Thursday, May 28, 2009

hang back like boo radley during discussions of race

Boo Radley
He's a ninja
(played in the 1962 film by Robert Duvall,
in his first Hollywood role)

Boo Radley should get more recognition than he normally does as a white anti-racist hero. Comparing Boo to a ninja might be a stretch, but he did overcome his reluctance to join the battle against racism. He even saved two young lives in the process.

To the white readers of this site -- are you like Boo Radley?

To refresh your memory, Arthur "Boo" Radley is the ghostly character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird who hangs back, shut up in his house, avoiding most of the story's racial drama. His neighbors -- young Scout and Jem Finch -- are afraid of him, even though he leaves them gifts and seems to be watching over them.

Scout and Jem spend most of the time watching and admiring instead their father, Atticus, as he wages a quixotic battle against the rabid dog of small-town Southern racism. He especially does so by defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.

Lawyer Finch clearly proves Robinson's innocence in a spellbinding trial, but nevertheless loses the case, and Robinson is then shot and killed while trying to escape from jail.

Later, Scout and Jem are returning home one night from a Halloween event. Suddenly, they're attacked by the father of the woman who falsely cried rape, but Boo Radley emerges from the shadows to save the day! Or rather, the night.

Brought into the light of the Finch home, Boo turns out to be okay after all. And on top of that, a hero -- a successful combatant in the ongoing fight against the scourge of virulent racism.

Are you a lurker, like Boo?

Who are you?

This blog gets a anywhere from 800 to 2000 page-views per day now, and that must be a lot of both white and non-white people. Some white folks do comment here regularly, but I know a lot of other Boo Radleys are out there -- some of you comment sometimes, but a lot of you don't. Which is understandable, since most white people are reluctant to discuss matters of race.

Whether you're white or not, do you hang back on this blog, reluctant to dip your toes into the discussion?

Yesterday, Chris Diaz (aka, cdwriteme), made a plea here in a comment, calling for the white Boos to come out from the shadows:

HELLO, WHITE PEOPLE!!! Where are you? If you can't face up to issues of race online with a generally friendly audience how can you expect to be a force for good in real life?

If the things that effect us people of color affected you, silence would not be an option. Are you here to help us, yourselves, and our world, or aren't you?

Whether you're white or not, please do come out and say "how do," and a bit of anything else, in the comments section for this post.

Maybe, something about who you are? And what you get from this blog? What you'd like to get from it, or like to see on it?

It might even encourage you to comment again, and join the fight.

Be like Boo!

(sorry about the music;
clips of this movie aren't easy to find online)


  1. omg... well this is a blast from the past - in high school, this was one of the books studied in Literature!

  2. I've been lurking here for a while. I come to hear points of view that don't often come up in mass media or even "big" blogs. I come here to be reminded of my privilege. I come to learn. Thank you for talking about race.

  3. Well, here goes nothing.

    Hi! I'm white and a lurker here and in most other online discussions of race for three very specific reasons:

    1) I'm still very much at the learning stage in my anti-racist training, and by the time I've formulated anything which might be a worthwhile thought on the topic (which isn't often), the post is weeks old;

    2) I'm from the UK, not the US, and although there are similiarities, there are also differences in the racial structures of the two countries, which I'm still trying to work through; I avoid commenting because to break into a US-focussed discussion and go 'it's different here!' is usually unhelpful to all concerned, but go on reading because there are fewer race-centric UK blogs which have come to my attention, and I need to learn from somewhere (see point 1);

    3) I have a lack of resources for internet discussion generally; I am a full-time student with a history of invisible disability and if I do comment, I often don't have the time, energy, or spoons to go back and check for replies, let alone make it a full conversation.

  4. Well I'm not white but I come to this site. I usually don't comment because...hey the issues that you bring up are not new to me. However I am proud of you (and in awe) that you even have the mindset to point these issues out.

    Keep doing what you do. Believe me you're planting the seed regardless of how people feel or respond.

  5. Hi. I'm white, and I'll comment more often if I can get to the site before everyone has already said what I wanted to say. (-:


  6. At this point I can't even remember how I stumbled onto your blog but I'm glad I did. I'm just your average white guy that has spent the better part of the last 20 years trying to undo what was done (in terms of race perceptions) during the first 15. I haven't been hanging back so much as just struggling with never having enough time to do everything I want to do once I finish everything I have to do.

    I like what you are doing here and I'll try to find the time to toss in my two cents.

  7. I'm white and have been lurking for a few weeks now. I'm not exactly sure how I came around, but I'm thinking it was probably from a link to Alas! A Blog or possibly Shakesville. Anyway, I personally feel like I'm still in the absorbing and mulling stage and therefore reluctant to comment until I have a better grasp on how privilege plays out in my own life, let alone anyone else's.

    I stumbled upon Tim Wise's essay "This Is Your Nation on White Privilege" about three months ago and to be perfectly honest, it was the first time I'd seen the concept phrased in those terms. And this is after an extensive work on a minor in American Cultural Studies and what were billed as "diverse" literary theory courses.

    I really appreciate your work on this blog and I do want to participate, but I feel like I still have a long way to go until commenting, mostly because I find myself trying to settle into that oh-so-comfortable righteous liberal mode, i.e. "well sure, other people do that, but not me, the Sensitive Liberal." Which doesn't help anything, because it pretty much gives one a pass to stay silent in social circles.

    Thank you for this blog.

  8. Hi! I'm half-white and "pass"/have white privilege. I'm still figuring things out. I read a lot of other blogs about race, and subscribed here for the analysis of whiteness sadly lacking from Stuff White People Like.

    I lurk most everywhere, but will try to pipe up more often!

  9. Hey rhiannonproblematising!

    2) I'm from the UK, not the US... I avoid commenting because to break into a US-focussed discussion and go 'it's different here!'

    The thing is... IT IS DIFFERENT! I'm Australian and it pisses me off to no end when people just say that Australia is exactly like America - er no, it's very similar but also quite different. Firstly the make up of our populations aren't the same so how can our racial relations be exactly the same?

    I think the world or at least the English part of the internet world has become quite US-centric. It's great to see others (Europeans, British, Carribean etc) comment on these blogs... so I don't feel so out of place lol

  10. Hi! I'm white, I live in Sweden and think it's super scary to comment on blogs, hence the lurking. After reading this post I feel kind of dumb about that.

    I studied a little bit of post colonial theory back at university and I always felt incredibly angry and ashamed when white people rejected those ideas and experiences. Around here there's a lot of "Sweden was never a colonial power, so racism doesn't exist here."

    I decided if everyone around me is ignorant, then I probably am too, so I started trying to educate myself about race, mostly through reading this and other blogs. And that's where I am now. I'm a lot less convinced of my own greatness these days, and I get into a lot more fights with my white friends. And I guess I'll start commenting more from now on :)

  11. Major assumptions on why people don't comment, much?

    I save my internet energies for discussions where I feel like I'm contributing more than "right on" and "oh, how interesting." Usually that's not this blog. I don't follow blog comments unless there's a compelling conversation going, or a community of commenters that I especially like. (And I mean especially.)

    I watch more than 150 blogs, and don't have the time or energy to comment on every post. There are other anti-racist blogs I participate in more fully.

  12. I tend to opt for listening instead of saying something or being active in the conversation because I'm, well, I'm pretty ignorant and I'm constantly learning. In a face to face environment, I'm more likely to try to talk, but I don't bring up issues of race myself... I am too afraid I will say something wrong.

    I guess I just wait until someone's being a complete racist ass in my presence and then I'm willing to talk.

  13. I suppose I'd be one of the lurkers. I've been reading for about a month or so, via the feed on Livejournal. And I can't recall whether I've posted a comment before now - if I have, it's probably been only once or twice.

    For the record, I'm mostly white and usually perceived as white, and have been at least intermittently politically active around a variety of issues for most of my life - from early childhood if you count being taken out to civil rights and anti-Vietnam-war events in a baby stroller by my parents, from my teen years otherwise.

    I understand that it's frustrating to see a lot of page views in the stats but not much reflection of that in discussion, and to wonder where the hell everyone is. But at the same time, I think jumping to the conclusion that anyone who reads but doesn't post "can't face up to issues of racism" or must not be able to be confront racism in real life either is unwarranted.

    Personally, I am far more likely to confront people on racism in real life than I am to comment here, or on most of the blogs I read.

    Part of this is because I have to limit the amount of time I spend online if I want to be able to get anything done in the way of actual work. I'm constantly finding interesting things online that I want to read, and then finding that reading them - and, especially, commenting on them if I get draw into that - becomes a huge time sink. So I tend to bounce back and forth between adding more and more feeds, and then cutting them when I realize how much time they're eating. So most of the time I don't even read comments, much less post them.

    And part of that is because commenting about racism in a specifically anti-racist discussion space feels a bit like preaching to the choir. If I already know I'm going to be mostly in agreement with other posters in a given discussion, I'm less likely to spend time and energy on it than I am on a discussion where I can contribute something that hasn't already been said.

    It's not that I think discussions among activists who are all more or less of a like mind are valueless, but when I'm trying to limit time spent online, I'm most likely to spend it where I feel like I can make the most difference. Which is often in person, rather than on the Internet, as I think (or hope, anyway) that people are more likely to listen to a real-life contact than a faceless stranger online.

    Wow - looking at the length of what I just wrote, I am reminded why commenting tends to become such a huge time sink for me. Because once I start talking, apparently I can't shut up. :)

  14. Hey! I'm white and I've been reading for a few months. Like many, I suspect, I come to this blog to learn and as a learner I don't always feel I have the tools I need to contribute to discussion just yet. Maybe with some time and experience I'll feel more able to weigh in on the topics brought up here at SWPD.

    I had to raise an eyebrow at the call asking for all of the 800+ readers per day to start commenting, though. I don't really think useful discussion comes from 800 voices in the void. I think many only choose to comment if they see that their point of view isn't being presented well, or at all, in the comments section.

  15. Hi! I'm white and from Canada and I've been lurking just because I am pretty new at learning about the white privilege I have and how to effectively be anti-racist and didn't want to say something incredibly stupid and ignorant. But now I'm realizing that it's probably better to do so and then get called on it so that I can learn what I'm doing wrong. I'm still in the learning process and really appreciate this blog for talking about race in the way it does. Even as recent as 3 or 4 months ago I had never even thought about white privilege and thanks in part to your blog I'm seriously trying to deal with what that means. So thank you.

  16. I'm a white woman and have commented here once before, but I've been lurking for a long while. I think cdwriteme and Macon bring up a good point - I lurk without comment on this and other blogs that deal with racism because white women's POVs are everywhere you look.

    For me, being present and trying to understand myself and others doesn't necessarily mean putting my POV out there at every step - or at any step. But your point, cdwriteme, is well taken - non-participatory engagement doesn't really help white folks (me) interact with the actual issue of racism, "face up to" racism. So in trying to just be present and understand, I'm allowing racism to rule without a fight.

    Where does listening and passive engagement need to turn into action in order to truly face up? Even in the mostly friendly and open online community?

    I like your blog, Macon, and I also follow your comments on other blogs and admire your participation, even when the atmosphere isn't as friendly. Maybe I'll work on getting a raging clue and engage more actively, here and other places.

  17. It would seem that you have many readers from countries other than the United States.

    I think the view to comment/ratio is pretty on target--Perez Hilton gets several million page views a day and maybe a couple hundred comments on the average post. For some people, part of the appeal of the internet is the passive consumption & anonymity that can be part of the user experience.

  18. I'm a white lurker. There, I said it. I enjoy lurking, because, quite honestly, I don't yet feel as if I'm in a place to contribute in any meaningful way.

    I'm still approaching, and coming to grips, with what white privilege really means. This blog has been a great resource, and I hope to participate more in the future as time and comfort will allow. In the meantime, thanks for all the insightful posts.

  19. Hi, I'm a white lurker on this blog and I have been for about 2 months. Though I enjoy the discussion, I don't yet feel qualified to contribute in any meaningful way.

    My reluctance to contribute is not because I'm afraid to confront people, or work as an active ally in fighting against racism in all its various forms and incarnations. However, I am still coming to grips with my white privilege, and what that really means. It usually takes me a while to process posts and relate them to my personal experiences. As my comfort with and understanding of these issues increase, I will be able (Hopefully) to contribute in more meaningful ways. In the meantime, I'll keep lurking, so keep the great posts coming!

  20. I pretty much agree with this: - "I lurk without comment on this and other blogs that deal with racism because white women's POVs are everywhere you look."
    Also, if I commented on everything I read, I'd never leave the house. And that's hardly productive. The internet only has a certain audience, and sometimes discussions in real life with real people are more likely to change things, rather than a whole bunch of patting each other on the back for us being less racist than our grandparents, or arguing with ridiculous internet right/wrong-wingers who have no clue.

  21. I forget how I came here, been reading for maybe a month or two, comment once in a while, tend not to participate a lot in internet discussion. I think the issues you raise in the post are worthwhile, but also suspect (as others have suggested) that your view-to-comment ratio is probably normal.

  22. >some of you comment sometimes, but a lot of you don't. Which is understandable, since most white people are reluctant to discuss matters of race.

    Your censorship of certain people because you don't like what they write shows your own reluctance to discuss matters of race honestly.
    Will you publish this comment? Perhaps yes or perhaps no, but as somebody else who was censored by you noted: It is irrelevant if you publish it, because you will read it.

  23. I comment periodically but mostly I don't, because I'm still struggling to learn the basics and it's better to keep my mouth shut and not upset the PoC present with inadvertently racist comments. Also, often other white people will make whatever basic comments I would probably have made, so I'm still learning by watching the response. (And as others have pointed out, adding a "I agree!" or whatever doesn't add much to the conversation.)

    The one venue where I've been speaking up more though has been when it's talking to other white people - trying to discuss privilege issues and make other white people start to realize the way the system benefits us and disadvantages PoC. It's the white people's responsibility to educate other whites, and the sad fact is that white people are seen as being more "objective" about race and therefore have more credibility when discussing it. And yes, I and you and everyone else here knows how bullshit that is (the whole idea that PoC aren't the experts and they're too "emotional" about it); but it's still how it's viewed currently among many whites, and I may as well use that to my advantage when trying to educate other whites. :/ They may listen to me, when they might not take a PoC as seriously. So if I can use that perception to start educating them and get them to the point where they start listening to PoC with their minds and hearts open, then that's a good thing.

    Just to clarify that last sentence - I'm not implying that it's my responsibility to get them to that point and then it's a PoC's job to educate them from there - I'm just saying that at some point hopefully they become open-minded enough to start reading and learning from PoC blogs, books written by PoC, etc., rather than only listening to other white "anti-racists". (I put "anti-racists" in quotes because I know there's serious debate as to whether white people can be "anti-racist", since all white people still benefit from the system.)

  24. i read everything you post on a regular basis. i try to comment if i know i have something to contribute to the conversation, but more often i'm interested in what other people have to say (or sometimes i don't comment because someone else has already made my point). at any rate, i generally see your posts as an eye opener that helps me confront my own whiteness. some things you point out i've already reflected on. often you write about whiteness in a perspective i had not thought about, so i see it as a learning experience to where i can improve my own behavior and become aware of whiteness and how i fit into that. so, great job and keep it up. i may not always comment, but i'm always reflecting.

  25. Hi,

    I'm the guy with the comment Macon quoted. I want to say to those members discussing lack of time, I totally get you. I'm fortunate enough to have some extra free time at the moment. Also, bluntly,it's really not my business whether you do or don't decide to comment.

    But, I can make a plea. The commnent I made came on a post that I authored, the one about "Go to Amber-Alert when a male person of color...". It's two posts back I believe.

    I was especially disappointed not to see white commenters on that post because I went through pains to be very personal and very specific so that EVERYONE can understand my perceptions.

    My feelings toward white members regarding the post are, "Tell me I"m paranoid, tell me you totaly disagree, tell me you partially disagree, just tell me (and other members) something."

    I can't speak for any other person of color on here, but I have no problem being addressed directly with any questions white members may have.

    So, if you all simply don't have time, don't want to, etc... that's just the way it is. But, if some of you want to comment and are just bashful or feel insecure about it, I urge you to simply comment anyways.

    I visit sites concerning women's issues, the LGBTQ community, etc.. I've been scolded a time or two, but, have found that, if I just approach in even the most basic respectful manner, I get alot of support and understanding when I err.

  26. Yes, you should apologize for that music! :P

  27. @ cdwriteme: I can't speak for anyone else, but I didn't comment on your post because it seemed completely plausible to me. :/ I wish I could have posted saying I disagree, but I couldn't. As a white mom myself I can't say I personally have ever responded in the way you wrote, and I live in an area that's almost entirely Caucasian and Asian, so I haven't had the opportunity to watch it myself now that I'm looking for it. But can I believe that it's a very real phenomenon, and is widespread among white mothers? Absolutely.

    (Out of curiosity, I'm assuming you're the same cdwriteme as on LJ? I've seen your comments in debunking_white before. I just watch that comm though, haven't yet joined the comm myself.)

  28. I am a "Boo."

    I think I may hang back on issues of race, because I'm not sure what to say or do that won't come off as plaintive and ridiculous.

    Also, I have experienced moments of not being wanted in the fight for equality because of my whiteness. This was along the terms of "Your privilege is not wanted or required here, so leave us alone" sentiment.

    Another concern of mine is that I have a lot to learn, so I try to do that on my own by reading and figuring out things for myself, rather than asking questions and vocalizing my desire to learn. I don't want to bug people by asking them questions that have already been put to them a billion times by others.

    Anyway, your blog and blogs addressing these issues are important for humanity. I appreciate your work.

    Thank you.

  29. Robin,

    I appreciate your thoughts. I would like to clarify that I made it a point to put "some" in front of white women on my posts about "Go to Amber-Alert...".

    Also, I made sure to point out that everyting is contextual--local culture, attire, etc...

    Finally, it can and does happen that, on occassion, people of color have exaggerated perceptions. Racism can create symptoms like PTSD. Though, I will say that it is my belief that the degree and frequency in which whites underestimate their own racism is many times the degree and frequency in which people of color overestimate whites' racism.

    Another thing you may find interesting concerns the effects of discrimination on the senses. I don't have the references off-hand (I could probably find them) but a couple academic studies have shown that people in an environment where they suffer routine discrimination actually read faces better (e.g. fake smiles vs. real smiles). Assuming that data is accurate, the implication is that there are many people who are well-intentioned but simply can't see the discrimination because their senses are not attuned. Gotta go to the store, sorry to cut this short.

    I do think I'm probably the cdwriteme youve seen elsewhere.

  30. Interesting post. I tend not to comment here because I write about race at my own blog, but I see why I should be commenting here too.

    I love your blog, it's one I come to when I need a new perspective on something. Your analysis is something you expect from a scholarly journal.

  31. @ cdwriteme: My apologies for writing that incorrectly - you absolutely do specify "some" and have multiple clarifications in the article, and I did that a disservice by putting my own spin on it and calling it a widespread phenomenon. :)

    The studies re: discrimination would make a lot of sense on a primal/mammalian level - if you face discrimination you're facing threats to self, and being able to more accurately assess social cues would help mitigate the threats to self (or at least anticipate them).

    As a white person raised in a culture that preserves white obliviousness, there's a LOT of things that I just never noticed, and I only notice them now that my attention has been drawn to them. (And of course there's still a lot of things I miss, which is why I hesitate to say things sometimes. The process of learning is ever-ongoing.)

    Regarding the initial post here though, one additional point that I do want to make is that often when I hang back, it isn't because I'm afraid of saying the wrong thing and getting yelled at; I'm a big girl, I can take the heat. ;) But the thing is that I'm afraid of upsetting other people. PoC often have to deal with so many stupid comments, I don't want to unintentionally add to their headdesk moments. (From personal experience, I know how it feels to have someone say something asshatted and then I steam about it for the rest of the day... I don't want to make anyone feel that way.) So as long as I can learn a lot just by watching, that seems to be the best way to go (as long as it's not a situation where I'm abdicating my responsibility to educate other whites).

  32. Have never commented, but am far from a Boo. I try and regularly update my blog on Whiteness.

    I would say this site is increasingly one of my favorites online. :)

    Jaime Cortez

  33. [I accidentally rejected these two comments by "Sara"]

    Hi, I'm a white this blog almost daily. I read a lot of blogs, but almost never comment. I understand that white silence is easy and is not the route I want to take. I also believe that if I'm quiet I just might learn something, and I have.

    I'm not afraid to speak about my own privilege and find myself thinking quite a bit about the subject of race and how my life as a white woman is affected and how my life affects others. One thing I would like to see covered is how to approach talking to our kids about race, mostly because I'm not that comfortable with the idea and am sure that I'm not the only one.


    How funny, I scroll down and there is a post involving kids...thank you.

    [Sara, if you look over on the right of the front page, this blog has a category of several posts on children--click on "white childhood."]

  34. I'm a white University student from British Columbia, Canada, living in a city which according to the last census is 88% "not a visible minority." In a total coincidence, I found this blog at around the same time I was finishing taking a White Studies course. The combination of that course and this blog made me question a lot of things in my world I had taken for granted, and I keep reading this and other anti-racist blogs because, among other things, I want to keep my white privilage in my sight as much as possible. And now that I've said this, hopefully I'll feel more comfortable commenting again.

  35. Robin,

    Whatever you feel is best.

  36. I'm reading a lot of "well I'm just learning and I come here to learn but not comfortable speaking until I learn more," rhetoric. Not being negative, but could this be one of those things that white people do? That is, like Boo Radley sit back in the shadows because they believe that none of this "stuff" affects them directly?

    From most of these responses, I can only conclude that there is a certain cowardice associated with speaking on racial issues. Either that, or it's just not important.

    Am I wrong?

    BTW: I'm white.

  37. RiPPa,

    My two cents about the "like Boo Radley sit back in the shadows because they believe that none of this "stuff" affects them directly" part of your questions.

    I think it is certainly natural for anyone to take more interest in something that affects them directly in an adverse way. I think the false and very damaging culture we have in America that stresses greedy individualism is bad for us all as well and cripples unity.

    I think the key is to make white people understand that white supremacy does affect them directly, economically and spiritually.

    In terms of economics, Failure of Americans workers to unify --> out of control neoliberal economics and globalization --> much less job security, benefits, and lower wages --> top 1% of America owning 40% of the nation's wealth while the bottom 90% or so are stressed out and often unhappy.

    Sure, white workers are awarded a little more than non-whites for maintaining the white supremacist system. But, being awarded a bit larger portion of slave wages and limited benefits isn't very fulfilling, especially at the price of one's good conscience.

    I think if whites could begin to comprehend the tremendous advantages and empowerment we could ALL gain through snuffing out racism and unifying, they would take racism more personally.

  38. @cdwriteme: My questions were somewhat rhetorical and Socratic all at the same time. That said, thanks for you stepping up and answering them to help bring some understanding to the conversation. What you said is exactly the prophetic truth about our condition. In short, whether we believe it or not. it does indeed affect us as a society in one form or another.

    My motto has always been. "Do What YOU Can Afford". That said, whatever you do, there is a price to pay, be it positive or negative.

  39. Through out the my readership of this blog, I have often wondered at the comments where were the white people?

    There are several posts (older ones, I think) where the comments nearly exclusively made by POC..

    I'm seeing here that everyone has the same "I'm learning" mantra. And while I get that, some times you learn by making mistakes.

  40. SWPD is one of many sites that I read via RSS. I still feel that we're going to have to agree to disagree on how you refer to people of color as "non-white" all the time. I get that you want white people, myself included, to be the central focus on your blog in terms of awareness, privilege, etc. However, I think it's counter productive to maintain a dichotomy of white or non-white as it keeps whiteness at the center which I feel reinforces whiteness in a not-so-anti-racist kind of way. White people have grown up hearing "non-white" as the primary way of acknowledging people of color. I think it's important to critique "non-white" in addition to all of the other great things that you process on your site. No one ever says "Non-Person-of-Color"...

  41. I'm of both Anglo and Hispanic descent, and I'm from the U.S..

    That said, I was raised in a fashion that did not lend itself to racial segregation: I spent quite a few years living on or near military bases. This is not to say that some in this situation do not self-segregate, many do, but the manner in which the housing is dolled is often random. (save for matters of rank.)

    Anywho, my point is that I do not shy from issues of race. I do not have a "blind" approach to life, as I see this as an idealistic attitude that lends itself to ignoring the many differences that exist among us all.(many of which exist regionally and have little to nothing to do with race) That said, I am also not known for being bigotry or discrimination - in fact, just the opposite. I was fortunate enough to have folks that showed me how to perceive principles and character, and to judge folks on their words and actions.

    But to answer the question posed by this post, yes, I have once avoided conversations of race.

    This happened with a black family member that was going on (and on) about The Black Athlete, and how white guys could not compete. My dad and I just looked at him with an "okay, dude, what do want me to say?"

    Why did I shy? I didn't know what to say (and I didn't find the conversation particularly appealing). Should I have brought Jimmy "The Greek" to the dinner table? Should I have asked my kin what he thought? At the end of the day, I guess I didn't care to have the conversation at the time. Hell, it may have been my relative that I didn't want to have the conversation with - I don't find him to be very intelligent or informed. Had it been someone else, maybe I'd been up for it.

  42. I never saw To Kill A Mocking Bird so I don't know if I'm like Boo Radley or not. I do read this blog once in a while, but never comment because helping to erode racism is important to me, and Macon, I'm dubious about your approach.

    I understand the idea behind what you do here: the idea is that if we particularize whiteness, we erode its claims to ahistorical, even acorporeal, universality, which is where you locate the source of white supremacy's hegemony. It's the David Roediger thing. And you also do some of the "Race Traitor" stuff with the attempts to disavow or play stupid with your white affiliation and so on. I get the idea here.

    But the thing that hits me over and over again is that, though I don't think you mean to, you often write in a way that reifies "whiteness" as a stable category (like with the remark in this post about how "most whites" are reluctant to talk about race). You seem really invested in the idea that whiteness is a real thing. By that I don't mean to imply that I don't think it's a "real" historical product, or a real source of oppression and so on--I do believe those things. I mean that you seem to also think of the "white" as if she (not necessarily but probably) concedes to a whole set of preferences, practices, values, anxieties, and on and on. You don't seem to think of whiteness as a field of contradictions under constant negotiation.

    It doesn't seem intellectually honest to me to refrain from that essentializing way of talking about POC but to then do it so pointedly about "white folks," even if the idea is to needle liberal whites or whatever. But even that isn't what so often turns me off. The thing that really convinces me this isn't a conversation for me is that your way of essentializing whites is just so in keeping with the whole "injured white" discourse that's flourishing right now not just among out and out white supremacists, but more disturbingly among more of the mainstream white population, and at a time when a lot of civil rights legislation is under serious attack. I don't think your way of writing about race challenges that trend, because your way of writing about race preserves the essentializing force of whiteness, and invites others to do so as well.

    So the reason I don't comment isn't that I'm too anxious about race to talk about it. I do talk about it a lot, just with other people who I think are more serious.

  43. Another white lurker here who usually doesn't comment due to time restraints. I grew up on the edge of a small city, where I attended all white schools through out the elementary years. Then the school district enacted integration, so for middle and high school I finally was able to mingle with others from a different racial background. My parents were worried, but I thought "It's about time!" I actually liked the city kids, both black and white, better than many of the suburban/rural kids that I had known. After graduation, I still felt like I didn't know enough about the "real" history of the USA or that of PoC, so I began my own reading program. Malcolm X, Dr. M.L. King, W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou, etc. Years later I am still learning, and struggling to seek out my role in encouraging change in society and myself.

  44. Hi Macon, white American woman here, but not a lurker, as y'all probably know. I get a lot out of your posts that makes me SEE my whiteness, and see it as a social and political force around me. I knew some of it ahead of the reading, but even then it's been reinforcing in good ways. We white Americans are really naive about all what it means to be white!

    Just wanted to ask Anonymous, what do you mean by "essentializing"? Macon's approach is clearly the opposite, a social constructionist one. If you mean "generalizing" as in "all white people do this or that," like "stereotyping" or something, no, not that either. Just look at the blog's subtitle, for one thing. And common white tendencies, as I often read here, does not either mean that all white people have and act out on them. I basically don't get what you're saying.

  45. Diana Barry BlytheMay 31, 2009 at 12:01 AM

    Hi Macon d.

    I have never seen a blog like this (maybe I should get out more), but many blogs that talk about race seem rarely to involve calm reflection.

    You seem to have a fairly mellow vibe about it.


  46. I feel confident you already know my face, but I'm going to say "hi" anyway! Definitely comfortable posting here, though sometimes it feels inane to simply post "oh yes, I agree!"

  47. Well, Macon, you KNOW who I am, so I won't introduce myself. I've been blogging less this spring and reading blogs virtually not at all (as evidenced by my lack of comments -- because if I'm here, I write). But I popped over today just in time to catch this post. :^) Bottom line: I'm totally down with what goes on in this corner of cyberspace. And the struggle against White Supremacy in all its manifestations. Now and forever. 'Till the fat lady sings. Keep up the good work.

  48. Miriam,

    That's a terrible story about the father at the shul.

  49. I am a white male parenting an African-American son (16 mo.) and it is ABSOLUTELY VITAL for him that I learn as much as possible about his culture and race issues in America. My wife and I are doing everything we know how to so that my son has culturally competent parents as he grows up. We are committed to the anti-racist movement that this blog promotes, as does our adoptive parenting group. I guess my pint of this comment is to thank Macon, and all of the regular contributors (even thorpuppy) and encourage those lurkers to speak up. I've found this medium to be a safe place to practice communicating about issues of race so that I'm better spoken and prepared in the real world.
    Thank you Macon!

  50. I'm mostly a lurker around here, generally because I read via the feed instead of visiting the page proper.

    Also, like a lot of people here, I feel my thoughts on race are very, well, unstructured, part of the reason I watch this blog (as well as others) is to build up the level of structure in my thinking on race. I've lived a very sheltered life in regards to race, and I'd rather deprogram myself a bit more before I really start contributing to blogs like this.

    Besides, honestly, I feel like I learn a whole bunch watching everyone else interact.

  51. I comment here because I don't feel comfortable participating in real life discussions of race. I found this blog at a critical point in my journey, and participation has been a fantastic outlet.

    I don't feel comfortable talking about race in person because I either have to play a third party roll as "the stereotypical middle class heteronormative white girl" or do a lot of explaining, and a lot of explaining about my family. My father was Hispanic, my mother is German and Native American (something we learned about 10 years ago, following a family death, the information was literally and figuratively in the closet). My nuclear family is nontraditional, and my father is dead.

    As a kid I struggled with being not white enough to look like my friends, but not looking like anything else either (I wasn't vietnamese or philippino, and I wasn't black). I don't seek to be absolved of the privilege I've gained from my background, and I don't seek to have recognition for the variety of indignities that I experienced for reasons tangentially related to race, but mostly other stuff outside the scope of this blog. I just want to be able to say who I am without being interrogated, without having to justify having a spanish name or defend my decision to mark myself as "hispanic" on forms.

    When I first came to this blog I was hitting the outer limits of my frustration with a concept that I'd bought into where self-identity doesn't matter, you must reconstruct your self image in agreement with the way others see you. I liked the comment in macon's about me which is "trying to understand what all that means..." because thats where I was, and to a degree where I am.

    Reading, and getting into disagreements sometimes, has been useful to me as I try to decide how to be myself in this world and how to express that to others.

  52. I am a white woman. I just found your blog a short while ago, so I have not yet commented, or maybe I have once. I can't really remember. I will comment more as I spend more time here. I usually read a blog for a while before I start leaving comments...not just this one, any of them.

    I did find it interesting that so many commenters say they don't comment for fear of saying something that might offend a PoC. I think this is probably one of the safer places to ask questions and show our "ignorance" and learn.

  53. Hey! I'm a white woman and I was a lurker until I read this post. My thanks to Macon for the successful call-out.

    I had been avoiding commenting on blogs and articles in general because I associate all online "comment" sections with the kind of sexist, racist and homophobic language that is so common in open forums everywhere on the internet. Nothing like anonymity to bring out the most disgusting and hateful language, and anyone who starts commenting regularly on the internet in open forums will probably be subject to open harassment and flaming at some point. It is important to realize that there are those out there who don't comment because they have been burned badly.

    I don't buy into the myth that the internet is "saving" the future of democratic discourse. There is a lot to criticize about online discussions, for instance that they often give hate speech an anonymous and unaccountable platform it doesn't deserve.

    That said, this blog commentary is moderated and is really insightful. I'm now going to stop being a white lurker and take a more active role here, of course keeping in mind the rule of stepping up and stepping back (I've been doing a little too much of the 'stepping back') and that I have a lot to learn.

    I can't paint this blog comment section with the same brush as I paint the comment section on YouTube videos. Thanks for helping me realize that.

  54. Just got back from a 9 day trek to Bubbaland, KENtuckee!

    Great topic!

    I'm not a lurker. I open my mouth, even to superiors and management when any form of racial slur is raised. I also interrupt folks from telling me their "off color" (SMIRK) jokes and say, I don't want to here it.

    I was raised in a rainbow household. I just figured all us folks were like a bag of M&M's. I didn't know what color or gender issues were. My "aunts" and "uncles" were diverse, all were of the same class (middle) and lived in all different kinds of neighborhoods.

    Actually, the first time I knew there were "differences" was in school, in the first grade, at a private school (grandmother's doing). Prior to that, in nursery school and kindergarten, it never came up but then again, I was raised in inner city schools.

    My grandmother had a friend, a great black woman by the name of Essie. She sat me down and explained the problem at school and I was a bothered by the whole thing and puzzled, too.

    My first cat, black, was named Boo (Radley) by my mother.

  55. Funny aside.

    On Very Smart Brothas, a blog I frequent, they use the term "ninja" as euphemism for nigga.

    So when I saw that pic, I thought at first that you meant that Boo's secret was that he was actually black. Just wanted to add that.

  56. Hi. I'm an Asian woman with a culturally mixed background (the likes of which can be found here: I had been skeptical about online blogs (I'm new to blogs) and wondered why one of my friends was so into race related blogs, until I stumbled across SWPD recently. Now I'm hooked. I'm surprised at how much I'm learning. Many of the posts and comments seem to involve a lot of critical thinking...almost feels like a semi-undergrad seminar of some sort. It also seems like a safe and supportive place to talk about race (something I've had to keep my mouth shut about downunder). That's why I started commenting (though I am sometimes hesitant seeing that the discussion is US based).

    I'm also surprised at how many 'white' people have said they are here to learn. I actually find that amazing.

    I learnt the concept of 'white privilege' about a year ago and it explained so much of what I had 'felt' but had no words to describe with. But it also made me more aware of my own privilege. There's a lot of issues of prejudice and privilege elsewhere in the world involving people of all colors. Dominant cultures in other societies also enjoy similar privileges. I wonder if it will help those who are white better able to come to terms with their privilege or prejudices to know that it is not an exclusively white thing. Most people in the world are guilty of it to some degree or another. The difference being that 'whiteness' seems to be at the top of the food chain.

    And oh, another point - even POC can enjoy some 'white privilege'. e.g. As a native speaker of English, I enjoy some of the white privilege that comes with that.

  57. Hi im african, spanish and lebanese
    i feel the need to state this, otherwise ill probably get deemed as a racist white person. But this blog also needs to focus on the fact that african american arent exactly saints. Specifically whites arent the only racist ones. African American are highly racist towards white, african etc. White people arent the only ones who need to change their viewpoints african-americans need to re-adjust their views as well

  58. atelierboz, thank you for sharing with us this highly original, deeply profound, and indeed, paradigm-shifting, bowel-loosening, and eyeglass-shattering insight.

    However, having picked myself up from the floor to which I've just been so violently thrown, I'm led to wonder -- have you noticed the title of this blog?

  59. atelierboz,

    A blog entitled "Stuff White People Do" does not need to focus on African-Americans.

    I don't run this blog, but, in my opinion, it's fine for you and others to discuss those sorts of issues in your comments but its completely inappropriate for this blog to "also focus" on them.

  60. I am struggling with my own whiteness and privilege. The grey area where I am recognizing my own faults and trying to work on them while not appearing condescending is a difficult terrain for me, and difficult to describe. I only hope it's something others can relate to. I am fighting my own feminist battles in the world, but I recognize that those battles often work in contradiction to (or at least not in support of) the battles of other people. I don't know how to go about resolving this, as it's a sensitive area for everyone involved.

  61. PDN has not responded to the accusations of passive racism, so it is hard to say whether it is an oversight on their part, or something more sinister. It appears more to be a symptom of the culture.

  62. I got here via Sociological Images, and started reading older posts because I was fascinated, and because I've been on a program of educating myself about my privilege for the last few months.

    I'm a writer, so it's in my fiction that most of my thoughts are played out. I don't comment often on blogs because I don't tend to follow them in real time (as you can see--but I felt the invitation to comment on this one was pretty clear!)

    I'm sure there's a lot that I am still getting wrong, but blogs like yours are a big help in making me question my assumptions and hidden biases, and making the world I depict a more truthful and fair one.

  63. hello!
    i'm francisco, and i'm a boo radley. but i just posted my first comment on the sombrero-condom entry, so there's that. i'd have joined the overall discussion earlier, but my talent for making an ass of myself generally compels me to take the temperature of the room before jumping into this type of conversation.

    anyway. i am half-white, half-mexican (my father's family moved from zacatecas to southern california in the 60's). however, my fair skin has resulted in a lot of white privilege, which tends to reinforce white behavior. it's an interesting feedback loop i have yet to quite understand.

    it's been a fascinating and challenging experience to read this blog (in a good way). some of it i agree with, some of it i don't, some (most) of it i'm not sure where i stand. but it's always an interesting, valuable read. hopefully my comments don't drag down the level of discourse.

    by the by, whenever i try to gain a better understanding of something, i tend to challenge it, so if i ever seem particularly adversarial in future comments, it's more about trying to improve my own understanding, and less about being a dick :)

    looking forward to talking with you all. i'll try to be more active in the future, if i can condense my thoughts into something that makes any sense.


  64. I'm white and I've only been a lurker on this site for about an hour or two when I found it on google, but since you called me out I guess I'll sign in and write something.

    I think a lot of the blogs on this site are, at minimum, borderline racist and 100% of them are stereotypical...not that I'm necessarily complaining. The white people in the first few posts in the comment section (that's about all I read) are ridiculous though; "I come here to be reminded of my privilege." <----WTF? What a moron that person is.

  65. How is someone a "moron" for coming here to be reminded of and think about their privilege?

  66. Well, this comment comes about a month or three too late, but I've been a lurker for about 5 hours on and off, so I might as well say hello.

    I hang back on posting comments on most websites, not just this one, because I read the comments and feel like 90% of the stuff I was going to say has been said better than I ever could, or has no relevance and is another white attempt to make the conversation all about me.

    Even now I get the urge to erase this comment because it seems stupid and pointless, not to mention on a post that was last commented on in late July. But...I'll try to do better, since my issues are less stemmed in insecurities about race and more about being shy on the internet.


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