escorted them? smdh

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  65. @ Juan:

    perhaps I have a different interpretation of these quotes:

    "you know you could've just said 'Darkies, be grateful' and be concise about it."

    "I MAY have had more respect for you if you'd just come out and told our nigger bitch asses to shut the fuck up instead of the passive-aggressive bullshit you posted."


    In any case, I have no problem with questioning why Sheri did or didn't do something. I don't feel sorry for her; I'm just trying to have some understanding for the position she was in, rather than just dismissing her as spineless.

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  66. @Eurasian Sensation,
    I've noticed that you're asking people of color to "understand", but I don't notice you talking about people of color being "understood" when we can't even catch a break at our graduation!

    "It's fine for you to disagree with me. But if you are going to accuse me of being racist against you, then show the evidence. Someone of a different race disagreeing with you is not racism, last time I checked."

    That's one surefire way to disengage and derail. Instead of trying to use some of that patented understanding of where Witchsistah and Rochelle are coming from, you lash out. Understanding for the white people who're NOT SPEAKING UP, and none for POC actually speaking up. I mean can you see where they're coming from? Seeing your most recent posts is incredibly upsetting on a supposedly anti-racist blog.

    I get your point, and I understand that there are times where people don't speak up when they should; it's happened to me, and probably still will in the future. That said, to so callously disregard the opinions of women of color as: (1) being merely dismissive,
    (2) to imply heavily that by responding to this stark difference in reaction to the white woman's inaction and the women of color's strong statements, Witchsistah and Rochelle are calling you a racist and,
    (3) by saying you don't have a problem with criticizing white inaction but then being harshly critical and passive-aggressive toward the POC who do that criticizing,

    I don't see how this isn't racist behavior. I'm not calling you a racist; I don't know what's in your head, but I see a large disparity in judgment for people of color and a huge benefit of the doubt for white people. I see you falling back on tried-and-true racist tactics for defeating POC in a discussion; just say you were personally called a racist. I see tone issues pop up for you and those tone arguments only seem to come up when women of color are speaking. So, like I said, for these reasons alone, while you may be a saint, the actions on the thread that have been messed, and I don't think I nor any other POC on here deserve to be so dismissed as being implied as shrill, overly harsh, nor callous. And especially not when we've had to be the careful, overly careful in fact, talkers in white-dominated spaces like this one throughout our lives.

    Also, do not, please, please do not come to me talking about harsh circumstances for merely speaking out. I don't think I'm callous; it's just that I understand the consequences of white people NOT SPEAKING OUT very well.

    If you care to try to understand other people's situations, try to understand POC's. And if you say you do, then think about it next time you worry about the feelings of white activists when POC get all angry and dismissive of them.

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  67. @ Colin,

    I appreciate the way you have explained your point of view.

    I'm a bit puzzled by your description of me "lashing out" in the context of all the comments made here.
    I don't want to get into a whole "he started it/ she started it" thing, so let me just say this: There are a lot of interpretations and assumptions being made here (and I'm not saying I'm exempt from doing it). I personally do not see my initial comment as either "harshly critical", "callous" or "passive aggressive".

    I'll take on your point and try to understand the others' perspectives, but I hope the same courtesy extends to me as well.

    That's it from me.

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  68. @ Eurasian Sensation
    I hope you realize the value to be gained from ALL of the replies to your posts. Folks here have (a) given you every reason to change your view about WP needing a sliding scale for being anti-racist because "sometimes it's hard," (b) given you a glimpse of insight about how hurtful and damaging it is to POC to face this entitlement that WP somehow deserve training wheels for choosing when to be anti-racist, and (c) given you a lot of reasons to reflect on why you would think and say these things. Those responses are a gift...use it. To ask for courtesy is a slap in the face.

    Your posts have drawn me out from being a lurker...probably because the kind of excuse-making you initially advocated for is something I see way too much of in myself.

    And if anyone takes anything away from my comment, it might be worth revisiting RVCBard's comment in this thread: "why do White folks act like they don't have to read or listen carefully to understand what a POC is saying? Why are nuance and depth so hard for White people to accept coming from POCs?"

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  69. and I'll say this again.

    Tell a rape victim to speak gently to someone who doesn't stand up to a rapist.

    I wish someone anyone could point out where anyone on this particular thread called Eurasian whatever a racist before he proclaimed the insult himself.

    What nonsense!

    The irony: On a thread labeled 'expect black people to behave better in public than white people do'

    We have Eurasian scolding black people asking them: 'to be more forgiving when confronted with people who wont stand up for them when insulted than white people are'

    and then has the audacity to suggest that people should try to understand his words.

    We understood them already boss massa.

    We s'pose sit ova dere suh n lissen suh as ms anne lissen to boss massa call us names suh n we fanks miss anne for we knows her heart is true suh n she lubs us suh.

    Yess we knowwwws it suh
    sure as the day is long

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  70. Why don't you get away from these people, boyfriend included?

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  71. @soul

    I wish someone anyone could point out where anyone on this particular thread called Eurasian whatever a racist before he proclaimed the insult himself.

    Rochelle said:

    <'Attack'? Ha. Right. That was a very long comment, you know you could've just said 'Darkies, be grateful' and be concise about it.>

    Witchsistah said:



    (Macon, would you please post comments from POC who don't tow the blog line?)

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  72. griddler,

    I already do, as long as they more or less adhere to the "commenting guidelines."

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  73. @izzy--

    i do not believe i am the only person to ever date someone whose family is more or less disagreeable. we can't necessarily control who we're related to, but we can limit contact with those people.

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  74. [Nikki, you can write to me about that at unmakingmacon AT gmail DOT com ~macon]

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  75. Wow, this is timely! I'm a young non-white woman. At a graduation YESTERDAY that took place in a stadium where I was in the audience, some ROTC students brought a flag out on the field. Suddenly, from behind me, this elderly white woman tells me in a snide voice, "You're supposed to stand when the flag passes, my dear." I just glanced back at her and smiled. First of all, in the program, it was indicated when we were to stand, and that wasn't one of the times. Secondly, the principal invited us to stand AFTER the flag was in place. Then later, after the white woman's graduate's name was called, she and her family left in the middle of the ceremony - something other families, mainly white, did as well. It was all I could do not to turn to her as she disrupted the ceremony and say, "You're supposed to have the courtesy to wait until the ceremony ends and to honor all the graduates before leaving, my dear." But seriously, sassiness aside, when you're two generations younger than a white person and at a graduation ceremony, is there a way you can ? should? respectfully address the situation. In other words, on this thread we've talked about white people's responsibility to address racism - what should I as a non-white person have done?

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  76. Yes, well, it is a typical white tendency to try to monopolise everything, and by the way I am not being racist, just stating my point.

    Anyway, I was walking down the steps of a tube station in London, I had just been to a training session to train some staff on the use of some equipment. I was smartly dressed. The equipment I had was in a very large hessian bag and was heavy. I was walking down the steps entering the tube station when an elderly, well she looked elderly although I could tell she wasn't that old, probably in her late fifties or so with straggly looking hair, walking behind me tells me in exactly these words "can you get your bag out of the way". I was so shocked by the rudeness that I just remained calm turned around and told her that her comments were very rude. "Well, she says, I am trying to pass and your big bag is in the way, so move out of the way". Now, I was brought up well and just had a great day so, and I took a deep breath and carried on walking but I told this woman again that she was extremely rude to which she started to cuss me out and abuse me verbally as we walked onto the platform. A white man standing on the platform was looking at us as we approached and I said to the woman "you obviously must be suffering from PMT or menopause and appear to be quite obviously frustrated"....LOL

    I am just so sick of the superior and the feelings of entitlement all the time. Why do some white people feel they are entitled to be rude to black people for no valid reason, jump the queue to be served first while everyone else has been queuing up for ages, talk louder in public etc, just because of skin colour. This is just so ridiculous!

    By the way, I get along fine with a number of white pweople, but it just gets on my last nerve the behaviour from SOME white people who just spoil it for the rest of the population, and for no apparent reason at all.

    I also notice that some white people do not like to see successful black people. It seems to make them angry, probably again because of that monopolisation and I have to own everything and nobody else should mentality.

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