Thursday, July 1, 2010

infiltrate non-white spaces

KB, a non-white reader, wrote about the following situation, wondering if the feelings it provoked are legitimate. Can you offer this person any help?


I just came back from college and received one of the biggest culture shocks of my life. I was raised in one of the last remaining all-black neighborhoods in Los Angeles; it's called Leimert Park. I had very few friends that were white, and at the time it bothered me. I wanted to find someone with whom I could discuss my love of Coldplay and Bjork (which is probably a stereotype in itself).

So, I thought going to a small liberal arts college would help me meet open-minded people of all races. I was fully aware that most of these people would most likely be white. However, through a series of unfortunate events, I became aware of the prejudice and outright racism alot of white people, and even some other POC, have toward Black people. Most of them have to do with the alleged lack of intelligence that Black people have.

So, when the time came to go home, I couldn't wait to return to my Black family/community that held the same beliefs as mine, and where my intelligence was celebrated and never doubted. Rising house prices have caused many white families that lived further inland to move to Leimert Park and other Black communities that were once considered "bad neighborhoods."

On Sunday, there was an artwalk in the market place of Leimert Park. There was a drum circle, everyone had on dashikis, or some other type of afrocentric garb. Almost everyone there had dreadlocks or afros. All of the featured art depicted the black struggle or black leaders. It was basically a BLACK event, or an event for POC. I was sooo excited to finally experience MY culture in MY community after a whole year!

But while I was dancing in the drum circle, a group of white onlookers caught my eye. And as the day progressed, I saw more and more. They were all pretty young and hipster-y. When I saw them, I felt completely deflated, I didn't even want to be there anymore, I had this sudden flash of xenophobia and fears of gentrification.

 I felt like if this kept happening, there wouldn't be any events like this in Leimert Park ever again. I feel really guilty for feeling like this.

Is it wrong for me to feel like this?

Please Help!!!

112 comments:

  1. no KB, kick that guilt to the curb...you are feeling the inner contradiction of so-called white supremacy. white people declare our intelligence, our moral fiber, even our physical characteristics as "lesser than"...and yet they depend on us for cultural refreshment and inspiration...their "hipsterness" depends on attaching themselves to they very people they claim to be "superior" to...it's a classic case of projection...ascribing their insecurities and inadequacies on others tryin' to convince them that THEY are the problem...This is truly the stuff that "white people do"...you need to "hold your head", fighting white supremacy/racism is primarily a battle of the mind...if all of your efforts are focused on tryin' to change white folks minds about you, you'll die in the attempt...you don't need their validation, it's white peoples problem; you need to stand your ground and not believe the racist hype...

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  2. You have the right to worry about gentrification because that's happening everywhere to black and POC neighborhoods. Pretty soon, these white hipsters will drive out black and POC families out of your neighborhood :-/

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  3. I'm not sure how much input I can give, since I'm probably one of the whitest people ever (though I don't like Coldplay or Bjork, hmm...must investigate) but my 2 cents is that so long as they weren't doing anything disrespectful or inappropriate I don't think there's any reason they couldn't observe.

    Maybe they were there to learn, or to experience things outside their norms?

    Or maybe I'm just being optimistic and giving hipsters too much credit, I don't know.

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  4. Sometimes I think white people come to events like these like we're going to a zoo, instead of like we're going to someone's neighborhood or house or culture to participate in something.

    Was it that kind of feeling?

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  5. I certainly have felt that way before. I feel like it has to do with what another commenter on a different post said about black comedians and white audience members. Sometimes at Chinese cultural events, I feel really self conscious if there's someone white there. I feel like they will take away something that just reinforces whatever stereotypes they have of asian people. Suddenly my place of comfort and safety is no longer about me but about the white people there and how they perceive me.

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  6. @Melinda I agree, I get this feeling a lot too. I have gone to several events that were for everyone but geared mostly to blacks and found white people almost making fun on it. Shaking heads and saying they didn't get it. It's not for them to get or understand. The only thing they should be is respect it and as long as the folks you were speaking of didn't make any bad remarks or acted ignorant, they were free to watch.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

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  7. I am Polish-American and grew up in an immigrant neighborhood. It's changed now and is more diverse, which isn't a bad thing in itself -- it's not that people aren't NICE, but it doesn't have the same community feel. Talking to other people of my nationality who grew up in different places around the US, I realize how lucky I was to have a place where kids at school didn't make fun of my name, or the things in my sack lunch, or the fact that my grandma didn't speak English and wore a scarf on her head. Now my neighborhood is just another neighborhood...not gentrified really because it looks the same and it's still not a place hipsters like, but it's just generic.

    So I don't blame you for feeling that way.

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  8. You don't need to feel guilty about this. While the majority loves to portray segregation for all races as being morally equivalent, it just isn't true. There is a very big difference between a majority trying to keep out a minority and a minority trying to keep a minority-safe space safe from the majority. Equating the two situations ignores the difference in power between the two groups and is nothing but rationalizing solipsism.

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  9. KB, this white boy says don't feel guilty at all. And later on, when you get angry too, don't second guess it. Neighborhoods fall apart when rich white people bounce into them.

    I've been to POC events, and I feel like us white folks should treat them like we've been invited to someone's house for the first time. Cause we have, you know? Don't rummage in the fridge, don't put your feet up on the table, wait to be invited into things like dancing circles, and no talking smack about your hosts.

    I can't speak to the horrors of gentrification much, but as far as events that aren't your own go, some common sense and manners go a long way. They also seem to be in short supply. But maybe my take on it it comes from being queer, and having straight people come to our events to point, laugh, and look at the faggots in the zoo.

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  10. The way you describe the situation...having your initial feelings of interest and hopefulness in regard to being around more WP turned upside down by the racism you encountered...It seems totally natural that you would want to withdraw back into the community your familiar with and that you would feel afraid of the idea of losing that sanctuary. It also sucks big time that WP would make you feel that way.

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  11. While feminism is not just for women, it is significant to have circles in feminism for just women where they can discuss their issues because a lot of women are not comfortable discussing certain topics with men around. I had a professor tell me about a graduate feminism class he wanted to take, the professor said unless another male signed up, then he could not take the class. Another male signed up and the first day of class, the professor laid out certain rules specifically for the two men in the class. She explained that it was significant to the class and the creation of safe space for women. He described that as very humbling and heightening to his awareness as a privileged male. I think the same could be said of this. It may not be truly egalitarian, but it recognizes the reality of the power imbalances between the two groups, and by doing that, seeks to move towards decreasing and eventually eradicating them.

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  12. @ Melinda

    Whoa. That's a good answer. Most whites tend to look at other cultures as exotic, but the white racial mindset holds them to a lower regard. In other words they may be fascinating, but they are considered inferior.

    As far as how you feel I don't know what to really tell you, but it may be because you didn't want to appear as if you're "betraying" your race. It's kinda like peer pressure. You may thought that they looked at you and were saying to themselves "What's she doing dancing with those people?" That may be why you felt that way.

    It's just a thought though.

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  13. I can relate to this feeling. And I think melinda's point is a good one. I was recently at a Gospel music festival, where the vast majority of presenters (and attendees) were black. I go every summer to enjoy the music and support my church's choir. I noticed quite a lot of white people watching the concerts, as the festival took place in a major tourist area. I smiled to see the white folks singing and clapping along to the music, or worshiping alongside black spectators. But there were quite a few who were smirking, looking confused and amazed by the spectacle, or clearly just treating it as a "zoo" exhibit as opposed to a cultural and religious event. It's often the attitude of the white spectators that determines how I react in these instances.

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  14. Thanks everyone for commenting!

    @Melinda
    It wasn't really a zoo feeling, no one was exactly pointing and laughing, it was more of a museum feeling. Where they kind of just looked like they "Should" be there to appreciate some kind of culture. None of them really stayed that long either.

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  15. I'm going to attempt to be as respectful as possible here, but I am having a hard time with these comments.

    How can you possibly feel it is ok to be offended at the mere presence of someone with a different skin color? It doesn't sound like you attempted to interact with these so called "hipsters." How can you be sure they were there to deride and belittle you? Would you have reacted differently if they were Japanese?

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  16. I also have similar feelings when I go to Japanese cultural events.
    Here in NYC especially, cherry blossom festivals are huge...but some folks (mostly white) come dressed in anime costumes to hang out, which I find disrespectful; not everything "Japanese" is associated with anime or manga. Their attitudes annoy me too, because they lack an innate understanding of MY culture, but they feel like they're a part of it somehow. It doesn't help that "Japan" is so popular right now and is a part of everything.

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  17. I don't think you need to apologize. What you feel is what you feel -- and if the demographics of the neighborhood end up changing, that could be substantial cause for regret. Possibly the local culture is indeed threatened.

    But nothing you describe leads me to believe that the white people did anything wrong, or were guilty of racism. If they acted disrespectfully, then they would be acting racist -- but you don't suggest that they did. I fail to see anything wrong with people of any color going to a public event and observing the festivities. Indeed, hopefully they learned something about your culture.

    There are two sides to this story, and it looks to me like neither one of them is wrong.

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  18. Years ago, when I was involved in "unlearning-racism" training (I'm white) we had a term for what you saw -- "cultural tourism." What we meant by that is that we white people love to engage in visiting other people's cultures and getting what we can from the visit, but lack any real awareness of or connection to the people/culture itself. Then, worse, we feel like we are educated about and even connected to other people's culture(s) because we took a vacation there or watched a drum circle... So I'd say don't feel guilty -- that what you were feeling is legit.

    The flip side is when diversity is intentional. I help run a queer women's monthly club night that is very diverse -- many cultures, ages, etc. We created it with that in mind and work really hard to make sure the environment is welcoming for all and the vibe is great. But I know some people of color stay away because they want to go to events that are not culturally diverse (places that are mostly Black, Latina, etc). But other folks want the mix.

    I would guess having your neighborhood change when you don't want it to would be heartbreaking. Gentrification is real and is changing communities - a big loss.

    My two cents.

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  19. It sounds to me like you went to "small liberal arts school" with intent to submerge yourself in what was your idea of some kind of "white" culture only to be disappointed in your experience, then came home to what you percieved as white people essentially doing the same thing in "your" neighborhood.
    Though it sucks that you experienced racism at the art school, I don't think the white people in your neighborhood "made" you feel any sort of way, that is something you need to carry on your own. We've all experienced racism in one way or another, you seem to have carried it home with you.

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  20. I pretty much co-sign with everyone here except this:

    so long as they weren't doing anything disrespectful or inappropriate I don't think there's any reason they couldn't observe.

    Nope.

    Maybe they were there to learn, or to experience things outside their norms?

    Nope.

    Or maybe I'm just being optimistic and giving hipsters too much credit

    Third time really is the charm.

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  21. Though it sucks that you experienced racism at the art school, I don't think the white people in your neighborhood "made" you feel any sort of way, that is something you need to carry on your own.

    I disagree.

    KB went to that school because had he interests he wanted to share. The keyword is share, because his willingness meet with whites and speak on common interests as equal, fellow human beings was rejected.

    The white people at the drum circle, however, didn't come to "share". They came to be entertained, because there's this not-so-subtle notion ingrained into white folks that one of the core purposes of POC is to entertain whites.

    The history of whites and POC isn't one of whites sincerely trying to learn from or about POC.

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  22. @ Freaky Jay

    How condescending. You speak as if the "disappointment" the OP faced in being exposed to WP was on the order of finding out that not all white people listen to Coldplay.

    The "disappointment" was in the blatantly racist assumptions directed at zir regarding black intelligence. Did you miss that part of the post, or simply ignore it?

    I don't know your background, but if you've ever had to spend a semester, let alone a lifetime, in a learning environment where people commonly assume you are stupid, inarticulate, poor, and/or present only because of affirmative action... I'd hope you'd have a little more sympathy as to why a person would feel traumatized by such an environment.

    As for the white people showing up to POC functions, the fact is that many DO treat it like they are going to the zoo or the fair. This is a phenonemenon worth discussing. Whether or not this is what happened in this particular instance isn't the point. The OP's feelings that NOW zie feels that zie has to protect zirself and be on guard whenever white folks show up in what used to be a safe-space... THAT is the point.

    @ everyone

    I can't be the only one who's sick of how Every. Single.Post turns into a debate over whether or not the given examples are really racism. We will NEVER be privy to the full context and motives of the actors whenever an OP shares their story. It makes more sense to me that we should give them the benefit of the doubt that yes, this really WAS a racist experienc, yes they really do know what they are talking about, rather than behaving like every WP is a defendant on trial, and every POC is a litigator who must prove their case against said WP.

    I'd just think we'd prolly get alot more out of these discussions by discussing, oh, you know, the racism part.

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  23. @burrito

    No one was attempting to belittle or degrade me or my culture, the main question of the article is whether or not I should feel guilty for my fears of gentrification after experiencing racism in college. Japanese and Korean people live in the neighborhood and actively participate in the culture. But I guess I get the question, so no, I've never seen another race of people completely destroy the authenticity of a neighborhood in America for monetary purposes, or to make it "hip" like WP have.

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  24. @Jane Laplain

    I can't thank you enough, you hit my experience right on the head! I'm a she by the way. And I totally agree with the comment about arguing whether or not something is racist.

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  25. KB, you are not wrong to feel the way you do. Some of the white folks that came to the event where their as cultural tourists.

    There are two types of cultural tourists- those that are benign racists and those that are liberal racists. The former, usually non-USA citizens, truly want a cultural experience. However, they ask the local colored people to pose for photos much like I get photos of my kids with Mickey.

    The later, usually suburban brats posing as hipsters, who love hip-hop and weed, think that they are being seriously cool and keeping it real by hanging in the hood. When I was in college, some of them liked to joyride through the hood. These are the same types who approach any brother at a concert and ask him if he knows where the can score some weed.

    And I'm with Jane- enough with accusing the person experiencing racism as being racist for noticing -gasp!- racism.

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  26. Damn Jane, I'm so glad you came out of lurking. here's to hoping you don't get burned out.

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  27. What you are feeling is VERY VERY normal. Noone likes change, especially to something so emotionally important as a childhood community. These are the feelings that pass on our cultures.

    The flip side is that these are the feelings that can also spawn intolerance if not properly analyzed. These are the feelings that can bring on a "Whites/Blacks/Gays/Walmart/Muslims ect. are ruining the neighborhood" mentality.

    There is a neighborhood here that went from German, to Italian to Greek, to Hispanic, to Arab to Russian in 100 years. That can make one dizzy.

    All neighborhoods change. Black neighborhoods become White, White ones Black, Greek become South Asian, ect. The world is not a static museum.

    As for listening to Black music. Who wouldn't? It's good! Also, listening to different styles of music can inspire whole new forms of music. This is how Jazz and Rock evolved. I can see how you would feel uncomfortable though. I would too.

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  28. Sometimes you just want to go someplace where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if someone thinks they're better than you it's just because they're an asshole and not because you have dark skin.

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  29. You've taken my blues and gone -- You sing 'em on Broadway And you sing 'em in Hollywood Bowl, And you mixed 'em up with symphonies And you fixed 'em So they don't sound like me. Yep, you done taken my blues and gone. Langston Hughes

    Whites lived in segregated housing- estranged behind borders distinguishable only to blacks and the police. But when they wanted to have a good time, when they needed to cast off their inhibitions they took the A train to Harlem. It was a place where you could get a whiff of authentic culture… buy a few reefers and get a feel of the night life. Whites could do the Lindy Hop, learn to speak Jive and communicate with the natives in their natural habitat.

    As the popularity of Jazz and Swing grew so did the level of appropriation by whites. Benny Goodman became known as the King of swing, and the Andrew Sisters sang praises of Harlem's night life.

    Mind you they didn't just croon about how black folk did things in the inner-city, they danced an jived the way they perceived blacks in Harlem to do it (because they’ve visited a few times). Notice how the absence of black faces indelibly distinguishes these women as authorities on blackness; annexing facets of the culture to white suburbia, like worker bees carrying pollen to the hive.

    Whites owned a lot of clubs/restaurants in Harlem, employed blacks as dancers and entertainers- cooks and dishwashers; yet in many venues they were denied the right to come as patrons. In this context whites owned and controlled the culture; ostensibly detached and xenophobic towards the very people ‘who were the culture.’

    That’s your fear and it’s a legitimate one. As the author of this article laments when asked by a white professional in Harlem, "So, how's gentrification going up there?"

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  30. Ohmygod, mixitup, shutitup will you? Blahblahblah other minorities do it to each other blahblahblah general human condition blahblahblah it's ok now yes? For fucks sake, in the US, there is no finer example of gentrification than white people coming in and screwing up communities of color for monetary convenience and entertainment. Moreso, we deal with wp, everywhere, all the time - is it so fucking much to ask to feel unburdened in one of the few places where we are NOT treated as the anomaly? I know I have a knee-jerk snarly reaction when I saw a wp in a Filipino restaurant. My whole reaction was gtfo, this is my place, this is one of the few places were I am normal and YOURE the freak, but there she is, sitting there happy as a clam, whining about not understanding the food.

    You know who treated my culture respectfully? The one black woman in the restaurant. She didn't whine about shit, and if she didn't like something, she didn't make a spectacle of her own personal tastes. The above is pretty much par for the course, with the very rare exception of one or two white people not having their heads up their asses. I figure poc know how to treat other cultures respectfully cause we all have that unifying experience of wp treating our culture as a fucking spectacle, and like hell will many of us dish it out on someone else.

    Wp? I reserve the right to be annoyed and pissy at their mere presence in one of the few safe spaces I have until they prove themselves otherwise. I have to incessantly prove myself to wp just to move through society.

    Sucks, doesn't it? Difference is, wp did it to themselves. You smack enough people enough times with your white privilege, and you cannot, cannot, cannot fucking blame them for flinching.

    Poc didn't do shit to deserve the everyday evaluation and interrogation, but we go through it anyway. Wtf are you doing here? Are you smart/pretty/successful/WHITE enough to be here?

    Sucks, doesn't it?

    As far as I'm concerned, gtfo. I deal with wp enough as it is, and the few nice ones aren't worth the trouble of putting up my guard, again. Not when it's my time and my space. There are some things we shouldn't have to give just for the off chance that a nice wp might feel uncomfortable. Seriously.

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  31. The sort of white people who would NOT have been observing the festival like a zoo/ghetto tour are probably the same WP who have realized that whites are not, in fact, entitled to be anywhere and everywhere we might want to be--and thus would not have been at the event in the first place.

    Especially not in a group with only other whites.

    @ KB, I very much hope next year at school goes better for you.

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  32. I don't think there's any reason they couldn't observe. Maybe they were there to learn, or to experience things outside their norms?
    I hate how White people always treat us like we're some kind of odd specimen that needs to be studied. Let's go 'observe' the darkies and their customs in their natural habitat. You never engage with us as fellow human beings, you just catalog us like animals.


    Or maybe I'm just being optimistic and giving hipsters too much credit, I don't know.
    I know and I'll tell you: You are. It must be so nice to be white, having people bend over backwards to excuse your racism all the time.

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  33. So, I'm white & have gone to events like KB described. I have no idea if I would be considered a cultural tourist, I should hope not. I will say that hipsters have ruined irony for me, maybe forever, and I believe that gentrification and culture tourism are negative for everyone. @KB - I think your fears are normal and rational.

    My question for you though - as a white girl from the suburbs who is seriously making an effort to deprogram - is what would be the appropriate behavior for a WP? I would have no problem clapping along or dancing to good music, but if the drum circle is not centered around getting the crowd moving, but more about the drumming itself, and everyone is sitting around watching it, and it is in a public space, should I turn away because the drummers are black?? Wouldn't that be just as offensive?? To say that I won't watch something because it seems like it is just for black people, is appalling to me. I am white, and I like drums. What is the protocol?

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  34. @KB Maybe 'zoo' isn't the best analogy- I don't tend to point and laugh at the zoo, so much as stare at creatures I don't get to look at very often. But you're right, people do tend to point and laugh at the zoo, and I don't think this kind of thing is usually so overt. Or at least I hope it isn't.

    @DancingDiva and others:

    "cultural tourism" is a great term that I'd never heard, thank you. It really hits that nail right on the head. Zoo, museum, Filipino restaurant, Black neighborhood festival, country where people with white faces are probably tourists... white people tend to act the same in all these places, don't we?

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  35. You are not wrong to feel like this.

    This is actually one of my biggest fears - that I may one day (or probably have already been) the white person that invades the spaces of POC and makes them feel as you described. My son is biracial and, while there is no partner in the picture, I would still like for him to be able to learn about and appreciate his non-white heritage. How do I teach him about his heritage while still maintaining the "safeness" of POC spaces? I am keenly aware that, as a white person, my presence in a POC space can be seen as making a space unsafe and I would never, ever want that to happen. Is there a way for me to safely enter POC spaces ("safely" meaning in a way that does not make the members of the space feel uncomfortable)?

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  36. I'm not sure I understand how having some white people attend an open event is racist. The OP just said they were there, and that there were onlookers to a drum circle. The OP did not say that these people were smirking with derision, nor did she describe whether their attitude was respectful or not. If them observing is a racist act (and please explain how it was), then what would be the alternative? For them to ignore the drum circle? Should they have to be explicitly invited to watch the drum circle when it's in a public event?

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  37. Stina,

    Just read thru these comments!!!

    And read the post more carefully.

    Fer crap's sake, are white people really THAT dense?

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  38. co-op fatcat,

    I read every single comment. I don't understand how

    "But while I was dancing in the drum circle, a group of white onlookers caught my eye. And as the day progressed, I saw more and more. They were all pretty young and hipster-y. When I saw them, I felt completely deflated, I didn't even want to be there anymore, I had this sudden flash of xenophobia and fears of gentrification."

    fears of xenophobia and gentrification which comments on more white people moving into her neighborhood and making it more likely that she'll end up having to defend herself against racist acts in the future and losing her community and safe space gets translated to other comments on how people are sick of white cultural tourism and claims of these white people treating the drum circle like they were a zoo. She did not mention how these people acted, just that they were there. So I'm asking, how is their presence racist and interpreted as disrespectful if for all we know they could have just been standing there enjoying the music?

    Also, I am a biracial Filipina American so I would appreciate if you don't decide for me that I'm white.

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  39. "Poc didn't do shit to deserve the everyday evaluation and interrogation, but we go through it anyway. Wtf are you doing here? Are you smart/pretty/successful/WHITE enough to be here?

    Sucks, doesn't it?"

    I'm guilty of not understanding the how's and why's of racism a lot of the time, but this seems like a no-brainer and I'm surprised by all the WP wondering what they should do or how racism is at work here. Just read the quote above a few more times, then read it again. And again.

    I'm imagining this judgment that POC talk about as like....if every WP emitted this awful high pitched frequency that we couldn't hear but everyone else could. And we can't turn it off cause that's just the way it is. So all we can do is say, "yeah, I totally get it if you need a break" and not try to come in and ruin that refuge.

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  40. @ Stina

    This is way too "Can YOU PEOPLE teach me how not 2b racist real quick?? KTHNX" for my tastes. But whatev, I'll bite.

    Let me break it down for you.

    People of Color have been enduring racial oppression at the hands of White People (YOUR people) for centuries. About 400 years worth. Because of this long and STILL ACTIVE history of oppression, White people (YOUR people) still to this day wield an extroardinary amount of power to intimidate and coerce People of Color just by walking into a room filled with POC's.

    Individually you may feel you are just another person showing up to "jam" with other persons, but your white skin and your white culture and the white privilege you bring with you acts like a huge frequency jammer to people of color's ability to relax and drop their guard in the presence of your whiteness.

    YOUR whiteness.

    Is that fair? No. It's not at all fair. It's RACISM. That is what Racism makes people do and that is how Racism makes POC's feel.

    Some WP (probably most) may believe this is POC's problem not theirs, that they aren't about to be blamed for whatever bad thing somebody ELSE has been up to for the last 400 years (it's never THEM you see, always somebody else). And other WP are not about to let somebody else's silly fears about whitefolks breaking into their space just to shame and gawk stop them from enjoying a good block party! But these are the WP who don't give a f*ck how POC's feel and don't claim to.

    The WP who claim to CARE about not causing POC's further racial humiliation must take an entirely different attitude.

    You have to understand what you are walking into when you walk into a non-white space as a White Person. You are walking into a community that has endured a centuries long global campaign of color-coded disenfranchisment and exploitation. One which confers POWER and DOMINION of white bodies over brown ones. White bodies like YOURS. Over brown bodies like THEIRS.

    You will be walking into a safe space for the POC's present. And by safe I mean Safe-from-WhitePeople's-Sneering-Importuning-Harassing-Bullshit.

    Until you understand and ACCEPT that THAT legacy is what you carry around with you everywhere you go, and that THAT legacy is what POC who don't know you must respond to and negotiate with you thru, (regardless of your individual intent, regardless of your wish to be seen as just another face in the crowd), then and only then can you begin to conceive of the mindfulness required for YOU to enter into non-white spaces as a white person.

    You dig?

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  41. @Stina

    Didn't realize you were POC until after I already posted. I apologize. My comment still applies for anyone who is wondering how White People can cause drama just by showing up unexpectedly in a non-white space. So, I hopefully I still answered your question. Again pardon the assumption I made that you were White.

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  42. This reminds me of my honeymoon trip to the Four Corners area.

    I'm a black woman married to a Navajo man. and we decided to have our honeymoon be a road trip to the Navajo Rez with a side trip to Colorado to see some snow.

    The Four Corners area is controlled by the Navajo Nation, so we swung by to take pictures. There was a frybread stand, so my husband bought a piece and sat down.

    There was a white family nearby, eating frybread. And then they started complaining loudly about how the frybread was greasy.

    I rolled my eyes. Just what were they expecting? It's called frybread! It's greasy because it's dough fried in Crisco or lard! It's also the reason "greasy frybread face" describes a person's shiny face!

    And besides, it's was no greasier than when I make it or when my mother-in-law makes it. My only complaint, which I whispered to my husband, is that it needed more salt. He agreed, adding that it might have been made bland for the tourists.

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  43. First of all, I'm white, and I live pretty near Leimert Park. I guess I'm a symptom of that gentrification. I'm also not American - I moved here a few years ago from Europe.

    It's sometimes strange for a white person to be in an environment like that - and they're not necessarily being touristy, maybe they just don't know what to do. I guess that it's common for a non-white person to be in a situation (perhaps at your college) where they are the only non-white person in the area, but it's unusual for a white person. And they see a bunch of people doing stuff that looks interesting and fun, and why shouldn't they go along. Just like you or I, as non-Irish people have the right to go and drink Guinness on St Patrick's day - and if an Irish person told us we shouldn't, 'cos it was their thing, that would be, well, weird.

    But, this is not to defend them. Maybe they were cultural tourists, in which case they are assholes.

    It's an interesting point about white people moving in, and gentrification. The thing is, Leimert Park (and Baldwin Hills, View Park, Windsor Hills) are nice areas. And you get more house for your money there, than you do in other nice areas. I've talked about this on real estate discussion boards - and I've been astonished that people have said that they wouldn't move to View Park/Windsor Hills because it's a black area. Maybe if I were black, I wouldn't be astonished by that.

    And I go to parties and events in the neighborhood - and sometimes, like those hipsters, I don't know what to do. At a couple of parties I've been to, there have been card tables, and people play cards - they all seem to know what they're playing. I'd like to join in, but I don't know what they're playing, and I don't know if I'll know the rules of the game, and so sometimes I stand around, unsure what to do, and then maybe people think I'm a cultural tourist. But I hope not. (And I don't know if I don't know what to do because I'm white, or because I'm European).

    Anyway, I see your point about gentrification and white people moving in. But I also think of the people who are selling their home - shouldn't they be allowed to get as much money for it as they can, and isn't that best for them?

    I go to Albertson's on Crenshaw, and the shopping center, and I rarely see another white person in there - and this depresses me. I'm not the only white person that lives near there (where do the other people get their groceries?) And maybe some white people feel awkward because of that (and maybe that's good for them - because they've never been the only person of their race in the room before).

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  44. @KB I'm sorry to hear you had a rough year at school. That sounds horribly lonely and hurtful...

    @burrito asking if KB would have hypothetically responded differently if the white cultural tourists had instead been japanese bystanders:

    the reason many feminist women are cynical about men, and it doesn't get to be called sexism, and lgbt people can criticize hetero-normativity without being called 'heterophobic' is because these are not historically equal dynamics of privilege in this country. calling out 'reverse' -racism, -sexism is a hollow argument because the situation KB experienced does not exist in a vacuum, isolated from her own prior experiences and the historical ongoing reality that white people--specifically--replicate their specific damages to non-white people and communities over and over again.

    pretending that the 'opposing forces' in any scenario are equal and interchangeable only works if the specific groups have not been and are not still in a specific relationship of oppression/privilege, where one dominant group leverages their power deliberately and consistently to perpetuate the marginalization of other groups. it's not a game of entertaining random possibilities.

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  45. @ other white people reading this

    The question in this post is not for us to answer. The End.

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  46. So....when are people gonna stop arguing if this is racism or not. Helloooo, WHAT IS THIS BLOG FOR AGAIN.

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  47. @Jane Laplain

    Thank you for taking the time to try and explain it to me. I did not feel entitled to an explanation. I was honestly confused how it went from gentrification to describing the white people there as treating the people in the drum circle like they were zoo attractions by commenters who (I assume) weren't even at the event. I did not see how the original post was interpreted that way when all she said was that they were there, and in later comments that it gave the event a "museum feeling." In sum, I basically had the same questions that Stephanie and Gracefire had. Now that I look back on it though, I think some commenters were speaking generally about their experiences in a similar setting, and not necessarily about the actual event that the OP was talking about. I don't think it would make much sense for people to assume what those white people were thinking or what their attitudes were if they weren't even there. Body language is yet another layer of communication, much like inflection, that can give an entirely different meaning to one's presence. If we don't have those, we can only guess at what their true motives are. Although, I can see that what other commenters suggest is probably likely.

    Also, I am white and Filipina, which is why I identify as a Filipina American. It is tiring enough as it is to have to defend my right to identify my ethnicity however I want without it being dismissed by other people as if they had more right than me to tell me who I am, or as if they knew me or how my life is better than I do. I've decided that what others think doesn't mean anything to me anymore since I'm often misidentified as latina anyway.

    @barumbara

    I feel you on your story. At a family party one of my aunt's white boyfriends made a comment when I pointed out the puto to my own boyfriend, happy that there was some that I could enjoy. He said "Yeah, you'd think that the purple and green colored ones would taste like grape and lime, but then when you eat it you're like what the hell is this?" I thought to myself, how the fuck can this guy be so insulting and not even realize it? I couldn't say anything though, because I didn't want to embarrass my aunt. Besides, I think he embarrassed himself enough on his own.

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  48. ahnowan said...
    "Sometimes you just want to go someplace where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if someone thinks they're better than you it's just because they're an asshole and not because you have dark skin."

    Ahnowan pretty much said the way I feel most times.

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  49. Until you understand and ACCEPT that THAT legacy is what you carry around with you everywhere you go, and that THAT legacy is what POC who don't know you must respond to and negotiate with you thru, (regardless of your individual intent, regardless of your wish to be seen as just another face in the crowd), then and only then can you begin to conceive of the mindfulness required for YOU to enter into non-white spaces as a white person.

    Honestly? A rough equivalent might be, a guy--a feminist, well-meaning, sweet, kind guy who just wants to help--goes to a meeting for female sexual assault survivors.

    Does that make it clearer?

    There are some times when, no matter HOW awesome and anti-racist a WP is, no matter HOW "mindful" ze's being, zir skin color is a trigger to some POC there due not to inbred cultural racism (what WP have against POC) but due to trauma that WP have caused the person of color in the past.

    Ending racism = ending white privilege. Including the privilege to be wherever we want without regard for POCs' feelings.

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  50. Oh, let me be clear, that was an addition to Jane's comment because I thought it was so awesome. (@ Jane, that was truly fantastic; brava). I'm NOT disagreeing with her or claiming she thought the WP there weren't racist or anything like that! It's addressed to the people here who are claiming it wasn't racist. (Dear heavens, I can't believe there's disagreement on that...?!)

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  51. Thanks, Jane Laplain, for breaking it down so well. As a white boy, I was having some trouble understanding how the mere presence of white people at the art show was a problem. I get that now. Thanks.

    But this leads me to a question. As a white person, I'm racist if I ignore the Lemeirt Park neighborhood, its residents and its art show. I'm also racist if I "invade" it. I get that--I'm racist in either case. But then what? There's still Leimert Park, its residents and its art show. Existentially, I have to choose to DO something. Do I ignore Leimert Park or embrace it?

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  52. Stephanie said...
    “I would have no problem clapping along or dancing to good music, but if the drum circle is not centered around getting the crowd moving, but more about the drumming itself, and everyone is sitting around watching it, and it is in a public space, should I turn away because the drummers are black?? Wouldn't that be just as offensive?? To say that I won't watch something because it seems like it is just for black people, is appalling to me. I am white, and I like drums. What is the protocol?”

    As I understand it, it wasn’t just the drummers who were black- it was an all-black space for the most part.

    “All of the featured art depicted the ‘black struggle’ or black leaders. It was basically a BLACK event, or an event for POC.”

    There are no rules, there are no books- laws or regulations to govern situations such as these but know this. Your presence, your color… your willingness to invade another’s space because you can, has a negative effect on those Poc at the event. Hipster signifies to me, that whites are trying desperately to be anything other than the whites they are. And they’re looking to non-whites as a means of bolstering that image; particularly by patronizing events most whites would avoid altogether.

    Until recently certain country clubs and neighborhoods were off-limits to non-whites. Minorities were purposely steered away from districts set aside for whites by banks and real-estate agents. In your hubris not only do you claim the right to exclude non-whites from your spaces, but you extend your privilege to non-white venues as well. You have been conditioned by privilege to have your cake and eat it too.

    There are no safe places for minorities to just be themselves without whites initiating formal proceedings to include themselves in the affair. You must be the center of attention and you must be integrated into everything because your interests are paramount. You can’t even conceive of an occasion where you’re not wanted- it’s beyond your scope to even consider such an idea.

    I am reminded of a South Park episode where gentrification was a concern for the local residents as well. I think their solution to the problem was in keeping with the traditions of certain white folk when they feel threatened. It’s a parody yes, but it still hits home.

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  53. @ Jane

    *bows down*

    @ Matt

    You've made the classic error of making a POC's story all about you. You also almost - just almost- had a Frasier Crane moment.

    Remember what KB said. The drum circle wasn't an art "exhibit". It was about POC being with other POC and enjoying themselves and their heritage. Recall, before WP started moving in, it was their neighborhood. It was their cultural sanctuary, and now some, like KB, feel those days are numbered.

    Also, POC have remarked for ages how much they loathe white folks showing up and just "watching" us.

    So, Mr. Man, choose to simply not do it. Choose to go do something else.

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  54. @ Anonymous

    For someone who doesn't want to defend or apologize, you appear to do an awful lot of both.

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  55. I was having trouble posting yesterday, which is probably just as well, as other people said what I wanted to say better than I did. One thing I wanted to say can now be phrased as a response to Matt: yes, exactly, one of the consequences of a racist society is that sometimes our white actions can have racist impact no matter what we do. We can either say, "oh well" and retreat into white privilege, or we can live aware of the problem and look around for ways to try to change structures so the problem goes away in the long run. For example, if whites behaved better in white-dominated spaces (and behaved better generally) it would make the need for POC safe spaces less intense.

    Also, the OP reminded me of Nathan McCall's Them: A Novel, about gentrification in Atlanta, which dug into a lot of these issues.

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  56. @ M. Gibson

    In your hubris not only do you claim the right to exclude non-whites from your spaces, but you extend your privilege to non-white venues as well. You have been conditioned by privilege to have your cake and eat it too.

    Thank you. This is an excellent example of "the Sweet Tooth".

    There are no safe places for minorities to just be themselves without whites initiating formal proceedings to include themselves in the affair. You must be the center of attention and you must be integrated into everything because your interests are paramount. You can’t even conceive of an occasion where you’re not wanted - it’s beyond your scope to even consider such an idea.

    BINGO. I really hope Matt and Anonymous took the time to read that. This fits right in with the Second & Third Walls of Abagond's Law.

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  57. Matt said...
    “But this leads me to a question. As a white person, I'm racist if I ignore the Lemeirt Park neighborhood, its residents and its art show. I'm also racist if I "invade" it. I get that--I'm racist in either case. But then what?"

    The problem I see is your inability to put yourself in the resident’s shoes. It wouldn’t be ‘racist’ of you to ignore the area, but it would be ‘considerate’ and it would be ‘respectful.’ (Unless your were invited) That’s where empathy comes into play and that’s what some whites seem to lack. If you knew how the original poster felt- if you had any inclination as to what it’s like to be hurt by whites (not just one individual mind you- but a whole system of oppression) then you would automatically understand.

    To the white mind any ‘safe place’ set aside for non-whites is inherently racist because “it excludes you.” Empathy is what you lack- and empathy is what you need. You have it for your fellow whites, that’s a given- it’s hard-wired into your DNA. But you’re utterly bankrupt when it comes to non-whites. Therefore you lack an understanding- that in itself is typical of most whites.

    Hence, you persist in analyzing and debating racial concepts completely foreign to you. Even after you thanked Jane Laplain for breaking things down for you- you still don’t get it. And there’s the rub….

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  58. Moi said...
    Thank you. This is an excellent example of "the Sweet Tooth".

    Beautiful..
    Simply beautiful.

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  59. Thanks to all for the comments on my post.

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  60. Read all of the comments and I would like to know how WP conduct themselves when they visit other WP communities.

    What does the urban WP person do when s/he visits WP in small town America?

    What does the American WP person do when s/he visits WP in Europe?

    What does the wealthy WP person do when s/he meets a poor WP?

    Do you treat them like specimens that need to be studied and cataloged?
    Do you treat them like animals in a zoo?
    Do you consider yourself a cultural tourist?
    Do you feel entitled to be anywhere and everywhere you want?
    Do you just stand around not knowing what to do?

    After all we all know WP are not a monolith and do not have the same privilege, money, culture, language, food, religion, etc.

    So what does a WP do in these situations?

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  61. FWIW, here's this white girl's advice to other white people who 'want to learn about POCs culture':

    White people, have you never heard of youtube? There's all sort of videos put up by people of all nationalities and cultures and in many different languages. You can watch and learn to your heart's content and never once infringe on anyone else's cultural space.
    And that's just one venue. There's lots and lots of sites to learn stuff WITHOUT making an ass of yourself.

    It's called the internet. Use it to edjamacate yourself.

    And yes, I got this knowledge the hard way. I once took it upon myself to go to the Filipino section of Taipei on a Sunday to try some 'authentic cuisine'. I was made unwelcome in no uncertain terms. I learned: in POC spaces, white skin = racist asshole, no matter how noble your intentions may be.
    So be respectful, and stay away, ok?

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  62. @Jane Laplain...your words, on point...period.


    whites of good will may feel like they're in between a rock and a hard place...well, you are; because that's the position your unearned "privilege" puts people of color in general and Black folk in particular. white supremacy is an expression of an collective ego run rampant; you actually believe you have qualities that set you apart from the rest of the human family; you're like the bull-in-a-china-shop that struts around carelessly knocking over every object in sight because you are oblivious to the effect you're having on the people around you...why do you think the term "ugly American" created?...it's describing the hubris of white people...white people are the face of power, competence, desirability...and you wear it like a lime-green jumpsuit at a black-tie formal...

    soooo, for the white person who claims to want to renounce racism/ white privlege, this is what you're workin' with...the necessity of having your oversized ego deflated, to rejoin the human race; no better or worse than anyone else...are most white people able to make the necessary adjustments?...at this point, i wouldn't bet my rent money on it...but i appreciate the moderator of this blog for even making the attempt...

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  63. @mixitup re: "All neighborhoods change."

    Uh, no. I'm sure you can think of more than a few neighborhoods that were founded white, have an uninterrupted white history and will remain white in the foreseeable future. The dynamic change in neighborhood you describe involved only ethnic groups that have been out-groups to the Anglo-European whites.

    @many other white questioners re: "what is racist about just being there if there is no 'attitude'?"

    The assumption that for an act to be designated racist one has to be behaving in an overtly negative or hateful or disrespectful way betrays a gross misunderstanding of what racism really is and how it works. Jane Laplain spelled it out most clearly. White people bring with us--whether we want to or not--the history of white oppression of POC. To not be aware of that is what makes any "innocent" curiosity or participation in events celebrating POC culture an act that carries racist overtones. Racism is perpetuated by the neutral, the well-meaning and the culturally hip as much as by the clueless, the hateful and the bigot.

    For those WP who ask, "How can I not be racist in that situation?" the answer is that you can't not be racist, nor should you be primarily concerned with what you are or aren't. You can only be more or less aware of the effect of your presence and act on your awareness (for example to not go there but also not to feel like you are somehow being discriminated against by the fact that the participants prefer a white-free zone).

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  64. @ M.Gibson - thanks to you and all the other commenters. I really wasn't thinking about the difference between integration and invasion. I usually think about privilege in terms of getting jobs and wages and housing and such, and hadn't thought about how just being present could appropriate someone else's good time & sense of community. Of course it can, and does. Reading my question, I feel like a Nice White Lady giving herself gold stars for not personally oppressing anyone. Anyway, I appreciate the feedback & will continue to lurk...

    @jas0nburns - I have been walking around all day thinking about my skin going "squeeeeeeeee" to everyone in the room but me. It kind of makes me laugh but also makes me hyper-aware of my whiteness, even when the room is full of white people. It is a fantastic analogy.

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  65. I think olderwoman said it better, but I'm going to repeat it because I think it's a commonly used excuse.

    Sometimes, there is no right answer.

    This is no excuse for us WP to go hide in a corner because we just can't win. POC are put into positions where they just can't win on a regular basis, and the fact that we can just step out of that position is a privelige. If there were an easy formula for how to get around it, racism wouldn't suck nearly so badly. When you run into a situation where there is no right answer, put the feelings and rights of the POC ahead of your desire to look non racist* and come as close to right as you can. And if you screw up, apologize and do better next time instead of throwing your hands up in the air and giving up on the whole thing.


    *which seems to be the dilemma in Matt's example, since going to the event seems more like a "see, I'm cool with black people" thing than an actual anti-racist effort.

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  66. I want to ask a question related to this post. As a white woman, I have heard over and over about white people invading the spaces of POC during various cultural events. And I do agree with the idea of "cultural tourism" being very disrespectful. What I want to ask though is this... if a white person is invited with a group of Black friends to an event such as the one described above, is it the same thing? I am asking honestly, because I have had a group of West Indian friends who for many years have asked me to attend the West Indian Day parade with them in Brooklyn, and I never have for that very reason. Is a single white person coming with a group of Black friends to an event like the parade looked at the same way as a group of white people coming on their own to observe or participate?

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  67. @Joanna

    I think that question was answered a few times in this thread already.

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  68. @Joanna:

    The key word in your post is "invite."

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  69. @ Stephanie, Gracefire, Matt, others who have whined about "wanting to learn the culture"

    It's not about you.

    @ Anonymous
    That's also another thing that grinds my gears about the new white residents, they come to the parties, and events but don't come to the community meetings, and don't shop within the community. That's what gentrification is, not participating actively in the community will cause it to decay.

    And THAT'S partly why it's racist, you mean to tell me you want to "learn my culture" by taking pictures of the only Obama painting and watching the drum circle, but you cant't come to the "Save Leimert Park" meetings? REALLY??

    It's not that the WP present did anything racist at the actual event. It's about what their presence REPRESENTS. (people have already broke this down, but I'll do it again). I went to a school where 3% of the entire student body was Black. I had to answer stupid questions all effing year about how my hair "got like that." I had to sit there while the teacher ignored my comments, but applauded the white student who said the same exact thing. I had to pretend I didn't notice how "surprised" everyone was at my ability to articulate myself. I had to explain to people that no, I've never seen anyone get shot. I cried alot, I saw a counselor. It was intense to say the least. Now, I go home, ready to just be myself and not have to defend my right to be somewhere. I could go home where I was just ME. Seeing white faces, in MY space just brought back all of the crap I went through the entire year. Their presence represented a constant humiliation of my culture, and the disappearance of it all together into a white, trendy mass.

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  70. I posted as anonymous, above, Macon gave me a username (palamiter) so am posting with that name.

    @Jane Laplain: That is a really vivid perpective. You really made me think about this more deeply (along with what a lot of other posters said).

    Having become interested in the event, I did a google search for the art walk, and I'm not sure if it changes anyone's POV if it's billed as "the public is welcome". Do the local businesses/sponsors want people from outside the community to attend?

    I've gone to a Greek cultural festival -- listed in the Go Guide in my local paper. The flyers and publicity make it clear that the public is welcome, and the people at the food and craft booths would hand out things with explanations (the vendors clearly expected that most of the public attending weren't really familiar with Greek food beyond lemon chicken, for example.) The people there were a diverse bunch; not 95 percent Greek and a few random hipsters, you know?

    So I don't know...is attending a publicized event different than hipsters just hanging around an ethnic neighborhood on a regular weekend?

    (It makes sense that it might not feel any different for KB, from the way she explains how the situation felt.)

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  71. @ palamiter

    Thanks. Glad I could help. Apparently tho I'm still not getting all the way thru.

    So I don't know...is attending a publicized event different than hipsters just hanging around an ethnic neighborhood on a regular weekend?

    Seriously!?? You really don't understand the difference between an open invitation to a public event advertised as such, and the gentrification of an entire community??? REAALLY???

    Listen. if you want to go, then go. It's a free country and no one is about to stop you. But you are missing the point, and willfully I might add, if you insist on keeping this discussion centeed on how YOU as a white person can attend POC events without accusations of white privilege harshing your buzz.

    I had thought the focus of this post was KB's feelings. How she, as a black woman, actually FEELS about all these "curious" white hipsters in the process of dismantling her community via "gentrification" (an actively racist phenomenon in and of itself) and further disrespecting the residents by not even contributing to the community's upkeep or reaching out to any of the POC residents in any meaningful way.

    This is a golden opportunity for all of us here, particularly for the WP... to engage with a REAL LIVE POC person who has made herself vulnerable by sharing her personal experience with racism. And here she is actually willing to unpack her own baggage about the trauma she's come to feel from the racist disrespect she regularly encounters from clueless Whitepeople.

    But wait! Nevermind all that this is some urgent ish over here!! Palamiter's inalienable right to party any and everywhere he damn well pleases is on the line! Let's all focus on how we can make things easier on you shall we? Season passes to The Appollo, perhaps?

    Sorry folks it's been a loooooong day so i might be acting out just a teeny bit. Queen of the Cynics, girl, if you're out there reading... today I feel you.

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  72. @KB

    You're right. This is not about me. This is about my biracial son having the right to learn about and experience his non-white heritage. Like I said in my previous post, I have no partner. If there was, I would have absolutely no problem letting them guide my son. I was in no way whining about wanting to "learn culture." If that was the case, there are plenty of books I could read or museums I could visit. And while my son can do that as well (and I fully plan on encouraging him to do so), is he doomed to be excluded from all non-white spaces until he is old enough to go seek them out for himself simply because he has a white mother?

    So, again, my question is this: Is there any safe way that I can help my son learn about and experience his non-white heritage?

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  73. Queen of the CynicsJuly 2, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    Jane, I see you and I feel you too

    @Gracefire
    You think you're so slick, but you're still making it about you, using your son as a cover "is he doomed to be excluded from all non-white spaces until he is old enough to go seek them out for himself simply because he has a white mother?".

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  74. @ Gracefire,

    Your question has been answered. (In fact, people have directly pointed out that this question has already been answered.) In this very thread, numerous POC have said, over and over, that there is a very big, very important difference between intruding and being invited.

    Are you willfully disregarding this distinction that they are making? Are you trying to set yourself up like some kind of martyr figure? Because that is pretty much how your post reads to me.

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  75. @Gracefire

    Yes I have some advice. Leave whiteness. Immerse yourself in a community and culture that isn't white. And by immerse I don't just mean show up and watch from the margins for a while. No, if you want to be in your son's world then be IN it. Surround yourself with people who look like him and have already lived like him. Take their stories into your heart and let them guide you thru this new terrain. LISTEN to them.

    Be willing to be uncomfortable in whiteness. Struggle to learn a new language. Be outnumbered. Be unpopular and unwanted and still manage to stick around thru all the humiliating rejections you WILL endure each day because people assume you don't and can't belong.

    Learn all of the above and you will learn 0.1% of what your son will go thru if you decide to raise him in a predominantly white environment. I say 0.1% because when it comes to race, you personally can't go anywhere on this planet and not run into white supremacy to some degree. You have no idea what a difference having the option to "opt out" of an uncomfortable racial atmosphere makes in a person's life. It's the difference between discomfort and despair. But you can at least experience prejudice, experience feeling racially outnumbered and othered for a space of time.

    I think ultimately what you're asking is "What's the best way to handle [insert racial dilemma]" but the answer isn't in doing or not doing. It's in being open to this particular kind of pain in the first place. You can't protect your son from Racism. THIS is the world you've brought him into. But you can make sure he's not alone in this world.

    I don't know how to say it any plainer than that. I hope that helps.

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  76. @Gracefire

    Of course you can go to the event, just be AWARE of what you represent, that's what everyone is trying to say!! It's not that you can't go, and it's not that it's not "safe" (which conjures up all types of weirdo connotations). It's that YOU will represent oppression, so once again it's not about YOUR feelings, if you really want to educate your son, go to the events, and actively participate to better the community, or don't go and read a book.

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  77. KB,
    Your post reminds me of how uncomfortable it feels when throngs of white people flock to South Asian festivals or celebrations. It absolutely feels like we and our culture are on exhibition. Often, these WP will wear traditional South Asian clothing (a tendency that has become quite popular after Slumdog), while most of us Desis (and other PoC) will be in jeans and t-shirts. At times, I think the WP are actually waiting for us to jump into Bollywood type song and dance. I have also heard many a white acquaintance comment on how "cultured" zie felt when taking part in Diwali celebrations.

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  78. Gracefire: Stop it. This is classic derailing and it's also super illustrative of what KB is saying about WP invading her space. It is not KB's job to answer your question. The purpose of this forum is for supportive POC to answer HER question, to lend HER support, and to validate HER feelings. Your persistence at trying to turn HER space into a venue about YOUR issue is exactly what HER main post was about. If you have to go to the internet to find POC to ask questions about your biracial child, you have a lot of work to do to make him comfortable in his own skin. But, wait, I'm catering to your incessant desire for attention to your issue. WORK IT OUT SOMEWHERE ELSE AND LET THIS PERSON HAVE TIME/SPACE FOR HER OWN PAIN. If someone grants you a post on a blog about your issue, fine, live it up, but that's not what's happened here. Maybe you could try starting your own blog. Better yet, I suggest you find some parents of biracial children IN REAL LIFE and build yourself and your son a REAL COMMUNITY rather than martyring yourself to people on the internet while you do apparently little in your own life (since you don't seem to have anyone else to ask) to actually make this situation better FOR YOUR SON...is that maybe the problem...that this isn't about HIM at all but that you're using him as a name badge to force KB to say that you're not like every other WP she's talking about. You are. Your baby doesn't change that.

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  79. [Macon: if you get two comments from me with similar content, just publish the first one, since I think Blogger ate my first comment]

    @palamiter: Having become interested in the event, I did a google search for the art walk, and I'm not sure if it changes anyone's POV if it's billed as "the public is welcome". Do the local businesses/sponsors want people from outside the community to attend?

    RVCBard and Jane Laplain have already made it quite clear what the differences are between being invited (whether as an individual or the public), and simply showing up and standing around. Beyond that, you seem to be intimating that the drum circle was public just because the art walk was. Unless "Come watch a drum circle!" was on the publicity, I disagree. Maybe it was even a spur of the moment thing, and wasn't planned -- I mean, you wouldn't stand around watching a group of friends play frisbee, even if it happened to occur on the same day as a public cookout.

    It's like if the CEO of a company started spending time in the break room. It doesn't matter how cool s/he is, his/her mere presence is going to change the way most people behave. Or like how even if everyone on the highway is driving the speed limit, most people are still going to jam on their brakes when they see a cop parked on the median. It makes people hyper-aware of their own actions, and that's fundamentally incompatible with being oneself.

    But it's not about that, it's about how KB felt. It's about the fact that she spent most of a year away from home, feeling marginalized and having to listen to White people being ignorant morons and asking racist questions. It's about the fact that when she came home to the one place she thought she'd feel safe, she suddenly found it didn't feel so safe anymore.

    Think about a place in your life where you truly feel like you can be yourself. Now imagine someone is there watching you, or listening to you, or even just standing there. It probably doesn't feel so great.


    @Jane Laplain: I can't be the only one who's sick of how Every. Single.Post turns into a debate over whether or not the given examples are really racism.

    @Macon: Can we please have a new entry in the commenting guidelines? Something along the lines of: "Don't try to debate whether or not racism occurred. If you're commenting to say how the example in a post is more about (classism, sexism, people being jerks) than racism, please don't."

    I mean, that's slightly covered in #9, but maybe it needs to be more explicit? Maybe it should even be #1, since while I understand how annoying the "Anonymous" thing can be to moderation and comments, it seems like the "Let me explain why it wasn't racism" comments are hurting this community far more than some confusion over multiple "Anonymous" comments.

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  80. Thanks for the suggestion, Jon R, I'll take a look at that (as soon as Blogger stops giving me fits about editing posts).

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  81. @Jane Laplain

    I do know the difference.

    And I also said that whether the public is invited or not may not affect how KB FEELS.

    Some people are saying that an event like this is okay to attend if you're invited, and I was pointing out that flyers are seen as an invitation to something, and folks assume they are welcome to come and won't be intruding on an event meant to be a neighborhood celebration -- somebody else's block party.


    @Jon R I just remembered something. When I was young and in the Army (20 years ago) and a black friend I work with invited me and a buddy to a party when we ran into each other at the store. We brought some vodka and showed up and were the only white people there. We stayed for a bit and talked with some folks, but even though we were invited and knew lots of people there, so we didn't stay very long. Not that anybody at the party said a single thing to make us feel unwelcome, but Jane, you helped me to get why we did.

    So yeah, you can be invited to something and still be kind of...not welcome.

    Jon R said:Think about a place in your life where you truly feel like you can be yourself. Now imagine someone is there watching you, or listening to you, or even just standing there. It probably doesn't feel so great.

    Most white people don't understand that feeling except sometimes in isolated contexts, I think, not everyday (my neighborhood growing up, and how I still feel more relaxed around working-class Polish-Americans than around the WASPs I work with).

    Personally, if I realize attending an event or watching an activity will make other people uncomfortable or feel bad, I don't want to be the oaf who does that, and I don't think most other people do either.

    I'm saying that most people will see a flyer/listing as "all are welcome here" and of course people who might feel uncomfortable, like KB, are not going to say anything, out of politeness, and a lot of folks will not "sense" other people's discomfort. Which I guess is SWPD.

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  82. There's another kind of problem that happens because of the failure to distinguish between two kinds of posts. One is POC talks about something bad that happened to them. One common response of sympathetic WP is to wonder how, as a WP, one could help make such a situation better. As a WP, I feel this impulse all the time, but it can easily degenerate into "how can I help" and "it's all about me" and work to deflect attention from listening to the POC.

    The other kind of post is WP talks about wondering how to handle a situation and POC critique various proposed ways of behaving. For example, the preceding post on wondering if it is always appropriate to intervene. It seems to me that it could often be helpful & constructive to follow a post like this one with a follow up for whites, for example for this one "WP wonder how to promote integrate constructively without intruding on POC safe spaces."

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  83. To all the people that responded to me (especially Jane Laplain):

    Thank you for your input, it has been helpful. I talk about these things a lot with the small group of friends I have made who have kids (most of my friends are childfree and it doesn't help that I am kind of an introvert), which does include other parents of biracial kids, but I like getting input from as wide a range of people as possible, so I thought I would ask here. I'm sorry if my questions derailed the discussion. This was certainly not my intention.

    To those that felt I was "martyring" myself or I just wanted validation that I was not like "those white people", I am sorry my posts came across like that. That was certainly not my intention. My main question was if there was any place or situation where being a white person in a POC space was acceptable, and that has been answered. So thank you.

    And, particularly to KB: Again, I am sorry if my questions derailed your original post. This post was about your pain and alienation and I am sorry if my questions contributed to that in any way.

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  84. @Gracefire....

    An apology is NOT an apology when the word 'if' is involved.

    What you just did up above, is the standard 'non-apology', which is more insulting than if you didn't bother at all.

    Your comments did indeed derail the thread, your intentions are irrelevant. If you have any respect for the people who took their time to not only deal with your derailment but to also break things down for you, then you would offer a FULL and SINCERE apology for your comments.

    SWPD: Offer half/insincere apologies when they offend POC.

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  85. To soul, KB and others in the thread: I am sorry that my comments derailed the thread. That was not my intention. I want to do what is right for my child and for the communities I am involved in, but I see now that this was not the place to ask the questions I asked. I should have left this space for the OP and the people supporting hir feelings.

    I am also sorry that my original apology offended. I was sincere, but I can see now how my wording was inappropriate. I did derail the thread and, again, I am sorry.

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  86. Queen of the CynicsJuly 3, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Will you stop mentioning your intention. it's fucking irrelevant.

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  87. "I am sorry that my comments derailed the thread."
    "I am also sorry that my original apology offended."

    You're still distancing yourself. You should be saying "I'm sorry I derailed the thread with my comments."
    "I'm sorry I originally hurt and offended."

    Please just read this entry: http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2010/01/offer-white-apologetics-instead-of-just.html

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  88. I am sorry I derailed the thread with my comments and I am sorry I hurt and offended. Again, I should have left this space for the support of the OP, and I am sorry.

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  89. @ grace
    try this site for anti-racist parenting
    http://loveisntenough.com/

    that would be the more appropriate place to direct your questions

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  90. I'm curious, and I'm sorry for asking ^^;

    But what spaces are POC spaces? I mean when I try to think of any, I can't. I can only think of one, a Hispanic man who invites my dad and me over to hang out with his family.

    Just any event where white people are absent?

    Then again, I usually don't just stand around awkwardly...

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  91. @gracefire, the truest evidence of your sincerity and committment to combating white supremacy is to not let Jane's, soul's and cloudy's appropriate admonishment of your (i believe unintentional) derailing of this discussion to prevent you from refering to or participate in future subjects on this blog...

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  92. Ronnie... I understand that you are trying to encourage gracefire to continue participation as part of her anti-racist work, but do you really believe that participating in a discussion on a blog is ANYONE'S "truest evidence of your sincerity and committment to combating white supremacy"?? This is the internet. There is a whole REAL WORLD out there, and I think there are so many more concrete ways to do anti-racist work than participating in a blog, though I do believe that it can be ONE COMPONENT in the fight against white supremacy.

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  93. Joanna, like you said, the internet is ONE component...these discussions are as real as if i were talkin' to you face to face...if not, why would we bother expressing our opinions? I may not cross gracefire's path anytime soon...so the blog is what i'm workin' with...feel me?

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  94. Ronnie... sorry for being blunt and well, kind of rude in my last comment.... I do believe participating in this blog is a good thing... its just that some people think "Well, I talk about racism and white supremacy on a blog online, so now I don't have to DO anything about it in real life" so I wanted to emphasize that there is so much more to do then participate in an online discussion

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  95. James - any place that WP are the minority or non-existent. Any cultural festival or street party that doesn't involve a majority of white-skinned people. Puerto Rican festival, Kwanzaa celebration, neighborhood block party, Soul Fest, various Independence Day celebrations for countries you've never been a resident of, etc. It really doesn't require much to figure this out. If it isn't a part of your culture to be involved in such a thing, it's not a white space. Even if it IS a part of your culture, you should be invited to enter by the people who know it's been a part of your culture.

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  96. Hmm, ok. Pretty straight forward.

    It's rather disappointing to see that cultures must be separated for them to be comfortable. I do understand why it is this way though.

    Would you say someone who was raised in a POC neighborhood is invasive? (not talking about myself)

    Well I would want an invitation, I'm no party crasher >.<

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  97. Joanna, no harm, no foul, love. Look, you did speak a truth; many white people do feel that if they piggyback on a discussion about racism/ white supremacy, they've absolved themselves of any individual responsibility. White privilege is a very petty, pompous self-delusion...it can be an a extremely warped attempt to glean a measure of self-esteem or a prideful stab at self-exaltation...either way, it's a lot easier for white folks to TALK about it than to renounce and reject it...


    In terms of white people interacting with Black people in particular or POC in general, it's hard for whites to take a back seat on any level because they've been the center of attention for so long, been the standard for all things that matter, being relegated to the "general seating section" is akin to an insult...to not be regarded, consulted, desired or wanted is like a living death...that's why it so easy for them to take a discussion about someone else's pain and morph it into "what about me?"..."you're seperating yourselves!"..."why do you need BET or EBONY?"...isn't that racist???, etc., etc. etc.

    sigh!

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  98. @James

    Would you say someone who was raised in a POC neighborhood is invasive? (not talking about myself)

    I actually was raised in many different POC neighborhoods not once or twice, but always. I don't think there's any exception there either, despite my own knowledge that I'm genuinely enjoying something I have enjoyed since childhood. The way I see it, everyone else there doesn't know where I came from. To them, I'm yet another white face.

    I'd only go if my friends said, "Hey, come with us!" And believe me, there are times that they do *not* want me to go with them (night clubs, a girls' night out here and there, some parties). If people who actually know my intentions need space from white sometimes, it's easy for me to see how people who don't know me might feel.

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  99. To add to what Victoria said.... DO NOT accept an invitation from friends to go to a non-white space or event, and then spend DAYS AND DAYS after wards complaining because you get the perception that someone is "looking at you funny". This happened when I was in college. My friends often invited me to fraternity parties and step shows. I always enjoyed myself. Not only was I with friends, but most of the people at the events already knew me. This other white girl was invited by some acquantances to a step show, and for days after, all she did was complain about how people were "giving her dirty looks" and making her feel "uncomfortable" I believe she went to the show just to satisfy her own curiousity. She never once considered how POC might feel every day in our majority white college, she was just worried about how SHE felt.

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  100. In Canada, the Caribana festival which celebrates the freedom of African slaves from the Caribbean is NOW completely taken over by people of other races. It's no longer the festival it used to be and I no longer attend. In Canada, where there are black communities, gentrification is EVERYWHERE. Do not come to live in Canada...it's actually far worse.

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  101. Joanna, yes! Just because some people invite us doesn't mean everyone there did or we have a pass. Good point.

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  102. This first paragraph might be a derail, but I'm not sure. >.<

    The question I asked might be a derail, because what I was getting at is that someone I know who is white lives in a neighborhood thats almost completely populated with POC. She doesn't really even care. But she tells me that she feels that she isn't allowed to walk outside. I asked her why, and she said because she feels that people she passes act pissed towards her, or dumbfounded that a white girl is walking outside in the neighborhood. She points out that it's not the majority of the people, but enough to make her feel like she has to stay inside. The thing that makes it unique to me, though, is that this neighborhood is a development type place, and she was one of the first people to put a house out there. To her, she's a legitimate native of that neighborhood. Also, since it's only the newer families behaving this way, she finds it extremely rude for 'new' people to be offended by her presence.

    I don't know what to tell her, that she needs to understand that her neighbors might want a space without WP, or that those few people are dicks and try to ignore them?

    I know this is probably a complete derail, so it won't hurt my feelings if you call me out on it ^^: I would copy paste this and ask it on another medium, but I'm afraid I will get a privileged answer.

    Anyway. I'll keep that in mind, and thanks for the clarification.

    I suppose if I am invited to a POC event, maybe it's best to stay withdrawn and stick close to those who invited you?

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  103. James- tell your friend to DEAL WITH IT!!! POC in this country who live in predominantly white neighborhoods go through the same shit every day! It also depends on HER attitude, to be honest. I lived in a predominantly West Indian neighborhood, with a Grenadian family. I was friendly with my neighbors. I smiled and waved when I saw a neighbor on the street. My neighbors usually smiled and waved back. If they didn', I assumed they wanted to be left alone, and I respected their wishes.... When I went to the stores, the first few times people looked surprised to see me, but after that they knew who I was and were mostly friendly, OR they ignored me and went about their own business. On the few occasions where people seemed bothered by my presence, I DEALT WITH IT! My sister and her husband also moved into a predominantly Black neighborhood. They constantly complained about their neighbors. They insisted that when a woman questioned them about cleaning up after their dog it was because she hated them because they were white. When my brother in law got into a verbal altercation with a neighbor, he started yelling out for other people to call the police. When they didn't, he started loudly yelling "It's because I am white, isn't it?" They had NO RESPECT for their neighbors.
    White people have such a long history of discriminating against others that they want to legitimize their bigotry by swearing that THEY are being discriminated against. If she lived in a white neighborhood and her neighbors acted "pissed" towards her, would she still feel like she could not walk on the streets? She has no idea what her neighbors or thinking, feeling, or experiencing. White people are so used to basing their behavior around POC on hatred and bigotry that they project that onto anyone who seems to not like them. They cannot IMAGINE that it is something they SAID or DID to offend. Often, they want to put the label of "discrimination" on the behavior of others because they are projecting from their own mindset! I mean DAMN, not everyone is going to love and embrace you... get over yourself!! ( I am speaking to the white collective here, not you specifically!)

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  104. James, you do realize it's possible for a white person to live in a Black neighborhood...and not be OF the neighborhood!...I live near a beach community (Venice, California) that has had a significant African-American population since the 1900's...in fact, the coastal areas (Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach) were the places that Black folk were essentially exiled to because Black weren't allowed to live in the central inland cities...It wasn't until white folks decided that living by the oceanfront was desirable that gentrification became the rule of thumb...and don't forget "gentrification" for all practical purposes means that when white decide a neighborhood has value THEY move in...

    but i digress, when whites started moving into Venice, property values went up, the wealthier whites started pressuring local government to enforce "quality of life" laws...which were nothing but "fix up your house or be fined"...naturally, older Black and Latino residents couldn't afford to fix their homes, some move away because they can't afford the property tax...So now there are two Venice areas...one were Black and Latino families eventually give up the ghost and move and rich whites who buy up the lots and build up fortresses with privacy gates and shrubbery...walking around with their hipster selves, riding their bikes, walking their dogs, patiently biding their time until there are no "undesirables" left...so no, you don't get a merit badge for being a white guy or girl living in a Black neighborhood, unless you are actually apart of hood in spirit and in deed...

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  105. I was thinking of that when she talked to me about it. I would hope she's smarter than that, being how she can usually see though shit like that.

    Thanks again for the input, I appreciate it.

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  106. Ronnie... I remember back when my sister moved into the neighborhood she moved into (in Bed Stuy) and I was so angry at her because I KNEW that she would have no respect for her neighbors, and she would NOT try to be part of the neighborhood.... around that time I read an article about gentrification and the article called the white people moving into the area (I believe it was Harlem) PIONEERS???? I thought that was SO OFFENSIVE!!!

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  107. Ronnie,

    No way!

    I am interning in LA (walking distance from Venice), and I've already seen plenty of the hippiest hipsters that ever hipped--are the bungalow houses right near the beach the ones that originally belonged to Black people? I was just there on the Fourth and my aunt and I remarked on the strange combo of old-school and just-built houses near the beach.

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  108. Hey James, here's a really good SWPD post to share with your friend. It's about white people who feel bad about living in POC neighborhoods.
    SWPD: Feel Bad About Participating in Gentrification

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  109. @Joanna

    I agree. I used to live in Harlem...or Morningside Heights to be exact. I noticed that in a few months, more and more whites started to move in. My roommate at the time, who was a Columbia student and of mixed Hispanic/Jewish background said to me that she noticed that the white people in our neighborhood kind of acted like they "owned" the place--never once acknowledging us.

    I remember one day I was on the train and there was this older black homeless guy going on some rant about how whites were "taking" over Harlem when years ago they wouldn't have stepped foot there. It was interesting to see (but no surprise) that a great deal of the white people on the subway shifted uncomfortably in their seats, while the passengers that were POC had a knowing smirk on their faces.

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  110. Jasmin,
    The Oakwood area of Venice (the place you're told NOT to go into after dark) was the area Black folk originally settled in the 1930's and 40's...but like the Dodo Bird, Black and Latino residents are slowly but surely being relegated to extinct status...The Oakwood area is east of Abbot Kinney (the founder of Venice) and west of Lincoln...and beware, those hipsters bite! lololol

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  111. was just re-reading this and the end of page 3 reminded me of this discussion

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