Thursday, January 1, 2009

shop with a lack of racial self-awareness

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.

--Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies"

Dave Chappelle
"Def Poetry Jam"


  1. Being followed in a store is so normal to me. I don't even pay attention anymore, I just say "No," when someone asks me if I need help looking for something for the 100th time. Anyway, yesterday at my friend's house I got the "all black people look alike thing" because a family friend of my friend's referred to me by the name of another black girl. It was funny cause I had never met that family friend and I def. don't like ANYTHING like the other girl. There are very very obvious difference between us, hieght, hair length, skin color!, etc. I was kind of suprised that she would even confuse me with her. Not that the other girl was ugly, just we look VERY different.

  2. I love the line, "I don't do generalizations, but I do percentages and averages."

    Calling Asians "Chinaman" is racist, by the way.

  3. interesting that you chose this youtube piece. another thing that white people do: highlight when people of color don't like each other. why didn't you offer an explanation of korean/black relations in urban america? this youtube clip was without any context.

  4. ho, the clip has several issues and messages, one of them being the reason I chose it: it illustrates how blacks often feel watched while shopping, merely because they're seen as "black" (which, in the context of this blog, is a specific mode of racial self-consciousness that whites rarely feel). I didn't chose it in order to "highlight when people of color don't like each other." Also, as a white person, I don't believe that I'm properly positioned to speak for or to korean/black relations in urban America. You seem to know something about that--perhaps you could supply some of that context yourself?

  5. I would second ho's comment. This clip was taken outside of its context and placed on a site which (I would assume) is mostly read by white people. It's this kind of thing that pits people of color against each other to assure white folks that THEIR racism is justified since POC do it too. By taking any mention of the white supremacist structures that have historically pitted Koreans and African-Americans against each other out of this conversation, whiteness again is the victor.

  6. So, when hipsters act ironically racist, it's just racist. But when Dave Chappelle does it, it's subtle and nuanced commentary on the effects of white supremacy on Black-Korean relationships?

  7. KVF, in a white supremacist society, it's different when whites do it to non-whites than when non-whites do it to each other.

    This issue also came up late in the discussion thread here, beginning at Comment # 72, which seems a lot like yours. Check out Sobia's response at #81, which seems like a good response to yours:

    Its all about who has power. When ethnic minority comedians (ie Russell Peters, Shaun Majumdar, Maz Jobrani etc) do “ethnic” comedy and joke around about race issues its not necessarily the same.

    First, these comedians are making fun of the stereotypes and racism as opposed to perpetuating it. And this is clear from their comedy.

    Second, these comedians do not come from the dominant, powerful racial group in North America - White. If a person of colour “makes fun” of the stereotypes of South Asians, I don’t feel threatened. This person does not have more power than me. But if a White comedian were to do it, it feels threatening because no matter what the intention may be, this comedian has more power than me in society.

    Now of course, all this does still depend on the comedy itself because not all comedy coming from ethnic minority comedians is safe. I hate Carlos Mencia. His stuff is just rude and offensive. He doesn’t make fun of the stereotypes but rather perpetuates them.

    White people do have to understand that, because of their history of oppressing people of colour, they can’t have certain “privileges” that we can. We don’t have as many as White people to begin with so let this be ours at least. Not to sound rude but….tough. Once we have the privilages White people do then White people can complain about ethnic comedy.

  8. I never said it wasn't different. Obviously it's different.

    But it seems to me that in working out imbalances of power, one would want to address stereotypes so as to dismantle them, rather than play tit-for-tat. If double standards are bad when it comes to privilege and access to wealth, then double standards are bad when it comes to culture and access to.. comedy?

    Sobia and I disagree on a couple counts - I, for one, think Carlos Mencia is hilarious. But also, we disagree fundamentally about the dangers of stereotyping between nonwhite groups. It's deadly dangerous. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to Google "Latasha Harlins", assuming they're unfamiliar with her, and we can pick it up from there.

  9. i don't think chappelle is playing "tit for tat" here, i think he's pointing out how ridiculous the racial stereotyping is. his character in the story poem uses racism against the shop keeper to point out how ridiculous the shop keeper's racism against him is. i find it quite insightful, and funny!

  10. Macon, I thought that this post was about Peggy McInstosh and white privilege, but instead, you chose a video clip that has sidesteped white privilege. What's the reason for this choice? Also, what Chappelle doesn't say, but probably holds true, is that white customers are preferred over other non-whites?

  11. "Over other non-whites"? I can't understand what you're asking there.

    I paired this clip with that quote because it exemplifies a common problem that white people usually have the privilege of shopping without. What's the reason for this choice, you ask? Again, this choice is an effort to show how non-white people commonly have a problem that white people usually don't have, in order to clarify and/or demonstrate this particular white privilege.

  12. Hi Macon,
    ho and Liz have already pointed out to you that the video you used to highlight your post does not correspond, the video is about bias and predjudice between two marginalized groups who have both suffered the effects of white supremacy and have been painted under white supremacy as "the other", or "evil", and historically both Asian Americans and African Americans have been treated as non-humans, with less rights or privileges than those ethnic groups identified as white.
    The video does not highlight or illuminate white privilege in the context of power, so, to me, it makes no sense.

  13. Kathy, yes, "the video is about bias and predjudice between two marginalized groups who have both suffered the effects of white supremacy and have been painted under white supremacy as "the other", or "evil", and historically both Asian Americans and African Americans have been treated as non-humans, with less rights or privileges than those ethnic groups identified as white." But the video is also about what a pain it is to be watched while shopping. And that's something that rarely happens to white people on the mere basis of their skin color.

    Think of it this way--imagine if a white person walked into the shop that Chappelle talks about. He or she probably wouldn't be watched suspiciously just because of their skin color, right? That's a white privilege that's clarified by Chappelle's description of his own lack of such a privilege.

    As Peggy McIntosh's article more or less states, when whites perceive common negative experiences endured by nonwhites on the mere basis of their skin color that whites rarely have to endure on the basis of their own skin color, they can better understand their own white privilege. As McIntosh says about the list of white privileges from her own life, "As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and
    acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact . . . cannot count on most of these conditions."

  14. Macon D,
    I happen to believe that a video highlighting a white shopkeeper's disdain and ill treatement of a non-white person would be a much more accurate illustration of your post, the video you chose highlights bias and prejudice but not power of white supremacy that underscores white privilege.

  15. As a black woman who has worked in department stores, I purposefully try to put all people at ease when they are shopping, its part of my job. But when it comes to POC I try especially hard to offer them help but get out of their way and let them shop. I know the paranoia and anxiety shopping can bring and I don't want to seem the agent of oppression for them. I know when I am in stores I try to …

    1. Stay in plain view
    2. Not carry small objects
    3. Have my hands visible as I'm leaving

    On another note, whenever I walk through the mall or shop in area that is predominantly white, I find myself gawked at and met with looks of surprise, as if these people have never seen black people before. It’s annoying and curious. As well, I have noticed a strange tendency of white male customers to invade my personal space. It is REALLY obnoxious when someone speaks directly into your face with a dumb smirk as if what I have to say is childish or irrelevant; like their speaking to someone who isn't on their level. Is it because I'm young; a woman; black; or all the above? I do not know but this condescending nature is very common in my interaction with whites when shopping or working in a department store.

  16. I've noticed that I'm followed around (not always, but enough for me to have noticed) if I'm with either of my half-black cousins or my Jamaican boyfriend. All of a sudden the same sloths who can't be bothered to find a shirt in my size when I'm by myself want to be Salesman of the Year and "help" us by sticking to us like flies on shit the whole time. When I worked retail for a few years, because of those experiences, I *never* would follow people around. Ever.

  17. I face racial inequality today at a Macy's, I was walking and all of a sudden, a beautiful White Northern European American was questioning us, I am a Spaniard, techinically Caucasian, I too face alot of the same racial inequality in the US.


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